Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s for time travel antics and family drama in issue #376.
After returning home from a space battle against Dr. Doom, the FF, with Sharon Ventura and Lyja with them, found Reed’s father Nathaniel Richards in their home, waiting for them. To recap, Nathaniel Richards disappeared years earlier after experimenting with a time machine. In an alternate timeline, he remarried and had a child. His wife was the Overlord of that world, while he was content with just hanging back and being a family man. In this issues though, something has changed, because now he’s a wandering time traveler.
We begin with a recreation of a scene from the classic X-Men Days of Future Past storyline where, in an alternate future, Sentinels are hunting down the last remaining mutants in a nightmare dystopia, and where adult Franklin is killed right in front of Rachel Summers. Back in the present, Nathaniel explains that he’d seen this alternate future on his travels throughout the multiverse. He further says that the FF can prevent DOFP dystopia, adding that the Sentinel menace only happened because of circuitry Reed invented.
The meeting is cut short with the arrival of attorney Matt Murdock and Makio Yakaki, the FF’s financial advisor. It’s time for Johnny to face the music after he accidentally destroyed part of Empire State University and became a fugitive. Murdock says the district attorney willing to arrange a dismissal of the charges, but only if Johnny turns himself in. Meanwhile, Ben and Sharon have a heart-to-heart chat. She’s upset that he’s been avoiding her since learning she worked for Dr. Doom until recently. Ben says there’s always a price for dealing with Doom. Speaking of which, we cut Latveria, where Dr. Doom kills a henchman who speaks out of turn, and then swears revenge on Sharon for betraying him.
Johnny surrenders to the police, with Murdock telling him and Ben to have faith in the legal system. Reed and Sue argue about the settlement, with Reed saying the Fantastic Four Incorporated cannot afford to rebuild the entire university, with Sue arguing that they must to whatever it takes to help Johnny. In another room, Franklin can sense his parents are fighting. Nathaniel says Franklin’s growing powers represent great danger. Supernatural nanny Agatha Harkness has sensed what Nathaniel is up to, and says there is no other way to do what must be done.
Reed and Nathaniel meet up in Reed’s lab to look into the Sentinel/dystopian future thing. Nathaniel shoots Reed in the back, knocking him out, while apologizing that he must do so. Sue bursts and attacks, saying she didn’t trust Nathaniel, only for Agatha to fight back with her magic. Nathaniel confronts Franklin, who defends himself with his psychic powers. Agatha tries to freak out Sue by revealing the Malice persona in Sue’s mind, but it doesn’t work because Sue has already accepted her dark side.
Reed recovers and tries to stop Nathaniel, while also demanding answers. Nathaniel says Franklin is a “pivotal point” in history, one which leads only to dark futures. He says if the universe is to survive, Franklin must be removed from the timeline. Nathaniel uses a time machine similar to the one we’ve seen Dr. Doom use over the years, and he escapes with Franklin.
Agatha says she had to fight the FF because she could see the torment in Nathaniel’s mind caused by all the dystopian futures he’d seen in his time travels. Then, it appears that Nathaniel returns via the same time machine, fully dressed in the Overlord armor. Only we turn the page to reveal that this is not Nathaniel in the armor, but an adult Franklin. He says, “I hope you missed me! I certainly missed all of you!”
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed is partially complicit in the creation of the Sentinels? You’d think this would be played up as something a lot more serious. The Marvel wiki doesn’t even mention this on its Sentinels entry.
Fade out: As part of the settlement with Empire State University, Sue gives the ownership of a bunch of Reed’s patents, which fund Fantastic Four Incorporated.
Clobberin’ time: In addition to wearing the metal helmet to protect his injured face, Ben dons a trench coat and fedora, for the full Raphael-in-New-York look.
Flame on: Look closely, and you can see that photographer Peter Parker is at police headquarters when Johnny turns himself in. I guess this resolves the subplot of the New Fantastic Four searching for Johnny.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Sharon eagerly wants to be a good guy again, but Ben keeps shutting her out. She joins the fight against Nathaniel, but he takes her out real quick.
Four and a half: It continues to be ambiguous how Franklin’s powers have evolved. At this point, it appears to be the usual Marvel telepathy/telekinesis combo, with the danger that it become much more.
The Alicia problem: Lyja is still hanging out with the FF, and will be for a while. She says she’s there to kill Johnny, but that has to wait until the current crisis has passed. This issue also has a scene where Ben introduces Lyja to Alicia, but we don’t see that outcome of that meeting, or anything they talked about.
Commercial break: They are from France, etc.
Trivia time: It was around this time that Marvel published Fantastic Four Unlimited #4. The Mole Man forced the Hulk and the Thing to fight to death, so he could draw energy from his battle to bring his love Kala back to life. The FF and the Hulk’s pals the Pantheon saved the day, although Kala did successfully come back to life. She even agrees to marry the Mole Man!
Fantastic or frightful? The original Nathaniel Richards story from Fantastic Four #271-273 is one of my all-time faves, so it’s disappointing to see the character so grossly misused here. This could be any Marvel time-traveling character, as opposed to Reed’s father. I keep wanting to like this run of the comics, but it’s like these just aren’t the same characters.
Next: Totally wild.
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