Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The previous issue promised “Someone will die!” And yes, a main character bites it in issue #381, so why isn’t this mentioned among historically important storylines? Let’s find out.
Ben, mistakenly thinking that Sharon Ventura is dead and blaming Dr. Doom for it, attacked Doom’s castle while Doom was fighting with a cosmic being known only as the Hunger. There was an explosion inside the castle, and our heroes fear that Ben is dead. We begin with several pages of the FF — Reed, Sue, Johnny, Franklin, and Lyja — fight Doom’s robots outside the castle wreckage. During the fight, we also catch up on subplots. Franklin is now in his late teens after some time traveling, and Sue remains skeptical that he’s not the real Franklin. Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still being around.
Ben and Dr. Doom emerge from the rubble, still alive. Reed offers a hand to help Doom, but Doom refuses. Doom returns to the non-exploded half of the castle, just leaving the FF there, while Ben explains that the Hunger is still out there. Cut to the forest outside the castle, where we see the Hunger take on a new form, of a golden-skinned gargoyle/bat type of monster, complete with purple underpants. In his lab, Doom returns to his plan to steal the Hunger’s cosmic power.
Cut to a nearby village, for a weird scene in which a father scolds his child for frowning in public, saying that it is the law in Latveria for everyone to appear happy and content in public or else face swift and violent punishment. They come across Reed in the village square, telling everyone to evacuate. The Latverians don’t believe him, thinking that this is a plot by Dr. Doom to test their loyalty. Everyone then scatters as the Hunger attacks, and the FF fight the Hunger for several pages.
The fight is interrupted by a Latverian pilot aboard a “hover-fighter,” who chases the Hunger off with “particle bursts.” The pilot offers to take the FF back to the castle, and Reed accepts. In Doom’s lab, Doom shows off a matter transference pad, which he says will teleport the Hunger away from Earth. Reed believes this, and he gets to work helping Doom with the machine. In his thoughts, however, Doom lets the reader know that the real purpose of the machine is to steal the Hunger’s power.
Back to the fight, Reed attacks the Hunger with a cable attached to Doom’s device. This causes an explosion that knocks out Reed and Sue, while also killing a bunch of Doom’s henchmen. Doom uses a battery pack containing the last of the cosmic power he stole from Aron the Watcher a few issues back, Doom fights Hunger some more. Doom beats the Hunger down, and it looks like he’s one, but the Hunger fights back some more, frying Doom inside his armor. It’s only then that Doom use the matter transference device to beam the hunger into deep space.
Reed approaches Doom, who is now battered and beaten, to offer help. Doom says he cannot die knowing that Reed still lives. As Reed offers a helping hand, Doom takes it, only for them both to explode in a burst of light, leaving behind nothing but ashes.
Unstable molecule: You’re no doubt predicting that Reed and Dr. Doom aren’t really dead. You’re right of course, but in interviews and press materials at the time, the folks at Marvel were once again playing the “this time it’s permanent” game. Oh, Marvel.
Fade out: Sue’s Malice persona makes a brief reappearance, showing admiration for Dr. Doom’s ambition to rule the entire world.
Clobberin’ time: During the fight, Ben admits that he’s been feeling a lot of fear because of the scars on his face making him vulnerable, but then he buckles up promises not to be afraid anymore.
Flame on: Johnny continues to have mixed feelings about Lyja still hanging around. He calls her “sweetheart” at one point. When she asks if that’s genuine or sarcastic, he doesn’t answer.
Four and a half: Franklin once again dons his “Psilord” armor (still not spelled with a hyphen) during the fight.
The Alicia problem: Lyja uses her “laser-fist” powers during the fight, as well as transforming into a bird-like creature to help Johnny at one point.
Commercial break: They actually put this on prime time:
Trivia time: Confused about the geography of this issue, between the castle, the capitol city, the forest, and the small village. The Marvel wiki isn’t much help, but does list some notable Latverian tourist spots, including Doom Falls and the Cynthia Von Doom Memorial Park.
Fantastic or frightful? Here they’re killing off two of comicdom’s biggest characters, but it comes off as more of the same-old, same old. Also, as a cosmic being, the Hunger should be a Galactus-level threat, but instead is just a random monster for the heroes to punch for several pages. So, this issue isn’t bad, it just gets a shrug.
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