Fantastic Friday: No subplot gets out alive

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #387 actually got a small promotional push from Marvel at the time, half-heartedly selling “Nobody Gets Out Alive” as a Fantastic Four-related event comic. As we’re about to see, though, it’s not much of an event.

Gimmie a gimmick: To further half-heartedly promote this issue as a minor event, Marvel produced a variant cover on hard stock paper, in which the flames around Sue’s image were holofoil, creating a shiny effect. You could also buy a regular-priced ordinary cover, where the flames around sue are just plain purple.

We begin with the Watcher inside his home on the moon. For several pages, he ruminates on all the times he’s met the Fantastic Four, and then his recap of events of the last few issues. Cut to Four Freedoms Plaza, where our heroes are chasing an alien bird around the inside of the building for a few pages, in a classic excuse-for-the-characters-to-show-off-their-powers.

After capturing the bird, new teammate Ant-Man sends the bird back to its original timeline, revealing it got loose while he was fixing up the FF’s time sled with Dr. Doom’s matter transference computer the FF swiped from Doom’s castle. All this is because Sue believes Reed didn’t die while fighting Doom, but that he and Doom were merely teleported somewhere. Note that Namor is hanging out during, having just returned from a “small shopping spree” with Sue. So, despite Sue’s protestations about Reed, she and Namor appear attached at the hip.

We then catch up to last issue’s cliffhanger, in which Lyja gave birth not to a baby, but an egg. Said egg is in an incubator inside headquarters. Johnny wants he and Lyja to talk things out, but, when summoned by Ben and Sue, Lyja says her new responsibilities as an alternate fifth (Sixth? Seventh?) member of the FF takes precedent. The reason for Ben and Sue’s call is because Ben saw Dr. Doom in a newspaper, revealing Doom is alive.

Cut to Latveria, where we’re reminded that this Dr. Doom is really Nathaniel Richards in disguise. Using a “thought imagizer,” he contacts now-teenage Franklin telepathically, saying that he’s doing all this prevent an upcoming apocalypse and he still needs Franklin’s help. What Nathaniel apparently doesn’t know is that Franklin is possessed by the Malice psychic entity. Malice says there might be a way for Franklin to reach Reed, even though Franklin believes Reed is dead.

The FF discuss the Dr. Doom revelation, only for a flaming apparition of Sue to appear in the air above them. The apparition, dressed in the classic ‘60s FF uniform, says that the Fantastic Four are dead, and she’s responsible, having led them on their final quest. As the apparition disappears, Franklin shows up inside Reed’s lab to steal the team’s time sled. Before escaping, Franklin conveniently tells Ant-Man that he’s in search of Reed to stop “the dark raider.”

Ant-Man says he made a backup of the time machine’s software, which will allow the team to follow Franklin wherever he’s going. Sue and Ben argue, with him wanting to go to Latveria and investigate Dr. Doom, while Sue argues that they should pursue Franklin. Johnny reminds them that, just minutes ago, they saw an apparition warning them of their own destruction. He says, “Maybe we should quit while we’re ahead,” and he flies away, adding “I’m through risking my neck.”

Johnny and Lyja have another heart-to-heart. Now that he has a baby (of sorts) Johnny now has a fear of death he never had before. Lyja tells him to make up his mind whether he’s going to quit the team. Sue dons her new costume, showing off her tough-girl bare shoulders, just in time for Ben and Johnny to come around and agree to help her search for Franklin, despite the danger.

The FF use the time machine tech to pursue Franklin. With the Watcher watching (natch) the heroes teleport into a familiar looking building. There, they find… Reed! Only he acts like he doesn’t recognize Sue. Then we discover that this is classic Reed from the ‘60s, as classic Sue, Ben, and Johnny show up, ready for a fight with the current FF “imposters.”

To be continued!

Fade out: I like Sue’s new costume. It does the sexy-and-tough thing, but cartoonishly so.

Clobberin’ time: The scars on Ben’s face are much less prominent than they have been, further establishing that they’re healing over time.

Flame on: Johnny’s waffling about facing death and his hesitation to join the mission are more foreshadowing for the team’s upcoming breakup story arc.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Because the apparition only mentioned the original FF, Ant-Man says perhaps he can alter the future timeline simply by being there.

Four and a half: Nathaniel tells Franklin that “my son” will aid him in finding this mysterious Dark Raider and ending the apocalypse. Franklin doesn’t know who this “son” is, since he believes Reed is dead, but he goes along with the Nathaniel’s plan anyway.

The Alicia problem: Lyja is in full-on “warrior woman” mode in this issue. This is a far cry from the loving wife she was during all that time she was disguised as Alicia. I suppose we’re getting more of the “real” her now that she’s no longer disguised.

Commercial break: It’s Venom-mania! Almost every Marvel house ad in this issue features Venom, apparently to promote the miniseries Venom: The Mace, which debuted this month.

Trivia time: Sue’s new uniform wasn’t created in the lab. She bought it on special order from “Helena’s of NYC.” I could find no info as to what this place is. A Google search shows a super-fancy residential building in NYC named Helena’s and a Helena’s tapas place that recently went out of business. In questioning how the Marvel Universe Helena’s had access to unstable molecules, I wonder if this could be the Mystique villainess Helena Carson, a genius scientist and head of the Dermafree cosmetics company, who once got in trouble for using mutants to illegally test harmful cosmetics.

Fantastic or frightful? Although Marvel promoted this issue as a jumping-on point for new or lapsed readers, it’s really just continuing the many ongoing subplots of this era. The result just feels like more wheel-spinning as we readers wonder if any of this is going anywhere.

Next: Deja blue.


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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