Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After teasing a team breakup for several issues now, our heroes finally go their separate ways in issue #292.
Where were we? The Watcher transported Sue, Ben and Johnny into an alternate dimension where Galactus once succeeded in destroying the Earth, in hopes that they could go back and stop him this time. They failed, and this issue starts with alt-universe Reed crying over the death of his teammates. Cut to “an alternate plane” where the Watcher has now teleported Sue, Ben and Johnny, rescuing them from their apparent deaths at the end of the last issue. He says that although they failed, it is not yet their time to die.
With that over, the Watcher teleports the three back to Four Freedoms Plaza where Johnny learns his and Lyja’s “child” was really a Sha’Barri monster sent to kill them. Lyja says now the danger has passed and they can start anew, but Johnny won’t have it. He calls her a “miserable witch” and he is angry over all the times she deceived him. He leaves, saying “from this forward, wherever the human torch flies, he flies alone!”
Namor wants to comfort Sue, but Ant-Man suggests they give the original team some space. He leads Namor and new character Rafael Suarez outside. Lyja also leaves, saying that without Johnny, there is no reason for her to stay. Now it’s Ben’s turn to comfort Sue, saying the Fantastic Four had split up before and always reunited, but Sue argues that the FF is “an idea whose time is finally over.” They are interrupted by the arrival of the Dark Raider, still on his quest to kill every alternate Reed Richards in every alternate universe. He again demands that Sue and Ben turn over the Reed of their universe. They fight, with the Dark Raider driving Sue and Ben back with a high-tech “tornado whip.”
On the roof of Four Freedoms Plaza, teenage Franklin and barbarian swordswoman Huntara arrive in their stolen time sled, in response to the psychic vision Franklin had about Sue being in danger. They’re met on the roof by Black Panther, along with Wakandan teen mutant Vibraxas and inhuman teen Devlor. Black Panther has brought the kids there in hopes the FF can help them adjust to their new powers. Franklin, who is still struggling with Malice’s psychic influence in his brain, senses the Dark Raider inside the building.
Sue and Ben are no match for the Dark Raider, whose gadgets are designed as counter attacks for each of their powers. He’s not prepared for Black Panther and the teens, though. Vibraxas knocks him off his feet with earthquake powers, Black Panther has a bunch of high tech gadgets of his own, Huntara’s psionic blade can slice through the Raider’s force fields. Devlor transforms into a giant monster (that’s his power — he de-evolves) but the Raider takes him out of the fight. Sue and Franklin set aside their differences for a combined attack on the Raider, only for him to drive them back again.Then the Watcher reappears, saying it’s time for the truth. The Dark Raider takes off his mask to reveal that he is… Reed Richards!
Sue quickly deduces that this is yet another Reed from yet another alternate dimension. The Raider says his world was destroyed thanks to his/Reed’s careless curiosity, so he’s made it his mission to seek and destroy all Reeds in all realities. The Raider then reveals he has Galactus’ Ultimate Nullifier, and he threatens to use it, taking out the whole planet if he has to.
Sue says the heroes must find a way to shatter the Dark Raider’s mental control of the Nullifier, and she and Franklin both consider Malice. Working together, Franklin and Sue transfer Malice from Franklin’s mind into the Dark Raider’s mind. This distracts the Dark Raider long enough to lose control of the Nullifier, allowing the FF to snatch it. The Watcher says the Dark Raider is too dangerous to let live, and must be killed. Sue insists that the FF are not murderers (this despite her having murderous intent in recent issues) so the Watcher breaks his sacred vow and kills the Dark Raider (and Malice?) right in front of everyone. Overcome by his actions, the Watcher says he will now exile himself to a place so distant that there is nothing to watch.
Without pausing for a breath, Sue goes right back into insisting that Reed (her universe’s Reed, that is) is still alive, and she plans to leave the FF and search for him on her own. Ben starts to disagree, but Franklin steps in and says Sue is free to make her own choices. Sue, Ben, and Franklin say a teary goodbye as Sue takes the time sled and leaves. Black Panther, who is still hanging around with the super-powered teens, asks what will become of the Fantastic Four. Ben says from now on, he’s flying solo as, “the Fantastic One.”
Fade out: Sue believes that the Dark Raiders attack is proof positive that her Reed is still alive, hence the extra motivation for leaving.
Clobberin’ time: Ben tells Sue to call him if she ever needs help, throwing a bone to readers who can guess the team’s breakup is temporary.
Flame on: In addition to leaving because of Lyja, Johnny also has a line stating that he’s through risking his neck, and says he’s done with venturing into the unknown.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man does his part simply by playing peacemaker, and knowing when his teammates need some personal space. He no doubt picked up these skills during his time with the Avengers.
Four and a half: After being at odds for so long, Franklin and Sue finally accept one another as mother and son.
The Alicia problem: An argument could be made that Lyja truly does love Johnny, but this whole pregnancy-was-really-a-killer-alien-implant thing does make her look bad. Look for her behavior to take another turn in issues to come.
Commercial break: Welcome to my reality.
Trivia time: What’s with these new characters? This is the “stealth pilot” for Marvel’s upcoming Fantastic Force spinoff series, starring Franklin, Huntara, Vibraxas and Devlor, with Black Panther acting as their Professor X mentor-type.
This issue is the final appearance of Rafael Suarez, who got laser-blasting super powers from Lyja. They brought back Wildstreak during Civil War, but not this guy?
Fantastic or frightful? This issue would appear to be the big finale, wrapping up a bunch of subplots that have been going on for a long time now, except I’ve read ahead a little, and these subplots are going to keep on sub-plotting.
Next: Nothin’ but puppets.
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