Fantastic Friday: Adam-Ant-ium

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Wolverine slashed up the Thing’s face way back in issue #374. Now we’re at issue #395 and it’s time for a rematch — not to mention another sales-boosting Wolverine guest appearance.

We begin at the Last Gasp Saloon, an old-timey cowboy bar located on the shore of Lake Erie. The place has been trashed, and Wolverine is inside, alone, nursing a drink and a cigar. He is dwelling on how he slashed the Thing’s face, and he thinks “Time has come to see how deep those scars run.” A Fantasticar lands outside, and Ben enters, decked out in his trenchcoat-and-fedora look.

A bum outside the bar makes a phone call (with a 1995-era cell phone!) to the Mad Thinker, who still insists on calling himself just “the Thinker,” who as usual brags about how he predicated this would happen and all is going according to his plan. The Mad Thinker is still doing his mental projection thing, using his super-brain to manipulate his lab while his body is safely locked up in jail. Back at the bar, we see Ant-Man has snuck aboard the Fantasticar while all teeny-tiny, here to give Ben some backup, whether Ben wants it or not.

We then cut to the “Great Western Desert,” where Johnny and She-Hulk are messing around with their powers, using the desert as a makeshift Danger Room. Johnny wants to talk to the mysterious blonde who helped him out during the battle last issue, but she runs off before he gets a chance. The blonde instead meets up with feisty coed Bridget O’Neil. Bridget says the blonde is a source of much gossip. The blonde introduces herself as Laura Green, and she says she was a last-minute addition to this, their school archeology trip. They talk about Johnny, with Bridget says Johnny is recently divorced, and she tells Laura to “keep your distance.” Laura then reveals what the reader already knows, that she is Lyja the Skrull in disguise, in hopes that “Laura” will make Johnny forget he ever knew Lyja.

Ben shows a lot of anger toward Wolverine, saying that although he was already a rock monster, his scarred face didn’t make things any easier. Wolverine tries to apologize, saying he was in a bad place at that time, and that things have changed. He offers Ben a beer and says he wants to make amends. Ben refuses, smashes some furniture. Wolverine unleashes his claws and they’re about to fight. Then Ant-Man interrupts with a classic “We’ve got company!” Three guys in sci-fi body armor burst through the door, also looking for a fight.

In Latveria, Sue is staying at Castle Doom with Nathaniel Richards, who has tricked the world into thinking he’s Doctor Doom back from the dead. Nathaniel says he’s in search of his missing son, and Sue insists that Reed is still alive. Nathaniel won’t explain any more, saying he must first make improvements to his high-tech battle armor. Sue then sees an apparition of herself, seemingly the same one from issue #387. The apparition says to believe in Nathaniel, and “Only he holds the key!”

Back at the bar, Ben and Wolverine fight the three attackers. Okay, so who are these guys? One has Iron Man-like body armor, one has high-tech bullwhips, and one has an ice gun. The bullwhip guy is named “Kerekes” and the others’ names are never revealed. Further, the Marvel wiki only has one sentence about them, naming them assassins (not “the assassins” mind you, just “assassins”). It should come to no surprise that Wolverine and Ben defeat these guys with no problem.

Then a new opponent enters the bar, a new version of the Mad Thinker’s Super-Adaptoid, called the Super Android Model F-4. Just like the original Super-Adaptoid, the Super Android has the combined powers of the Fantastic Four. It punches Ben into the next building over and then starts choking Wolverine. Ant-Man watches from his teeny vantage point, wondering what he can do.

In Latveria, Nathaniel tells Sue about one of his earlier time-travel adventures. He crash landed (crash materialized?) in Latveria and was injured. A beautiful young gypsy woman took him in, healing him with “exotic potions” and “a form of witchcraft.” She and Nathaniel fell in love, and eventually had a son, whom Nathaniel calls the “absolute monarch of Latveria.” Sue (and the reader?) assumes this means that Reed and Dr. Doom are in fact long-lost brothers.

Meanwhile, Ben and Wolverine continue fighting the Super Android. It burns Ben in the face, where his scars are still more sensitive than the rest of his rock body. Ben admits it’s not appearance that upset him about the scars, it’s about having to feel vulnerable.  While they continue fighting the android, Ant-Man leaps onto its shoulder and attaches a container of “shrink gas” to it. The android shrinks down to ant size, an attack it has no defense for. With a flick of his finger, Ben sends the android flying into the lake. This apparently destroys it. The issue ends with the Mad Thinker in jail receiving a “Wish you were here” postcard from Ben, Wolverine, and Ant-Man.

Fade out: You might be thinking the mysterious apparition of Sue was from an alternate timeline where Galactus killed everybody. You’re right, it was. This version is all part of Nathaniel’s increasingly far-fetched plot to manipulate the FF. We’ll get there eventually.

Clobberin’ time: This issue answers the long-standing question of why Ben didn’t just use Marvel Universe super-science to fix his face. It’s because the real scars are the emotional ones.

Flame on: Johnny says he has no plans to return to the FF, even though he’s still wearing a blue shirt with the “4” logo on it.

Fantastic fifth wheel: The Marvel Wiki insists that Ant-Man’s “shrink gas” is actually Pym particles, the stuff that makes shrinking possible.

She-Hulk is just now learning that Reed is dead. She offers to re-join the FF, but Johnny tells her she’s talking to the wrong the person.

The Alicia problem: Lyja is secretly pursuing Johnny in the hopes of seducing him in the “Alice Green” persona. Just what are we to think of Lyja by this point? Villain? Love interest? Troubled victim? I just don’t know anymore.

Commercial break: “Alpha, bring me my Zune.”

Trivia time: Why is Wolverine so interested in making amends with Ben? This issue is following X-Men #25, where he lost all his Adamantium and X-Men #30 in which he was sad about Jean Grey marrying Cyclops instead of him. So the newly no-longer-invulnerable Wolverine has been making the rounds in the Marvel Universe hoping to make amends for all the bad things he’s done. Yes, this also means that this issue features Wolvie’s notorious bone claws, though they’re drawn and colored to still look all metallic.

The Super Android makes one more appearance after this, in the Fantastic Four Unplugged miniseries of the mid-90s.

Fantastic or frightful? An okay-to-good issue, where the heroes fight actual villains instead of each other. It’s also nice to see Ant-Man finally do some actual Ant-action as a member of the team. So, yeah, I guess I liked this one.

Next: Saturday morning car-Dooms.

****

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

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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