Fantastic Friday: The soapiest of operas

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s issue #410, and we’re pretty much at the end now, with a complete reboot on the horizon. This issue starts wrapping up some odds and ends… or does it?

We begin with Reed back in his lab, concerned that mega-villain Hyperstorm is still out there, and could strike at any time. But we’re also picking up where the final issue of Fantastic Force left off, where teenage Franklin has just learned his dad is still alive. There’s some old-school bickering among Ben, Johnny, and Franklin, as they want to celebrate while Reed urges seriousness.

Elsewhere in the same lab, Ant-Man, Kristoff, and Nathaniel Richards are trying to get the FF’s time machine/teleporter working, only to discover that Hyperstorm has barred the team from time travel. Reed starts a fight with Nathaniel, demanding more information about Hyperstorm, only for Franklin to break them up. In yet another corner of the lab, Ben uses the alien device from a few issues back, that allows him to turn back human for a short time.

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie shows up, announcing that a boy from school is coming over a visit. Kristoff is upset about this, as he had started developing a crush on Cassie. Alone in his private corners, Kristoff admits to the absurdity of his walking around in adult-sized Dr. Doom armor, and he angers at how he is merely one of Doom’s failed experiments.

Human Ben, meanwhile, flirts with Lyja, only to be overcome by a pounding headache. Cassie meets with her school friend, Donald, who reveals he’s there to ask the FF’s help. Kristoff steps out without his armor and offers to help. We then cut to the FF’s version of the X-Men’s Danger Room, where Namor is back to putting the moves on Sue, arguing that Reed is a different man than he once was. Reed watches them in secret, wondering if Namor is right.

 

Out in New York City, Lyja has left Ben to shape-change into her human-appearing Laura Green persona. She’s there for a date with Johnny, still in hopes of convincing him that “Laura” and Lyja are two different people. At HQ, Kristoff gives Cassie and Donald a tour of the lab, pointed out a mysterious door. Kristoff says he doesn’t know what’s inside the door, and that the other FF team members have kept that secret from him possibly because of his association with Dr. Doom. Donald runs off, saying he doesn’t want to break any rules.

There’s a short scene of a mysterious man wandering through New York, and then we rejoin Kristoff, Cassie and Donald playing soccer at a nearby park. Kristoff reflects on his origin, with the added detail that his father was an unknown wanderer whose identity he never learned. Donald trips and falls, only for Cassie to see that Donald’s back is covered with scars and bruises. Donald runs off again.

At HQ again, Reed and Sue begin to reconcile, with her saying she doesn’t want to lose him again. Then that mysterious man shows up in the building. It’s Gorgon of the Inhumans (who, let’s never forget, once single-handedly defeated the Fantastic Four in battle). Gordon says Black Bolt has gone mad and threatens to destroy them all.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed uses an “encephalo-helmet” to determine that Hyperstorm isn’t secretly manipulating him telepathically. This helmet appears to be a combination of a couple of old-school FF inventions, including the thought projector helmet from issue #27, the encephalo-gun from annual #2, and the encephalo-feedback scrambler from Strange Tales #126.

Fade out: Even though Namor causes a rift between Sue and Reed this issue, it’s worth noting that she flat-out refuses Namor’s advances by throwing him across the room with a force field.

Clobberin’ time: This issue has the first hints that Ben’s alien device has some serious side effects, which is going to a short-lived subplot over the next few issues.

Flame on: Ben attempts to use a high-tech chemical foam to douse Johnny’s flame, but Reed stops him, so we’ll never know if it would have worked.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue wants to establish a mystery about who Kristoff’s father is, even though Nathaniel claimed he was the father back in issue #395. The Marvel Wiki doesn’t provide an answer, instead stating “These claims have not been substantiated.”

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie is revealed to be 11 years old, even though she’s drawn and written younger. Also, she’s apparently living with the FF now, instead of just visiting, because she’s in school in NYC instead of the west coast.

Marvel ran a Fantastic Four house ad this month, which includes She-Hulk and future team member Black Panther.

Four and a half: Teenage Franklin is now back with the FF, with zero mention of what became of his Fantastic Force teammates now that that series has ended. He uses his telepathy to help scan Reed’s brain.

The Alicia problem: The date between Johnny and “Laura” is detailed in yet another spin0ff title, Fantastic Four Unplugged. The date was interrupted by an attack the Mole Man, leaving Lyja to further fret over whether to tell Johnny the truth.

Commercial break: Bone crunching action!

Trivia time: Once again, it’s established that Four Freedoms Plaza has a maze-like interior. The lab is a series of interconnected rooms including mysterious doors that can’t be opened. The “danger room” also has a strange platform where Reed can watch Sue and Namor without them realizing it. We also get a good look at the building’s lobby with a cameo from robot receptionist Roberta.

Fantastic or frightful? After so many issues of cosmic weirdness and ever-increasing stakes, it’s a breath of fresh air to get spend some time on all the interpersonal conflicts that been building. The bad news is that this issue is all about setting up future plotlines, not knowing that we’re only six issues away from the big reboot.

Next: Little green men.

****

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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