Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re only a few issues away from the big reboot, but that won’t stop a crossover from happening, so in issue #413, the FF are running head-first into the Marvel 2099 timeline.
In true Marvel fashion, this issue begins unexpectedly in middle of a crossover, starting where Doom 2099 #42 ended. So, let’s talk about Marvel’s 2099 comics. This series of comics explored the future of the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man 2099, Punisher 2099, and Stan Lee-created newcomer Ravage 2099 all squared off against the powerful Alchemax Corporation, while X-Men 2099 explored an all-mutant city out in a Mad Max-style desert wasteland. Doom 2099 had Dr. Doom time-traveling from the present to the year 2099, where he and a ragtag group fought to retake the Latverian throne. After a lot of mystery over whether this is the real Dr. Doom, Doom 2099 succeeded in conquering Latveria (which is when this issue takes place) and he later conquered all of North America by the time the series was done.
In Doom 2099 #42, future Latveria has been attacked by a deadly neurotoxin, turning Latverians into zombie-like shamblers. Doom 2099 traveled to the present for a cure, found in a rare breed of sea crab. Present-day Dr. Doom teamed up with Namor (who didn’t wait long before diving into the I’m-a-villain-again thing) to stop Doom 2099 from getting the crabs. Along the way, he also fought Daredevil and the FF’s own Thing. Having lost the fight, Doom 2099 got away and at the start of this issue, he’s lurking in the tunnels beneath Four Freedoms Plaza.
In Reed’s lab, he’s inventing a dimensionally-transcendental probe. He’s going to send it into subspace in the hopes of contacting either the Silver Surfer or Galactus, and then enlist their aid on getting Hyperstorm off their backs. (Remember that the FF are only currently alive because the godlike Hyperstorm is allowing them to be alive.) Instead of just launching the probe into space, he’s sending it into the Negative Zone, and from there to the Crossroads of Infinity, where its message can cross all realities. Nathaniel Richards is still hanging around. He says Hyperstorm can’t be defeated, and Reed and Sue shut him up by again pointing out he knows more than he’s letting on.
There’s a short comedy scene of Ben picking up cars and carrying them around to through NYC traffic. Then present-day Dr. Doom and Namor arrive in New York. Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, Reed and teenage Franklin are operating on Black Bolt, in the hopes of repairing his damaged antenna. Later, Reed reports to the Inhuman Royal Family that the operation was successful and Black Bolt will make a full recovery.
While Doom 2099 sneaks into the building, Reed gets a signal that the probe has made contact. Reed dons a cool astronaut suit and prepares for a journey to the Crossroads. He goes by himself, saying he’ll safely skip past the dangers of the Negative Zone. It works, and Reed enters the Crossroads, where he finds the Silver Surfer has responded to his signal.
Ben arrives at HQ, and calls for Johnny’s help. He says the two of them have to start looking for Doom 2099, only for them to spot him on one of the building’s security cameras. Doom 2099 is synthesizing the crab venom in a lab (a different one from the Negative Zone portal) and Ben and Johnny attack. Doom 2099 holds his own against them thanks to his futuristic armor.
At the Crossroads, the Silver Surfer tells Reed that Galactus is dead, having been killed by his new herald, Morg. (This happened in Silver Surfer #109.) Reed says he needs to know where this happened, and the Surfer gives him the coordinates before flying off. Reed signals Franklin to bring him back to HQ, but the fight against Doom 2099 breaks into the Negative Zone room, interrupting Franklin’s retrieval efforts.
The Inhumans join the fight against Doom 2099, who holds his own against all the heroes. Franklin, meanwhile, struggles to maintain his connection with Reed before Reed is forever lost among the Crossroads. Doom 2099 eventually gives in and makes a retreat. He flies out of the building, only to be attacked by present-day Doom and Namor. They knock Doom 2099 unconscious and take him back to Latveria. Neither the FF nor the Inhumans recognize present-day Doom’s aircraft, so they have no idea who abducted Doom 2099.
That mystery is put on hold when Franklin successfully brings Reed back from the Crossroads. Reed says the Silver Surfer’s information has finally given the FF a way to defeat Hyperstorm. As he says this, we see that Hyperstorm is secretly watching them. Then a time platform (like from Dr. Doom’s old time machine) appears above teenage Franklin. Too fast for anyone to react, it takes Franklin away in time. Seconds later, Franklin reemerges from the time portal, only this time he’s back to being a little kid again, just like before the whole “teenage Franklin” thing was introduced.
To be continued! (Sort of.)
Unstable molecule: To deal with the PTSD of being trapped in time for so long, Reed has been in therapy with Doc Sampson, the gamma-irradiated scientist who is a rival for the Hulk. Sampson instructed Reed to shave his beard.
Fade out: Doom 2099’s attack on the building includes knocking out the power. Sue’s role during the fight to re-route emergency power back to the building’s main systems.
Clobberin’ time: During the fight, Karnak kicks Doom 2099 in such a way that Doom 2099 falls face-first into the path of Ben’s oncoming fist. Sweet.
Flame on: It’s not said why Ben recruits only Johnny and not the whole team to search for Doom 2099. Johnny suggests using the “citywide monitoring system” to look for Doom 2099.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Medusa gives Reed a big hug at one point, a nice reminder of all the years she spent as a loyal member of the FF. She later wraps up Doom 2099 in her super-hair, and we never see how he escapes from her. He goes straight from that to flying out of the building. (Maybe Medusa chucked him out the window.)
Ant-Man and Kristoff don’t appear, but they’re still considered members of the team from now until issue #416.
Four and a half: Teenage Franklin struggles heroically to bring Reed home from the Crossroads, realizing he’s never felt closer to his father than at that moment. Little did anyone know it at the time, but this was the last hurrah for teen Franklin. More to the point, it’s his last appearance, as next issue reestablishes kid Franklin as the one and only.
Commercial break: In addition to Silver Surfer guest-starring in this issue, this month’s Bullpen Bulletins page is all about promoting his solo book, notably Silver Surfer #117, which introduced the Legion of Substitute Surfers.
Trivia time: Doom 2099 eventually returned to the year 2099, after successfully escaping his present-day counterpart. He used the rare crab venom to save the Latverian people of 2099, with the side effect being some Latverians transformed into half-human half-crab monsters. The 2099 comics were weird.
In addition to all the 2099 stuff, this issue also takes us to the Crossroads of Infinity, made famous in one of the all-time great Hulk story arcs, from Incredible Hulk #300 to #313.
This issue’s letters page has a note telling readers to be on the lookout for a new villain who is bringing an ONSLAUGHT (in all caps) with him. It has begun.
Fantastic or frightful? Really, this issue and the next are all about clearing the slate and wrapping everything up before the series ends, with a focus on setting things back in place to as like classic Fantastic Four as much as possible. Bringing in Doom 2099 and the Crossroads of Infinity seem like an afterthought.
Next: Gone Frankie Gone.
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