Fantastic Friday: Gone Frankie gone

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #414 is more or less the end of Tom DeFalco’s run on the series, with the remaining issues before the reboot, so we’re pressing reset buttons all over the place.

Recap: At the end of the previous issue, godlike villain Hyperstorm meddled with the timestream again, taking teenage Franklin away in a time platform and replacing him with young Franklin, at the state he was in when first abducted in time. This issue begins with a narration caption boldly proclaiming, “Young Franklin is back!” Sue is happy to see the kid again, who says he remembers a man in armor taking him away, and nothing else prior to this moment.

Ben is ready for a fight, demanding answers from Nathaniel Richards. Nathaniel says that Hyperstorm has changed history, so that Nathaniel raising Franklin in an alternate timeline never happened, therefore teenage Franklin, a.k.a. Psi-Lord of Fantastic Force, never existed. Nathaniel decides it’s finally time to spill the beans. He tells the FF about the Days of Future Past alternate future, in which teen Franklin had a romance with the X-Men’s Rachel Summers. Then, in an alternate-alternate version of that timeline, Franklin and Rachel had a child, a mutant with the power over hyperspace itself — Hyperstorm!

Nathaniel further explains that all his time-traveling machinations, including his abducting and raising alt-timeline Franklin, was because in every timeline, Hyperstorm destroys the FF. Nathaniel was only trying to prevent this. Reed says he’s one step ahead of Nathaniel, and he’s already working on a plan to defeat Hyperstorm by employing the power of Galactus. Galactus was recently destroyed by his new herald, Morg. Now Galactus’ power cosmic is floating out in space, just waiting for Reed to use. Reed says he has to go on this mission alone, to keep Hyperstorm from knowing what he’s up to. The rest of the team doesn’t like this, while we see that Hyperstorm watches in secret.

Then it’s time for more soap opera stuff as Ben walks in on Lyja, who is on the phone pretending to be Johnny’s new girlfriend Laura Green. Lyja admits to Ben that yes, she is Laura. She explains the Laura persona was originally just to keep an eye on Johnny, and that things got out of hand. Later Johnny is on a walk in Central Park with “Laura.” He gives her a goodbye kiss before leaving for the Galactus mission. He reacts to the kiss with shock, saying “You!” and then he flies off.

Back at HQ, the team prepares for the mission to space. Reed leaves Franklin in the care of Ant-Man and Kristoff, adding that in case the FF don’t return, Franklin is to be enrolled in Professor Xavier’s school. Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, and Nathaniel board the FF’s wormhole shuttle and travel into the Negative Zone, which takes them to subspace, and from there directly to Galactus’ last known location. Johnny takes a moment to fret to Ben about his love life, while Reed locates an exhaust trail that can take him to the remains of Galactus’ worldship. Reed then deduces that Galactus is alive, having fled into a parallel dimension at the last minute.

With Reed’s plan revealed, Hyperstorm appears, revealing that he is indeed Reed’s future grandson. He says that after seeing his mutant parents and their friends hunted and killed, he had devoted his life to bringing peace to all realities. Further, he believes true peace can only be achieved by removing personal freedoms from all intelligent life. A fight breaks out, with the heroes unmatched by Hyperstorm’s raw power. During the slugfest, Hyperstorm announces his real name is Jonathan R. Richards.

Back at HQ, Franklin is upset at his family leaving him alone to go on a dangerous mission so soon after being reunited with him. A portal opens up, and out steps another little kid named Charlie. Charlie says he’s here to help Franklin, and the two are about to become best friends. I’ll spoil it: This is not Charles Xavier of the X-Men, which is what many thought at the time, but it is in fact X-Men megavillain Onslaught, putting together his master plan. We’ll get into Onslaught next week. Oh boy, will we.

Back at the battle, Reed activates the device he was using to search for Galactus, saying everything is proceeding as planned. He opens a portal to the dimension where Galactus escaped to. Somehow the FF can all tell that Galactus hasn’t fed in some time, and might consume them all right on the spot. Reed tells Galactus that Hyperstorm contains enough energy to end his hunger once and for all. Galactus attacks, drawing raw energy from Hyperstorm.

The FF flee back to the ship while Reed explains the hyperstorm draws his power from hyperspace, a limitless source energy. Galactus, meanwhile has a hunger that can never truly be satisfied. This locks the two of them in Galactus’ dimension in this state for all eternity.

On the flight home, Nathaniel apologies for how much of a jerk he’s been, saying he was wrong to mistrust the FF. Reed thanks his teammates for their help, saying he couldn’t have done it without them. It’s the big happy ending as Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny share smiles as the original super-team, the Fantastic Four.

Unstable molecule: Reed’s whole arc in this issue is initially pushing his family away, only to realize how much he needs them. This shows DeFalco, despite the clunkiness of his writing during this time, does understand these characters.

Fade out: Sue insists she’s strong enough to be included on the mission, but she doesn’t do anything except stand in the background the Hyperstorm fight. Maybe she’s using her force fields and we can’t see them.

Clobberin’ time: Ben chooses to keep Lyja’s secret, and offer her some understanding. Is this because he has a still-developing crush on Lyja, or is he wise enough to let and Johnny work things out for themselves.

Flame on: Johnny figuring out Lyja’s secret is telegraphed pretty far in advance, leaving him not sure what to do about his love life. It’s a bit much for him to think that Laura Green might be “the one” when they’ve never kissed before now, but that’s comics for you.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man’s job is once again to monitor things at home while his teammates are away. He debuts a cool new red jacket with an “A” on the shoulder.

Reed gives Kristoff the brush-off by saying Kristoff is “not needed” on the mission, with no further explanation. I guess he’s as sick of Kristoff as ‘90s readers were.

Four and a half: Not only will teenage Franklin never appear again, according to official Marvel continuity, he never existed. Let’s talk about this. After being raised in an alt-timeline hellscape, teen Franklin was finally reunited with his family, only for them to reject him. He got a found family of his own in Fantastic Force, only for that team for fall apart. Then he was finally welcomed back by his family, only to wiped out of time by the original Franklin. If any Marvel character needs to be brought back from obscurity, it’s this Psi-Lord Franklin, who got a raw deal in life, and who never truly found his place in life.

The Alicia problem: When Alicia is impersonating Laura Green on the phone, she’s drawn with having a glowing red effect around her. Is this just to show that she’s shape-changing, or is this something that happens to some Skrulls when they impersonate voices only?

Commercial break: “It makes Spider-sense!”

Trivia time: This is also a wrap on Hyperstorm, who was never seen again. Galactus returns in Silver Surfer #144, with no mention of what became of Hyperstorm. After tracking down that issue, I was surprised to learn the FF’s own Alicia Masters was a Silver Surfer supporting character at this time, where she got a special spacesuit that let her fly around the cosmos with the Surfer.

Fantastic or frightful? This is a real checking-stuff-off-the-list issue. Marvel editorial clearly gave the creators a mandate, with plans for rebooting the series on the horizon. It’s nice, though, to get a happy ending for our heroes before everything goes to Hell, which it is about to.

Next: Bring on the slaught.

****

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. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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