Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’re on the third issue of Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four (a.k.a. volume 2 issue 3) and it’s already a crossover. Marvel’s just gotta Marvel.
In this new continuity, the FF have just barely gotten their powers, only for them to team up with S.H.I.E.L.D. as Atlantis is (of course) attacking the surface world. This issue begins not with the FF, but with the Avengers, who also got the Heroes Reborn reboot. For this week’s blog, I tracked down and read Rob Liefeld’s Heroes Reborn: Avengers. I know I’ve defended Liefeld in the past, but not this time. His Avengers is completely unreadable, making Youngblood look like freakin’ Watchmen.
Anyway, Captain America and Thor fly in with a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents along for the ride. The fight the giant whale monster Giganto, who can now shoot energy beams out of his mouth. Nearby, in the center of the conflict, Sue uses her invisibility to get to Namor, arguing for a peaceful solution. Namor actually starts to listen, only for Red and Johnny to attack him. Ben is there as well, but he’s distracted by New Yorkers who think he’s one of the monsters. Namor awesome strength makes short work of Reed, Johnny, and Ben.
Just when it looks like Namor has won, he gets struck from by Thor’s hammer. Both being immortal (or at least long-lived), the two of them have some familiarity with each other. Captain America joins them, pulling off his mask. Namor is shocked, as the two of them knew each back in World War II.
From there, we cut to “Elsewhen,” which is not Huntara’s home dimension but a flashback to Sue asking Ben to pilot the FF’s initial space mission. Sue reminds Ben (and the reader) that there is a mysterious anomaly out in space, and she adds that someone in Eastern Europe has attempted to hack the spaceship’s data files. Ben says he’s done with fighting and action, and wants a quiet life, but Sue disagrees, saying Ben has always wanted to be an astronaut. This is all a dream, though, as we cut back to Ben waking up in the present, having crashed into the home of a woman named Alicia. She is a blind sculptress, who has been working with the city to temporarily convert her art gallery into a makeshift hospital during the attack. Ben says he admires her guts.
Reed, Sue, and Johnny catch up with Namor and the two Avengers. Namor collapses, overcome by surface world pollution. Atlantean warrior Krang, protected from the pollution thanks to his armor, sees this as his opportunity to seize power. The FFers and the Avengers fight him. Lady Dorma is also there, and she asks for Reed’s help to save Namor.
Elsewhere in NYC, Nick Fury flies down in a S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjet to pick up Ben. Only Ben throws Fury out, essentially hijacking the quinjet. He flies to battle Giganto, to fight the big monster. To add insult to injury, Ben even lights up one of Fury’s cigars along the way. (Remember, though, that this is not the real Nick Fury, but a life-model decoy secretly working undercover for the Sons of the Serpent, which will later be revealed in Heroes Reborn: Captain America.)
Reed deduces that Namor has not collapsed because of pollution, but that he’s been poisoned by a rare “sea wasp.” Dorma says Krang has deceived Namor, and Namor regains consciousness to swear revenge. Nearby, Ben sets the quinjet to self-destruct and flies it right into Giganto’s mouth. Giganto dies in a fiery explosion. It looks like a kamikaze flight, until Johnny swoops down from the sky and saves Ben from the blast.
Namor has recovered thanks to Reed’s help, and he orders the Atlantean army to stand down, telling his troops that Krang has deceived them all. Namor and Captain America share a salute, with Namor saying Atlantis will fight pollution through “more appropriate channels.” Then a paparazzi snaps a photo of the FF, with Johnny proudly telling reporters their name is the Fantastic Four.
Cut to one week later, where the FF have moved into their new headquarters in the Baxter Building, courtesy of wealthy philanthropist Saul Baxter. Nick Fury tells the team that the White House has given the FF special license to be “officially sanctioned troubleshooters.” Sue says that she and Johnny have severed their ties with the family business, making the FF its own organization. Then Fury ends the issue on an ominous note, saying that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Wyatt Wingfoot, who tried to sabotage the FF’s original spaceflight, is still missing.
Unstable molecule: In addition to being an astrophysicist, Reed is also a medical doctor. It’s the classic comic book trope of “genius” being an expert in multiple sciences.
Fade out: Namor is once again attracted to Sue, but not just for her beauty but also her intelligence and willingness to fight to do the right thing.
Clobberin’ time: Ben’s whole story arc in this issue is regaining his confidence by reclaiming his fighter pilot skills. His meeting Alicia, who is not horrified by his appearance, no doubt helps as well.
Flame on: We don’t know strong or weak the characters’ powers are in this continuity, but I find it unlikely that Johnny can carry Ben while flying. Let’s just assume Johnny created a cushion of hot air under Ben to carry them both.
Four and a half: Remembering that Heroes Reborn is taking place inside a pocket universe created by Franklin Richard’s reality-bending powers, this Thor is not the same Thor who disappeared at the end of Onslaught, but a Thor construct of Franklin’s creation. The “real” Thor shows up near the end of Heroes Reborn: Avengers to set the stage for Heroes Return.
Commercial break: I don’t know that I’d want to play a game called Three Dirty Dwarves.
Trivia time: Heroes Reborn: Avengers was a pretty crowded comic, with a membership of Captain America, Thor, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Tigra, Hawkeye, and Swordsman, with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, who became Ant-Man and Wasp, and a comic relief robot who would eventually become Ultron. Also among the supporting cast was the FF’s own Agatha Harkness, serving as Scarlet Witch’s mentor.
In Heroes Reborn: Avengers #1, it’s said that the Fantastic Four cannot help the Avengers fight Kang because they’re in the midst of some other conflict. But in this issue, they meet the FF for the first time. And this can’t take place before Liefeld’s Avengers #1 because that’s when Thor joined the team. The Marvel Wiki just throws up its hands and says, “This is a chronological error.”
And never forget that Liefeld’s work on Heroes Reborn gave the world this image:
Fantastic or frightful? Jim Lee and company are packing a lot of plot into one comic, almost to its detriment. There is so much ground to cover that we never really get the sense of New York being invaded by Atlantis. And, again, what is supposed to be an updated, modern take on the characters feels more like the same old Marvel we’ve always known.
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.