Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This is issue #5 of Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four (a.k.a. volume 2, issue 5), courtesy of superstar artist Jim Lee. We can’t reboot the Fantastic Four without also rebooting Dr. Doom, right?
Recap: Reed and Sue traveled to Wakanda to investigate the space anomaly that gave the FF their powers, only to be abducted by Dr. Doom. We begin with the previous issue’s other cliffhanger, where a mysterious man snuck into the Baxter Building. Ben and Johnny confront him, only to reveal that it’s… Wyatt Wingfoot! Ben and Johnny are ready for a fight, but Wyatt insists that the “Wyatt Wingfoot” who sabotaged the FF back in issue #1 was an imposter.
Wyatt explains that he was on assignment for S.H.I.E.L.D. in Eastern Europe investigation some hacking into the FF’s original spaceflight. He was betrayed by his own people and locked up, only to escape and make it to New York as a fugitive, seeking Reed’s help. Ben tries to contact Wakanda only to get a message that Reed and Sue are unavailable. Wyatt assumes the worst and says it’s up to the three of them to save Reed and Sue.
Cut to Latveria, where Dr. Doom introduces himself to captives, Reed, Sue, and Black Panther. “After all these years, we finally meet,” Doom says. Reed says he knows who Doom used to be, back when he was grad school student Victor Von Doom. In grad school, Reed and Doom ran in the same circle of genius friends, which also included Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Henry Pym. In grad school, Doom tested his design for a new mech suit in hopes of conquering Latveria. The suit blew up in his face, horribly scarring him. After leaving school and hiding out in Tibet to heal, Doom eventually take over Latveria, ruling it as a feared dictator.
Doom says both he and the FF are seeking the same mysterious object that emerged from the space anomaly in issue #1. He reveals that he has it — and it’s the Silver Surfer. Well, he’s not called that yet in this continuity. In this introduction scene, he’s just “humanoid.” Doom is attempting to syphon cosmic energy from the Surfer. When a scientist says they’ve hit a delay in the process, Doom kills the man right then and there. Doom then says that Reed will analyze the Surfer’s the powers. If Reed won’t comply, Doom will kill Sue.
Sue won’t have this, using her force fields to fight back. She, Reed, and Black Panther fight Doom’s robot guards, but they’re no match for Doom, who knocks Reed and Sue unconscious with energy blasts. Black Panther, however, escapes into Castle Doom’s ventilation system. Doom orders Wyatt Wingfoot to search for him. One of Wyatt’s cronies refers to him as “Kl’rt,” suggesting that this is the imposter. Later, Reed awakens to find Doom has rigged a still-unconscious Sue to a deathtrap-like device. Defeated, Reed says he’ll help Doom.
Johnny, Ben and the real Wyatt enter Latverian airspace flying an ECM (short for “electronic counter measure,” which I’m not sure is a type of aircraft), following Reed and Sue’s trail. They encounter a hologram of Dr. Doom, telling them “resistance is futile,” and then more robots attack. Wyatt says these are Doom’s “war-bots” and they are programmed with advanced combat skills. They’re no match for Ben and Johnny’s powers. Wyatt leads the two heroes into a nearby sewer drain.
More war-bots attack, and the heroes this time are rescued at the last minute by Black Panther. Once they escape, the imposter Kl’rt shows up and destroys the war-bots, saying the Fantastic Four’s survival is essential to his plan. He says he’s also planning on deactivating all of Dr. Doom’s defenses, leaving him vulnerable to attack.
In Castle Doom, Reed has invented a “flux inhibitor” that Doom can use to absorb the Surfer’s cosmic power. Before he and Doom can properly test the device, Reed, Johnny and Black Panther smash into the room. Everyone fights, while Reed frees Sue from the deathtrap. Then the imposter Kl’rt grabs hold of the flux inhibitor, absorbing the powers in place of Doom. Then he reveals to everyone that he’s not Wyatt Wingfoot, but Kl,rt, warrior of the Galactic Skrull Empire. Doom is ready for a fight, but Kl,rt says he’s already evolved from a Skrull into a Super-Skrull.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Dr. Doom initially offers Reed the first chance to absorb the Silver Surfer’s power. When Reed accepts, Doom stops him, saying this was only a test of Reed’s faith. What is this scene even about?
Fade out: Sue wears a white lab coat throughout the issue, perhaps to emphasize her a science-adventure and not just a damsel in distress (which she pretty much is in this one).
Clobberin’ time: I know it’s a cliché to point out stuff like this, but what are those tiny pouches on Ben’s belt? How can he even open them with his giant rock-monster hands?
Flame on: Johnny using his flame to burn off Wyatt’s homeless man beard is an intentional shout-out to the original Fantastic Four #4, when Johnny did that when he met Namor the Sub-Mariner. Also, Wyatt naps on the flight to Latveria, a shout-out to Wyatt napping in the Fantasticar in issue #52.
Commercial break: I love that the release date is “ahead.”
Trivia time: The other guy in the flashback alongside Reed, Doom, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, and Hank Pym is Rebel O’Reilly. Rebel is a new character created for Heroes Reborn: Iron Man who became a villain. He wore the Promethean armor, but was never called “The Promethean” as his villain name. When Tony Stark returns to the regular Marvel Universe, Rebel became a good guy and took over as Iron Man in the Heroes Reborn universe.
Fantastic or frightful? Once again, this is almost too much plot for one comic book. We’re retelling Dr. Doom’s origin, we’re paying off plotlines set up in the first issue, it’s a Black Panther team-up, and we’re introducing yet another new villain. None of these important events are given any breathing room, and it all still feels like a straightforward remake rather than any sort of creative reimagining.
Next: Galactic town.
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