Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. This is vol. 2 #1, finding us still in the middle of Heroes Reborn, in which superstar artist Jim Lee continues retelling the FF’s early days in his own blockbuster visual style. We’ve had Dr. Doom, Black Panther, Sub-Mariner, and the Mole Man, so next on Jim Lee’s greatest hits list is the Inhumans.
The issue begins with Sue having a vision of a little boy, who we the readers know is Franklin. Sue is frightened of her increasing awareness of having lived another life in another timeline. Cut to later, where Sue, Ben, and Johnny are in Reed’s lab, doing the Danger Room thing as a classic excuse-for-the-characters-to-use-their-powers-for-a-few-issues thing. It also serves to teach Johnny and Ben about teamwork, as they can only outsmart their tests by working together. Ben and Johnny joke about Sue treating them like kids, and they call her a “mother hen.” This further upsets her.
Cut to the New York Museum of Natural History, where Reed and Tony Stark attending a gala to celebrate a new archeology exhibit featuring historic relics recently discovered in Tibet. The rest of the FF arrive, just in time for a presentation of an ancient tablet that appears to be evidence of a lost civilization predating humans. The tablet has strange writing on it, which Reed recognizes as the same strange writing he saw in the Mole Man’s caverns from Vol. 2 #2. Reed deduces that the tablet is somehow linked to the mysterious stellar anomaly that gave the FF their powers.
Johnny flirts with a sexy redhead named Frankie, only to learn that she’s Tony Stark’s date. Feeling rejected, Johnny leaves the gala alone. Then a woman in green body armor attacks the museum, zapping Ben with a psionic blast and stealing the tablet. On a nearby rooftop, the woman sends a message to others, saying the secret of the Great Refuge is safe. She spoke to soon, though, as she is attacked and subdued by Johnny. She reveals her name is Crystal, just another of her kind, Gorgon, attacks.
Gorgon (who, let’s not forget, once defeated the Fantastic Four singlehandedly) and Karnak are here, but they’ve been redesigned considerably, wearing edgy ‘90s “street clothes.” Gorgon and Crystal argue about Crystal’s actions, allowing time for the rest of the FF to arrive. Karnak summons giant teleporting dog Lockjaw for a quick escape. Lockjaw not only teleports Crystal, Gorgon, and Karnak away, but they take Johnny with them.
Later, Reed, Sue, and Johnny are in the FF’s jet. Reed has formed a plan, hoping to find Johnny by returning to the spot in Tibet where the tablet was found. Upon approaching the Himalayas, the jet enters a dampening field, shutting down all its systems. Ben manages to bring the crashing ship down for a landing in the snow. A group of shadowy figures watches the FF from a distance. One of them is revealed to be Black Bolt, and the others ask what should be done with the three strangers. Reed, Sue, and even Ben collapse in the snow, and we finally get the reveal of the Inhumans – Black Bolt, Medusa, Gordon, Karnak, and Triton. Medusa says Black Bolt will spare their lives… for now.
Unstable molecule: This issue reminds us that Reed and Tony Stark are former college buddies in the Heroes Reborn universe, with them cracking jokes about the good old days.
Fade out: Sue is one running the Danger Room program instead of Reed, and she dons a weird-looking VR helmet to do it. This might seem like an unnecessary detail, but it shows her taking an active role in the team’s leadership.
Clobberin’ time: Ben debuts a somewhat ridiculous new belt in this issue, one with number 4s going around his waist. Then, in the Himalayas, Ben has a good ol’ Image Comics-style belt that’s lined with a bunch of tiny pouches. It’s just not a ‘90s superhero comic without lots of tiny pouches!
Flame on: After all that talk about teamwork, there’s one panel where Johnny uses his powers to light Ben’s cigar for him, which was a nice touch.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal is back, and note that this is the Crystal of the Marvel Universe, and not a construct of the Heroes Reborn universe. Her memories have been rewired, just like the FF and the Avengers. The rest of the Inhuman Royal family, though, are Heroes Reborn constructs.
Although it was never made officials, the woman Frankie is generally agreed to be the Heroes Reborn version of Frankie Raye, Johnny’s ex-girlfriend and former FF alternate team member.
Four and a half: Franklin’s cameo in this issue again sets up the sooner-rather-than-later ending of Heroes Reborn, in which all this will be revealed to be a world of Franklin’s own making.
Commercial break: “How can we market this comic to new readers?” “Why not a little girl and a bird?”
Trivia time: The American Museum of Natural History, located in the real world at 79th Street and Central Park West, is a favorite battling grounds for a lot of Marvel heroes and villains. Spider-Man’s enemy Stegron has a particular interest in the museum, enacting multiple plots there. Spidey also fought Kraven and Calypso in the museum. At another time, Hawkeye, Mockingbird brought Old West character the Phantom Rider back to the present there. And when Marvel had the Godzilla license, our own Fantastic Four duked out with the big G on the museum grounds.
Fantastic or frightful? Heroes Reborn continues to be more remake rather than reboot, with much of this feeling familiar to what came before, and not a lot new to say.
Next: “There they are, Albert. Faces of stone.”
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