Fantastic Friday: The Inhuman condition

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s Volume 2, issue #9, as superstar artist Jim Lee is nearing the end of his time with the series, and there’s only a few issues left of Heroes Reborn.

We begin with Firelord flying through space, with captions explaining that he is the herald of Galactus, currently on another task. He’s searching for planets with “catalyst pods,” devices Galactus left on lifeless planets to alert Galactus should the planets ever become life-sustaining – so Galactus can then devour them. Galactus contacts Firelord and says the Silver Surfer, one of Firelord’s “fellow heralds” has found a suitable world for harvest. The planet is Earth, and the Surfer and another Herald, Terrax, are on their way to Earth. Firelord flies off to join them.

On Earth, Reed, Sue, and Ben have been taken prisoner by the Inhumans. Our heroes traveled to the Inuhmans’ secret home in the Himalayas in search of Johnny, who disappeared along with the Inhuman royal family last issue, as well as a possible clue to the mysterious space anomaly that gave the FF their powers. Reed tells Sue and Johnny to let the Inhumans take them prisoner for now, in hopes of a peaceful solution.

The FF are led into the Inhuman throne room. They meet up with the royal family and a whole bunch of other Inhumans. Also, the throne room contains giant sculptures of Galactus and his heralds, with Reed theorizing that the sculptures represent the Inhuman gods. Medusa speaks on behalf of Black Bolt, saying that Johnny is safe with the Inhumans’ healer, and that he and the FF have jeopardized the secrecy and sanctity of the Inhumans’ home, which has been safely hidden for two thousand years. Sue promises that the Inhumans’ secret will be safe with the FF. Medusa isn’t buying it, and says the FF must never leave the city.

Ben wants to start a fight, but is throttled by Gordon (who, let’s not forget once singlehandedly defeated the entire Fantastic Four). Ben breaks free and the battle begins. Ben goes after Black Bolt, who throws Ben around with awesome super-strength. Reed and Medusa are evenly matched with the stretching/hair powers. Karnak can’t break through Sue’s force fields, and then Gorgon goes after Ben again. Reed and Ben do the old slingshot routine to drive back the Inhumans, and then Sue turns all three of them invisible for a quick escape.

As Reed, Sue, and Ben sneak out of the city, they’re found by Johnny and Crystal. Johnny is dressed in weird Inhuman robes that match Crystal’s outfit. At first, the others believe Johnny has betrayed them and sided with the Inhumans. Johnny cautions his teammates not to jump to conclusions, and that the Inhumans don’t want to imprison the FF. Instead the Inhumans want the FF’s help.

Cut to later, where the FF and the Inhuman royal family are gathered around a conference table. Medusa again speaks for Black Bolt, saying the Inhumans gain their powers from Terrigen mists, safely concealed in caves deep beneath the Earth. Black Bolt’s brother Maximus recently ventured into underground caves in search of the mists, a violation of Inhuman law. Maximus disappeared, and deadly mutatants (not mutants) have been attacking the city ever since. Medusa says they believe this is an omen of “the great devourer.” Black Bolt wants to lead an expedition into the caves, but do that the Inhumans need the Makula tablet. You’ll remember this was the tablet prominently featured in the previous issue, containing the symbols that correspond Reed’s space anomaly.

Reed checks out the tablet, and deduces how to translate into a map of the caves. Crystal is impressed, but the rest of the Inhumans remain skeptical. As the two groups venture into the caves, though, Ben and Gorgon become pals. Venturing further into the caves, the heroes pass by some dinosaurs who are not attacking but running from something even bigger. The heroes are then captured under what looks like an ordinary net. Maximus emerges from the shadows, saying he’s not there to find the Terrigen mists, but to control them. He proclaims that he is the “great devourer” of the Inhumans’ myths come to life.

To be continued!

Wait, there’s more: This issue contains a four-page preview of 1998’s Alpha Flight #1, a flashback scene of AF’s leader Guardian training Wovlerine, back when Wolvie was in Alpha Flight as “Weapon X” before becoming a fugitive and finally ending up with the X-Men. Guardian thinks he has the upper hand on Wolverine, only for Wolverine to surprise him and almost lose control and kill him. If this is a flashback, why is Guardian called Guardian and not his original codename, Vindicator? Because the final panel reveals this is a dream Guardian is having. He fears that although he is alive again and Alpha Flight is back, there might be bad times coming. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this series took place in the regular Marvel Universe and not the Heroes Reborn universe.)

Unstable molecule: Reed earns the Inhumans’ trust not just by translating the map off the tablet, but by doing so in mere seconds.

Fade out: Karnak, who can find the weakness in any object, can’t find one in Sue’s force fields, which is a big win for Sue.

Clobberin’ time: Reed tells Ben to execute plan “Romeo-Charlie-Able,” which a caption tells us is “retreat and counter-attack.” Ben has no idea what this is, though, revealing he hasn’t been paying attention in the FF’s training sessions.

Flame on: Johnny is able to spot his teammates while they’re invisible because he can recognize their heat signatures. That’s like a Daredevil power.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Crystal is the first Inhuman to come to the FF’s defense, hinting that she and Johnny have gotten to know each other, but that isn’t really seen on screen.

This issue suggests that in the Heroes Reborn universe, Medusa’s hair is not just alive, but can stretch with equal power as Reed’s, so that she can keep up with him in a fight.

Commercial break: The Badger is back!

Trivia time: What’s going on with Alpha Flight? The preview advertised volume 2 of their series, in which the Alphas discovered an evil conspiracy operating within Department H, the organization that oversees (oversaw?) the Alpha Flight teams. Alpha Flight vol. 2 sold poorly and ended with issue #20, with some of the subplots remaining unresolved to this day.

This issue’s Bullpen Bulletins page announces the production of a brand-new Blade movie to be released in 1998! The article says the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and even Venom will also eventually get movies. Not wrong!

Fantastic or frightful? This issue is pretty much all plot and exposition. The more interesting bits are the FF/Inhumans fight and the Star Trek-ish opening with Firelord, but, again, the Heroes Reborn thing is mostly repeating what others have done and not much else.

Next: Jim be gone.


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.
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