Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. With Heroes Reborn and Heroes Return mercifully over, it’s time for a fresh new start. In vol. 3 issue #1, legendary artist Alan Davis and writer Scott Lobdell do a smashing job of bringing the FF into the modern age without undoing what was done before.
Gimmie a gimmick: This was a wraparound cover with the FF on the front and the villains on the back. Also there was a separately-sold alternate cover, featuring the FF standing behind a glowing gold “4” logo.
We begin in the Mole Man’s underground kingdom, where he has amassed an army of Moloids and monsters, announcing that the time has come for all-out war against the surface world. He then receives a message tha the Fantastic Four are still alive, and not dead as previously reported. He calls off the attack. Then, alone, he raises a toast to the FF, in front of a Mount Rushmore-style monument had built of them.
Cut to Antarctica, where it’s back to business for our heroes. Ben out on the ice, about to test one of Reed’s new inventions, an “electromagnetic meson velocirator.” Johnny interrupts for some horseplay, melting the ice under Ben and kicking off some classic playful brawling between them, with Reed and Sue breaking them up. It’s the old-fashioned excuse-for-the-characters-to-use-their-powers-for-a-few-pages thing.
Then we cut to Paris, France, where the locals are protesting the presence of an American company, DRC (short for Deterrence Research Corporation). DRC head Aaron Starr meets with protestor Yvette Diamonde to give her a tour of the company’s archeological dig, where they’ve uncovered a sculpture thousands of years old. Diamonde seems okay with this at first, until the DRC goons use a laser gun-like device to “breach” the sculpture. Diamonde tries to stop them and accidentally kicks the laser gun. As she and the other protestors keeping fighting to preserve the sanctity of the site, the sculpture cracks and starts to break apart.
Back to the FF, we learn that this arctic base is the team’s new headquarters, thanks to the fact that the Thunderbolts have taken over the old Four Freedoms Plaza. Nearby, Johnny and Reed construct a new Fantasticar in the style of the original. Johnny wants to jazz up the design, but Reed says, “Image isn’t everything, Johnny,” and “Sometimes there’s no improving on the original concept.” (Oohh, shots fired at Jim Lee and the Wildstorm guys!) Reed gets an alarm warning him of a “transpatial anomaly” and says it’s time for the team to regroup.
Back in France, Diamonde ducks for cover as strange lights burst from the sculpture. Everyone else in the area is transmutated into ancient aliens called the Ruined, led by B’arr, Exalt, and Stem. The Ruined say that what humans call “progress” is just one step closer to destruction. To preserve the past, the Ruined give Dimaonde a mystic sword and ask her to be their new leader. She raised the sword He-Man style, and transmutates into a barbarian swordswoman.
Reed and Sue show up, using their powers to sneak onto the DRC site. Reed says the general public is not yet aware the FF are still alive, and he wants to keep operating in secret for the time being. Ben and Johnny are a few blocks away, where they’ve been instructed to keep a low profile. Johnny flirts with a model named Arlise, when Ben goes for a walk and is pestered by France’s version of the Yancy Street Gang, here called Rue de Yancy.
When alien tentacles break through the ground to the surface, Reed signals the others for some action. The Ruined arrive and everybody fights. Daimonde shows up, now calling herself Martyr. With a single punch, she sends Ben flying across the city and into the bell tower at Notre Dame. Reed deduces that the Ruined are using the sculpture’s strange energies to transform all modern-day architecture back into structures ancient times. What’s more, the energy is following Martyr wherever she goes. Reed tries to use science to stop the energy, but the Ruined claim they are beyond science.
Johnny tries to destroy the source of the energy, only for it to absorb his flame. He starts to get drawn into the energy, but Martyr rescues him. She joins the fight against the Ruined, after they knock out Reed, Sue and Johnny. Martyr says the Ruined are doing more damage than DRC was going to do. Exalt tells her there’s nothing she can do now that the Fantastic Four are defeated. Ben returns, telling him he needs to learn to count. Reed comes to just long enough to tell Ben that “triangular harmonics” are needed to stop the energy. Ben lifts up that big pyramid thing at the Lourve and throws into the energy, which shorts it out and returns everything back to normal.
Not everything, though. Dimaonde is still transmutated into the superhuman Martyr. Starr, now human again, insists that Martyr’s armor and sword are now DRC property. Another fight is about to break out, but Martyr says she’s willing to work alongside DRC as its new spokes-superhero. She says she will fight to make sure that technology will not tamper with the natural order. Reed lets them go, saying “Science without morals is a disaster waiting to happen.” As the Fantasticar flies over Paris, the city’s population comes out to cheer them on, revealing to the world that the Fantastic Four are back.
Unstable molecule: Reed says he’s had this arctic base all along, but absent-mindedly never mentioned it to Ben and Johnny. Was this his and Sue’s secret private getaway?
Fade out: In the introductory text page states that Sue’s responsibilities include the non-profit/charitable arm of Fantastic Four Inc., something I don’t recall coming up before.
Clobberin’ time: Unlike the others, Ben is still struggling with the events of Heroes Reborn. He’s bothered by the fact that he got to live his whole life all over again, and still made most of the same mistakes.
Flame on: The Marvel Wiki insists that Arlise, the model who flirts with Johnny, turned into the one of the Ruined, named Katar. We’ll have to see if she shows up again when the Ruined return in a few issues from now.
Four and a half: After a year of Franklin crying about the death of his parents in Generation X and Daydreamers, Franklin is back to being a happy-go-lucky fun-loving kid in this issue. The state of his reality bending mutant powers remains unmentioned.
Sue-per spy: While this blog was on a break last year, Marvel went and published an Invisible Woman miniseries that revealed Sue has had a double life as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time! Moving forward, you can bet I’ll be looking for anything that might suggest Sue’s spycraft.
Commercial break: Police state.
Trivia time: Again according to the Marvel Wiki, the other members of the Ruined not named in this issue are C’hin, Casque, Feuille, Griffe, S’pyke, Touffe, and M’stapha.
Fantastic or Frightful? The reason I started this blog way back when was to put into words why I was disappointed in the Tim Story Fantastic Four movies, and what elements from the comics could make for a good movie. This issue fulfils the unfulfilled promise of Heroes Reborn by being a fresh new start for first-time readers while also being big and cinematic. It’s a blockbuster action movie in a single read. Too bad we’re only getting Lobdell and Davis for three issues, but the good news that this issue #1 is an all-timer.
Next: Half of one.
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