Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The series gets a special 1/2 issue, courtesy of the one and only Wizard Magazine. You might think that 1/2 should come before 1, but this takes place between issues 1 and 2 in official continuity. Never change, Marvel.
This issue could only be purchased polybagged with Wizard #85. It’s a co-promotion so that first-time readers can check out the new reboot of Fantastic Four, and long-time Marvel fans could check out Wizard. While Scott Lobdell and the great Alan Davis were killing it in the first few issues of the reboot, this (sort-of) freebie is courtesy of writer/editor Ralph Macchio and artist Ron Lim.
We begin with archipelago in the Bermuda Triangle, containing an entrance to the Mole Man’s subterranean lair. Even though the previous issue had the Mole Man calling off an attack on the surface world, this one has him back at it. He has a device called a “tremor trigger,” which will wrack the surface world with earthquakes. He then plans to reshape the Earth in his own image. Then there’s several pages of retelling the Mole Man’s origin, how he fled into solitude because of his ugliness, only to find Subterranea and become its king.
Cut to New York and… it’s the first appearance of Pier Four! This will be the FF’s new headquarters for the time being. It’ll get a proper introduction in the next issue, but this is our debut glimpse of the new locale. Ben and Johnny argue over what to watch on TV, leading to some of their classic bickering. Sue breaks them up, and they all meet in the Reed’s “ancillary research laboratory,” where Reed is at work inventing an enlarging/reducing field to shrink or grow objects. He’s using Ant-Man’s Pym particles to help with this experiment. Reed has Johnny and Sue use their powers on the device, for this issue’s excuse-for-the-heroes-to-use-their-powers-for-a-few-pages thing.
The fun science is interrupted when a nearby city block is struck by an Earthquake. The FF rush into action, using their powers to rescue people trapped in the damaged buildings. Some cops show up with the Mole Man in custody, saying he’d just shown up nearby. He admits to being responsible for the quake, saying it was a mere demonstration of his power. He then says he plans to deliver an ultimatum to the United Nations. Ben threatens to clobber the Mole Man, so Mole Man uses his staff to summon his giant monsters from Subterranea. (Why didn’t the cops confiscate his staff?)
The FF battle the monsters, using their powers in creative ways. It’s still not enough, though. Reed has Johnny speed back to Pier Four to retrieve the particle projector used in his shrinking/growing experiment. Reed uses the device and shrinks the dinosaur-sized monsters down to the size of mice. The Mole Man admits defeat, but then bonds with the shrunken monsters. He says they’re like family to him and he promises to protect them. Reed lets the Mole Man return to Subterranea, and Ben says that Mole Man has finally found peace, in that an outcast can find acceptance among other outcasts. He admits to being “just a tiny bit jealous” of the Mole Man. “But tomorrow – I’ll deny it,” he says.
Unstable molecule: During the fight, Reed does his classic move of stretching into a big slingshot and hurling a boulder at a monster.
Fade out: Sue is in rescue mode during the fight, using her force fields to protect bystanders. Reed praises her, calling her power “the most remarkable of all.”
Clobberin’ time: The issue begins with Ben watching a Yankees vs. Red Sox game, and during the fight, he continues grousing about missing the game.
Flame on: When Johnny’s flame isn’t able to burn the monsters’ hides, he instead dazzles them with a blinding bright flame to slow them down.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Although Hank Pym and Pym particles are mentioned, this comic is intended to promote the reboot, so the Scott Lang Ant-Man and his recent membership in the FF goes unmentioned.
Commercial break: We all remember Wizard magazine, but who else also read Toyfare, the home of Twisted Toyfare Theater?
Trivia time: There’s mention of the Mole Man’s former love Nala, who left him for fellow underground kingdom ruler Tyrannus, a nice continuity nod for longtime fans. But wait – Nala was last seen in the short-lived Fantastic Four Unlimited #4 where she and the Mole Man reunited. This means there was an untold story at some point where she dumped him and went back to Tyrannus again.
The Mole Man’s monsters seen in this issue are Giganto, Tricephalous, and Vandroom. There’s some confusion among fans about the Mole Man’s island being in the Bermuda Triangle in the Atlantic Ocean instead of the South Pacific in the Pacific Ocean. I say read closer. This issue never says the island is the Monster Island, just an island. Who says Mole Man can’t have more than one island?
The issue ends with the threat of the Mole Man’s tremor trigger earthquake machine still a threat. The Marvel Wiki has no entry for the tremor trigger, so let’s assume Mole Man dismantled it after his epiphany at the end of this issue.
Fantastic or frightful? This a simplistic story meant to introduce the Fantastic Four to first-time readers. As first issues go, I suppose there are worse out there. And after you’re done, you get to enjoy Wizard’s 25 greatest moments in comics history article, and wonder why almost all of them are from the ’80s.
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