Fantastic Friday: Pier Pressure

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In volume 3 issue #2, the short-but-stellar run of writer Scott Lobdell and legendary artist Alan Davis continues, with a new headquarters, a new villain, even a new mailman.

The issue begins with Ben and Johnny in battle against what appears to be some sort of giant silver blob. Turn the page, and this is revealed to be team’s new “mutating couch.” We’re in the FF’s new living room, where Reed explains that the couch is made of “psi-sensitive molecules” that conform to anyone who uses it. It works on Sue and Franklin, turning into a perfectly comfy chair for her and a swing for Franklin, but Ben and Johnny overloaded the couch by jumping on it at the same time. The couch becomes stable and explodes, but no one is hurt. Reed says the experiment is a failure, though Franklin asks how it could be a failure if they had fun.

Ben has had enough of the horsing around, saying he wants to go back to their headquarters at Four Freedoms Plaza. It’s here we officially establish that the FF have moved to a new HQ, Pier Four, described as being Reed’s former storage warehouses by the docks. Reed reminds Ben (and the readers) that hot newcomers the Thunderbolts took ownership of Four Freedoms Plaza after the building was stripped of its internal workings. Ben accuses the Thunderbolts of trashing the building, but Reed says he gave Four Freedoms Plaza to the Thunderbolts as a gift, and that it’s no shape for the FF now anyways.

Ben is still angry, wanting to go pick a fight with the Thunderbolts. He’s stopped at the pier’s front door (unlocked, apparently) by a beautiful woman. She introduces herself as Billie, the team’s new mail carrier. Both Ben and Johnny are smitten, and decide that Pier Four might not be so bad.

Sue and Reed discuss the pier, and whether it can truly be a new home for their family. As they do, a mysterious figure watches from the shadows. Cut to New York’s Empire State University, where two researchers are concerned about the health of an ape they are experimenting on. When they leave the room, the ape speaks, saying “Soon you will all be dust beneath our paws.” In the streets of New York, Ben is wandering and comes across a display of some of Alicia’s sculptures, which he finds tacky. He considers finding Alicia to let her know he’s okay. Johnny then flies up and tells Ben that they are both are single now, and they should get to work at meeting some ladies. Then Johnny plays a joke on Ben, covering him snow and making him look like a snowman.

At the pier, Reed is tucking Franklin into bed, and Franklin says he likes the new home. Reed and Sue get ready for bed themselves (phwrar!) when Sue spots something. Someone invisible is the room with them, but her powers make him visible. It’s a creepy guy who calls himself the Iconoclast. He says he’s here to “null you before you null us.” A fight breaks out. Sue knocks the Iconoclast outside over the water, while Reed gets Franklin to safety. Reed then rejoins the fight after the pier’s security measures are in place. It’s a tough battle because only Sue can see the Iconoclast, while he fires his null energy bolts at them both. Franklin watches them from inside the pier and sends out a signal flare. Ben Johnny see it while bickering, and they run back to the pier to join the battle.

As the fighting continues, it’s revealed the Iconoclast’s powers aren’t just invisibility. Reed is unable to see, hear, or touch the Iconoclast, but the Iconoclast has no problem beating up Reed, with a lot of eye-popping panels of Reed’s face getting punched in. Sue has no such weakness, and she keeps up the fight. He says that millions of lives are at stake, depending on him destroying the FF. Ben and Johnny arrive, and Johnny makes the Iconoclast partially visible by generating heat. It only works for a second, before the Iconoclast blasts Johnny with an ice ray.

Sue tricks the Iconoclast into walking out over the water on one of her forcefields. She removes the field, dunking him in the water. Reed says that by making direct contact with the water, his cloaking device shorted out. The bad news is, the Iconoclast takes off in the water, making a clean escape. The team launches a search with Reed’s scanning devices but there’s no sign of him. Sue is convinced that he’s out there somewhere… watching.

Unstable molecule: Reed says his futuristic couch was a failure, but it looks like a lot of his new tech in the pier is similar silvery liquid metal stuff. So, maybe not a total failure?

Fade out: The small amount of fans online actually talking about this issue are debating how Sue’s powers work, and how she can see through another person’s invisibility. The general consensus seems to be that the Iconoclast’s invisibility powers are similar enough to Sue’s that she can see him.

Clobberin’ time: Ben ponders trying to find Alicia. It’d be a long search, because at this point in continuity Alicia was still flying around in space alongside the Silver Surfer.

Flame on: Johnny says Lyja has up and disappeared, with her shape-changing powers making it easy for her to hide in plain sight. In official Marvel continuity, the Secret Invasion storyline was already under way at this time. During Heroes Reborn, Lyja felt betrayed by Johnny and the FF, so went deep undercover with a Skrull sleeper cell on Earth.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Amid all the toys and junk in Franklin’s room, we can clearly see H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot off to one side. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Four and a half: Franklin’s bedroom is treasure trove of references and Easter eggs. He has a Stretch Armstrong-style toy of Reed, a Jack-in-the-box with a Skrull face, a Dr. Doom punching bag, a drawing of his mom, blocks made to look like Ben’s rocky hide, a teddy bear, a tyrannosaurus rex, a Frankenstein toy, a model of the Enterprise from Star Trek, a model of the TARDIS from Dr. Who, a TIE fighter and X-wing from Star Wars, and the penguin diamond thief from The Wrong Trousers. He also has a telescope for his brainier side, and a soccer ball, baseball bat, and tennis racket for his sporty side.

Commercial break: “Ladies, ladies, ladies, Jay and Silent Bob are in the hizzouse!”

Trivia time: This is pretty much it for the Iconoclast. We learn a little more about him next issue, but nothing definitive. He’ll later appear in one panel of the 2005 miniseries Fantastic Four: Foes as part of a gathering of villains. Beyond that, the reason he attacked Sue and the millions of lives he says are in the balance have, to date, never been revealed.

Sue-per spy: In the 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries, we learn Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. Could the Iconoclast’s attack have something to do with one of her secret spy missions?

Fantastic or frightful? I like the Baxter Building as much as anyone, but Pier Four is really cool. It’s right up there with the Batcave, the Turtle’s lair, and Challengers Mountain as hero headquarters you’d actually want to live in. Even though we only get the Iconoclast for a few pages, he has a different power set from what we’ve seen before, making him an interesting challenge for our heroes to up against. Another slam dunk from Davis and Lobdell.

Next: Ape escape!


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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