Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In Vol. 3 issue #5, we get a new villain, a new supporting character, and (Price is Right voice) A NEW CAR!!!
Over the last few issues, we’ve followed a subplot about two reporters pursuing a story all the way to Tibet, where they awoke a mysterious figure named Crucible. Crucible took them hostage and put them on a plane. This issue begins on another plane, however, as the Reed and Ben are flying to Stockholm so Reed can speak at a conference, but because of circumstances, they’re forced to fly coach. It’s wacky! The plane gets hijacked by terrorists (remember this was 1998) from the mutant nation of Genosha, so Reed and Ben save the day.
In Stockholm, we see Crucible is there. He’s a striking figure, with gold metallic skin, blue armor, and a red cape. He has trapped the two journalists inside the bodies of stone gargoyles (!). Crucible says he has the power to transform life itself, and he’s come to Stockholm for “an alchemy of the soul,” and he wants to remind all flesh that it is “bound to the world.”
Meanwhile, Reed and ben arrive at the airport, where they are greeted by a blue-haired chauffer named Alyssa Foy and her vintage Rolls Royce speedster. Turns out Alyssa is a super-genius, and she and Reed have a history from his younger days. The two of them once shared a ten-week road trip in the Rolls from London to Capetown.
Later, everyone dresses in their finest for the conference, and Reed reveals the conference is about scientists all over the world finding “disturbing trends” in the space-time continuum, but all the results are contradictory. Crucible attacks the conference, saying he’s there to claim his birthright. He knocks everyone but Reed and unconscious, and he and Reed fight. Reed summons Ben, and both Ben and Alyssa join the fight. Ben throws one of Crucible’s devices out a window thinking it’s a bomb, and Reed tells Ben to go after it so Reed can study it.
Ben and Alyssa hop into the Rolls Royce, with Alyssa revealing it’s a high-tech flying car. Back at the fight, Crucible attacks Reed telepathically. Crucible says he is aware of Dr. Doom and Reed’s rivalry, and says that he is all Dr. Doom’s wasted potential come to fulfilment. Reed collapses, and Crucible thinks he’s won. Except Reed was just playing dead and attacks Crucible from behind. Although it looks like a win, Reed ponders how his body has become weak and he can barely keep it together. Reed and Alyssa find the missing device, and Alyssa deduces that it’s a scanner of some kind.
Turn the page, and Reed is fighting back, doing that thing from the Onslaught crossover where he stretches his muscles to Hulk size. He beats up Crucible, with Crucible saying the whole time that Reed has already lost. Alyssa and Ben return, as Alyssa explains that Crucible is a technological telepath, in that he doesn’t read minds, but instead reads talents. He attacked the conference to steal the genius of all the scientists. Ben and Alyssa find Reed nearly unconscious from having punched out Crucible. In a haze, Reed says, “I beat him real good, I beat him real good.”
Unstable molecule: This is the first appearance of Alyssa Moy, but this issue insists that she and Reed have maintained their friendship over the years, when them competing in chess matches via correspondence.
Fade out: Sue only appears in one page, staying at home in Pier Four, where we see she is busy paying all the bills.
Clobberin’ time: There’s a joke about Reed and Ben arriving in Stockholm with no luggage, only for Ben to reveal that their luggage was miniaturized, Ant-Man style.
Flame on: Johnny does even less than Sue in this issue, bragging that he could’ve driven the Rolls Royce better than Alyssa.
Four and a half: Franklin is the background during Sue’s one scene, and he’s wearing his own modified FF uniform, complete with the classic Power Pack moon boots. Gotta love a classic!
Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. Could she be running around doing spy stuff while Ben and Reed are out of town?
Commercial break: Two thumbs up? Really?
Trivia time: Get used to Alyssa, as she’s going to be a regular supporting character from here on. We won’t get the full flashback as to her and Reed’s youthful fling until much later, though.
Crucible will be back in a few issues, when we’ll get his backstory. Would you believe that not only is this not his first appearance, but he’s been around since the ‘60s?
The references to the space-time continuum being messed up is a shout-out to Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse mega-event, where some time-travel craziness spun off all the X-Men characters into a post-apocalyptic (so to speak) timeline. If you ever find the time to sit down and read the entire thing, you’ll find it’s one of the better Marvel crossovers.
One panel references the Warwolves, villains from Excalibur. This is also a hint as to events in upcoming issues.
Fantastic or frightful? This issue must have felt weirdly incomplete when reading it back in the day. These days, though, we know that the purpose is to set up future plotlines. It’s entertaining enough, but just not a stand-alone story.
Next: The new tech.
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