Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue 8 has it all – cosmic beings, superpowers going haywire, and references to obscure characters.
Recap: The FF just wanted a nice night out in NYC, only to be attacked by interdimensional hunters the Warwolves, and interdimensional bounty hunters Gatecrasher and the Technet. These baddies are in the employ of evil space queen Opal Luna Saturnyne, who has sent them after Franklin. After defeating the Technet, our heroes were then confronted by the Captain Britain Corps. This issue starts with them fighting the Corps, with Reed explaining the obvious, that this is a whole bunch of alien Captain Britains. The FF puts up a good fight, but they’re outnumbered, and the Corps has advanced tech that can anticipate the FF’s moves.
Franklin, hiding in a corner with genius and friend-of-the-family Alyssa Moy, decides he’s had enough. He uses his reality-bending powers to make the FF’s own superpowers increase by a vast amount. Now the Corps is no match for the FF. Nearby, the Technet plans a hasty retreat, but an unconscious Captain Britain falls from the sky and knocks out Yap, the team’s teleporter. Johnny takes to sky, barely able to control his new power increase. He sees Gatecrasher making a run for it and confronts her. Gatecrasher has a device that reveals that Franklin is pumping out cosmic power off the charts, and also that the Corps did not teleport to Earth, but that the FF teleported, and are now on an alternate Earth. Johnny demands that Gatecrasher take him to her leader.
Through unknown means, Johnny and Gatecrasher arrive at the Starlight Citadel, an otherworldly place that can view every plane of the omniverse. Inside, Johnny comes face-to-face with Saturnyne, who introduces herself as the “omniversal mastrex.” Gatecrasher adds that Saturnyne “represents absolute power over all the worlds in the infinite tapestry of being.” Turn the page, and we see Roma is also present. The daughter of Merlin, Roma is the “omniversal guardian,” and this citadel is her home. Then two more cosmic beings appear, Eternity and Infinity. Remember that Eternity is living embodiment of all existence at once, and Infinity is the living embodiment of time. Roma says they have an abiding interest in what is about to occur. Further, it was Roma and not Saturnyne who sent all the bounty hunters after Franklin.
Roma describes a hypothetical (or not?) situation in which the FF use their new powers to destroy an alien spaceship, and she argues Franklin is the cause. Johnny says that Franklin is no threat as long as his loving family is looking out for him. Saturnyne withdraws a crystal which she says represents Johnny’s entire universe, and she threatens to destroy it. She gives Johnny a choice – either Franklin is destroyed, or his whole universe is destroyed. Johnny says she’s bluffing, and again says the FF is better equipped than anyone to teach Franklin. He adds, “Just ask Galactus.” Roma says she has, and Galactus admitted that in all the cosmos, the FF has earned his respect.
Johnny continues to negotiate, saying that if the FF can keep Franklin under control, Roma’s needs are satisfied. If the FF fails, then Roma gets to come after them all. Roma asks if Johnny truly speaks on behalf of the FF, and he says yes. Then she says, “We have ourselves a deal.” Back at the battle, all the Captain Britains vanish as Johnny returns, saying he’s got quite a story to tell.
Wait, there’s more! The issue also includes five pages of a never completed Fantastic Four and the Inhumans event comic. This was to be an ambitious two-year mega-epic drawn by hot up-and-coming artist Jose Landronn. It never went beyond these five pages before being stalled, and Landronn went on to draw Cable instead. The might-have-been story has Ben and Reed on an adventure in a futuristic “floating New York.” It’s a Blade Runner-like setting, all flying cars and cyberpunk. After surviving crash-landing an experimental aircraft on a city street, Ben and Reed come across a glowing energy gate, only for the Inhuman Royal Family to emerge from it… and we’ll never know what would’ve happened next.
Unstable molecule: Reed spontaneously kisses Sue at the end of the issue, the only suggestion that he’s been acting out of character after his encounter with Crucible in issue #5.
Fade out: After Sue’s powers are enhanced by Franklin, her force fields appear to have a glowing orange effect. No word on whether this a result of Franklin upping her power, or if it’s just drawn that way for the reader’s benefit.
Clobberin’ time: With his strength enhanced, Ben punches the street and creates shockwaves powerful enough to topple nearby skyscrapers.
Flame on: Obviously, the big deal about this issue is that it’s Johnny and not Reed or Sue who communes with cosmic beings this time around, doing so in his own signature style. It’s not out of character when we remember how Johnny “went cosmic” during the original Galactus trilogy.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Both Crystal and Medusa appear in the final panel of Fantastic Four and the Inhumans, but they don’t say or do anything.
Four and a half: This issue would appear to be a big character growth for Franklin in that he can control his reality-bending powers by making specific things happen, rather than reality just going haywire when he gets upset.
Commercial break: Freakin’ Gorgonites.
Trivia time: What’s the deal with the Captain Britain Corps? The idea is that every parallel universe has a Captain Britain, and that Roma (or Merlin before her) can summon some or all of them to help the Marvel Universe’s Captain Britain when needed. They’re usually noble heroes, and not bounty hunters as depicted in this issue. Seen in this issue are members Officer Saxon, Samurai Saxon, Maasai Marion, Hauptmann Englande, and Britanotron, among many unidentified ones. Two of the prominent Corps members, Captain UK and Captain Albion, sit this one out.
The comic never says that the FF’s new power levels are undone, but there’s no mention of them being dangerously over-powered next issue, so let’s assume it was reversed. The Marvel Wiki, however, does insist that the team was teleported back to their home universe after this, so that’s something.
Because the Fantastic Four and the Inhumans story remains unfinished, it’s considered non-canon.
Fantastic or frightful? An odd wrap-up to an odd storyline. It’s clearly an excuse for writer Chris Claremont to use a bunch of Excalibur and Captain Britain characters, and also to raise their importance in Marvel continuity. Johnny standing up to the cosmic beings remains a pretty great scene, though.
Next: Amazing friends.
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