Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 issue 10, writer Chris Claremont brings back more obscure villains, including good ol’ Paste Pot.
Even though the Saturnyne and Roma storyline wrapped up two issues back, this one begins with Saturnyne and Roma inside Saturnyne’s palace at the center of the universe. They are spying on Reed, wondering when Reed is going to use the data crystal Roma gave him. (When did this happen? The caption says it was off-panel, between issues 8 and 9.) In Reed’s lab, he is indeed working on the crystal, saying it is packed with data, depicting a vast starscape affected by a field of distortion.
Feeling that he’s fallen into a rut Reed asks his computer to activate an exercise program – revealing that this is a holodeck in all but name. He creates a simulation of New York under attack by Annihilus, Blastaar, and Terrax. This holo-fight goes on for several pages, with Reed finally winning. He collapses with exhaustion, saying he pushed himself to the limit, and it felt great.
Just before dawn, Reed checks on sleeping Franklin, and Franklin’s new pet, an alien dog Franklin has named Puppy. Reed ponders how science used to be his whole life, but now his family is his reason for being. Nearby, Ben and super-genius Alyssa Moy return from a sightseeing trip to Paris, courtesy of Alyssa’s flying car. She gives him a kiss on the cheek before flying off. He catches up with Johnny who is trying to figure out how to free the FF’s other new female ally Alysande Stuart of the gold shackles she apparently can’t remove. Whatever the shackles are made of, they cannot burn. Alysande, we learn, was a slave (!) in her home dimension, before the FF brought her to Earth.
Johnny flies to the ruined and abandoned Four Freedoms Plaza, where Alysande has been living. They share a breakfast and she tells him that she’s the last remaining Scot in her universe, after Scotland was destroyed by an evil emperor. Because of this, she is hesitant to visit the Scotland of Johnny’s universe. At the pier, the rest of the FF joke about how they know Johnny is secretly letting Alysande stay at the old building.
Reed hails a cab to take him to his teaching gig at Empire State University, only for the cab driver to flip a switch and trap Reed inside. As the inside of the cab fills with poison case, Reed says he recognizes the driver as Hawkshaw, a mutant from Genosha who leads a group of villains called the Press Gang. Reed provides exposition, saying the Press Gang has only ever been interested in hunting down mutants who emigrate from Genosha. Hawkshaw doesn’t give a proper answer, only to be joined by two other members of the Press Gang, Punchout and Jenny Ransom.
Reed manages to fight off all three of the Press Gang, only to confront their co-conspirator, the Trapster, formerly Paste Pot Pete. Reed fights all four baddies, evading the Genoshans, and not proving no match for the Trapster’s glue. Except that he isn’t. After knocking out the Press Gang, Reed loses the ability to shape-shift. The Trapster says his glue coated Reed’s uniform with polymer that stabilizes the unstable molecules, meaning Reed and stretch, but his clothes can’t. He wraps a similar fabric around Reed’s head and proclaims his victory.
The Trapster hands Reed off to the Press Gang, saying he doesn’t want payment for his services, just the knowledge and he went toe-to-to with Mr. Fantastic, and he won.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed’s aggressive behavior, and his enjoying all the fighting, is another result of Crucible messing with his mind a few issues back. Crucible will make his return very soon.
Fade out: Sue finally realizes that Reed has been acting strangely, but she says she loves the new Reed.
Clobberin’ time: They’re definitely setting up a romance between Ben and Alyssa. He says their Paris trip was the most fun he’d had in a long time.
Flame on: Similarly, Johnny and Alysande are also flirtatious. In addition to buying her breakfast, he also buys her a new wardrobe to get along on Earth.
Fantastic fifth wheel: H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot can just barely be seen in the background in Franklin’s room. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot.
Four and a half: This issue notes that Franklin’s alien pet Puppy bears a similarity to the Inhumans’ dog Lockjaw. Although editor Tom Brevoort said on Tumblr that Puppy is Lockjaw’s son, the actual comics have to date never revealed Puppy’s origin.
Commercial break: Don’t knock uphill ice skating until you’ve tried it.
Trivia time: This is the Press Gang’s only appearance not related to the Genosha storylines in various X-Men comics. They later became Genosha’s official police force, renaming themselves the Magistrates. They have a fourth member not appearing in this issue, named Pipeline.
Paste Pot Pete, um, I mean the Trapster mentions he was just “sprung” from jail. He was locked up after confessing to the murder to a criminal Joey Z. in Spider-Man #92. It was later revealed that Norman Osborne was the real killer.
Fantastic or frightful? Another issue where very little happens, made even more egregious by a multi-page holodeck fight that adds very little to the plot. The relationship-building is interesting and it’s fun to see more obscure villains, but there’s not much here.
Next: Material girl.
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