Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue #11 includes a new villain, an exotic locale, brain-swapping, and even some crime scene investigation.
We begin with a flashback to the FF’s origin, which will run sporadically through the issue. The story proper starts on the next page, where Sue, Ben, and Johnny arrive at the crime scene where Reed was abducted last issue. Using some of Reed’s tech, Sue deduces that Reed was abducted by the Press Gang, a group of mutants from Genosha who’ve turned mercenaries.
Later our heroes meet with Dr. Cooper, the White House liaison on metahuman affairs. She fills them (and the reader) in on Genosha. Located to east of Africa, Genosha is a paradisiacal island nation where superhumans were the underclass. Then there was open revolt, which turned into all-out war, leaving the entire island a quarantined wasteland. Cooper fears that the Genoshans want Reed’s genius to help them combat a new threat to their country. She then says the US cannot offer aid to the FF in this matter. Sue responds by saying the team has a lot of work to do.
The FF prepare to take off in their new pogo plane. Ben says goodbye to genius Alyssa Moy, who kisses him on the mouth (!), and newcomer Alysane Stuart promises to watch Franklin while they’re gone. The cop from the crime scene is also there, also promising to take care of Franklin. During the flight to Genosha, Johnny points out that Reed has been acting differently since his encounter with Crucible (back in issue #5), but Sue says she like Reed spending less time on science and more time with her.
Then a missile strikes the plane, seriously damaging it. Ben brings it down for a crash landing, and bursts from the wreckage looking for a fight. He’s confronted by a gold-skinned woman, who says the FF represent a threat to her plan.
A short fight breaks out, with the woman seemingly able to counter the FF’s powers. She makes Johnny’s fire go crazy, so that Johnny actually burns, and she summons a bunch of tiny creatures to swarm Ben. When trapped in Sue’s force field, she commands Sue to disappear, but for real this time. As the fight ends, the woman says she has many names but for now to call her Ayesha. Turn the page, and we see what appears to be a corrupted version of Sue, Ben and Johnny, looking evil and dressed in edgy black outfits.
Then there’s another twist, as we cut to Crucible and Ayesha addressing three strangers – Jomo Kimane, Farisa Mansour, and Harry Soong. Except that this is really Ben, Sue, and Johnny whose minds have been put into these three peoples’ bodies. Sue theorizes that this allows Crucible to create his own fighting force of metahumans while eliminating competition at the same time. Crucible gives a big villain speech about he is actually tempering humanity, making humans stronger for even greater trials in the future.
Crucible leaves the heroes alone in a room inside his skyscraper headquarters. Johnny, trapped in an old man’s body, fakes a heart attack to bring in the guards, and Sue and Ben punch them out. Cut back to Crucible, and we see the evil FF from a few pages earlier are the three Genoshans, having their bodies switched into the FF’s bodies. One of them is testing the Human Torch’s power, only he can’t control himself and lets loose the nova flame, destroying part of the building. The FF manage to get inside an ambulance and make a run for it, only to get caught in the blaze. The ambulance crashes, taking the powerless FF with them.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed’s briefcase was found at the crime scene, and we’re told that it was a gift from Sue for the first anniversary. You’ll have to forgive me for not going back through all the old issues trying to track the continuity of this briefcase.
Fade out: Sue does a lot of science-speak at the crime scene. She says she picked up a lot of science know-how from being married to Reed over the years.
Clobberin’ time: Ben takes the body-switching thing in stride, saying this isn’t the first time this has happened. He also calls out Crucible for being too similar to Dr. Doom, in an amusing meta moment.
Flame on: Johnny is having a hard time with his mind inside an old man’s body. He has to be careful not to over-exert himself for fear of his now-weak heart. Except that gives the team the idea to escape later on.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Alysande Stuart wears a tank top with a number 4 on it, but I don’t believe this means she’s an official member of the team at this point. We’ve only seen her alter ego Caledonia once so far, and just barely.
Four and a half: Franklin just barely appears in this issue, saying goodbye to his mom, and reminding the others that he now has an alien dog for a pet.
Commercial break: It’s magic!
Trivia time: The supporting characters continue the trend of Chris Claremont reintroducing characters from various X-Men comics in Fantastic Four. Officer Charlotte Jones was regular in X-Factor and Uncanny X-Men, and even wore the blue-and-yellow X-Men uniform for a while. Dr. Cooper is Valerie Cooper, who was something of a villain in Uncanny X-Men, often in league with Freedom Force, who was really the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
The Genosha exposition only covers part of the Genosha story, which also includes Magneto and the Acolytes, the Legacy virus, and more. You look it up the Marvel Wiki just as easily as I can.
A caption says Pier 4 is located “above Stuyvesant High School.” This is a real school in NYC known for its accelerated education programs. I believe “above” in this case means the pier is north of the school, and not physically on top of the school building.
Fantastic or frightful? It’s fun to see Sue be team leader again, and the fight with Ayesha is pretty cool, but the brain-switching stuff is handled way too awkwardly and confusingly. A mixed bag, I guess.
Next: “I will become him.”
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