Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Today we’re diving into Marvel’s MC2 line, featuring Fantastic Five, which will seem really familiar if you read FF in the ‘90s.
Fantastic Five takes place in the MC2 continuity, which takes place approximately 15 years in the future. The Marvel heroes are now a little older and wiser, and there’s a new class of young up-and-coming heroes. The main series of MC2 was the cult favorite Spider-Girl, which was saved from cancellation (for a while) by a fan letter-writing campaign. The MC2 line also gave us A-Next, Wild Thing, and American Dream.
Who are the Fantastic Five?
- Johnny is now the team leader.
- Lyja is his wife, Ms. Fantastic, and she and Johnny have a young son.
- Ben is now a cyborg, and is divorced.
- Teenage Franklin is telekinetic, and again going by the name “Psi-Lord.”
- Big Brain is a robot with Reed’s brain inside it, but not is all as it appears.
In issue #1, we get to know this new timeline as our heroes fight the evil Dr. Kangshaw (no relation to Kang), who has created this weird mind-controlling cloud monster. Big Brain sacrifices himself to save the day, and we learn that Reed is actually remote-piloting Big Brain from some unknown location.
Right from the first page, it hits you that we are back in Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan’s version of FF, before they got booted so Jim Lee could take over the book. This whole MC2 thing is just an excuse for DeFalco and Ryan to keep doing what they were doing before, no matter how unpopular Lyja and teen Franklin (and more!) might have been.
Issue #2 introduces the S.H.I.E.L.D. Superoid, based on the Mad Thinker’s Android, which can replicate our heroes powers. The ‘droid is stolen by a new version of the Frightful Four, called the Wizard’s Warriors. They’re Dominator, Impact, Bullet, Freefall, and Binder. The F5 save the day, but not until the Wizard deduces that Reed is not Big Brain, and he starts tracking down Reed’s location.
Big Brain gets a new body this issue, and we get to know Johnny and Lyja’s son, Torus Storm, who has his parents’ combined powers.
In issue #3 Franklin and Spider-Girl team up to investigate and then fight the Wizard’s Warriors. It’s all a trick, as the Wizard learns that Reed is still alive and hiding in the Negative Zone. Meanwhile, we learn Ben is the father of twins, and his ex-wife is not Alicia, but Sharon Ventura (WHAT???).
Issue #4 is a flashback to what Reed’s deal is. At some point, Hyperstorm returned. (Yes, DeFalco is using this series to bring back Hyperstorm as well.) We learn Reed is hiding out in his “Fantasti-station” in the Negative Zone. Sue is in suspended animation, forever perpetually fighting the hole in hyperspace, with Reed watching vigilant over her. Oh, and the F5 defeat the Wizard and his Warriors pretty easily.
In issue #5, the team receives a message from Dr. Doom, only to learn immediately that this is not Dr. Doom, but Kristoff (See? DeFalco is bringing back everybody!). Cassie Lang, daughter of Ant-Man, is now an Avenger named Stinger, and she tags along. Kristoff is being held captive by Diablo, who sends a bunch of elemental monsters to attack the F5. Kristoff escapes and defeats Diablo. Kristoff then announces he’s joining the F5. Then Torus says he’s joining the F5. Then Ben’s twins Jake and Alyce reveal they have powers, and they also want to join the F5!
To be continued… when the series gets a short-lived revival in 2007.
Unstable molecule: Reed is shown losing control of his powers after the fight with Hyperstorm, so he wears an exoskeleton to keep himself from turning into a formless blob.
Fade out: Trapping Sue inside a machine for the entire series is unfortunate, but she gets some great scenes in the fight with Hyperstorm, pushing her powers to the limit.
Clobberin’ time: The series doesn’t reveal how Ben became a cyborg, he even has his cyborg parts before the Hyperstorm fight, even though that’s depicted as the moment everything changed.
Flame on: Johnny has grown as both team leader, and as father figure. He keeps insisting that his son not become a superhero, but we’re not necessarily shown why. Johnny also has his red-and-yellow uniform back.
Fantastic fifth wheel: In this timeline, Kristoff has accepted who he is, yet goes by the name “Doom” (that’s without the doctor part). Basically, he’s Dr. Doom, except as a good guy. Then, when he and Cassie are reunited, they kiss on the lips! Had DeFalco seriously planned this all along?
It’s not made clear whether Big Brain is being remote-controlled by Reed the whole time, or the robot is autonomous and merely programmed to act like Reed. In addition to being a genius, Big Brain can zap enemies with electrical blasts.
The comic doesn’t bother explaining how Sharon Ventura became human again, or the circumstances of her Ben’s reunion, marriage, and divorce – or anything else about where her story might have gone.
In the revival, Ben’s two kids do indeed go on to become members of the team. Alyce goes by the codename Rad, and Jake’s codename is Grim.
Cassie Lang says her dad Scott (a.k.a. Ant-Man) is “grumpy as ever.” When was he ever grumpy?
Four and a half: Franklin is back to being Psi-Lord, but without the cool jacket and the edgy attitude from the Fantastic Force spinoff. The Spider-Girl team-up suggests that he and Spider-Girl might be more than friends.
The Alicia problem: How ballsy is it of them to bring back Lyja as Johnny’s wife, after so many readers disliked the character? Lyja doesn’t do much in these issues, though. She’s basically just the loyal wife and superhero teammate.
Commercial break: But does his computer wear tennis shoes?
Trivia time: The purpose of MC2 was to draw in first-time readers, and the many new characters were designed to appeal to young readers who’d never picked up a comic before. Allegedly, a deal to sell the comics at K-Mart and Target fell through, so MC2 never really took off. MC2 officially ended with two miniseries, Last Hero Standing and Last Planet Standing, although Spider-Girl and American Dream appeared sporadically after that. There’s much debate among fans as to whether the Spider-Girl who appeared in the 2014 Spider-Verse crossover was the MC2 one, or one from yet another alternate timeline.
Fantastic or frightful? I was going to skip this series on the blog, but then I couldn’t believe how DeFalco and Ryan are so brazenly just picking up where they left off before Jim Lee took over the series. Nobody misses Ljya, Kristoff, and Hyperstorm, and yet here they are! DeFalco and Ryan’s Fantastic Four was overstuffed with too many characters and too much plot, so it’s no surprise that their Fantastic Five is overstuffed with too many characters and too much plot.
Next: Dance-off, bro.
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