Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s a calm before the storm, except it’s not all that calm, in vol. 3 issue #24.
Throughout the FF’s previous adventure, they were warned of an “oncoming storm” that is a cataclysm of cosmic proportions. This issue begins with glimpses of a bunch of alternate realities. The FF and their current extended cast – Franklin, time-displaced teenage Valeria, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy – all witnessed this as a “squall” preceding the upcoming disaster. As the FF have breakfast, Reed explains this is a “chaos storm” and it can’t be stopped so much as weathered, like a hurricane.
Reed considers powering up Sue so that she can surround the entire Earth with a force field, but then he determines the storm is targeting the sun, not the Earth. Everyone makes preparations. Johnny and Caledonia prepare Pier 4’s extra rooms for possible refugees. Ben contacts the Avengers, who pledge their support, and the X-Men, only to learn they have disbanded.
Valeria, Franklin, and two random teenage boys play a game of soccer outside the pier. Johnny, wanting some action, flies around NYC fighting crime. Fearful about the size of the storm, Sue picks up an alien-looking communication device and makes a call. Ben wanders the streets of NYC, where he romances interdimensional adventurer Bounty.
Sue is seen packing up some of Franklin’s things. Then, the FF and their current extended family gather for an old-fashioned family dinner before the storm hits.
Later that night, an alarm goes off, and Reed deduces that that the chaos storm’s timetable has increased at a tremendous rate. Sue snatches Franklin from his bed, and Reed asks where she is taking him. In the hangar, Sue and the others have prepared a rocket ship just for Franklin, without Reed’s knowledge. They are sending Franklin away to another world to protect him from the chaos storm. Sue doesn’t say what world, but that she “called in a marker.” Caledonia and Puppy join Franklin to act as his bodyguards.
As the ship takes off, Valeria appears. She was supposed to join the ship but didn’t get there in time. The FF barely has time to say goodbye to Franklin when another alarm sounds. Everyone rushes outside to see a tidal wave headed for New York. Making matters worse, an image of Dr. Doom’s face is seen in the wave.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: We learn that Reed had outfitted rooms in Pier 4 with tesseract technology, allowing each room to be expanded to “almost the point of infinity.” (Did Reed build the house from House of Leaves?) Franklin’s escape ship is also outfitted with its own tesseract.
Fade out: Sue stands up to the others, saying that it doesn’t matter to her who Valeria’s father may or may not be. She and Val later bond while sharing stories about Sue’s aunt Mary.
Clobberin’ time: This issue represents something of a change in direction for the series, as a lot of the current subplots are dropped after this one. Case in point is Ben’s romance with Bounty, which is never mentioned again. Guess it was one of those one-night-only things.
Flame on: Johnny battles Hydro-Man and Razorback while running around playing vigilante. Hyrdo-Man was all over the place during this, with short-lived alliances with the Masters of Evil, A.I.M., and the Maggia. Razorback’s cameo is more puzzling, as he was a good guy at this point, and he was out in space having space adventures. The Marvel Wiki states he and Johnny are fighting under “undisclosed circumstances.”
Fantastic fifth wheel: Look closely, and you see H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot hanging around in Franklin’s room in one panel. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.
Four and a half: Franklin’s fate will later be revealed in the Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad mini-series. There’s some speculation that the chaos storm was somehow caused by his creating the Heroes Reborn universe. We’ll later learn that is partially true.
The Marvel Wiki says this is the last appearance of Franklin’s dog Puppy, but then the Wiki also states that Puppy will return in Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad. Hire an editor, Marvel Wiki!
Our gal Val: In addition to being a genius, a telekinetic, and time-traveler, and a musician/dancer, Valeria is also a pro-level soccer player. She says was trained in person by Mia Hamm herself, so I guess her dystopian future wasn’t that dystopian.
SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. In this issue, Sue includes an advanced copy of a then-unpublished Harry Potter sequel among Franklin’s things. Did she use her spy training to get ahold of this?
Commercial break: Because you demanded it!
Trivia time: When this issue says the X-Men have disbanded, that’s not the case. The X-Men at this time were merely pretending to disband, in order to root out shapeshifters in their midst.
Fantastic or frightful? I generally like these character-based issues, but writer Chris Claremont continues to pack so much story into each issue that there’s little breathing room, even in an issue like this. This makes all the drama of sending Franklin away feel more rushed than it has to be.
Next: Waterworld? Daughter world!
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