Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Want a change of scenery? Vol. 3 issue #32 takes us out on the high seas.
We begin with Sue sinking to the bottom of the ocean. She tries to hold her breath for as long as she can, but eventually passes out. On the surface, the FF and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating a missing yacht. Johnny dives into the water. His flames turn into steam, allowing him to “fly” underwater. The yacht is destroyed, but Johnny believes Sue (who was apparently on board) survived.
Aboard the Coast Guard helicopter, Reed provides the backstory. He explains that Sue is an experienced sailor (!) and that she and Reed designed the yacht together (!). Sue went sailing without Reed, needing some personal space after all they’d recently been through, only for an unexpected storm to wreck the yacht. At the bottom of the ocean, Sue wakes up discovering that she can breathe. This is thanks to the necklace Namor gave her back in issue #27 when he thought Sue was marrying Dr. Doom (it was Reed in disguise). The necklace allows her to breathe, see, and swim the ocean’s darkest depths.
The FF continue to investigate the wreckage, finding a trail that might lead them to Sue. In the ocean, Sue tries to reach the surface, but almost succumbs to exhaustion. She’s rescued by Namor. Before they can properly reunite, they’re attacked. The attackers are not Atlanteans but Atlans, which are the Atlanteans from the Heroes Reborn universe, a.k.a. Planet Doom. Sue and Namor flee to a nearby shipwreck. At the surface, the FF continue to investigate, deducing that the storm that destroyed the yacht was no accident but a deliberate attack.
Sue explains to Namor that the Atlans serve a queen of Atlantis from a parallel universe, who is still after Sue after Sue married “Dr. Doom.” She specifically doesn’t tell Namor that it was really Reed pretending to be Dr. Doom. Sue then drops the bomb that this otherworldly queen is a duplicate of Namor’s dead wife Dorma. On cue, Dorma then attacks with a giant sea monster. She threatens to bury Sue and Namor in an undersea avalanche, but Sue stops her with a force field strong enough to block the monster’s attack.
Sue and Dorma fight, while Namor is stunned to see Dorma (or at least a version of her) still alive. The Atlans warriors join the fight, and Sue is defeated now that she’s outnumbered. Namor snaps out of his funk and fights back. Then Johnny shows up with a deep-sea submersible and a specially made pressure suit (and water skis, oddly). His fire works underwater like depth charges, knocking back the Atlan warriors. Namor apprehends Dorma and wants to execute her, but Sue pleads with him to find another way. Namor says he will turn Dorma and the Atlans over the surface authorities for a fair trial, after which she will face further justice in an Atlantis jail.
Sue reunites with Reed, Ben and Johnny on the surface. Reed and Sue admit they were having second thoughts, but after this time apart, Sue says “Come what may, we stand together. The final panel is a dedication to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Unstable molecule: Reed’s deep-sea submersible is named the U.S.C.G. Nantucket and it has a big number 4 on it, suggesting that the FF and the Coast Guard have some sort of official partnership going.
Fade out: The fact that Sue is a world-class sailing expert comes out of nowhere, but then a lot of her history prior to meeting Reed remains an unknown. (The Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms miniseries takes place only one year before Fantastic Four #1.)
Clobberin’ time: The Coast Guard guys are amazed by Ben’s strength, saying he’s more impressive in person than on TV. Ben later dons a wetsuit for deep sea diving, and I’m baffled as to why he would need one.
Flame on: This issue really leans into how Johnny’s flame is no longer weak against water by giving him a whole new set of powers when he’s undersea. He’s also developing his new sensory abilities, able to expand his senses to follow Sue’s heat signature though the water.
Fantastic fifth wheel: While there’s a little hint of Sue and Namor’s romantic-tension past, they mostly stick to working together to repel Dorma’s attacks. He ends the issue content with him and Sue being from two different worlds.
Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman mini-series established that Sue was secretly a S.H.I.E.L.D. spy this whole time. This issue has several pages of her demonstrating her hand-to-hand fighting skills, which is no doubt her spy training at work again.
Commercial break: Not just Pokemon, but Pokemon marbles! Catch ‘em all, etc.
Trivia time: Dorma apparently never went to trial, because the next time we see her in Exiles #81 she’s back in the Heroes Reborn/Planet Doom universe. That ended up being her final appearance to date.
Sue’s yacht is named the Claudia. I’ve no idea who this might refer to. The most well-known Claudia in the Marvel Universe is an early 1900s werewolf who menaced Sabretooth in his solo series. There’s also Peter Parker’s great aunt Claudia Reilly, and a wealthy socialite named Claudia who murdered her husband in an early issue of Uncanny Tales.
Fantastic or frightful? The ocean/Coast Guard setting gives the feel that these characters are scientists/adventurers rather than stock superheroes, which always great to see. A lot of the story is based on picking up the pieces from the previous issues’ stories, so it doesn’t work as a stand-alone. Always great to see Sue hold her own and kick butt in the fights, though.
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