Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In volume 3 issue 37, we’ve got shape-changing aliens, Hollywood producers, and Damage Control is on the scene!
We begin at the wreckage of Pier 4, which was recently destroyed in the battle against Diablo. Ben is cleaning up the site, along with the crew from Damage Control. Who is Damage Control? This is a group comedic, often fourth-wall-breaking characters who have the job of repairing all the damage caused by superhero battles. We have a couple of pages of Ben horsing around the guys while meeting the new DC vice president Kathleen O’Meara. Nearby, in NYC’s Flatiron Building, the Damage Control HQ, Reed and Sue are working on the details with Damage Control, and Johnny announces he’s signed a deal to star in a Hollywood movie.
Johnny then travels to Hawk Plaza (which is where?) and meet with Roberta “Rob” Hunt, the PR person for Hawk Productions, maker of Johnny’s movie. There are beautiful women all around hoping for a glimpse of Johnny. One woman, though, makes a call saying all is going according to plan. She then flames on, just like Johnny, and flies off.
Johnny next meets the film’s producer, known only as “Mr. Hawk.” And then director Bob Diamond, formerly of martial arts heroes Sons of the Tiger, and special effects master Lon Zelig. Johnny expresses concern over not having seen the script, and Hawk says the movie is a western. Then Reed, Sue, and Ben show up, announcing that it’s a trap and that one of these men is a Skrull in disguise. Bob Diamond fights Ben, putting up a good fight going up against Ben’s superhuman strength. Johnny and Reed chase Hawk and Zelig through the building. They come across the Super-Skrull. They fight, with Super-Skrull reminding us that he was given the FF’s combined powers and was bred to be a warrior.
Cut to outer space, aboard a high-tech satellite, where a man named Noah (apparently the same man from the farm last issue) is at work building a “time-jumping platform.” He and an assistant discuss how the machine needs some other unknown component besides technology. Noah then asks about the status of the Fantastic Four. Before we get any more info on what that’s about, it’s back to the fight. The Super-Skrull beats the crap out of Sue, only to reveal that she and Reed are also a Skrulls in disguise. The Super-Skrull turns invisible and runs off. The Reed-Skrull explains that the Super-Skrull is one of the last remnants of the old Skrull empire before the homeworld was destroyed by Galactus. Now, a brand-new government of surviving Skrulls are regrouping out in space and must deal with Super-Skrull sticking to the old ways.
Johnny says he doesn’t care about Skrull political in-fighting. He takes the Reed-Skrull up to the roof as his alibi. Ben was also a Skrull, and he turns into a bird and flies off. Johnny deduces that FX whiz Lon Zelig has been the Super-Skrull all along. He’s right, but then Zelig/Super-Skrull uses his super-hypnotism (that he’s always had) to make everyone forget he’s a Skrull.
Johnny signs the deal to make the movie, titled “Blaze of Glory.” The issue ends back at Damage Control headquarters, where the FF have been given guest rooms to stay in. Reed gets a call from the scientist Noah, who asks for his help. On the last page, Ben is shown with another unopened letter from Alicia. He leaves and goes for walk through the sidewalks of NYC, and that’s our…
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed mentions that Damage Control benefits from some his tech. This was established in the first Damage Control miniseries, in which Reed, Tony Stark and even the Kingpin (!) donated high-tech gear to DC.
Fade out: Sue mentions two other Fantastic Four movies. In fiction, this refers to the phony movie used to trick the FF in issue #9, and a low-budget flick that embarrassed them in annual #15.
Clobberin’ time: Ben announces that he’s quitting cigars, because Sue wants the FF to have a cleaner image and hopefully get some commercial endorsement deals. This was during Marvel’s much discussed “no more smoking in comics” policy. (Lenny from Damage Control, however, continues to enjoy his cigar.)
Flame on: One of Johnny’s fans says, “He’s more gorgeous than Leo!”
Commercial break: This issue has not one, not two, but three separate full-page ads for various Pokemon products.
Trivia time: The Damage Control members seen in this issue are financial manager Albert Cleary, construction foreman Lenny Ballinger, traffic manager Robin Chapel (no relation to the X-Man), and bulldog mascot Fizzie. (Note that this is Damage Control’s second dog mascot. The original was named Fluppy.)
Fantastic or frightful? It’s always fun to see a Human Torch solo story, especially one where he’s not just fighting but solving problems and outsmarting the baddies. And it’s always a good time when Damage Control shows up to some shtick, although this appearance isn’t as nutty as they sometimes get.
Next: Whose building are you building?
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