Fantastic Friday: Back to Baxter

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A few issues back, we saw the end of Pier 4. Now we set up a new status quo for our heroes in vol. 3 issue 38.

Over the last few issues, there’s been a subplot about a man named Noah living on a farm in Kansas, and some big project he’s working on. This issue begins with Reed, Sue and Johnny visiting that same farm. There’s some hanging out with Noah’s wife Abigail and friend Jedediah, the group heads into space aboard the Alexandria Space Station, in orbit around the moon. Then we get the big reveal, that Noah’s last name is Baxter (do you get it, yet?).

Cut to Ben, who’s at a bar on Yancy Street, drinking his sorrows away. Alicia has written him another letter, the contents of which we don’t yet see. A mysterious woman asks to join him. Then it’s back to the space station, where everyone boards a rocket and flies over the surface of the moon to reveal… an all-new Baxter Building!

Noah explains that the Baxter family and the Fantastic Four had a great partnership over the years, and Noah says it’s time to start new. Reed reminds everyone that the Gideon Trust maneuvered to purchase all the FF’s property and patents, and now Reed asks whether there’s a deeper reason why.

At Yancy Street, the mystery woman leads Ben down a dark alley, where he’s attacked by the Grey Gargoyle.  You’ll recall he’s a chemist-turned-mercenary with the power to turn anything he touches into stone. He and Ben fight for a bit, until Ben discovers the Gargoyle has already been turning pedestrians to stone. Ben chases the Gargoyle to the Brooklyn Bridge, where Gargoyle goes mad transforming even more people.

Cut to the moon, where Reed, Sue, and Johnny tour their new building. Reed explains that it’s a “living building” whose technology is tied into the FF’s specific bio-signatures. Noah explains that the building cannot come online unless all four of them calibrate at the same time, raising the question of where Ben is.

At the bridge, Ben and the Gargoyle continue to fight. The mystery woman from earlier distracts Ben, allowing the Gargoyle to turn him into stone. Well, fully into stone. In space, Noah and his people are working on finding Ben, only to discover his vital signs have dropped. Noah teleports the FF the Ben’s location, where the Gargoyle asks the mystery women whether he passed her “initiation test.” The FF appear and Reed tells the Gargoyle, “Step away from the Thing. Now!”

Cut to the headquarters of the Gideon Trust, described only as “somewhere in New York.” Members of the trust are conducting paintful-looking experiments on two men, and a third man signs up. The man reveals himself to the be the Trapster, formerly known as Paste-Pot Pete. He suits up in a cool new outfit and says “Third time has got to be the charm.”

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed states that the new Baxter Building is built based on the original one’s specifications, while also taking on the “spatial differentials” of Four Freedoms Plaza. This is likely a reference to how Four Freedoms Plaza was built with the lower floors existing in another dimension (something never really followed up on). But it could also refer to the Plaza’s confused interior geography, how there were always secret doors and hidden areas known only to Reed.

Fade out: Sue says that without the Baxters, there would be no Fantastic Four. This is never followed up on, creating an unknowable piece of Marvel history. Given that Noah is a spacefaring genius, I suspect he was involved in the FF’s original spaceflight, but we may never know.

Clobberin’ time: I was going to make a crack about how Yancy Street could be within walking distance of the Brooklyn Bridge. I believe this is meant to be the Williamsburg Bridge, which the Marvel Wiki says in indeed adjacent to Yancy.

Flame on: There’s a mention of Johnny preparing to go to Hollywood to star in a movie, so that subplot’s continuing.

Commercial break: What even is this?

Trivia time: The Grey Gargoyle has had a few brief appearances in Fantastic Four, most notably as one of many villains who attacked during Reed and Sue’s wedding. He has, however, shown up in a lot of FF-adjacent stories. He’s often worked alongside Dr. Doom when Doom went up against the Avengers or Iron Man, and he was a main baddie in the Fantastic Force spinoff.

What’s that red device Reed puts on his wrist before he teleports? That’s there to let you know that this is the same teleporter the Enclave used way back in issue #66. I’m not clear why this is such an important detail, but there it is.

Fantastic or frightful? The big deal here is the new Baxter Building, even though it’s not up and running yet. I’ve read ahead a little, so I know that the Grey Gargoyle plot is setting up something big, even though it doesn’t feel like it at this point. So it’s mostly an issue setting up big things (heh) for later. Really digging the art.

Next: Heart of (not so) stone.


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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