Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Some things in life are constants, and one of them is that the FF will journey to the Fantastic Four every so often. That’s the case with vol. 3 #40.
We begin with journalist Trish Tilby reporting on a brand-new Baxter Building appearing in the middle of NYC. Reporters are allowed inside the building, where the FF proudly announce, “It’s great to be back!” Later, scientist/industrialist Noah Baxter announces the new building is ready, including the Negative Zone portal. He warns the FF about the Gideon Trust, who purchased all the FF’s previous patents and tech, fearing they are not finished. In another part of the building, Ben is still getting used to being able to turn back into a human anytime he wants, with the immediate concern that none of his clothes fit anymore. Johnny points out that Alicia keeps sending Ben letters and he hasn’t opened them. Ben tells Johnny to butt out.
Cut to the Negative Zone, where Paste-Pot-Pete, um, I mean the Trapster is leading his team N-Explorers on an unexplored planetoid. They’re attacked by both Annhilus and Blastaar the Living Bomb-Burst for several pages of fighting. Trapster and his team win the fight, only for everything to fade away. Turns out they were inside the Gideon Trust’s version of a holodeck, merely preparing for a journey to the Negative Zone. After some debate, the Gideon Trust’s leaders decide that the Trapster’s team is ready. They open their own version of the Negative Zone portal (which they bought from the FF) and Trapster and his team enter it.
At the new Baxter Building, an alarm goes off. Reed consults with Noah, who tells him that the Gideon Trust opened a door to the Negative Zone. Reed says this is dangerous because the very nature of the Negative Zone is unstable. It’s never stated exactly why, but the team has to go into the Negative Zone themselves to solve the problem. Johnny is away training with a stunt man for his upcoming movie role, which leaves Reed, Sue and Ben on this one.
Recreating the Negative Zone shaft from vol. 1 #251, the heroes enter their Negative Zone module and drop down the shaft, only a small part of which exists on Earth and the rest in the Negative Zone. They enter the zone’s distortion area, where the Trapster has laid a (what else?) trap for them. The module breaks up, flinging the FF into some sort of vortex. The Trapster declares the job done, and he and the N-Explorers take off.
Inside the vortex, the FF come across a dragon-like creature. Reed stretches his arm into a lasso and rides the creature, rodeo-style. Sue and Ben join him, with Sue helping control the creature. The dragon flies the team through what Reed calls a dimensional wormhole and drops them off at another planetoid. There, they discover the remains of an old sailing ship. Back in NYC, Johnny finally gets the FF’s message and flies off to join them.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed assures the press that the new Baxter Building is 100 percent secure, and perfectly safe from superhero battles. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Fade out: Sue seems to make a connection of sorts with the dragon, calling it a majestic creature and insisting the others refer to the creature as “she.”
Clobberin’ time: Ben gets a message Kathleen O’Meara of Damage Control, who says it would be “okay” if Ben called her. So that subplot is still going on.
Flame on: Fantastic Four officially enters the cell phone age. It’s pointed out that there’s no more need for the FF’s signal flare, because Johnny’s suit has its own built-in communications device.
Commercial break: Seems like Universal Studios’ Marvel land came and went without a lot of fanfare. No way it looked like this ad, but I wonder what it was really like.
Trivia time: Reporter Trish Tilby was a regular supporting character in X-Factor, known for her on-again off-again romance with the Beast. Look closely and you can see that two photographers on the scene are Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) and DC’s Jimmy Olsen.
Fantastic or frightful? I really liked the shout-out to previous Negative Zone stories, but beyond that this is another issue setting up bigger things in issues to come.
Next: Scout’s honor.
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