Fantastic Friday: Is that a universe in your pocket?

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 #48 legacy #477, we’re still lost in a quagmire of alternate universes, but the end is in sight.

We begin in Haven, at the center of the multiverse, where Franklin and time-displaced teenage Valeria are meeting with Roma, daughter of Merlin and self-proclaimed guardian of the multiverse. Also present is Saturnyne, an interdimensional evil queen, who was last seen worrying about Franklin’s potential reality-bending powers. I guess she came around because now she’s on Franklin’s side.

Roma gives the recap, explaining that godlike villain Abraxas (not the one from the Jesse Ventura movie) is on a killing spree throughout the multiverse. Each member of the Fantastic Four is in a different alternate reality in search of the Ultimate Nullifier, which can stop Abraxas. Sue is a doctor in “Atlanterra,” in which Atlantis is again attacking the surface world. Ben is in “Challengers of Doom,” where Dr. Doom leads his own version of the FF while Galactus attacks Russia. Reed is in “Five for the Future,” where is a 1930s-era adventurer leading a team of kooky characters.  Johnny, meanwhile, is in deep space, questing for the Nullifier alongside an alt-timeline version of his ex-girlfriend Frankie Raye a.k.a. Nova. Got all that?

Roma then offers more exposition, saying that there is a Galactus in every universe, and each universe’s Galactus is what kept Abraxas at bay. When the Marvel Universe’s Galactus died in the Galactus the Devourer miniseries, that opened the door for Abraxas to begin his mad killing spree. Further, Roma explains that the alt-universe versions of Johnny on the world Reed, Sue, and Ben are visiting each contain one piece of the Nullifier’s location in their psyche. All this and we’re just on page 3 of the comic.

In “Atlanterra,” Sue is in the role of a small-town doctor, and alt-Johnny arrives with a familiar-looking vagrant in need of medical aid. Sue recognizes him as the long-lost Namor the Submariner, just as he was in the original Fantastic Four #4. A splash of water in Namor’s face is all that’s needed for his memory to return. Sue and Johnny’s father, who is alive in this timeline, tries to convince Namor to stop the Atlantis invasion. Then Sue uses a device Reed gave her to search Johnny’s memory, giving her one-third of the Nullifier’s location.

In “Challengers of Doom,” Dr. Doom’s super-team – made up of him, Reed, Sue, and the Hulk – have taken Ben hostage in his human form. New York is being torn apart by that universe’s Galactus attacking. While the others deal with the crisis, Ben pulls Sue aside and says he has to find Johnny. Sue says Johnny is a movie star with a penthouse on the other side of the city. Ben transforms into the Thing and races across town. Ben finds Johnny in a depressed state and takes his memory.

In “Five for the Future,” Reed learns this universe’s Johnny is dead. Sue, who is an investigative reporter here, delivers the bad news. The Five prepare to deal with supervillain the Monocle, who has a zeppelin attached to the Chrysler Building, and is drawing energy from the entire city. Reed puts his worries about Johnny aside and uses his counterpart’s tech to lead an assault on the zeppelin. The heroes stop the Monocle and send the zeppelin flying to the nearest air force base. Later, Sue explains that she saw a light in Johnny’s eyes just before he died. This is enough, as Reed is able to scan Sue’s memories and gain the third clue to the Nullifier.

In space, Johnny has been gradually remembering his way to the Nullifier. (this is seemingly the same path he took through the cosmos during the original Galactus trilogy in issues 49-51.) He and Nova travel through a portal into an alien complex where the Nullifier awaits. Just as Johnny grabs hold of it, Nova proclaims “And now Abraxas has it!” She blasts Johnny with flame and takes the Nullifier.

Johnny, Nova, and Abraxas appear in Haven. (Does this mean the Nullifier was in Haven? It’s not clear.) Abraxas says this Nova is his herald, working for him all along. Abraxas explains that he seeks perfection, and perfection can only be achieved in nothingness, hence his goal to destroy all universes. Back on Earth, Reed, Sue, and Johnny return to the new Baxter Building, only for Abraxas to join them, with Franklin, Valeria, Johnny, Nova, and Saturnyne with him. Nova gives the Nullifier to Abraxas. He says now that he has it, there isn’t a soul all the combined universes who can stop him. The final panel is a closeup of Franklin as Abraxas repeats, “Not a soul…”

Unstable molecule: Although Reed initially could not use his stretching powers while in “Five for the Future,” in this issue he regains the power, saying that it merely took time for his body to adjust to being in another dimension.

Fade out: Such has such control of her powers that she can turn Namor’s facial hair invisible to confirm it’s really him, and she takes a look at his fishy internal organs while she’s at it (ew).

Clobberin’ time: In “Five for the Future,” Ben, a.k.a. Mr. Grim in this timeline, was the only one to make the FF’s spaceflight, and therefore is the only one to have his super-powers. He maintains his “It’s clobberin’ time!” catchphrase, however, so some things are a constant across the multiverse.

Flame on: If Johnny’s powers are out of control and he’s more powerful than ever, than how could Nova knock him unconscious with fire? I guess she a) took him by surprise, and b) she has the Power Cosmic, which gives her something of an edge.

Four and a half: They want to depict Franklin as being older and smarter during this time, but when he sees Johnny on a screen, he says “Hi Uncle Johnny” as if Johnny can hear him. Maybe he’s just kidding.

Our gal Val: This is pretty much it for teenage Valeria. She trades a few barbs with Roma at the start of the issue and doesn’t do anything beyond that. And yet, next issue we’ll learn that this whole Abraxas story has been about her all along.

Commercial break: They should’ve put those thumb guys on the ad.

Trivia time: The Marvel wiki lists this is the “apparent death” of Roma, and yes she does look a little corpse-like after Abraxas knocks her out. But she’ll back up and at ‘em next issue, and she’ll go on to be a recurring guest star in various X-Men comics after this.

Fantastic or frightful? The three-page exposition dump at the start of the issue is some dense reading, but it helps to have some grounding during all this craziness. The plot is a lot easier to follow than the previous couple of issues. Beyond that, we spend so little time in the other timelines that those stories have little time to breathe. And we’re building up to the big reveal about Valeria, but you wouldn’t know it because she’s just hanging out in the background. So, a mixed bag, I guess.

Next: Meet the new Val, same as the old Val.

* * * *

Want more? Check out my new book, MOM, I’M BULLETPROOF, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app. It’s a comedic/dramatic/romantic superhero epic!

About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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