Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s issue #50 of volume 3 (legacy #479), so it’s hyped up as an anniversary issue, but it’s also part of a company-wide stunt that ended up not being much of a stunt.
This is Fantastic Four’s “Nuff Said” issue. The deal here is that every Marvel comic this month was to publish a comic that was images only, with no dialogue or captions. For Fantastic Four #50, they did the stunt for only the first of four stories in the issue. It begins with a lot of horsing around as the FF meet in the kitchen for breakfast. Then Sue, who is again pregnant with her second child thanks to all the timeline-rewriting of the previous issue, goes to the doctor to check on baby, and She-Hulk joins her for moral support. As the doctor examines Sue, the “tac-tac-tac” sound effect appears, recalling the cosmic rays that originally gave the FF their powers.
Johnny and Namorita attend a party for Johnny’s movie (remember when he was acting in that movie?). A young woman tries to kiss Johnny, but her lips are burned. Namorita feels heat emanating from Johnny and a drink in his hand turns to steam. The idea here is that even with his special suit, his powers are still out of control. The “tac-tac-tac” effect is heard again. Cut to Ben, who is watching a chess game in Central Park. He flashes back to his early days as the Thing, when angry mobs chased him around the city. The flashback extends to Sue and Johnny, both learning to use their powers shortly after gaining them. Then we flash back even farther to the FF’s origin, getting bombarded by cosmic rays and crashing down to Earth with their powers.
Back in the present, Johnny’s party goes well, and we see that his movie is a Western called Blazing Star, and Johnny is playing the Rawhide Kid. Ben helps one of the chess guys win his game, and Sue uses her powers to let everyone see the baby, who is healthy. Sue, Ben, and Johnny confront Reed in his lab holding up a newspaper with their picture and the headline “Anniversary.” From that, we can interpret this is how they spent their anniversary of the day they got their powers. On the last page, Dr. Doom is all along, watching footage of the FF’s anniversary coverage. He taps his finger on the arm of his chair, making the “tac-tac-tac” noise.
The second story is a parody in the style of Marvel’s famously unfunny comedy series Not Brand Ecch. Various Marvel staffers play FF characters and their villains in an overly wacky look at how the comic is made.
The third story, “Eye of the Beholder,” Ben and Johnny are participating in a bachelor auction alongside Tony Stark. It’s hosted by Rosie O’Donnell, of all people. A beautiful woman bids on Johnny right away. Ben suspects no one will bid on him, but Sue, She-Hulk, and the Wasp are all in the audience, and they all bid on him. A mystery woman in a veil wins the bid with ten thousand dollars. Ben learns the veiled woman, Babs, keeps her face hidden because she suffers from psoriasis, and she was only bidding on behalf of her sister, not herself. Upon meeting the sister, Ben says he would rather go out with Babs. Johnny, meanwhile, learns that his date also bid on behalf of someone else, a woman badly burned in a fire, and she wants Johnny to help her get over her fear of flame. The next morning, Sue asks Ben and Johnny how their dates went, and they answer in unison, “I met the beautiful girl today!”
The fourth and final story has Ben and Johnny out shopping, looking for an anniversary gift for Reed and Sue. They get chased by groupies for a bit, and then sit on a bench while struggling to think of the perfect gift idea. They then spot a travel agency, and arrange an Alaskan cruise for the whole family. On the cruise, Reed pontificates about the science of the northern lights, but Sue shushes him with a kiss.
Unstable molecule: There’s a gag where Reed is working on a breakfast-making device, but it produces a small brown object that looks like a rock (or, perhaps, something a lot more gross). You’d think that this would be followed up on by the end of the story, but no.
Fade out: Sue’s flashback has her preparing for a modeling shoot, or perhaps an acting gig. This isn’t something we saw her do in the early days, but I suppose it’s not out of the question.
Clobberin’ time: Ben transforms into a human during the breakfast scene, reminding us that he can do that now. But when he goes for a walk in Central Park, he’s back to being the rocky Thing. What to make of that?
Flame on: I think we’re to assume that Johnny’s red-and-yellow uniform is the one containing his out-of-control powers, replacing the bulky red armor from a few issues previous. Further, the Marvel Wiki conforms the third and fourth stories in this issue take place in the near future, sometime around issue 54-55, after the current subplots get wrapped.
Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk’s presence in this one is just to remind us that she is still pals with the FF.
Four and a half: Franklin appears only the breakfast scene, eating with a teddy bear beside him. So much for portraying him as older now.
Our gal Val: Baby Valeria (though she’s not technically named that yet) has blue eyes and a full head of blonde hair. Those Storm genes, am I right?
Commercial break: Tiny, oddly-shaped DC-ROMs. There’s no way these things actually worked, right?
Trivia time: The “Nuff Said” event was something of a mixed bag. A lot of comics seem to have cheated their way through it. In Amazing Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk, they cheated by having characters read and communicate via text on screens. X-Treme X-Men apparently removed all the dialogue from the preexisting script, making for baffling reading. In Exiles and X-Statix, issues were devoted entirely to exploring weird dreamscapes. New X-Men had a character speak on the last page, and this issue of Fantastic Four only did it in one short story. The best of the bunch was the Punisher issue, in which Garth Ennis handed the writing duties over to artist Steve Dillon for a simple but effective story of the Punisher shooting up some crooks. Marvel included Dillon’s script in the back of the issue, and the entire thing is only 24 words long (!).
Fantastic or frightful? For an anniversary issue, with the word “anniversary” all over it, there’s not much going on here. It looks more like these four shorts are placeholders to work around the Nuff Said event, and then continue the story proper in the next issue. It’s a cute couple of stories, but that’s about it.
Next: Back to school.
* * * *
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!