Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Last issue, the Inhumans returned. This issue, vol. 3 #53, legacy #481, the Inhumans continue returning.
Gimmie a gimmick: This is second of four connected Mike Wieringo-drawn covers that create a single image, from top to bottom rather than from left to right.
We begin with a quick flashback to World War II, where the super-powered children from last issue’s WWII flashback are being harshly trained in the use of their powers. The beautiful young girl with the strange eyelids is among them, watching. Cut to the present, where that some woman is aboard a U.S. satellite, where the staff is working alongside Reed to place a force field around the entire Earth to prevent alien invasions. He chides them for killing off Sandorr’s Hunters last issue, when the hunters were merely trying to flee the planet. He also inquires about the shape-changing member of the Hunters, who has disappeared. (We the readers know that the shape-changer was killed by the Guardians of the Vault, who are flying around New York in secret.) The man in charge of satellite pushes back against Reed saying it’s time for the “second phase” to start.
Cut to a movie set, where we see Johnny filming the Rawhide Kid movie. He stands off against a villain, fighting him with his gun, his fists, and even throwing his badge like a ninja star. But then he starts to heat up, bursting into flame and flying off. He says he needs to cool off for a while. The director and producer worry about what to do about Johnny. The producer enters his trailer where he meets a mysterious man named Lon Zelig, who shape-changes into a replica of Johnny in the Rawhide Kid costume, saying, “A good actor must be able to become another person.”
At the Baxter Building, Sue holds a press conference alongside the Inhuman royal family. She tells reporters that although the Inhumans’ ship recently came crashing down from space, they are not destructive invaders. Medusa tells the reporters that Inhuman royal family has chosen to return to Earth, while the rest of their people chose to remain in space, to explore the stars. One man among the reporters has glowing yellow eyes, and the rest of the reporters start attacking the Inhumans for being alien-like. A full-on riot breaks out. She activates the building’s defenses, which cause mechanical tentacles (!) come out of nowhere and attack everyone.
Five minutes earlier, according to the caption, Ben is in human form, walking the streets of NYC with a tracking device, hoping to find the missing shape-changing alien. He’s attacked by two of the guardsmen. His powers go haywire, and instead of changing into the Thing, he becomes a half-human, half-Thing. Even at half-strength, the Guardsmen are no match for him, but then he’s shot from behind by a beautiful woman in a black dress. She introduces herself as Senso. (Note that is the mystery woman Ben encountered when he fought the Grey Gargoyle in issue #39, when he first gained the power to be human again).
At that instant, again according to the caption, Reed is addressing United Nations General Assembly about efforts to confine or control all extraterrestrials on Earth. He uses Thor, Namor, and the Mar-Vell version of Captain Marvel as examples of aliens who have done good for Earth. There are more people with glowing eyes in the audience. The delegates from Italy, Chad and Canada call Reed a traitor to Earth and accuse him of being in league with evil aliens. Then a voice from the back of the room offers asylum to all extraterrestrials, as well as the Inhumans, in his country. Turn the page and it’s… Dr. Doom!
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed says he developed the planetwide defensive field for defense against attack only, and therefore he doesn’t approve of the staff using it to destroy a single alien ship.
Fade out: Sue spends most of this issue standing behind a podium addressing the press, so we can only tell she’s pregnant in one or two panels. It’s like when a TV doesn’t do that great of a job hiding an actress’ pregnancy.
Clobberin’ time: Ben’s powers turn him half-human in this issue because the Guardsmen used a “cosmic ray dampener.” Seems like the existence of such a thing would be a big concern for the FF, but Ben isn’t too fazed by it.
Flame on: The comic finally remembers that Johnny’s powers have gone haywire. It seems that he can now only be flamed off for so long before his fire comes back out of his control.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Sue is quick to remind that both Crystal and Medusa are alternative members of the Fantastic Four, adding that their efforts as part of the team helped save the Earth on more than one occasion.
Commercial break: How many kids turned these little pizzas into little Frisbees in the school cafeteria?
Trivia time: I guess we should talk about the Rawhide Kid. Not unlike Kid Colt, who we met a few issues back, Rawhide Kid is also a fugitive, riding from town to town after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. He built up quite a rogue’s gallery over time, including the Living Totem, the Cougar, the Red Raven, the Ape, the Tombstone Tyrant, the Masked Maverick, and Marko the Manhunter. Thanks to time travel, Rawhide Kid has met the Avengers and the X-Men on multiple occasions. What’s more, he also briefly appeared in Fantastic Four. In issue #405, when Zarko the Tomorrow Man brought a bunch of characters from different timelines into FF headquarters, Rawhide Kid was among them. An in-poor taste parody comic published in 2002 outed Rawhide Kid as gay, but the Marvel wiki has this series listed under “uncertain chronology.”
Fantastic or frightful? This is another in-between issue, continuing various storylines, with the promise that it’s building to something. The anti-alien and anti-Inhuman paranoia feel like a retread of all the anti-mutant hysteria perennially happening the X-Men books, where it (usually) is done better. So, not much of an issue. Don’t worry, we’re almost at Waid and Wieringo!
Next: Hey there, hot stuff.
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