Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Hope you like rock monsters fighting each other, because that’s what you’ve got in vol. 3 #58 legacy 487.
Recap: Ben has spontaneously started producing “skin-spawn,” a bunch of monstrous, volatile clones of himself, that are multiplying by the hundreds. Reed shuffled Ben and his clones off into a pocket universe that will only last eight hours. Reed hopes to find a cure for Ben during that time. If he can’t, the skin-spawn will return and overwhelm the Earth.
We begin in NYC, where Sue and Johnny are on the phone, trying and failing to contact the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, and the Inhumans for help. In the other universe, the skin-spawn (I really dislike the phrase “skin-spawn”) take a moment from raging to adorn themselves with war paint, then they pursue Ben through the abandoned Skrull city that happens to be there. Ben comes up with the idea of crunching up a car into a tiny ball, with the idea being that all six tons are compressed to such a weight that it will penetrate the clones’ skin. Also, Ben has Reed’s future-predicting television with him (the TV can fly around, apparently) and it warns him that the weapon will not work. This does, however, set up a pun for Ben to say, “It’s compactin’ time!”
At the Baxter Building, Sue and Johnny check in with Reed, only for his to only partially remember them. He then lets them in on what’s up to. He’s contacted a bunch of other Reeds from other universes, with them all brainstorming possible solutions. Sue names this a “congress of Reeds,” but Johnny has his own name for it, a “boatload of Reeds.”
In the pocket universe, the clones attack Ben, and he fights them off with the condensed metal balls. It seems to work at first, until a Rhino-like Thing knocks down the building they’re all in. Then Ben is surrounded, and all the clones beat the crap out of him.
One of the clones gets ahold of the compacted balls and is about to kill Ben with it, when someone else throws a ball from the side, beheading the clone (!) and saving Ben. Turns out not all the clones are monstrous, and that some of them are intelligent and on Ben’s side. There’s also a baby one, who keeps repeating “idol o’ millions… idol o’ millions…” The good Thing clone says there are only a handful of good things against a boatload of evil ones, and he suggests everyone group up for a climactic showdown.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: You might have heard Fantastic Four fans over the years refer to the “Council of Reeds” storyline. That’s NOT this issue. We won’t meet the Council of Reeds until later. This issue’s group of alt-timeline Reeds is not the Council, but the Congress of Reeds.
Fade out: Sue tends to the baby while also working the phone trying to contact her fellow superheroes. She has a wireless phone with a headset, while Johnny has yet to cut the cord on his landline.
Clobberin’ time: On this issue’s letters page, there’s an illustration of differently-colored Things in place of the letters. Why?
Flame on: Reed says Johnny is male in most other universes, although a red-headed girl on one of Reed’s screens says “Me as a guy? Oh, yuck!” upon seeing Johnny.
Our gal Val: Baby Valeria is wearing a blue-and-white FF uniform of her own, complete with little white gloves and boots.
Commercial break: These “Mini-Marvels” comic strips were all over Marvel during this time, written and drawn by Chris Giarrusso. This one seems to be a cross-promotion between Marvel and startup site Perpetual Comics. Perpetual Comics doesn’t appear to exist anymore, but Giarrusso is still in comics, currently publishing his creator-owned series G-Man.
Trivia time: What were the other heroes up to this month that they couldn’t come to the FF’s rescue?
– The Avengers were under investigation by the Maria Stark Foundation after the damage caused during their recent fight with supervillains the Elements of Doom.
– Dr. Strange was in space for the Infinity Abyss crossover, where he and a bunch of other Marvel heroes confronted clones of Thanos, called the Thanosi.
– Thor was right there in New York, searching for evil Viking warrior Thialfi and preventing a nuclear missile from destroying the U.N. Building.
– Iron Man was abducted by a villain named Ty Stone, who hooked up Iron Man to something called the “Dreamvision System.” Tony spent most of the issue confronting his personal demons in a hallucinatory landscape. (Looks like writer Mark Grell was trying to turn Iron Man into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.)
– The Inhumans didn’t appear at all this month, so we have no idea why they didn’t answer Sue and Johnny’s calls.
Fantastic or frightful? This is mostly a big fight between Ben and all the other Things. This business about the compacted metal balls gives the fight some interesting dimension, so it’s more than just punching. I wonder if the Congress of Reeds is a first draft for the upcoming Council story, but we’ll see. I think Adam Warren’s three issues are likely best read in one sitting, because that’s where it’ll feel like one complete story.
Next: Back to rocky basics.
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