Fantastic Friday: Thick skinned

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The manga-themed stylings of Adam Warren and Keron Grant comes to and end in vol. 3 #59 legacy 488. And it’s not the only aspect of the series coming to an end.

Recap: A bunch of other Things have started growing out of Ben, at such a fast rate they will overcome the Earth if not stopped. Reed sent Ben and the other Things off to a temporary pocket universe that will only last eight hours. While Reed and the other FF work to find a cure, Ben fights his so-called “skin-spawn” which are animalistic versions of himself. He was then rescued at the last minute by even more Thing clones who are intelligent and on his side.

At the Baxter Building, Reed has built a device based on help he got from all the Reeds from other universes. He explains that the device will create “virtual time” that can create an “altered emulation of time’s passage.” With this, he says he will be able to see what Ben’s rocky skin will evolve into in thousands of years. In the pocket universe, Ben and one of the good Things fight a bunch of monstrous Things. To keep more “skin-spawn” from coming off of him, Ben transforms back into a human (remember he can do that during this time). The good Thing says he and the others don’t like seeing him like that.

The other good Things are doing the trick of compacting metal into highly-compact swords, able to defeat (kill?) the monstrous things. Reed’s future-predicting television, which followed Ben into the pocket universe, is now reporting on Ben’s upcoming death. A horde of monstrous Things march toward them. Their leader is lucid enough to explain that they all hate Ben for his newfound ability to turn human. A big fight breaks out, with the monstrous Things also learning how to use the super-condensed metal.

Reed’s device reveals a hyper-intelligent evolution of Ben’s skin from thousands of years in the future. He hopes to communicate with it. In the pocket universe, Ben leads the other good Things in battle with a combined cheer of “It’s clobberin’ time!” The battle goes well at first, but then the monster Things kill all the good ones, until Ben is the only one left standing. As he fights the other Things, Ben argues that he is not a Hulk-like monster destroying everything in sight. Instead, that’s what his enemies do. The monster Things’ leader says that every time Ben transforms into a human, he and the others cease to exist, which is a nightmare to them.

On Earth, Reed activates his device, and Ben and the other Things are teleported to the Baxter Building. Reed, Sue and Johnny join the fight, until the hyper-intelligent Thing skin from the future destroys the other Things. Reed explains that it can control its own molecular form, which includes its ancestral forms as well. The future-Thing-skin disappears, and Reed explains that every time Ben turned human, his rocky shell reverted a virtual state, which acted as a catalyst for his skin’s replicative and mutative processes. The only way to stop this from happening was to remove Ben’s ability to turn human. Upon hearing this, Ben simply says “What?” and the issue ends.

Unstable molecule: Reed has sent the others in the Congress of Reeds on their way, and he’s back on his own in this issue.

Fade out: Sue is back to doting over the baby and just asking the occasional question of Reed, while Reed is the only one who gets to communicate with the strange being from the distant future. Are we just forgetting that Sue communed with a Celestial back in vol. 1 #400?

Clobberin’ time: Can we figure out how this happened? Ben gained the power to transform into a human after a fight with the Grey Gargoyle, because people turned to stone by G.G. eventually turn human again. But Grey Gargoyle got his powers from a chemistry accident, so where’d all this temporal “skin-spawn” stuff come from. I think the answer comes from a few panels where the future-Thing-skin-thing blasts the monster Things with what looks like the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers back in issue #1. I think we can assume the skin-spawn originated more from the cosmic rays rather than from the Grey Gargoyle.

Flame on: At the start of the fight, Johnny cried out, “Flame extra on!” My guess he’s trying to sound cool, and this doesn’t relate to how his powers actually work.

Our gal Val: Sue keeps hold of baby Valeria during the fight, telling the baby, “It’s only a game.”

Commercial break: I love that they included the Spider-Buggy as a game piece.

Trivia time: Years later, in Johnathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four, Hickman made some waves among FF fans by establishing that Ben is immortal, and he will never age so long as he is in his rocky body. This issue, however, beats Hickman to the punch by depicting a version of Ben still alive thousands of years in the future.

Someone in this issue’s letter column asks whatever happened to Bounty, the interdimensional bounty hunter and potential love interest for Ben. Assistant Editor Mark Sumerak responds, saying Bounty returned to space in search of (what else?) new bounties.

Fantastic or frightful? This three-issue arc was done just to remove Ben’s ability to turn human, a bit of clearing off the table so the new creative team can start fresh. I suppose it’s good that they devoted an entire story to it rather than just tossing it in at the end of whatever big crossover event was happening this month (that would be Weapon X: The Draft). But Ben’s human side was never explored at this time like it could have been. We had one moment several issues back where Ben was the normal one and Johnny’s out-of-control powers made him the monster of the team. This was just a panels’ worth of character-building, and that was it.

Next: Carnivale.

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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!

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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