Fantastic Friday: Big business

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 #60, legacy 490 features some classic Thing and Human Torch bickering, but also gets the ball rolling on the current story arc.

We begin with a serious discussion between Sue and Reed, where Sue says she’s at the end of her rope with Johnny’s impetuous ways.  She says drastic measures are in order. Nearby, in the kitchen, Ben has opened a package in the mail only to a get a pie in the face courtesy of the Yancy Street Gang again. Sue discovers a receipt in the box, with an address of the novelty shop that made the pie-in-the-box gag. Ben marches off to confront the Yancy Streeter who’s done this. Johnny reacts with fear upon seeing this.

Johnny starts to fly off, but Sue stops him with a force field. She gets him to admit that he’s the one who sent the package, not the Yancy Street Gang, suggesting that it was him who’s sent all the Yancy packages over the years. She tells him to go set things right. Outside, Ben smashes his way through the NYC sidewalks in a rampage towards the joke shop. Johnny flies up to him, but instead of telling the truth, he chickens out and says he can’t believe the nerve of those Yancy Street jerks. He then tells Ben to be a bigger man, but Ben fights Johnny off, first with a fire hydrant, and then through the wall of a beauty parlor.

Johnny catches up with Ben once more, and argues that Ben gets made fun of all the time and must be used to it now. Ben says you get used to some days, and some days it kills him. “And then there are the bad days,” he says. He punctuates this point by throwing an NYC taxicab at Johnny. Johnny tries to tell Ben that whoever sent the package never thought of it that way, but Ben doesn’t listen. He continues on.

In Reed’s lab, he’s working some high-tech device, when all the power goes out. This confounds him, as the Baxter Building has numerous backups to prevent power outage. Reed finds Franklin in Valeria’s room, where the walls are breaking apart to reveal nightmarish mouths and eyes on the other side. When Reed goes to rescue Valeria, spiders crawl out of her eyes and mouth. Everything goes black, and then returns to normal. Franklin asks Reed what just happened, and Reed admits he doesn’t know. “I don’t like it when you say that,” Franklin says. “Nor I, champ,” Reed says.

Back outside, Johnny flies ahead, warning New Yorkers that the rampaging Ben is a Skrull. Johnny offers to take out the Yancy Streeter for Ben, but Ben ignores him. Ben reaches the joke shop, only to find it an empty lot. Ben and Johnny realize the receipt must have been all part of the gag. Ben walks off, having cooled off. Johnny wonders how a piece of Manhattan real estate could be vacant. The store then reappears, having been turned invisible by Sue. She’s furious at Johnny over this incident, and says she has a special mission designed just for him.

Back at the Baxter Building, Sue gives Johnny his new uniform: a suit. Johnny accuses her of grounding him. She says no, she’s employing him. They travel a few floors down to the Baxter Building’s office level, where Sue says she’s naming Johnny the newest chief financial officer of Fantastic Four Inc. Sue says that Johnny has always been good with numbers and computers, and being an auto mechanic means that he “understands systems.” She further says that this is a task with grave consequences to everyone he loves, and either he succeeds or he ruins the family.

Sue then leaves Johnny alone in his new office, saying “Don’t screw it up.” Then the next issues blurb does an Arrested Development narrator gag with “Next: Johnny screws up.”

Unstable molecule: What is Reed working on in his lab? It’s a genome that is attached to a “protonomic spectrolyzer” that is connected to a “intracyloplasmic injector grid.” Sure, why not?

Fade out: In addition to everything else she does in this issue, we also see Sue doing the laundry. The Baxter Building has a futuristic washing machine with an “unstable molecules” setting.

Clobberin’ time: Ben causes a lot of collateral damage as he rampages through New York. At one point he tells a passerby “You can bill me,” and I guess that makes it okay?  

Flame on: Johnny’s interests in this issue include Maxim magazine and reruns of South Park and The Tom Green Show. Maybe Sue is right in saying he could do better.

Four and a half/Our gal Val: Is Franklin sharing a bedroom with baby Valeria? I’m going to say no, because there’s no other bed in the baby’s room. It appears Franklin is just hanging out there. Perhaps he’s old enough for babysitting duties now.

Commercial break: “Alpha, bring me my Zune.”

Trivia time: This issue breaks continuity when it comes to the Yancy Street Gang. Ben states that he’s never seen a Yancy Streeter face-to-face, when previous comics established he and his brother are former members of the gang. Not to mention teaming up with the “new” Yancy Street Gang in issue #361. Then there’s the matter of Johnny being the one behind the gang’s pranks all this time. Previous issues have shown Yancy Streeters off panel shouting things at Ben while pulling off their pranks. Are we to believe Johnny arranged that somehow? The Marvel Wiki states there is “no clarification” for Johnny’s claims in this issue.

Fantastic or frightful? This is so-called “decompressed” storytelling, where the entire issue is just the opening scene of what’s going to be a longer story. In the old days, this would’ve been the first three pages of the story. This isn’t good or bad, just a different way of looking at things. Maybe it’s a little too convenient for Ben to be this angry just for story purposes, but it means we get to have a fun Johnny/Ben fight, so it’s all good.

Next: Bust open the books.

* * * *

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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