Fantastic Friday: Modular living

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 #63 legacy #492 continues the “Sentient” storyline. Do you like math? Because this issue sure does.

Recap: Reed invented a new high-tech PDA for his personal use. When Ben and Sue went to the movies together (!) they were attacked by a strange being covered with mathematic symbols just like the ones on the PDA. The creature has the power to separate objects into their basic chemical components. It does this to Sue and Ben, injuring her hand and his rocky hide.

We begin with an expository speech from the creature, who introduces itself as the Modulus. It says it is the living result of all of Reed’s ideas, thoughts, and reflections. “I alone am worthy of his love,” it says, adding that anything not worth of Reed must be subtracted. Ben, still covered head to toe in Sue’s force field, punches Modulus, sending it flying back into an FF communicator. The punch hurts Sue, as she can sense feedback from the force field. Sue and Ben retreat back to the new Baxter Building.

Elsewhere, Johnny is still acting as the new chief financial officer for Fantastic Four Inc. He attends a rooftop pool party hosted by fashion impresario Jacob Suarti. Two other FF Inc. executives, Christi and Ethan, plot to sabotage the negotiations to make Johnny look bad, with them saving the day at the last minute. Suarti wants access to the unstable molecules that make up the FF’s uniforms, saying they’d be of great use in the fashion industry. Johnny is hesitant, saying instead to make the unstable fabric available for use for police and firefighters. Ethan argues that Johnny shouldn’t have this much power. This plays into Johnny’s ego, and he signs the contract for Suarti. Ethan and Christi give each other a secretive thumbs up.

Then Modulus emerges from Johnny’s FF communicator and attacks. As it fights Johnny, it analyzes the water in the pool and finds hydrogen. It divides the hydrogen, which causes a huge explosion atop the building.

At HQ, Reed is hard at work healing Ben and Sue’s injuries. Sue explains that Modulus looks just the image on Reed’s new PDA. Reed explains that the PDA’s hard drive is subspatially linked to a electrochemical alternate universe devoid of life. Except now, something sentient in that dimension is forming from the data. Reed says the chance of this happening is small unless someone else tampered with the PDA. They suspect Johnny. But then, Franklin, who was eavesdropping on all this, admits that he did the tampering. He hoped the PDA would make him smarter, so that Reed and Sue would pay as much attention to him as they do the baby.

Before this issue can be resolved, Johnny comes crashing through the window. He’s gone blind (!) and he warns the others that Modulus is coming. Franklin gets Johnny to safety as the others leap into action. Modulus is just outside the building, separating the components of cars and part of a wall. Reed tries to appeal to Modulus’ sense of logic. Modulus says, “I am the total of your essence, and you are the solution to my loneliness.” Modulus attaches itself to Reed’s head for a moment, but they are separated by Johnny, who returns to the fight with his sight back. Modulus cuts off the oxygen for Sue, Ben, and Johnny in his attempt to divide Reed from his family.

Reed examines Modulus and declares, “I’ve got your number.” He tells Ben and Johnny to hold Modulus as long as they can, while he and Sue return to his lab. Reed says Modulus is not a living equation, but a living expression. The difference, he says, is that there is no equal sign anywhere on the mathematics all over Modulus’ image. With the press of a button, Reed’s PDA grows to the size of a door, allowing him to enter the other dimension. Reed says that in order to stop Modulus, he’s going to have to determine a specific mathematic formula – the formula that defines him, Reed Richards.

To be continued!

Wait, there’s more. This issue also has a three-page preview of Uncanny X-Men #416. Nightcrawler, Angel, and Stacy X are flying across country while Nightcrawler and Stacy discuss Angel’s tragic love life. Then it cuts to Juggernaut and his sidekick Sammy, as they visit Juggernaut’s childhood home. Juggy says he’s seeking… his past.

Unstable molecule: Reed is on edge throughout this issue. He smashes up the lab in anger when he suspects Johnny messed with his PDA, and he initially turns his back on Franklin before coming around a reassuring the kid.

Fade out: To save Sue’s hand, Reed separates it from her (!) and then attaches it to device which will rebond its molecules. She spends the rest of the issue with her right hand as a stump held in place with a force field.

Clobberin’ time: Reed does something similar with Ben, putting him in a big tank that rebuilt the binding silicates that makes up Ben’s “petridermus.” So much technobabble in these issues!

Flame on: At the pool party, women give Johnny suggestions for unstable molecules, such as swimsuits that change color, bras that always fit perfectly, and skirts that can change length. He likes their ideas, but remains unconvinced overall.

Four and a half: When Franklin is jealous of all the attention baby Valeria is getting, he says to his parents, “You’d love me lots if I was smarter.” Could this foreshadowing the character Valeria will eventually become?

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all along. Sue doesn’t seem too traumatized about losing a hand in this issue. Could her secret spy training and/or spy missions prepared her for such an unthinkable situation?

Commercial break: Wanna party?

Trivia time: This issue remembers that Reed has licensed use of the unstable molecules to the Avengers, which was established way back in vol. 1 #6, and references several times since then. Mentioned far less frequently is that the X-Men also use the unstable molecules, as established in the historic Giant-Size X-Men #1.

What was going on Uncanny X-Men #416? Not a whole lot. With a bunch of mutants in the infirmary after a huge battle, Nightcrawler and Iceman debated who should and shouldn’t be considered an X-Man. Juggernaut was stuck living at the X-Mansion during this time, and he was conflicted about everyone calling him a villain. He smashed up his childhood home to exorcise his personal demons. Similarly, Stacy X returned to the controversial X-Ranch, also to confront her checkered past.

Fantastic or frightful? A fun issue that establishes Modulus as a real force to be reckoned with, some far-out sci-fi concepts, and some genuine human drama here and there.

Next: Mathemagic!

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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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