Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 #65 legacy 494, artist Mark Buckingham fills in for the first of two issues, as we continue to deep dive into the FF’s finances.
To teach Johnny some responsibility, Sue has named him to new chief financial officer of Fantastic Four, Inc. Johnny works out a deal to license the FF’s unstable molecule technology to a rich businessman named Suarti, while two executives, Ethan and Christi, plot to make Johnny look bad for their own gain. This issue begins with some hijinks where Ben discovers a giant insect in the new Baxter Building’s kitchen. He chases it around for a bit before it disappears. Reed reminds Ben that the team recently traveled to a “Leviaverse,” where they battled some insectoid creatures. One followed them home, and is now hiding somewhere in the building.
Then there’s more comedy with Johnny and his assistant Jian stuck in traffic while on their way to meet Suarti. He uses a FF universal parking badge to park illegally and then flies himself and Jian to the meeting. Later, Sue learns that Johnny licensed the unstable molecules, and she is upset. Christi lies and says she and Ethan tried to stop Johnny, but Johnny wouldn’t have it. This scene also states that Reed went ahead and gave Johnny the unstable molecules for the deal. This isn’t really followed up on, because Reed is hard at work tracking the alien insect. Reed says the insect can’t be detected by sensors, so he sends Ben into the building’s ventilation system to hunt for it. To get into the ventilation, Reed uses a shrink ray to shrink Ben down to what looks like child-size.
Johnny meets with Suarti, showing off fabric made from unstable molecules. Johnny says the FF will not disclose how the molecules are made, but they will “encode” them for Suarti’s use. Johnny further says that the molecules are only to sold to police and firefighters, and that the good PR will result in big profit. Ethan and Christi prepare to call Sue to rat out Johnny, while Suarti takes the unstable molecule fabric to a high-tech lab with orders to reverse engineer it.
At HQ, Ben finds the insect in the ventilation system. They fight, but Ben finds that his strength is lessened when he shrunk, giving the insect the advantage in the fight. In Suarti’s lab, a scientist uses an electron microscope to zoom in on the unstable molecules, only find the words “If you can read this, you have just violated our contracted,” written on individual particles. The fabric transforms into a big green blob that wraps up Suarti. Johnny shows back up, with Christi and Ethan trapped in his flames. Johnny explains that Reed programmed with unstable molecules to react defensively if excessively probed. He also says he’s known all along about Christ and Ethan’s machinations. He says, “You think you’re masters of subterfuge? I deal with Skrulls. A little credit here.”
Then more exposition as Johnny says producing unstable molecules for mass market use would be too expensive. Also, he says if they are ever fully unlocked, it could be dangerous. Then a scientist bursts from the lab in a panic. Energy from the fabric has expanded, and the entire lab is now all green and goopy, including another scientist. Johnny says that once unlocked, the molecules begin a chain reaction, and now the instability is spreading.
To be continued!
Wait, there’s more: This time we have a four-page preview of Avengers #65. The town of Keystone, South Dakota is being evacuated in a biohazard emergency. Captain America and the Vision manage to rescue a little boy, but they weren’t there in time to save the kid’s mother.
Unstable molecule: Reed states that the mysterious nightmare attack on Franklin and Valeria in issue #61 remains unexplained. For readers, this confirms that it was not Modulus’ doing, but something we haven’t yet encountered.
Fade out: Sue is furious when she learns about Johnny causing a stir within the family business, but then Reed is quick to remind her that the whole thing was her idea.
Clobberin’ time: Why does Ben lose strength when he shrinks? According to our old friend The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition, when you shrink, your excess mass is temporarily shunted into a non-Einsteinian parallel universe where it is temporarily stored safely until you return to normal size. Makes perfect sense.
Flame on: Look closely, and you can see that Johnny’s universal parking pass was signed by then-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Does a city mayor even have authority over parking?
Commercial break: Anybody out there actually play this?
Trivia time: This insect creature is the same one seen hitching a ride with the FF after their fight with the Datavore in issue #60.
The Marvel Wiki insists that the shrinking machine is the same one from way back in issue #10. I suppose this is yet another of the FF’s personal keepsakes that the Watcher saved for them after destruction of the original Baxter Building.
That Avengers issue was the first part of the epic “Red Zone” storyline. This one in particular is about the U.S. Military trying to keep out of the area of the bio-attack, only for the Avengers to don special hazmat suits and investigate on their own. It’ll later be revealed that the attack was secretly started from within by a US agent named Dell Rusk. Even later, it’s revealed that Rusk is the Red Skull in disguise. The story eventually ends with the Avengers defeating the Red Skull while Iron Man and Wakandan scientists neutralize the bioweapon.
Fantastic or frightful? This is pretty simplistic for a corporate espionage story, but I do like that Johnny isn’t dimwitted, but instead comes out on top. Writer Mark Waid wanted his Fantastic Four stories to be character-focused, and that’s what we get here.
Next: Goop lab.
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