Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 #69 legacy #598, we return to great debate of science versus magic, and this time magic seems to be winning.
To recap, Dr. Doom leveled up to become a powerful sorcerer. He’s established a mystical connection with baby Valeria, naming her as his familiar. He’s also launched an attack on the new Baxter Building, sending neitherdemons to abduct Franklin. This issue begins with Ben and Sue reacting to Valeria’s first word being “Doom.” In Reed’s lab, Johnny flies through a portal into the neitherdemons’ hellish world to try to save Franklin. One demon barfs up some green liquid onto Johnny, which does the impossible and burns him. The portal is closed, but Reed says strange, unidentified energies are still running through the building.
Sue and Ben finally join Reed and Johnny in the lab, and everyone compares notes. Reed learns Doom is involved, and he sees that Valeria’s eyes have changed from blue to brown. Reed demands that Doom show himself. Doom speaks through the baby (!) saying, “Soon enough.” In Latveria, Doom consults with three demons named the Haazareth Three, with whom he has made a bargain. They praise Doom, saying the terms of their deal are “equitable and palatable.” They demand nothing from Doom other than his acknowledgment, saying an Earth agent will be good for their reputation. Doom makes it clear that he will acknowledge them, but only as allies, not as masters. Doom promises the demons that after Reed is disposed of, then both their magical influences on Earth will continue to grow.
Reed prepares a Fantasticar for the journey not into the hell-world, but to Latveria. Reed patches up Johnny’s burned leg. Sue says she’s bringing the baby along on the trip, because nowhere is safe at the moment. Elsewhere (the caption just states, “Hell”) Franklin wakes up in a dark chamber, only to be snatched up by the Haazareth Three. He cries out for his mom. Back in the Fantasticar, Reed has packed weapons on board, saying he’s not messing around. Ben contacts Dr. Strange, warning him about Doom’s newfound magical power. Strange has tiny demons crawling all over him, suggesting that Doom has already gotten to him. Ben then gets on Reed’s case about issues regarding magic. Ben says Reed doesn’t like magic, because that’s the only time Reed isn’t the smartest guy in the room.
In Latveria, the Fantasticar cannot land, because Doom has surrounded the country with a “no-science zone.” The Fantasticar crashes, and Doom is waiting for the FF as they emerge from the wreckage. Everyone fights, but Doom has a spell ready to counteract each of the FF’s powers. After defeating the FF, Doom tells them to “Do your worst.” Ben pleads for Reed to think of something, but the final panel shows a look fear in Reed’s face, suggesting that the big brain is out of ideas.
To be continued!
Wait, there’s more: This issue has a four-page preview of Ultimate X-Men #34. In these wordless pages, Ultimate Wolverine is in a diner that gets shot full of bullets in a drive-by shooting. Then we see Ultimate Spider-Man swinging over New York, changing into Ultimate Peter Parker on a rooftop.
Unstable molecule: This story arc is all about pushing Reed to the limit. First he’s furious that Dr. Doom would come after his children, and then he’s faced with the unthinkable by going up against a reality-bending magic foe.
Fade out: Sue at one point suggests that this baby Valeria might not be their Valeria, as if Doom switched babies or something.
Clobberin’ time: How are Ben and Dr. Strange buddies? Aside from Strange’s handful of appearances in Fantastic Four, Ben and Dr. Strange met teamed up in Marvel Two-In-One #6, in a wild psychedelic tale about a magic harmonica. They met again in Marvel Two-In-One #49, where they bump into each other on vacation in a seaside town, only to discover supernatural weirdness. In that issue, Strange remarks “I could hardly ask for a worthier ally than Benjamin Grimm.”
Flame on: The burn on Johnny’s leg gets patched up with a “plasticast” while it heals. He seems to get over it quick, having no problem attacking Doom during the fight.
Four and a half: Although Franklin has been aged up some by this point, he’s still very much a little kid, crying out “Mommy!” as demons drag him off to Hell.
Our gal Val: Having Dr. Doom’s voice come out of Valeria’s mouth is certainly odd. It’s like something out of a Conjuring movie.
Commercial break: This is just going to scratch your game disc.
Trivia time: Ben reminds Reed that Franklin was once babysat by a witch, Agatha Harkness. Keep in mind this was Franklin’s supernatural nanny for many years, pretty much an entirely different character from the Agatha Harkness seen in WandaVision.
What’s going on in Ultimate X-Men #34? The pages in that issue aren’t wordless, but have narration. It’s the same story nonetheless. After getting shot by assailants while at the diner, Ultimate Wolverine hides out at Ultimate Peter Parker’s house. (They had met in a previous story.) After taking some time to heal, the same assailants then find Peter’s house and attacks. This was the first chapter in the “Blockbuster” crossover, involving the X-Men, Spidey, and Daredevil, as a paramilitary group hunted the heroes all over New York. The villains are later revealed to be agents of Weapon X, who don’t like how Wolverine is running around unchecked.
Fantastic or frightful? A terrific action-packed issue. Reed is pushed to the edge, while Dr. Doom gets to powerful he’s untouchable. At this point the story, things truly feel hopeless for our heroes, and yet we readers know it’s almost time for the big 500th issue.
Next: All demons, all the time.
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