Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Back in issue #500, the FF defeated Dr. Doom but not before Doom scarred Reed’s face. We’re still dealing with the fallout of these events in issue #503. Also, guest artist Howard Porter takes over for Mike Weiringo for the next few issues.
We begin in the gift shop inside the new Baxter Building, where Fantastic Four fans are buying t-shirts and playing around with souvenirs. Some fans say it’s been a long time since the FF were sited in person, and they wonder if the heroes are even at home. Turn the page, and we see the wreckage from the recent fight against Dr. Doom has not yet been repaired.
Cut to Latveria, where we meet Nadja Morturo, a volunteer soldier in the army of Latveria. The captions tell us that the Latverian army is normally superfluous, as Dr. Doom’s mere presence was enough to protect the country’s borders. Now, however, word has gotten out (how?) that Dr. Doom is no longer on Earth and perhaps. Neighboring Hungary (!) takes advantage of this, as Hungarian troops attack the border. Then the FF show up and drive back the invaders in a huge fight.
Reed tells the Hungarians that if they consider invading Latveria again, he’ll hit the country with a computer virus. The army retreats. Reed says that while the U.N. debates what to about Latveria, he’s not going to let anyone help themselves to Dr. Doom’s technology while it unguarded. But then the locals protest, and the Latverian army turns on the FF. Ben says their real goal is not so much protecting the border, but getting inside Castle Doom.
Reed gives the FF special armbands containing Doom’s DNA, which will help get past the castle’s automated security. Remember last issue, when Reed swiped some of Doom’s hair from the past. That hair is this DNA. They enter the castle, with Reed telling the staff, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” They make their way into Doom’s lab, where Doombots are storing all of Doom’s tech inside a “teleportation matrix,” to protect it all in case of Doom’s absence. They fight the Doombots and recover most of the tech.
Ben expresses some regret about walking around Castle Doom like they own the place. Reed is all business, however, wanting to keep Doom’s tech from falling into the wrong hands. This includes not only gathering up all the tech but also barricading the castle from outsiders. After working all night, Sue, Ben, and Johnny have a chat at dawn. Ben chides Johnny for putting ideas in Reed’s head, but Johnny says the whole time travel thing last issue was an attempt to get Reed out of his funk and back into action. Sue says the battle between Doom and Reed took a lot out of Reed.
The Latverian people gather outside the castle to protest the FF’s presence. Ben says that if the Latverians knew the real Dr. Doom, they’d be grateful. Reed shows up and says that Latverians are loyal to Doom because Doom gave them everything – food, shelter, healthcare, etc. Everything, that is, except freedom. Reed then removes his shirt, converts into a flag, and flies it over the castle. “We’re not going home,” he says.
Unstable molecule: A line of dialogue in the gift shop scene states that all proceeds from the souvenirs go toward Reed’s scientific pursuits.
Fade out: The Fantastic Four gift shop sells “invisible shields” which look like just ordinary sheets of plastic. They did the best they could.
Clobberin’ time: A visitor to the gift shop says the Thing has told him to get lost 19 times, which he says is a new record.
Flame on: There’s a gag where Johnny tries to talk to the castle staff. Because he doesn’t speak Latverian, he tries basic high-school Spanish, which works about as well as you’d think.
Four and a half/Our gal Val: Reference is made to the kids being with a babysitter during all this.
Commercial break: Put the Hulk in your mouth!
Trivia time: Latveria was established as bordering Hungary in Secret Avengers #9, but figuring where exactly Latveria is located is a fool’s errand. In various comics it has bordered, Serbia, Romania, Transylvania, Bukovina, Moldavia, and the fictional countries of Symkaria, Puternicstan, and Slokovia.
Fantastic or frightful? In the continuity of this blog, it wasn’t that long ago we had Reed and Sue running Latveria during the crisis that forced Reed to pretend to be Dr. Doom. I’m seeing a lot of similarities between that story arc and this issue. We’ll continue to see how the two are similar or different as this new arc continues. On the plus side, the gift shop scene is a lot of fun, as is the big fight with the invading troops.
Next: Furious politics.
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