Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Our heroes are in a dark place in issue #509, but there’s some light ahead. Also, the great Mike Wieringo is back on art duties, with Karl Kesel on inks.
Where were we? After the final battle between Reed and Dr. Doom that left Reed’s face irreparably scarred, Reed took control of Latveria to dismantle everything Doom had built. This caused an international crisis. Then Reed tried trapping Doom’s soul in an inescapable afterlife, only for Doom to escape and possess Ben’s body. Ben took a hit from a superweapon that stopped Doom, killing Ben in the process. The last issue ended several weeks later, with the FF having split up and lost their fortune.
We begin six weeks earlier, with Reed desperately trying to save Ben’s life after the big battle. Nick Fury isn’t having it, insisting that Reed be placed under arrest. Reed insists that every second counts, and Sue tells him he’s spent the last hour trying and failing to revive Ben. Cut to the present, where Reed is asleep in his lab, equations written on the walls all around him. He has a letter from the Pentagon, stating that Ben’s will insists that his body be turned over to the military for scientific study. He falls asleep and dreams about Dr. Doom, then wakes up proclaiming, “That’s it!”
Elsewhere, Johnny has gotten a job working in a garage, daydreaming about happier times with him and Ben. His jerk boss doesn’t like what the FF pulled in Latveria, and he says the FF got what was coming to them. Then we catch up with Alicia, tearfully making sculptures of Ben. We see Sue and the kids having been staying with Alicia since the team split up. On the phone with Johnny, she says she still loves Reed, she can’t find a way to reach him. She adds that all the FF’s finances are frozen until the UN’s accusations of treason are resolved. She says Nick Fury put in a good word for the FF, insisting they were fighting Dr. Doom, but that’s not how the public sees it. Then we see the scene that ended the previous issue, with Reed on the phone with Sue, saying he’s got a plan to bring Ben back.
Sue calls Johnny, and shortly afterward, they break down the door in Reed’s lab demanding an explanation. Reed says he’s invented a device to detected immeasurably faint brainwaves, and he found one. A door opens, and Reed reveals he has Ben’s body in a statis chamber. Reed says he stole the body from an army medical center, insisting that there is a faint spark of life still in him.
Reed further explains his plan. He has rebuilt the machine that originally scarred Dr. Doom’s face – the machine he hoped to use to free his mother’s soul from Hell. Reed says he has perfected the machine, and he will use it to return Ben’s soul to his body. Reed further argues that it might not have been Hell but Heaven Doom hoped to reach. Sue says the afterlife is too big of a concept to deal with, saying it’s not an “Afterverse” they can visit like the Negative Zone. Reed says he’s insisting on making the trip, Johnny says he and Sue are coming along. Reed activates the machine, and the three of them disappear in a flash of light.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed’s suspicion that Doom might still be alive is based on that thing where the body weighs slightly less after death. A lot of real-life people believe this has something to do with a soul, but based on what little reading I’ve done, it’s really air and gas leaving the body. Whatever. It’s a Marvel comic.
Fade out: Sue reads a Time Magazine with the FF on the cover and “Traitors?” as the headline.
Flame on: Johnny compares venturing into the afterlife with the FF’s first spaceflight, in which the four of them stealing their own ship to make the historic flight. This speech is what convinces Sue to come along.
Four and a half/Our gal Val: Franklin and Valeria are shown sleeping in a guest bedroom in Alicia’s apartment, letting the readers know they’re okay during all this.
Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman revealed that Sue had a double life as a S.H.E.I.L.D. agent all along. Could this be part of the reason why Fury is vouching for the FF after he arrests Reed?
Trivia time: What’s Alicia been up to since we last saw her? Hard to say. The Marvel Wiki has no info on her between Onslaught and Secret Invasion. This issue establishes just how much she still cares for Ben, even though they separated way back in issue #358, and there was a lot of drama between her and the Silver Surfer over in his comic.
Fantastic or frightful? This is where we transition into the final act of this storyline, where our heroes are at their lowest and then come fighting back. How will they resolve all this business about souls and the afterlife, not to mention a personal crisis so huge it tears the FF apart? It’s going to take something big.
Next: In Heaven, everything is fine.
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