Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The FF have been to space, to other times, to other universes, and to Hell. Now, in issue #510, they journey into… Heaven!
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. Undaunted, Reed went back Dr. Doom’s original experiment from his origin story, where he tried and failed to free his mother from the afterlife. Reed says he perfected Doom’s tech, and now he, Sue and Johnny are attempting to bring Ben back by venturing into the unknown – into Heaven itself.
This issue begins with our heroes arriving in a grassy plain, and immediately being attacked by angels with flaming swords. The FF fight defensively, with Reed stating “We come in peace” the whole time. A flaming message appears on an angel’s face, stating “You don’t belong here,” and then all the angels disappear.
Johnny questions whether this world is actually Heaven, while Reed insists the team press on in their search for Ben. Elsewhere, outside some gigantic castle, we see a human-looking Ben and an unnamed man. Ben wants to talk to Reed, but the man says too many rules are being broken by Reed’s presence already. “We’ll have to hit your friends even harder once they’re completely through the veil,” he says.
The FF come across their next obstacle, a bunch of floating islands. Reed puts them together like a big jigsaw puzzle, allowing them to continue walking forward. Johnny and Reed get into quite an argument. Johnny blames Reed for everything that went down in Latveria, including Ben’s death. Reed says that if Ben would still be alive and Doom wouldn’t have gotten loose if Johnny had only stayed put and done what he’d been told. Sue plays peacemaker, saying Ben is the reason why they’re all there. They press on, and we see all these little floating islands are coming together to look like Ben’s rocky skin.
The FF pass through some fog, and end up in the new Baxter Building, not just with Franklin and Valeria but a whole bunch of Franklins and Valerias. Sue says this is “All the best days of their lives.” Sue questions Reed on whether this mission is the right thing to do, saying that maybe there are some mysteries mankind was not meant to solve. Everyone passes through another fog, where Johnny and Sue are reunited with their long-dead parents. It’s a happy reunion, except Johnny suspects something is not right about this afterlife. The heroes are then washed away in a wave of red liquid. (Is it blood?)
Ben and the unnamed man talk about opening a door in front of Ben. Ben says he doesn’t need anyone’s help opening it, as he struggles against it. Reed, Sue and Johnny wash up in an underground cave where they are attacked by small winged creatures. It’s the angels again, but now they’re tiny. Their little wings are razor sharp, and they cut up the FF real good. Just when it looks like our heroes are defeated, Ben appears to pull them to safety.
Ben is happy to see the other three again, but he says it’s for one last time. Reed says Ben belongs back on Earth, that he doesn’t belong there. The unnamed man agrees that Ben doesn’t belong there. Reed recognizes the man as Ben’s brother Daniel Grimm. Ben explains that they’re not actually in Heaven, just the “outskirts.” The real Heaven is on the other side of the big door Ben can’t open. Danny tells Reed to look at the door to see who built it. Reed examines the door and discovers that he, Reed Richards, is the one who built it.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed says that what everyone is seeing in Heaven is beyond what mortal beings can comprehend, but instead everything they’re seeing is their own minds translating images based on their own preconceived existing theological conceptions. Sure, why not?
Fade out: The story behind Sue and Johnny’s parents, Franklin and Mary Storm, was told back in issue #32. Mary had died in car crash. After falling on hard times and making poor choices, Franklin sacrificed his life to save the FF from a Skrull bomb.
Clobberin’ time: Who is Daniel Grimm? His story was told in Thing #1. He was a former leader of the Yancy Street Gang, and he died in a brawl. Ben always thanked his brother for teaching him integrity.
Flame on: Johnny jokes (or not?) that his idea of Heaven is Britney Spears feeding him chocolate-covered strawberries in front of a hundred-inch plasma screen TV. Later, Sue jokes (or not?) that Johnny wandered off in search of Heaven’s lingerie department.
Four and a half/Our gal Val: The Heavenly versions of Franklin and Valeria are all the age they currently, although the different Franklins have different hair lengths.
Trivia time: Not surprisingly, Heaven and angels are inconsistent in their depictions in the Marvel Universe. In Ghost Rider, angels are villains, and there was an ongoing storyline about a fallen angel named Zadkiel leading a war in Heaven. In Amazing X-Men, Nightcrawler was in Heaven after he died. Although it was a paradise, he found himself battling the so-called “Heaven’s Pirates,” and then facing an invasion of Heaven from devilish father Azazel. In Howard the Duck, Howard ended up in Heaven where he had a lengthy conversation with God, all about the similarities between organized religion and corporate greed. Finally, in 1953, Marvel (then Atlas) published 5 issues of Bible Tales for Young People, which the Marvel Wiki states is canon with the Marvel Universe.
Fantastic or frightful? A fun romp that lets artist Mike Wieringo cut loose with the fantasy visuals he’s famous for, while also bringing out the tension among the characters over everything that’s happened during this storyline. Really exciting stuff as this arc nears its conclusion.
Next: Hail to the king.
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