Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Everybody loves a Human Torch/Spider-Man team up, and here’s a good one in issue #513.
After the Latveria incident (long story), the FF are facing some of the worst PR they’ve ever faced. Johnny, still acting as chief financial officer for Fantastic Four, Inc., asked Spider-Man for help in how to deal with bad press. Spidey took Johnny to a water park (why???), where villain Hydro-Man recently got an honest job. Thinking Spidey was there to attack him, Hydro-Man started a fight, resulting in all of Johnny’s clothes being blown off (!). This issue resolves the cliffhanger by having Spider-Man create webbing shorts for Johnny to wear. It’s wacky!
Hydro-Man keeps raging, and all the civilians around blame Johnny for starting this fight. There’s a bit where Ben enjoys popcorn at home while he watches the news report of the fight. Johnny blasts Hydro-Man so that part of him turns to steam. Hydro-Man then escapes down a drain. The closest access to the water lines is the nearby restroom and Johnny flies right into… the ladies’ room. It’s another comical misunderstanding, but not so funny when Hydro-Man returns and punches Johnny through a wall.
Spider-Man stops Hydro-Man from escaping, and he says he didn’t come to the park to pick a fight. Johnny recovers most of his clothes, but he is still fending off insults from the civilians, who think he’s only there to cause trouble. Hydro-Man keeps fighting, and Spidey says he likes how now he’s the likable one and Johnny is the unlikable one for once. Johnny fights Hydro-Man around the park while Spider-Man remembers that the trench coat he wore when they first arrive is one of the Thing’s incognito coats, and that gives him an idea.
Johnny chases Hydro-Man through an arcade, nearly electrifying a bunch of kids, after which Spider-Man traps Hydro-Man inside the coat. Because the coat is made of unstable molecules, it’s strong enough to contain the Thing, but can also be spot-welded from the outside. Johnny does just that, sealing and trapping Hydro-Man inside the coat. The police arrive, threatening to arrest Johnny on charges of “open flame and fireworks.” While the heroes are distracted by this, a mystery man whose face we don’t see sneaks away with the coat and Hydro-Man.
Spider-Man notices the park’s mascot, Squiddy McSquid (!) is about to fall from wreckage from the fight. Spidey claims to be out of web fluid, so Johnny flies up and rescues the man. The audience cheers, and sees Johnny as a hero again. Squiddy turns out to be a beautiful young woman in the costume, and she asks Johnny for his phone number. The crowd then turns on Spider-Man for not saving Squiddy, calling him a menace. So things are back to normal.
Johnny thanks Spider-Man, in a way, by saying, “You really understand how important it is for me not to look like a dork in front of my adoring public.” Spider-Man says, “Say no more.” We then see that, unbeknownst to Johnny, Spider-Man has webbed Johnny’s boxers to a nearby flagpole.
Then we have the backup story, also continuing from last issue. Sue felt like Reed was ignoring her, only for Reed’s old flame, super-genius Alyssa Moy, showed up at the new Baxter Building. As this second part begins, Alyssa and Sue are preparing to use the time machine for Alyssa’s next big adventure. Sue says she’s happy to help, but she’s clearly wary of Alyssa speaking so highly of Reed.
Sue and Alyssa travel back in time to Mayan ruins of Xunanguero, which were first discovered by Reed and Alyssa during their college-age adventures. Alyssa finds an artifact that she and Reed missed the first time around. A portal opens, and young Reed and young Alyssa come through it. Sue turns herself and Alyssa invisible, and they watch. Young Reed is very flirtatious with young Alyssa. Sue tries to put it in perspective, but then young Reed proposes marriage to young Alyssa! Alyssa tells Sue she shouldn’t have seen that, and for her to “step back now.”
Then a monster attacks from the other side of the portal. Young Reed reaches for the key to close the portal, but can’t reach it. Sue helps him with an invisible force field, and Alyssa realizes that a future Sue saved their lives that day. Sue and Alyssa return to the present, with Alyssa saying the mission was a success. Alyssa leaves, with Sue saying they’ll meet again sooner rather than later. Alyssa says, “I’d count on it.”
Unstable molecule: Reed tries to coin the phrase “chronalportation” for time travel, only for Alyssa say that she’s the one who originally came up with it.
Fade out: Sue has a very practical attitude toward time travel. She was warned not to change fate by tampering with the past, but she argues that saving her husband’s life is her fate.
Clobberin’ time: Ben asks why he never gets to use the time machine, and Reed says it’s because Ben wanted the Rat Pack to play at his birthday party.
Flame on: Johnny can burn through Spider-Man’s webs in this issue, when he couldn’t in times past. I like to think
Trivia time: Yes, Alyssa Moy does come back… eventually. It won’t be for many issues, but we will see the follow-up to Reed’s proposal in this issue.
The Marvel Wiki states that the Cthulu-like monster attacking young Reed and young Alyssa is Xuanaguero itself. This is its only appearance, so we’ll never know what it’s deal is.
This is also the only appearance of Squiddy McSquid, which is too bad. I can totally see her as a character in Squirrel Girl.
Fantastic or frightful? This is a fun superhero romp with a lot of classic Spidey/Torch banter. It also makes Hydro-Man a credible villain, powerful enough to take on two of Marvel’s marquee heroes. But what was Spider-Man trying to say by taking Johnny to the water park? Did Johnny learn anything from the experience? I don’t know. I also liked the backup. It finally fulfils the promise that the Before the Fantastic Four minis didn’t deliver by giving us more backstory about Alyssa Moy.
Next: We’re off to see the wizard.
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