Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #516, we’ve got the Fantastic Four in one corner and the new Frightful Four in the other corner. They both come out swinging.
Recap: We met the new Frightful Four, made up of the Wizard, the Trapster a.k.a. Paste-Pot Pete, Hydro-Man, and Salamandra. Along for the ride is Cole, a beautiful young woman with gravity-defying powers, who turned out to be the Wizard and Salamandra’s long-lost daughter. The Frightful Four attacked and defeated the FF, with the whole thing televised, for the sole purpose of humiliating the heroes in public. While the Frightful Four fell apart with in-fighting, Cole ran back to Johnny and asked for his help. The FF plan retaliation.
The issue begins with an incredibly kinky scene. Salamandra is taking a bath, and the bath water is… Hydro-Man?!? An alarm goes off, and the two of them join the Wizard to find Cole sneaking back into the Wizard’s HQ. The Wizard spies on Cole talking to someone, and he deduces that the Fantastic Four are there, unseen thanks to Sue’s invisibility powers. Cole makes it inside, and the villains confront her. The Frightful Four attack, but they hit nothing. Then the Wizard learns that Cole’s ring, which he gave to her, was a high-tech signal ring that Reed hacked into his teleporter. The Fantastic Four teleport into the hideout, standing alongside Cole.
Fighting! Sue goes after Salamandra, who transforms into a dragon (!) to bust free of Sue’s force fields. Johnny and Cole make a run for it. They talk about how Cole wants Reed to remove her powers, and Johnny reminds her that he can’t do it without access to the Wizard’s data. Johnny tells Cole she’s worth the risk, and they kiss.
The Wizard and Reed seem evenly matched, until Ben picks up Hydro-Man and throws him at the Wizard. Hydro-Man recovers, chases after Cole and gets attacked by Johnny. Cole uses her powers to defend herself. The Wizard also recovers, trying to subdue Ben with one of his gravity discs, but Reed steps in and grabs the disc for himself. He uses the disc to de-gravitize Salamandra, and Sue traps Hydro-Man in a force field.
Reed checks on Johnny and Cole, only to find her weakened to a barely-alive state. He says her powers have a transference effect, and that when she increases an object’s mass, she decreases her own. Reed goes off in search of the Wizard’s data, while the Wizard confronts Johnny. The Wizard alters the gravity inside his hideout, throwing Johnny and Sue around the room and freeing Hydro-man.
The Wizard nabs Cole and takes her to his lab. He saves her life by hooking her up to a machine that replenishes her depleted mass with gravitons from a cable. It works and she is healthy again, but then he wants to experiment on her, asking to see what happens when she absorbs excess mass. Reed attacks, only to be held back by more gravity discs. The Wizard says Cole can’t trust Reed, and that Reed won’t be able to cure her.
Cole then reconfigures the Wizard’s gravity, so he attaches to one of the Trapster’s glue traps, sealing the Wizard inside fast-hardening super-strong glue. Cole then demonstrates her ability to absorb extra mass, making the whole place go haywire. The hideout, secretly located within abandoned NYC subway tunnels, breaks up through the street flies into the sky over New York. This effort transforms Cole into a blob-like monstrosity. The Wizard says he loves her, and she says that even through the Wizard has done terrible things, she can’t let him die. She says, “If I don’t care what happens to you… who will?” Turn the page, though, and this heartwarming scene turns deadly, when Cole adds, “But I can’t let this go on, either.” She drops the hideout and the two of them in the water outside the city.
Later, the FF conduct a search, but find no trace of any of the Frightful Four. Johnny wants to keep looking for Cole, but there’s no trace of her. It’s a melancholy ending, where Johnny insists that Cole is not a bad person, and her fate should not be tied in with the Frightful Four. Ben responds with, “Ya can’t pick your family, kiddo.”
Unstable molecule: Reed says he could have successfully removed Cole’s powers, because the Wizard’s genetic procedures were nineteen years old, which he says is “very simple” by present-day super-science.
Fade out: How, exactly, does Salamandra break free of Sue’s force fields? It’s hard to tell because it happens in one panel, but my guess is Sue dropped the force field out of shock upon seeing Salamandra transform into a giant dragon monster.
Clobberin’ time: When the Wizard thinks he has the upper hand, he quotes Ben’s “It’s clobbering time.” Ben, weirdly, has no comment on this.
Flame on: Johnny asks why Reed can’t use his graviton detecto-graph to find Cole like it did before. This is appropriate, since Johnny is the one who gave Reed the idea for the device in the first place. Reed says the Wizard saturated the area with free-floating gravitons, making the detecto-graph useless.
Trivia time: Cole never returned after this, with the Marvel Wiki listing this issue as her “apparent death.” Salamandra only had one other appearance after this, in the now-infamous scene in Fantastic Four: Foes, that had a bunch of FF villains in one scene. That’s too bad, as she could have been a major adversary for our heroes.
The next time we see the Trapster, it’s in the 2005 Secret War event, where he’s one of several tech-based villains getting funding from the new Latverian government. There’s no mention of how he escaped the Wizard’s time-prison, so let’s assume he was freed when Cole destroyed the hideout. The Wizard is also present at the Secret War fight, so maybe they patched things up? During the Civil War event, he and the Wizard will be back at it with yet another new Frightful Four.
Fantastic or frightful? It’s been a long time since there’s been an entire issue devoted only to the big slugfest between the heroes and villains. It’s a big, broad superhero brawl with action in the classic Marvel manner! What’s not to love?
Next: Halloween town.
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