Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A new story arc begins in issue 517, one that kinda/sorta ties into a bigger Marvel event. Oh Marvel, you and your events.
It’s Halloween! Ben is hilariously dressed as Johnny while taking Franklin and Valeria out trick or treating. Sue scares him by using her powers to make a Jack o’ Lantern look like it’s floating in midair. They discuss how no kids are wearing Avengers costumes after the government recently disbanding the Avengers initiative (this is our crossover with the Avengers: Disassembled event).
At the new Baxter Building, Johnny is still the FF’s chief financial officer, he and fellow executive Jian meet with Reed about possible new inventions. Finances are still struggling after putting more money towards the FF’s PR department to help save their public image after the Latveria incident (it’s a long story). Jian insists that despite all the FF’s recent troubles, she’s not looking for other work.
The windows in Johnny’s office shatter, and Reed announces a city-wide atmospheric disturbance. Crazy winds blow all over New York, and then gigantic green pillars fall from the sky, embedding themselves in the water around Manhattan. The NYC mayor calls for the Avengers, only to learn they have disbanded. He’s then told not to call the FF because they are a political liability. But the FF are already on the scene, saving civilians from tidal waves caused by the pillars.
New Yorkers see the FF in action and fear that the team is taking over NYC like they took over Latveria. While everyone at the mayor’s office debates whether to cooperate with the FF, the city is rocked with a huge quake. Turn the page, and we see that Manhattan is being lifted upward into the sky. The mayor reaches into his desk, pulls out an old-school FF flare gun, and fires the “4” signal into the sky.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Some confusion here about the FF’s finances. First we’re told that Reed invented a self-inflating basketball (!) that is selling well. But then he has a prototype for x-ray sunglasses that’s not ready for market, because it causes blindness. (How does Reed know this? Did he test it on someone?)
Fade out: Sue struggles to hold back the tidal wave, and Ben jokes that Marvel Girl could’ve done it better. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me forever to remember that Marvel Girl is Jean Grey’s codename.
Clobberin’ time: Ben intimidates a suburban dad into giving the kids all of his Halloween candy, so sometimes it’s good to be a giant rock monster.
Flame on: Johnny wants to give Jian a raise, but she refuses. He looks through the papers in her office trashcan (not cool!) and finds she has rejected offers from headhunters for better jobs, simply because she still believes in the FF.
Four and a half: Franklin has a cowboy Halloween costume. I suspect he’s supposed to be Woody from Toy Story, but it’s hard to tell.
Our gal Val: Valeria has now aged up from baby to toddler, walking on her own while trick-or-treating. She has a clown costume.
Fantastic fifth wheel: In the background there are trick-or-treaters dressed as FF alternate members Luke Cage and Ant-Man. Future alternates Storm and Spider-Man are also represented as Halloween costumes.
Trivia time: What’s Avengers Disassembled about? There was a huge battle among all the Avengers, with some of them being hospitalized and even killed (!). This was due to the Scarlet Witch driven to violence over the loss of her children she subconsciously created (sound familiar?). The follow-up comic, Avengers Finale, is the one where the UN and the US government both sever all ties with the Avengers because of this incident.
In the hardcover collection’s bonus materials, Mark Waid states that this issue’s original ending was the mayor dialing Reed’s cell phone to ask for help. Writer Karl Kesel came up with the idea to bring back the classic signal flare, for a more dramatic and visual cliffhanger.
The mayor is not named. There’s disagreement online among fans whether this character is generic unnamed mayor, or if it’s real-life NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Marvel Wiki states that the entire run of Marvel Knights: 4 took place between last issue and this one. I’m planning to cover that series in upcoming blog posts.
Also, the Marvel Wiki makes it a point to mention that both humans and mutants appear in this issue. Do they mean Franklin?
Fantastic or frightful? The first half of the issue is slice-of-life stuff with a lot of family banter, and then some disaster movie rescue action in the second half. It’s a light, breezy read, setting up bigger things, but Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo continue to get the characters just right.
Next: “I love you, Dr. Zaius!”
- * * * *
Want more? Check out my new ongoing serial, THE SUBTERKNIGHTS, on Kindle Vella. A man searches for his missing sister in a city full of far-out technology and hidden dark magic. The first three chapters are FREE, so give it a shot! Click here for a list of all my books and serials.