Fantastic Friday: Oh snap

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. I’m sure most comics fans are familiar with Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ modern classic Marvels, but did you know Marvels had a bunch of follow-up comics? Marvels Snapshots: Fantastic Four is one of those.

What’s all this, then? For those not in the know, Marvels retold four key moments in Marvel history through the point of view of an everyman, Phil Sheldon. Issue #2 is of interest to Fantastic Four fans, as it deals with the original Galactus trilogy. Marvels was a huge hit, and some lesser-known sequels and spinoffs followed. The idea behind Marvels Snapshots was Marvel as seen through the eyes of other non-powered characters. Other subjects included Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, Captain Marvel, and of course a Civil War tie-in. This one-shot comes to us from the team of Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Benjamin Dewey, Jordan Bellaire, and Joe Caramanga. Busiek is credited as “curator” for this series, and Alex Ross painted all the covers.

We begin with a news reports telling us that this is Johnny’s ten-year high school reunion. Then we check in with Johnny’s former high school girlfriend, Dorrie Evans. She’s still living in the suburbs with her two kids. She’s attending the reunion alongside two reporters, hoping to spread the word that there’s more to Glenville than its fame as the birthplace of Sue and Johnny Storm. This is tough, because the town has become a FF-related tourist destination. The reporters and Dorrie tour a Fantastic Four museum full of recreations of their past adventures. Special attention is paid to Johnny’s solo adventures in Glenville.

Next, Dorrie and the reporters visit former supervillain Asbestos Man, who admits his motivation was mostly jealously and fear about the new wave of superheroes at the time. Asbestos Man is old and appears to be very sick. He has a young sidekick who seems much enamored with the old man’s life of crime.

Then Dorrie gets her interview segment. She talks about how Johnny was a “hothead” even before he got his powers. Once he did, she says it was like dating a “combination rock star, police officer, and astronaut.” She admits she grew anxious after a while, and started having nightmares about Johnny accidentally burning her. She admits and she and Johnny never officially broke us, so much as they just drifted apart over time.

Later that night, Johnny shows up at the reunion during a huge fireworks display. He’s surrounded by admirers while Dorrie and the reporters watch from a distance. Inside the reunion, Johnny is too busy partying for an interview, but the other attendees all give their thoughts on Johnny’s days in Glenville and life in town overall. A man named Bob confronts Johnny, saying he’s an Afghanistan war vet, and he asks why the Fantastic Four aren’t curing cancer or stopping terrorism. Johnny says the FF are private citizens, not gods, and they can’t do everything.

After the reunion, the lead reporter, Marcia, thinks something is up with the townsfolks’ behavior, and she wants to follow Dorrie home in secret. Something is definitely up, as Dorrie and several locals all meet at the beach, wearing sunglasses at night (heh). Johnny then reappears with the Inhumans’ teleporting dog Lockjaw. He’s brought marshmallows, and it’s an old-fashioned beach bonfire party. This is the real reunion, among old friends. Even Asbestos Man shows up, having reconciled with Johnny.

Johnny and Dorrie have a chat, with them agreeing he must play the part of a jerk to keep the town’s “secret identity.” The secret being that he still has deep friendships with many people in town. He signs Dorrie’s yearbook, something he never did back in high school. The reporters leave without documenting any of this, letting everyone have their privacy. Then the “4” signal appears in the sky, and Johnny and Lockjaw must leave.

Later, Dorrie is back at home, where her kids are watching the Fantastic Four on the news. We then see Johnny’s yearbook scrawl, which reads, “Dorrie! Thanks for being there through it all. So glad you are still in my life. Your friend 4-ever. Johnny. P.S. Flame on!”

Flame on: Who the heck is Asbestos Man? Back in the original Strange Tales issues, Orson Kasloff was a brilliant scientist who developed a special asbestos able to withstand the Human Torch’s flame, but the Torch defeated him anyway. While it’s suggested in this issue, the Fear Itself crossover will later reveal that he is indeed dying of asbestos poisoning.

Trivia time: This issue opens with a news report that offers a quick rundown of a lot of what’s happening in Marvel at this time. Public opinion continues to turn against the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. after Avengers Disassembled. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are Matt Murdock’s bodyguards, saving him from an attack by Typhoid Mary in Daredevil #48. And tabloid celebrity mutants X-Statix welcome new member El Guapo, in X-Statix #11.

Additionally, every page in this comic has multiple references to classic Fantastic Four and Strange Tales comics, for maximum nostalgia. I could take the time to list them all here, but geez, I’m only human.

Fantastic or frightful? While the relationship to this and Marvels is the thinnest of thin threads, this is a fun slice-of-life comic, with a ton of nostalgic references for old-school Marvel fans. It’s also definitely the most character development Dorrie Evans has ever had, making her feel like a fully-fledged part of the Marvel Universe for once.

Next: Man and manga.

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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.

About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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