Fantastic Friday: More foes, more problems

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s the second half of the Fantastic Four: Foes miniseries from Robert Kirkman and Cliff Rathburn. We’ve got mind games, aliens, and Negative Zone action, but does it all tie together?

The first half of Foes introduced several plotlines that appear only sort of connected at this point. Fearing that the FF has made too many enemies to the point where they’ll be dead in two years, Reed begins plans on his own super-prison located inside the Negative Zone. He enlists help from Andrew Lewis, whose security firm works in the lower floors of the Baxter Building, and who worked on the Vault, Marvel’s original super-prison. After battles with Puppet Master and two clones of Annihilus, the FF are under attack by the Super-Skrull. He snuck into the Baxter Building disguised as Franklin to steal some of Reed’s tech to contact the Skrull homeworld.

Issue #4 begins with Sue defeating the Super-Skrull, demanding to know where Franklin is. Johnny says the school called during the fight, saying Franklin is still there. Sue casually goes to pick him up. Later, Reed meets with Nick Fury (actually a life-model decoy of Fury) where S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping the recent villains in suspended animation. LMD Fury says S.H.I.E.L.D. is ready to start construction on the new jail.

Reed then comes up with a device based on all the villain DNA the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker took in issue #1, which will allow the FF to track the villains’ movements. The team uses it to track down the Mole Man deep underground. They try to apprehend him while he’s sleeping, only for one of his subterranean monsters to defend him. After a big fight, the Mole Man surrenders when the cavern collapses. Reed has another chat with LMD Fury, admitting that he’s thinking more rational and less paranoid. We then join Andrew at home, where he’s been working overtime on the prison. And we’re reminded that he thinks his wife is normal, when she’s really a gross insect-like creature. What appears to be his actual wife’s corpse is sitting in one corner, creepily.

Issue #5 begins with Andrew taking a tour of the new prison, along with a tough guy known only as the “Warden.” Several of the FF’s enemies are already inside, and there’s several pages of the FF tracking down and apprehending their enemies, including Hydro-Man, the Grey Gargoyle, the Wizard, Klaw, the Trapster a.k.a. Paste-Pot Pete, and even the Molecule Man. We check in with Andrew, where his alien insect wife dons a necklace that makes her look human. She’s looking forward to her Andrew giving her a tour of the prison.

The villains learn what the FF is up to. When the FF move in to apprehend the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, the Red Ghost has a trap set for them. It’s a big fight, but the FF wins and knocks out the Ghost and the apes. Back in Reed’s lab, he finds a strange transmitter hidden behind a wall. He shuts it off and can then think more clearly. When he goes to inspect the device, it dissolves in front of him.

Andrew takes his wife on a tour of the prison, despite the Warden’s objections. She reveals her true face, much to Andrew’s objections. She then whips out a gun and shoots up the place. She takes over the control room and sets all the villains free. Then the Mad Thinker shows up, saying he and the wife were working together the whole time, and all is going according to plan.

In issue #6, Reed tracks the strange device through the Baxter Building to Andrew’s office. In the prison, Maureen tells the Mad Thinker that when she returns to her homeworld, he’ll be rewarded as a hero. The escaping villains confront the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the sealed-up exit, when the FF teleport onto the scene alongside She-Hulk and Hercules. Sue creates a big wall with her force fields, and Ben and Hercules push it like a battering ram at the villains, which knocks out most of them. Others surrender, but a few make it to the FF’s teleporter and escape. Sue finds Andrew still alive, and he activates neural scramblers on the remaining prisoners, knocking them all out. Reed learns that Andrew’s wife was an alien, and he says he needs to get back to the lab.

Later, at another location in the Negative Zone, the Mad Thinker is hanging out romantically with Maureen, whose real name is Threska. The FF teleport onto the scene, and the Mad Thinker drops tons of exposition. He says he was getting sick of the superheroes vs. villains game. Then he encountered Threska, a powerful Negative Zone sorceress stranded on Earth searching for a way home. Taking the other villains’ DNA and the device to increase Reed’s paranoia were all in pursuit of his escaping to the Negative Zone with Threska. The FF take Mad Thinker back to Earth, with him saying he underestimated Reed, and that he has a renewed interest in destroying the Fantastic Four. Back aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, LMD Fury tells Reed that they told Andrew everything, and that he’s traumatized by it all. Reed wants to talk to Andrew, but Fury says not to, because Andrew blames Reed for the whole thing.

Unstable molecule: When Ben and Reed take a break from apprehending all the villains, Ben complains about being bruised, and Reed says with his stretching powers, he’s not able to be bruised.

Fade out: In addition to her battering ram move, Sue also uses a force field to close off the exit to the prison, keeping most everyone inside. (Klaw is the one who gets out.)

Clobberin’ time: When fighting the Mole Man’s monster, Ben boasts about being able to take on the Hulk. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition does state that the Hulk is stronger, but who could actually win remains an ongoing debate.

Flame on: Johnny appears to burn the Red Ghost right in the face, but the Ghost appears unharmed in the next panel. I suppose Johnny just has that much control over his flame.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk and Crystal both make appearances in reference to them serving as babysitters for the kids. Crystal says she has a date, but we don’t see with who. Similarly, She-Hulk has some blonde guy in her bed, and it’s not clear who that is.

Four and a half: Franklin gets a subplot about being stuck at school after his parents don’t come pick him up. He tells a teacher to try calling the moon, but the teacher suggests the Baxter Building again.

Our gal Val: Valeria is only in one panel in these issues, showing Crystal babysitting her.

Trivia time: Neither Andrew nor Threska ever appear again after this series. Threska killed the guy’s wife to get back to the Negative Zone, and she just gets away with it?

Fantastic or frightful? I don’t know. You can enjoy this on a pure heroes vs. villains slugfest, but I feel this series could have been so much more. It’s supposed to be a big villain team-up, but most of the villains are background cannon fodder, like they’re nameless henchmen. That’s disappointing considering how so many of them were legit threats in the past. Reed’s paranoia is also not emphasized as much as it could have been. I would have liked to see a real battle of wits between him and Mad Thinker, but this series is packed with so much other stuff that we don’t really get it.

Next: On main.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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