Fantastic Friday: The man in the iron doom mask

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 issue #26 pays off a lot of the Reed/Sue/Dr. Doom/Valeria foreshadowing that the series has spent a lot of time doing. But is this payoff worth it?

In the previous issue, Reed and Dr. Doom ventured into the sarcophagus of the Dreaming Celestial. After a lot of cosmic action, we’re told that only one of them survived. Then Dr. Doom, not Reed, crawled from the wreckage. He proclaims, “I am Dr. Doom!” Valeria (note this is teen Valeria who has time-traveled here from a dystopian future) runs to Doom, who in her timeline is her father. The FF accuse Doom of stabbing Reed in the back, but Doom swears he did nothing. Fellow Celestial Ashema wraps up the previous issue by saying that the chaos storm has passed and Earth is now back to normal.

Doom gets a message from his ship that someone is approaching, so he and he generals teleport back to his ship, taking the FF with them as prisoners. Remember that he has a huge spaceship he’s flying around in now, and that the Celestial had an underground complex in American Southwest. The approaching figures are the FF’s old pal Wyatt Wingfoot and his sister Wynona. Doom’s ship flies off. At Avengers mansion, the Avengers monitor the situation, announcing that Doom has returned to Earth.

Aboard his ship, Doom asks to be alone. Then we finally get the big reveal: This isn’t Dr. Doom, it’s Reed trapped in Doom’s armor! This was the final cruel act of the Dreaming Celestial before being defeated. The armor is sealed around Reed, so he cannot remove it or stretch out of it. He’s playing the part of Doom until he can figure a way out of the situation. Lancer, one of Doom’s generals, eavesdrops on him and then attacks, but Valeria stops her.

Elsewhere in the ship, the FF and Doom’s other three generals – Technarx, Dorma, Shak’ti, and Divinity. Dorma succeeds in decapitating Sue (!), only to reveal that this is all a hologram simulation for the generals’ training. The real FF are inside a cell inside the ship, wearing inhibitor collars that depowers them. Valeria and Lancer sneak in to free them, with Reed-as-Doom following them. Still impersonating Doom, Reed says he intends to send Valeria away to join Franklin, who was put on a record and sent off to safety two issues back. There’s a lengthy goodbye scene as Valeria says farewell to each of the FF. She hugs Reed, thinking he’s Doom, saying “You’ve always been, you’ll always remain… my father!”

Using the coordinates Sue has memorized, Valeria travels through a portal to join Franklin. Then Sue and Ben demand the truth from Reed/Doom. They’ve already figured out that “Doom” is Reed. Dorma and the other generals show up, and criticize Doom for freeing the FF. Doom tells Lancer and the FF to stand down, saying he will meet Dorma’s challenge alone. Using all the gadgets built into the armor, Reed manages to defeat the generals. He proclaims, “I am Doom!”

Dorma agrees to serve Doom once more, but Dorma insists that if “Doom” is to ally with the FF, then there must be a more tangible bond. Doom (Reed) agrees, and announces that Sue will become his new consort, and he proclaims her “the Baroness Von Doom!”

To be continued!

 

Unstable molecule: It’s stated over and over that Dr. Doom’s armor has so many defenses and failsafes that any attempt to get it off Reed will likely kill him. Reed’s reasons for not telling his family what’s happened are more ambiguous.

Fade out: Sue is quick to point out that Reed and Doom have switched places before. This is a reference to one of the classics, way way back in issue #10.

Clobberin’ time: The inhibitor collars don’t turn Ben back into a human. Instead they have his wrists bound to his neck, which I guess constricts his movements enough for him not to use his strength. I don’t know, they don’t really dwell on it.

Flame on: Johnny spends the issue wanting to fight, but never getting to. He references himself as the “hothead” of the team.

Our gal Val: Reed and Sue use the word “Heaven” to describe where Valeria has been sent to join Franklin. Their actual location will be revealed in the Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad miniseries.

SUE-per spy: In the 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries, it’s revealed that Sue has been a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. This issue has Sue able to tell when someone else near her is invisible, even when she has the inhibitor collar on. Could this be spy training in use?

Commercial break: This looks like some action-packed gaming:

Trivia time: Doom’s fate was later revealed in the Doom miniseries, in which he ended up back in the Heroes Reborn universe again. Note that is a different from the Heroes Reborn: Doom miniseries, which took place just before this issue.

This is the first appearance (and first mention!) of Wyatt Wingfoot’s sister Wynona. She will be back in a few issues for her second and, it turns out, final appearance.

Fantastic or frightful? The big problem with this issue is a lack of geography. We jump from Celestial’s underground place to the desert to Doom’s ship, without any of these areas feeling like a place. The interior of Doom’s ship is big, cavernous rooms, leaving us with “empty room” syndrome. Other than that, the issue only exists to set up the new Reed-pretending-to-be-Doom status quo. This is a somewhat notorious era (era) for Fantastic Four, but it won’t last that long.

Next: Do you take this Latverian…

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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DuckTales rewatch – Armstrong

Rewatching DuckTales! Everybody dance the robot as we check out episode 9, “Armstrong.”

Here’s what happens: After Scrooge’s personal train (!) is blocked by an avalanche, inventor Gyro Gearloose saves the day with his new robot Armstrong, which can apparently to do anything asked of him.

Scrooge puts Armstrong to work around the house. Launchpad doesn’t like the robot, leading to a piloting contest between him and the robot. Armstrong wins when Launchpad fails to cross the finish line. Scrooge tells Launchpad to take a long vacation.

Scrooge starts replacing all his employees with Armstrong, who single-handedly does all their jobs. Armstrong gets out of hand, abducing Scrooge and Gyro and helping himself to the inside of Scrooge’s money bin.

Armstrong starts hacking technology all over the world, while Huey, Dewey, and Louie investigate. They recruit Launchpad to fly in on his can’t-be-hacked antique biplane and save the day. Launchpad shorts out Armstrong with good old-fashioned water, and Scrooge admits Armstrong’s efficiency wasn’t everything.

Humbug: It’s left up to the imagination as to where Scrooge was going in his private train, or why his personal quarters were filled with bags of gold nuggets.

Junior Woodchucks: While the nephews are generally considered to be one personality, this episode makes some small effort to give them individual quirks. Dewey is the brains, figuring out the tech. Huey is more of a pragmatic problem-solver and all-around leader. Louie is the hothead, ready to jump into the fight.

Fasten your seatbelts: The episode starts with Launchpad using his plane to put out a forest fire, establishing that he does this hero stuff even when not working with Scrooge. We also briefly glimpse Launchpad’s home, which looks like an attic where his bed is the only piece of furniture.

Maid and maiden: Webby appears in the background in one shot, next to an old lady we’ve never seen before. Could this be an earlier, unused character model for Mrs. Beakley?

Best brains: Gyro appears to have built Armstrong for his own amusement, but then has no problem with Scrooge wanting to mass-market Armstrong robots for the entire country.

Foul fowls: No reason is given for Armstrong to turn evil so suddenly. He just does. If anything, it’s exposure to Scrooge’s wealth is what does it.

Down in Duckburg: We see for the first time that Scrooge’s money isn’t just a big silo, but it has business offices inside it. In this case, it’s a room full of accountants working for Scrooge. Scrooge also has an upstairs office adjacent to the money bin door. Further, Armstrong is seen on the floor of the money bin when counting Scrooge’s money, further confusing the interior of the building.

Reference row: I cannot find this confirmed anywhere, but Armstrong is most likely named after famed astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Robots-run-amok stories have been around as long as there’s been science fiction, and this one doesn’t bring much new to the trope. What makes this episode stand out is all the airplane and helicopter action. This is where the animators really went for it, with lots of dynamic camera angles and a real sense of movement.

Next: The bigger they are…

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: Y2K compliant

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Volume 3 issue #25 is a double-sized issue written by Chris Claremont, so let’s all settle in for a long haul. Why a double issue? Two reasons. One, it’s the 60th anniversary of Marvel Comics. Two, it’s an end-of-the-world story with a publication date of December 1999. It’s Y2K!

In previous issues, the FF were warned of an oncoming cosmic storm. Sue sent Franklin off in a spaceship to parts unknown in order to keep him safe. Then the storm arrives in the form a tidal wave with Dr. Doom’s face on it. This issue begins by further complicating the matter, when a huge spaceship bursts out of the wave. Teenage Valeria, who time-traveled here from an alternate future, recognizes the ship as Dr. Doom’s. She happy to see it, because in her timeline, her mother is Sue but Doom and not Reed is her father. Valeria’s armor has a teleporter, but it only beams her and not the rest of the FF to the ship.

The wave hits New York, but instead of destroying the place, there’s a weird bit where life goes on in the city, except underwater. Reed deduces that the wave is occurring only in space, but not in time. The FF and Doom’s ship are in the eye of the storm, meaning they’re on their own. They have to act fast before the storm and Earth merge permanently.

Aboard Doom’s ship, Valeria is reunited with one of Doom’s generals, Lancer. Valeria grew up with Lancer in her timeline, but this version of Lancer has never met Val. They’re about to fight, when they’re interrupted by Dr. Doom, pronouncing “I am Doom!” Valeria believes he’s her father, but Doom zaps her when she gets too close to him. He demands to know who she is, and she responds with her own, “I am Doom!” Doom laughs at her (!) and then the FF burst into the room. They’re ready for a fight, but Doom is in more of a negotiating mood.

Then Doom introduces the rest of his generals:

  • Technarx, a techno-organic mutant
  • Shak’ti, battle mage of the Enchanters’ Guild.
  • Divinity, a former enemy of Doom’s who has recently joined his side.
  • Dorma, queen of Atlantis.

Dorma’s existence is the clue Reed needs to figure out what’s going on. Because Dorma had recently died, Reed realizes that Doom was left behind in the Heroes Reborn universe when everyone else came back in Heroes Return. He rose to power and gathered these generals in that universe, plotting his return. Doom says he will transition his universe into the main Marvel Universe. Talking ends, and the FF fight the generals. Valeria pleads with Doom to make peace with the FF, revealing that she’s his daughter from the future.

Doom asks Valeria to choose between him and FF. She wavers, leaning toward Sue and the others. Doom has Lancer take Valeria from the scene, and then the fight continues. The FF do the classic switch-between-enemies-mid-fight move to outsmart the generals. Just as they start winning the fight, the entire ship lists to the side. Cut to outside, and the entire ship has been snatched out of the sky by a Celestial, holding the ship in his hand as if it’s a children’s toy.

The Celestial destroys Doom’s ship, and everyone is teleported to the American Southwest, where the Celestial has a giant underground headquarters (!). Sue exposits that the Celestials agreed to leave the Heroes Reborn universe in peace, under the care of Ashema, a fellow Celestial. Doom explains that this is the Dreaming Celestial, who has gone rogue from the rest of the Celestials. He’s the one hoping to merge the two universes, for no reason other than he is driven toward chaos and destruction.

The FF and Doom’s generals start to fight again, but Reed stops them, saying they have to work together to stop the Celestial. Then everyone is attacked by a black inky substance. These creatures are known only as the “shadows,” and they are the Celestial’s security system. The shadows’ gooey stuff somehow mind-controls Sue and Divinity, and then Johnny and Shak’ti are knocked into the shadows. Reed tries to help him, but now Doom rejects his help. Doom zaps Reed unconscious and runs off with Reed and Valeria. Dorma and Technarx succumb to the shadows next, leaving only Ben and Lancer, fighting side-by-side.

Elsewhere in the Celestial’s base, Doom, Reed, and Valeria encounter an unbelievably huge sarcophagus, which has been “home” of the Dreaming Celestial for millennia. Along the wall are statues of the other Celestials, slowly transforming into images of the FF and the generals. Ben and Lancer get possessed by the shadows and attack. Valeria holds them off while Reed and Doom press on ahead into the sarcophagus.

Then the Celestial returns in person, actually speaking (!) to Reed and Doom. He says his dreaming power is the power to shape entire universes. He shows Reed and Doom alternate universe versions of themselves. As tribute to Reed and Doom, the Celestial offers to give them powers equal to the Celestials themselves. Reed says the Celestial is speaking to them instead of destroying them outright, so he must believe Reed and Doom have a real chance to stop him. He and Doom then deduce twelve keys around the room, which must be activated by twelve keepers.

Doom uses force field tech in his armor to help Reed stretch through all twelve keyholes, just as the shadows break in and consume Valeria and then Doom. Then a voice calls out “Traitor!” and the Celestial screams in pain. It’s Ashema, who has arrived from the other universe thanks to Reed’s efforts. She defeats the Celestial in a blast of energy. The FF and the Generals are freed from the shadows’ influence. Everyone gathers at the sarcophagus, only to find that Reed and Doom are gone. Ashema says they gave their lives to save the universe. But then, one survivor emerges from the wreckage.

Only the survivor is not Reed, but Dr. Doom! (Or is it?)

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: When exploring the Celestial’s sarcophagus, Reed spots hieroglyphics similar to the ones used by recently-introduced villains The Ruined. Reed theorizes that the Ruined once encountered the Dreaming Celestial and failed his “twelve keys” test, and that’s how they got their name.

Fade out: Sue uses her force field as a raft during the flood in New York. This raises a lot of questions, namely how the force field is able to float.

Clobberin’ time: As this era of the series keep suggesting potential new love interests for Ben, perhaps we can add Lancer to the list, with her and Ben striking up banter while fighting side-by-side.

Flame on: This issue debuts a new FF outfit for Johnny, with Red pants and a black T-shirt with a “4” on it. We’ll have to see how long this one lasts.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Doom and the FF are allies in this issue, so count this one among those where he is technically an alternate fifth member of the team.

Our gal Val: It takes Valeria some time to remember that she is from the future, so there’s way this timeline’s Dr. Doom or his generals would know her. She still treats Doom as if he’s her loving father. Doom insists he has no sire, yet he can see potential in the girl.

Commercial break: Who’s that Pokemon?

Trivia time: The story about Doom and the Dreaming Celestial, as well as the proper introduction of Doom’s generals, all took place in Heroes Reborn: Doom #1, Heroes Reborn: Doomsday #1, and Heroes Reborn: Ashema #1.

In the regular Marvel Universe, Dorma of Atlantis died way back in Sub-Mariner #37, and as of this writing that she has not returned from the dead. I could have sworn she was a bigger player in various Atlantis stories, but I guess not.

Shortly after this issue, the Dreaming Celestial returned, and relocated to San Francisco. Once there, he began a long meditative vigil while overlooking the city. For years afterward, whenever Marvel characters would visit San Fran, there would be the obligatory shot of the motionless Celestial standing tall outside the city.

Fantastic or frightful? A big, ambitious story that brings Dr. Doom back into continuity, but does so in a big cosmic way. It’s really overstuffed in the way that all these Claremont issues have been, and it’s frustrating that everybody at Marvel during this time has to keep going back to Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return over and over. How much longer until they it drop? On the plus side, Claremont writes the Reed/Doom rivalry really well, and manages to keep that the focus of the issue among all the world-shaking stakes.

Next: Inside man.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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DuckTales rewatch – Where No Duck Has Gone Before

Rewatching DuckTales! We’re blasting off for space and the first of the show’s many alien encounters in episode 8, “Where No Duck Has Gone Before.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge’s nephews and their friend Doofus are excited about their favorite sci-fi TV show, Courage of the Cosmos, starring Major Courage. Scrooge, meanwhile, works out a deal with some Hollywood folks for ownership of Duckburg Studios, where Courage of the Cosmos is filmed.  He, the kids, Launchpad, and Gyro take the tour. To save the studio, Scrooge insists on sprucing up the show with a realistic-as-possible spaceship.

Fearful for his job, Courage hopes to butter up to the kids, while also developing a rivalry with real-life pilot/adventurer Launchpad. Courage throws Launchpad off the set, only for him and the boys to discover the realistic ship is… a real spaceship! They take off for space, with Launchpad stowing away. The kids and Courage think they’re acting on the TV show, while Launchpad flies the ship for real.

 

The plot is further complicated when the ship encounters an alien spacecraft. The aliens, led by Commander Kronk, is plotting to destroy the Earth and use it for fertilizer (!). Courage flees with his ship, so Launchpad and the kids fight the aliens and take over their ship. They pursue Courage, get back their ship, and get back to Earth. Scrooge later converts the dilapidated studio into a space museum, with Major Courage as a tour guide.

 

Humbug: Scrooge seems to dislike working with Hollywood executives, calling them “those movie people.”

Junior Woodchucks: By the end of the episode, Huey, Dewey, and Louie no longer enjoy Major Courage’s show, dismissing it as “kids’ stuff.”

Fasten your seatbelts: This is a Launchpad-centric episode, about his real courage in the face of danger, as opposed the actor’s fake bravado. But Launchpad is still Launchpad. When the aliens upload his brain to their computer, it makes their ship go haywire and they can’t find their way to Earth.

Do the Doo: This is the first appearance of the nephews’ weirdo friend Doofus. He’s given no proper introduction. He’s just some friend of theirs, and that’s enough.

Best brains: Gyro confuses “realistic” with “real” and builds a functioning spaceship in one week. But he still manages to outfit it with cameras so the TV crew on Earth can follow the action.

Foul fowl: Major Courage isn’t so much evil as he is delusional. All his talk of manliness and heroism merely a mask for his own cowardice. The aliens, meanwhile, are the most pure evil characters we’ve seen yet on DuckTales. The Disney Wiki says they never return, which is too bad. They could have made for great recurring baddies.

Down in Duckburg: The episode opens with Scrooge and the boys working out, but they’re not in a gym. They’re using makeshift workout gear while inside Scrooge’s office in the mansion. We see the office is adjacent to the living room, where the kids watch their show on a big screen TV.

Reference row: There are sci-fi references galore, most notably Star Trek and ‘50s ship-models-on-strings movies. Listen closely, and you hear the composer sneak some of the Tron soundtrack into the episode.

Thoughts upon this viewing: in terms of worldbuilding, we’ve just had first contact with incredibly dangerous intelligent alien life, and everybody brushes that off like it’s just another one of their treasure-hunting romps. But, as a meta poking-fun-at-TV episode, it’s pretty fun, and a lot of Major Courage’s goofs are genuinely funny.

Next: Mister Roboto.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Family plot

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s a calm before the storm, except it’s not all that calm, in vol. 3 issue #24.

Throughout the FF’s previous adventure, they were warned of an “oncoming storm” that is a cataclysm of cosmic proportions. This issue begins with glimpses of a bunch of alternate realities. The FF and their current extended cast – Franklin, time-displaced teenage Valeria, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy – all witnessed this as a “squall” preceding the upcoming disaster. As the FF have breakfast, Reed explains this is a “chaos storm” and it can’t be stopped so much as weathered, like a hurricane.

Reed considers powering up Sue so that she can surround the entire Earth with a force field, but then he determines the storm is targeting the sun, not the Earth. Everyone makes preparations. Johnny and Caledonia prepare Pier 4’s extra rooms for possible refugees. Ben contacts the Avengers, who pledge their support, and the X-Men, only to learn they have disbanded.

Valeria, Franklin, and two random teenage boys play a game of soccer outside the pier. Johnny, wanting some action, flies around NYC fighting crime. Fearful about the size of the storm, Sue picks up an alien-looking communication device and makes a call. Ben wanders the streets of NYC, where he romances interdimensional adventurer Bounty.

Sue is seen packing up some of Franklin’s things. Then, the FF and their current extended family gather for an old-fashioned family dinner before the storm hits.

Later that night, an alarm goes off, and Reed deduces that that the chaos storm’s timetable has increased at a tremendous rate. Sue snatches Franklin from his bed, and Reed asks where she is taking him. In the hangar, Sue and the others have prepared a rocket ship just for Franklin, without Reed’s knowledge. They are sending Franklin away to another world to protect him from the chaos storm. Sue doesn’t say what world, but that she “called in a marker.” Caledonia and Puppy join Franklin to act as his bodyguards.

As the ship takes off, Valeria appears. She was supposed to join the ship but didn’t get there in time. The FF barely has time to say goodbye to Franklin when another alarm sounds. Everyone rushes outside to see a tidal wave headed for New York. Making matters worse, an image of Dr. Doom’s face is seen in the wave.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: We learn that Reed had outfitted rooms in Pier 4 with tesseract technology, allowing each room to be expanded to “almost the point of infinity.” (Did Reed build the house from House of Leaves?) Franklin’s escape ship is also outfitted with its own tesseract.

Fade out: Sue stands up to the others, saying that it doesn’t matter to her who Valeria’s father may or may not be. She and Val later bond while sharing stories about Sue’s aunt Mary.

Clobberin’ time: This issue represents something of a change in direction for the series, as a lot of the current subplots are dropped after this one. Case in point is Ben’s romance with Bounty, which is never mentioned again. Guess it was one of those one-night-only things.

Flame on: Johnny battles Hydro-Man and Razorback while running around playing vigilante. Hyrdo-Man was all over the place during this, with short-lived alliances with the Masters of Evil, A.I.M., and the Maggia. Razorback’s cameo is more puzzling, as he was a good guy at this point, and he was out in space having space adventures. The Marvel Wiki states he and Johnny are fighting under “undisclosed circumstances.”

Fantastic fifth wheel: Look closely, and you see H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot hanging around in Franklin’s room in one panel. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Four and a half: Franklin’s fate will later be revealed in the Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad mini-series. There’s some speculation that the chaos storm was somehow caused by his creating the Heroes Reborn universe. We’ll later learn that is partially true.

The Marvel Wiki says this is the last appearance of Franklin’s dog Puppy, but then the Wiki also states that Puppy will return in Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad. Hire an editor, Marvel Wiki!

Our gal Val: In addition to being a genius, a telekinetic, and time-traveler, and a musician/dancer, Valeria is also a pro-level soccer player. She says was trained in person by Mia Hamm herself, so I guess her dystopian future wasn’t that dystopian.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. In this issue, Sue includes an advanced copy of a then-unpublished Harry Potter sequel among Franklin’s things. Did she use her spy training to get ahold of this?

Commercial break: Because you demanded it!

Trivia time: When this issue says the X-Men have disbanded, that’s not the case. The X-Men at this time were merely pretending to disband, in order to root out shapeshifters in their midst.

Fantastic or frightful? I generally like these character-based issues, but writer Chris Claremont continues to pack so much story into each issue that there’s little breathing room, even in an issue like this. This makes all the drama of sending Franklin away feel more rushed than it has to be.

Next: Waterworld? Daughter world!

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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DuckTales rewatch – Sphinx for the Memories

Rewatching DuckTales! In episode 7, “Sphinx for the Memories,” we’ve got mummy action in Egypt. All the old paintings in the tomb, they do the sand dance, don’t you know. If they move too quick…

Here’s what happens: Donald Duck has shore leave again, arranging to meet Scrooge and the nephews in a marketplace in Egypt. A couple of cultists mistake Donald for a mythical figure, “the Garbled One.” They abduct him and take him to their palace, with Scrooge and boys in pursuit.

In the ancient city of Garbabble the high priest rules with an iron fist, and doesn’t like Donald here to usurp his power. While Donald enjoys his chosen one status (complete with harem!) the others end up trapped in an underground maze. The high priest uses dark magic to summon a mummy to deal with Donald. Donald escapes death through various mishaps. When he remembers he has to return to his ship, the cultists won’t let him leave.

The cultists hold a ritual, in which Donald is possessed by the spirit of the original Garbled One. This gives us… evil Donald Duck?!? Donald orders Scrooge and the nephews be put to death, but Scrooge convinces him they build him his own pyramid. This buys them time for the nephews to disguise themselves as the mummy. There’s a fight (of sorts) with the real mummy, and Scrooge works to undo the spell on Donald. When the spell is undone, both the spirits of the Garbled One and the mummy are freed, and Donald makes it back to his ship on time.

Humbug: Scrooge is not involved in any business plans or treasure hunts in this issue. Instead, he’s merely on vacation with the nephews. This furthers my theory that the series is about him learning his family is more important than his wealth.

Junior Woodchucks: In order to escape the underground maze, the nephews open the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook to translate the exact hieroglyphic in front of them. I believe this confirms the Guidebook is just plain magic.

In the Navy: We get to know Donald Duck’s superior officer Admiral Grimitz for the first time. He does not like Donald, and makes Donald swab the deck – of an aircraft carrier!

Foul fowls: The evil high priest is the second villain we’ve seen in the series who has built a kingdom for himself to rule, all by playing off the superstitions of the locals. One more character like this and we can call it an ongoing theme in DuckTales.

What’s all this, then? This is currently the only episode of DuckTales not available on Disney Plus. No reason has been given as to why it’s been excluded. A lot of episodes could be considered culturally insensitive (if you want to go there), so singling out this one is all the more baffling.

Reference row: Mummy movies never go out of style. With reincarnation kinda/sorta a theme, this would bear the most similarity to 1944’s The Mummy’s Ghost.

Thoughts upon this viewing: A step down in quality from previous episodes. It’s a lot running around and slapstick, but not as much plot. A few of the laughs aren’t bad, and the mummy is pretty creepy (for this show, anyway), so it’s a mixed bag.

Next: Make it so.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: That old mecha magic

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Instead of calling this annual #28, Marvel calls it annual 1999. We’re doing a lot of magic, introducing a new character, and saying goodbye to another new character.

We begin right in the middle of the action, with New York under attack by an ominous magical figure in the sky, blasting the city with magic energy. The FF fight back, along with the entire current supporting cast – Franklin, time-displaced teenage Valeria, super-genius Alyssa Moy, interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia, and alien teleporting dog Puppy. Alyssa is knocked out in the attack, and rushed back to Pier 4. Reed can find no signs of injury, and deduces that her unconsciousness is due to magic. Valeria says Alyssa was researching the Hellfire Club, a mutant secret society in NYC, currently led by the mysterious Selene.

 

Reed makes the rounds calling for help, but Agatha Harkness, Dr. Strange, and the Scarlet Witch are all unavailable. While Reed makes these calls, an unseen person in a barn in Texas is eavesdropping. Dr. Strange’s pal Wong suggests the FF contact sorceress Margali Szardos, who has conveniently popped up in recent Fantastic Four issues. She was last seen in France, when the Ruined tried to sacrifice her for her power. Then the French authorities took her into custody. So, it’s off to France.

Also in France, that’s where we meet Selene, as she seduces a man, steals his soul, and transfers a demon into his body. OK, what is Selene’s deal? She’s a mutant who has been around since ancient Greece, making her the oldest mutant, pre-dating Apocalypse. In addition to immortality, she also has telepathic, telekinetic, and “psychic vampire” powers. She’s also a mega-powerful sorceress, which she apparently learned in addition to her mutant abilities.

This jogger, now working for Selene, is a guard at Notre Dame, which turns out is secretly a prison for supernatural-powered individuals, including Margali. The FF arrive to negotiate Margali’s release. A fight breaks out because all the guards are now possessed by Selene’s demons. It looks like the FF are losing the fight, when an armored figure joins the fight – a person called the Mechamage.

There’s a lot more fighting, with Mechamage showing off soul-based superpowers. Margali is freed, and teleports everyone to her sanctuary, in the otherworld of Limbo. Margali says she can’t save Alyssa, as Alyssa’s soul is somewhere beyond her power. She and Mechamage agree that there is a major supernatural force loose on Earth, and it will take a lot more power to deal with it. There’s a few pages of “training montage” stuff where the FF learn to fight magic rather than science, and Mechamage is revealed to be a woman under the armor, but her face and real name are never revealed.

Cut to later, when Reed and Sue are in New York, attending the Halloween ball hosted by the Hellfire Club. Because Alyssa is a billionaire (!) she received an invitation, which Reed and Sue use to get inside. (I assume this is also why Alyssa was researching the club.) They are escorted to catacombs deep beneath Hellfire HQ, where Selene summons the demon Blackheart, the same giant monster who attacked NYC at the beginning of this issue. Blackheart is the son of Mephisto (!) who’s always plotting to overthrow his devilish dad. He transforms the party guests into his own personal demon army, with the FF, Margali and Mechamage fighting back.

Just when it seems like the heroes are losing the fight, Mechamage does some magic and summons Damien Hellstrom (another Marvel demonic-magic hero) to the scene. He combines his power with Mechamage’s tech to draw upon the natural magics of the Earth to banish Blackheart back from whence he came. Margali then teleports everyone out of there, leaving Selene alone and defeated.

Back at Pier 4, Hellstrom, Margali and Mechamage decide they work well together and decide to form a team of their own, which they call the Shadow Hunters. Alyssa has recovered from her magical injury, and then she announces she’s leaving Pier 4 to join the Shadow Hunters on their adventures. She leaves Ben the keys to her cool flying sports car, and says the car is his now. The Shadow Hunters teleport away (no mention of Clary or Jace) and the FF raise a glass of champagne in their honor.

Oh, and that 8-page Spider-Man: Fast Lane Part 1 anti-drug story is reprinted again in this issue.

Unstable molecule: During the training montage, Sue gets turned into a frog and Reed cures her by kissing her. They’re a cute couple.

Fade out: Most of the battle focuses on Sue and her force fields, putting her in a leadership role again, and making another case for her being the team’s most powerful member.

Clobberin’ time: During training, Ben is struck so hard by Margali’s magic he actually feels pain. Margali gives him some special runes to make him more resistant to magic attacks.

Flame on: Johnny says his least favorite part of any given FF adventure is sitting around waiting while Reed comes up with something in the lab.

Fantastic fifth wheel: When one of Valeria’s force fields comes in contact with one of Sue’s there’s an explosive effect that sends them both flying back. It’s unclear why or how this happens.

Four and a half: Valeria’s nickname for Franklin is “Sparky,” and now the rest of the family calls him that.

Our gal Val: Sue says she trusts Valeria completely, even though Valeria claims to be the daughter of Dr. Doom. But then Valeria admits to hacking into Alyssa’s private files. There’s also a short bit where she discovers Mechamage’s eavesdropping, and she promises “doom” in response.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. When she and Reed con their way into the Hellfire Club’s secret party, could this be her spy training at work?

Commercial break: Anybody know whether these things actually worked?

Trivia time: Unfortunately, this is the only time we ever the Shadow Hunters operate as a team. Hellstrom went on to have a bunch more solo adventures without any mention of the others. Margali and Mechamage were shown still working together in the Maximum Security miniseries, and after that Mechamage’s only other appearance was a brief mention in Civil War (on Iron Man’s side). Margali went on to be a regular character in Nightcrawler’s solo series. And Alyssa will be back in Fantastic Four sporadically.

While in Limbo, we see that Margali lives with a group of clowns (!) named Der Jahrmarkt. Remember that Margali is tied into Nightcrawler’s surprisingly convoluted origin story, and these clowns are from the traveling circus that Nightcrawler grew up in.

Fantastic or frightful? I’ve skipped a lot in my summary, because there is a lot that happens in this annual. Artist Jose Landronn draws most pages with ten to twelve little panels on each page, which makes for a lot of reading. Although maybe this is what it takes to get these dense Chris Claremont scripts on the page. Mechamage is given a big intro and a lot of personality, so it’s too bad she (he? they?) never went anywhere. There’s a lot to like here, but this could have been a seven-issue arc instead of one annual.

Next: The night before.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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DuckTales rewatch – Send in the Clones

Rewatching DuckTales! With the five-part pilot over, now we’re into the series proper with episode 6, “Send in the Clones,” still introducing important aspects of the series.

Here’s what happens: We meet the witch Magica Dispell in her island volcano fortress (!) as she plots to steal Scrooge’s lucky dime, which she believes is the mystical source of his wealth and power. She busts the Beagle Boys out of jail to help her – she gets the dime, they get Scrooge’s money bin. A Scrooge’s mansion, Scrooge insists the nephews be on their best behavior as a reporter is stopping by for an interview. That’s when Magica reveals her plan, to make the three Beagle Boys look just like the three nephews.

Then we’re in screwball comedy land, as the Beagle Boys and the nephews run around the mansion getting mistaken for each other, all while Scrooge desperately tries to look good in front of the reporter. Magica then complicates things further by making herself look like Mrs. Beakeley. After a lot of silliness, Magica takes off with the dime, along with Huey and Mrs. Beakeley as hostages.

Back at the volcano lair, Huey and Mrs. Beakeley use Magica’s potions to fight back, resulting everyone transforming into animals and various creatures. Scrooge offers to trade his dime in exchange for the hostages, adding that the real dime was not in display in the mansion, but always on his person. Scrooge switches his dime for an ordinary one at the last minute and everyone escapes. Magica realizes Scrooge tricked her, and she swears revenge.

 

Humbug: The number one dime is described as “the first dime Scrooge ever made. It contains the psychic vibrations of every deal, every decision, every dollar Scrooge has ever made.”

Junior Woodchucks: Although the villains tie up Huey with rope, he escapes thanks his “knot-busters” merit badge.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley is less adept at dealing with magic and sorcery than she was with treasure hunting and wilderness survival. Webby is upset that the Beagle Boys removed the head of her doll, even though episode 4 showed it has a removable head to store things inside. I guess she’s really upset about the Beagle Boys’ roughhousing.

Foul fowls: Magica isn’t given any origin or background story. She’s just a supernatural witch and we’re off and running. Her talking raven is of course named Poe. It’s established that he’s her brother, and she transformed him into a raven at some point. She is either unable to turn him back to normal, or she’s not bothering. The Disney Wiki alleges that this is the only episode that mentions Magica and Poe as being siblings.

Down in Duckberg: We see a lot of the mansion in this episode. There’s a dining room that seats ten. An outdoor pool different from the indoor pool seen in episode 2. Scrooge’s bedroom has a safe in the floor (!) and of course there’s a painting of the money bin on his wall. Scrooge’s study is right below the bedroom, and it has a painting of a duck with a Viking helmet. There’s another scene in Scrooge’s library, revealing this is where he keeps his number one dime on display.  And most strangely, the kitchen’s refrigerator is filled with meat and GIGANTIC fish heads!

Reference row: The reporter Webra Waters, is a not-subtle parody of TV journalist Barbara Walters.

The episode title is a reference to Stephen Sondheim’s 1973 song “Send in the Clowns,” a favorite of a lot of cheesy ‘70s variety shows.

Thoughts upon this viewing: This should be a nothing episode as it emphasizes the corny jokes over the action/adventure stuff, but it’s really well made. The animation shines throughout, and the final fight has a lot of fun beats.

Next: Mum’s the word.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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Fantastic Friday: Con job

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Here’s vol. 3 issue #23, and the big story continues to be teenage Valeria now being a main character. Is the time-displaced girl hijacking the comic or is her presence an intriguing mystery. Also, Comic Con!

We begin in a courtroom in San Diego, where Reed is on trial, facing charges of rioting, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault and battery. Attorneys Matt Murdock and Jeryn Hogarth are defending him, and the Avengers are in attendance. Rather than the usual legal process, the judge lets Reed have the floor to explain what happened, due to strange circumstances. Then we flash back to the Avengers and the FF fighting each other at the San Diego Comic Con.

 

Then we flash back even farther, to catch up where we left things last issue, with Reed curing Ben, She-Hulk and Bounty (who is an interdimensional bounty hunter) from the nanotech that caused them to go on a rampage. Murdock and Hogarth are there to go over the criminal repercussions of being possessed by nanotech.

 

Nearby, we see Valeria’s bedroom. When she traveled from an alternate future to the present, her room came with her. Reed and Alysande Stuart (a.k.a. barbarian swordswoman Caledonia) discuss Valeria, with Reed saying her arriving in the present can’t be a coincidence. Alyssa is just now learning that Valeria comes from a future in which she is somehow the daughter of Sue and Dr. Doom. Alysande wonders if Valeria is some sort of Trojan horse, and can’t be trusted. Reed wonders is she is a figment of Franklin’s imagination, just as the entire Heroes Reborn universe was.

As for Valeria herself, she and Franklin are in Reed’s lab, where she is using her science genius to try to find a cure for Ben, She-Hulk, and Bounty. This is apparently part of the pier that is underwater, because there’s a strange bit where Franklin sees Namorita swim by outside, and Namorita’s outfit changes for a brief moment. Reed says he trusts Valeria to babysit Franklin, and he is impressed by a device she has been tinkering with, saying it looks familiar. Franklin looks through a cosmic telescope of sorts, and sees a huge storm way 0ut in space, heading for Earth. Reed says first they will rescue their friends, and then get to work on saving the world.

Cut to later, when Johnny, Franklin, and Alysande arrive in San Diego to attend Comic Con. Their presence at the con is only a distraction, however, while the rest of the FF are pulling off a Mission Impossible-style secret mission, breaking into the nearby Miramar Naval Air Station. At a secret lab deep within the base, they find the nanotech, which attacks Valeria. She instinctively uses her force fields to drive them off, and Puppy (Franklin’s teleporting alien dog) transports them out of there.

At Comic Con, Johnny, Franklin, and Alysande run into the Avengers, who doing an appearance at the con as a charity fundraise. A group of armed men called S.K.U.L.L., which is Sinister Kabal for the Undermining of Life and Liberty, attack the Avengers with the same nanotech. Also, a replica of the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android is not a replica but the real thing, and it attacks as well. Johnny and Wonder Man, who is immune to the nanotech, fight back, and they’re then joined by Reed, Sue and Valeria.

Using the knowledge gained from the navy base, Reed fires off an electromagnetic pulse which kills off the nanotech without hurting the Avengers. Sue and Valeria then combine their powers to send the Awesome Android flying out of the con and all the out to the ocean, where it lands next to an aircraft carrier. On board the carrier, we see the Red Skull and the Mad Thinker, working together. They’re the ones who’ve orchestrated the whole nanotech thing. Further, the aircraft carrier is really a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in disguise. It’s filled with weapons, and the Red Skull, the Mad Thinker, and the Awesome Android take up into the sky, where it disappears.

Then we catch up to the courtroom scene. The judge says he will drop all charges against the FF as long as Reed promises to track down the Red Skull before he can use all his new stolen weapons. Reed agrees, but he thinks to himself that the storm in outer space represents an even greater danger.

Wait, there’s more! We’ve got an 8-page “insert story” in the middle of the issue, Spider-Man: Fast Lane, part 1 of 4. This is say-no-to-drugs story, specifically targeting marijuana. Spider-Man acts as a bodyguard of sorts to Daily Bugle intern Sam, who emulates a pro-marijuana Hollywood celebrity Zane Whelan. Spidey jumps to the rescue when Mysterio attacks Whelan. The story was continued in Spider-Woman issues 7, 9, and 11, where Spider-Man stopped Mysterio, but not after Sam ended up in the hospital after driving while high. When Zane Whelan learns of this, he changes his ways and cleans up his act.

Unstable molecule: While Valeria now calls Sue “Mom,” she’s only referring to Reed as “Mr. F” in this issue. This is because she believes Dr. Doom is her father. Either that or she’s a big Arrested Development fan.

Fade out: But then, despite having accepted Valeria as a member of the family last issue, Sue now dislikes Valeria calling her “Mom.” Valeria keeps doing so anyway.

Clobberin’ time: Ben appears in the background during the courtroom scenes, revealing that he was cured of the nanotech.

Flame on: During the fight, Firestar grabs hold of Johnny, and he has to power down his flame so he doesn’t burn her. This might seem odd because she too had fire-based powers, but remember that her powers are actually based on microwaves. She can create and manipulate microwave energy to start fires, but she doesn’t control fire the way Johnny does.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk is also in the courtroom scene, so she was cured as well.

Four and a half: Despite ongoing concerns about Franklni’s powers, everybody goes ahead and includes him in the mission, which seems like it should be a bigger deal. Once the action starts, though, his only move is to follow Alysande as she leads him to safety.

Our gal Val: Valeria’s bedroom gives us a glimpse of some of her interests. She’s something of a gamer, with posters of Tomb Raider, Legend of Zelda and Crash Bandicoot. She also has space shuttle posters, a Star Wars DVD, some field hockey gear, and we’re told she loves sailing. Most curiously, there’s a photo of her palling around with her buddies in the alternate future, Spider-Man and new character Rosetta Stone.

The Comic Con scenes feature just-different-enough-to-not-get-sued analogues of Batman, Superman, and (I think) Vampirella, alongside straight-up cameos of Spawn and Phony Bone.

SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. In this issue, Sue takes a leadership role in the heist. Is this because she’s done this type of thing before in her spy career?

Commercial break: “Alpha, bring me my Zune!”

Trivia time: Unlike what we all saw in the Netflix Marvel shows, Hogarth is a man in the original comics. He was a regular supporting character all throughout Iron Fist, Power Man and Iron Fist, and Heroes for Hire.

The Red Skull’s appearances after this issue were sporadic, so I cannot figure out where this plotline about his stolen weapons went.

Yes, that is writer Chris Claremont and Salvador Larroca as themselves at Comic Con. Larroca is depicted as not able to speak English, but this would seem to be a joke based on the number of interviews I found about him online.

Fantastic or frightful? Again, this is a ton of story crammed into one issue. I really like the idea of the FF pulling off a heist, something we normally don’t see them do. But that’s only a few pages, because the issue also has Valeria’s mysterious origin, Comic Con, the Avengers, and two classic villains. There’s a lot to like here, but it’s a little exhausting.

Next: The night before.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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DuckTales rewatch – Too Much of a Gold Thing

Rewatching DuckTales! “Too Much of a Gold Thing” is the fifth and final part of the Treasure of the Golden Suns miniseries, all of which served as the show’s pilot. The animators really put their best webbed feet forward on this one.

Here’s what happens: Now that they have both halves of the treasure Scrooge and company are headed straight for the treasure of the Golden Suns, followed closely by the mysterious El Capitan. Scrooge keeps acting more and more erratic, which we learn is a sickness called gold fever.

The treasure is a bunch of giant coins, as in several stories tall each, surrounding a valley with a gold city in the center. The valley is booby-trapped, but Scrooge is too crazy for gold to notice. As the traps activate, the heroes are captured by El Capitan. He says he’s been hunting the gold for 400 years. He and Scrooge fight over the gold, when the traps go off, sinking the whole city into an underground lake of boiling molten gold.

Mrs. Beakeley talks some sense into Scrooge, and everyone flees the city. Those giant golden suns then direct the sunlight into the city, melting the entire valley floor into the molten gold. As Launchpad flies in for the rescue, Scrooge’s airplane get covered with liquid gold, giving him a little treasure to take home. El Capitan stays behind, desperately hoping to dig the gold back up from deep beneath the Earth… in another 400 years.

Humbug: Gold fever is described as becoming so obsessed with gold that you “lose sight of what’s really important.” This goes along with my hypothesis that the show’s series-long arc is about Scrooge learning his new family is more important than his wealth.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie start get their own cases of gold fever as the episode goes along, showing a connection they’ve already made with their uncle.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad gets the subplot, about him fixing up the cargo plane after crashing it in a nearby river. He’s menaced by a snake and says “I hate snakes! No, wait, that’s someone else.” He also makes a joke about Scotty from Star Trek, so let’s all lose our minds about how Trek exists in the DuckTales universe.

Maid and maiden: Mrs. Beakeley again proves she is more adventurer than nanny. She has knowledge about gold fever and she’s able to translate hieroglyphics.

Foul fowls: After learning that El Capitan is 400 years old, the audience is left only to speculate on his backstory. It’s hinted that he was part of the original crew of the sunken ship from the second episode, but this is never confirmed.

Reference row: A lost city made of gold is one of those things that can be found in multiple cultures’ mythologies. I believe the idea was popularized for modern times by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the City of Gold in 1933.

Thoughts upon this viewing: There’s nothing about who built the golden city or why, which remains a question mark over the episode. Other than that, though, this is the animators firing on all cylinders. Everything is big and cinematic, and they make the gold look all shiny and alluring. This is the episode to show someone who has never seen DuckTales before.

Next: Season of the witch.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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