Fantastic Friday: The soapiest of operas

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. It’s issue #410, and we’re pretty much at the end now, with a complete reboot on the horizon. This issue starts wrapping up some odds and ends… or does it?

We begin with Reed back in his lab, concerned that mega-villain Hyperstorm is still out there, and could strike at any time. But we’re also picking up where the final issue of Fantastic Force left off, where teenage Franklin has just learned his dad is still alive. There’s some old-school bickering among Ben, Johnny, and Franklin, as they want to celebrate while Reed urges seriousness.

Elsewhere in the same lab, Ant-Man, Kristoff, and Nathaniel Richards are trying to get the FF’s time machine/teleporter working, only to discover that Hyperstorm has barred the team from time travel. Reed starts a fight with Nathaniel, demanding more information about Hyperstorm, only for Franklin to break them up. In yet another corner of the lab, Ben uses the alien device from a few issues back, that allows him to turn back human for a short time.

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie shows up, announcing that a boy from school is coming over a visit. Kristoff is upset about this, as he had started developing a crush on Cassie. Alone in his private corners, Kristoff admits to the absurdity of his walking around in adult-sized Dr. Doom armor, and he angers at how he is merely one of Doom’s failed experiments.

Human Ben, meanwhile, flirts with Lyja, only to be overcome by a pounding headache. Cassie meets with her school friend, Donald, who reveals he’s there to ask the FF’s help. Kristoff steps out without his armor and offers to help. We then cut to the FF’s version of the X-Men’s Danger Room, where Namor is back to putting the moves on Sue, arguing that Reed is a different man than he once was. Reed watches them in secret, wondering if Namor is right.

 

Out in New York City, Lyja has left Ben to shape-change into her human-appearing Laura Green persona. She’s there for a date with Johnny, still in hopes of convincing him that “Laura” and Lyja are two different people. At HQ, Kristoff gives Cassie and Donald a tour of the lab, pointed out a mysterious door. Kristoff says he doesn’t know what’s inside the door, and that the other FF team members have kept that secret from him possibly because of his association with Dr. Doom. Donald runs off, saying he doesn’t want to break any rules.

There’s a short scene of a mysterious man wandering through New York, and then we rejoin Kristoff, Cassie and Donald playing soccer at a nearby park. Kristoff reflects on his origin, with the added detail that his father was an unknown wanderer whose identity he never learned. Donald trips and falls, only for Cassie to see that Donald’s back is covered with scars and bruises. Donald runs off again.

At HQ again, Reed and Sue begin to reconcile, with her saying she doesn’t want to lose him again. Then that mysterious man shows up in the building. It’s Gorgon of the Inhumans (who, let’s never forget, once single-handedly defeated the Fantastic Four in battle). Gordon says Black Bolt has gone mad and threatens to destroy them all.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Reed uses an “encephalo-helmet” to determine that Hyperstorm isn’t secretly manipulating him telepathically. This helmet appears to be a combination of a couple of old-school FF inventions, including the thought projector helmet from issue #27, the encephalo-gun from annual #2, and the encephalo-feedback scrambler from Strange Tales #126.

Fade out: Even though Namor causes a rift between Sue and Reed this issue, it’s worth noting that she flat-out refuses Namor’s advances by throwing him across the room with a force field.

Clobberin’ time: This issue has the first hints that Ben’s alien device has some serious side effects, which is going to a short-lived subplot over the next few issues.

Flame on: Ben attempts to use a high-tech chemical foam to douse Johnny’s flame, but Reed stops him, so we’ll never know if it would have worked.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue wants to establish a mystery about who Kristoff’s father is, even though Nathaniel claimed he was the father back in issue #395. The Marvel Wiki doesn’t provide an answer, instead stating “These claims have not been substantiated.”

Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie is revealed to be 11 years old, even though she’s drawn and written younger. Also, she’s apparently living with the FF now, instead of just visiting, because she’s in school in NYC instead of the west coast.

Marvel ran a Fantastic Four house ad this month, which includes She-Hulk and future team member Black Panther.

Four and a half: Teenage Franklin is now back with the FF, with zero mention of what became of his Fantastic Force teammates now that that series has ended. He uses his telepathy to help scan Reed’s brain.

The Alicia problem: The date between Johnny and “Laura” is detailed in yet another spin0ff title, Fantastic Four Unplugged. The date was interrupted by an attack the Mole Man, leaving Lyja to further fret over whether to tell Johnny the truth.

Commercial break: Bone crunching action!

Trivia time: Once again, it’s established that Four Freedoms Plaza has a maze-like interior. The lab is a series of interconnected rooms including mysterious doors that can’t be opened. The “danger room” also has a strange platform where Reed can watch Sue and Namor without them realizing it. We also get a good look at the building’s lobby with a cameo from robot receptionist Roberta.

Fantastic or frightful? After so many issues of cosmic weirdness and ever-increasing stakes, it’s a breath of fresh air to get spend some time on all the interpersonal conflicts that been building. The bad news is that this issue is all about setting up future plotlines, not knowing that we’re only six issues away from the big reboot.

Next: Little green men.

****

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Fantastic Friday: The not so final battle

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Here’s issue #409, and we’re still Hyperstorm-ing it up with Hyperstorm.

When Reed and Dr. Doom died, they didn’t really die. Godlike supervillain Hyperstorm transported them to a robot-filled alternate reality where he held them captive. The FF — along with guest stars Lyja, Namor and Nathaniel Richards — have arrived in this world for a rescue. This issue begins in the middle of that fighting, with Hyperstorm not even fazed by the heroes’ attacks. Sue pleads with Reed to get into Hyperstorm’s lab inside his nearby tower, in the hopes that Reed can speed-invent a weapon to stop Hyperstorm.

Inside the aforementioned tower, Dr. Doom and Kristoff are building a new version of the device Doom once used to steal the Silver Surfer’s power. Although Kristoff has seemingly betrayed the FF to return to Doom, he asks Doom the spare the FF because they aided in the rescue. Doom says he will allow the FF to live, after he has become the master of all the known universe. Kristoff asks again for Doom to reconsider the FF, after the FF included him as one of their own. Doom smacks Kristoff in the face, saying Kristoff in not Doom’s heir, but merely a failsafe.

There are several pages of the FF trying and failing to attack Hyperstorm, with him easily swatting him back. Reed wants to take leadership of the team back from Sue, but Nathaniel pleads with him to get to the tower and work on the weapon. Back in the tower, Zarrko the Tomorrow Man wakes up, after having been mind-controlled by Dr. Doom last issue. He encounters Kristoff in a hallway, and he falls to his knees begging for forgiveness.

Back to the fight, Sue uses her force fields in a way that they vibrate, which finally has an effect on Hyperstorm, pushing him back. Hyperstorm, then, puts Sue on edge by hinting that she and him share a mysterious bond. Hyperstorm is then zapped by an energy bolt rom the tower, which knocks him to the ground. He realizes that Dr. Doom is trying to steal his power, so he flies to the tower.

Reed and Nathaniel make it to the lab, to find Doom stealing Hyperstorm’s power. Reed decides that the Doom is the lesser of two evils and moves to help Doom. Doom thinks Reed is trying to trick him, and refuses. Hyperstorm shows up and blasts Doom, taking back his power. Hyperstorm raises his hands to punish Reed and Doom, when Kristoff and Zarrko, in another room, fire up Zarrko’s time actuator. Doom disappears in mid-speech.

Hyperstorm, in his omniscience, already knows that Kristoff and Zarrko teleported Doom back to Latveria in the present. Hyperstorm let him go, confident that Doom is defeated. Zarrko time-travels himself out of there, and the rest of the FF join Reed and Nathaniel in the lab. Ben wants to fight some more, but instead Hyperstorm heals the scars on Ben’s face, saying that every time Ben sees his reflection from now on, he’ll be reminded of Hyperstorm.

 

Then, somewhat abruptly, Hyperstorm teleports all the heroes back to Four Freedoms Plaza in the present. He tells them to always remember that he can seek them out and destroy them whenever he wishes. Johnny demands answers from Nathaniel about who Hyperstorm really is. But cuts off Nathaniel before he can answer, saying he’s lost the FF’s trust. Then Ben decides it’s time for a celebration, now that the original Fantastic Four are reunited. But it’s not that happy of a reunion, as the heroes reflect on everything they’ve been through recently, and whether it can ever be the same again.

Unstable molecule: Reed’s running theme in this issue is feeling inadequate next to Sue’s newfound leadership qualities. The issue ends with him questioning his own self confidence.

Fade out: Nathaniel tells Sue that her force fields originate from vibrations in hyperspace, and this is what helps her in the fight against Hyperstorm, whose powers also come from hyperspace. This was briefly mentioned back in issue #400, although most sources continue to state that the cosmic rays are the sole source of her powers. The Marvel Wiki does give the hyperspace thing a mention, only to add “this revelation was quickly dropped.”

Clobberin’ time: Just like that, the scars on Ben’s face are healed. Shall we take bets on how rarely they’ll be referenced after this?

Flame on: Johnny fires “molten blasts” at “nova level” at Hyperstorm, suggesting that he’s developing his powers in new ways.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie sees Kristoff in his Dr. Doom armor for the first time, and she decided she no longer has a crush on him — much to Ant-Man’s relief.

Although Kristoff appears to side with Dr. Doom in this issue, even teleporting back home to Latveria, he is still with the Fantastic Four when they’re reunited at HQ at the end.

The Alicia problem: This issue spends a whole page setting up a Lyja/Johnny/Ben love triangle, as Ben is developing feelings for Lyja, but can tell she still wants to be with Johnny.

Commercial break: I still haven’t seen this:

Trivia time: Hyperstorm will return in just a few issues, when we’ll learn just who is and what his deal is. I’ve done a little reading ahead, and a lot of these subplots are going to keep subplotting for the next eight issues. That’s when writer Tom DeFalco will take off and the series will go in a whole new direction.

Dr. Doom’s eyes are green in this issue, whereas they are usually brown. The Marvel Wiki also states they are brown. I guess we can surmise that the influence of Hyperstorm temporarily changed Doom’s eye color for some reason.

Fantastic or frightful? Hyperstorm is supposed to be the greatest of all threats, and he’s so powerful that no one can even touch him. Is there a villain equivalent of a “Mary Sue”? (Scary Sue, maybe?) The fight ends with the villain just teleporting everyone back home where everything is back to normal, which comes off as a writer totally phoning one in.

Next: The soapiest of operas.

 

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 45

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Time for a lot of magic fighting, 1:47:25 to 1:49:47 on the Blu-ray.

We cut from the ritual room back to outside, where Madmartigan is fighting two guys. He flips one over his shoulder as a second one runs up with a spear. He does a cool spin move with his sword to block the attack. Then there’s a quick bit with the Brownies, showing they are involved with the battle after all. They use their knives to cut a rope on a sort of medieval arrow machine (I believe this is called a hwacha, but I could be wrong). The arrows fly into a group of NockMaar, and one of them dies with the second Wilhelm scream of the movie. The Brownies cheer in triumph.

There’s a closeup of General Kael, as he says, “Now you die.” In the reverse shot, we see he’s talking to Airk. Airk charges forward only for his sword to deflect off of Kael’s shield. From this angle, we can see that Kael’s helmet leaves his ears exposed. You’d think some clever Galladoorn archer would take aim at those ears, but it never happens.

Then we’re back inside the ritual room for crazy magic fighting! Bavmorda reaches her hand into a burning lamp of some kind, which somehow didn’t get blown out with all the candles in the previous scene. She has a fireball in her hand, which she throws at Raziel. Raziel gets surrounded by flames. Bavmorda smiles, thinking she’s won, but Raziel’s non-burned hand bursts out of the flames holding the wand. The wand then shoots ice and snow at Bavmorda, all while Raziel is still hidden behind the magic fire. There’s a shot of Willow watching all this from outside the room, keeping our hero present in the scene.

Bavmorda ends up frozen in place, looking like an ice sculpture, as the fire fades from Raziel. Raziel leans forward, weary from the fight, only for all the ice to explode outward, knocking Raziel back. Raziel falls back against some candles, then collapses onto the floor, and then a big stone pillar falls on top of her. The music gets all spooky as Bavmorda approaches, while Raziel tries to telekinesis the fallen wand back into her hand. It works, as the wand glows blue, flies into her hand. Raziel reaches up and shouts magic words at Bavmorda, and Bavmorda is thrown straight up into the air. This is some painful-looking slapstick as Raziel controls Bavmorda’s path in midair. Bavmorda smacks into a wall and then spins around several times for hitting the floor. Raziel is practically manic as the does this, breaking out with laughter as she torments Bavmorda. Note that in the graphic novel adaptation, this fight includes Bavmorda bringing to life a gargoyle on the wall, only for Raziel to zap it. The GN also has a bit during this part where Sorsha fights and kills a wolf during this part.

Raziel stands up, with no info about how she got out from under the pillar. There are quick shots of an unconscious Bavmorda, Willow, and the baby. Raziel has a big ol’ grin on her face as walks over to Bavmorda’s body, wand at the ready. Bavmorda’s face is covered by part of her robe. Raziel uses the wand to uncover Bavmorda’s face. It looks like Bavmorda is dead for a moment, only for her to go all Large Marge by coming back to life and screeching at Raziel for a jump scare. It works, because Raziel gets so startled she drops the wand again.

Both women scramble on the floor, grabbing at the wand, basically playing tug-of-war with it. Several more shots of Willow watching them fight. Bavmorda and Raziel get onto their feet, each holding a part of the wand. As they both try to wrest it from the other, blue lightning shoots of out, zapping all over the room. The blue lightning is so powerful enough to destroy one of the stone pillars. Willow ducks for cover, and then his attention turns to the baby, still laying there on the altar.

Action-hero music plays as Willow runs into the room, ducking out of the path of the lighting, which causes sparks and smoke all around him. He makes it about halfway through the room when the lightning strikes a… hey, just what is this thing? It appears to be a container filled with bones, with four legs like a table. It comes to life and is a bona fide monster for this next bit. The fan wiki doesn’t say what this thing is, but it confirms that the spell that brought it to life is transmutation, temporarily animating an inanimate object. The wiki states that this spell was another one of Bavmorda’s specialties. The container chases Willow around some more pillars in the room, making hissing and growling noises. Listen carefully, and you can hear Willow say “Yikes!” as it pursues him. The skeleton hands inside the container open the lid up and down like it has a mouth.

And we’ll just leave things on that nightmarish note.

Next: Blood n’ guts.

 

****

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Fantastic Friday: The power of destruction

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #408, our heroes confront the mega-villain Hyperstorm, and Hyperstorm shows us just how dull he is.

We begin with Kristoff having transported the FF away from Hyperstorm, revealing that they are currently in the distant future, where Hyperstorm rules the Earth, and this is the location of the village of robots that look human from a few issues back. Reed is freaking out, saying the FF don’t have the strength to confront the all-powerful Hyperstorm. Reed asks to go to Four Freedoms Plaza, but Kristoff insists on staying, saying that they must free Dr. Doom from Hyperstorm’s tower, now revealed to be looming over the village. Inside the tower, Hyperstorm orders all his henchmen to evacuate, saying he will send a full squad of Destructoids after the FF.

Elsewhere in the tower, Nathaniel Richards and Zarrko the Tomorrow Man fight their way through the henchmen, hoping to escape. What Nathaniel doesn’t know is that Dr. Doom has taken over Zarrko’s mind. Back on Earth, Johnny insists that Ant-Man fire up the teleporter/time machine so that he may join his teammates, even though he formally left the time by this time to lead the spinoff Fantastic Force team.

In the village, the team hears something approaching, so Sue takes charge, ordering Namor and Lyja to the skies and having Ben and Kristoff spread out, ready to fight. Reed tells Sue she’s doing a fine job as team leader, but is obviously sad. Ben reflects on how much Reed has missed since he’d been away. The heroes are attacked by the Destructoids, who are big silvery robots. Reed says he’s heard rumors of these guys, and that they are supposedly unstoppable. There’s a fight, and the Destructoids seem able to take on anything the FF can handle. During the battle, Kristoff runs off, thinking to himself that his responsibility to Dr. Doom supersedes his loyalty to the FF.

Nathaniel and Dr.-Doom-in-Zarrko’s-body watch the fight from inside the tower. Doom asks why Nathaniel never tried to rescue Reed, if he knew all along that Reed was Hyperstorm’s prisoner. Nathaniel says he never had enough power to defy Hyperstorm, but now he has no choice. Nathaniel marches off to help Reed, while Doom stays behind.

Johnny and Nathaniel both join the fight, and Nathaniel encourages Sue to defeat the Destructoids with the same method she used to fight the Celestial in issue #400. It works, and Reed is in awe of how much she has grown. Hyperstorm then shows up in person, hitting Sue with a bolt of energy. Reed loses it and attacks Hyperstorm. Hyperstorm says he could obliterate them all with a thought, but he doesn’t because he has his reasons.

In the tower, Kristoff finds Zarkko unconscious and Dr. Doom freed, his mind now back in his own body. He swears revenge on Hyperstorm. Back in the village, Hyperstorm explains that his powers come from hyperspace, which he describes as a combination of electromagnetism, nuclear power, and gravitational force. He calls this the Power Supreme, and says the FF’s survival or death is on his whim. Dr. Doom and Kristoff, meanwhile, help themselves to Hyperstorm’s science lab, building a new version of the device he once used to steal the Silver Surfer’s powers. He plans to use this on Hyperstorm.

To be continued.

Unstable molecule: Reed goes through quite an arc in this issue. He’s first defeated, saying nothing can stop Hyperstorm. After Hyperstorm attacks Sue, however, Reed fights him, and then wants to get back to the lab to whip up a weapon to take him out once and for all.

Fade out: Sue actually smiles when showing off her stronger powers and pro leadership skills in front of Reed. He encourages her, but is still a little bummed about it.

Clobberin’ time: Ben jokes about wanting to get home in time to see Melrose Place. So much for his only watching John Wayne movies.

Flame on: Ant-Man tells Johnny the FF tried to contact him before they took off, but he away on his mission. This mission would appear to the Fantastic Force’s battle against the Vibravore in Wakanda in Fantastic Force #15.

Fantastic fifth wheel: While Ant-Man holds down the fort on Earth, his daughter Cassie is star-struck by meeting Johnny.

After several issues of the characters wondering if Kristoff would betray them, he appears to do so in this issue. His part in this story still isn’t done, though.

The Alicia problem: Fighting alongside Namor, Lyja ponders how she wishes she had his discipline, and that she is still hung up on Johnny.

Commercial break: Trace. Research. Analyze. Exterminate.

Trivia time: I’m guessing the Destructoids never appeared again, seeing as how the Marvel Wiki has no entry for them. Not only that, but the fan-made sites Marvel Wikia and Marvunapp.com have no entries on them, either. There was a robot called the Destructoid that was used for combat training by the Nova villain Diamondhead. There were also some Kree robots called Destructoids that were seen destroying a planet in an issue of Silver Surfer, and they later cameo’d in one part of the Reign of Kings crossover.

Fantastic or frightful? It’s all about Hyperstorm, and Hyperstorm has the most generic personality. Dr. Doom in this issue speaks in his classic pompous Doom-speak, which is a cut above Hyperstorm’s tired “look how powerful I am” talk.

Next: The final (not final) battle.

****

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Fantastic Friday: It had to happen sometime

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #407, Reed Richards comes back from the dead. It had to happen sometime.

Previously, our heroes encountered the godlike villain Hyperstorm, who has Dr. Doom held captive in his otherworldly tower and seemingly killed the FF in the same way that Reed was killed way back in issue #381. Surprise! The Fantastic Four aren’t dead. When Hyperstorm zapped them, he didn’t kill them, but teleported them somewhere. The FF — in this case Sue, Ben and Kristoff, with guest stars Lyja and Namor the Sub-Mariner — are in a rocky, desert-like landscape, where they are immediately attacked by “hill pirates.” Namor knows these guys from somewhere, apparently. Our heroes easily defeat the pirates, while Sue speculates that Hyperstorm has sent them to a world where Reed is still alive. Namor spots an alien city in the distance, and they head for it.

Back in Hypsertorm’s tower, which is in another universe, Hyperstorm gloats to Nathaniel Richards, whom he’s taken captive. Hyperstorm says his goal is nothing short of the conquest of all time and space. When Hyperstorm leaves the room, Nathaniel asks Zarrko the Tomorrow Man about him. Zarrko says Hyperstorm saved him from being trapped in the timestream. (This happened after his conflict with aliens called Time-Twisters in Thor #245.) Zarrko also believes that he is not Hyperstorm’s sidekick, but his “business partner.”

The FF arrive at the alien city, which is straight out of Conan the Barbarian, with sword-swingin’ savages and scantily-clad dancing girls. Using the treasure Kristoff swiped from the hill pirates, the FF don disguises and question some locals at a tavern about any strangers in town. One guy, Taylos the Trader, says there’s a mad hermit who lives outside the city. The pirates show up again, and pick another fight.

In Hyperstorm’s tower, Zarrko checks in on the prisoner Dr. Doom, not knowing Doom had his intellect restored last issue. Doom does his telepathic mind-switch thing he’s done a few times in the past, and possesses Zarrko’s body, swearing his revenge. In the other world, the city guard show up at the tavern, so the FF make a run for it. They buy a horse-drawn wagon using their stolen pirate gold and out of the city. Then it’s back to New York, where Johnny has decided to pay a visit, taking a break from leading the Fantastic Force spinoff team. Ant-Man fills him in on where the team has gone, and Johnny flies off, hoping to join them.

The FF arrive at the hermit’s cave, only to find a crazy-looking device outside, which Namor identifies as a hydroelectric generator, far beyond the technical level of anyone on this world. Before we all congratulate Namor for being smart, he then steps over a wire, tripping a homemade alarm. Turn the page, and there’s good old Reed, looking all bearded and disheveled.

A fight breaks out, as the FF fears this might not be the real Reed, and Reed doesn’t believe for a second that this is the real FF. Sue approaches Reed, admitting that they’ve both changed since they’ve been apart. They talk for some time, with the reader not privy to the conversation. The finally conclude that it’s really them, and they fall into an embrace.

The next step is to discuss how to get home. Reed says Hyperstorm stranded him in this technologically backwards world because it would years to develop circuitry needed for a time machine/teleporter. Kristoff offers the circuitry inside his armor, which has just the parts Reed needs. Then, in Hyperstorm’s tower, Dr. Doom is still possessing Zarrko, freeing Nathaniel Richards from stasis. Nathaniel wants to get out of there, but Doom says they must work together to defeat Hyperstorm. They say all this with Hyperstorm secretly watching them on a monitor.

Unstable molecule: Reed believes Hyperstorm has created duplicates of the FF to torment him. Could this be foreshadowing to Hyperstorm’s origin?

Fade out: Sue refers to Namor as handsome early on, but then forgets him once Reed is back in the picture. We get one panel of Namor staring coldly at the two of them, which resolves (for now) his pursuit of Sue.

Clobberin’ time: Ben points out that, counting Sue’s force fields, each member of this issue’s team has super-strength. He tells everyone to remember that he’s supposed to be muscle of the group.

Flame on: Johnny cites Vibraxus’ court case and Huntara’s departure as the reasons why he’s taking a break from Fantastic Force. Funny how he doesn’t mention Devlor giving birth to himself.

Fantastic fifth wheel: If Hyperstorm is so all-powerful, why didn’t he know that Kristoff’s armor could get Reed home? Also, we see Kristoff walking around in his Dr. Doom armor but without the helmet, for a little-kid’s-head-on-a-grownup-body look, and it’s just as silly as you’d think.

Ant-Man only appears in one panel, cooking dinner for his daughter Cassie. I can’t tell what video game Cassie is playing, but it looks a lot like the ships from classic Battlestar Galactica.

The Alicia problem: This issue wants to hint at a possible romance between Lyja and Ben, despite all of the previous issues of her saying she still wants to be with Johnny. Ben comments about she and him are both “free agents” and Lyja tells him she knows how she feels after they see Reed and Sue reunited.

Commercial break: This ad really demands a lot from the reader:

Trivia time: This issue crosses over with the sporadically-published Fantastic Four Unlimited miniseries. Issue #12 of that series follows The FF and Reed as the hermit squaring off against a sorcerer named Artabazus who wants to steal Reed’s tech. Artabazus ends being teleported to Salem during the witch trials, and you can guess where it goes from there. Also, I’m not covering Fantastic Four Unlimited on this blog on account of it’s not very good.

Fantastic or frightful? After being absent for almost two years of real-world time, there was probably no way to bring Reed back that wouldn’t be underwhelming, so having him exiled to another dimension seems as good a resurrection as any.

Next: The power of destruction.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 44

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! The battle of NockMaar begins, and things get a little Evil Dead-ish, 1:44:20 to 1:47:24 on the Blu-ray.

Madmartigan leads the soldiers into the courtyard through some sort of arched hallway, with gear stacked along one side. This is followed by a shot of the NockMaar inside scrambling and picking up weapons as the Galladoorn enter. A lot of action happens really quick. A NockMaar grabs a Galladoorn soldier and pulls him off his horse, followed by a Galladoorn stabbing a NockMaar right in the chest. Three NockMaar fire arrows, hitting at least one invading Galladoorn. Kael puts his skull-face mask on. Remember than when he’s wearing the mask, Kael believes himself to be an unkillable god. This will come into play before the movie is over.

A couple of interesting points here. For one, this whole battle is staged and shot so there’s never any question as to who’s the good guys and who’s the bad guys. The armor is different, yes, but it’s also a progression of shots and progression of events so that we get a sense of the back-and-forth action. Also, in movie time, we just had a big battle a few minutes ago, so how to make this one different? It’s in cloudy weather, soon to be rain, and it’s set against the all-black castle walls, giving it a different color scheme. This courtyard also appears more confined the courtyard in Tir Asleen, more like a series of long hallways rather than a big open space in the center.

Then it’s back inside, to Bavmorda and her wise men, still preparing for the ritual. Yes, according to the tie-in lore, they really have been up all night just preparing for this, while everything else has been going on for hours. One wise man hits that big gong again, and three more walk around holding candles. Bavmorda stands in the center of the room, with rain starting to pour down from above. She chants some magic words and says, “Exile this child to the thirteenth night.” What does this mean? Not sure, but we know this ritual involves twelve hours, twelve candles that must be lit, and a gong being rung twelve times. Number thirteen, then, is presumably the moment when the baby is banished into oblivion. Then there’s another shot of the baby crying, to tug on the ol’ heartstrings.

Back outside, we catch up with some of our heroes. Inside the castle courtyard, Sorsha hops off her horse. Then a NockMaar (Is it Airk? Hard to tell with his helmet on.) has Willow with him on his horse. He helps Willow off the horse. Then Fin Raziel is there, presumably having also hitched a ride on horseback. Sorsha says, “This way!” and Raziel and Willow follow her. This is some nice internal logic at work, because of course she knows the layout of the castle. Then there’s another shot of the Brownies running across the foreground with fighting in the background. It doesn’t appear that they’re contributing in any meaningful way, just acting all crazy. Also, it’s clearly starting to rain now, for some nice continuity with the rain seen in Bavmorda’s chamber.

Next we’re with Madmartigan, slicing a NockMaar through the gut. This is followed by General Kael, who has a much less flashy fighting style, punching helmeting Galladoorn in the face and even chuckling slightly as he does it. A Galladoorn comes at him with a shield, but Kael is tough he knocks the guy and his shield out of frame with one sword strike. Still not done, Kael walks up to a Galladoorn on horseback and punches the guy in the face, showing off just giant of a man actor Pat Roach was.

Sorsha leads Raziel and Willow up some steps, with her being very careful to keep her back to the wall at all times. Then we see some NockMaar firing arrows from behind shield men, causing a Galladoorn horse and rider to fall into the mud. Airk shows up at this point, atop the castle wall. There’s a big vat of boiling oil or acid being guarded by a NockMaar, only for Airk to sneak up behind him and slash his throat. Airk then sees that same group of shield men. With an action-hero grunt, he pulls a rope, turning over the boiling acid. The steaming blood-red liquid (What is this stuff?) lands perfectly onto the archers protected by the shield men, causing the whole group of enemy soldiers to scatter.

Cut to Sorsha inside the castle, slowly creeping up a spiral staircase with, with Willow and Raziel close behind. Willow has now adopted Sorsha’s style of keeping close to the wall. There’s a really cool shot of Sorsha’s sword silhouetted in front of the opening to Bavmorda’s chamber, with blue light glowing from within. Willow and Raziel round the corner and look on with shock. They’re just looking at the door, however, which is closed. Maybe they’re responding the sound of the baby crying, or the spooky skull on the wall, to one side of the door. Willow and Sorsha both put hands on Willow’s shoulder, and Raziel, “It’s all right, Willow. You don’t have to go.” This bit in the stairs is less than a minute of the movie, but every shot is moody, atmospheric, and just really cool.

From inside, Bavmorda says, “Light the thirteenth candle!” Sorsha sheathes her sword (Why?) and she and Raziel slowly approach the door. Cut to the same door, now seen on the inside of the chamber. Raziel throws both doors open with a dramatic flourish. The chamber fills with wind, and we see the candles blow out. The camera zooms on Bavmorda, who coldly hisses, “Raziel.”

Then it’s Sorsha’s turn to be dramatic, as she steps in front of Raziel and shouts, “Mother!” She then hesitates, steps back, and only says, “I…” Raziel says, “Traitor child, I must despise you now. She motions to two of the wise men, who attack with scimitar-like curved swords. Sorsha’s first move is to knock over one of the containers of blood-red liquid. She slashes at the first wise men with a flurry of sword swipes. It looks like she cuts him on the arm, but this is nonetheless enough for him to hit the floor. Sorsha takes out a second wise man with a high kick (sweet!), and a third wise man attacks. He raises his sword to bring it down on her, only to get it stuck in the wall. Sorsha stabs him and he falls. Then, in a bird’s eye shot taking in the hole chamber, we see Sorsha kick the sword out of his hand and stab him again, making it final.

Sorsha walks into the center of the room. Bavmorda watches with a strange smile on her face. Sorsha steps up to Bavmorda and says, “I won’t let you kill that child.” Bavmorda says, “Away with you!” Sorsha walks up the baby, only for Bavmorda to raise a hand. Sorsha is magically lifted into the air, dropping her sword. It’s an Evil Dead style shot as the camera follows along with Sorsha asshe flies across the room and toward a gated wall covered with spikes. Raziel raises her wand, and Sorsha stops in mid-air, right in front of the spikes. Bavmorda and Raziel eye each other across the room. Bavmorda now has both hands up, and Raziel’s wand now glows blue. Sorsha falls to the floor, apparently out cold. Then another shot of the baby looking sad.

Bavmorda says, “Your powers have gained in strength, Raziel.” Before the audience can wonder how that’s possible, Raziel answers for us, saying “I have Cherlindrea’s wand, Bavmorda. There’s a closeup of Bavmorda, now looking less playful and more grim. Raziel points the wand at her, saying “Alora Danan will be queen.”

Next: Blood n’ guts.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Hyper time

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’ve reached issue #406, and I’m afraid we have to talk about Hyperstorm.

We begin in the lab at Four Freedoms Plaza, where Kristoff is experimenting with the tech recovered from Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, which may or may not lead them to Reed and Dr. Doom, who may or may not be still alive. The device explodes, which the team interprets as a “No trespassing” sign to wherever Zarrko’s path might have led. There’s a short debate among the FF, along with guest stars Lyja and Namor, about where to go next. Some want to collect more information, but Sue vetoes them, saying they are following Zarrko’s trail within the hour.

We then catch up with Zarrko, very much alive although he appeared to die in the previous issue. He’s in an otherworldly tower-like building, talking to his mysterious cloaked master. The mystery man checks on a “guest” of his, a prisoner in tattered rags whose face we don’t see. The prisoner is attached to the strangers “brain disarrator” which the stranger says removes all coherent thoughts. The stranger then gets word that rebels have overrun the capital city on planet Alterra-4, so the stranger orders an army of robot Destructoids to kill the rebels. Zarrko contemplates how his master has done this to many other worlds and civilizations.

At HQ, the FF prepares for a journey, as we catch up on everyone’s subplots. Namor tries to convince Sue that Reed is dead and she must move on. She reminds him that he searched for Atlantis for years back when everyone else believed it was gone forever. Ant-Man tries to befriend Kristoff a little more, but Kristoff brushes him off. Ant-Man and Namor both wonder if Kristoff can be trusted. Lyja tries to contact Johnny, who is away with the Fantastic Force spinoff team, and Sue tells Lyja she has an idea. Ben is using another alien device from the previous issue to transform himself from human to a Thing whenever he chooses, although the device still can’t heal the scars on his face he got from Wolverine a while back.

Sue, Ben, Ant-Man, Kristoff, and Namor prepare for the journey. Sue dons one of the FF’s cool brown adventurer vests, saying she sent Lyja away on another mission. They’re about to leave, using the lab’s recreation of Dr. Doom’s time machine, when Nathaniel Richards conveniently teleports into the lab with a dire warning. He says he knows what menace the FF are rushing off to face. Nathan says the stranger is the man who originally forced him to become a wanderer throughout time and space. (“I know him intimately!” Nathan says, which raises a lot of questions.) Sue demands more answers but Nathan falls back on the classic “You’re not ready,” so the FF leave without him.

Nathaniel attempts to teleport back to back to Latveria (remember that he’s currently fooled the world into thinking he’s really Dr. Doom) only he gets teleported to the stranger’s tower instead. The stranger says he is seeking absolute power, blind obedience, and total domination.

The FF arrive not in an alien landscape, but in what appears to be a small European village, where the locals welcome them as illustrious guests. Kristoff’s sensors reveal the villagers are all robots. They want to escort the FF to the “master” and when the FF refuse, a fight breaks out. They fight for a few pages until the FF are knocked unconscious by a classic Marvel bolt-from-the-blue.

Later, the FF awake in the stranger’s lab, frozen in stasis fields. Sue’s vest she was wearing? That was the shape-changing Lyja all along, who frees the team. They find their way to the prisoner from before, revealing it to be the long-thought-dead Dr. Doom. Kristoff recognizes Doom immediately and tries to use his high-tech armor to communicate with Doom.

Then the mysterious stranger reveals his identity. Yes, this is the one and only Hyperstorm. We’ll get to his origin later, but the concept is that he’s the master manipulator, the one who’s been pulling the strings for dozens (hundreds?) of issues by now. Truly, the most villainous of all villains. Then we get to the actual comic, and just look at this guy:

Yeah.

Hyperstorm says where he comes from, stories of the FF are the stuff of legend. He says the FF will be his honored guests, except that they cannot leave his tower for the rest of their lives. Our heroes won’t have that, so they attack. They’re no match for Hyperstorm, who fights back with his “hyper-power” which he says is greater than the power cosmic (this means he’s more powerful than the Silver Surfer, I guess).

It’s a short fight, as Hyperstorm wipes the floor with the FF. He then threatens to reveal to them the final fate of Reed Richards, by having the heroes “join him!” There’s a huge blast of hyper-power, and the FF appear to be reduced to nothing but dust. If this wasn’t enough of a cliffhanger, turn the page and we learn that Kristoff’s signal reached Dr. Doom, who has regained his intellect, and is already plotting his revenge.

Fade out: Hyperstorm is able to shatter (!) Sue’s force fields, and he appears to have invisible force fields of his own in one panel, somewhat foreshadowingly.

Clobberin’ time: Ben is drawn without the scars on his face in a few panels. The Marvel Wiki gives up and just plain admits this was an error.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man stays behind to operate the teleporter so the FF can return, but that option appears off the table once Hyperstorm abducts everyone.

Kristoff confirms that this is the real Dr. Doom, saying he’d know his former master anywhere.

The Alicia problem: Lyja wants to call Johnny. She says it’s to invite him along on the mission, but I think it’s unspoken that she still wants to get back with him. Hyperstorm would seem to agree, as he addresses Lyja as “Mrs. Storm.”

Commercial break: Somebody at Marvel thought Lunatik would be the next big thing.

Trivia time: Seeing that this issue’s editor is “Nel Yomtov,” I assumed that was another sneaky Marvel editorial pseudonym, but no, that’s a real person. Yomtov was a big player in Marvel’s Transformers and G.I. Joe comics, and he went on to write a series of children’s books about real-life historic events.

This is the first of several issues with a “Strange Days” logo on the cover, which was the intended title for this story arc. It’s not a reference to Dr. Strange, even though it kind of looks like his logo, and it’s not a reference to the 1995 movie Strange Days, even though Marvel published a comic adaptation of that movie around this time.

Fantastic or frightful? This Hyperstorm guy is supposed to be one of the most important characters in Fantastic Four mythology, and yet he’s so incredibly goofy. If this truly was writer Tom DeFalco’s end game all along, then its sadly underwhelming.

Next: It had to happen sometime.

****

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Fantastic Friday: By Crom

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #405, we learn tha–OMG it’s Conan the Barbarian!

While on an adventure in Brazil, our heroes have uncovered an alien device that might be able to save Ben’s life after he took a beating, while also turning him back into a human as well. Kristoff and archeologist Robeson man the machine’s controls, while Sue, Lyja, and Namor the Sub-Mariner look on. It works, and Ben returns to his human form.

Ben assures everyone that he feels fine, and he’s overjoyed to be human again. Robeson says the machine’s purpose was to create an army unstoppable warriors, and therefore included an “automatic healing factor.” It’s not all good news, however. Ben sees himself in a conveniently-placed mirror. He sees the scars on his face, given to him by Wolverine in issue #374, are still there. Robeson says the machine only heals recent injuries, so the scars stay. Sue promises to get Ben to the world’s best plastic surgeon, but Robeson is on hand to offer even more bad news. The healing effect might only be temporary.

Kristoff suggests teleporting the machine aboard the FF’s ship the Stealth Hawk, so Ben and benefit from it whenever he wants. Robeson argues that it might stay where it is because it is a major archeological find. Ben says a machine that turns people into monsters shouldn’t be left behind.

Back in FF headquarters, we pick up the previous issue’s other cliffhanger, where Kristoff’s aid Boris was reporting to a mysterious figure. Ant-Man and his daughter Cassie caught Boris in the act, and Boris is now attacking Ant-Man with a laser gun. Ant-Man makes it to the science lab, where Kristoff had prepared his new Ant-Man armor. He dons the armor, hoping that Kristoff and/or Boris hadn’t tampered with it.

The Stealth Hawk flies back to HQ, with everyone wondering why Ant-Man isn’t responding. For some reason, Namor chooses this exact moment to make a move, saying he and Sue should finally be a couple now that Reed is dead. She says she’s accepted Reed’s death, but isn’t ready for a new relationship. Namor says he’ll respect her wishes… for now.

At HQ, Boris seals the door to the lab, thinking that will stop Ant-Man of all people. He contacts the mysterious figure, saying the building is secured and he’s preparing for the rest of the team’s arrival. The mystery man, whom we the readers know is the mega-powerful Hyperstorm, tells Boris to proceed at his own discretion. Ant-Man predictably shrinks to teeny-tiny size and jumps out at Boris from an air vent.

Now things get really weird. Ant-Man is struck by a broadsword. Turns out it’s Conan the Barbarian, who has randomly appeared in the room. Although he’s not named, the Marvel Wiki insists this is the one and only Conan the Barbarian. He’s joined by a futuristic Iron Man, revealed to be the Iron Man of the distant future of 2020. Boris says he’s pulling enemies from other timelines to fight Ant-Man, because all this time Boris has secretly been… Zarrko the Tomorrow-Man.

Who is this? Zarrko first appeared as a Thor villain way, way back in 1962’s Journey Into Mystery #86. He would occasionally pop in Thor comics over the years for various time-travel antics. The Marvel Wiki insists that Zarrko has been impersonating Boris since Boris appeared way back in issue #258, also the first appearance of Kristoff.

Back to the action, Zarrko says he was never loyal to Doom or Kristoff, but is instead working for someone the FF hasn’t even met yet. He summons more Marvel characters, the gimmick being they are either dead or from an alternate timeline. So, in the next few pages, Ant-Man is under fire from the original Green Goblin, the original Bucky, the android Human Torch (a.k.a. Toro), the Red Raven, the original Thor (who had died and been replaced with Thunderstrike during this time), Snowbird from Alpha Flight, the Melter, Union Jack, Omega the Unknown, the Rawhide Kid, the original Black Knight, Blizzard, Blackout, Skurge the Executioner and the unfortunately-named Whizzer. The rest of the team arrives and joins the fight against all the alt-timeline cameos. Zarrko is apparently mind-controlling all these guys, because all they want to do is fight the FF.

During the fight, Ben’s healing effect wears off, and turns back into the Thing, still with his facial scars. Ant-Man uses his new armor’s grappling hook to detach Zarrko’s time displacement device from his belt. This causes all the alt-timeline folks to disappear. Ben grabs hold of Zarrko. Zarrko offers Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie in exchange for the device, but Sue says Lyja already got Cassie to safety during the fight.

With the danger over, Cassie runs into the room and into Ant-Man’s arms before he can change out of his armor. He doesn’t know how to tell her he’s really Ant-Mat. She says it’s okay, because she’s always known. Zarrko tries to negotiate for his freedom, saying he knows what really happened to Reed. Before he can anything more, though, he is killed by an energy blast from an outside source. Kristoff says his sensors locked onto the beam’s source of origin and they can track it to its source — and, hopefully, to some real answers.

Fade out: We all know Namor is a jerk, but his pursuit of Sue takes “jerk” to a whole new level. Even as Sue considers making a new life for herself, I was glad to see her shoot him down like she does.

Clobberin’ time: Ben refers to Zarrko as “my old sparring partner,” but I can’t figure out where they might have met before. The closest I can come up with is when Johnny and Spider-Man used some of the FF’s tech to help the Avengers fight Kang in multi-issue Marvel Team-Up arc, which also featured Zarrko.

Fantastic fifth wheel: This issue ends the running gag of Ant-Man always trying to keep his daughter from learning his secret identity. We haven’t seen much of this in FF, but it happened a lot during Ant-Man’s many Iron Man appearances.

Kristoff shows little surprise or anger that his loyal servant Boris turned out to be a time-traveling supervillain. I guess his Dr. Doom-programmed brain means he can take these sorts of betrayals in stride.

Commercial break: This comic has not one, not two, but FIVE pages of ads for Spider-Man Fruit Roll-Ups!

Trivia time: It’s Conan the Barbarian! In 1995, Marvel not only still held the license to the character, but it was still publishing Conan comics on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be until a year later that the license changed hands.

As for whether the Conan character is canon to the Marvel Universe, that’s where it gets confusing. Conan only interacted with Marvel heroes in What If?, except for popping up in a few big group shots of heroes during big crossovers. The Marvel Wiki states that these cameos are the alternate-timeline Conan from What If? and not his regular comic. On the other hand, Conan’s barbarian kingdom of the Hyborian Age is established in his comic as being Earth before the Ice Age, peopled by descendants of ancient Atlantis. Marvel still owns a lot of characters created for Marvel Conan comics that show up from time to time, such as the wizard Kulan Gath. The X-Men villain Selene was born during Conan’s time, and the Terrigen mists that created the Inhumans also existed in the Hyborian Age.

And no, Zarrko isn’t really dead. He’ll later return during the Age of Ultron crossover where he’s enlisted to join S.H.I.E.L.D.’s time travel branch, simply called T.I.M.E.

Fantastic or frightful? Kind of a missed opportunity. If you’re going to re-introduce all these obscure characters, why not actually do something with them, rather than reduce so many of them to one-panel cameos? And after foreshadowing the Boris/Zarrko reveal for so long, Zarrko ends up being an underwhelming villain.

Next: It’s Hyper time.

****

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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 43

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! This scene has four words that sum up the whole movie, 1:43:58 to 1:44:19 on the Blu-ray.

From the previous scene, we fade to an establishing shot of Castle NockMaar. There’s one guy on the wall, and two walking down an exterior staircase somewhere in the castle’s inner courtyard. The effect is that the place looks empty, as all the soldiers, thinking they are victorious after the “you’re all pigs” incident, have cone inside, possibly to get some sleep. Then we cut to the castle exterior where we see some decorative piles of skulls right outside, no doubt meant to frighten away any would-be attackers. It’s a long, slow pan of almost 20 seconds across the empty-looking field facing the castle, until Willow and Fin Raziel come into frame. Are the filmmakers pulling a little trick on us, and are all the stuntmen actually under the ground during this shot?

Then another shot of the top of the castle walls, and now a few more NockMaar are gathered, looking down at the pair. Willow turns to Fin Raziel and merely says, “Raziel.” She responds, “Willow, all these years I have waited to face Bavmorda. It is you who has made this possible. Whatever happens, I shall always admire you.” Willow looks pensive, and then considers Kaiya’s braid, given to him earlier in the movie at the start of his journey. The music swells, as he (and the audience) reflect on how far he has come. Raziel puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “Your children will come to remember this day.”

Atop the castle wall, General Kael shows up, looking down at the two, followed by another wide shot of the castle, again emphasizing how empty the field in front of the castle appears. A couple of birds fly overhead in that odd silhouette animation they used on the trolls earlier. Willow and Raziel take a few steps forward. Raziel says, “We call upon you to surrender.” Are they projecting their voices magically, Gandalf-style, or should we just suspend our disbelief that the characters can hear each other over what’s obviously a long distance? Willow adds, “We are all powerful sorcerers. Give us the baby, or we will destroy you.”

Kael actually cracks a smile upon seeing this. His skull-face mask isn’t on during at this moment, so we’re getting human Kael as opposed to he-thinks-he’s-a-god Kael. He and the others then break out into a huge laugh. Willow looks at Raziel again, now with a more determined look in his face. He’s turned a corner from being hesitant to prepared for what’s about to happen.

Kael points and says “Kill them.” The point seems unnecessary, because who else would be talking about? There’s yet another wide shot of the seemingly-empty field. In the reverse shot, we see the drawbridge slowly lowering. (They built a working drawbridge for this movie!) Willow and Raziel exchange glances, and then five NockMaar on horseback come riding out of the castle.

Willow raises his staff in an action pose. Raziel says, “Patience, Willow.” The camera zooms on Willow as he says to himself, “Courage, Willow.” What else can I possibly say about this four-word exchange? This is the movie’s mission statement, and it’s just pure movie magic.

The five soldiers ride closer. Then, with a “Hee-yaw!” Willow raises his staff and bangs on a drum conveniently placed next to him. With a second “Yaw!” he bangs it again, and then the Galladoorn troops  emerge from underground, having been hidden in huge holes in the earth covered with tarps. A couple of the horses with riders are simply lying under the tarps, with the horses springing up immediately and taking the rider with them. (Stuntmen love stuff like this.) The previous scene established that Willow got the idea for this by watching gophers in his village. I assume this means gophers burrowing and residing just under soil, because I’ve never heard of a gopher springing up from underground to attack. The Willow fan wiki, sadly, has no entry on gophers, so we don’t know how they differ on Willow’s world compared to ours.

Madmartigan gets a closeup, raising his sword and doing his own “Yaw!” battle cry. The five NockMaar stop, clearly outnumbered, and one matter-of-factly states, “Back to the castle.” There’s yet another shot of the Galladoorn troops riding forward, suggesting that there’s a whole lot of them. This whole strategy raises a number of questions. Were these holes preexisting, or did the Galladoorn stay up all night digging them? If they did, how are they in any shape to ride into battle first thing in the morning? Even though this scene opens establishing very few NockMaar atop the castle walls, did the NockMaar really have no lookouts during the night who could have seen all this? Anyway, the two Brownies pop up from their hiding place under a soldier’s helmet. They raise their spears and run forward. I guess they are also going to fight.

There’s a very quick shot of the Galladoorn overtaking the five soldiers, with one of them falling off his horse while making the classic Wilhelm scream (you know the one I mean). Then the movie’s main theme music kicks in as Madmartigan leads the troops over the drawbridge and into the castle’s main entrance in an awesome hero moment.

Next: To battle!

****

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Fantastic Friday: Rumble in the jungle

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #404 has the Thing fighting a bunch of other Things, and… that’s it, really.

We open with Namor the Sub-Mariner, seeking revenge for losing control of Atlantis to the Inhumans during the Atlantis Rising crossover. He’s arrived at FF headquarters in search of Sue, demanding an audience with her. The only team member there is Ant-Man, who tells Namor that the rest of the FF are in Brazil. We then go there, where Ben is fighting Sue, Kristoff, and Lyja, all of whom have been transformed into Things like himself. (Short recap: an archeologist named Robeson found ancient ruins that resemble Ben, only for criminal jungle guide Mico to take over and use an alien device in the ruins to Thing-ize our heroes.)

While Ben tries to go easy on his teammates, Mico stands to the side with the other members of the expedition, who have also become Things, and are under Mico’s command. Robeson escapes, running into the jungle. He fears the damage Mico can do if he ends up with a whole army of Things serving him. Ben manages to escape his teammates and also escapes into the jungle, in pursuit of Robeson.

At HQ, Ant-Man shows Namor that he’s been tinkering with Dr. Doom’s space-time platform, turning into the FF’s personal transporter. He offers to teleport Namor right to Sue’s location. Namor makes a big declaration, saying it is time for him and Sue to finally be together, seeing as how she’s lost Reed and he’s lost all of Atlantis. Kristoff’s aid Boris watches mysteriously from a distance.

Ben re-encounters Sue, Lyja and Kristoff in the jungle, where they reveal they still have their powers in addition to their new Thing strength. Namor teleports into the middle of the fight, and Sue immediately attacks him. Ben catches up Robeson, who theorizes that the effects of the alien device might fade over time, but he doesn’t know for sure.

At HQ, Boris ducks around the corner for some privacy, thinking about how much he dislikes this “time era” and that he’d rather be dealing with Thor instead of the FF. He contacts a mysterious figure hidden in shadow. The man in shadow says that if history is to believed, the Fantastic Four are about to reach a critical juncture with huge consequences. Because this is a re-read and not a first-time read, I’m going to spoil it. This is the first ever appearance of Hyperstorm, who, although short-lived, is about to become one of the most influential baddies in FF history. Anyway, Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie eavesdrops on the conversation, and Boris catches her.

There’s a few pages of Sue fighting Namor, followed by Ben and Robeson returning to the ruins. There, Ben finds hieroglyphics showing men being transformed into Things and back again. Ben wonders if this could be his chance to become human again. Mico shows up with other Things, saying he’s going to turn them into his own personal mercenary squad and become with world’s most successful mercenary. This doesn’t seem like all that evil of a plan, but Ben won’t have it. He fights the other Things.

At HQ, Boris is in search of Cassie, who ran off. He runs into Ant-Man and immediately pulls out a laser gun and fires. Ant-Man dodges the blast. He wonders where Cassie is, and fears that if Boris is a traitor to the FF, then Kristoff might also be. Meanwhile, Ben fights the other Things inside the ruins, while Sue fights Namor in the jungle. The other Things finally get the upper hand on Ben, and beat him senseless. The effects of the alien device then wear off, and all the Things become human again.

Sue and Namor hurry to the ruins. Mico pulls a gun on them, but he doesn’t stand a chance against Sue’s force fields and Namor’s strength. Ben is unconscious, and Robeson fears that he may be suffering from internal injuries. He suggests using the alien device to turn Ben back into a human to save him, as long as Ben’s body can survive the shock of transformation. Sue agrees to try it. With Kristoff using his genius to man the device’s controls. The machine fires up, and we’re left to wonder the final fate of the Thing.

To be continued!

Fade out: The fight between Sue and Namor is an excuse for a rage-filled Sue to call out Namor on his years of creepy behavior, including his trying to take advantage of her as she mourned for her dead husband.

Clobberin’ time: This issue remembers that the scars on Ben’s face are highly sensitive, and really does look painful in panels when he gets punched right in the scars.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man says he bought advanced tickets to take his daughter to see the Disney movie Pocahontas. It’s Disney/Marvel foreshadowing!

Kristoff’s Doom armor appears to change size with him, first growing to Thing-size, and then, more interestingly, shrinking down to little kid-sized when little Kristoff becomes human again.

The Alicia problem: When Mico pulls an ordinary pistol on our heroes, Lyja doesn’t make a move to stop him, for fear that Mico might shoot Kristoff. Sue and Namor, however, don’t think twice about using their powers to disarm Mico.

Commercial break: Together at last!

Trivia time: I’ve given up trying to track the confusing history of Dr. Doom’s time machine, and all the places it’s shown up. Fortunately, the Marvel Wiki has done it all for me. The wiki insists that the original time machine is back in Latveria inside Castle Doom, and that the one seen in this issue is a replica created by Reed. Ant-Man’s tinkering means it’s now a plain ol’ teleporter as well as a time machine.

Fantastic or frightful? I don’t know. Kind of a placeholder of an issue, waiting to make the big reveals and the big drama for the next one. Some of the fights and action is interesting, but that’s about it.

Next: Moose and squirrel.

****

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