Fantastic Friday: Adam-Ant-ium

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Wolverine slashed up the Thing’s face way back in issue #374. Now we’re at issue #395 and it’s time for a rematch — not to mention another sales-boosting Wolverine guest appearance.

We begin at the Last Gasp Saloon, an old-timey cowboy bar located on the shore of Lake Erie. The place has been trashed, and Wolverine is inside, alone, nursing a drink and a cigar. He is dwelling on how he slashed the Thing’s face, and he thinks “Time has come to see how deep those scars run.” A Fantasticar lands outside, and Ben enters, decked out in his trenchcoat-and-fedora look.

A bum outside the bar makes a phone call (with a 1995-era cell phone!) to the Mad Thinker, who still insists on calling himself just “the Thinker,” who as usual brags about how he predicated this would happen and all is going according to his plan. The Mad Thinker is still doing his mental projection thing, using his super-brain to manipulate his lab while his body is safely locked up in jail. Back at the bar, we see Ant-Man has snuck aboard the Fantasticar while all teeny-tiny, here to give Ben some backup, whether Ben wants it or not.

We then cut to the “Great Western Desert,” where Johnny and She-Hulk are messing around with their powers, using the desert as a makeshift Danger Room. Johnny wants to talk to the mysterious blonde who helped him out during the battle last issue, but she runs off before he gets a chance. The blonde instead meets up with feisty coed Bridget O’Neil. Bridget says the blonde is a source of much gossip. The blonde introduces herself as Laura Green, and she says she was a last-minute addition to this, their school archeology trip. They talk about Johnny, with Bridget says Johnny is recently divorced, and she tells Laura to “keep your distance.” Laura then reveals what the reader already knows, that she is Lyja the Skrull in disguise, in hopes that “Laura” will make Johnny forget he ever knew Lyja.

Ben shows a lot of anger toward Wolverine, saying that although he was already a rock monster, his scarred face didn’t make things any easier. Wolverine tries to apologize, saying he was in a bad place at that time, and that things have changed. He offers Ben a beer and says he wants to make amends. Ben refuses, smashes some furniture. Wolverine unleashes his claws and they’re about to fight. Then Ant-Man interrupts with a classic “We’ve got company!” Three guys in sci-fi body armor burst through the door, also looking for a fight.

In Latveria, Sue is staying at Castle Doom with Nathaniel Richards, who has tricked the world into thinking he’s Doctor Doom back from the dead. Nathaniel says he’s in search of his missing son, and Sue insists that Reed is still alive. Nathaniel won’t explain any more, saying he must first make improvements to his high-tech battle armor. Sue then sees an apparition of herself, seemingly the same one from issue #387. The apparition says to believe in Nathaniel, and “Only he holds the key!”

Back at the bar, Ben and Wolverine fight the three attackers. Okay, so who are these guys? One has Iron Man-like body armor, one has high-tech bullwhips, and one has an ice gun. The bullwhip guy is named “Kerekes” and the others’ names are never revealed. Further, the Marvel wiki only has one sentence about them, naming them assassins (not “the assassins” mind you, just “assassins”). It should come to no surprise that Wolverine and Ben defeat these guys with no problem.

Then a new opponent enters the bar, a new version of the Mad Thinker’s Super-Adaptoid, called the Super Android Model F-4. Just like the original Super-Adaptoid, the Super Android has the combined powers of the Fantastic Four. It punches Ben into the next building over and then starts choking Wolverine. Ant-Man watches from his teeny vantage point, wondering what he can do.

In Latveria, Nathaniel tells Sue about one of his earlier time-travel adventures. He crash landed (crash materialized?) in Latveria and was injured. A beautiful young gypsy woman took him in, healing him with “exotic potions” and “a form of witchcraft.” She and Nathaniel fell in love, and eventually had a son, whom Nathaniel calls the “absolute monarch of Latveria.” Sue (and the reader?) assumes this means that Reed and Dr. Doom are in fact long-lost brothers.

Meanwhile, Ben and Wolverine continue fighting the Super Android. It burns Ben in the face, where his scars are still more sensitive than the rest of his rock body. Ben admits it’s not appearance that upset him about the scars, it’s about having to feel vulnerable.  While they continue fighting the android, Ant-Man leaps onto its shoulder and attaches a container of “shrink gas” to it. The android shrinks down to ant size, an attack it has no defense for. With a flick of his finger, Ben sends the android flying into the lake. This apparently destroys it. The issue ends with the Mad Thinker in jail receiving a “Wish you were here” postcard from Ben, Wolverine, and Ant-Man.

Fade out: You might be thinking the mysterious apparition of Sue was from an alternate timeline where Galactus killed everybody. You’re right, it was. This version is all part of Nathaniel’s increasingly far-fetched plot to manipulate the FF. We’ll get there eventually.

Clobberin’ time: This issue answers the long-standing question of why Ben didn’t just use Marvel Universe super-science to fix his face. It’s because the real scars are the emotional ones.

Flame on: Johnny says he has no plans to return to the FF, even though he’s still wearing a blue shirt with the “4” logo on it.

Fantastic fifth wheel: The Marvel Wiki insists that Ant-Man’s “shrink gas” is actually Pym particles, the stuff that makes shrinking possible.

She-Hulk is just now learning that Reed is dead. She offers to re-join the FF, but Johnny tells her she’s talking to the wrong the person.

The Alicia problem: Lyja is secretly pursuing Johnny in the hopes of seducing him in the “Alice Green” persona. Just what are we to think of Lyja by this point? Villain? Love interest? Troubled victim? I just don’t know anymore.

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

Trivia time: Why is Wolverine so interested in making amends with Ben? This issue is following X-Men #25, where he lost all his Adamantium and X-Men #30 in which he was sad about Jean Grey marrying Cyclops instead of him. So the newly no-longer-invulnerable Wolverine has been making the rounds in the Marvel Universe hoping to make amends for all the bad things he’s done. Yes, this also means that this issue features Wolvie’s notorious bone claws, though they’re drawn and colored to still look all metallic.

The Super Android makes one more appearance after this, in the Fantastic Four Unplugged miniseries of the mid-90s.

Fantastic or frightful? An okay-to-good issue, where the heroes fight actual villains instead of each other. It’s also nice to see Ant-Man finally do some actual Ant-action as a member of the team. So, yeah, I guess I liked this one.

Next: Saturday morning car-Dooms.


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Fantastic Friday: Terrible dactyl

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The FF have split up and gone their separate ways, so in issue #394 we’re catching up with old friends and fighting a supernatural dinosaur man, like you do.

Gimmie a gimmick: This issue originally shipped to stores polybagged (wrapped in plastic) containing a 16-page minicomic promoting the Marvel Action Hour Saturday morning cartoon. The ‘toon featured Iron Man and our very own Fantastic Four. Somehow, Biker Mice From Mars first debuted as part of this cartoon, but they’re not in the minicomic.

Issue #394 a variation on the classic “the characters show off their powers for a few pages” thing with Wyatt Wingfoot riding his cool motorcycle through an obstacle of Johnny shooting fire at him and She-Hulk throwing boulders at them both. As noted in my recent Fantastic Force write-up, She-Hulk’s solo series had recently ended with her working for Millie the Model (!) and acting in a soap opera (!). These issues find her back practicing law while also reconnecting with her old Fantastic Four pals. Also, she and Wyatt split up in the miniseries She-Hulk: Ceremony, but they’re still good friends. Everybody’s out in the “Great Western Desert” where Johnny and feisty coed Bridget O’Neil and some ESU students are helping Wyatt’s tribe on an archeological dig. Also working the archeology dig is the mysterious blonde woman from the previous issue, who is secretly Lyja the Skrull spying on Johnny.

But all is not well in the desert, as tribal leader Stalking Fox is angry at the students for disturbing a sacred burial site. We discover that the students have uncovered an ancient totem. Stalking Fox is ticked off, saying they will soon face the wrath of… Raptor the Renegade. (In case you’re wondering, this issue was on shelves a year and a half after Jurassic Park.)

In New York, Alicia shows up at the Baxter Building asking to see Ben, only for Roberta the robot receptionist tell her that Ben asked not be disturbed. Alicia leaves, angry. Ant-Man confronts Ben about this, and Ben says it’s time that he and Alicia both got on with their lives. He also admits he’s been dwelling lately on how Wolverine slashed up his face back in issue #374. This also foreshadows next issue.

At the dig site, local cop Officer Chavis mediates the dispute between Stalking Fox and students, while archeology professor Simon Janson secretly reassembles all the pieces of the totem, saying it’s his “important work.” He accidentally (or not?) cuts his finger and spills a drop of blood on the totem, which of course causes dark magic to stir. The totem zaps Janson with an energy beam, transforming him into Raptor the Renegade, a half-man half-pterodactyl.

While flying around and terrorizing the students’ camp, Raptor takes time to explain his origin. He and his fellow dinosaur-men once ruled the Earth, only for primitive men to trap him in a totem and bury him, so that humanity could be free of his evil and whatnot. Bridget gets on the radio and contacts Johnny, who is out in the desert with Wyatt and She-Hulk. Lyja transforms into a dinosaur herself to protect Bridget from being harmed.

Cut to Latveria, where Sue is staying as a guest in Castle Doom. She is apparently on better terms with Nathaniel Richards, who has convinced the world that’s Dr. Doom come back from the dead. Nathaniel proudly announces that he’s located his son. Sue assumes this means Reed is still alive, but Nathaniel responds, “who’s talking about Reed?”

Johnny and She-Hulk fight Raptor, with nothing they harming him. Meanwhile, Wyatt deduces that the totem is the source of Raptor’s powers. Raptor boasts that only a “sun god” can destroy the totem. Johnny is hesitant to use his super-powerful nova flame, remembering that the last time he used it he nearly destroyed Empire State University. He overcomes his fear and goes nova, destroying the totem. This transforms Raptor back into Professor Janson. Johnny and Bridget embrace, all with him wondering who that blonde was.

Back at FF HQ, Ant-Man receives a message from Wolverine, telling Ben that Wolvie wants to set up a meeting. Ben says, “I’m giddy with the prospect.”

To be continued?

Fade out: Sue finds a classic FF uniform inside her guest room at Castle Doom, and she tells a Doombot to “burn it.” Did that uniform belong to Dr. Doom or to Nathaniel? And which is creepier?

Clobberin’ time: Other than his scars being unusually sensitive, Ben has shown little anger over his already monstrous face being scarred. Never underestimate the power of a profitable guest star, I guess.

Flame on: I’m not sure if this issue means Johnny and Bridget O’Neil are a couple now, but I like her in this issue. She keeps her head and helps out during the crisis, making her solid “superhero love interest” material.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk jokes (or not?) that she dislikes being called “Greenskin,” saying that nickname is reserved for her more famous cousin.

Crystal appears in this issue as well, in this Marvel house ad:

The Alicia problem: The dinosaur Lyja transforms into is a “Gammara tortoise” and it not surprisingly looks like giant movie turtle Gamera.

Commercial break: I have no idea what this is for or what it’s trying to say:

Trivia time: This is the one and only appearance of Raptor the Renegade. The comic hints at Professor Janson being his civilian identity for future stories, but it never happened. There are, however, five other characters named “Raptor” in the Marvel Universe. One is a lizard-man who fought Spider-Man and Moon Knight, one is a guy in a high-tech bird suit who also fought Moon Knight, one is a half-human half-bird who helped the West Coast Avengers fight Ultron, one is a Hulk-like green-skinned cyborg who fought Death’s Head, and the fifth is a Hawkgirl-style flying thief who eventually became a hero in the “MC2” alternate future.

You might think that Stalking Fox is Wyatt’s grandfather, seen back in the Lee/Kirby days, but no. Wyatt’s grandfather was Silent Fox, who died back in issue #269. That story arc ended with Wyatt choosing to travel the world rather than taking his grandfather’s place, so I guess we can assume that this Stalking Fox guy is now chief in Wyatt’s place.

Fantastic or frightful? Enjoyable but forgettable, I suppose. A generic plot and a generic villain, but at least it’s a story with structure and a beginning, middle and end, as opposed to the soup of subplots that the comic has been for most of this era.

Next: Rock, paper, adamantium.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 36

Rewatching the 1988 movie Willow one scene at a time. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! The battle of Tir Asleen kicks off with a lot of info, including some serious troll action, 1:27:19-1:29:03.

We’re in “preparing for the battle” mode, but this is all shot and edited as if the fighting has already started, with a lot of pulse-pounding music and quick-chop cuts.

Outside the castle’s main gate, Kael says, “Assault! Sorsha, battering ram!” Not sure why she’s the one who should get battering ram duty, except to let the audience know she’s on the scene.

 Madmartigan rolls a large barrel over a bridge over a pool of mossy green water.

 On horseback, Sorsha selects a tree and orders two NockMaar soldiers to, “Cut it down!”

 Willow prepares a catapult, lowering it and hooking into place with a big metal chain, all while holding the baby.

 Madmartigan drags a bunch of suits of armor behind him.

 Outside, one Nockmaar with an axe hacks away at the tree. It appears as if he’s just started.

 Madmartigan prepares another catapult. I’m not clear on why there are catapults on ground level inside the main gate, but these are smaller ones, only a little taller than Madmartigan, so perhaps this is what they were designed for, in case enemies get through the gate.

 Here’s our first hint that time has passed. The Nockmaar fall the tree, having successfully cut through most of the truck by now.

 Madmartigan sets up a bear trap in the mud. Is this typical soldier behavior in this world, or did Madmartigan also find a stash of hunting supplies?

 Willow looks out a window and sees the finished battering ram being used on the door. More time has passed, because all the branches have been cut off the tree, and it’s been fully carved into a full-on battering ram. Further, in the background we can see several Nockmaar sitting around a campfire. So… have days passed? Kael says, “Bring it down!”

 Willow runs across a bridge in the upper part of the castle, and we finally get our first glimpse of a troll, climbing on the wall and then the bridge underneath Willow. A second troll climbs down a wall on the top left of the screen. This was done with animation, with animated trolls being mere silhouettes, standing out against the background. The animated troll becomes practical in the next shot, keeping pace with Willow as he runs across the bridge.

 Willow bangs his shoulders against a door, and there’s our first close-up of a troll, ape-like with a blueish-black face with some pink flecks in the skin. It seems really angry, shaking its head back and forth in rage. The tie-in fiction offers little additional information about trolls other than what we see in the movie, describing them as animalistic and more of a nuisance than a full-on monster. There is one curious detail, though. About one out every hundred trolls, the books say, are born with human level intelligence. For some reason, these are called “Troll Sports.” Further, the books say that Bavmorda was fond of the Troll Sports rounding them up and putting them to work (against their will, one assumes) in her castle.

 Madmartigan sets up some crossbows on a barrel, possibly the same one from seconds earlier.

 Outside, the battering ram makes some damage against the door.

 Willow places the baby down on a small stone structure outside the door he couldn’t open. Then the trolls jumps down (from where?) and spooks Willow. On the ground below, Fin Raziel has apparently been watching this, and says “Willow, use the wand on that troll.” The troll moves to attack. The wand starts to glow blue before Willow even does anything. Then he aims it at the trolls and says a magic work, “Bellanockt!” This throws the troll backward, with yellow smoke flowing from under its fur.

 Then things get really gross. The troll’s body curls up into a ball, only two tentacle-like arms to come of it, rips of its own skin, revealing a gooey brain-like shape underneath. Willow looks at the wand and then back at the slimy thing. In a nice bit of foreshadowing, two little heads pop up out of the blob, looking a little bit like the chestburster from Alien.

 Willow looks appropriately grossed out, and kicks the thing off the bridge, it falls and lands in what looks like the mossy green water from earlier. (Is this supposed to be a moat? Why is the moat inside the courtyard? I’m rather confused as to the geography of this place.) The water starts bubbling, so the audience knows something is up.

 Outside, we see the battering ram making more progress on the gate, with Kael shouting, “Break it down! Forward!” The gate opens, while Madmartigan continues to ready the crossbows. We see Nockmaar soldiers on the other side, raising swords into the air, and others arms with flaming arrows, ready to fire. And now it’s time for the battle to begin.

 Next: Arrow-smith. 


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Fantastic Friday: Puppet Power

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The splash page for issue #393 calls this “quite possibly the most haunting tale ever produced.” Yeah, let’s see.

The issue begins with a whopping seven pages of recap, in which Ant-Man makes a record of the FF’s activities, starting the whole Alicia/Lyja thing, up to Reed’s supposed death, and finally the team’s recent break-up, concluding that the Thing is currently going it alone as a “Fantastic One.”

We then catch up to Ben back in his old neighborhood of Yancy Street, where he’s responding to a mysterious summons. After scaring off a thug, Ben encounters the Puppet Master as the one who sent for him. Ben is immediately suspicious, as Alicia hasn’t been seen since Alicia ran off and/or disappeared way back in issue #376. Turns out Ben is right to be suspicious because the Puppet Master gases Ben into unconsciousness.

Then there’s a quick scene of Johnny applying to start school at Empire State University, but is refused because of the damage he caused in issue #375. He also is reunited with feisty coed Bridget O’Neil, and they flirt while a blond woman watches them from a distance. We cut from there to Latveria, where Sue sneaks into Castle Doom, investigating how Dr. Doom could be alive when it appeared he died fighting Reed. Rather than fight, Dr. Doom reveals that he’s really an imposter, Sue’s own father-in-law Nathaniel Richards. She slaps him (!) and accuses him of abducting young Franklin and not using his knowledge of the future (the past, now?) to save Reed. Nathaniel says he is on a quest to find Reed, and he asks Sue to join him.


Ben wakes up in what appears to be Alicia’s apartment, she makes a big speech about how much she admires his nobility and sensitivity, and it’s as if they are a couple again. The romance is interrupted by Johnny, for some 1960s-ish playful banter. Not only is there, but so are Reed and Sue, and it’s as if the FF are back together and everything is the way it used to be. Ben concludes, “Something’s real wrong!”


Ben wakes up again to reveal that Puppet Master has him hooked up to a machine. What he just experienced was the puppet version of him living in Liddleville, which you’ll remember is an entire town of miniature robot people last seen inside Castle Doom. Puppet Master says he only has the best of intentions, that in Liddleville, Ben and Alicia can have the happiness they’ve always wanted.

Ben smashes the Puppet Master’s mind control device (but he leaves Liddleville intact), saying “Ya can’t live in the past!” As Alicia starts to regain consciousness, Ben leaves, saying she and Puppet Master have a lot to talk about.

Unstable molecule: Sue initially assumes that Nathaniel is another Doombot posing as Doom, referencing all the times the FF has been fooled by Doombots in the past.

Clobberin’ time: Ben says a younger version of him would have clobbered the thug on Yancy Street, but now these days he’s mellowed out some.

Flame on: Johnny learns Bridget is a history student, and is heading out west for an archaeology conveniently setting up next issue.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man says that although the FF has split up, he is still on their payroll, so he’s going to stick around as long as the checks keep coming in.

The Alicia problem: The blonde spying on Johnny and Bridget is secretly Lyja in disguise, so the soap opera is still soap opera-ing.

Commercial break: Power Rangers! But wait, did the Rangers ever actually use this sword on the show?

Trivia time: This is the last time we’ll see Liddleville in Fantastic Four, but not in the Marvel Universe. After one appearance in X-Force, the teeny town becomes a semi-regular fixture in various Hulk comics, where a puppet Bruce Banner gets to enjoy the quaint small-town life the real one never had.

There is no mention of where Puppet Master’s hideout is, or how he got Liddleville away from Dr. Doom. (Maybe they’re in Doom’s castle, but I find it highly unlikely that this is happening a few doors down from Sue confronting Nathaniel.) The Appendix of the Marvel Universe fan site suggests that Puppet Master built his own Liddleville just for this occasion.

Fantastic or frightful? Shrug. The long opening recap and the ongoing subplots mean we don’t have a lot of time to explore the Twilight Zone-ishness of the Liddleville concept. It’s not a bad comic, it’s just we’ve been here before.

Next: Cowboys vs. dinosaurs.


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Fantastic Friday: Fantastic Force Part 2

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After the Fantastic Four broke up in the mid-90s, Marvel published 18 issues of the spinoff Fantastic Force. How well did these new young heroes fill the FF’s void, and how did end?

Fantastic Force is:

  • Franklin Richards, now a telepathic teenager thanks to time travel craziness.
  • Huntara, barbarian swordswoman and long-lost stepsister to the FF’s Reed Richards.
  • Vibraxas, a teen Wakandan mutant, with earthquake-creating powers.
  • Devlor, an inhuman teen who can transform into a giant apelike monster.
  • Black Panther, who acts the mentor/Professor X type for the team. His Manhattan loft is the team’s HQ.

Issue #10

The child Franklin who appeared at the end of the last issue is not here via time travel, but is instead a psychic projection of Franklin’s, along with another known as the “Ego-Spawn.” There’s some talk of Franklin being “the Avatar” of these various “psycho-plasmic entities.” After much in-fighting among the teammates, Franklin agrees to turn leadership of Fantastic Force over to the Human Torch. This new team then travels to Turkey in search of the Omnivirus, which could cure all diseases but could also (of course) be used for evil. They encounters villains Lord Moses and Zarathrustra, also in search of the virus.

Issue #11

Franklin and his other-self constructs return to the alternate universe of Elsewhen, where he learned to be a warrior during his years of time-traveling. He is reunited with alien warlord Kargul, who warns him of doom. On Earth, the Fantastic Force manage to defeat Lord Moses and stop the Omnivirus, but not before Devlor is exposed to the virus. The team then travels to Elsewhen where they are confronted by a new villain, Vangaard.

Issue #12

Fantastic Force teams up with Kargul to fight Vangaard, who is revealed to be Johnny Storm from an alternate reality, last seen way back in Fantastic Four #163. Everyone but Franklin escapes, while Franklin heads out to fight Vangaard on his own. He unleashes the full extent of his potentially world-ending powers to stop Vangaard, seemingly killing himself in the process. It doesn’t work, as Vangaard survives. The team re-confronts Vangaard, and Johnny manages to reason with him, helping Vangaard regain his humanity. Meanwhile, She-Hulk and Wyatt Wingfoot show up again, where they encounter a mysterious homeless man in New York.

Issue #13

Franklin is alive, placed in a “zero chamber” to heal, and his psychic constructs have been absorbed back into his brain (or something). Huntara then announces that she is leaving the team, as Elsewhen was always meant to be her home. Back in New York, the team encounters She-Hulk under control of the Puppet Master, stealing artifacts from a museum. Johnny invites She-Hulk to join the Fantastic Force, filling in for Huntara, and she accepts.

Issue #14

The team travels to Wakanda, where Vibraxas stands trial for the gang member he inadvertently killed in issue #5. She-Hulk conveniently acts as his lawyer. The homeless man from two issues ago is revealed to be Diablo, who says he has She-Hulk in his “thrall.” Vibraxas is reunited with an old girlfriend, R’Shumba, and his father, N’Kano. Vibraxas tries to destroy a vibranium research facility, which was the source of the accident that gave him his powers, accidentally unleashing a vibranium monster from underneath the building.

Issue #15.

Fantastic Force fights the vibranium monster, called the Vibravore. The monster contains the “psychic-static” of everyone who died in the accident that gave Vibraxas his powers, including Vibraxas’ mother. It’s a big fight, with Devlor rapidly losing control of his animalistic side. The fight ends with no trace of Vibraxas’ long-lost mother. Back at the trial, the Wakandans find Vibraxas not guilty, but they also vote to revoke Fantastic Force’s funding. At that moment, Devlor loses control, transforming into an even more beastly form.

Issue #16

Back in NYC, Devlor continues to mutate out of control, thanks to his exposure to the Omnivirus. Johnny has departed, leading everyone to wonder whether Fantastic Force is even a team at all anymore. Vibraxas takes a job from a friend, a Korean shop owner, to help fight off local street gangs. Villainess Zarathrustra escapes from the cops and battles encounters fellow villain Go-Devil, who is also part of the street gang plot. Finally, Devlor appears to die, only for his body to give “birth” to a new Devlor, looking just like he did back in issue #1. Gross.

Issue #17

The Wakandans evict Fantastic Force from Black Panther’s loft in Soho, so She-Hulk has the team use her apartment as its new HQ. Once there, the team experiences a bunch of weird hallucinations, revealed to be the work of Diablo. What’s more, Diablo reveals he’s working alongside the demon Mephisto.

Issue #18

With the team still under Diablo’s spell, Diablo reveals his partnership with Mephisto is all an act, and that he really wants to use Franklin’s powers to destroy Mephisto, like Franklin did back in Fantastic Four issue #277. Diablo mind-controls She-Hulk to attack her teammates. Each team member overcomes Diablo’s influence, and they work together to destroy Diablo’s potions. Thinking he’s won, Diablo travels to Hell, only to be attacked by Mephisto’s minions. Back on Earth, the series ends when the heroes are reunited with the one and only Fantastic Four, revealing… well, this blog will get there soon enough.

Four and a half: Franklin is really put through the wringer in these issues, first by sacrificing himself to save the day, and then trying and failing to keep his new team together. Also there are a ton of continuity nods to his character’s history.

Barbarian swordswoman: This is pretty much the last hurrah for Huntara. She will appear again briefly during the Onslaught crossover, and in Civil War she is mentioned but not seen as a potential recruit for the Fifty States Initiative. (Does this mean she came back to Earth at some point?)

Good vibrations: Vibraxas will go on to occasionally guest star in Fantastic Four, and has been a recurring character in various Black Panther comics over the years.

Talking about my de-evolution: Poor Devlor pretty much disappeared from the Marvel Universe after this. His only other notable appearance was when he joined a group of characters all interviewing for the job of nanny for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s baby. Other potential nannies included D-Man, Squirrel Girl, Groot, Molly from Runaways, Beverly from Howard the Duck, and (of course) Deadpool.

Wakanda forever: I’m not clear on who these Wakandan judges are, who boss around Black Panther, their king. But, hey, what do I know about politics?

Flame on: Bringing Johnny on board as team leader for five issues then abruptly writing him out stinks of editorial interference. His confrontation with his alternate self Vangaard is interesting, but Vangaard remains a hokey character.

Force-tastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk appears here shortly after the cancellation of her solo series which, at the end, had her working with Millie the Model and acting in a soap opera (!). Also, she and Wyatt split up in the miniseries She-Hulk: Ceremony, so they are hanging out in this series just as friends.

Trivia time: Fantastic Force had one other notable appearance, in Secret Defenders #25. That issue had a variety of psychic characters around the world sensing the appearance of supervillain Sloriath, including our own Franklin.

The title Fantastic Force returned in 2009 with none of these characters and an entirely different premise. Six superheroes from a post-apocalyptic future — including Hulk and Wolverine — traveled to the present to stop their apocalypse. The other members of that team were Lightwave, Psionic, Natalie X, and Alex Ultron. This version ran only four issues.

Fantastic or frightful? While I enjoyed the first half of this series quite a bit, it unravels in the second half, with meandering storylines and the obvious dark cloud of Marvel editorial forcing the Human Torch and She-Hulk into the series to make it more like FF. Still, Fantastic Force is fun when it sticks the more character-based stories. Unfortunately, plots are way too interested in alternate realities and alternate timelines which too often distract from the good stuff. So, a mixed bag. Here’s hoping someone incredibly talented can bring these characters back someday and make them work.

Next: Puppet power.


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 35

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! This is the start of the battle of Tir Asleen, which I’ll be breaking up into several parts, because there’s a lot to go over, 1:24:27-1:27:19 on the Blu-ray.

This skips over a scripted-but-unfilmed scene that was included in the graphic novel, where Tir Asleen is surrounded by a wall of thorns created by Bavmorda. Raziel has Willow and Madmartigan chants magic words together, which creates a magic fire to burn down the thorns. This scene just doesn’t work. It’s out of character, in that Madmartigan shows no interest in doing magic anywhere else, and it ruins the reveal that Bavmorda has already been here.

Back to the movie itself, there’s something from an abrupt cut from the previous scene, there’s a shot of Madmartigan riding their horses through the countryside to a short but very big and bombastic piece of the score. They then approach Tir Asleen castle, with Fin Raziel helpfully announcing “Tir Asleen! At last, Tir Asleen!” While the tie-in books describe Tir Asleen as this vast kingdom with city-sized universities and libraries, but here the castle is standing alone, surrounded only by grass and trees. Remember we saw a similar setup with Bavmorda’s castle earlier. It appears that in the world of Willow, these castles that serve as seats of government and home to the monarchy also double as border forts, situated right on the kingdom’s borders. I suppose this would aid in both defense and with welcoming visiting diplomats.

Our heroes ride through the castle’s gate/portcullis which is conveniently left open for them. The music becomes ominous as the camera holds on Madmartigan, looking around in confusion. We then see the castle’s interior courtyard, all grey brick and mud, with no people in site. As Madmartigan calls out “Hello?” the camera pans over to the what looks like a person frozen in a block of ice. Throughout the scene, we’ll see more of these frozen people placed around this location.

Madmartigan says “Why did I listen to you, peck?” He then impersonates Willow sarcastically, saying, “It’ll be all right once we get to Tir Asleen.” Willow gets off his horse and examines another frozen person. Madmartigan says “The only army around here is the one that’s about to ride across this valley and wipe us out.” Also showing disappointment, Willow says, “But Cherlindrea said we’d be safe here.” Madmartigan points to another frozen person and says “Safe? Look at these people. This place is cursed, Peck. It’s falling apart. Open your eyes.” He then steps in some yellowish-brown stuff (fine, it’s poop) and deduces, “Trolls.” Willow looks around fearfully and says, “I hate trolls.”

“This is the work of Bavmorda,” Raziel says while perched on top of a frozen person. Okay, this one line explains a lot, so let’s get into the tie-in lore for specifics. Remember that this is where Bavmorda and Fin Raziel were raised. After Bavmorda successfully seduced the king, she froze him and the rest of the populace not in ice but in crystal quartz. It was after that that Bavmorda went north and recruited the NockMaar as her personal army. The lore states this happened years earlier, which begs the question of why our heroes didn’t know Tir Asleen had fallen. I suppose Galladoorn and Tir Asleen had little to no interaction, and Cherlindrea didn’t know because she is unable to leave her forest. Back to the scene, there are reaction shots from the baby, Madmartigan, and Willow, and then Raziel says, “Willow. The wand. Turn me back into my human form.” He answers, “Are you sure?”

Madmartigan opens a door somewhere else in the courtyard. He’s in a room full of weapons. He excitedly checks out two crossbows, throwing one over his shoulder and laughing. He picks up a sword and does that swing-it-around move we saw him do earlier, and says “good.” He then looks up and sees a suit of armor, lit dramatically from behind. This puts a big smile on his face. Why did Bavmorda’s forces just leave all these weapons here after taking down the kingdom? She have thought she didn’t need them, with her sights set on the NockMaar instead.

Outside, we get the movie’s next deleted scene, where Raziel points out one of the frozen people is the king of Tir Asleen, Sorsha’s father. The lore reveals his name is King Tanthalos IX. Raziel says, “Hurry, Willow. Transform me.” He says, “I can’t do it. I’m just not a sorcerer.” Raziel says, “But you can be. Speak and be one with the words.” Willow says the magic words, and the wand starts glowing blue. It appears as though Raziel’s feathers begin turning white, but it’s hard to tell. She hopes around and flutters her wings, saying, “Oh Willow, you’re losing me.” Willow hears the sound of horses and looks up to see the Nockmaar soldier approaching towards the open gate. He calls for Madmartigan and says Kael is coming.

We then hear Raziel’s voice, slightly different this time, say “Willow!” He looks over and discovers, she has been transformed from a bird into a goat. “You idiot,” she says. I guess this means her “You can be” line a minute ago was just her placating Willow, and she still has doubts as to whether he can truly help her.

Madmartigan comes out wearing the armor, along with a silly-looking helmet with a crest of long white hair atop it. He says to Willow “Arm that catapult up there.” He then rushes over to the door and pushes it shut, having to press against the wall behind him with his legs to do so. Note that this is a different gate/portcullis then the one the heroes rode through earlier, as it’s much larger. We can assume Madmartigan shut that one as well. It takes a lot of effort, but he gets both doors closed as the NockMaar ride at full gallop right out of it. They stop as Madmartigan bars the door shut. He takes a second to laugh at them through a small opening in the door. He turns around and sees Raziel, who says, “Good work, Madmartigan.” He stops with shock and says, “What the hell happened to you?” This usually gets a big laugh from viewers.

Next: Trolling.


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Fantastic Friday: Fantastic Force Part 1

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. The FF broke up at the end of the last issue, so it’s time for the next generation to step up and fill the void. Marvel published 18 issues of the spinoff Fantastic Force in the mid-90s. Here’s the first half.

Fantastic Force is:

  • Franklin Richards, now a telepathic teenager thanks to time travel craziness.
  • Huntara, barbarian swordswoman and long-lost stepsister to the FF’s Reed Richards.
  • Vibraxas, a teen Wakandan mutant, with earthquake-creating powers.
  • Devlor, an inhuman teen who can transform into a giant apelike monster.
  • Black Panther, who acts the mentor/Professor X type for the team.

Issue #1

We begin right after the breakup of the Fantastic Four, with T’Challa (a.k.a. the Black Panther) encouraging Frankling and Huntara to stay with him and start a new team to carry on the FF’s legacy. Vibraxas and Huntara don’t get along, both too eager for a fight, while Devlor just wants to fit in and enjoy human stuff like TV and hamburgers for the first time. Klaw attacks T’Challa’s fancy Manhattan loft, reminding us that he’s one of Black Panther’s chief antagonists. With Franklin’s telepathic help, the new heroes manage to work together and defeat Klaw. They decide to stick together as Fantastic Force.

Issue #2

Our heroes battle new villains Zarathrustra and Lord Moses, who reside beneath the Arctic Circle. The baddies are after an experimental “omnivirus” which has the potential to cure all diseases. Vibraxas threatens to quit the team (a breakup plotline in only the second issue?) but eventually joins the fight.

Isssue #3

Franklin insists that Devlor be enrolled in school, which Devlor sees as “captivity.” The Inhuman known as the Seeker attacks, hoping to return Devlor to the Inhumans. There’s a big fight, but the Seeker comes around and ends things as friends with Devlor. There’s also some real cringe-y ‘90s preachiness as Vibraxas learns a very special lesson about racism.

Issue #4

The mad scientists at AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) create a new Super Adaptiod, which goes on the loose, heading straight for NYC. Captain America, suffering a loss of his strength from his super-soldier super-serum, fights the Adaptoid. The Fantastic Force goes shopping so Huntara can buy “normal girl” clothes, while Vibraxas stops a convenience store robbery. The team helps Captain America fight the Adaptoid, with Huntara opening a portal and transporting it into a “void of non-existence.” Cap gives the young heroes an approving pep talk.

Issue #5.

While exploring New York at night, Huntara comes across a rave and tries to help a woman in trouble. She then is confronted by the symbiote Dreadface. Franklin joins the fight, and Dreadface temporarily takes over Franklin. Huntara eventually banishes Dreadface to another realm, like she did with the Adaptiod. Meanwhile, Lord Arcadus, current ruler of the Inhumans after the fall of the Royal Family, is investigating Devlor in hopes of returning him to the moon.

Issue #5

The public learns of Fantastic Force’s existence after the media catches them defeating the Grey Gargoyle. Then there’s more preachiness about cultural sensitivity in the midst of a gang war between an Asian gang called the Sons on Sinaju and the Wakandan Lords. Fantastic Force breaks up the fight, with Franklin proudly proclaiming that they’re more than a team — they’re family.

Issue #7.

We cross back into Fantastic Four continuity when Fantastic Four is approached by Lyja the Skrull, who says she’s concerned about Sue Richard’s safety. The team follows Sue to Doctor Doom’s castle, where Franklin learns that “Dr. Doom” is currently his grandfather Nathaniel Richards in disguise. The team then teleports to the Watcher’s home on the moon, where they are reunited with the Fantastic Four, and help rescue Sue from the Negative Zone. There’s a lot of talk about contacting the leaders of the Watchers, ending on a cliffhanger leading into Fantastic Four #400.

Issue #8

This issue is part 7 of Marvel’s 11-part Atlantis Rising crossover, so we’re dealing with the destruction of Attlian, Thor fighting Morgan Le Fay, and Atlantis emerging onto the ocean’s surface. Franklin, Huntara and Devlor fight the crossover’s main villains, the Crimson Cadre, while Vibraxas deals with the drama of having accidentally killed a gang member during the gang fight in issue #5. Finally, a reporter named Paul Alvarez catches up with the team, claiming that Huntara is really his long-lost sister.

Issue #9

This is part 9 of Atlantis Rising. Meanwhile, the city of Attilan survived, being shrunk down inside a bottle and all the crossover participants are fighting over it. That Alvarez guy claims that his sister disappeared into a mysterious portal when she was a child, only to be snatched into another timeline by Nathaniel Richards, who raised her as his own. Huntara doesn’t buy it, but Franklin considers it. The team then travels again to Latveria, to rescue the FF’s own Johnny Storm from being brainwashed by Maximus the Mad. Finally, a child version of Franklin appears, wearing his “Tattletale” costume from Power Pack. This is not the return of classic kid Franklin, even though that’s what the issue wants you think. What it really is, is…

To be continued!

Four and a half: The series establishes that Franklin’s “hound” scars he got in the Days of Future Past timeline appear on his face whenever there is space-time weirdness nearby, basically an early-warning sign that villains are in the area.

Barbarian swordswoman: According to the Marvel Wiki, the mystery of Huntara’s origin is never revealed. Most fans seem to agree that she is not Alvarez’s long-lost sister, and the sister is really Zarathrustra from issue #2 but, again, the truth has never been revealed. The Marvel Wiki also states that Huntara’s birth name is Tara Richards.

Good vibrations: Although initially introduced as a mutant, this series establishes that Vibraxas was exposed to energized Vibranium as a child. His body is infused with the Vibranium, giving him his vibratory powers.

Talkin’ ‘bout my de-evolution: Lord Arcadus is obsessed with Devlor because he believes Devlor’s evolution-based powers could be the key for all Inhumans to “break free from genetic stagnation.”

Wakanda forever: Aside from letting the team stay in his Manhattan loft (which has its own danger room, of course) and dispensing the occasional bout of fatherly wisdom, Black Panther doesn’t do a whole lot of team mentoring. I guess he prefers the “hands off” approach.

Commercial break: The month of issue #1, Marvel used its precious Bullpen Bulletins page to promote Fantastic Force. Sadly, the promo gets Devlor’s name wrong, calling him “Giganto.”

Fantastic or frightful? All the gang/racism stuff is handled poorly, in that they-meant-well-but-accidentally-made-it-worse way. Also, forcing the book into a bigger crossover creates a lot of confusion, but that’s nothing new for Marvel readers. Other than these two complaints, though, there’s a lot to like in Fantastic Force. It has a lot of the “superhero soap opera” feel that helped make the X-Men so popular for so long.

Next: Fantastic Force goes green.

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Fantastic Friday: Doing the splits

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After teasing a team breakup for several issues now, our heroes finally go their separate ways in issue #292.

Where were we? The Watcher transported Sue, Ben and Johnny into an alternate dimension where Galactus once succeeded in destroying the Earth, in hopes that they could go back and stop him this time. They failed, and this issue starts with alt-universe Reed crying over the death of his teammates. Cut to “an alternate plane” where the Watcher has now teleported Sue, Ben and Johnny, rescuing them from their apparent deaths at the end of the last issue. He says that although they failed, it is not yet their time to die.

With that over, the Watcher teleports the three back to Four Freedoms Plaza where Johnny learns his and Lyja’s “child” was really a Sha’Barri monster sent to kill them. Lyja says now the danger has passed and they can start anew, but Johnny won’t have it. He calls her a  “miserable witch” and he is angry over all the times she deceived him. He leaves, saying “from this forward, wherever the human torch flies, he flies alone!”

Namor wants to comfort Sue, but Ant-Man suggests they give the original team some space. He leads Namor and new character Rafael Suarez outside. Lyja also leaves, saying that without Johnny, there is no reason for her to stay. Now it’s Ben’s turn to comfort Sue, saying the Fantastic Four had split up before and always reunited, but Sue argues that the FF is “an idea whose time is finally over.” They are interrupted by the arrival of the Dark Raider, still on his quest to kill every alternate Reed Richards in every alternate universe. He again demands that Sue and Ben turn over the Reed of their universe. They fight, with the Dark Raider driving Sue and Ben back with a high-tech “tornado whip.”

On the roof of Four Freedoms Plaza, teenage Franklin and barbarian swordswoman Huntara arrive in their stolen time sled, in response to the psychic vision Franklin had about Sue being in danger. They’re met on the roof by Black Panther, along with Wakandan teen mutant Vibraxas and inhuman teen Devlor. Black Panther has brought the kids there in hopes the FF can help them adjust to their new powers. Franklin, who is still struggling with Malice’s psychic influence in his brain, senses the Dark Raider inside the building.

Sue and Ben are no match for the Dark Raider, whose gadgets are designed as counter attacks for each of their powers. He’s not prepared for Black Panther and the teens, though. Vibraxas knocks him off his feet with earthquake powers, Black Panther has a bunch of high tech gadgets of his own, Huntara’s psionic blade can slice through the Raider’s force fields. Devlor transforms into a giant monster (that’s his power — he de-evolves) but the Raider takes him out of the fight. Sue and Franklin set aside their differences for a combined attack on the Raider, only for him to drive them back again.Then the Watcher reappears, saying it’s time for the truth. The Dark Raider takes off his mask to reveal that he is… Reed Richards!


Sue quickly deduces that this is yet another Reed from yet another alternate dimension. The Raider says his world was destroyed thanks to his/Reed’s careless curiosity, so he’s made it his mission to seek and destroy all Reeds in all realities. The Raider then reveals he has Galactus’ Ultimate Nullifier, and he threatens to use it, taking out the whole planet if he has to.

Sue says the heroes must find a way to shatter the Dark Raider’s mental control of the Nullifier, and she and Franklin both consider Malice. Working together, Franklin and Sue transfer Malice from Franklin’s mind into the Dark Raider’s mind. This distracts the Dark Raider long enough to lose control of the Nullifier, allowing the FF to snatch it. The Watcher says the Dark Raider is too dangerous to let live, and must be killed. Sue insists that the FF are not murderers (this despite her having murderous intent in recent issues) so the Watcher breaks his sacred vow and kills the Dark Raider (and Malice?) right in front of everyone. Overcome by his actions, the Watcher says he will now exile himself to a place so distant that there is nothing to watch.

Without pausing for a breath, Sue goes right back into insisting that Reed (her universe’s Reed, that is) is still alive, and she plans to leave the FF and search for him on her own. Ben starts to disagree, but Franklin steps in and says Sue is free to make her own choices. Sue, Ben, and Franklin say a teary goodbye as Sue takes the time sled and leaves. Black Panther, who is still hanging around with the super-powered teens, asks what will become of the Fantastic Four. Ben says from now on, he’s flying solo as, “the Fantastic One.”

Fade out: Sue believes that the Dark Raiders attack is proof positive that her Reed is still alive, hence the extra motivation for leaving.

Clobberin’ time: Ben tells Sue to call him if she ever needs help, throwing a bone to readers who can guess the team’s breakup is temporary.

Flame on: In addition to leaving because of Lyja, Johnny also has a line stating that he’s through risking his neck, and says he’s done with venturing into the unknown.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Ant-Man does his part simply by playing peacemaker, and knowing when his teammates need some personal space. He no doubt picked up these skills during his time with the Avengers.

Four and a half: After being at odds for so long, Franklin and Sue finally accept one another as mother and son.

The Alicia problem: An argument could be made that Lyja truly does love Johnny, but this whole pregnancy-was-really-a-killer-alien-implant thing does make her look bad. Look for her behavior to take another turn in issues to come.

Commercial break: Welcome to my reality.

Trivia time: What’s with these new characters? This is the “stealth pilot” for Marvel’s upcoming Fantastic Force spinoff series, starring Franklin, Huntara, Vibraxas and Devlor, with Black Panther acting as their Professor X mentor-type.

This issue is the final appearance of Rafael Suarez, who got laser-blasting super powers from Lyja. They brought back Wildstreak during Civil War, but not this guy?

Fantastic or frightful? This issue would appear to be the big finale, wrapping up a bunch of subplots that have been going on for a long time now, except I’ve read ahead a little, and these subplots are going to keep on sub-plotting.

Next: Nothin’ but puppets.


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Fantastic Friday: Out of timeline

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #391 has a time travel within an alternate timeline and a fight against a tentacle monster. You know, the usual.

The Watcher has teleported Sue, Ben and Johnny to alternate timeline where that version of the FF failed to stop Galactus the first time Galactus came to Earth. After explaining this, the Watcher then sent the heroes back in time to that timeline’s 1960s for a second chance at stopping Galactus, but without Reed this time. If you think this is confusing, try reading the actual comic. Meanwhile, the egg that Lyja laid is starting to hatch, just after she informed Johnny he is not really the father. If you think this recap is confusing, try reading the actual comics.

We begin with FF and the alt-timeline Silver Surfer leading an all-out attack on Galactus. Their attacks have no effect, but the big G does take time to speechify about how he must devour the entire planet in order to survive. Back on “our” Earth new teammember Ant-Man and special guest star Namor the Sub-Mariner return from the alternate timeline to Four Freedoms Plaza, only to find Lyja and new character Rafael Suarez under attack by a giant tentacle monster. Suarez, you might remember, now has Lyja’s “Laserfist” implant, granting him laser-blastin’ super powers.

Then there’s a few more pages of the FF fighting Galactus, with Sue saying they’re only trying to distract him long enough for the alt-timeline Reed to return from Space. This gets us into the “What If?” part of the story, where in this timeline, Reed instead of Johnny was sent to space to collect the Ultimate Nullifier. While inside Galactus’ home, Reed becomes distracted by all the scientific wonders he sees there, with one almost blowing up in his face. Despite getting distracted, he insists that he must find the Nullifier soon.

On Earth, Ant-Man shrinks to teeny size and flies into the egg, only to discover it is bigger on the inside. He manages to temporarily distract the creature, saving Lyja and Suarez, but this just makes the creature angrier, and it attacks again. During the fight with Galactus, things go pretty much the same as they did in the ‘60s, until Galactus flat-out murders the Silver Surfer. This unleashes a wave of cosmic power so great it forces the FF off the roof and into their building.

Then we cut to the Black Panther, who is meeting with the Inhuman royal family. The Inhumans are currently on Earth, traveling incognito as circus performers. Black Panther introduces Vibraxas, a Wakandan teen who has developed super-powers. Black Panther wants the Inhumans’ help in locating the Fantastic Four, so the FF can help understand Vibraxas’ powers and maybe teach the rebellious kid a thing or two about how to behave. Medusa says they can’t help him, but the Inhumans have a similar problem, a troubled super-powered teen of their own.

In the alternate timeline, the FF regroup inside the alt-Baxter Building. The Watcher reappears to give them a pep talk, saying that throughout all timelines, the FF have a history of beating the odds. He adds, however, that he refuses to tell them any more of his plan.  Sue finds some ‘60s-era original FF uniforms and has the team wear them to replace the ones that got torn up in the fight. She, Sue and Johnny agree that they are likely to die when they attack Galactus again, saying that if this is to be the FF’s final battle, they will go down fighting.

On Earth, Lyja kinda/sorta explains that the egg creature is a Skrull Sha’Barri. She further explains that Paibok the Power-Skrull implanted the creature inside her at her “weakest moment” hoping the creature would destroy the FF once the egg is hatched. Saying “This is personal” Lyja shape-changes into a second Sha’Barri and the two of them fight.

In the other timeline, the FF attack Galactus, managing to distract him from building his world-devouring machine on the roof. Galactus turns Ben back into a human (why?) but Ben keeps fighting, only for Galactus to seemingly kill him. Galactus then seemingly kills Johnny. Sue goes all super-violent and throws a spear-shaped force field right through Galactus’ chest. This doesn’t bother Galactus in the slightest. He attacks Sue with such ferocity that she feels herself “catapulted” across multiple dimensions. She then sends out the “They’re all dead” message that we saw back in issue #378 that started all this.

On Earth, Lyja has defeated the creature, and collapses from exhaustion. Ant-Man, Namor and Suarez then also see Sue’s message. Elsewhere we catch up to teenage Franklin and barbarian swordswoman Huntara flying around on their stolen time sled, when Franklin is hit by a powerful psychic premonition. He knows this means that Sue, Ben and Johnny are dead. Turn the page and we see Galactus standing over the dead FF in triumph.

To be continued!

Unstable Molecule: Alt-Reed fears he may have activated Galactus’ device with his mind. Could this be a shout-out to issues #74-77 when Reed used his mind to contact Galactus in distant space.

Fade out: Sue says she has always believed in the sanctity of life, except that Galactus pushed her to such extremes that she has no choice but to try to kill him.

Clobberin’ time: It’s hard to tell, but it appears that when Ben is turned back into a human, he still has the scars on his face he got from Wolverine back in issue #374.

Flame on: Johnny spends the issue wanting to get back to Lyja, and he says that if the team survives the fight with Galactus he plan on resigning from the FF. So they’re still foreshadowing an upcoming team break-up storyline.

Fantastic fifth wheel: Namor refers to Ant-Man as “Scott” suggesting they have some familiarity thanks to all of Ant-Man’s time spent among the Avengers.

Catching up with Medusa, she and the Inhuman royal family fled the moon after their battle with Ahura in Fantastic Four Unlimited #2. They got their new gig as circus performers in Namor #45. Medusa also had a cameo at the start of the Starblast crossover.

Four and a half: When Franklin gets his psychic vision, his “Hound” scars temporarily reappear on his face, reminding us that his time-travel adventures also included the X-Men’s Days of Future Past apocalypse (or something like it).

The Alicia problem: We don’t see the fight between Lyja and the Sha’Barri, but we’re told that Lyja had to go to a dark mental place to defeat it, and the others worry what affect this will have on her mind. Because she hasn’t been through enough already, I guess.

Commercial break: The X-Men were so huge at the time that Marvel put an X-Men ad right over this regular ad. Also, kid fashion.

Trivia time: On the letters page, editor Ralph Macchio is not credited as editor, but as “Waste,” and assistant editor Matt Idelson is credited as “Assistant Waste.” The letters page is similarly lined with jokes (or not?) about the FF’s demise and how this is “the end.” I really wonder what goes in the Marvel offices sometimes.

Fantastic or frightful? Having the main story take place in an alternate timeline makes the story feel low stakes. Sure, a world is in danger, but it’s not a world we know anything about. It’s a crisis in abstract, not an immediate crisis. It’s an improvement over the last few issues thanks to some extreme ’90s action, but there’s not much else to recommend.

Next: Raiders a’plenty.


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


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Willow (1988) rewatch – Part 34

Watching the 1988 movie Willow scene-by-scene. Why? Because it’s freakin’ Willow! Hepburn and Tracy have nothing on Madmartigan and Sorsha, 1:22:01-1:24:27 on the Blu-ray.

We begin with a mini travel montage, showing our heroes traverse some country, going from snowy to less snowy. They enter an area with a bunch of rocky crags all around them. Fin Raziel, still in her bird form says “This way! This way!” Does she remember the way to Tir Asleen, or can she merely see the way ahead by flying high above everyone? She adds, “As the crow flies, you fools.” Calling them “fools” seems unlike her at first, but remember that she was unhappy about Willow being more farmer than sorcerer, and she’s just a few scenes away from her calling Willow an idiot. The camera pans upward to reveal this area to be a massive maze of some sort, with multiple paths leading in different directions.


Fade to Madmartigan and Sorsha, still on the back of their horse. She says, “You’re holding me too tight,” only for him to respond, “I don’t want you to get away.” If they’re haven’t gotten off the horse yet, this means it’s likely only been a few hours’ travel. Sorsha continues, “Why? Because I’m your sun, your moon, your starlit sky?” Again, if it’s been a few hours, we can assume she’s been waiting for just the right moment to start in on him like this. He snaps back with, “Get your hair out of my face or I’ll chop it off.” (He’s one to talk about big hair.)


We cut to a different angle of the two of them, suggesting a passage of time, if only a minute or two. Madmartigan says, “Did I really — Did I really say those things last night in your tent?” I like the stutter at the start of that sentence, showing some vulnerability as he approaches the subject. She says he told her he loved her, and he says he doesn’t remember. “You lied to me,” she says. “No, I just wasn’t myself last night,” he says. She lays on the sarcasm, saying, “I suppose my power enchanted you, and you were helpless against it.” He says, “Sort of,” and she asks, “Then what?” He answers, “It went away?”


Sorsha goes from sarcastic to downright angry, saying “It went away? ‘I dwell in darkness without you’ and it went away?” He simply nods and says “Yeah.” This has apparently been the moment Sorsha has been waiting for, because she elbows Madmartigan in the side, making a “yip!” noise, and scrambles off the horse while he reacts with pain and surprise. He gets off the horse and chases her, with them both scrambling to the ground and rolling around in the grass. (It’s almost as if their wrestling is a metaphor for something.)

Madmartigan ends up on top of Sorsha. There’s a very quick reaction shot of Willow as he watches this with a somewhat noncommittal look on his face. Madmartigan says “Whoa” and there’s a few seconds of he and Sorsha looking into each other’s eyes as the score gets all romantic. Unfortunately, Fin Raziel interrupts the mood by squawking, “Hurry! Kael is coming!” Madmartigan gets up to his feet, holding Sorsha by her wrists as she once again struggles to escape. Willow calls for Madmartigan to come on. Madmartigan tries to lift up Sorsha bride-over-the-threshold style, but she resists by punching him. He falls over and she kicks him in the groin before running off. This often gets a laugh from audiences, but I don’t know that it’s intended to be a joke. Looks to me like Sorsha is merely being smart and making sure he doesn’t pursue her.

Madmartigan gets up and starts to pursue Sorsha. Willow again pleads, “Madmartigan, come on!” and Fin Raziel says, “They’re coming! Away!” Willow gives his horse a “hyah!” and takes off. The camera then follows Madmartigan as he runs to his horse and climbs onto the saddle. We then see Sorsha stop and look back, only for Madmartigan to also look back at her. Their eyes meet again. Instead of romance, the music this time remains suspenseful. Sorsha turns and runs in one direction, and Madmartigan rides his horse in the other.

This followed up by a very short scene of General Kael and a bunch of NockMaar soldiers as they round a corner. They stop, Kael does that horse side-step move that you always see in cowboy movies. He looks over the ground in front of him and says, “This way!” His horse takes off at a gallop, and the rest follow. I wonder if he was meant to reunite with Sorsha in this scene, but they didn’t film it. Without that, all we get is that Kael is in close pursuit of our heroes, and he’s able to follow their tracks with a mere glance.

 Next: Every Willow has its thorns. 


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