Fantastic Friday: Diablo a go-go

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. A new writer/artist takes over in vol. 3 #35, where our heroes fight both an evil alchemist and a bunch of lawyers.  

Before we begin, note that writer Chris Claremont is outta here! This issue begins a run for Carlos Pacheco as writer and penciler, with Rafael Marin as co-writer/co-plotter. It would appear that Claremont and artist Salvador LaRocca left to debut X-Treme X-Men when all the X-books got big reworking in 2001. (This is when we got Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly on New X-Men, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred on X-Force/X-Statix, among others.) My question is, with Pacheco writing, why do fans always credit Claremont with the controversial birth of Valeria, which we’re only a few issues away from? Also, the Fantastic Fourth Voyage of Sinbad one-shot won’t be published for almost a year after this, and it’s written by Claremont and continues a bunch of storylines Claremont introduced. Was Claremont still an invisible guiding hand in Fantastic Four under Pacheco, or are the fans mistaken? We may never know.

Carlos Pacheco

What we do know is that Pacheco and Martin got their start publishing indie comics in their home country of Spain, which got them work for Marvel UK, which then got them work with regular ol’ Marvel. He worked on X-Men, Excalibur, Inhumans, and the Avengers Forever maxi-series which is arguably his best-known work. He’s also no stranger to Fantastic Four, as he drew the two issues of the series that took place during the Onslaught crossover.

Issue #35 begins with mailperson Willie Lumpkin delivering a huge package to Pier 4. Ben and Johnny open it to discover it’s a big mirror. Strange creatures leap out of the mirror to attack Ben, while a pair of hands grab Johnny around the neck, strangling him. The hands belong to Diablo, the evil alchemist, who knocks Johnny unconscious as he steps through the mirror into Pier 4.

Cut to Hell’s Kitchen, where Reed and Sue are meeting with lawyers Foggy Nelson and Jeryn Hogarth, along with a roomful of other lawyers. The opposing side represents a group called the Gideon Board. They represent the late Gregory Gideon, the genius supercriminal the FF faced back in the Lee/Kirby days. But now they say they’re good guys. After appearing to be dead for several months (during the Heroes Reborn event) and then the alliance with Dr. Doom (which was really Reed trapped in Doom’s armor), the FF’s stock has fallen far, and now the Gideon Group wants to purchase Pier 4, and all of Reed’s inventions. The FF can still survive financially from patents from Reed’s inventions, the lawyers say, but only if he invents them for the Gideon Group. Reed says he’s concerned about the FF’s financial future and that he’ll sign the contract. Foggy steps in and says that Sue is both Reed’s business partner and business manager, and that the deal requires her signature as well.

Back at Pier 4, Diablo summons a hurricane (indoors?) to fight Ben. All the little monsters join together to form one big monster, strong enough to knock Ben unconscious. Diablo then feeds a strange potion to Johnny, causing Johnny’s flame to burst around him as he screams in pain.

Back in Hell’s Kitchen, the legal meeting is ending, and we don’t yet see whether Sue signed the deal. Sue, Reed, Foggy, and Hogarth are then attacked by water and fire elementals. The heroes and the elementals recognize each other, having fought before. Sue and Reed rescue the lawyers, and there’s a couple of pages of them fighting the elementals throughout the streets of New York.

Reed and Sue make it to Pier 4 only to find the water elemental trashing the building. Code Blue, the NYPD’s superhuman response unit, is on the scene, and they say they can’t break through the elemental’s barrier. Also there is a young woman named Blanca, who describes herself as “last of the Deacons.” Then we get a retelling of Diablo’s origin, how his potions gave him immortality, adding that the Deacons are a group secretly devoted to stopping Diablo over the years.

Sue uses her force field to open a path into Pier 4, basically ripping a hole in the elemental. She, Reed, and Blanca enter the pier. The Gideon Trust limo pulls up outside, revealing that Sue also signed the deal, transferring ownership of the pier and all of Reed’s tech to the trust. Then, in a case of perfect timing, the pier explodes right in front of them.

To be continued!

Also, this issue has a two-page preview of Ultimate Spider-Man #1. Peter Parker goes to a science lab and is bitten by a chemically engineered (not radioactive) spider. I wonder what will happen.

Unstable molecule: Reed says Dr. Strange has lent him some books about Diablo (where’d he get those?) but the Deacons are barely mentioned in them.

Fade out: Sue mentions trying out her force fields in the style of Iceman’s ice bridges that he moves around on. Except Sue has done this before. I guess there’s a difference between a force field bridge and a force field bridge that propels you forward with momentum.

Clobberin’ time: Ben has been getting letters from Alicia that he hasn’t opened. After spending all this time as a supporting character (and love interest?) in the pages of Silver Surfer, Alicia returned to Earth and she and the Surfer parted ways in the miniseries Galactus the Devourer.

Flame on: The issue begins with Ben and Johnny fighting over a copy of Vanity Fare (not Fair) that has Johnny on the cover. The magazine suggests Johnny pursuing a film career, which will become a storyline in upcoming issues.

Fantastic fifth wheel: She-Hulk shows up in this ad, featuring the winner of a “you can get drawn into a Marvel comic” contest.

Commercial break: The fine print says they also have DVDs!

Trivia time: This issue suggests that something is up with mailperson Willie Lumpkin. It’s a mystery how she carries the giant mirror by herself, and then she appears to vanish. Sadly, this is pretty much it for Willie. She won’t reappear until the Fantastic Four: True Story miniseries in 2008. Then her only other appearance is a cameo a year later. The Marvel wiki confirms Willie has no superpowers, so maybe Diablo’s magic is to blame for her odd behavior in this one.

Fantastic or frightful? Pacheco certainly comes out swinging. His first issue has a lot of classic FF-isms, but he also is here to shake things up in terms of Pier 4 and the FF’s future. Peeking ahead to future issues, Pacheco will certainly make his mark on Fantastic Four (and Marvel!) history.

Next: Cash for gold!

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Superdoo

Rewatching DuckTales! In episode 20, “Superdoo,” side character Doofus gets a starring role this time. Because that’s what the fans want, right?

Here’s what happens: Launchpad is leading the Junior Woodchucks on a camping trip, but poor Doofus is so klutzy he’s ruining everyone else’s fun. Smash cut to outer space, where two alien crooks are on the run from the “star police” after stealing an energy crystal. The hide the crystal on Earth for safekeeping, and Doofus finds it the next morning.

The aliens return to Earth, saying that whoever holds the crystal is given great power. They’re concerned about what will happen when the crystal activates. At camp, Launchpad gives Doofus a speech about positive thinking. That night the crystal manifests strange powers while Doofus sleeps, sending him hovering through the air. He discovers the crystal gives him flight, super strength, and super speed.

Keeping his new powers a secret, Doofus starts earning tons of merit badges. The aliens attack, accidentally starting a forest fire. Doofus dons a makeshift superhero costume and calls himself “Superdoo,” saving the day. Next the aliens try blowing up a nearby dam, and Superdoo saves the day again. Huey, Dewey, and Louie figure out Superdoo’s secret identity, and everyone knows that Doofus didn’t properly earn them. He throws away the crystal, which ends up with a squirrel, who chases the aliens back into space. Wolves then attack the camp, and Doofus saves the day again, this time using his wits.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie are downright bullies to Doofus at the start of episode, hurling insults at him. By the end, however, they come around to appreciating Doofus.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad is not only a former Junior Woodchuck, but we learn he’s the former world record holder for earning the most merit badges. (The episode doesn’t specify whether that’s just for this troop, or for the entire world.)

Do the doo: While the premise is supposed to be Doofus becoming a superhero, it’s really about him learning not to be an a-hole braggart once he goes from being a loser to a winner.

Foul fowls: The aliens aren’t given proper names. They’re just “green alien” and “purple alien.” I really want to learn about this Star Police that’s chasing the aliens, but there’s no entry in the Disney Wiki.  

Down in Duckburg: The other two Junior Woodchucks are named Bill and Webster. Their voices are really annoying.

Reference row: The aliens speak in a kind of formal/kind of backwards speech pattern, which bears a strong familiarity to a certain Jedi master.

Thoughts upon this viewing: A superhero adventure combined with a summer camp comedy sounds right up my alley. But this is really a morality tale, where Doofus has to learn valuable lessons about working hard and having respect for himself and others. Kind of a missed opportunity.

Next: Duck’s Creed: Valhalla.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Obliterator? I hardly know her

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Vol. 3 # 34 features an alien invasion, time travel, and more all in the usual 22 pages.

Let’s try to recap this. After their headquarters were attacked, the FF’s investigation leads them to the small Arizona town of Revelation. Ben and Reed meet two locals, Quinn and Miranda, who are dinosaur-like aliens hiding while pretending to human. They are survivors of an alien race nearly destroyed by a force called the Obliterator. Reed’s experiments alerted Earth to the Obliterator’s presence, and now it’s on the way. Meanwhile, Johnny investigated a local werewolf-like legend called the Howler, and met a beautiful woman named Stasia. Then Sue met a mysterious woman who teleported her back to the Old West. Sue befriended old-timey Marvel hero Kid Colt, and they’re on the run from a rival outlaw. Got all that?

We begin with a brief origin of the Obliterator, that it is a world-ending machine, one that took on a life of its own, outliving its own creators. Wasting no time, the Obliterator shows up over the town and launches missiles. After some explosions and escapes, one of the missiles transforms into this alien warrior guy, adapting to Earth’s environment, and then trashing City Hall.

Back in the Old West, Sue and Kid Colt have been chased into a mine by the outlaw Kincaid. Sue tells Colt that she can get them out of this without haring anyone. Kincaid tries to kill them with dynamite, but Sue protects them with a force field. Sue feels a breeze, and she and Colt start searching for an alternate way out of the mine.

In the present, Ben fights the Obliterator (which is what we’re calling the missile-monster) and local townfolk join the fight with a full-on artillery of guns and even an armed bi-plane. Johnny and Stasia show up, and Johnny says he was knocked out the by the Howler. Quinn says the Howler is his and Miranda’s long-lost crewmate Zed, whose brain was injured when they came to Earth. Only Zed can find the aliens’ ship, which could be the key to defeating the Obliterator.

Johnny, Miranda and Stasia take off in search of Zed. Along the way, it’s suggested that Stasia is hiding some big secret. Zed is found hiding out in a scrapyard, and Miranda calms him down before a fight could break out. Zed stops acting like an animal and remembers where came from.

In the Old West, Sue and Kid Colt find a giant glowing crystal inside the mine. The crystal emits a strange radiation, and when Sue looks into it, she sees images of her past and potential future. Kid Colt vanishes, and the antique store woman who sent Sue to the past appears in his place. She tells Sue that Sue was meant to see something inside the crystal.

In the present, Reed and Quinn fight the Obliterator, using a “random frequency plasma field” to hold him at bay temporarily. Sue returns from the Old West (how?) and leads the FF back to the crystal, which is still buried in the old mine. Reed says he can use the crystal as a chronal bomb, scattering the Obliterator’s atoms throughout time itself. Then Zed returns with the aliens’ lightship, which can get the crystal on board the Obliterator mothership and contain the explosion.

Everyone prepares for the spaceflight. Stasia says an emotional goodbye to Johnny, saying it would never work out between them, adding, “You’ll be better off without me.” Ben pilots the lightship into the mothership, with Johnny fighting back the mothership’s defenses. They plant the bomb and it goes off, giving the FF another glimpse of their past and alternate futures. They return safely to Earth, and Ben destroys the Obliterator human/missile form with a classic “It’s clobberin’ time!”

The townspeople gather around to celebrate. The antique store woman gives Sue a gift, the memoir of Constance Lyedecker, the woman Sue inhabited in the past. Constance and Kid Colt went on to have a romance, apparently. Then Zed takes Johnny out to the nearby graveyard for another reveal – Stasia’s grave. She’s a local legend, a 1950s hot-rod racer who died in a fiery crash. Ben says “You look like you’ve seen a…” but Johnny stops him, not wanting to hear it. The FF say their goodbyes and head back to New York, which Johnny says is “someplace normal” when compared to Revelation.

Unstable molecule: One alternate timeline shows Reed in the future wearing an exo-skeleton with crutches. It’s left to our imagination as to the story behind that.

Fade out: Sue’s glimpse into the crystal shows her in the future as a grey-haired old lady. The other scenes she sees are merely references to past FF comics.

Clobberin’ time: The alien lightship attaches itself directly to Ben’s brain, so he can fly it just by thinking. It takes him a bit to get used to it, but his knowledge as a pilot eventually comes in handy during the mission.

Flame on: This issue suggests a romance between Stasia and Johnny, leading me to believe that Johnny and Namorita had broken up off-panel. I did some more research, and although the Johnny/Namorita romance doesn’t continue in New Warriors, it’ll be dealt with again in Fantastic Four, but not for a little while.

Four and a half: Franklin appears in one of Sue’s flashbacks.

Commercial break: Mutant sale!

Trivia time: Not surprisingly, this is the last time the town of Revelation ever appeared. That makes this the final appearance of Quinn, Miranda, Zed the Howler, Stasi, and the Obliterator. This issue states that Revelation is a home for refugees of all kinds, suggesting that the whole town is full of aliens and monsters and whatnot.

Similarly, Kid Colt’s enemy Kincaid only appears in this story arc and nowhere else. Colt’s final confrontation with Kincaid goes unresolves, but I think it’s a safe bet Colt got the better of him.

Kid Colt says he’s seen magic before, thanks to a woman he met in New Orleans. His wiki page has no mention of this, but it does state he encountered Native American-themed magic on multiple occasions.

Fantastic or frightful? I wonder if this two-issue arc was writer John Moore pitching some sort of “supernatural small town” series to Marvel. This is a real puzzle-box type of story, with a lot of characters and moving parts all coming together at the end. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, but I did enjoy this little side-trip to a previously undiscovered part of the Marvel Universe.

Next: Diablo a go-go.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Hero for Hire

Rewatching DuckTales! The series takes on Hollywood and superheroes (timely!) in episode 19, “Hero for Hire.”

Here’s what happens: Scrooge is opening a new branch of the McDuck Bank, which he says is completely burglary-proof thanks to his new anti-Beagle Boy alarm. Launchpad wrecks the bank after a false alarm, so Scrooge fires him. Launchpad’s sidekick Doofus tires to cheer him up, saying Launchpad is a hero no matter what. After several failed attempts at heroism, Launchpad runs into Ma Beagle. She comes up with a plan to use Launchpad’s cluelessness to her own ends.

Ma Beagle and the Beagle Boys pose as Hollywood filmmakers, casting Launchpad as a movie superhero, “The Webbed Wonder.” They trick him into robbing the bank with him thinking it’s a movie role. The newspapers catch wind of what Launchpad has been up to, so he plans to go to the cops and tell them what the Beagle Boys are up to. The Beagle Boys outsmart him, holding Doofus hostage so Launchpad will do their bidding. Then they plot to have the cops arrest Launchpad in their place.

Launchpad escapes from the cops in his Webbed Wonder outfit, crashing his helicopter. Except it wasn’t him, but the chopper’s auto pilot. Launchpad then uses the anti-Beagle Boy alarm to track down the Beagle Boys’ hideout. Despite Launchpad’s dimwittedness, he manages to rescue Doofus while the Beagle Boys blow themselves up with a grenade hidden in a cake (long story). This is followed by a car chase, in which Launchpad leads the Beagle Boys right back to the police, and his reunion with Scrooge. Scrooge rehires Launchpad, but at reduced pay.

Humbug: Scrooge feels remorse and blames himself when he hears Launchpad has taken to robbing banks after being fired. This fits my thesis that DuckTales is the story of Scrooge learning that his newfound extended family is more important than his money.

Fasten your seatbelts: We get a rare glimpse of Launchpad without his pilot helmet. Just look at that hair!

Best brain: Gyro constructed the new bank alarm, and he’s mentioned several times in the episode. However, he only appears in one scene and has no dialogue.

Do the doo: Rather than just be a bumbling fool, Doofus encourages Launchpad to build up his self-esteem. He later leaves a secret message for Launchpad alerting him to the Beagle Boys’ schemes. This plus the next episode appears to be an arc of Doofus earning his cred as a bona fide adventurer.

Foul fowls: It’s the first appearance of Bugle Beagle, who speaks only in jazz lingo. The others are Ma Beagle, Bankjob, and Babyface.

Down in Duckburg: While a previous episode depicted Launchpad living in an attic somewhere, this one has him living in a small shack-like house adjacent to an airfield. The Beagle Boys’ hideout is the same one from “The Money Vanishes.” You’d think the cops would keep an eye on that place.

Reference row: Marvel’s Heroes for Hire got its start in the comic series Luke Cage: Hero for Hire. When the series was renamed Power Man in Iron Fist in 1978, the characters went by the name Heroes for Hire throughout the Marvel Universe for years afterward, even though that was never the title of the comic.

Thoughts upon this viewing: By this point in the rewatch, I’m not sure what to make of Launchpad. The audience wants him to be funny, but the audience also wants him to be the cool hero. This episode is all dumb Launchpad and not enough cool Launchpad.

Next: Camp classic.

****

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Fantastic Friday: Out yonder

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In vol. 3 issue 33, we’ve got small town quirkiness, an alien invasion, and the return of one of Marvel’s earliest heroes.

The issue begins with a mysterious stranger teleporting into Pier 4 and setting a bomb to blow up the FF’s interstellar transceiver. Later, over the skies of Arizona, the team are aboard the Fantasticar when it malfunctions. They narrowly avoid crash-landing in a small desert town called Revelation, and this is followed up with some comedy bits where a small-town deputy threatens to write up the FF for traffic violations. Then more comedy bits with the FF checking into the local hotel.

That night, the deputy, whose name is Beau, visits a mysterious stranger and his daughter and says that the Fantastic Four might be looking for them. The next day, the FF work on the Fantasticar while offering some backstory. They’ve come to Arizona in search of the bomber from the start of the issue, who left behind trace minerals found only in this part of Arizona. Reed also adds that this small town has its own version of Bigfoot, called “the Howler.” As the others go off on various business, a figure in silver body armor attacks Ben, electrocuting him. The stranger attacks Reed next, talking about “pain and loss,” while Reed deduces this is the bomber, who also shot down the Fantasticar. There’s a fight, and Reed is also electrocuted.

Elsewhere, Sue visits a local antique store, which offers a magic mirror that shows people a different reflection each time. Sue doesn’t believe it, but when she looks into the mirror she’s teleported back to the Old West (!). She comes across western hero Kid Colt, and he believes she is someone named Constance Lyendecker. She helps Colt fight off an enemy cowboy, and the two of them head out into the desert while Sue hopes for answers.

Back in the present, Johnny flies recon around the desert where he runs into the Howler, who is some sort of goat/werewolf monster. As Johnny continues searching for it, it attacks him from behind and knocks him out. He wakes up on a roadside, where he’s picked up by a beautiful woman, Stasia Contrares.

Ben and Reed follow their attacker’s heat trace back to its source, a high-tech dome cloaked from the outside world. They enter it to find a jungle contained inside. They’re attacked by a dinosaur and spend several minutes fighting it off. They then meet the stranger from earlier, named Quinn, and his daughter Miranda, who is the bomber and attacker. Reed deduces that Quinn and Miranda aren’t human, and they shape-change into their original dinosaur-like forms. Quinn says they are survivors of an alien race nearly destroyed by a force called the Obliterator. They thought they were safe, but Reed’s interstellar transceiver altered the Obliterator to their presence on Earth. Now the Obliterator is on its way to Earth.

To be continued!

Unstable Molecule: There’s a short scene where Reed checks his phone messages, including one from his accountant saying there may be trouble. He says he and Sue have been too busy lately to pay closer attention the FF’s finances.

Fade out: While in Arizona, the FF set up a temporary headquarters in an out-of-business drive-in theater. Sue goes into fond memories about her and Johnny going to the drive-in with their aunt Mary. This is yet another reference to the Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms miniseries.

Clobberin’ time: Ben, on the other hand, says he’s never been to a drive-in theater, because he grew up in NYC. He always thought of going to one as being exotic.

Flame on: This issue has a reference to Johnny flirting with a tattooed guitar-playing girl, and he’s similarly flirtatious with new girl Stasi. But isn’t he supposed to be in a relationship with Namorita during this time? I’ve spent all week researching New Warriors, and all I can conclude is Johnny and Namorita split up off-panel sometime after New Warriors vol. 2 issue 6. If I’m wrong, write in and let me know.

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Girl miniseries revealed that Sue had a secret double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. When she finds herself back in the Old West, Sue is no doubt using her spy training to blend in.

Commercial break: I never heard of this movie before today.

Trivia time: Let’s talk about Kid Colt! The character debuted way back in 1948, and Marvel published Kid Colt comics more or less consistently all the way up to 1979, though a lot of those later years were reprints. Because there wasn’t much in the way of continuity back then, there are two versions of the character, but the gist of it is that Kid Colt is an Old West take on The Fugitive, always on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. Once the Marvel Universe got going in a big way, numerous Marvel heroes met Kid Colt when traveling through time. Marvel then brought Kid Colt back in a big way in the 2000 series Blaze of Glory and 2010’s The Sensational Seven.

Fantastic or frightful? This issue and the next are from guest writer John Moore, and he certainly puts his own spin on Fantastic Four. It’s a fun puzzle-box type of story. It really demands readers pay attention to every panel, and then rewards readers for doing so. I really liked this one.  

Next: Mothership.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Dinosaur Ducks

Rewatching DuckTales! Episode 18 is called “Dinosaur Ducks.” That pretty much says it all.

Here’s what happens: Launchpad is in an exotic locale, on the hunt for a rare bird, where he’s chased off by a giant lizard. Scrooge realizes that Launchpad inadvertently discovered the lost world, where dinosaurs still exist. They head off for an expedition, with the nephews and Webby stowing away.

The nephews are separated from the rest, befriending a baby dinosaur while narrowly escaping from a T-rex. Launchpad and Scrooge are then abducted by caveducks, leaving Webby on her own. She reunites with the three boys, and then the kids rescue Scrooge and Launchpad.

While our heroes befriend the baby dinosaur, Webby befriends the caveducks. Then everyone works together to chase off the T-rex when it attacks again. Scrooge then decides not to take the dinosaurs back home to his zoo, but instead offer helicopter tours over the lost world, so the dinos’ home can remain (relatively) undisturbed.

Humbug: This is the first we’ve seen of Scrooge owning his own zoo, not to mention his insistence that the zoo have its own star attraction.

Junior Woodchucks: The dinosaur that Huey, Dewey, and Louie befriend is a hadrosaur. In real life, the hadrosaur is known for its duckbill-shaped snout. This makes for a nice little in-joke on the animators’ parts.

Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad offers Scrooge the use of a dinosaur-sized helicopter, but then reveals he doesn’t know how to fly it. Where’d he get it from, then?

Maid and maiden: Webby again shows that her “superpower” is her ability to make peace with various monsters and enemies the group comes across. In this one, she wins over the caveducks by telling them a bedtime story that’s a mashup of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. (Oh, she’s that type of Disney fan.)

Foul fowls: The leader of the caveducks keeps wanting to keep Scrooge’s hat for his own. At the end of the episode, Scrooge lets him keep the hat in exchange for Webby’s freedom. This is a variation on my thesis that DuckTales is the story of Scrooge learning that his family is more important than his wealth.

Down in Duckburg: Remember that grey-haired lady who was seen seated next to Scrooge in place of Mrs. Beakeley a few episodes back? That character gets a proper introduction this time. She’s Mrs. Featherby, Scrooge’s receptionist.

Reference row: By throwing around the phrase “lost world” throughout, the writers aren’t hiding that this episode is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s original dinosaur classic The Lost World. The dinosaurs in this one even live on an isolated plateau, just as the ones in Doyle’s story do.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Pretty short on plot, but a lot of chases and action. I guess I liked this one, as it’s another throwback to old-timey pulp adventure.

Next: That’ll look great on a t-shirt.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: Stay wet, y’all

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Want a change of scenery? Vol. 3 issue #32 takes us out on the high seas.

We begin with Sue sinking to the bottom of the ocean. She tries to hold her breath for as long as she can, but eventually passes out. On the surface, the FF and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating a missing yacht. Johnny dives into the water. His flames turn into steam, allowing him to “fly” underwater. The yacht is destroyed, but Johnny believes Sue (who was apparently on board) survived.

Aboard the Coast Guard helicopter, Reed provides the backstory. He explains that Sue is an experienced sailor (!) and that she and Reed designed the yacht together (!). Sue went sailing without Reed, needing some personal space after all they’d recently been through, only for an unexpected storm to wreck the yacht. At the bottom of the ocean, Sue wakes up discovering that she can breathe. This is thanks to the necklace Namor gave her back in issue #27 when he thought Sue was marrying Dr. Doom (it was Reed in disguise). The necklace allows her to breathe, see, and swim the ocean’s darkest depths.

The FF continue to investigate the wreckage, finding a trail that might lead them to Sue. In the ocean, Sue tries to reach the surface, but almost succumbs to exhaustion. She’s rescued by Namor. Before they can properly reunite, they’re attacked. The attackers are not Atlanteans but Atlans, which are the Atlanteans from the Heroes Reborn universe, a.k.a. Planet Doom. Sue and Namor flee to a nearby shipwreck. At the surface, the FF continue to investigate, deducing that the storm that destroyed the yacht was no accident but a deliberate attack.

Sue explains to Namor that the Atlans serve a queen of Atlantis from a parallel universe, who is still after Sue after Sue married “Dr. Doom.” She specifically doesn’t tell Namor that it was really Reed pretending to be Dr. Doom. Sue then drops the bomb that this otherworldly queen is a duplicate of Namor’s dead wife Dorma. On cue, Dorma then attacks with a giant sea monster. She threatens to bury Sue and Namor in an undersea avalanche, but Sue stops her with a force field strong enough to block the monster’s attack.

Sue and Dorma fight, while Namor is stunned to see Dorma (or at least a version of her) still alive. The Atlans warriors join the fight, and Sue is defeated now that she’s outnumbered. Namor snaps out of his funk and fights back. Then Johnny shows up with a deep-sea submersible and a specially made pressure suit (and water skis, oddly). His fire works underwater like depth charges, knocking back the Atlan warriors. Namor apprehends Dorma and wants to execute her, but Sue pleads with him to find another way. Namor says he will turn Dorma and the Atlans over the surface authorities for a fair trial, after which she will face further justice in an Atlantis jail.

Sue reunites with Reed, Ben and Johnny on the surface. Reed and Sue admit they were having second thoughts, but after this time apart, Sue says “Come what may, we stand together. The final panel is a dedication to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Unstable molecule: Reed’s deep-sea submersible is named the U.S.C.G. Nantucket and it has a big number 4 on it, suggesting that the FF and the Coast Guard have some sort of official partnership going.

Fade out: The fact that Sue is a world-class sailing expert comes out of nowhere, but then a lot of her history prior to meeting Reed remains an unknown. (The Before the Fantastic Four: The Storms miniseries takes place only one year before Fantastic Four #1.)

Clobberin’ time: The Coast Guard guys are amazed by Ben’s strength, saying he’s more impressive in person than on TV. Ben later dons a wetsuit for deep sea diving, and I’m baffled as to why he would need one.

Flame on: This issue really leans into how Johnny’s flame is no longer weak against water by giving him a whole new set of powers when he’s undersea. He’s also developing his new sensory abilities, able to expand his senses to follow Sue’s heat signature though the water.

Fantastic fifth wheel: While there’s a little hint of Sue and Namor’s romantic-tension past, they mostly stick to working together to repel Dorma’s attacks. He ends the issue content with him and Sue being from two different worlds.

Sue-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman mini-series established that Sue was secretly a S.H.I.E.L.D. spy this whole time. This issue has several pages of her demonstrating her hand-to-hand fighting skills, which is no doubt her spy training at work again.

Commercial break: Not just Pokemon, but Pokemon marbles! Catch ‘em all, etc.

Trivia time: Dorma apparently never went to trial, because the next time we see her in Exiles #81 she’s back in the Heroes Reborn/Planet Doom universe. That ended up being her final appearance to date.

Sue’s yacht is named the Claudia. I’ve no idea who this might refer to. The most well-known Claudia in the Marvel Universe is an early 1900s werewolf who menaced Sabretooth in his solo series. There’s also Peter Parker’s great aunt Claudia Reilly, and a wealthy socialite named Claudia who murdered her husband in an early issue of Uncanny Tales.

Fantastic or frightful? The ocean/Coast Guard setting gives the feel that these characters are scientists/adventurers rather than stock superheroes, which always great to see. A lot of the story is based on picking up the pieces from the previous issues’ stories, so it doesn’t work as a stand-alone. Always great to see Sue hold her own and kick butt in the fights, though.

Next: Yee-haw.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – Sir Gyro de Gearloose

Rewatching DuckTales! The series is a full-on ensemble by this point, so Gyro gets an episode of his own in “Sir Gyro de Gearloose.”

Here’s what happens: Gyro is overworked, repairing his malfunctioning gizmos he’s sold to various Duckburg citizens. He begins to resent his status as the towns “gadget man.” The next day, Huey, Dewey, and Louie discover he’s built a “sub time tub,” a time machine. He wants to go back to a time when his genius can be appreciated.

There’s an accident in the lab, transporting Gyro and the boys back in time to the Arthurian age. They run into King Artie (not Arthur). Gyro uses his smarts to save Artie from the Black Knight, and Artie invites him back to the castle. Gyro lives the high life while the court magician Morloon is jealous.

Artie’s brother Lesdred and the Black Knight plot against Artie, summoning a dragon to attack. Gyro and the boys develop an anti-dragon device, gaining more favor with the king. Gyro continues to dislike being a gadget man, and wants to be a knight for real. He tells the boys he’s never going home.

Lesdred betrays Morloon and lays siege to Artie’s castle. Gryo tries and fails to fight back, while the boys convince Morloon to go back to Artie’s side. The boys reunite with Gyro, convincing him that they need a gadget man where the knights have failed. He builds a giant electromagnet powered by Morloon’s magic, which stops Lesdred’s army. Gyro decides he’s needed more back in the present, with renewed interest in gadgetry.

Junior Woodchucks: Huey, Dewey, and Louie have fun in the past at first, enjoying the Arthurian-era hotdogs, but then get homesick later in the episode.

Best brains: Gyro keeps not wanting to be an inventor, but fate keeps drawing him back to what he’s meant to be. He gets a date with a lady at the end of the episode, but this character’s name is never revealed.

Foul Fowl: Lesdred is a pretty generic villain, motivated only by jealousy. I like how the Black Knight is a skinny, wimpy guy under his huge armor.

Down in Duckburg: Background character Vacation Van Honk reappears, and first-time viewers get to learn his name this time.

Reference row: The inspiration here is clearly Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. But the two are different in a lot of ways. The original is heavy on satire, poking holes in the ideals of monarchy and chivalry. Further, it ends where the hero, despite his knowledge of the future, fails to prevent the fall of Camelot.

Thoughts upon this viewing: Once again, it’s impressive how the creators pack so much story in 22 minutes. This has a lot of twists and turns, plus a whole character arc for Gyro. It’s odd that the characters take time travel in stride, but they’ve discovered aliens and magic in previous episodes, so they’re seasoned adventurers now.

Next: Let’s everybody get Jurassic.

****

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

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Fantastic Friday: General malfunction

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Here’s annual 2000 (no number, just the year). Remember how the Reed-pretending-to-be-Dr.-Doom plot was about keeping Dr. Doom’s generals out of trouble. That story is over, so here come the generals.

Shortly after the events of vol. 3 issue #31, the FF are returning home to NYC in their pogo plane. Reed is still unconscious of being separated from Dr. Doom’s armor. Just as the plane flies by past the Statue of Liberty, it gets shot down. Ben pilots the ship to a safe splashdown near Pier 4. The team is immediately surrounded by reporters, as Sue tells them that Reed’s supposed death and the FF’s alliance with Dr. Doom were part of a necessary deception to defeat some villains.

Sue takes Reed inside while Ben and Johnny investigate the plane wreckage. They’re attacked by the robot Technarx, one of Dr. Doom’s generals. (Remember that when Reed was trapped inside Doom’s armor, Doom was sent off to the Heroes Reborn universe, now named Planet Doom, where he rounded up a team of super-powered generals to do his evil bidding.) Now that the FF’s alliance with Dr. Doom is over, nothing is stopping Technarx and the other generals from attempting to destroy the FF. Johnny drives Tecchnarx off, and Ben says they’ve got to find him before he attacks again or hurts someone else.

Inside the pier, Reed is suffering hallucinations due to the A.I. in Dr. Doom’s armor infecting his nervous system. Sue believes these are withdrawal symptoms and will wear off in time. She contacts Franklin, teenage Valeria, and interdimensional swordswoman Caledonia to inform them that Reed is alive. Sue then has a heart-to-heart with Ben, saying she feels guilty about working alongside Doom to rescue Reed. Ben says once the withdrawal wears off, Reed will come around.

An alarm goes off, and Sue and Ben join Johnny outside. They’re confronted by more of Doom’s generals, Queen Dorma of Atlantis, the ink-like creature Divinity, and the sorceress Shak’ti. Dorma has a different agenda than Technarx. She asks the FF to join them in returning to Planet Doom to overthrow and destroy Dr. Doom. Everybody fights for a while, but the three FFers drive the generals back into the ocean.

Sue checks back in with Reed, who is still suffering delusions. He’s fretting over how Sue married Dr. Doom, somehow forgetting that it was him trapped in Doom’s armor. Elsewhere, the four generals reunite and deduce that the FF’s weakness is their concern for others, so they go on a rampage where they endanger NYC citizens. Sue is conflicted again, blaming herself for the generals’ attacks. While Sue, Ben and Johnny search for the generals, Reed wanders the interior of Pier 4, trying to find some kind of pattern to his hallucinations.

The heroes find the generals at a construction site, and there’s another fight. This time the generals get the better of them. Shak’ti wraps up Sue in her magic ribbons (that’s her thing), Divinity mind-controls Ben, and Technarx uses sonic weapons to knock out Johnny. Next, Dorma breaks into Pier 4 with some Atlantean soldiers (called “Atlans” in this issue). She apprehends Reed to force him to build a teleporter to send the generals back to Planet Doom. Reed, still struggling with his memories, agrees to help them. Sue, being held hostage nearby, pleads with Reed to help them, but Reed argues that at least they’ll be off Earth and fighting the FF’s greatest enemy.

Turn the page and Reed has already built the teleporter. Shak’ti, Technarx and Divinity all go through the portal to the other side, while Sue argues that they’re going to cause havoc and destruction in the other universe. When Dorma steps up to the teleporter, she destroys it instead of going through. She suspects the teleporter is a trap, and that she’d rather conquer this Earth instead of Planet Doom. She and the Atlanteans escape into the ocean beneath Pier 4. Reed explains that the teleporter was indeed a trap. The three generals were teleported into a portable containment unit and then sent to Dr. Doom in Latveria to face their fates.

Then the story ends on something of an ambiguous note, in which Reed talks about regretting all the decisions he made while trapped in Dr. Doom’s armor. The others argue that the armor’s A.I. and sorcery had a corrupting effecting on him, and that it wasn’t really him. Then Reed argues that the world-conquering plan he almost set in motion is a plan he could still potentially set in motion, armor or no armor. The final panel has Reed saying, “I’m not worthy to be one of the Fantastic Four.”

Then we have the annual’s backup story, about teen Valeria, here going by the name Marvel Girl. This takes place in the alternate future where she came from, before she traveled to the present and joined the FF in vol.  3 issue #15. Remember that in this timeline, she’s the daughter of Sue and Dr. Doom (or is she?). The story starts out with her sneaking out of the house and going out into the city during the night of a big festival. She’s searching for Lancer, Doom’s fifth general and bodyguard to Valeria. Lancer has turned off all her tracking devices to venture into the city.

Valeria spots a bar fight inside a local dive and finds Lancer in the middle of it. Valeria joins the battle, where one baddie has a high-tech gun that’s able to shoot through Valeria’s force fields. The fight ends, and Lancer reveals a stash of illegal weapons in the bar. Lancer reveals that she once had a family. Once a year the night before her wedding anniversary, she hits the town to purge her rage so that she remembers who she once was before she became Lancer. Valeria says she and Lancer are now family, and families endure.

Unstable molecule: It’s ambiguous as to when and how Reed snaps out of his funk. Also, it’s crazy how fast he builds an interdimensional teleporter. Maybe we can surmise that this was tech he already had in his lab and merely modified it.

Fade out: Sue spends the entire issue feeling regret from having worked alongside Dr. Doom to free Reed. The previous issue insisted that she knew what she was doing, but this time she’s all conflicted about it.

Clobberin’ time: Divinity mind-controls Ben, and when they’re separated, Ben does not take it lightly. He breaks down and is clearly troubled from the experience.

Flame on: Technarx uses sonic weapons against Johnny, as something that Johnny has no defense against. We’ll have to see if this comes up again in the future.

Four and a half: We check in with Franklin for half a page, just to show he’s okay. We’re not going to learn where he’s at, though, until the upcoming Fantastic Fourth Voyage of Sinbad one-shot.

Our gal Val: Can we talk about Valeria’s background? Back in vol. 3 issue #15, we saw an alternate future where Sue was married to Dr. Doom, and they had a teen daughter, Valeria. Valeria later time-traveled to the present and joined the team, while everyone fretted over how her future could ever possibly come to pass. Then, when Reed was trapped in Dr. Doom’s armor, we all thought, “This is the twist. Valeria is really Reed’s daughter from Reed pretending to be Doom.” But now the Reed-as-Doom story had wrapped up, and Valeria’s alternate future is once again in question. An upcoming storyline will label Valeria as a “temporal anomaly,” but that’s not much an explanation. And then this version of Valeria will make way for the one we all now know. Therefore, as of this writing, the story behind Valeria’s alternate timeline has gone unexplained.

Commercial break: “What happens when a Toad action figure gets struck by lightning?”

Trivia time: This is pretty much it for generals Technarx, Divinity, and Shak’ti. They only appeared once more, in Exiles #81 ,when the dimension-hopping Exiles paid a quick visit to the remains of the Heroes Reborn universe.

The Marvel Wiki insists that the Pogo Plane in this issue is the original Pogo Plane the FF have had since way back in the ‘60s. There’s no mention as to how it survived the destruction of the original Baxter Building or any of the other adventures its been involved in.

Fantastic or frightful? I suppose it’s good that the series takes this time to deal with the consequences of the last few issues, and the four generals are written better here than they’ve been before. The Reed and Sue dynamic is confusing, though, and kind of drags the story down. The Valeria story gives us backstory for Lancer, but what we really need is backstory for Valeria. A mixed bag overall.

Next: Stay wet, y’all.

****

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DuckTales rewatch – The Money Vanishes

Rewatching DuckTales! Sci-fi meets slapstick in episode sixteen, “The Money Vanishes.”

Here’s what happens: The Beagle Boys escape from jail, and after a wild chase from the cops they end up at Gyro’s place. Gyro has just invented teleportation tech, done by covering an object with a spray, and then hitting it with a teleporting ray. The crooks pose as doctors to steal Gyro’s tech.

The Beagle Boys next pose as TV pitch men to convince Scrooge that “money months” are going to eat his money, and sell him the teleporting spray. While Scrooge sprays everything in the money bin, the nephews get suspicious. The Beagle Boys teleport the money out of the bin, leading Scrooge to believe it’s all been eaten by moths.

The nephews figure out what’s going on, and use the spray on themselves. They are then teleported to the Beagle Boys’ hideout along with all the cash. The spray becomes a cloud that floats all about the city, teleporting people and zoo animals to all kinds of wacky places. The nephews get a hold the ray and use it against the Beagle Boys, teleporting them back to jail. They return all of Scrooge’s money, and Scrooge insists that Gyro not invent anything else for the rest of the year.  

Humbug: When the nephews return Scrooge’s money, he tells them they are the best friends he’s ever had. This continues my hypothesis that Scrooge’s series-long character arc is him learning his family is more important than his fortune.

Junior Woodchucks: The nephews watch a pretty cool-looking werewolf movie on TV, saying it’s not scary even though they’re clearly scared.

Best brain: This is the first appearance of Gyro’s tiny robot sidekick, basically a lightbulb come to life. In the original comics, this character was named Helper. But for some reason DuckTales has renamed him Little Bulb. When DuckTales aired in Italy, he was named Edison.

Foul fowls: The Beagle Boys this time are Big Time, Burger, Bouncer, and the first appearance of Baggy Beagle, apparently named for his baggy shirt.

Down in Duckburg: Lots of Duckburg locations in this episode. The zoo is basic animals in cages rather than proper habitats. The Beagle Boys’ hangout is a boarded-up derelict apartment building that is within eyesight of the Money Bin. We also get a look at the Duckburg Marathon, which goes nearby the Beagles’ hideout.

Reference row: When Dewey says to the Beagle Boys, “Go ahead, take my ray,” this is of course a shoutout to the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact.

Thoughts upon this viewing: While DuckTales is written with lots of jokes, the jokes are often the least interesting part of any given episode. This one is wall-to-wall comedy, and the hokeyness is a little too hokey this time.

Next: Medieval times.

****

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

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