Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Feature: Staying Current

Hello, true believers! Upon my return to the blogosphere, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the red-headed stepchild that is Four Freedoms Plaza. I started this blog with the intention of motivating myself to finish my giant box of Fantastic Four comics. It was my goal to keep a sort of a running commentary of how the FF changed over the years, by looking at snapshots of the team and the creators that so often butchered them. Because 163 comics was quite a bit of reading, I thought it would suffice to simply go through the box an issue at a time.


But then something happened. I really started to enjoy reading about the Fantastic Four.


After finding how enjoyable the team truly is, I began to grab all the FF issues I could. I became somewhat of a "thrifty completist", given that I had almost all the issues to come out in the last 4 years.

So in the spirit of expanding the world of Four Freedoms, I am proud to unveil the first of my 3 (yes, 3! Although it would be more cliche to think of 4) new features....drum roll, please...Staying Current!


"Staying Current" posts will feature reviews of and thoughts on the most recent issue of Fantastic Four. Because my love affair with the "World's Greatest Comic Magazine" has been rekindled, and because the current creative team of Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham are really great, I'm pretty excited to talk about FF material that ISN'T from the 80's.


So without further tomfoolery, I 'd like to present to you with the most recent outing of the FF... Fantastic Four #575!


Fantastic Four #575 "Prime Elements 1: The Abandoned City of the High Evolutionary"
Cover Date March 2010 Price $3.99 (because I bought the newsstand version... total rip-off!)
Cover Tagline: "There is chaos in the Underworld..."
Writer/ Artist: Jonathan Hickman/ Dale Eaglesham


This issue begins with 3 of the Mole Man's lackeys crawling out of the sewer. Well, they must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque, because they are abruptly hit by a giant mack ten truck. The two functioning moloids pop the head off of their friend (yeah, "what the heck?"), and proceed to make their way to the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four.


Well, having the Mole Man's cronies in the lobby of their home alerts the FF to assemble and confront the creatures. In one of the oddest panels I've ever seen, the decapitated head of the moloid tells the FF to "clear the lobby." The floor shakes and the Mole Man makes his grand entrance riding the tongue of a giant monster (in a scene that harkens back to the classic cover of Fantastic Four #1). Old Moley tells the FF, that he needs his help to save the underworld, and we have ourselves a story arc....


Mole Man tells the FF the problem is that a leftover underground city which once belonged to Marvel baddie and (complete lame-o) High Evolutionary is causing great distress among his moloids, because the city has the power of superdevolving beings. As the moloids found the city, they began to devolve from mindless drones into something near-human (yeah, I'm not sure how it works either).

As Moley continues to explain, the increased level of intelligence that beings gain from the city is causing a rift between his Moloids and him, and the inhabitants of the city are planning to raise it above ground. This is a problem, because he likes to control the little monsters and their way of life. It's also a problem because the city lies on a fault line that will crack the Earth open if it comes up.



So the long and short of it is, the FF decide to go way underground to investigate the city. Along the way, they find the corpse of the Galactus engine from the Millar run of FF (always wondered what happened to that!), which Reed buried after that adventure. The FF pass a few new underground cities, including Lechuguilla (which has the distinction of having the worst fictional town name ever) and Meramec (a.k.a the Gungan city from Star Wars), finally reaching the gates of the High Evolutionary's base.


Everything is going crazy as the FF arrive, because the city is on the verge of collapse. The team gets ready to leave, but the Thing jumps ship to save some moloid kids who are being held prisoner. Apparently, they were kept as pets because they were born with normal intelligence. As Ben enters the city, his rocky cranium changes shape, and he becomes more ape-like. Yeah, this comic is as weird as it sounds.


The FF flee, shielded by Sue's force field. In what we call an old fashioned bait-and-switch, we the readers are led to believe the city was destroyed. In all actuality, the city is revealed to be raised up above ground. Ben's apeness goes away after an hour, and we learn from Reed Richards' files that the new city is now considered a potential threat to the United States.

What I thought: This is an anniversary issue, and as the beginning of the new arc from the incomparable team of Hickman/Eaglesham, there is real potential here. I will admit that the whole "devolving" thing is a bit confusing, because I would think that moloids are already devolved. I would also like to say that the press this issue received from Marvel was kind of misleading. At the beginning of 2010, there were a few pieces of FF spoiler art that showed both the Mole Man splash page and the Dead Galactus splash page. When they came out, they gave some grand impression that this issue didn't precisely deliver on. Not that the pages weren't cool, but in context to the story they were just cool treats for the casual reader. But fear not, much like this blog, it will hopefully get better as it goes.

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