Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fantastic Four #287

Fantastic Four #287-"Prisoner of the Flesh"
Cover Date: Feb 1986 Price $.75 (only 5 issues from last time and it's 10 cents more!)
Cover Tagline: "This is Peggy McArthur, average American housewife. In ten seconds, she will make a decision-- if it's the wrong one it will mean the end of the Fantastic Four!"
Writer/Artist: John Byrne

Story: We start this issue with the Amazing Reed Richards, leader of the world famous Fantastic Four, wearing cybernetic earmuff headgear. Reed is talking to Janet Van Dyne, the superheroine known as the Wasp. Richards and his family have been staying in the mansion headquarters of the Wasp's team, the Avengers, because Richards' base got blowed up real good. It would seem Reed has begun tinkering with the technology lying around Avengers mansion. The Wasp reminds Reed that the last place he built machines in is now a smoking crater, but apparently he doesn't see the humor in the situation. There's a fine line between wet blanket and totally aloof, and for as smart as Reed is, he can't see it....

Anyway, Reed explains that the machine he's working on has mapped out Dr. Doom's brain wave patterns, and can pick up his trail should the mad despot return. As Doom is supposedly dead at this point in history, Richards is proving why he's totally smart by preparing for the eventuality that Doom WILL indeed come back to life. That's some genius level foreshadowing!

As Mr. Fantastic and the Wasp finish doling out exposition, the ever dashing Susan Storm enters, claiming she's ready to hit the town. Apparently the Wasp made it a point to get Sue a hair appointment. The She-Hulk also enters the scene, and what started as a simple issue of Fantastic Four quickly begins to resemble a G-rated episode of "Sex and the City." As the lovely ladies and the seemingly pimp-like Reed Richards walk towards the foyer of the Avengers mansion, the aforementioned Doom Brainwave detector kicks on. Ah, it's like that old proverb: if a Doom Brainwave machine comes on, and no one's around to hear it, does it really detect anything?

We cut to the least manly scene ever, as the Wasp introduces Susan Storm to her hair stylist, Andre. In a convenient-to-the-plot detail, Andre is not only flamboyant, but he is also the personal stylist to the French Ambassador, leading them to have the hair appointment in the French Embassy. As the woman sing Andre's praises for cutting Sue's hair shorter than her brother Johnny's, there is a loud BOOM. It seems the embassy across the street, the Latverian Embassy, is under attack. In a strange twist, the attacker appears to be none other than the Invincible Man, a man who was originally the Super Skrull masquerading as Sue Storm's late father. Geez, how many people do you need to be masquerading as before it's just unnecessary? Seeing the Invincible Man is quite jarring for the 3 heroines, so they enact a perfectly executed masterpiece of tactics and battlefield strategy...yeah, they jump and punch him.

As Sue captures the Invincible Man in a force field, he bids her to stop, because he's only trying to help save lives. Sue relents, and the Invincible Man explains that he's attacking the Latverian Embassy because Dr. Doom is alive and well inside, and Doom is responsible for the deaths of his wife and baby. To gain Sue's trust, the Invincible Man points up to the window of the embassy, where a shadowy figure looms. It appears to be none other than Doom, so the 3 woman fall back to carefully plan their next move. Okay, not really they just rush the doors of the Embassy.

The scene shifts to a suburban neighborhood setting, where an old maid type woman is busy watching her "stories." As she's deeply engrossed, the door bell frantically begins to ring. The old lady opens up to find her exasperated neighbor, a young woman named Peggy (from the cover of the book!), clutching her baby and asking to come in. The old lady invites Peggy in, and asks why she's so frazzled. Peggy recounts the story that landed her the coveted spot on the very cover of this issue, saying that her husband Norm recently came home acting strange.

It seems Norm came home late and in a funk on the same day it was reported that Dr. Doom had attacked a Shop-Rite. The Norm that came home had a weird European accent and began tinkering with things in the basement. Norm tells his wife that she's a prisoner until further notice, which in this reviewers eyes isn't really that different from most suburban marriages. Norm makes a purple costume with a green hood, and it turns out that he is the one masquerading as the Invincible Man. Peggy sees her husband on TV in the costume he was making, and she and her elderly friend head for the Latverian Embassy.

The scene shifts back to the Embassy, as the Wasp, She-Hulk, and Invisible Woman bust in and fight a bunch of robots. Sue Storm follows the Invincible Man up the stairs as he tries to escape during the commotion. Stealthily following the Invincible Man, she stumbles upon none other than Doom himself. The two have a short conversation about how Sue is insolent for breaking in, and then Doom tries to blast her. Sue explodes the Doc, and it turns out that it wasn't really Doom, but one of his patented Doombots. In one of the more sadly funny scenes from the book, the Doombot yells "Squeee!" as it explodes from the inside out. Sue stands over the remains, saying out loud that the real Doom is dead. Of course stopping to talk to herself only leads her to getting shot in the back by the Invincible Man, who yells out "Doom never dies!" Are you starting pick up on the Norm/ the Invincible Man's real identity?

Sue uses her invisible powers to look under Norm's mask, and she doesn't recognize him, but she attacks him nonetheless. She drops a bunch of bricks on him, and as she is busy battling her purple foe, Norm's wife Peggy comes up from behind and ponders what she can do to help her husband. Peggy has an ethical dilemma, given her husband's recent actions and Sue Storm's heroic reputation, but decides to bash the Invisible Woman over the head with a vase. Storm gets knocked out, and Peggy goes over to comfort Norm, who reveals himself to be neither the Invincible Man or Norm, but actually THE REAL DR. DOOM!

Doom goes on to tell Peggy that he sent his evil consciousness into Norm's body before his own body was incinerated back in issue 260. Apparently Doom has the ability to send his consciousness into other beings, as we the editor's note tells us we learned from Fantastic Four #10. ...remember that? Come on, it was only like 20-some odd years before this. Peggy realizes she has made a mistake, and Doom says this was all his plan to lure the FF to the embassy. We end the issue with Johnny Storm trying to mack on Alicia Masters in a horse drawn carriage, only to be called away by his emergency signal watch. Man, can't a player catch a break?

What I Thought: I'm still utterly amazed by the fact that Byrne can write an issue of Fantastic Four that really only features one true member of the team, and has her in a situation where she goes from getting her hair done to fighting a dictator, and still he makes it feel like a normal FF comic. The variety that Byrne offers forth for the heroes in his run on this book is pretty imaginative, and I can see that many creators since have tried to duplicate his sense of scope. Of course, the part with Doom transferring his mind was a little lame, only because it didn't seem like a power he had used all that often. Having Doom use a power he hadn't mentioned in the last two hundred and sixty issues is kind of like Batman referencing some thing he did once in an old adventure from the 50's. Yeah, technically it happened in continuity at some point, but it doesn't mean it's still worth coming back to. Anyway, I've already gone and read the next issue, and from what I remember, it has a really confusing resolution. Be forewarned, it involves Secret Wars II and some type of time paradox. Until that French stylist Andre straightens up his act, Vive le Fantastique!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Feature: Thinking Outside the Box

As you might know, this blog began as a way for me to document my progress as I read through a box full of 163 semi-sequential Fantastic Four comics. As you may also know, getting this many FF comics at one time ignited within me the need to go and track down as many cheap back issues as possible.

As I'm currently on vacation, I thought it would be good to try and fill in some holes in my collection. After perusing eBay for deals and oddities, as well as Prairie Dog Comics in Wichita, I've been able to get quite a few treasures. I think all in all, I've been able to get a snazzy Mike McKone poster, 2 full mini-series, 5 one-shots, and about 20 single issues. I even tracked down some of the issues that come directly after those that I already reviewed, so now I can see the resolutions to all those cliffhangers! I don't think I'll be retroactively reviewing anything, unless I somehow get through the stuff I have....yeah,right.

So in the future, any reviews of books that I got from a different source than THE box will be denoted as "Thinking Outside the Box." This way, I can differentiate between those from the original stack and those that I got out of comic lust.
Until I find a better way to use disposable income, vive le Fantastique!

Friday, March 5, 2010


For those of you following the current goings ons in the Marvel Universe, you know the whole place is undergoing a major overhaul. As the "Dark Reign" storyline comes to a close, taking along with it the oppressive regime of supervillain Norman Osborn, a new status quo is going to take hold. This new epic,the "Heroic Age", is going to be a period where heroes are heroes, villains are villains, and puppies are cuter than they've ever been. At least that's what I've gleaned from spoilers online.

Well, with the buzz surrounding the "Heroic Age", Marvel has been announcing the new line-ups for old teams. This includes shaking up the Avengers books, which have existed in pretty standard forms for about 3 years, since the end of the Secret Invasion storyline. As Marvel has been announcing the members for the new book "Secret Avengers", not too many shocking names have come up. This week Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Luke Cage's wife Jessica Jones were announced.

But the kicker was today's reveal: Benjamin Grimm, a.k.a the Thing, will be an Avenger!

What this means for Ben's position on the Fantastic Four remains to be seen. But this is another case of the regular Marvel Universe taking cues from the Ultimate Marvel Universe, in which Ben Grimm is also a member of the Avengers. I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude, despite the fact that Ben just plain belongs on the FF at all times.