Friday, April 30, 2010

Fantastic Four #288

Fantastic Four #288-"Full Circle"
Cover Date: Mar 1986 Price $.75
Cover Tagline: "Doctor Doom vs The Beyonder"
Writer/Artist: John Byrne

(Editor's Note- Have you ever had one of those tasks on your "to do" list that you hate to do so much that you'll put off forever? Well consider this review one of them. It has literally been a goal of mine to "review FF #288" for about a month. Seriously, I need some closure from this issue, and continue moving on with my life. So for the good of my sanity,this blog, and the world at large, here we go....)

Story: This issue quickly picks up right where the last one left off, with Johnny "I'll shack up with my best friend's girl the minute he's out of the picture" Storm literally torching his way through some of Dr. Doom's mindless robot drones. You see, at the end of last issue, Johnny received a distress signal from his sister, the Invisible Woman, indicating she was in danger at the Latverian Embassy. As if anything good could ever come of having a Latverian Embassy anywhere....

As Johnny flies around burning things, he thinks aloud that it's strange that the doombots are so active, considering their master is dead. As the Human Torch turns to fry his next victim, he finds not an automaton, but an old lady. This "harmless old lady" is Sarah, the next door neighbor of Peggy McArthur, who we learned last issue was the simple housewife whose husband's body had been taken over by the consciousness of Dr. Doom. In one 8 panel page, good old Sarah pours on the exposition with a shot-for-shot retelling of Peggy's story, thereby rendering the purchase of the previous issue moot. Ah, the eighties, when writers retold you everything you needed to know EVERY issue.

As Sarah finishes telling Johnny her tale of neighborly woe, he stands in seeming disbelief. But he gives her the "geriatric benefit-of-the-doubt" pass and goes on to find Doom and Peggy, along with his sister. Spotting a melee in the next room, the Torch spots She-Hulk and her fellow superheroine friend Wasp slagging some more doombots. Once again, I must reiterate, there is something disturbingly gratifying with the way the Doombots cry out in agony as they're destroyed: "Squeeeee!"

Not since the Power Rangers used to destroy the nearly endless hoards of puddys by punching the "Z's" on their chests have I so enjoyed the deaths of mindless foot soldiers.

As the Wasp and She-Hulk continue to rip through Doombots, Reed Richards comes out of pretty much thin air to congratulate them on the way they can beat on mindless droids. Reed tells the two lovely ladies that he was there responding to the Invisible Woman's distress signal (ahh, the old distress signal plot device. Where the heck would the FF be without it?), and he asks them where Susan is. The heroines tell Richards that his wife is off with the Invincible Man, who we as readers learned was actually Dr. Doom. Well, he's Dr. Doom in the body of Mr. McArthur, in the garb of the Invincible Man. Mom always said to dress in layers, but that's just ridiculous.

As Reed and the super hotties chat it up, Johnny joins the scene . And with their reunion, Dr. Doom also makes his presence known. Hitting the group with a sonic disruptor, Dr. Doom then proceeds to place each of the heroes in a cage that matches and disrupts their powers. Reed and the Wasp are in some kind of giant bubble, Susan Richards is in a cage that has the same frequencies as her own force field, Johnny Storm is in an inert fluid that allows him to breathe but not flame on, and the She Hulk is in a web of invisible unbreakable molecular chains. I'll take Doom's word for it as far the actual scientific explanations of his contraptions go, but She-Hulk has to go and call his bluff. She soons learn not to trifle with Doom, as she cuts her skin on the invisible force field. Wenches be triflin, yo.

It seems as if Doom has everyone where he wants them, and Reed asks if it really is Doom in the flesh, or another cheap Doombot. Doom assures everyone that it is him, and takes off his mask to reveal the face of Peggy McArthur's husband Norm. Peggy yells to Mr. Fantastic that he is the most brilliant man on earth, and that he needs to get her husband back. "Norm Doom" goes a little nuts and grabs Peggy, lifting her in the air and telling her that no one is smarter than him. This scene looks familiar,hmmmmm. Maybe because if you replace Peggy with the little Latverian boy Kristoff from issue #258 you would have the exact same panel. But like I said in that review, if you can't trust a megalomaniac dictator to be consistent, who can you trust?

Anyway, in making his point that he really is smart, Norm Doom points Peg's attention to a flaming energy pit on the floor. Apparently, aside from looking like a great place to make a S'more, the pit is full of black magic that is calling forth the most powerful being in the universe. As Doom mentions this, everyone gasps in horror, because they know who the "living embodiment" of energy in the 1986 Marvel Universe is.... The Beyonder! Did I mention that this issue is an insufferable tie-in to the completely unnecessary Marvel company-wide storyline called "Secret Wars II"? The Beyonder appears, in his Saturday Night Fever Best, perm and all.

Well, the Beyonder is not too keen on being summoned, and asks Doom who he is and what he wants. This is a bit odd, considering the two had met before. Doom takes advantage of this confusion by blasting the Beyonder. You gotta admit, shooting the most powerful being in the universe with anything is pretty impressive. It seems that when Doom and the Beyonder met during "Secret Wars I", Doom actually stole the Beyonder's omnipotent powers, so there is a glimmer of hope that he can do so again. But the tables are quickly turned as the Beyonder begins to blast Doom, and lectures him on the depravity of mankind. As the Beyonder begins to go into full lecture mode (we're talking graduation commencement levels), someone yells "No!!"

The Beyonder turns to find that it was Reed who was yelling, and asks him why he of all people would want to save Doom's life. Reed explains that the Beyonder had met Doom before, so there must be something wrong since he does not remember him. Reed then goes into a 3 page history lesson about what Doom did during the first "Secret Wars" series, which in a nutshell was that Doom stole the Beyonder's powers, got killed, and was then reborn and banished to who knows where. The Beyonder still claims that he doesn't know this guy, and Reed figures out that it's because the Beyonder is looking at Doom's aura crossed with that of Norm McArthur. The Beyonder looks closer, and realizes that it is the same jerk's aura residing in the body of someone new. The Beyonder goes in to make the kill, but Reed once again yells "No!" Man, I thought his catch phrase was "great scott!"

Reed explains to the Beyonder that when all the heroes and villains were plucked from earth and put on an alien world to fight in the first "Secret Wars", the Doom that was there had his own body, with it's own aura (not the Norm Doom aura he has now, but the original flavor Victor Von Doom aura). At the time of the first Secret Wars, Doom's regular body had been destroyed, so for him to have his original flavor aura during the time of "Secret Wars I" must have meant that the Beyonder pulled Doom from a different part of the time stream.

Richards goes on to tell the Beyonder that this means that when the Beyonder pulled Doom out of the time stream, he created a self fulfilling time loop, wherein everyone else's pasts became the new Doom's future. If the Beyonder were to erase what the Doom from the past was going to do, it would erase what had already happened for the others, creating a collapse in time and space. Well, the beyonder is taken aback by this possibility, and does what any self-respecting surprised god would do: he separates Norm McArthur and Doom, banishes Doom to the first "Secret Wars", and then leaves.

Well, just when you thought it couldn't get anymore convoluted, Reed tells the gang that now that the Beyonder banished Doom from this time period back to the beginning of Secret Wars, it means that the Doom from the end of the Secret Wars is now going to reappear to complete the time loop and right the universe's sense of balance. The FF high-tail it out of there so they don't have to face Doom when he appears, and as they leave, the last panel shows Doom starting to come back to reality. Maybe someday the FF will face Doom again...maybe.

What I thought: You already know I hate this issue. It took forever to read, understand, and write about all the garbage in this issue. I could have lived with the Norm Doom storyline, but once the Beyonder showed up, and we got into the whole "time loop" fiasco, it became one giant headache. I will applaud the amount of exposition and ground that Byrne had to cover here. He had to retell the events of last issue, move the story along, introduce the Beyonder, recount the first Secret Wars series, and then explain how Doom had come back to life again.

I had some fine folks comment that Byrne was just doing stories that fit what was being dictated to him by editorial at the time, and after giving that consideration, I could see that type of reality come to life in this issue. If anything, this issue taught me a little comics equation. Event comics+time travel headaches+ Jerry curl velour suit Beyonder= Totally Bad Issue. It can be any comic, not just Fantastic Four, and that equation would still hold true. So until "Secret Wars III" comes out and totally blows my mind, vive le Fantastique!

Only Doom would commend someone on their sensuality before trying to murder them.


  1. I applaud your effort of actually describing the events from this comic Kello! I'd have been like, "Then Doom, Reed and the Beyonder talked for a bunch of pages until the Beyonder seperated Doom and that guy..." Sometimes I'll be doing a review and the comic is just SO convoluted that the review just sounds a right mess. I have to say that you took a comic that I remembered as a total headache and actually made it palatable. So that definitely deserves a "Great job Kello!!!"

    That last pic and line helped me realize that Doom must be quite a hit with the ladies. I may just borrow that line for myself. You know, with out the attempted murder portions though!

  2. Hey X-Man, thanks for reading despite the longwindedness of it all.

    I think is one comic where SO much stupid stuff happens that if you somehow left part of it out of the retelling, none of it would make sense. But such is the fate of he who reviews from the box. I know there are worse issues ahead, and it scares me a little.

    Yeah, Doom is such a smooth talker. And he usually does kill the people he threatens, so the ladies know he's a man of his word. That's something women look for, so I'm told.

    I'm so excited for Summer when I can actually spend more time here making this site worthwhile. But as always , I appreciate your support!

  3. I enjoyed the review mainly BECAUSE of the longwindedness of it! Since this was one of the comics I'd read(but a while ago), your words helped me remember what happened in this one pretty well.

    Awesome, I'll be looking forward to the Summer of Kello here at the FF Plaza! :-) And you know no thanks are required, by now you must know that you couldn't get rid of me if you tried! ;-)

  4. kinda enjoyed this comic, purely for nostalgic reasons, I read it when i was nine and loved it, probably because of the John Byrne art. I was young enough to actually enjoy the beyonder as a character and not see his inherent ridiculousness.
    right on the money kello about that time loop business. A real headache when rereading this issue. By the way, there was a Secret Wars 3 in the double sized FF #319 a comic which makes this one look like booker prize material.