Saturday, July 31, 2010

Stying Current Annual Edition: Fantastic Four Annual #32

Fantastic Four Annual #32-"A Little Stanger"
Cover Date: Aug 2010 Price $4.99
Cover Tagline: "Annual" (how creative!)
Writer/ Artist: Joe Ahearne/ Bryan Hitch

(Editor's Note- This issue came out about a month ago, but it's "current" in the sense that it's this year's annual. Since it's an extra long issue, it's kind of a long review. Apologies to those who share my attention span, but I implore you to take it all in!)

What Happened: This issue opens in dramatic fashion with a young woman looking for the Fantastic Four at the front entrance of their headquarters, and being scared out of her wits by the deadly security measures she encounters. Reed, Sue, and Ben rush to save the woman, and when Mr. Fantastic angrily enquires about how she was able to get into the building, she tells him she was given a clearance card by Johnny Storm. Apparently the young woman, who reveals her name to be Amy Brys, needs to talk to the Human Torch about some a very serious matter. And of course Johnny, being the giant cad he is, has been avoiding Amy's calls. Reed covers for Johnny, saying he must be in the Negative Zone or something, once again proving that having the world's smartest man for your brother-in-law pays off in new and fun ways all the time!

After Amy leaves, Johnny reappears, having been shielded with invisibility the whole time by his sister Sue (man everybody's helping him avoid this chick! Now that's FAMILY). The Invisible Woman begins to chide her brother's womanizing ways, when suddenly an alarm goes off. The alarm goes off because it detects a special kind of energy. Apparently the signal the alarm detected was a "variation" of the cosmic energy that powers the FF. This "variation" is the same energy that almost killed Sue when she was pregnant, meaning someone who was just in the room is pregnant with a cosmically irradiated Fantasti-baby. Since Sue knows it's not her, the Thing had his tubes tied, and Reed and Johnny are hot blooded super studs who are too masculine for pregnancy, it must be someone who recently visited that set off the alarm. It becomes very evident why miss Brys was had such an urgent need to talk to the Human Torch- she's about to be his baby mama. Johnny flies off and finds Amy down the street, looking to discuss the situation (as well as a weekend visitation schedule I assume). But before you can say "shotgun wedding", the two are attacked by machines with robotic tentacles.

The FF break the robots, save Amy's bacon, and fly off with her in the Fantasti-Car. The team takes Amy to the Baxter Building, and place her in an examination room to do an ultra early paternity test. Since Amy was with Johnny only 2 months prior, the only safe and logical course of action is for Sue to shrink down to a molecular level and get a D.N.A sample from the fetus. Look, I'm no doctor, so I won't argue too much, but really?

As Reed and Sue chat with the mom-to-be, Johnny and Ben have a "man-boy to rock-man" discussion in the other room about fatherhood. The only thing is, Johnny swears he didn't even kiss the girl, let alone get freaky deaky (his words, not mine...ok, you got me!). This leads Reed to send Johnny and Ben back to da club where Johnny and Amy met with a chornal scanner (It's like a viewmaster that shows you what happened in the past) to look into back in time and figure out what happened...Ah, comics.

Reed Sends Sue into Amy's womb, which makes my mind wander to disgusting jokes about both Storm siblings venturing there, and Sue indeed encounters one of God's greatest!

Meanwhile, in a less miraculous place, Johnny and Ben use the Viewmaster of Time to see what the Human Torch and Amy were really doing on the night in question. It turns out that both Amy and Johnny were not in the champagne room getting hot and heavy, but instead getting violently ill. Ben uses the Viewmaster of time to scan the residual images of Amy and Johnny's bodies, and finds out a darkhaired woman used some microscopic bugs to infect the two young clubgoers and then disappeared, most likely inside of Johnny. Man, that chronal viewer can do anything!

Sue, still up in Amy's business, finds out that she's is trapped by some kind of force field. It turns out the same tentacled robots from the street earlier are hanging out inside of Amy too. Sue destroys them, and the team reassembles back in the lab. Reed discovers that the microscopic bugs that affected Johnny and Amy in da club had a very specific mission- 1.) Go into Johnny, get some Man juice 2.) Leave Johnny, go into Amy's nether region 3.) Inseminate Amy with the man juice, making Johnny Jr. We find out that the whole ordeal was a great success and that Johnny is in fact going to be a daddy. Unfortunately this doesn't answer who that lady who disappeared into Johnny was. The team decides to go inside him to find out. Do you kind of get the feeling Reed just likes shrinking people and putting them inside other people?

As Sue and Ben explore the inside of Johnny, Reed remarks how there is something familiar about the design of the tentacled robots that have been plaguing them all day. As Johnny mentions that microscopic androids fit the Psycho Man's M.O. quite well, Ben chimes in over the com link and says they have company inside of Johnny. Apparently he has a visitor in his brain--

That's right, it's the Psycho Woman!

The Psycho Woman turns out to be the daughter of the longtime FF baddie, the Psycho Man. The Psycho Woman, who will be known from this point as P-W goes on to use her mind altering powers against Ben and Sue, and they lose contact with Reed. Apparently the P-W wants to use Johnny's baby to create an army of super warriors (????).
Being the all-American husband and superhero he is, Reed shrinks himself and has Amy inject him into Johnny's body (again Reed? You're sick, dude) to find the other members. After Reed is in Johnny's body, ANOTHER set of tentacled robots busts in to attack!

The major problem (besides the fact that there is a Johnny-spawn on its way into the world) is now that the Human Torch can't activate his flame powers, because the intense heat will melt the rest of his teammates inside of him. The Torch and Amy avoid the tentacled monsters, as Reed, Sue and Ben fight against the P-W. Unfortunately the battle inside of Johnny ends up hurting him, and the FF is in a tight spot.

The P-W thinks she has the upperhand by inducing the emotions of fear, disgust, and envy in the 3 members she's up against inside the Torch, but Ben quickly overcomes these emotions and clobbers the yellow faced villain. The battle continues and ends up being so rough that it knocks Johnny out the window. As he falls, The Thing knocks out the P-W and finds the heat shield that she was using to stay inside of the Torch. The three inside of Johnny get in a force bubble and Reed tells the freefalling Johnny to flame on, but he doesn't want to incinerate his family. Johnny eventually turns his flame on, and burns the robots that we're following him, and presumably the Psycho Woman.

Johnny thinks he just burned up his whole family, and Amy consoles him. Just then, the three other members of the team enter the room and reveal they were able to get out in time. The question shifts to what to do about the baby, and the team decides to go back in time and stop the Psycho-Woman before she can even impregnate Amy, effectively giving time and space an abortion (Ben calls it a "morning before pill"). Johnny vetoes the idea, but Amy tells him it's too dangerous for him to have a child, due to all his foes. To protect the child, Amy ganks the time remote control from Johnny's hand and jumps in the chronal portal.
Of course the FF could find her somehow, but Sue says that Amy made her choice. The issue ends with the Human Torch reflecting on the fact that she could have gone anywhere in time and given birth, and that his child could be out there somewhere.

What I Thought: After finishing this issue, I felt...discombobulated. Part of the reason I took my sweet time getting this review out to my adoring public is that I had to reread the comic like 4 times to really understand the main story. I'm still not sure I fully understand the Psycho Woman's motivations. She obviously wants revenge for the FF destroying her father, but why does she need to do all the stuff with the baby? Apparently she wants Johnny's tissue to make super warriors, so shouldn't she just knock him out and experiment on him?

As for the introduction of the Psycho-Woman, I will admit to being shocked by that reveal. I knew going into this book that the story somehow involved Psycho Man, and was a little let down to think the pregnancy scare was going to be another "it's all in their heads" kind of plot. To that end, the pregnancy being real and not just some faux hype Marvel made up to sell the issue was a good step towards truth-in-advertising. Of course, the whole idea of how to undo the pregnancy at the end treads so close to ground that a book like Fantastic Four just shouldn't go. Although Ben makes a somewhat good point that if you stop the Psycho Woman from engineering the ensemination, it's more like preventing a crime than aborting a child, but it still left me feeling weird. I was actually a little relieved that Amy made the choice she did, although it was a really awkward ending.
I guess the other two things that really stick out about this specific issue are the art and the format. Bryan Hitch is one of the best contemporary comic book artists of the past decade, and he really does great work with whatever assignment he is on. I quite enjoyed Hitch's tenure as the artist of the main FF book a while back, but this issue had a noticable difference in quality. While the writer Joe Ahearne gives Hitch a lot of splash pages and great action shots to play out, the inking of Hitch's work isn't as strong as previous outings. I believe it may be due to the fact that Hitch normally works with artist Paul Neary as the inker of his work ,and this time around Hitch himself and fellow artist Andrew Currie are responsible for the embellishments. It's odd to think a penciller could make his own art less dynamic by inking it himself.
Overall, I think this is one annual that deserved more varied material. I'm fairly certain editorial could have cut out some scenes, cleaned up some of the plot threads, and lowered the page count on the first story, opening up more space for another Fantastic Four related tale. While I generally don't advocate for the inclusion of filler material that tends to litter the back pages of annuals (the backups in annuals usually have as much substance as the final 30 minutes of SNL), I found myself wanting the pregnancy story to just get over with . Maybe a "Franklin Richards: Boy Genius" type comic strip or a "future foundation" backup would have been a nice way to offset the other story. I think annuals in general have gotten too far away from tying into the current continuity, and it seems like a missed opportunity with all that Jonathan Hickman has been setting up.

Wow. I'll stop here. Like Valentine's Day, I'm glad annuals only come but once a year! Until Johnny stops scammin on hotties in da club, vive la Fantastique!

God Bless America.


  1. Your one comic review was longer than my ten issue review... damn Kello, that's amazing. Gonna read it and let ya know what I think later on, just had to commend you on it. But I WILL be back and read it all, I promise you that.

  2. Yeah, I'm sorry that I'm so longwinded. I think it's because I want to inject snarky things into every sentence.

  3. I loved that you called out the family for helping Johnny, they really are close-knit because I wouldn't have even thought of that.

    Btw, I hope Thing having his tubes tied was a joke, and if it's not I need to know what arc that was because I'm sure they needed a jackhammer and a chisel. Wait... can The ever lovin, blue eyed Thing even have sex? Ahh, maybe thats the joke. Excuse my rambling :P

    I, like you, feel like a genius like Reed should have easier ways to diagnose pregnancy instead of having to shrink his wife to microscopic size. And also, there's way too many lines I laughed at to quote, but the one about both Storm's going there was classic. (As was "in da club")

    Okay, all this aside (sperm stealing and inseminating robots?!) I loved this review, It was super in-depth and I feel like I read it instead of just knowing a few parts about it, excellent work Kello. I think you may make me a FF fan yet.

  4. Hey, you finally got around to this comic, Kello! As usual, you had me chuckling(with how the handy-dandy chronal viewer worked... What a shortcut THAT thing was!)and flat out Bwa-hahahing, like when you mentioned that Reed REALLY seemed to enjoy shrinking people! What WAS up with that?! What kind of logic is that anyway? "I need to find out if this woman is pregnant... I know, I'll shrink my wife and inject her into said woman!" "An evil villain has invaded Johnny's body... I know, I'll shrink my wife, my best friend and ultimately myself down so we can enter and fight said villain!" Reed was really getting in touch with his inner Hank Pym here...

    For what it was(an unconnected annual)I thought this book was pretty decent. I didn't regret spending the $ to pick it up, but I doubt I'll be thinking back on it a month from now. Although I did like the fact that the conclusion was open-ended. It would be pretty cool if one day a teenaged Johnny Jr was to show up at the Baxter Building looking for dear old dad. Anyway, great(and hilarious!)review(as usual)Kello. Long Live the Legion and vive la Fantastique!

  5. Thanks for coming back and reading JT. I figure if I can't get people to like the FF, maybe they'll at least like the site.

    The tubes being tied was a total joke. Putting those little Easter Eggs in the reviews is my favorite part of this site, and I love it when readers find them.

    And as for the Thing's ability"make whoopee", it's something I've always wondered about. I think one benefit of the "family friendly" aspect of the book is stuff like that doesn't get answered. Maybe Ultimate Fantastic Four will tell us.

  6. Thanks for reading and commenting (as you always do) X-Man!

    I don't know if I can give this book a seal of approval. Because the current run on the book has SO much going on, it seems like a waste to have Bryan Hitch and give him a story like this. But I also got the feeling that this comic may have been one of this infamous "drawer" stories that was done a long time ago and Marvel couldn't decide how or when to use it.

  7. Not a problem buddy, I enjoyed it and laughed a ton so it was definitely my pleasure.

    I thought so, I'll be on the look out for them from now on haha. And interesting, I figured they wouldn't mention that but considering how much they've been showing Spidey "getting some" so much lately that I didn't know if FF ever mentioned it.

  8. I just got a year's worth of comics last Christmas, and this is the one that's next on my schedule.

    I just read the first few pages and was excited enough I couldn't actually wait to have some free time at home to read it, so I had to look it online.

    And that is how I found your page.

    Nice review you have here. I will be checking up your blog from now on.

    Keep it going.

  9. Thanks for the kind words Cesar! I'd love to know what you thought of the issue after you finally finish it. I hope to post some more soon, but technology can be fickle!