Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fantastic Four #296

Fantastic Four 296-“Homecoming”
Nov 1986 $1.50 (Dang! For 1986, it better be worth it!)
Writer/ Artist- Jim Shooter/ Stan Lee/ Barry Windsor-Smith/Kerry Gammill/ Ron Frenz/ Al Milgrom/ John Buscema/ Marc Silvestri / Jerry Ordway
Cover Tagline: “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”
Number of issues since last box pull: 5

(Editor’s Note- Today’s review will continue the trend of chronicling my journey through a box of 163 Fantastic Four comics. Unlike the “staying current” or “Thinking outside the box” posts, this comic was included in my original set purchased from eBay. The box is not one complete run, in fact there are some large gaps between issues. But part of the fun of randomly skipping through continuity is seeing just how much the FF has changed over the years!)

What happened: This 25th anniversary issue opens with Benjamin Grimm doing his best “Ninja Turtles Disguise” impression and walking around in the pouring rain in the city of Stockton.As the gargantuan figures stalks the night like some kind of emo version of Andre the Giant, a car accidentally runs into him due to the low visibility. The driver checks on Ben to see if he’s okay, and the Thing tells the driver to scram. Once again, nobody writes The Thing like Stan Lee:

Anyway, we find out that the Thing is back in Stockton because that’s where the FF’s ship originally crash landed after it was hit with cosmic rays. If you’ve never seen the FF’s origin, than this is a comic for you (and you probably haven’t been paying attention to superhero culture anytime in the past 60 years).

After he finishes reminiscing, Ben bemoans his fate as the monstrous Thing, and decides that his best course of action is to flee humanity and go live on Monster Island. Accordingly, he has his pilot buddy drop him off in the middle of the ocean, and he makes his way ashore.

We cut to the sunny setting of Los Angeles California, where Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and Johnny Storm are hot on Ben’s trail (after scanning for his brain waves!), trying to find out what happened to him. The “tremendous three” ambush the pilot that dropped Ben in the middle of the sea, and we find out the man’s name is Hopper Hertnecky. Old Hopper tells Reed and co. that they’ve never really cared about Ben, and that the Thing finally decided that he couldn’t live among men anymore. Man, that pilot sure doesn’t mince words…

Skipping over the b-story of the issue, Reed decides that if Ben wants to live with monsters, that’s fine. He just wants to have one last “man-to-man” talk with his friend, and then he can let go of the guilt of not being able to cure the Thing of his rocky form. Reed, Sue, and Johnny get ready for adventure, all while telling the very dismayed She-Hulk and Alicia Masters to sit this one out.

The F3 make it to Monster Island and land the Fantasti-Car by the mouth of the cave. As they get out they are ambushed by (you guessed it!) monsters. The Fantasti-Car is literally smashed to bits by a giant creature and the F3 escape into the cave. I guess they’ll be staying at Monster Island for a while too!

The 3 continue to fight monsters until they are overwhelmed within the bowels of the island. Their only saving grace….Ben Grimm, dressed like an unholy hybrid the Mole Man and 80’s pop icon Prince!

“Purple Rain Thing” explains that the Mole Man and he are now best friends, and that he serves as a security officer of sorts for Monster Island. The Mole Man, acting very much like a jealous lover, is distrusting of the appearance of the 3, and tells the Thing not to trust his former teammates. The Mole Man then leaves to go get some “treatments” and Ben shows the F3 around the island. After showing them the Koi pond and Jamba Juice kiosk, Ben reveals the grand finale: the Mole Man’s burrowing machine!

If you didn’t know where this comic was going before, you should now…

Anyway, Mole Man finds out about the “unauthorized” tour Ben gave the F3, and once again throws a “jealous girlfriend” sized hissy. Thankfully the MM’s whining is interrupted by some guards who have captured a spy. The spy turns out to be none other than Alicia Masters. If you’re not laughing right now, you should be.

Apparently everyone’s favorite surly pilot Hopper dropped off Alicia so she could “explore” the island. I mean, what kind of man wouldn’t say no to dropping a blind chick off on an island full of monsters? Alicia is injured (probably from monster bites, running into walls, and falling into chasms), so the MM sets her up in sick bay.

In a scene that should quall some of the recent debate here at FF Plaza, Alicia and Ben finally talk about the fact that she’s shacking up with Johnny. While I’m a big fan of “Team Benlicia”, (which sounds way more family friendly than "Team AlJohnny") Ms. Masters herself tells the Thing that he is too self-loathing for her, and that Johnny makes her feel special. Although Alicia might be a Skrull at this point in continuity, we’ll count this as a possible rational for her getting it on with her “lil Stormy boy.”

Cutting to the chase, Reed discovers the Mole Man’s burrowing machine is going to shift the tectonic plates, cause a giant weather related catastrophe, and kill lots of people. The Mole creatures attack the F3, and in one of the best scenes ever, turn Johnny into a complete uggo:

The F3 try and leave the island, and the Thing goes to find the Mole Man for some answers. When Ben finds MM, he sees that his “treatments” have been trips to a holographic dream world full of tall martinis and sexy dames. This leaves the Thing to question the Mole Man’s true loyalties.

The Thing decides that the MM ain’t all he cracked up to be, and goes back to help the F3. The reunited Fantastic Four destroy the drill, repel the monsters, and reverse Johnny’s mutation. The story ends with the team, along with Alicia and Hopper, adrift in the middle of the sea.

What I Thought: This comic was a really mixed bag. The fact that it was ANOTHER oversized issue made for quite a harrowing experience to read through at times. Seeing the FF’s origin rehashed over and over again is starting to grate on this reviewer, but it will be forgiven this time around due to the comic’s purpose as a milestone marker.

I think the weakest part of this issue overall was the plotting by Jim Shooter. The story was pretty standard, and though it was kind of shocking to see the FF get truly snippy with the Thing, it was pretty clear how it would all turn out. And while the whole part with Johnny getting disfigured was shoehorned into a cool moment of realization for the thing, I for one wish he could have stayed a monster for a while longer.

And then there’s the whole idea of Alicia sneaking onto the island to try and find Ben. It was just hilariously idiotic, and yes, that’s coming from a grown man talking about a comic book. Seriously, with her superior exploration skills, maybe Alicia Masters could take over for the blind hero Daredevil if he ever quits (that’s a photoshopped picture waiting to happen).

As you can see from the info at the beginning of the review, there were quite a few artists brought in for this issue. With some of the biggest names in comics at the time (and all of whom could now be considered “ modern legends”), the art is the high point of this issue. Even though each artist has his own undeniable style, the transitions between pages are never jarring, and a smooth look is maintained throughout the book. The complete absence of advertisements (hence the outrageous price) helps to maintain the integrity of the art as well.

And finally, it comes as no surprise that a majority of this issue focuses on the ever-lovin blue eyed Thing. We finally get some kind of resolution to the Ben/Alicia/Johnny drama, and the seeds for She-Hulk exiting so the Thing can come back to the team are sown. This issue also marks the point in my “box” adventures that I’ve moved beyond the John Byrne material, as he had gone to DC at this time to work on the relaunch of Superman. I for one will miss Byrne’s issues, and recommend his run to anyone who has an interest in the FF.

So until Johnny becomes the ugly one on the team, vive le fantastique!

That makes two of us, Ben.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Hey everyone,

It's the eternally eager editor of Four Freedoms (and your friend) Kello here, to tell you that my updates are going to be few and far between for a little while. I lost internet service where I live, and so I'm divising a system of typing reviews at home and uploading them online elsewhere (like right now, I'm up at the library). It's obviously not a hard thing to do, but I like to fiddle with posts a lot before I pulbish them, and it's more comfortable to do so at home. I mean, I can't even have iced tea in here. But as always, the show must go on, and I have a "staying current" post to do, as well as some "box" reviews. So until I post everyday, vive le fantastique!

One of the upcoming "box" pulls. There are some dark (albeit hilarious) reviews ahead for this site.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Poll Results: Favorite FF Member

I want to thank everyone who voted on the most recent poll, which asked "Who is your favorite member of the FF?" Out of 9 votes (a record high for this site, I believe), we had a three way "runner up" tie between Ben, Johnny, and Sue.

This of course means that the one and only Mr. Fantastic was crowned the top vote getter. I think it's no secret that Reed is my favorite member of the FF, so I'm considering my vote the tie-breaker. After all, why have your own blog if you can't fix the poll results? I kid, I kid.

Reed has a "Die Hard" moment.

Anyway, thanks again to all the loyal FFans out there for voting. I would be quite interested in knowing which readers picked which heroes and why. Oh, and don't forget to vote on the new poll, which asks about the best "non-Doom" FF villain. So until they release "Live Reed or Die Hard", vive le fantastique!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homages: Ha Ha!

I saw the top of this issue peaking out of a spinner rack at my local Hastings store (so what, I live in the middle of nowhere) and noticed the words "Comic Book" had the same font as the old Fantastic Four logo, so imagine my surprise when I saw the cover.

For those of you who don't know, the Comic Book Guy is doing his best impression of the giant green creature from the cover of 1961's Fantastic Four #1.
Looking inside the comic, there were a few obvious homages paid to iconic covers, such as the Death of Supergirl in the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. While I heavily debated buying the issue, I somehow mustered some strength and put it back. But I did get to thinking that the cover to Fantastic Four#1 has had a lot of imitators over the years. A quick Google image search later showed me that Comicvine actually catalogued them. Here are just a few:

The store also had half-priced(!) volumes of the first 2 Fantastic Four Masterworks editions, which made me think of my friend Marc, and were very tempting as possible purchases. But will power again prevailed. So until I have a billion dollars to blow at Hastings, vive le fantastique!

Mad Props to Falisha

I wanted to give a big shout out to my online friend and graphic designer extraordinaire Falisha, who graciously used her time and creativity to make a new header for the Four Freedoms site. I mentioned a little while back that I was tired of the bland "Blogger template" look the site had, and Ms. Falisha hooked me up with a HUGE upgrade. So if I haven't said it yet, thanks so much!

If you want to check out Falisha's other graphic design work, head over to Jason Todd's Comic Spot . Also check out Creative Fiasco for her great sketches (warning, some of the sketches may cause you to go through puberty again). Long live Falisha, and vive le fantastique!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

4 Goals for Four Freedoms

Hey True Believers, FFans, REEDers, Thing-A-Majigs, SUEthsayers, Torch Bearers, etc. It's Four Freedoms Plaza editor (and your friend) Kello here with a magnificent magnitude-shaking memorandum that is memorable in the mighty Marvel manner!

This past week I decided to refine the way I spend my time online. I closed down my twitter, deleted most of my Youtube videos, and made the announcement that I'll be deleting my other blog at the beginning of September. While those sites are being dismantled, I've also been cooking up ways to improve Four Freedoms. Here are some goals I hope to accomplish on this blog in the near future:

1.) Shorter posts- Less is more, right? The problem with having a site that reviews older material is that a majority of the readers don't have access to the actual comics. I hope to give enough background in each post that my reviews makes sense to the casually reader, without making everyone wade through 40 paragraphs of text.

2.) More Updates- More is more, right? I hope to post to this site at least once a week, which may not sound like much, but in reality is a lot more frequent than my current schedule.

3.) More Varied Material- Comic strips, video reviews, lists, as well as the previously established features: "One-Shot Showdown" , "Staying Current", and "Thinking Outside the Box".

4.) Make this a Site that all Types of Comic Fans Feel Welcome to Read -I'm not a die-hard FF fan by any means. I'm just a guy who bought a ton of comics for cheap, and wanted to document the experience of reading them. I think that lack of "blind allegiance" to the characters makes me more objective, and actually helps me find new ways to make fun of some of the material.

If it sounds like I'm just shifting a lot of what I used to do at Hello Kello over here, then you're very astute. But I hope you'll stick with the site and show some love through the comments section. I would be interested in any suggestions or feedback readers have. Want to see more or less of something? Want me to shut my yap and just talk about comics? Want fanfic of Ben marrying Crystal and going to live on Jupiter? Well... 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

So until the whole world reads this blog, vive le fantastique!