Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fantastic Four #328

Fantastic Four 328-“Bad Dream”
Cover Date July 1989 Price $.75

Writer/ Artist-
John Harkness/ Keith Pollard
Cover Tagline: “What can one man do?" "Ben Grimm vs. The Frightful Four"

Number of issues between the last box pull: 0

(UGH. After last issue's review it's quite evident I need to proofread both my posts and my comics more closely. It was pointed out to me that I repeatedly referred to the Wizard as the Psycho Man. I apologize on behalf of Four Freedoms for such gargantuan flubs. But instead of dwelling on my shortcomings, I'm going to follow the FF's example and soldier on in the face of adversity. Without further jibber jabber, let's dive back into "the box!")

What Happened: Picking up from last issue, the Frightful Four have finally bested the FF after years of failure. Though a majority of the Frightful Four (I think I'll call them Fright4 from now on) is stupefied by how this victory was achieved, it's revealed that the Wizard had enlisted the help of the Dragon Man and a Watcher named Aron.
That's right! THE Aron. Menace of the Marvel Universe, thorn in the side of--wait, who the heck is Aron!? Thankfully it's all answered for us...

Aron is a Watcher who idolizes the always intrusive Uatu. He was so enamored with the FF that he took the liberty of obtaining "tissue samples" of most of the members while they were on the moon during a previous adventure. The only hero whose tissue Aron missed was Johnny Storm's. So after teaming up with the Fright4, Aron helps himself to some of the hero's DNA. I'm not sure if explaining his motives made the necessity of his presence in this story any more clear...

Anyway, having obtained his sample, Aron turns to take leave of the Fright4. This angers the Wizard, who thought Aron was going to fall in line with the rest of his team and finally finish off the Fantastic Four. Aron tells the Wizard he could blink him out of existence if he wanted to, but the Fright4 try to beat up Aron and the Dragon Man anyway.
They lose the fight. Quickly.

Aron leaves, and the Fright4 ponder what to do with an unconscious FF. Personally, I would pull on Reed's arms like he was a Stretch Armstrong.

Time passes, and a concerned Ben Grimm arrives to investigate the site of the FF and Fright4's battle. Some cops at the crime scene tip Ben off that the Dragon Man was spotted during the melee, which gives Ben enough of a lea
d to head back to Four Freedoms Plaza.
Officer O'Malley says: "Move along, Nuthin to see"

While there, he and Alicia Masters contact the Jade temptress known as the She-Hulk, because she was one of the last heroes to tangle with the Dragon Man. She-Hulk tells Ben to go to 34th Street to look for the purple monster.

Ben and Alicia head down 34th Street and start asking the locals if they've seen a giant purple dragon recently. An old man points them to a spot where he may or may not have seen some thing at some point in time (yeah, he's about that helpful). As Ben and Alicia sleuth out the location of the FF in this random office building, something rather peculiar happens:

It would appear that Ben is hallucinating that he is talking to people. When Alicia tries to warn Ben he's acting weird, a shapeshifting monster attacks! Of course these turn out to be tricks Ben's mind is playing on him, which leads Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew to conclude someone doesn't want him snooping around. Using all his cunning, Ben stealthily creeps about looking for any other things out of the ordinary. Did I mention Ben's definition of "stealthily" involves smashing through a door in a maddened rampage?

In the perfect marriage of rage and coincidence (a.k.a bad writing), Ben just happens to smash the door to the Frightful Four's lair. The FF is being held captive in tubes, and Grimm decides to free them himself. He spends the next few pages getting the drop on the Fright4, freeing his friends, and generally kicking copious amounts of butt.
The sound effects alone are worth the price of admission.

Well that's it for this issue, right? Just another late 80's comic with an incoherent plot and references to Micheal Douglas movies. It seems pretty standard: good guys win, bad guys lose, and we can finally put all this Frightful Four nonsense behind us. EXCEPT as they're carting the baddies away, the FF and Frightful Four are suddenly whisked off to Aron's secret hideout.

The rogue Watcher reveals his master plan: a cloned team of the Fantastic Four! (And I die a little inside because it seems this story will NEVER end).

What I Thought: There's hardly any sense in dissecting the merit of this ridiculous plot, so I'm going to point out the few positive things I could find.

First of all, Keith Pollard's art is excellent as always. As far as I'm concerned, Marvel should have just printed his art without any dialogue, and this story would have made a lot more sense. Granted all the readers out there would have to fill-in-the-blanks, but I'm sure whatever we could dream up is more coherent and acceptable than the given explanations. Cool, I just slammed the plot and complimented the art in one fell swoop!

The other really neat thing about this issue is how it showcases the awesomeness that is Ben Grimm. Despite a lack of rocky skin and super strength, Grimm manages to maintain his superhero status in spades. Maybe it's because I just watched Die Hard, but Ben reminds me of a full-on early 90's action hero in this issue. Hunting down leads, jumping headlong into battle against nearly insurmountable odds, fighting his belt (see below), and saving his best girl are all in a day's work for this macho war machine. This issue should have been titled something along the lines of "Ben Grimm With A Vengeance."

So until Aron the Watcher becomes the most popular character in the Marvel Universe, vive la fantastique!

I don't care what you do in private, Grimm, but this is supposed to be a family friendly site!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fantastic Four #327

Fantastic Four 327-“Why?!!”
Cover Date Jun 1989 Price $.75

Writer/ Artist-
John Harkness (if that is your real name!)/ Keith Pollard
Cover Tagline: “The Thing-- No More!"

Number of issues between last box pull: 0

Hey FFans, long time no write! Actually at this point, it's probably just "FFan", and I may or may not be referring to myself. Anywho, it's your flagrantly farcical friend Kello here, back with another frenetic foray into the world of everyone's favorite family of adventurers!

...In other words, I'm gonna tell you about some old Fantastic Four comic. Yes, I've dipped back into the "box" for the follow up to March's Fantastic Four #326 review. What, you've forgotten that review already? Seriously, it was only 4 months ago...

What Happened
: Our story dives right in with a close-up shot of Ben Grimm shouting the most appropriate question one could ask regarding this comic- "WHY?!!" Surprised that he unexpectedly returned to his human form after being zapped by a ray at the end of last issue, Ben is now caught in the middle of a battle royal (with cheese) between the Frightful Four and the Fantastic Four.

This fierce fracas goes on for a significant amount of pages, and everyone gets a turn trying out some late 80's hero/villain banter:

After both sides get some good licks in, The Frightful Four retreat out the window and the FF decide not to give chase. Instead they hang back and admire Ben's transformation from big orange rocky looking guy in underwear to relatively big human looking guy in underwear. Of course, this leads to some dramatic tension, because a.) Without powers, Ben can no longer lead the FF, and b.) Pretty much the only commonality Ben has with his current girlfriend is that they're fugly rock monsters. It's ok though, both problems get resolved for the time being, as Ben hugs his "woman" and Reed plots to wrest control of the group.

Speaking of teams with tension, we're next treated to the Frightful Four's post-game pow-wow. Instead of focusing on the positives ("I really liked the way you threatened Franklin Richards, Klaw. You know how to pick on vulnerable people") , the ne'er do wells blame each other for the shared failure.

This gives Wizard pause, and he steals away for a page of "me time."

During a rather long-winded soliloquy, Wizard blurts out that going up against Reed and his entire family has taught him that Richards' reliance on his emotions is his biggest weakness. "The Wiz" asserts that he has the upper hand, because all the people he associates with are simply underlings whom he cares nothing for. Wizard then goes on to talk about hiring a mysterious new ally, and we see some not-so-subtle foreshadowing of a Giant Dragon flying outside the window. It almost looks like a "Dragon Man."

We jump back over to Four Freedoms, where Reed assumes control of the team once again, effectively ending the reign of terror that began in issue 307 (now THAT was a doozy!). He informs the team he has triangulated the whereabouts of the Frightful Four, and from there we have a rehash of the beginning of the issue. The FF take on the Frightful Four, trading equal numbers of blows and quips. The only difference with this new battle is how the FF abruptly pass out. 75% of the Frightful Four are baffled by this occurrence and look to the Wizard for the answer.

Wizzy reveals his new allies: Aron the Watcher, and Dragon Man! ...Yeah, that's the cliffhanger.
Rar! They're menacing.

What I thought: This issue was a little bit like a sporting event. The two teams beat on each other, took a half-time to regroup, and then beat on each other some more until one side emerged victorious. While I would liken Reed's half-time coaching style to the more level-headed Coach K, it's Wizard's Bobby Knight inspired hissy fit that wins the day. Realizing there's no friends in villainy (much like there's no crying in baseball), Wizard called in some clutch relief and went hard in the paint to bring this baby home. That's all she wrote folks for the sports references, by the way.

But in all honesty, this issue had very little substance, and even the slightly compelling question of "What to do with Ben now that he's just a man?" loses it's appeal quickly. Everyone knows he'll be the Thing again in no time, and seriously, does anyone want to see a dude make out with a rocky creature? I guess there's a bit of a double-standard, because I don't mind Alicia with Ben when he's in his rocky form.

Once again Keith Pollard's art is above average. In a story with a lot of action sequences, Pollard does a nice job of mixing up the heroes and villains to convey a real sense of people "throwing down." And his rendition of a Rhino made of pure sound was pretty neat too!

And finally, Reed retakes command of the Fantastic Four. While it was an inevitability that was coming for some 20 issues, Reed acts like such a presumptuous jerk when it comes to leading the FF that even I was a little put-off (I usually like Reed when he's a jerk). The transfer of power is done with such lack of finesse that you might as well throw away all the comics where Ben serves as leader. Hey you know what? That's not a bad idea....

So until I start dating a girl with rocky orange skin, vive la fantastique!

Jeez! It's called privacy, Reed.