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!


  1. First of all, I'm glad to see you back, Kello!

    Second, I love that "Aron" is the most menacing name our old buddy "John Harkness" could come up with. And I actually think he looks more like a light-skinned Dr. Manhattan than Uatu.

    Third, I'd really love to find out what the true story is behind this whole run, because it's obvious that there was some serious stuff going down on the editorial/creative end -- both from the name change and from the fact that the story sounds just plain terrible.

  2. Thanks for commenting Marc! I'm unbelievably rusty at this whole blogging thing, but trying to return to my former glory.

    A while back a commenter named Zeke posted a link about the whole "Harkness" debacle and it really helped me understand the situation. I've read ahead about 5 issues through the end of Harkness's run, and it's like a giant middle finger to editorial.

    I really dread having to review the next few issues, but I made a promise to myself to get through "the box." I can gladly say the Walt Simonson era is right around the corner, and it's miles beyond this drivel.

    Here's one of the links, from an old site called FFPlaza (and here I thought I was being clever!):

  3. Hmm, interesting read. I actually just read an interview with Tom DeFalco earlier today, about his time as Marvel's EiC. He came off to me as kind of a jerk; while I fully understand that a comic book company's ultimate interest lies in protecting its characters, it seems like DeFalco was a bit overprotective. In other words, he burned bridges with creators at times when they probably didn't need to be burned, and overall I think if you look at that era of Marvel Comics (1987-94, roughly) you'll notice a much stronger emphasis on characters than creators relative to the periods directly preceding and following it.

    (It could be argued that exceptions were made for creators like Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane, but then again, X-Men and Spider-Man would have sold like hotcakes whether they were on those books or not. In fact, sales on both titles actually went up after they left to found Image.)

    So, in short, I'd say I'm with Englehart on this one. Of course, you could find negative things to say about any editorial regime. Certainly, they were said of Shooter, and to a lesser (but still substantial) extent with Quesada. I really disagree with a lot of stuff that went down with DeFalco, though, probably more than during any other EiC's tenure.