Friday, August 5, 2011

Streets Ahead: FF 50th Anniversary Variants

Hey all, Kello here to unveil yet another fantastic feature that is guaranteed to take the internet by storm! Every now and then I'll come across something FF-related (be it fan art, variant covers, apparel, action figures, etc.) that's so cool it could be deemed Streets Ahead. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "streets ahead" means these items somehow go above and beyond the normal standard of FF excellence. (And yes I totally ripped off the term from the blatantly hilarious TV show Community. See the end of the post for more details.)

Today's Streets Ahead item is the set of ever-expanding Fantastic Four 50th Anniversary covers Marvel has been sprinkling into their releases throughout the year. After all, if the calculator on my computer is correct, 2011-1961 = 50. Wow, the team looks great for their age! Well, except Reed. He looks about right. And Johnny, who looks a little dead. Tangents aside, check the covers, which highlight a sampling of some of the shared shenanigans of Marvel's First Family from the past 5 decades!

(X-men #16 Featuring the Byrne-era lineup.)

(X-Men Legacy# 245 Featuring the FF's most hated foes/ frenemies)

(X-Men #7 With a Rockwellesque homage to the original lineup )

(Fear Itself #1 Featuring everyone's favorite substitute lineup!!!)

(FF #1 Featuring the Frightful Four)

So there you go. Weren't those neat? I hope you enjoyed the inaugural (and probably final) edition of Streets Ahead.

And remember, "If you have to ask, you're streets behind."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fantastic Four # 331

Fantastic Four 331-“Good Dreams Part 2: The Menace of the Metal Man!”
Cover Date October 1989 Price $1.00 (Price Increase!)

Writer/ Artist-
John Harkness/ Rich Buckler
Cover Tagline: “It's a Dream! It's a Hoax! It's an Imaginary Story! And it's Also Ultron!"

Number of issues between the last box pull: 2 (thank goodness)

Hey FFans, so glad you could make it back! It's the dapper and dashing Kello here, delighting in my duty to disseminate Fantastic Four reviews which not only dazzle the masses, but defy expectations! Today we're looking at a comic that by it's own admission DOES NOT MATTER. Almost everything that occurs in the plot is imaginary, assuring it will be discarded once the arc is over. Doesn't that make you just want to dive right in?! Well, don't be dubious, I promise I'll do my best to make it a fun trip...

What Happened: We open on the Fake FF (who were created by the dread Watcher known as Aron in issue 328) as they beat up a magician.

No, the magician wasn't evil or anything, they just don't like how this "fraud" charges people money for such mundane illusions. The Fake FF goes so far as to show the audience how the performer does his tricks! Man, they're worse than that masked guy from "Magic's Biggest Secrets Revealed."

Reed, is that you?

Anywho, The Fake FF is up in arms because the audience is willing to pay money to see such hackneyed parlor tricks, when the FF have been dealing out real live powers for years without seeing any kick backs. To remedy this oversight, the Fake FF institute a "Fantasti-Tax." This means citizens must pay for the Fantastic Four's continued allegiance. The crowd is understandably indignant towards Reed's announcement. I mean who wants to pay for something they can get for free? (This paragraph sponsored by bit torrent comics)

Isn't this comic from 1989? Whatever happened to "No new taxes"?

After the pronouncement of the "Fantasti-tax", the scene shifts to Aron the Watcher's secret Canadian lair. Because any good villain knows that the Great White North is the best place to have a hidden cave of evil. While its been 2 issues since Aron captured the team, it's obvious I didn't miss anything. The real FF is still trapped in tubes, having fevered dreams of sweet nothings.

Each issue of this arc spotlights a different member of the real FF as they're conked out. This time around we get to peek into the dreams of Reed Richards. What does ol' Stretcho dream of anyway? My guess is he sees a life with no pesky family or friends to get in the way of him and his one true love- science!!!

It turns out his family is alive and well in his dreams, but Reed is even more of a super nerd than before. while the scenes between him and his family are dreadfully plain, there are a few things that stick out as completely awkward. First of all, Reed won't shut up about his new personal computer, the "Turino XL." Seriously, he's a bigger shill for the Turino than Jared is for Subway. The other thing that jumps out in an undeniably awkward manner is the way the rest of the team utters the phrase "Darn your socks."

Is "darn your socks" a euphemism? I'm kind of a prude,
but that doesn't even make sense!

As the team heads their separate ways in an attempt to avoid anymore of Reed's sales pitch, they're faced with some rather ominous occurrences. As Ben and Sharon ride the elevator, it gets jostled loose and begins to drop. Thankfully Sharon saves the day, and the two decide to hike back up the 50 stories to see what happened. While the two lovebirds make their ascent, Sue encounters something going down in the Robotics Lab of Four Freedoms. She calls Reed in and explains that she sensed an unusual force field in the room.

Reed investigates, and finds that his wife isn't just acting "hysterical" (like normal), but that the defenses have indeed been tampered with. Fearing for his family's safety, Reed calls his young son to come away from the Robotics Lab. In a twist of fate/ giant coincidence/ excuse-to-move-the-plot along Franklin's Scrabble game is knocked to the floor and Reed figures out the culprit behind all the weirdness in the building:
Duh. It was soooo obvious...right?

Ultron XI then reveals himself and his newest plan for world domination. It seems that he plans on using the electronics in the Turinos to infiltrate the homes in America.
Yep, that's the plot. Ultron wants to invade America using the rising demand for personal computers. Thankfully Sharon and Ben reenter the scene and the "She -Thing" puts an end to all this mischief. While the scene lasts about 9 pages too long (it clocks in at 12 altogether), Shary takes the opportunity to kick some serious robo-booty.

The issue ends with the real Reed slumbering peacefully like a baby genius, while the insidious Fake FF continue their endless quest to impose the "Fantasti-Tax." If you haven't noticed by now, the notion of the "Fantasti-Tax" entertains me to no end!

What I Thought: I have a love/hate relationship with these types of issues. The cover's admission that the entire story is a "hoax", as well as the reveal of Ultron as the surprise villain renders the interior story moot. If you're reading this, it means I willingly forfeited my precious God-given time in favor of something that is absolutely pointless. That's the bad part.

The good part? This issue's ample imperfections make it perfect fodder for a site like Four Freedoms. The entire plot revolving around the rise of PCs in the home nicely dates the story, something I always appreciate when chronicling back issues.

I still have to question Aron the Watcher's endgame. Aron's original intention for creating the Fake FF was out of some type of borderline admiration for the real team. Unless some other motivations were revealed in the 2 issues I missed, my question is now "Why would Aron want his Fake FF to start ripping off citizens?" I can't believe he needs the money, although I'm sure secret Canadian lairs don't come cheap. I mean his monthly "sleeping tube" costs alone must be astronomical! This was unclear to me, and hopefully the next few issues will shed some light on his fiendish reasoning.

And as always, we here at Four Freedoms try to be as fair and balanced as Fox News, so there were some parts of this issue worth mentioning. Rich Buckler handles art duties on this issue, and he does a great job of conveying a bombastic sense of action. The scenes with Shary "She-Thing" "The Body" Ventura going toe-to-toe with Ultron are rather brutal looking. It goes a long way in establishing some credibility for such an obviously lame hero as the female Thing. She now ranks slightly above the Lady Stilt-Man , but somehow still below X-23 in the pantheon of ridiculous female comic book counterparts. So in other words, she still has a long way to go.

And although he gets pwned worse than I do when I play Call of Duty, it's nice to see Ultron in an FF comic. I like when villains break away from the heroes they normally associate and mix it up a little. You know, even if continuity-wise it never really happened...

Well that's about it for me. The next issue promises to show us "Johnny's Dream." I've seen the future, and let me tell you, Johnny's dream is mostly about his sister. If that doesn't incite your curiosity enough to want to come back, well then I understand. But if you're like me and morbid curiosity always wins the day, I'll see you soon! Until I start charging a "Fantasti-Tax" for access to this site, Vive La Fantastique!