Monday, June 9, 2014

The Riotous Return of Mr. Fantastic!

The cover of Fantastic Four #197 proclaims, "At long last! The return of Reed Richards' super-powers!" At long last, indeed.  With over thirty-five issues of "Mr. Fantastic" being a shadow of his former stretching self, the wait has been a long one for readers, who first saw Reed's right arm lose its resilience, followed by that condition--you'll excuse the word--extending to his entire body. And now, with the FF disbanded, Reed encounters a mysterious benefactor who makes him an offer he finds difficult to refuse:

Yes, Reed is also agreeing to the offer because his other three (ex-)teammates are being held hostage to ensure his compliance. But, what's this? The Red Ghost has also returned? We haven't seen him since his encounter with Iron Man. And he's feeling riotous, so that can't be good.

But one thing at a time. First, let's get Reed back to full power!

With the FF's 200th issue just around the corner, it's safe to assume that there's more to our mystery suit-guy than meets the eye--and that Reed's suspicion that the regaining of his powers is part of a greater plan has merit. Even after he launches his specially equipped spacecraft, he can't help mulling it over:

I'll say one thing for the FF's finances--they certainly fluctuate from one end of the spectrum to the other, depending on the requirements of the plot being explored at the time. You can't tell me that a guy who can stock the Baxter Building with state-of-the-art aircraft and other expensive equipment can't pull together the funds for an orbital experiment of this type. Be that as it may, Reed's plan is to use equipment in the craft to recreate the conditions that existed in space when the Fantastic Four was first created:

Did the eagle-eyed among you spot the mysterious red mist now present in the spacecraft with Reed? It looks like he's got company--and just in time for the fateful repeat of history:

Reed passes out from the stress of the re-exposure to the cosmic rays. But there's another on board who's definitely feeling a little more invigorated:

There are other machinations taking place in this issue--specifically, the power behind Reed's liaison, and the one who now has the remaining members of the FF as his helpless prisoners guests:

As we can see, Doom has also captured Alicia Masters, in order to have her sculpt a statue of him which will be as crucial to his ongoing plan as the entire complement of the Fantastic Four. That plan, as you may have guessed, requires a fully powered Reed Richards, which Doom has magnanimously arranged. Of course, complications have developed which even Doom hasn't foreseen:

Wow! It looks like Reed is back full steam and ready to go. On the other hand, the last I knew, the Red Ghost didn't have super-strength, so that studded fist should have decked him decisively; but then, our story would be over, and what we really want is to see more of Reed in action. And so, where you or I would now be unconscious, the Ghost is able to spring to the attack and keep this story going:

We may be seeing Reed make some tactical blunders, but let's keep in mind that he's been effectively out of action for awhile and thus a little rusty. (And certainly a little over-eager.)  Let's hope his fighting style comes back to him like riding a bike, because the Ghost is about to demonstrate that he now has a new offensive ability:

Since this issue is obviously meant to showcase Reed back in action, we're not going to be seeing the part of Reed that he would normally bring into play when faced with such an enemy: his scientist's mind, which would have been working to find a way to out-maneuver and neutralize the Ghost. And with his craft now hurtling toward a fiery end, he may have waited too long.

Still, after three years (our time) of not seeing Mr. Fantastic in action, we're not going to mind him relying exclusively on his stretching ability to prevail against the Red Ghost. And he's not through yet:

I can tell you that a "THRAKKO!" would probably be enough to send me to dreamland, but apparently I don't go to the same gym that Ivan Kragoff has a membership to. As we'll see, he not only recovers in time, but remains alert enough to turn the tables on Reed completely:

With the spacecraft now crippled and beyond repair, the Ghost leaves Reed to his fiery fate and departs intangibly through the hull. But, thanks to a hairline crack, Mr. Fantastic isn't out of action yet:

At this point, Doom gives up Reed and the craft for lost, and moves forward with contingency options so that his plan may continue. But not everyone has counted Reed out, least of all Reed himself--and he plans to make Doom regret it.

When we continue with Reed's mission, we'll find out more about Doom's plan, as well as his enigmatic "assistant" and just why the FF are so important to Doom's dealings with both. Though from the looks of it, Reed isn't likely to wait around for a briefing.

Fantastic Four #197

Script: Marv Wolfman
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Costanza


Murray said...

I had to give a lopsided grin when Reed defiantly thought "Once I have my powers, he won't able to order me about!"

Yeah, being a human rubber band is all that stands between you and victory.

BUT, then the rest of the tale was thought out well enough to let Mr. Fantastic's stretching look pretty effective.

The Red Ghost has certainly gone thru many permutations in the span of his career. Apes, costume, even powers fluxing all over the place. I'm glad his recent appearances (ie: Spider-Man two years ago) have him back pretty much as he first appeared, in his fur-trimmed tunic and black gloves look. And his pets/allies/friends, the Super Apes make up the happy commie family.

Anonymous said...

I thought when Red Ghost first appeared he was wearing overalls...?

Anonymous said...

Boy, the Red Ghost just wasn't cut out for the super-villain business, was he?
He would've been better off taking a desk job in Kirov or maybe a position as a zoo-keeper in Petrograd.
He was good with apes!

Murray said...

Ah, as it turns out, in FF #13, Ivan first appeared on the page training his monkeys while wearing his...whatever it is. "Parka" comes to mind, with the fur collar.

But you're correct in that the rest of the issue shows him in his spacesuit onesie overall.

Anyway, as I said, I prefer the crazy novelty of a super character not wearing a skintight body suit.

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