Tuesday, August 16, 2016

War With The Frightful Four!

This looks like a climactic issue that's got a lot of backstory to it, doesn't it?

But because this story takes place in the middle of a tense situation involving the marital difficulties of Reed and Sue Richards, the attack of the Frightful Four is given short shrift--by its own admission, "an interlude in a much greater war--a brief respite, of sorts, between one tempest of emotion and the next." The evil FF haven't been seen in the mag since their all-out attack on the FF which introduced their powerful new member, Thundra--so they were due for a return appearance, no question. Their timing was just off, unfortunately; after all, how do you compete with the added complication of the Sub-Mariner in Reed's and Sue's troubles, and a cliffhanger like this?

(Jeez, talk about the "Red Sea"!)

So, forced to leave Sue with Namor, the team isn't in the best of shape, emotionally or otherwise--particularly Reed, who's just lost his wife not only to pending divorce proceedings, but also to his greatest rival. In two issues, that would all change, when the couple reunite; but what to do until then? If you're the Frightful Four, you're too busy lying in wait in the Baxter Building to care--and if the FF don't get ahold of themselves, instead of going to pieces while coming in for a landing, a fatal crash will do the evil FF's work for them!

Whoa! Did anyone catch the mega-goof on this page?

Unless there's a hidden floor in the building (and with Reed, who knows?), isn't the Baxter Building a thirty-five story building? Perhaps it all depends on whether or not you regard the FF tower as an extra series of floors, or part of the building's specs as a whole.

At any rate, the team lands safely thanks to the Thing taking the controls--and while they're really in no condition to face the Frightful Four, the chance to catch their collective breath isn't a luxury they're going to have for long.

If you were reading this story in print, you might be wondering if there were a few pages of story missing in your copy of the issue, since it feels we've cut right to the chase here. The Frightful Four are usually more devious in their scheming, aren't they? Yet this looks like simple breaking and entering, with the Wizard wanting to access Reed's computer and extract a wealth of secrets and weapons--a "plan" we don't learn of until the battle is nearly over. Part of the fun of an appearance by the Frightful Four is to see the story take its time with them, as they form an intricate plan and execute it step by step; here, however, it's simply an issue of FF vs. FF, a story one tends to flip through rather than read.

It's also, unfortunately, a virtual gallery of artist Rich Buckler's indulgence in the practice of "swiping," as you'll notice a number of panels throughout that will look awfully familiar to you. Many of them can be found in a separate post on the subject; but suffice to say that they're a bit distracting in such quantity, especially given the chance Buckler has here to provide a cover-to-cover battle issue between these two teams that features his own impressive style.

It seems to take an eternity for the rest of the FF to break out of the elevator while Reed is getting pummeled by the Sandman; apparently Medusa is urging the Thing to wait, which makes no sense whatsoever if they're under attack. Wait for what? For the elevator doors to respond? But once they're finally out, the Sandman withdraws; and from that point, the story splits off into separate encounters between members of both FF teams, which makes for a battle issue that really should have taken place as the culmination of a story arc rather than isolated on its own. The Frightful "Four" also seem to be down a member, though we'll learn more on that in due time.

For now, it's the Wizard's show, as the Trapster and Sandman run interference for him while he heads to pilfer the data on Reed's computer system. And let's give the man some credit: Reed might as well junk the Baxter Building's vaunted security system, since the Wizard and his team have a habit of circumventing it.

The first up is the Trapster, who, let's face it, eventually reached the point in stories where he became a joke--to readers as well as his opponents--who just didn't win enough of his fights, and thus became the most disposable member of the evil FF. To make matters worse, he didn't employ his traps nearly as often as he depended on his boring paste gun to carry the day, which is hardly exciting reading. Occasionally, though, he lived up to his potential as someone who could devise the perfect trap for an enemy, which made him unpredictable to his foe(s) and, dare I say it, interesting--and his choice of traps to use against the Torch was quite clever.

As for the Wizard, his intelligence should have him coming out on top more often, as well--especially since he wears a powerful pair of gauntlets that make him a formidable foe on his own, and downright dangerous as a member of a villainous group. And while it's a little infuriating to see the likes of Medusa and Reed so easily dealt with, the Wizard should be given his due.

That leaves the Sandman for the Thing--neither of them pushovers, which means we're in for a brawl.  Though in any normal story where the Frightful Four came after the FF, you might see the Wizard and the Trapster joining in to gang up on the Thing. Well, someone is going to be outnumbered in this fight--and with Thundra's arrival, not only is the Sandman at a disadvantage, but it's now 5 to 3 odds against the Wizard's team should it turn out she's thrown her allegiance to the entire Fantastic Four.

Meanwhile, the Trapster's victory is short-lived, as the Torch blazes to the attack again--and we see how even that lousy paste gun can have its uses.

Now all we need is the Thing to make it game, set, and match:

Before the circumstances of Thundra's arrival can be elaborated on, the FF must turn their attention to the return of Namor, who, with Sue, has surfaced in New York Harbor and brought another war to their doorstep--one that threatens both the surface world and the FF personally.  It wasn't exactly the Frightful Four's finest hour here--probably because an hour is just about all they were given as filler.

Fantastic Four #148

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Rich Buckler
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would figure Reed would appreciate the Frightful Four showing up in the midst of his nervous breakdown and collapsing marriage, to provide a little much-needed comic relief.
I kind of liked Buckler's work. Granted, he was no Kirby, but then again who was. It was rough, but there was a lot of energy in it.
Thundra was a great character, and there's something truly enjoyable about seeing her slap the Sandman around, and making Ben Grimm very uncomfortable.

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