Friday, December 13, 2013

Miracle on Yancy Street

It must have taken some crisis for the Yancy Street Gang to step out of the shadows and meet with their legendary target, the Thing:

Though they would also end up meeting the Fantastic Four's deadliest enemy.

For Ben Grimm, it all started with the Christmas holidays, when an old friend from the 'hood, "Slugger" Sokolowski, looks Ben up and implores him to help in turning his son Jimmy away from using drugs:

Slugger is also afraid for his son because word has gotten around about people disappearing from the neighborhood.  Indeed, unknown to Slugger, Jimmy has only recently been abducted, though within view of a witness unnoticed by his attackers:

It doesn't take long before Ben is walking down Yancy Street, intent on his task but not being able to ignore old memories washing over him. Nor does it take long before he's spotted by his mainstay nemeses from this neighborhood, who, as always, strike first:

As we've already seen, Ben and the YSG meet face-to-face and compare notes, realizing that they're actually looking into the same case:

It's then that the YSG gets word on Jimmy's whereabouts and take off after him. But the Thing has no intention of being left in their dust, and an alliance is informally struck. If you can call it that:

Once inside the building they've located, however, they find that it's far from abandoned:

Almost immediately, Ben and the YSG are set upon by the same attackers who abducted Jimmy--but Ben quickly discovers that they're powerful robots, and takes point against them while the YSG pitch in fearlessly. Yet, for Jimmy, his captor seems convinced that his fate is sealed:

Once the robots are dealt with, the gang and the Thing get their bearings. But before they can investigate further, their foe finally reveals himself:

Yet, why would Doom be running, of all things, a drug trafficking operation? Ben seems equally incredulous at the revelation, as well as outraged. But then Doom adds a piece to the puzzle that makes his involvement here even more confusing:

The YSG also join in the fight, if from the sidelines--but Doom is clearly overwhelming against them, and the Thing again attacks to keep Doom's focus on him. But Ben's fight with Doom is on a more personal level, wanting to discover what Doom's motivations are here and what's brought him to this neighborhood. And the answers are as twisted as the man himself:

Yet finally, Doom twists the knife far more deeply with words than with actions:

And with that hanging in the air, Doom departs. Ben would go on to reproach himself over Doom's words, though to dwell on them would only serve as a salve to Doom's conscience rather than his own. After all, there's nothing to stop Doom from taking the data he's gathered and continuing his work on the problem at a more secure location, if he were of the mind to do so--but he's admitted that the problem is too daunting to merit his time. The Thing's interference, despite Doom's spin on it, really just provided a convenient excuse for Doom to terminate his work on the project, a thought that had already occurred to him.

Thankfully, though, the YSG have put their own time to good use, and located Jimmy:

As for that miracle that just about every Christmas story thrives on, it's hard to tell if it comes in the form of Jimmy's reunion with his dad:

...or the Yancy Street Gang bonding with their new big buddy:

Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving.

And when Ben rejoins the rest of the FF, he's not shy about grumbling about the way he was played. But it's Christmas, after all, and mistletoe works wonders.

Whatever problems I might have had with Tom DeFalco's run on Fantastic Four, he proves again here that he's one of the better Doctor Doom writers on Marvel's staff--but he also turns in a fine job on most of the characters in this issue. Slugger's initial reluctance to see Ben; the catching up he and Ben did at Rielly's Bar; Ben taking on almost a protective role with the YSG; a nice scene for Franklin, who seldom gets enough panel time in the hectic world of the FF; as well as mending the awkwardness between Johnny and Alicia. A lot of nice touches throughout. I wasn't really on board with "code names" for the members of the YSG--all they needed was a clubhouse and a charter, and that doesn't really fit the image of the Yancy Street Gang as we've come to know them.

Artists Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi joined DeFalco on the FF run, and they turn in their usual fine work here, along with some nice touches of their own. It's nice to see the FF out of uniform when the situation dictates, and I liked the nod to Ben's past in the form of donning his old flight jacket. In addition, there was also everyone signing Ben's cast for his injured arm; the clever splash page which turned out to be nothing more than Ben's arm being set; the obvious happiness that Franklin has at seeing everyone together on Christmas; and even the FF reception lobby with "Roberta." There was also Ben's battle with Doom, which went as far as it could with Ben having one arm out of commission, but still played out intensely and well.

And speaking of Doom, thanks to a story in the What The?! X-mas Special, we can take a good guess at how he might observe Christmas:

Fantastic Four #361

Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Paul Ryan
Inks: Danny Bulanadi
Letterer: Bill Oakley


karl said...

After all the hurtful things the Yancy Street Gang have done to the Thing over the years, if I was Ben I wouldn't have bothered helping them. Id have said 'Fuck 'em' and left them to Doom's tender mercies.

Comicsfan said...

Well, karl, it's one thing to deal with hit-and-run hoodlums, and another to actually meet your "enemy" and find out who they are behind the bravado--and Ben, like Slugger, knows what his old neighborhood is capable of doing to kids, so I don't think it's all that surprising for him to take a breath and hear them out. Also, he comes to realize almost immediately that the YSG has info on Jimmy that he lacks, and he'd be a fool to shut them down--so when they take off to scout his location, Ben knows (as, I think, they also did) that joining forces was in everyone's best interest.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, I always wondered what those guys looked like.
Merry X-mas!

B Smith said...

The code/nicknames of each of the YSG members would suggest that it's partly a tribute to Kirby's "kid gang" strips of old - I suspect Lugwrench's crack about a "bunch of whinin' newsboys" is a tip of the hat to the Newsboy Legion.

Comicsfan said...

Great observation, B--the whole intro segment was certainly reminiscent of Kirby's writing style. I wonder if Ben noticed? :)

M.P., right back atcha, guy!