Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Once More--The Fantastic Four!

Given the grim subject matter, it's probably best if we do a brief visual recap of where we left things last time. And what a visual:

Having witnessed the death of Reed Richards at (literally) the hand of Doctor Doom, as well as having heard the reading of Reed's last will and testament, it seemed certain that the leader of the Fantastic Four had met his end--to say nothing of the equally shocking news that Doom had perished in the same stroke. What wasn't certain was, how would the FF go on without Reed? How would the book?

We would see that for ourselves in the following months, as writer Tom DeFalco and artist Paul Ryan did their level best to assure readers that Reed was gone for good, and that the Fantastic Four would have to continue without him. The only member of the team who didn't fully accept Reed's death was his wife, Sue, though she stepped up to lead the FF and grew into the role--while membership in the FF fluctuated, with Johnny Storm leaving to oversee the new Fantastic Force, leaving Sue and the Thing to go into battle with characters like Ant-Man, the Sub-Mariner, Doom's young protégé Kristoff Vernard, and the Torch's ex-wife, the Skrull named Lyja.

Yet still readers waited, drumming our collective fingers until Reed would surely reappear from wherever he'd been. Because with apologies to Ben Franklin et al., in comic books only taxes are truly certain, while death can be overridden with the klackety-klack of a typewriter. And though we would see twenty-five issues and two years go by before learning the truth, eventually we would be greeted with back-to-back issues which revealed all--emphasis on the word "back."

Reed's hiatus, of course, meant that Doom would also be absent for the duration; and so to presumably draw things out a little further where Reed was concerned, we're first brought up to speed on Doom's status with the cryptic words of a mysterious robed figure who has a captive at his mercy--though, frankly, it's difficult to tell which figure is Doom. With all the sieg-heiling going on from the flunkies in attendance, our villain might be the Red Skull, for all we know.

As for the FF, they've currently cornered Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man, who had disguised himself as Boris, Doom's retainer. Cutting a deal for his freedom, Zarrko makes an astonishing announcement which can't help but pique the FF's interest--for all the good it does him.

With Sue's insistence that they check out the lead, the group arrives at our villain's lair in the future, where we at least learn the identity of the one who was held helpless. And with that discovery comes the introduction of the powerful figure who has apparently been responsible for this entire plot.

Needless to say, the FF and their allies have no intention of remaining as Hyperstorm's "guests." Spearheaded by Namor, the others swiftly follow his lead--but Hyperstorm's power proves beyond that of any foe they have ever faced, and the skirmish is brief and no contest. Yet the group at least achieves what they came for, when Hyperstorm banishes them to Reed's location. And Doom? Even Hyperstorm would be well advised not to count him out.

As it turns out, Hyperstorm has also captured Nathaniel Richards, Reed's father, who has seized power in Latveria in Doom's absence and attempted to stop Sue and the others from proceeding on their mission. Nathaniel has the distinction of being the only one who knows the true origin of Hyperstorm, as well as the current location of Reed, keeping that information even from the FF--presumably with good reason, though the others don't completely trust him.

Meanwhile, we discover that Zarrko yet lives, having been transported back by Hyperstorm so that he can continue using his knowledge of the timestream for the benefit of their alliance. Unknown to Zarrko, however, Doom is now fully cognizant, which becomes all too evident when Zarrko comes "within sight."

For the FF's part, they've been transported by Hyperstorm to the distant past, where they've decided to dress accordingly in order to make inquiries about Reed (assuming Hyperstorm was true to his word). Unfortunately, their cover is blown when they encounter the same hill pirates they dealt with upon their arrival.

Following up on the information they gained at the tavern, the group track the "mad hermit" to his rumored location south of the city--and the signs of his activity they see upon their arrival fuel their optimism that their search for Reed may have at long last reached its end.

It would seem that Hyperstorm has toyed with Reed in his "captivity"--his distrust and paranoia, combining with being out of touch with the FF for so long, making him doubt the bona fides of these intruders. But aside from Ben, there's only one other present who can possibly reach him now, and reach him she does.

Yet though reunited, Reed's experience in the past as a virtual prisoner of war has resulted in somewhat of a defeatist mentality when it comes to returning to face Hyperstorm--to say nothing of trying to figure out a way to return at all, given the resources of the era. Fortunately, there is one among them who can facilitate their efforts in that respect--on one condition, that is.

Subsequently, Reed and the others arrive back at Hyperstorm's base, where, joined by the Human Torch, they set forth to confront their foe--united again as a fighting team at last.

Things aren't that simple in resolving this crisis, of course. Hyperstorm isn't one to be taken by surprise; while Doom, returning to his true form, decides to focus on stealing Hyperstorm's power for himself and then using it to destroy his foe as well as the FF. Yet Kristoff, at odds with Doom over the FF's destruction, teams with Zarrko to return Doom to his own time before he meets death at Hyperstorm's hand--while Hyperstorm himself contemptuously does the same with the others.

Naturally, Reed has a few things to work out for himself before reassuming his position as team leader (assuming he wishes to do so, or that Sue wishes to step aside). Eventually, however, they have their showdown with Hyperstorm, where they learn the details of his true mission as well as his shocking origin--and Hyperstorm himself learns he isn't the only supreme power on the block.


Anonymous said...

Straight off, again with that Sue Storm costume Comicsfan...


Comicsfan said...

It kinda grows on you, doesn't it, Sean.

Anonymous said...

Well Comicsfan, I'll have to take your word for it because I'm not there yet.
Bear in mind theres Ben's helmet, Johnny having a Skrull missus and Namor a ponytail (what?) so I've got a few things to get used to.

And thats before we get to this Hyperstorm fella - I have the suspicion that when it comes to his "shocking origin" the "Storm" part of his name might be significant and theres going to be some serious continuity nonsense to deal with in your the next post...


Anonymous said...

PS Just to be clear, I mean the revelations in the FF story will likely be nonsense, not your post.


Comicsfan said...

You're in luck, Sean--Hyperstorm has already been profiled in the PPC, so that link in the final paragraph is the "next post" where he's concerned. And I couldn't agree with you more about Namor's ponytail, though I suppose there was always room for improvement over his previous hairstyle. I think I recall his early issues when John Buscema and Marie Severin experimented with a slicked-down look--I don't know why the Atlanteans would have a need for hair gel, but what do I know.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I didn't click on that link before.
Franklin Richards' son? Obviously poor taste in costumes runs in that family.

On the plus side, it does mean I don't have to brace myself for another 90s FF post.


dbutler16 said...

Yuck. Most especially to Sue's costume.