Written and co-plotted by Tom DeFalco, co-plotted and penciled by Paul Ryan, inked by Danny Bulanadi
PREVIOUSLY ON FANTASTIC FOUR: the gathered heroes waited around for Galactus to charge up the Infinity Gauntlet, Sue Storm merged herself with "Malice," a holdover from John Byrne's run, and Johnny thought of Psylocke as a "living doll." Oh yeah, and Magus gained ultimate power.
We begin with the Magus holding up the newly powered Infinity Gauntlet, announcing that he's now a god as he reminds everyone what's been going on for the past four months. Warlock looks on, crucified on a weird octopus monster thing, just in case Starlin's "Adam Warlock is space Jesus" wasn't clear to people.
|Ya can't blast this wave of non-living monsters!|
At the same time, the assembled heroes fight an army of duplicates. Johnny incinerates Archangel's double, causing The Thing to question Johnny's new violent streak, saying "ya can't sacrifice everything ya believe!" Jeeze, where does Ben draw the line on "no killing," if you can't kill non-living monster doppelgangers? Ben gets attacked by an evil version of Sue, who traps his head in an invisible air bubble. He grabs her and threatens her, but evil Sue just encourages him, causing him to lose his nerve. Johnny steps in and incinerates her, causing Ben to collapse and say "is any victory worth the price we're payin'?" The answer is a pretty unambiguous "yes," by the way.
|It's blubberin' time.|
Sue has wandered off and finds Thanos fighting with his double. She's not sure which is which, but invisibly backs the "real" Thanos, who quickly takes control. She considers either stopping clone-cide or killing the remaining Thanos (as if she could), but decides against either course of action, wandering further into Magus's lair instead. Sue rescues Reed, but her new-found Malice streak causes her to tell Reed to "shut up" when Magus threatens them. Magus shows off his power by assembling all of the heroes, captured, in a big floating row, while shouting about how this is "God's trophy room." It's pretty amazing. Thanos shows up and tells Magus that "reality" is not what he thought it was, implying that Magus didn't have the real Reality Gem. Magus overpowers Thanos, but Warlock grabs onto the gauntlet, causing the whole planet-scape to explode, leaving the heroes holding on to asteroids as they drift through space. Ben gives Johnny a hard time some more, causing Johnny to explain that it's "the 90's," and that maybe the team needs to change with the times. Galactus transports everyone to his ship, but a wave of reality-altering explosion closes in on the heroes. Thanos laments that they'll never know who won.
|Yeah, I saved your life. Now shut up!|
A moment later, our four heroes return (without everyone else), back at Four Freedoms Plaza, still sans roof. Sue tears into Reed for allowing himself to get captured, and Johnny flies off when Thing tries to lecture him even more about his recent actions. The team doesn't get a chance to rest, though, as the Puppet Master shows up to announce that Alicia was kidnapped (last issue, although we don't get an editor's note).
|Not pictured: God's bowling alley. And you can see I wasn't kidding about the space octopus crucifixion.|
We close in another spaceship, as Paibok and Devos celebrate the rejuvenation of Lyja, promising that she will seek "vengeance" on the Fantastic Four. To be Continued!
I've slowly been cooling on this arc since the second issue, and things finally wrap up a bit anti-climactically (not surprising, considering the "real" ending is Infinity War's finale). Still, I wish our heroes had a bit more to do in this story. Mostly they just get shuttled around. This issue does actually focus the action on our heroes though, outside of the final big showdown, so we don't get shots of the X-Men fighting with the FF relegated to the background the way we did last issue.
|Ben's just going to keep name-dropping edgy 90's anti-heroes until Johnny explains himself. "You're like the dang-blasted Venom, Lethal Protector, on sale now!"|
We also get to see Tom DeFalco's writing at its worst, where characters are feeling one thing and just start hammering that one thing until you get it. It's not enough for Sue to be brusque, she has to turn into a maniac immediately. Johnny is using his power more and more recklessly, with Thing suddenly turning into a worrying schoolmarm about Johnny's new attitude. It's a terrible direction to take the Thing in, as he's your biggest, toughest, most recognizable FF member, so making him an unlikeable worry-wart is just not a good direction.
On the plus side, the story does move at a fair clip, and considering I was complaining about pacing earlier, this storyline did see a lot of stuff happen over the course of four issues. No sign of the Watchers (which is fine by me), but we clearly have the return of Lyja to look forward to. Paul Ryan's art continues to be excellent, as not only does he do a great job on the cover and within the book drawing the "warping reality" look, he also manages to draw dozens of characters in big fights, keeping the big list of guest stars separate.
90's Fashion: Paul Ryan doesn't have time to draw alternate outfits for everyone, so spiked jewelry becomes a quick way of showing who's evil. Vindicator's doppelganger has a spiked ankle bracelet and a spiked thigh bracelet. I haven't commented on him, but the Magus's design is pure 70's: flared purple shoulder pads that are reminiscent of Cockrum's Colossus design, a lightning bolt across his chest for... no reason, and a big skull belt he borrowed from Stone Cold Steve Austin. I love that they brought him back from obscurity and changed virtually nothing.
General Miscellany: here's a full cover ad of Barry Sanders, dripping with... sweat?
|"This'll sell trading cards to kids, right?" -Pinnacle Executive (Pinnacle went out of business in the 90's and was bought by Donruss).|