Fantastic Four #368, Cover Date September 1992
PREVIOUSLY ON FANTASTIC FOUR: Sue notices Reed is acting differently as he recruits A through C-list teams, Ben meets with his estranged girlfriend Sharon Ventura. Reed turns out to be evil and explodes the FF’s headquarters while it’s full of heroes.
We open with Invisible Woman telling Thing and the Hulk to get behind her as she attempts to block the detonated gamma bomb from the heroes. All the other heroes stand there like idiots while Invisible Woman saves them, until Sue tells Thor he needs to re-direct the gamma radiation somewhere (Note: this is Eric Masterson Thor, so he barely knows what he’s doing). Thor funnels the radiation into space, while the Hulk asks how the heroes should know the rest of the FF wasn’t in on evil Reed’s plot. The Thing rightly points out that Sue just saved everyone, duh.
|Hug it out, bros.|
The heroes begin to interrogate the evil Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man, when a dimensional portal opens and Magus and Thanos (actually an evil duplicate of Thanos) pop out and rescue the doppelgangers. The heroes agree to use the now roofless FF building as a headquarters, while Johnny asks whether Sue needs personal time after evil Reed’s hurtful words. Sue insists she doesn’t have time, causing the Hulk to joke about how serious Sue’s become. The Hulk and Thing get into an escalating macho-fest, with Hulk mocking the Thing’s intelligence, until New Warrior Speedball jumps between them and says there must be some other way to settle this: if only Madden football existed!
Meanwhile, Johnny flies off to clear his head, and promptly lists off the recent events of Fantastic Four, before wondering whether it’s time to call it quits. Just then, Johnny narrowly avoids a blast of energy. He looks up and finds doppelgangers of the X-Men (Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Jean Grey, and Colossus), as well as a doppelganger of himself. Through normal battle banter, Johnny learns that the doppelgangers can be replaced if they’re destroyed. Johnny pulls out a seldom-used power of creating flame decoys, but evil-Colossus turns over a water tower. Johnny vaporizes the water to create steam to cover his next move.
|Speedball defines a foosball table as "the greatest entertainment center of all." That actually explains a lot.|
Meanwhile, Hank Pym, not in costume, says he’s found there are weird energy readings coming from another dimension. Scarlet Witch enters and says she may have a solution. She’s brought some magic friends; Agatha Harkness and Dr. Druid (no Avengers: Disassembled jokes, please). Wonder Man of all people threatens Dr. Druid, saying he better not be a villain anymore. The occult heroes are distracted by loud noises from deeper in Four Freedoms Plaza. We cut to close-ups of The Thing and the Hulk, as Thing says “I mean business! I’m gonna beat the spunk outta ya!” Somebody get Dr. Wertham on the phone. We pan back to reveal Thing and Hulk are playing foosball, while the New Warriors, She-Hulk and Daredevil look on. Nova even does the Arsenio Hall style “woohs” while pumping his arm, because he is a giant tool.
|"Evil Wolverine, the Evil-Professor says we need to improve our teamwork!"|
Back on the Manhattan rooftops, evil Storm clears the steam, while evil Cyclops says he’s come up with a plan. Evil Wolverine replies “it better work, bub!” I love that even Wolverine’s doppelganger disrespects Cyclops. Human Torch overcomes their clever maneuvering, however, when he burns through a girder that Colossus swings at him. Evil Wolverine reveals that he’s not human, and that the doppelgangers are destined to win since they’re not human. Torch responds by promptly burning evil Wolverine to… not death. Maybe he shouldn't have opened his mouth?
Back at FF HQ, Sue invites Agatha Harkness to return to her role as Franklin’s governess. Agatha declines, but gives Franklin a hug. In a bizarre bit of amateurism, the coloring around Franklin’s head isn’t filled in, making it look like his head is in some alternate dimension.
|Man, these doppelgangers are jerks.|
Human Torch gets surrounded by the X-Men, but releases a nova blast that incinerates the evil X-Men. The evil Human Torch congratulates Torch’s ruthlessness and says he’s not needed, because Human Torch has already gone over to the darkside, based on his nonchalance when it came to burning up weird monsters. Torch joins up with the assembled heroes. Captain America says they’re ready for transport, and after a quick pentagram-assisted zap, the heroes disappear. To be continued!
This is a second strong issue in a row, even if, as mentioned previously, the Infinity War “everyone fights their doubles” act had gotten old. Having Johnny fight the evil versions of the X-Men mixes up the formula, and ties into Johnny’s willingness to use his “nova blast,” a sub-plot that’s coming up in the near future. Most of the issue is focused on the heroes getting ready to go fight the Magus, which has to be pretty confusing to anyone not reading the Infinity War issues. What’s strange is that these issues aren’t collected in the Infinity War trade- instead, only the Warlock and Marvel Comics Presents issues are included along with the four issue mini.
Paul Ryan’s art is significantly cleaner this month, as his weird faces have been cleaned up. He also has a hard job in creating doppelganger designs that are just different enough to be distinguishable- for Human Torch, that means giving the evil version elf ears for some reason, but he manages to find something distinguishable for everyone. Ryan’s also forced to draw big crowd scenes throughout, and does a great job. My personal favorite sequence is the Hulk/Thing stare-down that shows both men straining, before revealing their epic foosball confrontation. I loved that whole “let’s NOT fight then team-up” genre awareness plot element, so good on Ryan and DeFalco for that. As far as negative things to say, my biggest issues are with the big crossover itself. We’re also kind of stalling for time, as the “briefing” sessions are a bit pointless. The story also tries to put over Johnny as more powerful, as he’s able to defeat an entire X-Men team’s worth of doppelgangers, but while it makes him look good, it makes the whole Infinity War thread seem less serious. I mean, why couldn’t Silver Surfer or somebody just destroy all the duplicates if it’s that easy? I do like that the focus is on Johnny and Sue, even with Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and a few others getting something to do. I wouldn’t expect the miniseries to focus on these guys, so it’s good that the book retains its focus through a crossover. Yes, that might sound elementary, but this cover of Cable, Bishop and Wolverine (none of whom ever joined X-Factor) show how easily this was forgotten in the 90’s.
90’s fashion: not much we didn’t see last month, although the evil X-Men seem to think random spikes are the future of fashion.