Fantastic Four #140-141
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #140, Fantastic Four #141
The video conference interference may have been related to Annhilus.
He's already captured Agatha Harkness and he subsequently kidnaps Sue as well. By the time the Fantastic Four arrive, Sue is gone, but Reed finds residue of sub-space or Negative Zone particles. They return to the Baxter Building but Annihilus is already there, and he easily defeats the team. Wyatt Wingfoot shows up as well, and Annihilus describes his origin to him. It seems Annihilus was a scrawny insect creature...
...who subsequently found a marooned space ship. From its computer he gleaned the knowledge necessary to build his cosmic control rod.
Annihilus is out for revenge on the FF, but he's also got a plan that involves Franklin, who has been exhibiting extraordinary abilities which he wants for himself. Annihilus activates Franklin's potential.
The FF fight their way out of Annihilus' prison and defeat him (far too easily compared to their recent defeat earlier), but Franklin's powers are still active. Reed uses an anti-matter gun to shut down Franklin's mind.
That obviously doesn't go over well.
Truthfully, Reed was acting correctly here. There's a lot of talk about Reed hating mutants and not liking the fact that his son was a mutant so he went to an extreme to stopping it, but i think it's pretty clear here that Reed is acting only because he believes Franklin poses an imminent threat. He may very well have intended to come up with a longer term solution if Sue hadn't walked out with Franklin directly afterward. Scientifically speaking, Reed is the only member of the team qualified to determine whether or not Franklin was an immediate threat. That means one has to decide whether or not Reed is trustworthy in order to determine if this was the right action to take. Or we can go the easy route and say Reed is embarrassed that his son is a mutant and wants to hide it.
In a sub-plot, Alicia Masters meets with a shady doctor named Hans Stutgart in order to cure her blindness.
Franklin almost seems to be a different person entirely than the character he will eventually become. On a superficial level he's got brown hair, whereas he'll later be a blond. But he also seems to be a very quiet, reserved child, whereas Franklin is usually fairly outgoing, at least around his family. It may just be that he's younger here, but he actually looks older. So the discrepancy may just be due to the art, but i almost feel like Franklin's powers have warped him into a different person over time.
The plotting in these issues was fairly convoluted. Annihilus starts off a significant threat, but is fairly easily defeated in the rematch so that there's room for the Franklin problem, but the Franklin problem is dealt with too quickly to be satisfying anyway. And the revelation of Annihilus' plot comes in a very roundabout way, as Annihilus goes into huge expository speeches describing his origin and how he kidnapped Agatha Harkness. I thought issue #141 was going to feel significant due to the developments with Franklin, but the whole arc actually felt very rushed and unfocused.
On the other hand, the Buscema/Sinnott art is very crisp and clean.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Reed had been alone in the Baxter Building since the others left with Wyatt Wingfoot to go to Oklahoma in Fantastic Four #138. The others arrive back at the start of this arc. Alicia had been trying to call the Thing in that issue but he wasn't home. Sub-Mariner #67 takes place in the middle of Fantastic Four #140 (between pages 7 and 14). His arrival delays the FF's response to Sue's distress call. The Human Torch must appear in Amazing Spider-Man #126-127 during the same gap.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (11): show
You theorize that Franklin's powers may have warped him over time, as a way of explaining this early characterization. It would be awesome if Franklin's powers, sensing Reed's discomfort, was basically giving the kid a "makeover" so that his father would find him more adorable, and thus less likely to zap him with ray-guns.
Poor Franklin. He's been 5 years old for about 45 years now...
Posted by: James N. | July 5, 2012 6:02 PM
You are right when you say that Reed was acting correctly when he fired at Franklin. The Invisible Girl was too hasty when she blamed Mr. Fantaastic for hurting Franklin. Maybe Reed Richards should have divorced Susan Storm and married Medusa?
Posted by: FF fanatic | May 8, 2013 11:30 AM
Reed was in the right but I cannot blame Sue or the others being upset about what had to be done. I can't see myself putting a young family member in a coma to prevent a disaster and being rational about it for a while.
Posted by: David Banes | November 28, 2013 2:44 PM
I used to have this issue until I began thinning down my comic collection. Looking at one of the panels above I now know where Ron Howard got his idea for the Grinch origin. Yeesh, what a bad movie.
Posted by: Mike | June 15, 2014 6:07 PM
Franklin should technically still be a toddler here, but he's drawn a little bigger ... he's usually portrayed as about 4 by the time of Power Pack, around 6-7 by the time of Onslaught and is usually portrayed as about 10-11 in modern comics. That seems to jibe with the Marvel time of approximately 4:1 that a lot of people go with.
Posted by: Jeff | June 3, 2015 12:47 PM
Panels from issue #141 are repeatedly glimpsed throughout the 1997 movie 'The Ice Storm', in which the death and divorce in the comic mirror the 'real life' tragedies of the film.
Posted by: Oliver_C | March 26, 2016 5:22 PM
Very impressed by these issues. The conclusion felt very organic given the long build-up of Sue and Reed's separation, and since Franklin was at the heart of that separation to begin with.
Conway's run up to this point has had a lot of nuclear imagery and themes (i.e. the weapons test that affected Gideon and his family, the entirety of issues 136 and 137, and the near-nuclear disaster with the Miracle Man). I feel like this is continued in these issues, with Franklin's Negative Zone energy acting as the stand-in for nuclear power. However, this story does well in showing the dual-nature of such energy.
The aliens who unwittingly created Annihilus could easily be viewed through a colonialist lens -- they believed their way of life to be the best and so wanted to "enlighten" other worlds as well. However, their "student," Annihilus, uses their knowledge to create a WoMD -- the Cosmic Control Rod -- that could ruin their entire universe.
At the same time, this negatively-charged weapon was used in a positive way to assist with Franklin's birth. Franklin, then, could be viewed as a union of matter and anti-matter, a symbol of how such power could be used to create rather than destroy (compare Annihilus' armor that is also a combination of the two and is thus the "strongest second skin in all the known universes"). Annihilus seeks to gain power without humanity, whereas Franklin has both. I like to view the two of them in this story as embodying two ways to handle nuclear power, especially as it relates to future generations (see also Thomas Gideon and the Shaper from 137).
Of course, we then have Reed, who answers violence with violence by using a gun on his son. While I don't necessarily think any of this was due to anti-mutant prejudice on his part, I do wonder if, like Victor Frankenstein or even Albert Einstein, Reed is afraid or ashamed of what he has helped bring into this world.
Posted by: TCP | May 23, 2016 3:04 PM
This entry and sub-mariner #64-69 should probably be moved to either before marvel feature #11 or after marvel two in one #1 since the thing is walking home from the desert in those issues.
Posted by: Baby | September 23, 2017 10:42 AM
Thanks Baby. I've moved Marvel Two-In-One #1 up.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 25, 2017 5:12 PM
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