Fantastic Four #282-284
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #282, Fantastic Four #283, Fantastic Four #284
On the other hand, i think there's enough in issue #282 to make up for it, including a Franklin Richard dream-sequence featuring Power Pack...
...and extremely pissed off Invisible Girl...
...and a ride in the Reducto-Craft...
...that culminates in a face off with a giant Psycho-Man.
That's better than any old Secret Wars II tie-in anyway, isn't it?
Mr. Fantastic had to rebuild the Reducto-Craft (in six hours, from memory and from scratch) that the FF have used in the past to get to the Microverse, since the original was destroyed along with the rest of the Baxter Building. The loss to Reed's equipment must have been enormous. Among who knows what else, there was the Gregory Gideon replica of Dr. Doom's time machine, Reed's Universal Translator, and all of their flying crafts.
There's a decent amount of effort (ok, just two text-heavy panels) in issue #282 put towards the notion that a trip to the Microverse isn't actually an exercise in shrinking down to a sub-atomic world; there's a point where you stop shrinking and enter another dimension instead. It's presented like it's something that was already established, but i suspect this is actually the first time we're seeing this theory (at least outside of the Handbooks, anyway). This is very similar to the Marvel theory of time-travel, which also actually sends travelers to another dimension, and is also in the spirit of the explanation of what happens to a Pym Particle user's extra mass. In my mind, it all comes out of the Handbooks' efforts to quantify and explain everything, which makes the Marvel Universe more science-fiction and less fantasy. You're trading Silver Age zaniness for more rational stories, and you can decide for yourself whether that's a good thing or not (see also the difference in resolution between the two times the Baxter Building was launched into space). This explanation does help with the question of how the Fantastic Four always manage to wind up on the same dust mote every time they shrink down to fight the Psycho-Man, but not why, say, the Hulk always winds up in Jarella's world when he shrinks but the FF wind up here instead (even if they've both used Pym Particles to get there). And there's something special about the fact that this is supposed to be a super-small world; it's a little less interesting if we're just in some parallel universe. It really does just make the Micronauts a pure space epic, for example. And how to explain people that enter the Microverse via the Prometheus Pit? I guess the idea is that you still do shrink, but there's a point where you stop shrinking and move laterally instead.
Anyway, the set-up isn't entirely academic, because it's key to unraveling Psycho-Man's defense plan, which hinges on convincing the Fantastic Four that they've shrunk too much, whereas in fact they're just on an oversized set and Psycho-Man's in a giant exoskeleton (the same one, actually, that he used in his first appearance to appear normal-sized on Earth).
But i've jumped a bit further into issue #283; let's rewind a bit and check out this awesome dream-sequence that Sue experiences while she's being tortured.
Reed gets progressively older as the dream goes on, and i'm sure that use of the word "female" is a callback to Stan Lee's writing.
In general it's a great reading of the subtext of Reed and Sue relationship to date. A little later the Psycho-Man suggests that "the gulf of years between yourself and your husband creates in his mind the image of you as a foolish child...". Overall, the dream serves as a good feminist critique of earlier stories, but unfortunately at the same time it requires Sue to be a tortured victim (and this following her mental manipulation by the Hate-Monger in the previous arc that was a lead-up to this story) who is ultimately rescued by a calm and rational Reed (to be fair, Reed is later affected by Psycho-Man's doubt ray, destroying his usual unshakeable confidence).
The other powerful female member of the FF is also reduced to blubbering terror by the Psycho-Man's fear ray.
Don't worry too much about She-Hulk, though. Despite being pushed around and demeaned for about half an issue, she gets to deliver comeuppance.
She's helped by Pearla, ruler of the first microscopic kingdom the Fantastic Four ever encountered, back in FF #16.
Pearla's kingdom (which was always a little odd, being a medieval swords and sorcery realm in a heart-of-the-atom sci-fi setting) was conquered by the Psycho-Man "mere months ago". It's cool to show that this micro-kingdom existed in the same universe as the Psycho-Man. We also know that the Micronauts live in the same dimension as the Psycho-Man, so we really do have a unified Microverse. Presumably Jarella's world is floating out there somewhere, too.
Meanwhile, Sue catches up with Psycho-Man and extracts her vengeance.
All of this examination (and more) of Sue has a point. You can debate whether or not she needed to be mentally raped twice in order for it to happen, but i think it's a net positive that that the Invisible Girl finally becomes the Invisible Woman.
When i read this in real time, it didn't seem that controversial to me. She was clearly an adult, was married, and had a child. In the eyes of an eleven year old, that pretty obviously makes you a woman. But in retrospect, while it was long overdue, it really was a big move to change the classic name of one of Marvel's premiere super-characters.
Of interest on the super-powers side of things, we're reminded that Mr. Fantastic's powers go beyond basic stretching; he can really become a goopy mess when he needs to.
Add up all of the above, plus great scripting and nice art...
...and you've got a really good set of issues.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: A scene in issue #282 shows the Beyonder talking with "Vinnie" and "Toots" from Secret Wars II #3 in a restaurant. The Beyonder is still wearing his unmodified Steve Rogers form. The scene is colored in flashback colors, but it's meant to be occurring "this very moment" while the FF have first arrived in the Microverse. So roughly speaking, Secret Wars II #3 occurs concurrently with these issues.
Cross-over: Secret Wars II
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
Beyonder, Franklin Richards, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Jarvis, Mr. Fantastic, Pearla, Psycho-Man, She-Hulk
The Psycho-Man's henchman Dutta is named for Barry Dutter, who wrote many letters to Marvel expressing hatred for the She- Hulk and a desire to get rid of her. Hence, the "Dutta- shut up!".
In that panel of Sue telling off Reed -- does anyone know why the FF would have a huge Japanese flag in their HQ? (Kidding.)
I loved Byrne's run on this title. I was such the fanboy of his back in the day, and he broke my heart with his abrupt departures three times in the 1980s (X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR, and the flagship title of that other company you don't cover). All three series, in my opinion, were worse off afterward.
Sue's dream sequence lives on in my memory more than anything else in a pretty great multi-issue story. I love the subtext in the way *everyone* is drawn here, not just Reed -- Johnny is in her psyche as a young boy, and Ben is more recognizably human in his features, more vulnerable.
And if memory serves, the excellent issue with the little boy tragically emulating the Human Torch is coming up soon. Good stuff.
The Reducto-Craft looks way too much like a medicine bottle.
I'm pretty sure the replica of Doc dooms time machine will show up in WCA during the lost in space/time arc (in which it is destroyed by dominus's team, which included a living cactus)
Yes, eventually there was a backup story in an FF Annual that revealed the Watcher saved the FF's stuff and eventually returned it to them.
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