Fantastic Four #309-311
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #309, Fantastic Four #310, Fantastic Four #311
The Thing and Sharon Ventura fly to Aqiria (the U following the Q, present in issue #308, is now gone) to further investigate the Fasaud situation.
I guess this is Englehart's response to my questions about Sharon's costume from last entry.
Meanwhile, Johnny Storm tries to arrange a threesome with Alicia and Crystal.
Instead of a threesome, he gets a catfight.
And listen, i know Alicia is blind, and it's a tense situation, but someone ought to tell her she accidentally pulled a potted plant off the windowsill instead of serving the fruit salad.
Luckily, Fasuad shows up to break the tension with his awful television jargon.
Johnny is distracted by Fasaud's terrible dialogue...
...and equally by Crystal telling him to "get close to Nova", since Nova was another former girlfriend of his. Not everything is about you, Johnny!
The good news is that Crystal is a badass.
But Alicia is *sob* less encouraged by that.
Fasaud manifests back in Aqiria, catching the Thing and Ms. Marvel by surprise.
They were just on the verge of discovering that Aqiria is helping the United States launch their Star Wars missile defense program (man, the US was really determined to do that by any means necessary in the Marvel universe). We also learn that Fasaud is not really a renegade of Aqiria as we were previously told.
Oh jesus just make Fasuad stop talking.
Steve Englehart is also kind enough to molest Sharon a little more.
Rape as character development makes you stronger, ladies. But not strong enough to fight back against your captors.
The Thing manages to break out, though. Somehow all this additional abuse isn't making Sharon any better in her head.
Ms. Marvel and the Thing fight their way through Aqiria's US Foreign Aid-funded defenses...
...and eventually take Aqiria's space shuttle so they can fly up and destroy the satellite that Fasaud uses to get around. The Thing tries to - i mean i'm hoping he's not making a grab for Sharon? In any event you can see him lamenting how unfair it is for him that Sharon's been traumatized.
There's a less than pulse-pounding space battle against Fasaud...
...and they manage to destroy the satellite.
This calls for a celebration.
Yeah, she ain't pulling away, but she's staring eyes wide open like a deer caught in the headlights. I'm assuming that's some awkwardness from Keith Pollard's art, and not intentional on Englehart's part, but i'm not sure.
But Fasaud has one final surprise for them. He's survived and is now drawing power from their shuttle. So the Thing cuts the power, which means Fasaud is "dead" (he'll be back, but not for a long while). But it means that the Thing and Ms. Marvel are exposed to cosmic rays on re-entry to the Earth...
...and that means they both mutate.
Steve Englehart is definitely putting his mark on this series. I wonder if the artist change was at all related to the new designs for the Thing and Ms. Marvel; i certainly wouldn't have minded seeing John Buscema render these guys to see if i liked them any better. The Grey Hulk will memorably refer to the Thing's new form as a pineapple, and i can't help but see him that way. What's interesting, and i can't decide if this is a missed opportunity or Englehart being subtle, but after all the talk of Sharon not wanting to be touched, she's now covered in a protective shell. This is right along the lines of the cosmic rays turning hot head Johnny Storm into the Human Torch, wilting Sue into the Invisible Girl, etc.. I'd say that was obviously the intention except that this new status quo drives Sharon even deeper into depression. Queue several pages of her trying to kill herself.
You see, it's different for a woman.
The Thing just sees all this as an invitation to hit on Sharon some more.
The Thing and Ms. Marvel have landed in Wakanda, and they encounter a robot build by Dr. Doom for the Black Panther to guard the Vibranium Mound (and thanks for making it look as stereotypically African as possible, Doom). Ben and Sharon don't know any of this yet, though.
The robot has the power to turn your own strength back on you. Suicidal Sharon sees the benefits of that.
The Thing's mutation comes with increased strength, and he figures he can eventually overload the robot.
That actually would have turned out to be a really bad - like catastrophically nuclear - idea, but luckily the Panther is nearby and able to stop it.
He doesn't initially recognize the Thing.
By the way, the robot was called THROB. Trans-Human ROBot.
Dr. Doom is still in Wakanda.
He's looking for aid from the Panther in his battle against Kristoff.
Monarchs gotta stick together, after all.
(I do like seeing the Black Panther entertain Doom as a deposed head of state.)
In response to an expression of sympathy from Dr. Doom, Sharon expresses the fact that she wants to die. Dr. Doom weirdly references Henry Pym's recent decision to forgo suicide.
I'll skip the "how did he know that?" (Doom knows all!) and go right to "how in the hell is that relevant to Sharon?". In any event, Doom starts barking up the wrong tree.
The Black Panther shuts down the fight before Doom can respond.
Back in the US, the catfight continues.
Depressed by that encounter, Crystal reaches out to Norm Webster, her real estate agent boyfriend. But he's no longer interested.
It's kind of a shame. The way Englehart left things in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #12, they seemed to have an earnest interest in each other, and keeping them together would have done a lot to deflect the "slut" charges sometimes directed at Crystal. Englehart is setting things up for Johnny to get back with Crystal, so we can't have Norm in the picture.
Ummm, well obviously these issues have some significance, and i do give credit to Steve Englehart for really trying to shake up this book. I do take issue with something Englehart wrote on his website, which is that the Fantastic Four "had had periods of greatness but was floundering when Marvel asked me to revive it". Floundering in the sense that star creator John Byrne, who was still doing great things with the title, had left abruptly, maybe. I think Roger Stern was doing relatively well picking up the pieces, too. Englehart is saying that the problem with the book is that the cast is so locked in that it causes the book to stagnate. And i think both Byrne and Stern's runs show that isn't really the case. But i nonetheless recognize the radical nature of the changes Englehart was making here; not just pushing out Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman but mutating the Thing to the point where he's... if not unrecognizable, at least really weird looking at first (and second, and third) glance, and pairing him up with the relatively unknown new Ms. Marvel, and basically making her power set a duplicate of his. Major changes. For the better? It's hard to say due to Englehart's clunky scripting and especially the way he writes women. His inability to create memorable villains is also a problem; having this major change happen in the aftermath of a battle with Arabian Television Man isn't auspicious. His use of the Black Panther and Dr. Doom has more potential, but more on that next issue. For now, let's just acknowledge that Englehart was willing to take bold risks.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Fantastic Four #312 is a tie-in with Fall of the Mutants, so this needs to take place prior to that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showBlack Panther, Crystal, Dr. Doom, Fasaud, Human Torch, Lyja the Lazerfist, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura), Norm Webster, Roberta, Thing
Fire Island?! Wow, maybe Alicia (Lyja) was thinking finding a guy for a bi-sexual threesome would get his mind off Crystal...? lol!
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | May 7, 2014 5:07 PM
The weird thing about Doom knowing about Hank's suicide is that Iron Man 249-250 depend on Doom not knowing Tony is Iron Man.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2014 9:07 PM
That makes sense about Roberta; thanks. I also cross-referenced against that list and realized i missed tagging a few of her entries, and the MCP is missing her appearance in MTU 148.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 7, 2014 9:15 PM
I think turning Sharon into a She-Thing is the biggest misstep for Englehart. It completely duplicates the Thing's power instead of adding some variety to the team. Visuals are too close together. Look of the Thing is just awful and a bear to draw. This just doesn't work on any level.
First, why specifically a Thing and not some other monster? Second, why any kind of monster at all? If it's because she didn't want to be touched, why not use some other power that does it? Red Ghost became intangible. Kitty Pryde is in a state of perpetual phasing. Various energy beings are insubstantial. There is a lot Englehart could be using to create new ground instead of rehashing a plot we're supposed to be moving beyond. Third, Ms Marvel is already a heavily damaged character psychologically - can't we do something to get past that than adding this to her?
I can overlook a lot of other missteps or clumsy execution because Englehart is trying something fresh, but this is just bad.
Posted by: Chris | May 7, 2014 9:53 PM
I stand up for Englehart a lot, even on some of his not-so-great 80s material, but his FF run was pretty bad. The Sharon stuff was really bad. The villains he created here were painful.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | May 7, 2014 10:35 PM
Note than in this issue, Star Wars is clearly real but in Iron Man 237, Star Wars is just a cover for a plan to create a satellite-killing monster.
Posted by: Michael | May 7, 2014 11:06 PM
I disagree somewhat about Sharon as the She-Thing. It allows for some new angles to play out with Ben, for one thing: instead of him wallowing as always in his own predicament, a scenario that plays out in every other FF run good or bad, now for once he's not alone and he has a reason to support someone else dealing with misfortune. And thankfully Sharon doesn't wallow too long--she eventually becomes pretty well adjusted. This makes for a potentially interesting dynamic where the two things are normal and happy and the good-looking members of the team are the damaged goods. Engelhart doesn't execute the setup very well, and having two Things in the long run would have been terrible, but it's a good premise for the short term, and the variation we get in a few years, in which Ben is human while Sharon is still a Thing, also had potential, even if again that potential goes unrealized.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 7, 2014 11:10 PM
Englehart's FF run isn't great. Issue 315 is particularly dull as Dilbert. I don't understand why he created two things. I think team books work better when the characters have different powers.
One another note, slightly off tangent, but why do comic book writers think that in order to write strong female characters they have to be raped or go through a lot of crap. You never get that with male characters...just a thought.
Posted by: jsfan | May 8, 2014 8:56 AM
I remember trying out issue #310 just to see where the book was headed after Byrne had left. But God, did I ever hate Ben's pineapple look! It turned me off the FF for years.
Posted by: Clutch | May 8, 2014 9:52 AM
So it was Englehart that made Grim mutate again? For some reason I thought I heard a story that Byrne didn't like that Ben had come to terms with his mutation, along with plenty of people still finding him attractive in comics and out of so he made him even rockier.
Posted by: david banes | May 9, 2014 12:09 AM
That may easily have been the case. The final issue of his solo series clear has him mutated (even if Byrne is not the writer a that point):
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 9, 2014 6:27 AM
Here's an interesting quote from Amazing Heroes #133(1/15/88):"In the midst of mounting fandom apprehension, Englehart wishes to assure his audience that he does have a firm goal in mind with all these events, and to ask everyone to please bear with him. Despite how it looks, he has not lost his mind. We think...the "new" Ms. Marvel will come to terms with her appearance, which is good since she's going to look that way for quite a while before finally reverting to her human appearance."
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 2, 2014 1:48 PM
In Comics Interview #62, John Buscema states that he left FF this time because he didn't like the direction it was taking, though he didn't really elaborate.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 20, 2014 4:27 PM
I like continuity guys like Englehart, but sometimes the way is does it is ridiculously convoluted. There's no way the Pym reference wasn't a cheap way to remind people of his WCA stuff and/or attract new readers. And it doesn't have anything to do with Sharon, as Fnord said. (I also agree that "Doom knows everything!" is a perfect handwave)
Posted by: Nate Wolf | December 28, 2016 2:43 PM
@Nate- to be fair, that's foreshadowing for the reveal in issue 312 that Doom has been monitoring everything in Four Freedoms Plaza. (Hank and Bonita went to the FF to get a time machine after Hank decided not to kill himself.)
Posted by: Michael | December 28, 2016 8:09 PM
"Ulp! It's two dings!"
Does Sharon ever tell Reed of Doom's infiltration?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | January 4, 2017 6:42 AM
I think I bought FF #311 as a back issue in 1990. I was still pretty new to following most of the Marvel titles on a monthly basis. I must have had only a passing knowledge of the Black Panther at this point. I remember being *very* shocked to see the T'Challa offering sanctuary to Doctor Doom, with his explanation "monarchs do share a special bond." That was probably the first time I realized that the Panther was not just another super-hero, that first and foremost he was the head of state of Wakanda. That, in turn, meant that sometimes he might end up doing stuff the FF or Avengers wouldn't approve of if it was to the benefit of his country.
Several years later, when Priest was doing his now-classic run on Black Panther, I found it rather less jarring than some other readers, because I still recalled that T'Challa was the sort of pragmatic politician who considered offering political asylum to Doctor Doom in exchange for technological assistance for Wakanda.
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 5, 2017 4:14 PM
I want to die!!!
Posted by: a.lloyd | February 28, 2017 12:28 PM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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