Characters Appearing: Aron the Watcher, Dragon Man, Graviton, Human Torch, Lyja the Lazerfist, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura), Thing
Fantastic Four #322
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #322
And we'll see that Englehart really does make an effort to fit these plots into FF themes (he says on his own site, only "with middling success", but i think he's underrating himself here). So i think the transplant didn't hurt the book, and Englehart isn't just coasting on already-written plots. It does make me wonder what he did have planned for this book, though, because after we get through these Mantis issues we begin the period where Englehart was forced to return Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman to the team and that's when the book gets really weird. Oh wait, i remember know: we'll find out exactly what Englehart had planned. Ok, we'll get to that later.
I should say that while Englehart talks about this as part of the Mantis phase, this issue actually doesn't include Mantis and has nothing to do with her. But it is an Inferno issue; i wonder if it was FF or West Coast Avengers that was originally going to participate in Inferno.
We begin with an outrageous explanation for how Graviton survived being flung into space in his last appearance. He originally had some atmosphere with him on the piece of rock that he was tossed out with. But when he ran out of that, somewhere in deep space, he drew the atmosphere off a "passing world" and amazingly mixed the elements in just the right proportions.
And then i guess he just floated home.
He returns to find a Manhattan under the effects of Inferno.
The Fantastic Four (or Three) are currently patrolling the streets observing the weirdness (They say it's as "weird out on the street as it was upstairs"; i wonder if they were in the building during the period where Dormammu had folded up the building in Doctor Strange #2 and have been trying to walk out since then).
While they're walking, it's observed that Ms. Marvel has mutated further, similar to how the Thing did in his early appearances.
The Thing tells Sharon that it should be possible for her to change back into her human form, since the reason he wasn't able to do so was psychological. But before they pursue that further, they come across Graviton and the Thing tries to get the drop on him.
But it doesn't work out so well.
Meanwhile, the Human Torch had flown off to get Alicia to the relative safety of Four Freedoms Plaza. She already had a suitcase packed "from last time the city went crazy" (maybe a reference to Fall of the Mutants). On the way back, Johnny raises the possibility of asking Reed Richards to design a security system for her apartment, but instead they decide Alicia might as well just move into FF headquarters.
As they're flying back, Alicia asks if Johnny can do anything about the heatwave. And he says that he can only absorb the heat from his immediate area, not Manhattan. I remembered that the Torch's powers get out of control during Inferno, but i had forgotten the specifics, and i thought maybe that he does try to absorb all the extra heat in the city and that's what caused him to lose his ability to flame off, but that's not what happens.
Instead, the Torch comes across Graviton after he'd finished defeating the two Things...
...and interestingly, the Torch becomes the star in the fight against Graviton.
What i think is interesting is that Graviton is nutty, always going on about how he's a deity because he controls one of the fundamental forces of the universe. And we know, thanks to Steve Englehart's educational efforts in West Coast Avengers #12-13, that the other fundamental forces are electromagnetism, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force. But Johnny claims that as the Human Torch, he controls one of the fundamental forces: fire.
Now, i expect the Torch to be almost willfully ignorant of science, and he may have the classical elements in mind. But Graviton was originally a scientist. So you'd think he'd just laugh that idea off. But the Torch really plays it up, and i think he's playing a psychological game with the unstable Graviton.
And it works, and the Torch is able to take out the usually mega-powerful Graviton pretty much all by himself.
It's a nice use of the Human Torch, who has been taking a bit of a back seat while Englehart has focused on the relationship between the Things.
But when the fight's over, he does find that he's having trouble flaming off.
I guess it's reasonable that the magical heat of Inferno is affecting Johnny's flames, but it seems kind of arbitrary, and i think it would have been cooler and helped tie the FF more directly into Inferno if he had deliberately tried to absorb the magical heat into himself as i misremembered.
As it stands, the non-mutant tie-in books are pretty much just using Inferno as a backdrop similar to (as i've said probably too many times now, and i know it's not a direct comparison) the snow in the Casket of Ancient Winters storyline. Which is fine too.
Watching all of this is the young Watcher that we've been seeing recently in this title.
But merely watching is "not enough for this Watcher", and he's planning to start getting involved in some way. However, he takes a lesson from the FF/Graviton fight. Noting that Graviton was a being possibly powerful enough to stop what was going on in Inferno, he says that by defeating him, the FF stopped the one being who might have saved the city. But doing nothing to stop the super-villain could have been wrong too. So it leaves him debating action vs. passivity.
It's an interesting issue, and definitely feels like an FF issue despite the supposed plot (or at least villain) transplant.
This issue is also the last by longtime inker Joe Sinnott.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Graviton fights some actual demons, but they may be from the small group that came with N'astirh. The level of menace in the city feels more like it takes place prior to X-Terminators #3/New Mutants #71, despite the demons.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Note that Graviton is able to protect himself by "increasing his own density" in this story, while in West Coast Avengers 4 he used "gravimetric force fields". Gravimetric force fields always made more sense to me- gravity determines WEIGHT, not DENSITY.
Posted by: Michael | August 24, 2014 1:25 PM
I think it is good that Englehart is working to develop Graviton as a WCA foe. He appeared in the Limited Series, and seeing him again in WCA plots is a good to way to give them their Doctor Doom, Magneto, Green Goblin, etc.
However, I don't like this development of his personality. The "god" angle is poorly done. Whatever his power, the man is still mortal. He needs a better motivation and personality to catapult him into the ranks of top villains; sheer power is simply not enough if he's a schmuck.
Interesting use of his powers though. I'll give Englehart credit for that.
Posted by: Chris | August 24, 2014 2:28 PM
I do like the fact that Graviton doesn't give a crap that demons are now running around New York in the midst of the massive cross-over. It acknowledges Inferno but allows other things to happen in the universe instead of having every hero team literally stop what they're doing to fight the massive threat of the moment.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 24, 2014 4:16 PM
It's hard to tell when the pentacle portal opens in Fantastic Four but the Empire State building looks pretty normal yet during Fantastic Four #323 while the young Watcher is hanging out on the 100th floor spying on them, at least up until the FF notice the FF Plaza "burning with witch-fires like every other skyscraper in town." point.
Also Necrodamus only appears in astral form throughout #323 and we discover in Fantastic Four #324 that he slipped from Limbo physically when the pentacle portal opened. Since Mantis disappears from Kang's containment tube at the end of FF #323, I suspect the pentacle portal possibly opened when the skyscrapers started burning with "Witch-fire" and Necrodamus arrived bodily on Earth to kidnap Mantis shortly after that.
We do see a flying demon and some weird mystic/cosmic ribbons and circles floating in the air earlier at the beginning of FF #323 but they look more like the ones from Doctor Strange than the X-books. The FF don't get to fight any demons during 323 either, just animated objects, so I suspect most of FF #323 is before the demons start pouring out of the sky.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 24, 2014 4:16 PM
Graviton and Dragon Man would both be among Spider-Man's villains during Acts of Vengeance. I wonder how far in advance they had that storyline planned out to see which hero got which villains.
Posted by: Robert | August 26, 2014 7:48 PM
"•No footnote, but the idea that the Thing had actually mutated and not just gone through art changes in his early appearances was established".
Posted by: clyde | June 30, 2015 4:30 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|