Fantastic Four #323-324
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #323, Fantastic Four #325
I say Englehart, but it's worth noting that Englehart has said that editorial changes to his plots began with these issues, and in fact he credits himself as "SFX Englehart" in issue #324, i suppose indicating that he feels he only contributed the script (sound effects) to that issue.
We begin with the Fantastic Three patrolling the Inferno infested city. We begin while things still seem to be in Inferno stage one, with just animated objects attacking. And they come across Mantis fighting some parking meters.
After helping take care of that, Mantis shares the fact that the Cotati told her that she "served her purpose" by having her baby (Ms. Marvel exclaims "What a pig!", in character for her but possibly also reflecting Englehart's feelings about the changes to his WCA plot), and that she's come to the FF to borrow a spacecraft so that she can go get her son back.
The Human Torch continues to have trouble flaming off.
Watching the FF, the young Watcher continues to worry about getting involved in actually doing stuff and not just watching.
And watching the Watcher is a strange spirit.
And also doing some watching is Kang.
By the way, the Watcher's base of operations is in the Empire State Building, which we know is an integral part of Inferno. At the time of these scenes, the building is still looking normal.
But back to Kang.
The dialogue in panel #3 above seems jumbled. But the gist of is that this Kang at least considers himself the true Kang, and he's going to circumvent the Council by going for the Dreaming Celestial's weapon now and not wait for the distant year 2005. Also note that at this point the Kang that appears in Avengers #300 is only trying to get into our dimension.
Kang attacks the FF just as the Thing is complimenting Mantis' looks in a way that upsets Ms. Marvel's female pride.
Mantis has lost her plant-related powers at this point, and the rest of the FF are paralyzed with a vibration beam from Kang's ship. So Kang is able to kidnap Mantis and leave a bomb for the FF (which the Thing is able to throw into space). Deciding that they "can't seem to do much in New York about all these crazy happenings", the FF decide to follow Kang to the site of the Dreaming Celestial (Kang helpfully told them he needed the Celestial Madonna to go against a Celestial).
Worried about his flame problem, the Human Torch decides to fly there under his own power...
...while the two Things take a Fantasticar.
As he gets away from the "Inferno" in New York, he starts to feel like he's burning clean again.
Meanwhile, Kang becomes aware that Mantis no longer has her extra powers, but he still says she's worth keeping around. It's weird to see him use a phrase like "king of the hill". I also think there's some meta text in there about Mantis' viability as a character despite how "bereft" she is.
The Thing, meanwhile, calls Kang "King Kong Kang", which, given the Council of Kangs, could very possibly be an actual character, and one i'd like to see!
When the FF catch up with Kang, a very Mike Allred looking panel.
I don't really love how Keith Pollard draws Kang's mask as so capable of expression in these issues, but after John Buscema had a Kang with a beard growing outside his mask in the Avengers issues, i really can't complain.
During the fight, the Torch's powers go out of control again...
...and he causes an explosion. More odd looking art (maybe it's due to Romeo Tanghal's inks; this is the first we're seeing Pollard and Tanghal together now that Joe Sinnott is off the book):
Kang's gloating doesn't last long, because he turns around to find out that Mantis is gone. He also never made it into the Dreaming Celestial's cave, so it's not like he really had a lot to gloat about anyway.
Johnny turns out to be ok. He just can't flame off. Even Ms. Marvel spitting on him doesn't help.
After taking care of another bomb (the Torch flies it out to space this time), the FF follow Kang back to New York. The situation has really gotten worse in their absence.
Some points that were made during travel: 1) the Thing compares the Torch's inability to flame-off to his own inability to transform back into Ben Grimm. When Ms. Marvel asks if the psychological factor that the Thing was talking to her about last issue could possibly be in play, the Thing doesn't answer directly but starts worrying that Sharon wants to be able to change back. 2) Kang says that he's only able to operate without the knowledge of the larger Council due to the events of Inferno (presumably because of the timelessness of Limbo). And with that, 3) thanks to time-travel, Kang arrives back in New York in only 15 minutes despite it being a 4 hour trip. But then he's surprised to see the FF arrive directly behind him. It's said it's because they have "ridden the jet stream" but i still suspect (because it helps with some continuity coordination) that time is passing differently in New York due to the effects of Inferno.
Anyway, we've all come back to New York because it's where Kang has tracked the missing Mantis, and we find her in this goofy scenario (my post-it note for when i got to this page just says "Da Fug?!?!").
He doesn't look like it, but that guy is Necrodamus, a very minor character that has bothered the Defenders and the Scarlet Witch in the past. Presumably when this plot was meant for the West Coast Avengers, which includes Wanda, his appearance might have been a little more logical, but as i've said i don't mind it when random villains show up. His story is that during his last fight with the Scarlet Witch, he was banished to what turns out to be Limbo, and with the overlaying of Limbo and Earth he's now back. He's the one that took Mantis, and he intends to kill the Celestial Madonna while all the planets line up during Inferno, which will grant him major power.
Kang and the FF team- up to try to get past Necrodamus' magic force bubble, but they are unable to. Mantis, for her part, is tired of being abused and humiliated.
Since they can't get through his forcefield, they decide to disrupt Necrodamus' plan by preventing one of the planets from getting into alignment with the others. The two Things stay behind to keep Necrodamus distracted, and he's further distracted when N'astirh shows up to make sure whatever Necrodamus is up to isn't treacherous or anything.
Meanwhile, the Human Torch and Kang move Mercury (never let it be said that Englehart doesn't go for high concept on occasion).
And this works, preventing Necrodamus' spell from being completed, causing him to fade away and freeing Mantis, who again is tired of being a plot device in what is supposed to be her own story.
Kang had agreed to help Johnny with his flame problem, but he is a liar (wha-at?!!), and he leaves the Torch floating in space some 120 million miles from Earth.
And in a galaxy far, far away, the Silver Surfer detects Mercury getting pulled out of alignment and decides to come investigate.
Arguably overloaded, but fun.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Mantis appears in Silver Surfer #20 prior to this. The scene at the end here is repeated in Silver Surfer #22. We're going to let Johnny float in space for a while to give the Surfer time to reach our solar system (and to keep Inferno less cluttered), so next issue will be in a separate entry. This issue seems to begin earlier than Avengers #300 due to the fact that the Kang here is aware that the other Kang is only trying to gain entry into our era but hasn't succeeded yet. But Avengers #300 ends with the closing of the portal that is concurrent with X-Terminators #4/New Mutants #72. Here, N'astirh is colored red when he shows up, so i think it's meant to take place after he becomes techno-organic. So these stories should be thought of as taking place concurrently and over a sizeable stretch.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAron the Watcher, Dragon Man, Human Torch, Kang, Mantis, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura), N'astirh, Necrodamus, Silver Surfer, Thing
You wrote: "Here, Necrodamus is colored red when he shows up, so i think it's meant to take place after he becomes techno-organic." I believe you meant N'astirh.
Also it's hilarious that Kang's timeship's weapon makes a TARDIS! noise which is of course the name of Doctor Who's space-time machine.
I think when Human Torch suddenly explodes out of control is probably when the Pentacle Portal opens.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 27, 2014 5:43 PM
Right, N'astirh. Thanks, Jay.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 27, 2014 5:48 PM
You wrote: "When the FF catch up with Kangs, a very Mike Allred looking panel." Looks like that got accidentally truncated or something?
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | August 27, 2014 6:04 PM
Ok, the plural "Kangs" was a mistake, but the sentence was otherwise just deliberately casual. You guys are on my case about my grammar today! ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | August 27, 2014 6:23 PM
Why does the Human Torch refer to this event as an "Inferno"? This seems to be a common theme in comics where the characters know the name of the "event" that we're reading about.
Posted by: clyde | August 27, 2014 7:06 PM
Kang got the memo, too, because he says "This strange upheaval in Limbo that the heroes of New York have dubbed 'The Inferno' plays directly into my gauntleted hands'.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 27, 2014 7:11 PM
This plot never made sense to me. Kang knows the Dreaming Celestial has completed his weapon 17 years from now. So why does he think that the Celestial will have the weapon now? That's like traveling back to 1928 and asking Oppenheimer how to build an atomic bomb.
Posted by: Michael | August 27, 2014 7:58 PM
Michael - Kang probably thinks that the weapon is still being built. He may have wanted to see it and work on it himself.
Posted by: clyde | August 27, 2014 8:25 PM
I've always been bothered by the characters automatically referring to an event the same way, as clyde mentions. I don't know how it started, but we all remember 9/11 as The Day It Happened. Nobody remembers 12/7, but we know "Pearl Harbor" as Where It Happened.
"Secret Wars" is the one that gets me. Cyclops had to tell Madelyne where he went, Reed, Johnny and Ben had to tell Sue what they were doing for the last week, Peter Parker had to explain things to his supporting cast. "Secret" makes very little sense, and "Wars" no sense at all. At least "Inferno" might be a magical word that has meaning to Sym, Nastirh, Illyana, and a few others.
Otherwise "inferno" would be just an ordinary synonym for what's going on, and "hothouse," "steambath," "smokehouse," firepit," etc. would work as well for the characters who aren't directly involved.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 27, 2014 10:28 PM
Wouldn't everybody just call "Secret Wars" "Battleworld" instead, as a way of reminding those who were there what happened, and letting those who weren't there know that they're referring to an event that they weren't part of?
Posted by: ChrisW | August 27, 2014 10:29 PM
Calling it "Battleworld" is just as big a problem as calling the event "Secret Wars". I don't recall it ever being labeled as "Battleworld". It was a world brought together specifically for them to do battle on. However, it was made up of numerous parts of different planets, including Earth.
Posted by: clyde | September 12, 2014 3:59 PM
It was never explicitly called "Battleworld" during "Secret Wars," but it otherwise makes sense as the sort of name the characters would have come up with off-panel, for the reason you give; it was a world specifically created for them to battle on. They could have arguably come up with a better name, but "Battleworld" would have made sense for both heroes and villains. "Battle" and "world" are both simple enough and accurate enough that most of them could have conceived of the idea.
"I, Doctor Octopus, shall lead us to victory on this planet that has been created for the express purpose of fighting upon! (as soon as I get rid of Doom and reprogram Ultron.)" "Um, Doctor, sir, me and Marsha were wondering if you had any plans to get us out of the battle and off of this world? Just curious." "Hey Crusher, this geek wants to get offa Battleworld instead of smashing skulls like we should be doin'!" "Yeah, Battleworld rules! C'mon, Titania, let's do some non-Code-approved activities."
Sorry, "Battleworld" makes more sense than "Secret Wars" (and actually sounds good as a title too.) If you disagree, I'll have to send Ultron to discuss things with you. ;)
Posted by: ChrisW | September 12, 2014 6:47 PM
After Annual #16 Dragon Man should be forever one with Ral Dorn. And yet here we see him as one with Aron the Watcher!? Intriguing;)
Posted by: Nathan Adler | April 10, 2015 5:54 AM
These issues were my introduction to Mantis. I later became a huge fan of the character, although I will readily admit that she is an acquired taste (as is quite a bit of Englehart's writing). I did a write-up on this story on my blog a while back. That image of Mantis fighting demonically possessed parking meters sticks in my head all these years later!
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 31, 2015 12:14 PM
And here is a link to my blog post for those who are interested...
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 31, 2015 12:19 PM
"The dialogue in panel #3 above seems jumbled."
FNORD - clearly it's a typo (something you may be familiar with) and should probably be "The Council of Kangs believe that within the bubble". ;)
Posted by: clyde | July 2, 2015 1:27 PM
Well, the Silver Age style covers are nice.
Posted by: KevinA | June 19, 2018 10:03 AM
Comments are now closed.
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