Fantastic Four #356
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #356
But that and a gratuitous Misunderstanding Fight between the FF and the New Warriors, perpetrated by the Puppet Master, lull us into a false sense of complacency that might keep us from noticing something more sinister that is going on.
The first clue is that it's mentioned that Sharon Ventura has unexpectedly deserted the Thing. Then we see the Puppet Master at his wife's grave, noticing that Alicia hasn't visited in a long time. He starts by saying that Alicia's changed in "subtle" ways that only a parent would notice, but then tells us that "Her entire personality seems to have... changed".
He's tried "every conventional way of contacting" Alicia short of an actual visit (and i don't know why he hasn't tried that, since he's been on relatively good terms with the team lately), so now he comes up with a cockamamie scheme to talk to her that involves creating a puppet of Marvel Boy from the New Warriors and making him kidnap her. Why Marvel Boy? Because a fight between the Fantastic Four and the New Warriors seems like it would make for a fun issue, that's all.
Before Vance shows up, we find out that all of the sculptures that we've seen Alicia displaying in exhibits (since you know when) have been unsold inventory. She's now working in a modern style that doesn't require what one would conventionally call talent (no offense to abstract artists meant on my part, but probably some meant on DeFalco's part).
So Marvel Boy breaks in and we have our fight.
Meanwhile, Alicia meets the Puppet Master and doesn't seem to recognize him.
The Puppet Master tosses away the Marvel Boy puppet and uses a robot to cover his escape. Whatever is going on, Mr. Fantastic is pretty sure that we'll find out next issue.
And no, we won't like it.
I'll tell you, if i didn't know what was coming, this would be pretty fun. What i call "nostalgia" in the beginning could just as easily be called classic, and the fight with the New Warriors was fun, if pointless. It does all seem a little... basic, both story- and art-wise, after the Walt Simonson run, and i don't know if something in this style belonged in the 90s* even without all the bad decisions that were made, but as a simple start to a new Fantastic Four run, it seems fine. Except for what's coming.
All i'll say about that right now is that if you're going to impersonate someone for years and years, maybe just do a little basic research on who your immediate family members are so that you'll at least recognize them when they come visiting.
(*I originally wrote "would have survived the 90s", but in fact even despite the bad decisions, this run "survives" the 90s by virtue of the fact that it was being written by the company's Editor in Chief. It's the book's reputation that doesn't survive.)
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Nova is in his blue and yellow costume, placing this after New Warriors #14.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showFirestar, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Justice, Lyja the Lazerfist, Mr. Fantastic, Namorita, Night Thrasher, Nova (Rich Rider), Puppet Master, Speedball, Thing
Yeah...it seems a bit ridiculous that it took 7 years for the Puppet Master to realize his daughter wasn't his daughter...you'd think that being her dad, he'd realize it sooner.
Then again you could say that she was stuck that way for a few years...I mean one of her compatriots was trapped for years as a chair.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 29, 2015 4:57 PM
Regarding Lyja not recognizing the Puppet Master, DeFalco has said that the idea was that the Puppet Master was believed dead when Lyja took over Alicia's life, so Lyja's training didn't include being exposed to his voice. Which is fine, except that Ben found out the Puppet Master was alive in Thing 34 and his next meeting with Alicia was FF 296, 60 issues ago. You'd think that in all that time Lyja would have asked to hear a tape of his voice.
Posted by: Michael | October 29, 2015 8:16 PM
You just feel ill, knowing that one of the biggest bungles and shark jumps in MU history is about to unfold.
Not to mention dead Reed, bucket head thing and slutty costume Sue lurking just over the horizon.
Waid had a few decent issues, and McDuffie did the best he could with the post Civil War train wreck, but, otherwise, the FF have more or less been in horrible hands continuously since 1991.
Posted by: Bob | October 29, 2015 9:51 PM
Lord, 1991 was a terrible year to be a classic Marvel fan.
Posted by: Bob | October 29, 2015 9:55 PM
I remember being really annoyed when this issue first came out and Shary Ventura was just disappeared off-panel by the new creative team in their very first issue. It just struck me as incredibly disrespectful, both to the work that Englehart and Simonson had done with her character over the previous few years, but also to the fans that the character had earned during her time with the team.
Of course, DeFalco does eventually bring her back and show that he did have plans for her (for better or worse), but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth that she was already gone before his first issue started.
Posted by: Dermie | October 30, 2015 12:13 AM
Disrespectful of fans of the 80s Fantastic Four just about sums up my views of this entire run of issues. More on that soon.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 30, 2015 12:48 AM
Someone with more knowledge of the last 20 years of Marvel Comics than I have should do a "Top 10 Worst Ret-Cons" piece, and this needs to be on there.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 30, 2015 10:09 AM
Now that Simonson's run has ended, I have lost interest in the FF. They have little relevance to the wider universe. They were not included in Infinity Gauntlet. From now on, the FF are no more than Marvel's C team.
Posted by: Steven | October 30, 2015 12:24 PM
I never read this issue. This reminds though that late 1991 is when I re-evaluated my comics collecting. I had begun picking up a lot of the other Marvel titles in 1989 and 1990, but this year I abandend titles I just didn't like. I went from over twenty Marvel comics to less than a dozen, and in another year I'd be down to one (HULK). It just was not the same Marvel comics had loved since 1983.
DeFalco is really abusing his position here by writing multiple titles (all of which are key characters) while being Editor-In-Chief. In fact, editorial misplay is an ongoing problem throughout the next few years. Other editors would hire their editorial colleagues to write their titles so they would hire them to write theirs. I can't imagine such things would ever happen under Shooter.
Posted by: Chris | October 31, 2015 2:13 PM
Shooter said that Marvel was like that in the 70s with editors writing books and that was something he stopped when he became EiC. That was why Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Roy Thomas all jumped ship for DC.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 31, 2015 5:41 PM
This issue has always vexed me on my New Warriors chronology site because this couldn't happen after New Warriors #14 because Namorita is uninjured and not wearing the Atlantean armor from her battle with Sea Urchin. But it has to happen after New Warriors #14 because Nova is in his new/old blue and gold costume.
There's really no way to reconcile this story. But I ultimately went with the order you did.
(PS: I wish there was a way to be notified of replies via email instead of just the "remember personal info" option. I don't post a ton but I'm always coming back to this site, and I forget to check back on where I've posted.)
Posted by: Corey | September 17, 2016 10:43 PM
The Puppet Master says that Alicia's entire personality seems to have changed after she married Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four #300.
I dunno. Did it? Outside of a an interest in Johnny in the first place there was nothing in my mind to indicate that Alicia had an abrupt change in personality.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | December 23, 2016 10:06 AM
Need a drinking game while going through these...take shot for every time someone says that "this would never happen in the Shooter era"
Posted by: MindlessOne | June 22, 2017 9:29 AM
I was never clear on who actually broke Ben's statue. Did he break it himself? Why would he blame the Torch then? Did Sharon Ventura break it before she disappeared unexpectedly? I don't think this one ever got an answer.
Posted by: Awesoman | March 24, 2018 3:13 AM
Regarding the issue of a "change in personality"; it could be the idea that Alicia at least tried to keep moderately decent relations with her step-father whereas, once she got married, Lyja/Alicia severed all ties with her step-dad. Most likely because it was way easier for her mission to stay clear of Alicia's step-dad and not risk him tripping her up.
Posted by: Jese Baker | July 11, 2018 9:05 PM
Here it is, the penultimate issue to the Lyja revelation. Though it wasn't obvious at the time it's clear something was going to happen. Upon re-reading while I fully embrace the beginning of the end of the Johnny/Alicia debacle there does seem to have been quite a rush put on it. It's as if DeFalco, finally getting the nod as writer, could not wait any longer to get this story told.
Posted by: KevinA | July 15, 2018 9:03 AM
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