Fantastic Four annual #14
Issue(s): Fantastic Four annual #14
After that, the FF return to the Baxter Building, where Agatha Harkness invites them to join her on what is now apparently a yearly sojourn to New Salem. Those sojourns must have begun after FF #186, since before that it was considered a betrayal for her to have left the town.
After arriving there, however, they find that the annual Ceremony of Renewal has been hijacked by the Salem Seven, who are still loyal to Harkness' son Nicholas Scratch. And they summon a big fiery version of Scratch.
A fight - nicely laid out by George Perez - breaks out...
...but Scratch and the Salem Seven have the upper hand, and manage to defeat the FF and put all of the residents of New Salem into a magical stasis, including Agatha Harkness. Franklin Richards, however, frees Agatha.
Meanwhile, the FF have been taken all the way back to the Baxter Building, where they begin a ritual to return Scratch to earth. Their ritual sends magical shockwaves throughout New York. Spider-Man takes a pass...
...but a group of other heroes show up to try to pierce the barrier, but are not able to.
I guess luckily for the Salem Seven, Dr. Strange is not among the heroes. Nighthawk is, but while Iron Man's comment suggests that there are other Defenders present, there's no evidence of that.
It's possible that Iron Man didn't recognize Quasar (that's his wristband at the top of the heroes group-shot) and assumed he was a Defender, or maybe thought Captain Marvel was a member of the team these days. Granted it's also possible that there are more heroes, including some subset of the Defenders, acting off panel, but for Characters Appearing and placement purposes, i'm keeping my options open.
Agatha Harkness shows up to battle the Salem's Seven...
...but when Scratch possesses the Fantastic Four and forces them to attack her and Franklin, Franklin's powers manifest again...
...and so Harkness is able to defeat the Seven and even wipe humankind's memories of the incident. Presumably that even includes the other heroes appearing in this issue.
Before Reed Richards zapped Franklin to suppress his mutant powers, Franklin often acted as a deus ex machina device. That is now creeping back - we see him using his powers here and it was also used in Fantastic Four #216. It's not a "cheat" in this story; it's foreshadowed on the cover (if anything's a cheat it's the fact that this is really an Agatha Harkness story). But it's interesting to see Franklin's powers returning.
As i've mentioned before, it's well known that George Perez loved to draw lots and lots of characters. Salem's Seven - who first appeared in issues drawn by him - already provide him with seven different super-villains to draw, plus all of the "regular" residents of New Salem, plus the FF, Franklin, and Agatha Harkness. But you can almost here him saying "No no! More! More!", and so we've got a mish-mosh of Avengers and other heroes as well. I love it, and he constructs the book really well.
And despite all that, there's still time in the story for downtime scenes, like this one from the plane ride to New Salem.
All that said, i'm not a big fan of the Salem Seven. I guess if they were just super-villains that had magical origins that would be ok. But they are actual wizards, and so the FF are kind of out of their league and wind up being bystanders in their own book. And considering the FF and especially Mr. Fantastic are explicitly science heroes, i'd really like to see more of a science vs. magic conflict, thematically, if you're going to have them encountering magical opponents. There's also just a lot of them to keep track of, and none of them are ever really developed as individuals.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Thing lists fights with Galactus, the Sphinx, and Blastaar among their recent accomplishments, placing this after Fantastic Four #216. Regarding the other heroes, it's a real hodge-podge group and the appearances are context-free. The MCP place this after Amazing Spider-Man #200. For the Avengers, i have this right after Avengers #192-193 at a time when the team composition is similar to what we see here (in fact, the absence of the Scarlet Witch works well after her taking leave in Avengers #192). Captain Marvel and Quasar didn't have books at this time. Nighthawk is an interesting case. He's technically not supposed to be a super-hero at this time, for legal reasons, but we've seen a few instances of him doing so anyway. And he's notably not with any other Defenders (despite Iron Man's "you Defenders!" remark), which may help the case that he happened to be in the area when this event occurred and so he got into costume to help out.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAgatha Harkness, Brutacus, Captain America, Captain Mar-vell, Carol Danvers, Falcon, Franklin Richards, Gazelle, Human Torch, Hydron (Salem Seven), Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Nicholas Scratch, Nighthawk, Quasar, Reptilla, Sandman, Spider-Man, Thing, Thornn, Vakume, Vertigo (Salem Seven), Vision, Wonder Man
You have the Sandman being turned to glass here between parts of the Electro-joining-the-Frightful-Four storyline in Peter Parker.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 11, 2013 12:22 AM
Thanks for another good catch, Erik. I've shifted the issues accordingly.
I thought there was an offhand reference to the Wizard curing the Sandman in one of the Spectacular issues but if there was i didn't capture it in the References section.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 11, 2013 11:42 AM
Regarding those "yearly sojourns to New Salem," I thought there was a real "scene missing" flavor in general about what transpired therein between #185-6 and this annual, which seemed sloppy on Marv's part.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | January 18, 2017 12:41 PM
Nice to know the FF didn't casually kill the Sandman by fusing him into a glass statue, but there's no indication that they knew it wouldn't kill him, so this issue seems to have turned them into casual potential premeditated murderers, at least, without even a glimmer of contrition or regret about it, or so it appears. ?
There's a lot of talk about Sandman having menaced and probably kidnapped Alicia Masters off-panel, but no footnote to another story where that happens. I can't find any such story in Sandman's or Masters' chronologies here. The FF purportedly visit Masters between pages 4 and 5, but she's never shown on panel. I feel like we must be missing some unpublished pages here. Maybe there was a partially plotted Wolfman/Perez FF story that never got published for some mysterious reason, maybe because Byrne had taken over art duties on the FF's regular title. ?
Posted by: Holt | December 24, 2017 10:10 PM
The Sandman had been turned to glass before and come back from it (in the Hulk, iirc) so they had that prior experience to go on.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 25, 2017 5:42 AM
"Nice to know the FF didn't casually kill the Sandman by fusing him into a glass statue, but there's no indication that they knew it wouldn't kill him, so this issue seems to have turned them into casual potential premeditated murderers, at least, without even a glimmer of contrition or regret about it, or so it appears. ?"
The caption clearly states "Not so long as he remains a statue of "living" crystal". So, they thought he could still survive.
Posted by: clyde | December 25, 2017 8:53 AM
Thanks. Truly an amazing super-power, being able to survive crystallization like that. Would love to see how he does it.
As for my other question, maybe there were some pages scrapped and/or redone, to make room for the 6 pages of pin-ups at the end of the annual.
Posted by: Holt | December 25, 2017 9:29 AM
Here's a paragraph from his Wikipedia entry -
"Temperature does alter the Sandman. At 3,400 Fahrenheit his body turns into glass, also a form he can control. Unlike Sandman's fast transformation from sand to glass, his transformation from glass to sand takes time."
Posted by: clyde | December 25, 2017 9:58 AM
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