Fantastic Four annual #23
Issue(s): Fantastic Four annual #23
Michael Heisler - Assistant Editor
The way the Marvel annual events were broken out this year was a pretty good predictor of how Marvel's books will get broken out in a few years during the editorial silo period (during 1994-1995 when there was no overall editor-in-chief). The Spider-books stick together, the Avengers books do the Terminus story, Lifeform mostly includes the books that will end up in the "Marvel Edge" line-up, and then we have our X-crossover in Days of Future Present. The two exceptions to that are Silver Surfer, who participates in Lifeform, and Fantastic Four, who is here as part of the mutant crossover. The Surfer, who ends up in the broadly defined "Marvel universe" silo, is kind of a wild card, and in any event there's a plot driven reason for his inclusion in Lifeform. The Fantastic Four are in Days of Future Present thanks to Franklin Richards, whose future version from the Days of Future Past universe is the subject of the crossover.
The FF return home from a picnic and find that their current building, Four Freedoms Plaza, has been replaced by their original building, the Baxter Building. Reed detects "no chrono-displacement patterns", but when they enter the building they find that everything, even the people, are restored to an earlier status quo. The doorman is Sergius O'Hoolihan, who "retired some years ago", and there is even a version of the Fantastic Four in their old costumes.
The mystery deepens when the old FF don't act like evil doppelgangers and instead (after a brief fight, of course!) work together to figure out what's going on.
And the answer is an adult Franklin Richards.
Adult Franklin bursts out of the FF building, and next shows up in front of Banshee and Forge.
But he remembers that they're not supposed to be alive, so he freaks out again and flies away. Meanwhile, a cyborg is awakened in reaction to Franklin's actions.
This is Ahab, but there's not much to say about him in this issue.
We next see Franklin "playing" with his friends in Power Pack. He's warping their minds to prevent them from realizing that he's an adult (a fact that the art just barely manages to convey properly, in my opinion).
To figure out what's going on, Mr. Fantastic says that he's going to have to remove young Franklin's mindlocks and release his mutant powers.
While he's doing that, a swarm of robots are warped in to attack.
After the robots are defeated, Banshee and Forge show up to help. It's unclear to me if Franklin's powers were restored despite the robot attack. They ask young Franklin where he would go if he couldn't be with his family, and of course he says with the Power family. So that's where they go.
That's Katie Power?
They convince adult Franklin to go home so that they can help him. On the way home, Franklin notices X-Factor's building and decides that it isn't "right", so he disappears it, and then disappears himself.
At the end of this installment, the X-Factor building seems to have returned, and the FF and Forge and Banshee are flying towards it.
Due to some coordination problems, that won't be exactly where things start off in the next parts of this event.
I didn't read this story in realtime, but i was pretty excited when a friend of mine told me about it a few years after it came out. As a reader of the early Power Pack issues, i was a big fan of Franklin Richards and very intrigued by his potential power levels. When i picked up this story, i was pretty disappointed, though. A big part of that was due to the art. Butch Guice's art in this issue is particularly egregious. He's still in full-blown "tracing models" mode but it seems that deadline pressure for the annual has caused him to be sloppy as well. So we get the lady characters in weird poses and they don't even look good based on the criteria he's going for.
And when it does look "good" (i.e, the models are traced well), the characters look absolutely nothing like what they're supposed to. Like, without looking at the words, who are these people?
Even the person in charge of placing the word balloons can't tell.
This annual also has two back-ups. The first is Dr. Doom reviewing a file on Volcana.
Dr. Doom had a suspicion that the Molecule Man would have left Volcana with a piece of his power while he was being merged into a cosmic cube with the Beyonder. So he kept tabs on her thanks to having installed sensors in her while he was giving her powers during Secret Wars. And his tracking "bore fruit" when the Wizard attacked her.
That is all we see of the Wizard's attack, and the way it is presented, after a series of flashbacks showing scenes from Secret Wars and the cosmic cube story, it felt to me like i was missing out on some previous story. And it turns out that is the case. As Dermie notes in the comments, this story is actually a follow-up from a Volcana story that won't actually get published until Marvel Comics Presents #88.
After the framing sequence, the story seems to start "again", in the aftermath of the Wizard's attack, as if perhaps this portion was done at an earlier date.
Volcana hears from a police officer that her friend Annie was injured during the battle with the Wizard. She tries to go to the hospital, but the police officer wants a statement from her. It's pretty amazing that he didn't try to arrest her, and instead he allows her to go with him to the hospital wearing a riot gear helmet to protect her secret identity.
And when she gets there, she doesn't want to go in herself, so she convinces the cop to do it.
This is all very weird. But in the end Dr. Doom will speculate that even the Wizard's attack was due to a subconscious desire by Volcana, so it may be that she's influencing the cop as well.
The more obvious element of wish-fulfillment happens when she starts feeling guilty about being partially responsible for her friend's injury, and then suddenly everyone in the hospital is healed.
What's a little weird is that the woman in the above scan calls herself "Rox" but based on the art it's clearly Annie from the first part of this story. The guy touching her foot is not a doctor, just some guy in the ER hitting on her, so maybe she didn't want to give her real name. Or maybe Roxanne is her middle name or something.
The bad news is that includes Moonstone, who had been laying in the hospital paralyzed after her fights with Captain Marvel.
When Volcana's pet cop tries to stop Moonstone from escaping, Moonstone blasts him, and Volcana uses her unconscious power to turn into stone to protect him.
She then gets into a fight with Moonstone.
It's said (by Dr. Doom) that Moonstone wasn't at peak power, which is why Volcana is able to defeat her.
Volcana realizes that she remained in rock form for the entire fight.
Back to the framing sequence for the end, where Doom says that Volcana subconsciously caused the Wizard to attack her because she was depressed. Doom just files all this information away for future use.
As far as i know, nothing comes of this, so it all seems pretty pointless.
The final story in this issue shows the Beyonder hatching from the cosmic cube that he formed with the Molecule Man, and becoming "Kosmos".
It's said that the Molecule Man is sent "toward a new destiny" but "that is a tale for another time".
This is a rehash of my complaints from when this cosmic cube story first happened, but it's worth remembering that Secret Wars II ended with the Beyonder neatly tucked away into another reality, never to be seen again. But now not only did we have him return just to merge him into a cosmic cube, but now we're done with the cosmic cube part already and now we have him - or her, now - floating around again. She's a woman now because "many of my psychological deficits were linked to the aggression reaction syndrome inherent in a male configuration". Oookay.
She's met by Kubik, another cosmic cube that had gained sentience (after a much longer incubation period), and Kubik is now to be her guide to the universe. Kubik is gender neutral.
Kubik says that a lot of the Beyonder's earlier questions ("Is hallucinating why there is eating?") were of poor quality.
The rest of the story is basically a handbook entry, with Kubik showing off Marvel's various cosmic characters. One item of note is his (its?) description of the Phoenix Force, which he says is generated by periodic turbulence from the stars.
Kubik is cut off from explaining further about the Phoenix thanks to the arrival of the Watchers.
Kubik telling Kosmos to ignore the Watchers reminds me of the Grand Galactic Inquisitor from the Venture Brothers.
The story also rubs our nose in the Secret Wars II retcon, telling us that the Celestials and other beings that Kosmos fought as the Beyonder weren't the real versions.
Another questionable revelation is this grouping of "evil" characters...
...and the fact that they all are said to serve Death.
We're also told that "logic would indicate" that the Living Tribunal serves some higher power.
They then go through Eternity into the realm Beyond.
The "story" ends with Kosmos asking what her place in the universe is. Kubik says that is a good question. Personally i like, "Is hallucinating why there is eating?" better.
Look, the Beyonder in Secret Wars II was pretty terrible. Ok? We all concede this. But bringing him/her back as a random character to clutter up Marvel's cosmic pantheon is not helping. Nor is making the first cosmic cube a talking tour guide. The Beyonder was neatly tucked away and Marvel should have left well enough alone.
The main story in this issue isn't that great, and it's bogged down by a pair of pointless back-ups.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Due to scheduling problems, the New Mutants annual #6 part of this story is labeled "Part Three" but really takes place before "Part Two" in X-Factor annual #5 (although there is some overlap either way). This takes place while Forge and Banshee are living in New York, and, as we'll see in Part Four, after Storm and Gambit have met in Uncanny X-Men #265-267. The Fantastic Four's time travel adventure in Fantastic Four #337-341 is referenced in the final part of this event, placing the whole thing after those FF issues (and in fact, everything through Fantastic Four #346). Based on where this falls in the FF's and therefore Power Pack's timeline, the Alex and Jim Power appearing here are actually protoplasm constructs. As for the Dr. Doom/Volcana back-up, the main story shows Moonstone getting healed from her injuries from her two previous fights with Captain Marvel. So that flashback would have to take place prior to any other Moonstone appearances, notably Deathtrap: The Vault. But the framing sequence for the flashback, showing Doom reviewing his files, could take place at a later date, and i've therefore allowed this story to "land" concurrently with the main story in this annual. That means that Volcana, Moonstone, and the Wizard are not listed as characters appearing, though. Regarding the final Beyonder story, it can of course take place at any time. But it's unclear if any of the cosmic characters (beyond the Beyonder and Kubik) being shown are actually appearing. The MCP lists some of the characters, but not others (even when they appear in the same panels); i'm choosing to not list any of them and assume that Kubik is just creating images of them, as is certainly the case in some of the panels.
Crossover: Days of Future Present
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
The pic after the line "...and instead he allows her to go with him to the hospital wearing a riot gear helmet to protect her secret identity." appears to be a screengrab of some kind instead of a page scan. Love seeing the old Bionic Commando ad, though.
Posted by: Robert | May 18, 2015 6:29 PM
Thanks Robert. You might have to refresh to get the picture to change, but it should be fixed. And Bionic Commando was awesome.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 18, 2015 6:46 PM
If memory serves, the Volcana story gets a sequel in a future annual, tying in with the return of Molecule Man.
Personally, I like a retcon that restores dignity to Marvel's cosmic deities after their apparent humiliation at the Beyonder's hands. And turning the Beyonder into a Cosmic Cube accounts nicely for both his motives (pointless desire) and his powers (semi-omnipotence).
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 18, 2015 7:24 PM
For the sake of professionlism, its a good thing you removed that image... Marvel vs Capcom 3 clearly doesn't happen in 1990! :P
Posted by: Max_Spider | May 18, 2015 7:25 PM
Kinda liked the Beyonder in SW2, myself. Certainly more than I liked him anywhere else.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 18, 2015 8:44 PM
Bob Harras should be credited as co-scripter.
Posted by: Tenzil | May 18, 2015 9:04 PM
Agree with Luis. I enjoy SWII and its Beyonder.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 18, 2015 9:19 PM
Tenzil, at first i thought you were just being sarcastic, but i see now that Harras' scripting credit is on the bottom of page 23 in tiny letters. Pretty odd place to bury that.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 18, 2015 9:21 PM
Going by this description of The Living Tribunal, how was the current 2015 "Secret Wars" able to take place? Is he away on some cosmic vacation?
Posted by: Bill | May 18, 2015 10:55 PM
Killed by the Beyonders.
Posted by: Michael | May 18, 2015 11:07 PM
Little-known fact: John Byrne was asked to design Ahab, which is how he came to be the cover artist of his first appearance here.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | May 18, 2015 11:35 PM
Fnord, that Volcana/Wizard fight IS from another story--a Volcana story in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #88. Between that and then these two Volcana stories as FF Annual back-ups, it looks like James Brock was actually trying to develop Volcana as a solo heroine. He doesn't do a bad job of it; imo--I quite enjoy both of the Volcana back-ups in the FF Annuals.
Posted by: Dermie | May 18, 2015 11:40 PM
Thanks, Dermie. Wish they had included a footnote. I'd also say that giving someone cosmic cube powers isn't a good way to make them a protagonist, but i should probably hold off until i read the other parts.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 19, 2015 7:19 AM
Although that Marvel Comics Presents story hadn't even been published yet!
According to Mike's Amazing World of Comics (a great resource), this was released in May of 1990. Marvel Comics Presents #88 came out in September 1991. Maybe that's why the Marvel Chronology Project put that story after next year's annual.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 19, 2015 7:24 AM
I've never really been bothered by the Beyonder being capable of beating up cosmic characters. He's not presented as being from any normal universe, initially... He's just as alien to them as the Skrulls would be to us ("I am from the Beyond"). Heck, his initial origin portrays him as literally being his own universe, so he's practically his OWN cosmic pantheon. Not to mention one of the major themes of his character in, mostly in Secret Wars II, was that he was limitless and couldn't really be stopped directly. There was all this power and it was being left in the hands of what was essentially a curious child.
Although... The true horror of that concept, as revealed in 2015, is that there's nothing stopping from other Beyonders from existing. That there's no guarantee they would be as innocent minded or naive or willing to exile themselves (and let's face it, the one we knew of barely had some of those things). And that they have more than enough power to bring the multiverse to a halt. I suppose what is happening in 2015 was inevitable in that sense... They at least make obvious Ivory Kings in hindsight.
Posted by: Max_Spider | May 19, 2015 7:00 PM
@Fnord, wow, that is weird. I'd guess the MCP story was written and ready to go before this one, but got delayed for whatever reason and sat in an editor's desk drawer until it finally got released a year later. I guess the editor never realized that there was already a follow-up story in the pipeline.
Posted by: Dermie | May 20, 2015 12:57 AM
I missed this annual and therefore was not aware that there were more Beyonders until the recent Hickman's Avengers run. Cool.
Posted by: Grom | August 14, 2015 1:15 PM
I know you're on vacation, fnord, but you made an interesting Freudian slip in referring to Kubik as "Kubrik" shortly after the reference to the Beyonder's questions in SW2.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | August 16, 2015 10:56 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | August 16, 2015 11:25 AM
I remember reading these stories when they first came out but not buying them because they were so disappointing and because the art was just so bad.
The irony is that the art in the main story seems to be a harbinger of some of the really bad art of the 90's while the art in the backups seems to be like the Ron Frenz Silver Age throw-backs in Thor.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 29, 2015 8:27 AM
Did Sue forget to comb or something? That hair looks like mine when I wake up after moving around a lot on bed.
Posted by: Enchlore | April 27, 2016 8:55 PM
No tag for Volcana?
Posted by: kveto | November 5, 2017 4:20 AM
Volcana appears in flashback only (the file that Doom is reviewing).
That framing device is kind of annoying because it puts the whole mini-Volcana saga out of sequence, but the way that whole story was delivered was weird (as noted in the comments between me and Dermie above).
Posted by: fnord12 | November 5, 2017 12:45 PM
Gothcha, but it makes for a pretty lengthy non-appearance for her.
the difficulties of being fnord:-)
Posted by: kveto | November 5, 2017 2:06 PM
Man, did I hate these multi-part Annual stories. Partially because I wasn't goaded into buying ones for books I didn't get at the time just to read it. By this time I was boycotting anything with a letter "X" on it anyway.
Posted by: KevinA | July 11, 2018 9:58 AM
Comments are now closed.
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