Fantastic Four Unlimited #4
Issue(s): Fantastic Four Unlimited #4
Of course, then the interior art looked like this.
And that's before we get to the characters that are supposed to look human.
I wasn't aware of Herb Trimpe at the time, so i couldn't ask sensible questions like, "Why could Sal Buscema continue to draw in his own style while Trimpe was forced / felt the need to draw like this?!?". I could only curse the 90s.
The Thing is looking uninjured because the above Hulk/Thing fight is really a virtual reality show that they're doing for charity in Las Vegas. But the rivalry is real, and the Thing proves unable to hold his own against the Hulk.
So he storms off, bumping into Ajax and allowing us to see Trimpe's rendition of the Thing's injury.
The Pantheon's Delphi, who is not in Vegas, later gets a vision of the Thing strangling Atalanta...
...and she warns the Pantheon members in Vegas via a telepathic connection she has with Paris (which she says she doesn't normally use, because it causes Paris pain). Ajax hears about it and storms off to fight the Thing. The others show up to stop the fight.
But when they talk it through, they realize that Atalanta isn't around. It turns out she was out in the desert, and she got sucked underground. The Pantheon find a note saying that Atalanta has decided to return home on her own. The note is suspicious (since she could make better time going back with the Pantheon), but the Pantheon go to check it out, leaving the Hulk with the FF to continue searching for Atalanta in the area. Once the Pantheon are out of the picture, the FF and the Hulk are captured like Atalanta was, and the Hulk and the Thing are put in another arena. This turns out to be the work of the Mole Man.
He wants the Hulk and the Thing to fight, so that he can drain the energy they produce to restore Kala. And the fight has to be to the death.
By the way, i wouldn't blame the colorist if they were only half paying attention to this story and colored Delphi and Kala the same because they thought they were the same character.
The others (understandably!) say that there must be some other way to generate energy for the Mole Man, and even Kala says she doesn't want anyone to risk their life trying to restore her. But the Mole Man won't hear it. The Hulk tries to resist, but the Thing seems more than ready for a rematch.
But it turns out that they both simultaneously hit on the idea of trying to overload the Mole Man's tech.
The Mole Man then summons a Megataur (and i can't believe Roy Thomas didn't tie it back to the Mole Man's giant minotaur from Avengers #17)
During this fight, Atalanta falls and the Thing catches her, resulting in a scene similar to what Delphi saw in her vision.
Kala again tells Mole Man to stop the fight. The rejuvenation machine has been damaged, but she is revived and mobile, albeit stuck at age 50. Mole Man asks her to marry him, and she accepts.
An explosion then separates them from the heroes, and the issue ends.
Pages and pages of the Hulk fighting the Thing for contrived reasons would be a perfectly acceptable way to spend an issue of Fantastic Four Unlimited if the art were good. The art is not good. I have to admit the art is a little less horrible than some of Trimpe's past imitation-Liefeld style, but that's not saying much. I also have a fondness for the ongoing Mole Man/Kala saga, but it's handled pretty badly here - a cockamamie scheme and Thomas' scripting merge with Trimpe's art into a negative feedback loop: the art makes the writing seem worse which makes the art seem worse, etc.. It's also worth noting that this is Kala's final appearance. Mole Man will continue to appear periodically in Warlock & the Infinity Watch (and, of course, beyond that).
I've wondered in past entries how clear it was supposed to be that Sue Storm was "possessed" by Malice. But a response to a letter in this issue makes it as clear as can be. First, the relevant portion of the letter:
When I opened up FANTASTIC FOUR UNLIMITED #3, I was shocked by Sue Storm's costume, or rather the lack of it. Where did it go? Practically 3/4's of it is gone! Also, are Reed and her heading for splitsville? She's so caustic with him and Reed seems so uncomfortable around Sue. I understand that people grow and change, but rather than becoming more mature and sophisticated, the Invisible Woman has regressed into a selfish, self-centered child.
Presently, Sue's being possessed, or at least influenced by her evil doppelganger, Malice. As the lines between her own personality and Malice's continue to blur, it's becoming questionable as to whether they will ever be separated.
I think this is interesting because from what i have seen the general fan understanding is just that the Invisible Woman was the victim of the 90s comic book fashion sense, not a specific super-villain (or whatever you want to call Malice). Certainly that was my impression. Granted, that's because i read these issues in realtime and never had the slightest urge to try to read them again until this project. On this read it has become more obvious to me. And i guess by this point issues #384 and even #385 (which really confirmed it in-story) had been out. But it had been surprisingly subtle, especially for Tom DeFalco. It's also a factor of DeFalco's plotting style. The pacing of the main book is such that the Malice story has been going on for a long time for a possession plot, and the pacing also is the only thing that makes it acceptable that the other characters haven't really noticed (beyond kind of shrugging off her new personality). And of course Sue was also appearing in other books - like Infinity Crusade and its tie-ins - where readers would be exposed to Sue (or is it the other way around?) without any hint that there was anything meant to be wrong with her. The same is true of this issue, where there's no reason to think that Sue isn't herself.
In fact, getting back to this issue, it's worth noting that compared to the past three issues and issue #5, there are no major placement problems relative to the main series. But tonally it seems all wrong. Mr. Fantastic isn't around so this must be meant to take place after Reed's death. But the idea that the FF would be at a charity event, laughing and enjoying themselves...
...doesn't fit with the ongoing misery in the regular series. And the next issue of this series explicitly takes place between FF #383 and #384, which is the first possible break after Reed's death. So it's very soon after Reed's death. Which isn't to say that the team couldn't be letting these events distract them from their tragedy for a little while, but it's an odd fit.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after the death of Mr. Fantastic but (seemingly) before Ant-Man joins the team, placing this between Fantastic Four #383-384. On its own, that placement is circumstantial, but the placement of Fantastic Four Unlimited #5 helps confirm it (assuming the issues take place in sequential order, which i guess doesn't have to be a given)(and Fantastic Four Unlimited #5 has its own problems). The creators may have intended the "kid" sitting next to the Human Torch in the final scan on this entry to be Franklin Richards, but he doesn't appear elsewhere in this issue, and if this does take place between FF #383-384 it wouldn't make sense for him to be here now.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAchilles, Ajax, Atalanta, Delphi, Hector, Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Kala, Mole Man, Paris, Thing
Both Delphi and Kala are dressed just like Dream Girl from DC's Legion of Super-Heroes. Also, I don't believe that Herb Trimpe meant for Kala to be wearing boots while inside that chamber since we can clearly see her toes on what were probably supposed to be her bare feet.
Herb was proud of his FF work during his time, I suppose because adapting to the Image style proved a challenge for him and he felt that he pulled it off. Me, I'll always fondly remember him for his runs on the G.I. Joe comics.
Posted by: Clutch | February 28, 2017 6:57 AM
Herb, you're better than that. No need to ape McFarlane and Liefeld's style.
Posted by: JSfan | February 28, 2017 7:01 AM
Comments have been disabled for the summer while i'm not around to moderate.
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