Fantastic Four Unlimited #5
Issue(s): Fantastic Four Unlimited #5
The Wizard has seen reports on the new "Frightful Four" or "Fearsome Four" that has been appearing in the regular FF series, and he's upset that the name of his team is being used. So he escapes from prison with the intention of re-creating his own team and... well, something.
The Thing, meanwhile, is upset about Sharon Ventura's status. He was apparently expecting Ant-Man to do something about it.
This results in some intra-team fighting that lasts until Klaw creates a distraction using his solid sound powers, and then kidnaps Sharon.
Sharon's mind is going, and she's a little confused about whether or not she needed to be "rescued". She and Klaw are then picked up by the Wizard.
They don't immediately get along. Note Klaw saying that his sonic claw has been rebuilt entirely from solid sound like the rest of his body.
I don't think this development gets remembered, maybe because it's not depicted any differently artwise than in past appearances.
The Red Ghost randomly shows up as well.
Everyone wants to be in the Frightful Four, but only as the leader. The Wizard's idea is to have a contest to decide who gets to be leader. Even the confused Sharon Carter agrees, convinced at this point that the FF have abandoned her. And now she officially wants to be called the She-Thing.
I don't know if the line about her mutating was intended all along or if it's Thomas covering for Trimpe's art. The truth is they all look like they're mutating.
The FF (i'm including Ant-Man) are kidnapped one by one and attacked by individual members of the new Frightful Four.
For what it's worth, the Red Ghost says that he's now able to control his Super-Apes directly.
God, the art is so weird. My inherent love of the Super Apes is having a hard time here (i also prefer them acting of their own apeish accord).
The Invisible Woman is still really weak and unable to defend herself against She-Thing.
I don't know what's going on with Ant-Man. Something about he's not really shrinking and also the ants he thinks he's controlling are really some of Klaw's sound constructs.
As for the Human Torch and the Wizard, the Wizard uses his "pockets of non-causality".
The Wizard talks about it like it's something that the Torch should remember. These pockets were first seen in Avengers #235, but as Michael notes in the comments, they've never been used against the Torch.
Anyway, the Wizard accidentally sticks his own power gloves into a pocket making it so that "literally anything can happen" throughout his house. It also turns out that all of the fights are happening in the Wizard's home.
And "literally anything can happen" works out to mean that things consistently happen in favor of the Fantastic Four.
The rest of the FF catch up with the Wizard, but he traps them with a "Letheo-Ray". Note that another effect of the ray is that the FF will all lose their memories of "these past few hours".
The Wizard sees the rest of his new team fleeing, and has a crisis of faith. He thinks that he could kill one or two members of the FF before the ray wears off, but he's afraid that the others will then revive and catch him. So he flees as well. By the end of this issue, the FF's memories have already faded to the point where they don't remember anything prior to getting captured by the bad guys, and i'm assuming that they'll continue to fade beyond that (see the Considerations).
The art is just a complete horror show. And the story - not only but especially the conclusion - is nonsensical. I really think there was a place in Marvel's publishing schedule for an old school FF book by old school creators Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe to do things with old school villains like the Wizard, Klaw, and the Red Ghost. But both creators are trying way too hard to not be old school and it's just a disaster.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: There was intended to be a hand-off from Fantastic Four #383 to this issue, but it's a mess. First of all, i don't know why Klaw was shown to be with Sharon in that story only to have him leave and have to create a distraction to kidnap her in this story. But that's a minor detail. The bigger problem is that throughout this story, Ant-Man is with the Fantastic Four, and he even appears with them unmasked. But in FF #384, which is supposed to take place after this story, Ant-Man is first called to the team as technician Scott Lang and only in the middle of that story does he reveal that he's Ant-Man. The very beginning of that story shows the Thing discovering that Sharon Ventura is missing. Sharon is of course kidnapped during this story. As noted at the end of the issue, Marvel did have the benefit of this book coming out months after the issue it was intended to go before. So Roy Thomas tries to cover for this with the induction of memory loss at the end, and that does help account for the Thing being surprised that Sharon is missing at the beginning of #384. But the only way it helps with the sequence for Ant-Man is to assume their memories will continue to fade to the point prior to Ant-Man's recruitment. So they all lose so much memory that they recruit him as Scott Lang and have to learn that he's Ant-Man all over again (and so what we're seeing in #384 is actually the second recruitment). And that's basically what i'm doing.
The MCP solve this a different way. They assume that the opening few pages of FF #384, with the Thing discovering that Sharon is missing, take place out of sequence at the end of the story. So the sequence would go like this: the latter portion of FF #384 -> Fantastic Four Unlimited #5 -> the beginning of FF #384. My view is that Roy Thomas tried to fix things with the memory loss and we might as well take advantage of it even if it's by extending it into absurdity. Regardless of which solution you go with, it's another example of how poorly these Unlimited issues fit with the main series.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAnt-Man (Scott Lang), Human Torch, Igor (Super Ape), Invisible Woman, Klaw, Mikhlo (Super Ape), Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura), Peator (Super Ape), Red Ghost, Thing, Wizard
"The Wizard talks about it like it's something that the Torch (and we) should remember, but there's no footnote and i can't believe that he would have used something before and i wouldn't have made a note of it. "
"Interestingly, the Wizard attributes his death to "the Hunger" and not Dr. Doom."
Posted by: clyde | February 27, 2017 2:25 PM
Yeesh - I don't know who to feel more embarrassed for - Sharon, whose character is being used for toilet paper, or Trimpe, whose fans should have staged an intervention for him.
Posted by: Bob | February 27, 2017 3:30 PM
Yeesh. The O-faces, the hideous artwork, the fact that Sharon basically is gone from the entire F4 book after this mess (aside from the ridiculous "rocky Toxic Avenger with boobs" look she seems to have)...I'd say the book's hit rock bottom, but another post elsewhere seems to confirm it's just going to get worse.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 27, 2017 3:42 PM
The Wizard previously used the pocket of non-casuality in Avengers 235, Avengers Spotlight 26 and Avengers Spotlight 29. Admittedly, Johnny wasn't present for any of those occasions but it's possible the Wizard assumed the other heroes told Johnny about it.
Posted by: Michael | February 27, 2017 8:19 PM
Thanks Michael. Can't believe i never noted them before. I'll take the excuse Clyde gave me and blame the Letheo-Ray. (Added a note/scan for Avengers #235 and Avengers Spotlight #26; couldn't find it in Spotlight #29 but no big deal.)
Posted by: fnord12 | February 28, 2017 8:44 AM
Unfortunately I think that I prefer this art over the period right before this when Trimpe was doing a lot of fill-ins because that stuff was just too stiff and bland. Say what you will this is not bland:). Even classic early 70s Trimpe was never one of my favorite artists although John Severin's strong inks made his stuff look excellent.May they both RIP.
Posted by: Mizark | February 28, 2017 11:00 AM
As I previously mentioned in the comments for FFU #1, editor Mike Rockwitz was apparently the person who suggested to Herb Trimpe that he adopt a style more like the Image Comics founders.
I'm more open-minded about Trimpe's early 1990s work than most, but I have to agree that his art for FFU #5 was especially wonky and off-kilter.
Reading this issue in real time, I definitely noticed that the continuity between it and the regular FF book was a real train wreck. This is one of those issues where I was curious how fnord was going to find a way to resolve the glaring discrepancies. Using the Wizard's "Letheo-Ray" is a good way around them. I suppose we can also say that those "pockets of non-causality" caused some slight hiccups in the space-time continuum, which is why the events of this story and FF #384 don't line up.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 28, 2017 11:45 AM
I think the Trimpe style switch is destined to be one of comics great unsolved mysteries. Trimpe's statement on the matter is given in Brian Cronin's Comic Book Legends #195. He insists that it was his idea alone.We only have hearsay about Rockwitz's part in the matter. I am willing to believe Trimpe's own words over hearsay. Amash's account could also read as a friendly bit of advice. I do think that it sounds quite different than an editorial mandate.
Posted by: Mizark | March 1, 2017 9:34 AM
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