The Transparent Fox:
Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #1
Issue(s): Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #1
This is part one of a four part series published in 2010 that has a mysterious figure (that we ultimately learn is Kristoff) traveling through time as part of an elaborate scheme. In this issue he uses the campus crisis to read some occult books in Doom's embassy, which means that he doesn't figure directly into this story.
As for that crisis, it begins when General 'Thunderbolt' Ross arranges for the Fantastic Four to be Dr. Doom's bodyguards, per Doom's request.
Doom's reason for being here is to broker a peace treaty among several nations bordering Latveria. The negotiations are happening at Empire State University, which is how Spider-Man gets involved. General Ross is an odd person to be arranging this kind of security; we might reason that he was chosen because he's worked with the FF before, but that's a stretch.
Doom has made this request as a way to humiliate his enemies. It's a very low key action for Doom, even a little petty, and seems a bit out of character for this time period.
Doom's presence is supposed to be a secret, but somehow (Kristoff?) the Sub-Mariner finds out about it, and shows up with his entire army in tow, ready to demand a battle with Doom over his previous betrayals.
The diplomats are then ushered into a panic room. But since Doom's hands are still injured from his last fight with the Thing, he uses his rarely-used mind-swap ability to take control of the Human Torch's body.
Torch-Doom is ushered into the panic room with the other diplomats, while Doom-Torch flames on and flies outside to attack the Sub-Mariner, using none of the restraint that Johnny would use.
The Torch's unrestrained powers are shown to be formidable enough to hold off the rest of the FF, Spidey, and Namor, so Spider-Man tries a different tactic and heads back to the panic room where he and Johnny use their skill at pranks to put Doom (or at least his body) in a dishonorable situation. Johnny has Doom signing away all sorts of silly treaties to the other diplomats.
The humiliation is enough for Doom-Torch to call off his attack and return to his rightful body so he can undo the treaties (which the diplomats are ok with as long as Doom helps with the original treaty they all came there for).
The Sub-Mariner finds this humiliation of Dr. Doom sufficient to restore the honor lost to him after Doom's last portrayal...
...and everyone goes home happy. Namor even offers Reed and Sue his blessing and a wedding gift.
The whole thing is a bit cute. A fun read. But a little too cute and snarky to fit nicely into the time period. The Sub-Mariner seems too easily satisfied by Johnny's prank, especially after showing up with an invading army. Spider-Man and Torch's relationship seems a little too casual for this period; indeed, something i like about this issue is that it sort-of establishes a turning point in their relationship where they become friendly rivals instead of angry rivals, but at the same time they talk like they've already been jokingly pranking each other for some time now. And i really don't like the idea that a bunch of college kids (or Yancy Streeters that happened to be near the college?) would spray graffiti on the Thing's back.
A couple of nice character moments that help develop things that just sort of happened in the original books. It's mentioned explicitly that Johnny Storm is no longer dating Dorrie Evans. In the FF books i think she was just sort of forgotten.
Dr. Doom's use of his Ovoid mind-swapping power, and the fact that he says he would use his sorcery if not for his injured hands, are out of place for the time period, but at the same time i actually think it's a good thing to see references to them here. In later years Doom's magical side will gain more prominence, and of course the Ovoid power will be used again (you could argue he uses a variation of it in Daredevil #37, and it's used prominently in John Byrne's run), so it actually makes sense to sort of establish that they were always a part of his arsenal.
As i mentioned above, the issue ends with the Human Torch and Spidey sort of burying the hatchet and becoming friends. The scene also shows the Torch burning Spidey's underarm webbing, but despite Spidey's thoughts in that panel, he won't give up that look for quite a while yet.
Alberti and Gage worked together on the similar continuity insert X-Men/Spider-Man, which came out a year earlier than this. Alberti's art has a faded, soft (i almost want to say "weak") characteristic. I believe this is in part due to the fact that there's no inker on the book in the traditional sense. It's also due to the soft, sometimes pastel colors (which also come from Alberti). Alberti has a comic style that matches the tone of the book. The art avoids a lot of what i consider to be the problems of its period; a decent number of panels per page, not too much of an abuse of splash panels, and it's not overly sexualized (although there is one panel that focuses directly on Sue's butt during what ought to be an action sequence).
There's a lot of detail put into the panels as well. Unfortunately i don't really love the style. Mr. Fantastic looks off model and generally the book is a bit goofy and busy.
I usually enjoy Christos Gage's writing, and this issue is an engaging read but unfortunately the tone of the book feels a bit off. And the issue fails the "first, do no harm" rule of continuity inserts. More on that below. Overall, a mixed bag.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Since this is a series about Kristoff time-traveling to various periods, i had a choice about where to place it in my collection. I've chosen to place this issue based on the sequence for the majority of the characters, but alternatively one could choose to place all four of these issues at the 2010 publication date to follow Kristoff instead. Since this is out-of-sequence for him due to the time travel involved, i'm listing him with a separate tag than i do for his regular appearances.
Something's got to give here. Either Daredevil unknowingly wore a prototype of his red suit in FF #39-40 (obligatory blind joke here) or this actually takes place after Tales To Astonish #70-76, which means ignoring a footnote in FF annual #3 and leaving us with no good explanation as to why Namor wasn't included in Dr. Doom's emotion charger ray assault along with literally everyone else (except the Hulk, also due to the events of TTA #72). Having Namor appear here sometime after DD #7 or during the TTA arc doesn't work; during that period, Krang has taken control of Atlantis and there's no way Namor could muster an army. He also wouldn't drop his quest to regain Atlantis just to settle this old grudge with Doom, either.
Another option i've considered is applying Marvel's traditional time travel rules (which were defunct at this point in publication time) and assume that when Kristoff traveled to the past he wound up in an alternate dimension where things were slightly different. That would certainly solve the immediate problem but would make this entire series little more than a glorified What If?.
After some back and forth, i've decided to go with the option of ignoring the reference in Fantastic Four annual #3.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showDr. Doom, Flash Thompson, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Gwen Stacy, Harry Osborn, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Kristoff (Time Travel), Mr. Fantastic, Spider-Man, Sub-Mariner, Thing
There are a couple of other continuity problems with this issue. The first is that Peter doesn't seem to realize that Reed and Sue are engaged even though he swiped a piece of cake through the window at their engagement party in FF 36. We decided that Peter must have never found out what the party was about.
Posted by: Michael | December 9, 2012 4:05 PM
i don't think Johnny Storm actually attended school. you only ever see him messing with cars, hanging out with Dorrie, going to parties, or doing his FF thing. i think he only got into college because Reed Richards made a generous donation in exchange for them accepting Johnny. so, since he didn't go thru the regular admissions process, it's ok if he starts college late.
Posted by: min | April 23, 2013 9:23 AM
I really hope that before Marvel does any other series like this, someone at their office either finds your site or the MCP and figures out precisely where to make things fit. In essence, fnord, you're really doing Marvel a great service that they just don't know about.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 8, 2015 11:28 AM
Thanks, Erik. Some of the MCP guys work on the Marvel Indexes, so Marvel could and very well may get their advice when working on stuff like this. But the current philosophy at Marvel is that continuity shouldn't get in the way of a good story, so i think they mostly just don't worry about it too much.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 8, 2015 2:18 PM
bleh. putting this tripe in the middle of the master planner plotline is annoying. Its a "What if?"
Posted by: kveto | August 25, 2016 3:18 PM
I like your placement of this as far as the FF goes but I think with Spider-man it would fit after #33 but that's just my opinion.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 1, 2016 9:51 PM
The grafitti thing actually ruined everything for me...
Posted by: Roy Mattson | May 14, 2017 4:52 PM
2016’s Avengers #1.1 makes the standard chronology a bit clearer: Journey Into Mystery #116 happens simultaneously with Daredevil #7 (as DD is chasing Namor through the city) and the final scenes of Avengers #16 (the new lineup debuts), between the end of Fantastic Four #38 (the FF drifting at sea after the Frightful Four’s attack) and their return to the Baxter Building in FF #39. That 2016 issue of Avengers, as well as the last few issues of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Heroes & Legends 1997, and the extended flashback in Thunderbolts #8, all take place during and immediately after Avengers #16, and it’s JUST possible to reconcile them all. But yeah, if Namor goes straight into the water after DD #7 and doesn’t emerge again until after Reed and Sue’s wedding, there’s no way this story can fit.
Posted by: Douglas | December 24, 2017 8:21 PM
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