Fantastic Four #222-223
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #222, Fantastic Four #223
I guess i'll stop trying to guess at Moench's thinking and get into the plot summaries. Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz start things off nicely with some downtime family scenes, showing Reed and Sue spending some time with Franklin.
That ends when, during a game of hide & seek, Franklin gets near the Negative Zone portal and winds up becoming a host for Nicholas Scratch, who was able to escape from the dimension he was banished to by sending his spirit through the Negative Zone.
Sue sends out a flare alerting the rest of the FF that there's trouble. Johnny, by the way, was participating in a car race and letting his lingering feelings over Crystal prevent him from picking up groupies (Lorrie Melton will have a few more appearances).
The team arrives to find Franklin hovering in mid air.
Sue is getting increasingly hysterical, and Reed responds by giving her a "swak".
Probably not the best way to emphasize the Fantastic Four's loving family atmosphere, but i don't put this in the same category as Henry Pym's or even Peter Parker's more famous wife striking scenes. Reed is acting without anger or malice (not even pretend malice like he will in FF #281) and is just trying to help an hysterical person regain their senses. The real crime here is that Sue is going hysterical in the first place; i don't buy that just because her son is in trouble she would fold like a house of cards like this. Where's the inner strength of a woman that's been through a million threats to herself and her family and survived them all?
Sue does regain her wits and the team works together long enough to hold Franklin so Reed can administer a sedative. The FF don't yet know that it's Scratch that has possessed Franklin, but Agatha Harkness is called in after the Human Torch learns from Wong that Dr. Strange isn't available. And that's when Gabriel the Devil Hunter shows up as well.
This is Gabriel's first color appearance, having previously appeared only in the b&w magazines Haunt of Horror and Monsters Unleashed.
I mentioned above my desire to see the magic/science conflict highlighted, and Gabriel's conversation with Reed covers that to an extent. But it's kind of problematic, considering Reed has already acknowledged the need for a Dr. Strange or Agatha Harkness. What Reed is really reacting to is the idea that it might be "Satanic" possession, which he'd understandably not want to accept (and isn't the case anyway), but that's not the direction the conversation goes so it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. When you're sitting with a known witch at a table with a pentagram on it, it's a little late to object to the existence of magic.
Anyway, Gabriel is able to bring forth the entity possessing Franklin, revealing that it is Nicholas Scratch, who says the FF are going to have to pack their bags and head to New Salem.
On the flight over, Sue nearly loses it again. Johnny just wants to talk tactics, and Sue takes it as an affront to Franklin.
Johnny's right, too, because when they arrive in New Salem, they are attacked by the Salem Seven, recently freed from their prison by Scratch's spirit.
The FF are captured and brought to Scratch. But Gabriel leads Agatha Harkness in a magical attack that pits the Fantastic Four's love of Franklin against Nicholas Scratch.
It's said that the attack would kill Gabriel and Agatha as well as Nicholas, but Nicholas surrenders before that can happen. Agatha seemingly banishes Scratch's magical powers.
And Agatha decides that she's going to remain in New Salem, reasoning that it's only been since she's left that things haven't been working out so well, and it's better if she stay behind to oversee Scratch and the Seven (her talk about "acceptance" doesn't seem relevant to the conversation or an accurate description of Harkness' motivations based on her past appearances).
So the FF head home without her, and also without Gabriel (it'd be funny if he was just in the bathroom while they were leaving and winds up getting stuck in New Salem with no ride home).
Sue's comment that she and Reed will be taking care of Franklin from now on will quickly be forgotten; he'll just get pawned off to Alicia instead of Agatha from now on, as we'll see in the next arc.
In theory, there's no reason why a Moench/Sienkiewicz Fantastic Four shouldn't be at least pretty good. I'm wondering if Sienkiewicz isn't at least equally the problem here. There's no doubt that his art is nice to look at...
...but at the same time his portrait-realism allows for extra-emotional expressions, and when the emotions being expressed are fear or sadness, it winds up being a bit much. Sue's tears in that sequence with Agatha saying goodby grate on me to no end. But i do think Moench's seeming insistence on quirkier, less traditional Fantastic Four stories is a factor too. He's right to emphasize the family aspect of the team (and getting rid of Agatha as a nanny is in theory a good way to help with that), and he seems to have a good grip on all the characters (except Sue, and i know, i know: i always seem to have a problem with the way Sue is depicted). But so far the plots haven't felt like FF plots, and things are actually going to get weirder from here.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places Fantastic Four annual #15 between this arc and issue #224.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAgatha Harkness, Brutacus, Franklin Richards, Gabriel the Devil Hunter, Gazelle, Human Torch, Hydron (Salem Seven), Invisible Woman, Lorrie Melton, Mr. Fantastic, Nicholas Scratch, Reptilla, Thing, Thornn, Vakume, Vertigo (Salem Seven), Wong
One strange thing is that Agatha's dialogue at the end of this issue makes it sound like he's still in New Salem but powerless. However, Vision and Scarlet Witch 3 makes it sound like he's trapped in the same dimension as Fantastic Four Annual 14. And when he finally shows up again in an Avengers Annual as a servant of Dormammu, he has his powers back.
Posted by: Michael | July 5, 2013 2:55 PM
I've added another scan; the last we see of Scratch he's left powerless on the floor. I guess he got re-banished afterwards? Maybe tried some new off-panel shenanigans?
Posted by: fnord12 | July 5, 2013 3:07 PM
Gabriel seems to like the word "filth" a lot. He is lucky Shooter didn't have him disposed of like Satana, Morbius, etc.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 6, 2013 3:01 PM
Gabriel the Devil Hunter was really created just to try to cash in on (the movie) The Exorcist craze.
His appearances in Moench's FF were his last for about a decade though.
Posted by: Anonymous | July 6, 2013 3:53 PM
I liked the way this story brought together two different aspects of Franklin's origin/upbringing -- his ties to the Negative Zone (which Scratch uses to get to him) and his exposure to magic from an early age through Agatha. I've often wondered how much of Franklin's power could be tied to Agatha' magic rather than his parent's genes, and it's interesting to speculate how the Negative Zone might be connected to these mystical aspects of the Marvel U.
Posted by: TCP | January 23, 2017 10:39 AM
I'm, uh.. a bit surprised that no one has commented on that very strange panel where Franklin is jumping in the air joyously declaring how much he LIKES it when Mommy and Daddy smooch! (emphasis his)
I do think the art style here is more due to Sinnott's heavy touch more than Sienkiewicz in this instance
Posted by: Wis | May 20, 2018 12:12 AM
I love Sinnott, but he's not a good fit for Sienkiewicz.
As for Franklin, his parents nearly got divorced a few months ago Marvel time, then the whole team separated and his mother was hanging out with a skeevy merman. The poor kid's obviously traumatized and desperate for a normal family dynamic.
Posted by: Andrew | May 21, 2018 6:40 AM
For that matter, when Sienkiewicz would ink someone else, it usually left me thinking he should've just drawn the comic, though there's something especially moody about him inking Sal Buscema.
Posted by: iLegion | May 21, 2018 2:03 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|