Fantastic Four #347-349
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #347, Fantastic Four #348, Fantastic Four #349
The story starts with a Skrull named De'Lila fleeing to Earth in a damaged spaceship. She's pursued by a contingent of Skrull troops.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are playing with their son Franklin, and, interestingly, Reed says that he's "decided we're going to find some way to give our son back the power of his birthright". Meanwhile, Johnny Storm is still harboring feelings for "Nebula" and is feeling guilty about it in front of Alicia. And Ms. Marvel is down in the dumps over being returned to Thing form after their recent extra-dimensional travels.
De'Lila infiltrates Four Freedoms Plaza and begins knocking out the Fantastic Four by using her shape-shifting abilities to get close. It's confirmed later that she is a low level telepath, and that explains how she would know to take the form of Nebula when approaching Johnny.
That does raise the question of whether De'Lila takes the form of the Sub-Mariner because Sue still harbors thoughts of him, or if she's just using existing Skrull intel in this case.
The fact that De'Lila is a telepath is also potentially interesting when it comes to her knocking out Alicia, due to the retcon that will later say that Alicia is a Skrull as well.
De'Lila has the most trouble with Mr. Fantastic, which surprises her. "I thought Richards would be the least of the Fantastic Four. I seriously underestimated him". This reminds me a bit of when John Byrne was making a conscious effort to increase the profile of the Invisible Girl/Woman during his run by having people comment on her power levels. At this point, Mr. Fantastic is the one whose powers are the least obviously powerful, and Simonson wants to correct that perception. More on that in the next arc.
While De'Lila gloats about doing what the Skrull Empire has always failed to do in defeating the Fantastic Four, the Skrulls that are pursuing her detect multiple Skrull-like readings on Earth (between 73.36% and 94% similarity to the Skrull baseline)...
...and they trace them to Monster Island.
I love the art in both scans above.
Due to the similarity to Skrull genetics, the Skrulls are able to use slave darts (that presumably only work on Skrulls). They enslave the monsters and cause them to wreak havoc, Destroy All Monsters style, in various cities on Earth. The monsters are also fitted with tracking devices, so if one of them gets close to De'Lila, the Skrulls will know about it.
Obviously there's someone under Monster Island that won't be happy about the Skrulls enslaving the monsters there.
I'm assuming the ugly human guy in the scene above is one of the outcasts that the Mole Man gave sanctuary to in Fantastic Four annual #13. The fact that he's calling the Mole Man "master" makes the offer of sanctuary seem a little less altruistic.
De'Lila sees the reports on the monsters and realizes that her Skrull pursuers are behind it. And she also uses the FF's computer systems to locate four super-powered characters that will help her achieve her goal on Earth. We'll see later that their specific powers are necessary to complete that goal.
So Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider all find themselves summoned to the FF's building.
De'Lila has disguised herself as the Invisible Woman, and she tells the heroes she's summoned that the Fantastic Four were attacked by unknown assailants and were killed (she even shows them the bodies). She claims to have used a mental alarm resonator to call for help, and she gives them a Sub-Photonic Spectro-Analyzer to trace those responsible. It seems that her telepathy suppresses Wolverine's ability to smell that something is up, causes Spider-Man to disregard his spider-sense, and even causes Ghost Rider to believe that innocent blood has been spilled. Despite the Hulk not being happy about the summons messing with his head, they agree to be the "New FF" and go after the killers (the Hulk says that he "had a lot of respect for Richards"). It's said that "the Avengers, the armed forces, and others" will deal with the monsters.
While the New FF are doing that, the Mole Man sends one of his remaining giant monsters after the Skrulls, and De'Lila wakes up Mr. Fantastic. She wants his help searching for an "egg" of an "inorganic technotroid", or ITT. He agrees since she's threatening to kill the rest of the FF if he doesn't. While he's helping her, we see a thought bubble where he thinks that she's "exciting".
Don't worry, you guys. This is a feint. The fact that he slips in the phrase to Roberta "tell all my friends in the Marines" as he's leaving with De'Lila is an indication of that (although i've personally never heard of that phrase and the internets don't seem to know it either).
The New Fantastic Four encounter a flying monster near Washington DC and fight it to keep it off of a plane. Spider-Man winds up getting bossed around, which he likens to having "a couple of older, meaner brothers".
The heroes drive the flying monster off and then follow it to the Bermuda Triangle (which is where Monster Island is, i guess?). The Mole Man, meanwhile, has captured the Skrulls that enslaved his monsters, and the New FF soon encounter him.
Spider-Man convinces the Mole Man to let them look at his Skrull captives. But when he brings them to the Skrulls, he finds that the leader is missing. And the Hulk and Wolverine have a clever way of finding out where he's gone.
After the captain is forced to reveal himself, Ghost Rider uses his Penance Stare to force him to talk.
The Skrulls then notice the device that Spider-Man was using to track them, and they recognize it as a Skrull device, not something that Mr. Fantastic would have designed. And at that point Mr. Fantastic shows up with De'Lila disguised as the Invisible Woman.
It's initially assumed that both Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are Skrulls, but De'Lila confesses that she's the Skrull. And she starts using her mind control ability to sway the others into attacking the Skrulls.
Ghost Rider, however, uses a new power to cancel out her mind control.
But De'Lila gets away with Reed, who she seems to still have under her sway.
Roberta, meanwhile, figures out that the "Marines" comment was some kind of code, and looks it up (on a better internet than i have) and sees that it means that whatever the person is saying is untrue. So she searches the building and locates and frees the rest of the Fantastic Four. Alicia asks Johnny who De'Lila disguised herself as when she knocked him out, and he lies and tells her that it was her. They all then head out after Reed.
Back in Subterranea, Reed and De'Lila locate the device that De'Lila is looking for. It is near ruins depicting the Celestials, and it causes Reed to suspect that the Mole Man's monsters are of Deviant stock.
The device itself is guarded by one of the monsters.
The New FF show up, and De'Lila threatens to kill Mr. Fantastic if they don't help her get at the ITT egg device. As mentioned earlier, each of the team's powers is necessary to unlock the device.
Once they've unlocked it, the New FF decide to risk Reed's life to keep it from De'Lila. But then the Mole Man shows up, having decided that he wants the egg. And then the rest of the Fantastic Four show up. So it's getting crowded!
The egg winds up in the hands of a female version of the character from FF #1.
And then it hatches, and bonds with the monster.
Once the device bonds, there's no controlling it by anyone else. It was intended to hatch in front of the Skrull empress, so that it would be a bodyguard loyal only to her.
De'Lila therefore tries to slip out, and to do so she restores Reed's powers, thinking that she still has control of him.
But it turns out that Reed has been faking all along.
This is the second time we've seen Reed resist a female seductress because of his love of his wife. It's a definite theme of Simonson's run, building him up power-wise as well as character-wise.
Spider-Man then convinces the Mole Man that continuing a fight in his kingdom would just be destructive, especially since the ITT has already bonded. So he agrees to guide them out.
We end with the Punisher cameo.
Lots of fun. Simonson has a nice handle on all the characters and devotes time to distinguishing them all, new FF and old (especially Reed, in this arc). The character work on Reed elevates this beyond a simple adventure romp, and i also like the exploration of continuity. The hint that the Skrulls, Deviants, and monsters on Monster Island are all related is something i'd expect from a Mark Gruenwald edited book. It's nice to see Simonson playing with that, and it makes me disappointed that Simonson didn't stay on the title longer to see what contributions to continuity he might have developed (beyond just the fact that he was just good). Art Adams is a perfect substitute for Simonson's art. Their styles have some similarities, but even if that wasn't the case, Adams' mix of comedy and action is a great fit for this arc. All around a great set of issues, and a highlight of this era.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's been "three days" since the Human Torch has "been home", which is intended to mean from the FF's extra-dimensional adventures last issue. The FF are all acting like the events of their trip are the last things that happened (e.g. Johnny has "hardly said a word" to Alicia, Sue is reviewing the mail that piled up while they were away, Ben notes that Reed and Sue are seeing Franklin for the first time in "weeks"). But a number of Fantastic Four guest and annual appearances have to happen somewhere during 1990, and the break between issues 346-347 is a good place to fit them. We can say that Johnny took some time to try to clear his head, and has been back from that outing for "three days". The fact that the Invisible Woman says about the Sub-Mariner that "we heard you were saving the environment or something" is problematic since she knows that first hand after Namor #4-5, but since it was in that story that she would have learned that Namor was "saving the environment or something" it doesn't work any better in the other direction either (i take the line as more of a meta reference to the other book; in-story she might just be a little confused after seeing him so suddenly). The comment regarding the Richardses not having seen Franklin for weeks could be taken as a reference to the trip he took with Power Pack in Power Pack #62. The appearances of the New Fantastic Four are context free, although this needs to take place before Hulk #376 when the Hulk's transformation into merged Hulk begins. This story continues directly in Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #3.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
You're welcome: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tell+it+to+the+marines
Posted by: Original Bob | July 20, 2015 2:06 PM
A very fun arc, though I'll admit to having some fanboy issues at the constant dismissal of Spider-Man. Spidey being treated like the dweeb of the Marvel universe isn't new at this point (especially when the Hulk is involved) but stories like this one may have helped to popularize the idea even further.
Posted by: TCP | July 20, 2015 2:15 PM
Thanks, OB. It's funny, i knew the "Tell it to the marines" line but didn't connect it with this.
TCP, to me, Spider-Man comes across more like the adult in the room. Twice in this story he uses reason to halt the mindless destruction of the other three and successfully negotiates with the Mole Man. I get what you're saying too but i don't feel like he comes off that bad.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 20, 2015 2:20 PM
That's a good point, fnord. My view is probably being skewed a bit by other stories that don't seem to treat his character as well. I remember the story where this team reforms to hunt down Johnny Storm being especially grating.
Posted by: TCP | July 20, 2015 2:29 PM
Here's the full explanation of that phrase:
A scornful response to an unbelievable story. Beginning in the 17th century, marines were land forces who were stationed on ships of the Royal Navy. As landlubbers, they were understandably naive if not ignorant about life aboard a vessel and on the waves. Sailors took advantage and concocted outlandish stories that the marines swallowed hook, line, and sinker. Accordingly, any outlandish story heard on land or sea and recognized as bilge was greeted with the full rejoinder, “You may tell that to the marines, but the sailors will not believe it,” subsequently shortened over generations to “Aw, tell it to the marines!”
Posted by: clyde | July 20, 2015 2:33 PM
Yeah, see that's the way i know that phrase too. But that's different than slipping it into a sentence to indicate that you're lying, although i now get how Reed hoped Roberta would interpret it. We're just lucky that i'm not Roberta because i would have just dumbly stared at Mr. Fantastic when he said that and then went back to work.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 20, 2015 2:37 PM
Seriously, Johnny shouldn't be hit upon like he only cares about weird-skin-colored women. Its not like Alicia is going to be jealous because she's a Skrull...
Hoo boy, 1991 is going to be a fun year.
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 20, 2015 2:46 PM
What is Mary Jane Watson doing there at the end of the story?
Posted by: Bill | July 20, 2015 2:52 PM
De'Lila was using that form to distract Spidey.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 20, 2015 2:54 PM
These issues were a ton of fun. And did anyone post-Lee/Kirby write a better Reed than Simonson?
This is the second time we've seen Johnny dwelling on Nebula. It seemed Walt was planning to go somewhere with that. Does anyone know why his run ended premature? Did he have issues with editorial? Or did he simply quit Marvel in solidarity with his wife when the Image guys screwed her off the X-Books?
BTW, In interviews, Bendis actually tried to use this arc to justify adding Spider-Man and Wolverin to the Avengers. Never mind that the point of this was supposed to temporary and poked fun at the idea of gratuitous guest stars.
Posted by: Bob | July 20, 2015 5:31 PM
I think De'Lila made one more appearance a few years after this. I'm surprised no other writers picked her up and used her for something.
Posted by: Bob | July 20, 2015 5:33 PM
Fnord, I think this story should take place before the Hulk's meeting with the Skrulls in Hulk 374. In Hulk 376, Rick still hasn't told Bruce and Betty he's dating Marlo and his meeting with Marlo is implied to be the first time he's contacted her since he was grabbed by the Skrulls. If this does take place in between Hulk 375 and 376, it should be immediately after Hulk 375 and before Hulk 376. Rick Jones doesn't wait a week to call his lover-who-will-later-be-tricked-into-making-a-deal-with-a-demon-in-a-dream after completing an adventure. Who do you think he is, Scott Summers?
Posted by: Michael | July 20, 2015 7:56 PM
" It seems that her telepathy suppresses Wolverine's ability to smell that something is up, causes Spider-Man to disregard his spider-sense, and even causes Ghost Rider to believe that innocent blood has been spilled."
Fnord, the 'innocent blood' that was spilled was Alicia/Lyja's--spilled when De'Lila struck her. They made a point of showing the blood on "Namor"'s hand.
Or were you not counting Alicia as innocent since she is really Lyja? My guess is that as far as Ghost Rider's senses are concerned, she'd still qualify as "innocent blood" in the context of De'Lila's attack on her.
Posted by: Dermie | July 20, 2015 11:54 PM
Bob, in Sean Howe's book it's implied that Walt did indeed quit Marvel because of how Louise was treated, or at least that was one of the reasons... Apparently he had his own issues with the editorial as well.
Posted by: Tuomas | July 21, 2015 2:28 AM
Dermie, I'm not buying that Lyja would count. We saw in one issue of Ghost Rider that a thief didn't count as innocent even though the guy that killed him was working for the Brood and killed him to avenge a family feud, not because the thief stole something from him personally. (Once the guy killed the thief's wife, then that counted.)
Posted by: Michael | July 21, 2015 7:56 AM
That should be "De'Lila cut Ben or Johnny or Sue".
Posted by: Michael | July 21, 2015 7:57 AM
@Dermie - i guess i'm still not 100% on how Ghost Rider gets activated. I thought it had to be a death. I didn't realize it just literally had to be blood spilled, like from a bloody nose. Does Danny Ketch flame on every time i cut myself shaving? (And yes, people, i am an innocent. My soul is like a lamb prancing through a field of freshly fallen snow.)
@Tuomas/Bob - It almost sounds like Claremont getting fired was the final straw. Here's the quote from Howe:
Walt Simonson, who'd been writing and drawing Fantastic Four while his wife was being brushed aside from New Mutants, followed Claremont out the door. Years later, he characterized the company's behavior as "abrupt, rude, and disrespectful," and railed against the mothballing of veteran creators. "The atmosphere at Marvel was becoming less enjoyable... the scope for good creative work more limited."
Posted by: fnord12 | July 21, 2015 7:58 AM
These were really popular issues when they came out. It is good to see Dan Ketch's Ghost Rider, a relatively new character, paired up with three of Marvel's most popular characters.
Posted by: Steven | July 21, 2015 8:07 AM
The title to #347 refers to the film "Big Trouble In Little China".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 21, 2015 10:28 AM
"These were really popular issues when they came out." Which, considering the point of the storyline, is supremely ironic...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | July 21, 2015 11:25 AM
@Michael, i agree on placement. Thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 21, 2015 12:13 PM
DeFalco and Harras really screwed the fans good by driving off all the talent in favor of the Image guys (who ended up leaving for more more $$$, anyway)
It's a shame, because Walt's run, in my opinion would have surpassed Byrne's had it continued. Between this, the time bubble and the amazing Reed/Doom duel, it took the book to amazing highs.
and compared to what comes next, good lord....
Posted by: Bob | July 21, 2015 2:23 PM
@Bob, At the time, capitulating to the artists seemed like a smart business move. On paper they were the bigger driving force behind sales, and since Marvel was extremely short sited, they didn't understand that the speculative market - which prided visuals, "hot" characters and superstar names over story (because most of them weren't reading the stories) - wouldn't last. This wasn't about fans. This was a pure business decision from a company that was about to go public and was already in the short term profit mindset.
Posted by: Original Bob | July 21, 2015 2:43 PM
These are fun issues, and I dont want to criticize my fellow Walt, but...this is now the third or fourth time he's given us a villainness whose power, or at least M.O., is seduction. First Lorelei in Thor, his revamped Nebula in Avengers and his first major FF arc, and arguably Infectia in X-Factor as well. This is pretty harmless, not so much sexist in my view as an overreliance on a stock character type. Here it's ok, and maybe as a one-off tactic of Nebula's in Avengers it would have been fine, but I thought it was lazy and potentially damaging to the character to have Nebula stick with it in FF. It seems like a plotting crutch for Walt S.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 22, 2015 2:40 AM
Well, seduction was never going to be a one-off tactic for his Kang-Nebula...it was her primary weapon through Simonson's whole AVENGERS run. She seduced one of the Kangs and then killed him to steal his Kang identity and infiltrate the Council of Kangs. She then started sleeping her way through the Council to get access to the various secrets and technologies of the different Kangs. She then seduced Dr. Druid.
So, for her to continue to use it in FF is simply a case of a) her sticking with what works, and b) staying true to her portrayal up to that point. I'm glad that Byrne made a point of making Kang-Nebula and space pirate Nebula into two different characters though. Although I think seductress characters can be a lot of fun and definitely have their place in stories, I would have been disappointed if the powerful intimidating warrior Nebula that Roger Stern introduced had been turned into a strictly sex-as-a-weapon villain.
You're right that he seems to be using a lot of seductress characters though--especially when De'Lila appears while Johnny is still dealing with the aftereffects of Kang-Nebula. Lorelei and Infectia were at least in different books, and spread out a bit further. In his FF run Kang-Nebula and De'Lila are somewhat overlapping.
Posted by: Dermie | July 22, 2015 11:44 AM
Art Adams is absolutely spectacular on these three books! He nails a Ditkoesque Spidey, while retaining a Kirbyish aspect on the Hulk and the giant monsters.
Simonson is on point, as well.
In fairness to his reusing the seduction theme, the guys keep falling for it!
Byrne got the sciency Reed right, but Walt did the full package.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 22, 2015 7:59 PM
I've totally avoided this for years under the reasoning that I hated the crass commercialization of it, never realizing that Simonson did it to mock all of that. The things I learn from fnord.
Posted by: Erik Beck | November 14, 2015 9:24 AM
The sad thing about these issues were that Walt and the audience got the joke, but Tom DeFalco didn't. He would be bringing these characters back in a couple years and play the story straight and charmless. And that would be the last in-universe "New FF."
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 16, 2016 12:17 AM
The New FF came back in Fear Itself.
Posted by: AF | March 16, 2016 7:04 AM
The script of that issue indicated that "New FF" were from an alternate reality, though they did appear in-universe, until Howard used the "No-Thing" and they went away.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 16, 2016 6:28 PM
Erik Larsen also used the New FF in Wolverine #148 as part of the "Ages of Apocalypse" storyline. But, again, that was an alternate reality appearance.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 29, 2016 10:34 PM
They also had the New FF in What If.. Vol 2 #78. Worth the read if your an FF fan plus Mary Jane in an old Invisible woman outfit
Posted by: Mark U | October 3, 2016 3:57 PM
Wonderful silliness, but especially worth it for seeing Adams draw all these characters. Love his visibly skinny Reed, that penance-stare shot of Ghost Rider, and especially the big head-on shot of the Mole Man - has he ever looked better? Great stuff.
Posted by: doctorcasino | March 29, 2018 8:54 AM
I was a big fan of Art Adams when his career began though I haven't followed him beyond the happenstance of him doing a book I happened to purchase. My favorite moment in this arc during my "Great FF Re-Read" was Johnny pining for Nebula. Finally, the "chinks in one's armor" has begun in their travesty of a marriage where not too long ago we were still enduring "Oh my dearest darling" moments.
Posted by: KevinA | July 5, 2018 10:53 AM
"This is the second time we've seen Reed resist a female seductress because of his love of his wife. It's a definite theme of Simonson's run, building him up power-wise as well as character-wise."
Simonson's Reed Richards was about as good as Richards ever got. Later writers have eroded his character badly IMO, for the sake of cheap thrills and shocking reveals. So many character changes, all compressed into about 10 years of Marvel time. It's been a very busy 10 years.:)
Posted by: Holt | July 5, 2018 7:45 PM
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