Fantastic Four #389-392
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #389, Fantastic Four #390, Fantastic Four #391, Fantastic Four #392
An engineering student named Raphael Suarez is allowed to wander in to where some doctors are looking at the implant that they took out of Lyja the Lazerfist in Fantastic Four #386. He pushes a button on the device, triggering an explosion.
Some archeologists show up at Four Freedoms Plaza with a bust of the Thing that they found in a Brazilian jungle. But the FF are so wrapped up in their own misery that they just send the archeologists away.
Franklin Richards is floating in space-time. He's contacted by Huntara, and he tells her that the Dark Raider has been killing all the alternate-universe Reed Richardses. Huntara reveals (to the audience) that she's Franklin's aunt ("your father's only sister"), and agrees to help him.
Ant-Man locates Franklin, thanks to secret help from the Watcher. The Human Torch and Lyja decide to stay behind ("we've had enough!")(i mean, me too, but god knows what exactly they're pissed about).
So Namor goes with the rest of the "Fantastic Four". Raphael Suarez shows up at the FF's building asking for help but the Torch tells Roberta to blow him off. The Collector shows up to steal Lyja's egg.
Lyja finds her Fist isn't Lazering anymore during the fight with the Collector. Then it turns out that Raphael Suarez has her powers. Even with his added abilities, the fight with the Collector doesn't go well, but the Collector decides that the egg is a fraud, and leaves. Then Lyja tells the Torch that he's not the egg's father. The Torch, still surly, continues to lash out at Lyja and Raphael and even the Black Panther when he calls for a chat.
Meanwhile the FF's search for Franklin brings them to a jungle with more Fantastic Four statues. They fight some cavemen and then the Watcher shows up and admits that he lured them there. He says that in this reality, his interference caused the destruction of the Earth (in this reality, he sent Mr. Fantastic instead of the Human Torch to get the Ultimate Nullifier, but Reed got distracted by all the other nifty devices on Galactus' ship and didn't make it back in time to stop Galactus from eating Earth). The Watcher then teleports the original members of the FF to a new reality. This includes the Human Torch, who is (even more) agitated because Lyja's egg was seemingly about to hatch. Then the FF have to fight an alternate reality Galactus.
During the fight Sue is battered by Galactus' cosmic power, causing her to send the warning to herself that we saw in the last arc.
The Sub-Mariner and Ant-Man are returned to Four Freedoms Plaza where they join Lyja and Raphael in fighting the tentacled horror that came out of the egg. Which is called the Sha'Barri.
The Sha'Barri is "a mindless creature programmed with only one desire... to destroy the Fantastic Four". You have to love the stupidity of this subplot finally coming to fruition at a time when none of the real FF are even around, so it can only fight a bunch of hanger-ons and die unceremoniously.
Back in Elsewhen, Franklin and Huntara go to the Warlord Kargul (previously seen in Thor Corps). Kargul says that both Franklin and Huntara were brought to him by Nathaniel Richards.
Kargul says that Nathaniel is the true menace to the timestream. The Dark Raider is a mere "annoyance". This causes Franklin and Huntara to get into a fight with Kargul's guards.
But then Franklin senses the message sent by his mother.
Whatever was meant to be going on with the alternate dimension Galactus ends and the FF are sent back to their own timeline. The Human Torch immediately quits the team. Everyone else leaves except for the Thing (and i think that's the last we see of Raphael Suarez). Then the Invincible Dark Raider Man shows up. The Thing, having previously fought two different people in the same Invincible Man costumes (and surely having heard about the third), says that there's something "awfully familiar" about him.
Meanwhile, the Black Panther goes to visit the Inhuman Royal Family who are currently working at a freak show in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The Panther is on his way to see the FF because he's got a young Wakandan with some interesting super-powers. The Inhumans are like, hey, if you're collecting people for a new super-team, we've got someone too.
The Panther, Vibraxis, and Devlor land on the roof of Four Freedoms Plaza (which is seemingly in a different state of repair in every issue of this arc) where Franklin and Huntara have also just landed. Franklin is still dealing with Malice.
Franklin suppresses Malice and senses Dark Raider. The Panther and his collection of teens head down to deal with him.
Of the three options for the identity of the Invisible Dark Raider Man, it turns out to be option #1, Reed Richards.
It's an alternate dimension Reed, as Franklin already told us. He's got an Ultimate Nullifier.
Franklin and Sue combine their willpower and shoot Malice out of Franklin's head at Alt-Reed before he can Ultimately Nullify anyone.
But Reed says he won't stop being bad, so the Watcher (seemingly) kills him.
If you don't mind a spoiler, take a look at the Characters Appearing regarding the actions of "Uatu" in this story (although i wonder if that was the intention at this time).
The Invisible Woman quits the team at this point too, vowing to search for Reed on her own. In addition to leaving Four Freedoms Plaza and all of its resources, she also declines the help of the Black Panther.
The Thing says that he's going to continue "the dream" as the Fantastic One, but of course there is also the Panther and his teen brigade.
Aside from the horrible dichotomy of mind-numbing angst and very old fashioned plot concepts (and covers where the word "homage" is not nearly strong enough), there's also the increasingly apparent problem that the stories have been getting strung along without any plan. The resolution to Lyja's pregnancy was the final straw in the regard, but the defeat of the Dark Rider thanks to the arrival of the soon-to-be Fantastic Force characters is just as random. The 'make it up as you go along' plotting does not help a book that has way too many characters running around (the Fantastic Baker's Dozen!) plus endless alternate reality segments (just more excuses for DeFalco to revisit Silver Age stories, but they feel like bad What Ifs). It's a chaotic mess of a book.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after Silver Surfer #93-97 and before Fantastic Force #1. The FF break up at the end of this arc.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAnt-Man (Scott Lang), Aron the Watcher, Black Bolt, Black Panther, Collector, Dark Raider, Devlor, Gorgon, Human Torch, Huntara, Invisible Woman, Kargul, Karnak, Lyja the Lazerfist, Malice (Sue Storm's psionic entity), Medusa, Psi-Lord, Roberta, Sub-Mariner, Thing, Vibraxis
"The FF break up at the end of this arc."
Of course they do. There is a clause in their contract that says they must break up every hundred issues or so. ;)
Posted by: clyde | March 26, 2018 12:52 PM
Issue 389 was my first Fantastic Four comic. I was 7 years old and had no clue what was going on. I still love Paul Ryan's work on this title, though.
Posted by: TCP | March 26, 2018 1:35 PM
There's a ton of junk cluttering up this book at this point, and yes, the total fumble of the long-simmering subplot about Lyja's pregnancy is particularly telling. I did enjoy these issues at the time, though; I couldn't have cared less about the underwater stuff in the preceding issues and here at least there's a sense of a major plotline and even something resembling a novel idea with the Dark Raider's origin. An evil (indeed, monomaniacal) Reed is not interesting, but the idea that Reed would actually be the worst person to send looking for the Ultimate Nullifier is quite clever, I think, and IIRC Hickman would take a similar concept to a more interesting place with the interdimensional council of Reed Richardses. Here it's just slipped into the middle of a bunch of stuff nobody has ever cared about, especially setup for Fantastic Force.
Posted by: doctorcasino | March 26, 2018 7:12 PM
Yeah, the Dark Raider is a classic example of They Wasted A Perfectly Good Plot. A Reed whose inability to control his curiosity got Sue, Johnny and Ben killed is a great idea for a villain but DeFalco botched the execution.
Posted by: Michael | March 26, 2018 7:47 PM
One the one hand, it's potentially a good idea -- totally mishandled here -- to see a version of Our Hero who didn't get over his tragic flaw from the origin story. Where Our Reed is the guy whose recognition of his original failure to keep his curiosity and carelessness in check motivates his heroism, the Dark raider could be the version who never achieves that epiphany and therefore becomes a villain. Making the Dark raider a raving lunatic with (eventually) a fixation on Sue just doesn't work if that's the underlying premise, sot e Dark Raider feels more like a generic lunatic and the reveal like a cheap twist.
On the other hand, at this point I think we could o a good fifteen years without more "Reed the careless and unfeeling scientist" stuff; this could be seen as the origin point for that increasingly well-worn FF plot. It's sort of like the way post-millennial Doctor Strange stories are always about how his arrogance is destructive when the whole point of his origin is that he becomes a hero by overcoming that flaw. Isn't the whole reason for characters like Doctor Doom and Baron Mordo to exist to externalize this conflict?
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 27, 2018 6:56 AM
In regards to Lyja having a baby, and then it being revealed that, nope, it's actually a trap to kill the FF, according to Paul Ryan that was due to Tom DeFalco changing his mind...
"One problem I faced were late plots. I tried for nearly five years to get that book ahead of schedule, turning down other assignments, to no avail. Tom was just too busy with other projects, not to mention his duties as Editor-in-Chief.
"Another was changing plots. A story we discussed and which I found very exciting was frequently changed when it reached printed plot stage. I think Tom spent too much time second-guessing himself. Lyja and Johnny were supposed to actually have a child. I was shocked and dissapointed when Tom changed the child into an artificial implant housing a monster."
Here's a link to the interview... http://www.kleefeldoncomics.com/2016/03/on-history-paul-ryan-ff-interview.html
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 31, 2018 11:02 AM
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