Characters Appearing: Beyonder, Dennis Bowden, Dreadface, Invisible Woman, Kubik, Mr. Fantastic, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura), Psi-Lord, Thing, Wildstreak
Fantastic Four annual #26
Issue(s): Fantastic Four annual #26
As for the new character introduced in this annual, Wildstreak is a Silver Age concept (not surprising since Tom DeFalco is the creator) in that she has a physical flaw that is overcome by her super-power. I think the Mark Pacella image of her on the title page shows the exact moment where she twisted her spine and broke her back.
Of course that's a lesson in textbook anatomy compared to the interior art by Herb Trimpe.
To be clear, the above images are meant to be depicting human beings.
The story is about a gang war, with one gang operating out of a resort in the Florida Keys. Dreadface washes up on shore and takes over the gangster's girlfriend and convinces him to try to lure the other gangsters to the resort, where Dreadface will kill them.
In return, Dreadface wants instruction on Earth's ways, and he wants the gangster to lure the Thing and the Human Torch to the resort so he/it can take his vengeance. The resort owner sends an invite to the Thing (the Human Torch is in jail). Franklin, who is apparently free to roam the FF's building despite the Invisible Woman's suspicions, gets the mail and detects something evil in the invite.
He tries to get the Thing to accept the invite, and, failing that, mentally forces him to.
The Thing didn't want to go in part because he'd prefer to stand around and sulk about his face.
I love the idea that he's not getting treatment because there aren't many doctors that specialize in the treatment of monsters. You have an infection. You need antibiotics, not Dr. Frankenstein. (And by the way, this is the Marvel universe. There are plenty of doctors that specialize in monsters. How about Doc Connors, who recently agreed to go to the Vault in exchange for having access to a science lab?)
Anyway, the mind-controlled Thing and Franklin head down to Florida. Meanwhile, Wildstreak is focused on the other gang (and no, she doesn't have a leg coming off her shoulder and her power isn't the ability to have her limbs flail off randomly in any direction; she's just super-athletic and drawn by 90s Trimpe)...
...and learns that they are heading to Florida for the gang war. She heads back to her dad, who helps maintain her exoskeleton, and tells him that they're going to Florida too.
Wildstreak's origin is a bit unnecessarily complicated. Her dad used to be a Hydra scientist, having turned to Hydra after racism prevented him from getting a job as a legit scientist. But that turns out to have almost no relevance. When his daughter was born, he took advantage of Hydra's "numerous setbacks" and quietly retired. Then his wife died. Then he was approached by some regular gangsters who tried to recruit him into a crime organization (the one the Wildstreak now pursues). And instead of going "You dare threaten a former Hydra scientist!", he just refuses, and the gangsters arrange for his daughter to have an accident while practicing her gymnastics. So then he built her the exoskeleton that restored and enhanced her Olympic-level athletic abilities.
Thing and Franklin arrive at the resort and find it empty except for the staff, who are all mindless zombies controlled by Dreadface. At this point the resort owner isn't happy about Dreadface's actions, which turn out to involve creating cloned symbiotes (luckily Spider-Man never heard about this; i can't imagine the nightmares).
Dreadface also wasn't too careful with the girlfriend's body.
Thing, Franklin, and Wildstreak team-up to fight Dreadface.
The gangsters clearly did a good job in instructing Dreadface on Earth's ways, since Dreadface is already making references to the Transformers.
Dreadface manages to possess the Thing, but Franklin uses his psi powers to stop him.
And then the resort owner triggers a self-destruct mechanism that he conveniently had installed at his resort, preventing Dreadface from claiming his hotel.
As is weirdly often the case with these new character annuals, the new character really doesn't do much. DeFalco will use Wildstreak again, albeit in Thunderstrike not Fantastic Four, but it's telling when even the Editor-in-Chief doesn't seem all that invested in the event.
As for Franklin, i guess we do get to see him using his psi powers. There's no confirmation whether or not Dreadface was "the enemy" that he was worried about, but i'm going to assume that wasn't the case.
A back-up story continues Kubik's education of Kosmos (formerly the Beyonder). I think this is the first time i realized that the Beyonder's battle with the Celestials in Secret Wars II had been retconned into not being real, and my reaction was "What the #@$#@! is this?!?!?". That same information was actually in Fantastic Four annual #23, though. This issue goes further and makes the point that if we saw a Celestial being born in the Black Galaxy, as we did in DeFalco's Thor run, then the idea that they had a homeworld during Secret Wars II makes no sense.
Kubik then provides several possible explanations for the Celestials. One idea is that they come from outside the universe, from the realm of the ('true') Beyonders. Another is that they're born in black holes (which is less an explanation than a detail). One says that they're like Galactus, each a survivor of a previous universe, and that Galactus himself will become a Celestial one day. And one, which i think is closest to Jack Kirby's intentions but in a way that fits it in with Marvel's cosmic pantheon, is that they are "physical manifestations of the evolutionary process". Kubik says that ultimately the Celestials are unknowable, and everyone is entitled to their own theory. Kosmos says that she thinks that they are really a part of Eternity, that he divides himself up into pieces to gain greater self-knowledge. Kubik says that he likes that idea.
While they're discussing the Celestials, the Celestials judge them, but luckily they get the thumbs up.
They don't get a thumbs up from me, though. My reaction is still "What the #@$#@! is this?!?!?"
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted in the entry for issue #376, there isn't a lot of space in the regular series for other FF appearances. This takes place after FF #376, when adult Franklin arrives. But it takes place while Sharon Ventura is still human, before she becomes a monster in FF #378. There's a definitely unavoidable cliffhanger between #377-378, so this must take place during issue #377, after the conclusion of the 'talking cliffhanger' from #376 but before the main story begins (around page 10 or so of #377). That seems way too soon for anyone to think it's normal for the Thing and this strange new Franklin to be going off on vacation together, but it's the only place that it can go.
Crossover: 1993 Annuals
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
It's been mentioned before, but Herb Trimpe's dodgy art in this era was him attempting to do the new Image-based house style in order to keep getting assignments. Eventually Marvel stopped returning his calls and he transitioned from comic artist to school teacher.
Posted by: Red Comet | November 7, 2016 3:41 PM
There are a lot of bad costume designs in the 1993 annuals, but I feel like Wildstreak's might be the worst. I really hate the skullcap and visor. It just doesn't seem to be a costume with much substance or thought put into it. For someone who is supposed to be wearing an exoskeleton, it sure does not look like there is anything to that costume. Is it nanotechnology? I guess who cares?
Posted by: Mark Black | November 7, 2016 4:17 PM
I find it ironic that Hydra, a terrorist organization with Neo-Nazi origins, is more of a color-blind, equal opportunity employer than Corporate America. Of course Baron Strucker has sometimes been depicted as at least a bit more pragmatic than his fellow goose-steppers. Having seen the Third Reich lose the opportunity to develop the atom bomb at least in part due to Hitler's anti-Semitism, maybe Strucker decided "Hey, I don't care *who* builds our Kirby-tech WMDs, just so long as it helps us conquer the world!"
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 7, 2016 4:36 PM
"The enemy" is presumably Hyperstorm.
Posted by: Michael | November 7, 2016 8:21 PM
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