Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fantastic Four #347

TITLE: Fantastic Four #347

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

COVER DATE: December 1990


23 pages


There's two things that I remember about this issue. One of them, it turns out, I've remembered incorrectly.

I'd always assumed that this issue was the start of Walter Simonson's run on Fantastic Four. I'd read a little bit of the Fantastic Four here and there, but never followed it with any sort of regularity. This issue was the start of me buying this title on a monthly basis, and I guess I always attributed that fact to jumping on at the beginning of Simonson's run, but it turns out that he started his tenure on this title back on issue #334!

As much as I hate to admit it, I guess I jumped on with this issue because it had Wolverine and Ghost Rider in it. Don't judge was the early 90's and I was a naive comic book reader.

Luckily for me this was an awesome issue in the middle of an awesome run. Which leads me to the second thing I remember about this issue, which was that it turned me into a Fantastic Four fan. To put it more correctly, I guess I should say it turned me into a frustrated fan as Simonson would be off the title only eight months later.

To me, Simonson set the bar incredibly high with his run. Yes, It was wacky, goofy, and tongue in cheek; but most of all it was intelligent and incredibly entertaining at the same time. Not many other creators have managed to achieve that balance, which is why my collecting history with the title is full of holes.

The closest we probably got was with Waid and Wieringo's tenure earlier in the decade, which unfortunately had it's consistency marred by some overactive editorialial influence. John Byrne had a highly entertaining run, but I don't know how intelligent it actually was, while Hickman's run currently is striving for intelligent, but leaving the fun behind. I've never read any of Stan and Jack's original run (I know, I know...I'll get around to it someday), but I can only assume that it hit the mark seeing as how they were the ones that defined the target.

To me, Walter Simonson's short run is the apex of greatness, and the fact that there are twelve more issues that I never knew existed before today have me chomping at the bit to go do some longbox shopping tomorrow. In the meantime, however, we'll tide ourselves over rereading this issue.

Big Trouble On Little Earth!
  • Writing: Walter Simonson
  • Penciling: Arthur Adams
  • Inking: Art Thibert
  • Lettering: Bill Oakley
  • Coloring: Steve Buccellato
  • Editing: Ralph Macchio
  • Editor in Chief: Tom DeFalco
This issue begins in space, as the silence between the Earth and the Moon is broken by the arrival of a damaged ship that emerges from lightspeed, only to crash land on Earth.

The attractive female pilot (hey, she's drawn by Art Adams...she's gonna be pretty) escapes with her life, swearing vengeance on those that betrayed her and marooned her on Earth.

We'll find out exactly who (and what) she is in a bit, but first let's check in with the Fantastic Four at Four Freedoms Plaza who are enjoying some down time after being away for the last couple of weeks. Like any typical family, however, there's some dysfunction hiding in the background.

Johnny seems to be infatuated with an alien woman that they met a few issues back, even though he's married to Alicia Masters. Johnny Storm married...I had forgotten all about that.

A human Ben Grimm seeks to console his girlfriend, Sharon Ventura, who is currently She-Thing and trapped in her rocky form. She-Thing...I had forgotten all about that.

That right there is the sign of a good writer. You got two things that by all rights should hamper your ability to tell a good Fantastic Four story, and he makes 'em work. So much so, that I had completely forgotten that they were even an issue.

Seeking to take advantage of everyone's distracted attentionzs, our mysterious crash survivor arrives at Four Freedoms Plaza. Using her ability to change shape and her telepathy, she easily slips inside and begins to take the FF down one by one.

Changing her from into Nebula, Johnny's blue-skinned alien infatuation from earlier, she appears before him and gets close enough to shock him into unconsciousness with a hand held taser device.

Similarly, she does the same thing to Ben. Only this time appearing as Johnny's wife, Alicia Masters, his old flame who fell in love with Johnny when Ben was off-world. He obviously still has feelings for her, as the shapechanger is able to take advantage of that to get close enough to use the same device on Ben.

...and we all know the conflicted feelings that Sue has always had for Namor.

Second verse, same as the first...and down goes Sue to the shapechanger.

After drugging She-Thing with a knock-out brew of tea, the mysterious alien sets her sights on Reed. It turns out that the alien actually has a little crush on Reed, and takes the form of his wife to seduce him into unconsciousness.

Unfortunately for her, Reed is too quick and notices her deception and manages to bend his body away from her taser at the last second. As perceptive as he is, however, he's never been that good of a hand-to-hand fighter and he soon finds himself unconscious with the rest of the Fantastic Four before he can alert the Avengers.

Meanwhile, we find out exactly who the mysterious alien attacker was running from as a Skrull warship enters Earth orbit, hot on her trail.

Scanning the planet for De'Lila, they soon find a plethora of Skrull-like lifeforms centered on a small island in the pacific. Cloaking their ship, they head to the island to investigate. Unfortunately for them, that small island is none other than Monster Island, which they find out the hard way.

It turns out that the monsters of Monster Island all have a primitive Skrull like brain, which was the source of the Skrull life readings. The Skrull in charge seems less concerned about why that is, than with using that fact to his advantage to smoke out De'Lila from hiding. Using neural disruptor darts, they tag each monster and teleport it to various cities around the globe. Using the disruptors to increase the ferocity of the monsters, they hope to drive up the mental stress planet-wide and flush her out.

Little do they know, there's a monarch of Monster Isle...and he's none to happy about the current turn of events.

Still in the form of Sue, De'Lila uses the FF's computers to familiarize herself with Earth's superheroes. Reed's files are complete enough that they allow her to pick and choose among them a group of recruits with which she hopes to achieve her destiny. Using her telepathy she sends a mental summoning out to the four heroes who soon arrive at the door of Four Freedoms Plaza.

The Grey Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider are soon brought in to see "Sue", who tells them the tragic (and altogether false) tale of how she returned home to find her home in ruins and the rest of the Fantasic Four dead or dying. Using one of her husband's inventions, she called to each of them to come to her aid to help avenge the recently deceased members of the Fantastic Four.

By now, the "new" members of the Fantastic Four have fallen for De'Lila's story and agree to help her find the monsters that did this. Playing right into her hand, she arms them with another of Reed's gadgets that will allow them to track down the energy signature of the attackers. Little do they know, the attackers they're being sent to hunt down are the Skrulls that are hunting De'Lila.


This comic was as fun, if not more, than I remember. Maybe it's the fact that there is so little new Marvel that I find readable for three bucks anymore, that I'm starting to get nostalgic for the characters that I grew up with.

Or maybe it's the fact that it's been so long since I enjoyed a good Fantastic Four book, that this issue seems to shine a little brighter. Hell, it's been even longer since I've enjoyed a Wolverine book, that his brief appearance here actually made me miss the old canuck.

Whether it was any of those reasons, or an amalgam of others, this book just pleased me to no end. Even though the Fantastic Four get punked out relatively early in the book, it's got alot of the earmarks that make a great story...Skrulls, Monster Isle, crazy inventions, family drama, space travel, etc...

And speaking of the Skrulls...they're an antagonist I like best when they are played for laughs. They've never been the most dangerous of foes in the FF rogue's gallery, but they are entertaining none the less. The over-the-top inclusion of some of the 90's most overused guest stars let you know right away that this is going to be a fun issue. So with the Skrulls and Mole Man as the villains, we have the perfect blend of absurdity and comedy with which to have a little fun at their own expense.

This is the first part of a three parter, so unfortunately we have to spend most of our time setting things up. Luckily for us, we have Art Adams supplying the pencils for this issue, so even the dialogue heavy pages are fun to look at.

One thing that is distracting about the art, is that the combination of the paper quality and the coloring tended to give this book an over-saturated look on the page. I'd love to see this book recolored using today's technology, as I'm sure it would give Art Adams' beautiful pencils even more attention.

Now we just have to wait for the Randomizer to pick another book from this run, so that we can continue on with one of the best runs from the 90's. In the meantime, I'll be happily looking through some back-issue bins for the issues that I missed.

Holy crap! Simonson had Kang show up during his run?! How the heck did I miss that? Now I'm definitely hitting the comic book store tomorrow.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) Marvel Comics

No comments:

Post a Comment