Friday, September 01, 2006

The Ties That Bind (Marvel comics)
Marvel Adventures #12 When: March, 1998
Why: Ralph Macchio How: Andy Kuhn

The story so far...
The evil mastermind of the Wizard has again begun plotting against the Fantastic Four, this time navigating micro-cameras into Reed Richards' inner scientific sanctum to spy on the team.

When the Human Torch appears to storm away, the Wizard sees it as the perfect opportunity to spring his newly trained Frightful Four into action.

Thus, he gathers the Trapster, Thundra and Sandman, and proceeds to place explosive devices throughout the business district that surrounds the FF headquarters. The Fantastic Three do their best to curb the violence, but succeed only in preventing further destruction.
When they return, they find their abode infiltrated.

Previous Form:
Fantastic Four #129: This very incarnation of the Frightful Four did battle with Thing and Medusa, in Thundra's first appearance.
Civil War #3: Thing, Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman were present at the confrontation between opposing sides in Civil War.
Fantastic Four #3: Reed Richards held his own against the Red Ghost and his Super Apes.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Human Torch 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Sandman 7 (Unlimited)
Fighting Ability: Thundra 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

There's kind of a psuedo-technical element to this section with the stats, so I thought it might be nice to round out every week with an additional stat. As objective as I try to be every week, it just looks like I'm picking the winner all the time, so there's a nice little addition. With any luck the uber stats provided by the patented Haseloff system will eventually show the dichotomy of character strength versus standard.

ANYWAY -- A little arch-rivalry here in the form of the Fantastic Four versus their evil counterparts, the Frightful Four.

I don't know if you'd call this the classic group, but it's probably my favourite teaming of Frightul foes.
It's probably worth noting that this incarnation sort of has a counterpart overlap. With Thundra's chief function being super strength, Thing gets her by default, which means Sandman can be shuffled off to either Invisible Woman or Mr. Fantastic, who both have malleable powers. Although, Wizard is the natural nemesis of the team leader/genius, Reed Richards, so you can start to see the team's evolution.

Paste Pot Pete has never really struck me as a good fit, but I guess I like that. I'm not all that fond of the two-dimensional thought process that tells a villain, 'If I counter balance each of their powers, we're assured victory!'

Now, the smart bet might have the Trapster using his powers of entrapment to tangle with the forcefield yielding Invisible Woman - leaving the Sandman to douse the flame of the Human Torch. However, for whatever reasoning, Petey takes the hothead, with whom he's tangled previously, albeit to poor results.

The Sandman's versatility, combined with Thundra's presence does lend a pretty good argument for the Frightful quarter. However, particularly between those two strongarms, there's a lot of in-fighting. Thundra's allegiance to the group is one of convenience, which does tend to make her something of an X-factor.

The FF, while having their squabbles, are generally far superior than most opponents when it comes to being a cohesive unit. They also have a track record of regularly besting their villainous alternates.

I'm reticent to immediately throw it the way of the FF just because of past performance, but one does have to consider the strategic intelligence of each member of the Fantastic foursome. They all possess fairly respectable competence in the art of combat, and flow particularly well as a unit.

This juxtaposes the Frightful team, which are usually far better prepared, but dependent upon the precision planning of the Wizard. Even when they hold the superior advantage, the inability to ensure the prevention of variables is often their downfall.

Between these two teams it'll always be a close fight, but particularly in the Adventures book, you'd be mad to bet against the home team.

Average: The Fantastic Four 21.75 (+0.25)
Overall: The Fantastic Four 87 (+1)
The Pick: The Fantastic Four

What went down...
When the FF return from preventing mass destruction, they find their private Baxter Building elevator has been filled with since-hardened paste. Reed Richards is a smart fellow, so he understandably warns the team to be on their toes!

Unfortunately, when they crack their way in, and head up via the elevator, they find themselves on the ceiling, courtesy of a barrage of Wizard's anti-gravity discs.
The Trapster ensnares the trio in paste, rendering them helpless cargo.

Standing at the controls of Reed Richards' recently devised sub-spatial gateway, the Wizard gloats, revealing the details of his plan, whilst musing that Richards was not the challenge he posed in the past.
As he reaches for control panel, a burning jet of flame torches his hand -- and the Wizard is suddenly informed that it was he who was outsmarted!

Well aware that the Sandman had infiltrated his lair, Richards organized the charade of Human Torch's storm-out, and equipped him with a device capable of rendering the anti-gravity discs useless! Thus, it is indeed clobbering time!

The Trapster fires off a blast of paste, but the Torch is able to harden it in mid-air, and then uses his flame to severe the tubing that feeds Pete's solution into his dispersal gun.
The Torch floats on, leaving Trapster in a flame barred prison cage.

The Sandman tussles with the Invisible Woman, using his extensive sand particles to lace the floor and reveal the invisible foosteps of his foe.
He forms two massive sandstone blocks of his fists, and begins to bring them together in crushing formation, but Sue's invisible forcefields manage to protect her long enough for Human Torch to flare to blinding brightness.

With the Sandman blinded, Sue lets loose a barrage of invisible bubbles!
But... That is apparently ineffective, so Sandman quips, "my turn!," and turns his arm into a deadly stream of hurling sand!
Sue throws up an air-tight invisible wall, and begins pushing the Sandman back bit by bit, and continuing the tradition of super villain mental collapses, he begins to have a serious case of the clausterphobias.
Unable to take the thought of being imprisoned (again), Sandman collapses into a mess on the floor.

Meanwhile, whoa! Look at that!
Thing and Thundra butt heads, aaand... Thundra proceeds to whoop Thing's rocky ass!
A left to the jaw, an axe handle across the back, and then for a big finish, the warrior woman hoists Thing above her head... But lucky for Aunt Petunia's favourite nephew, Sue throws an invisible bubble around her head, forcing her to pass out.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fantastic is being bested by the Wizard and his electrified gauntlet.
Wizard makes his move, heading toward the controls of the sub-spacial gateway once more. Using the control he had pre-devised, Richards manipulates Wizard's anti-gravity discs to lift him away from the controls, but it's too late.

With the gateway activated, Wizard becomes like a father caught in an autumn breeze.
The weakened Mr. Fantastic does his best to stretch out to his nemesis, but finds himself instead caught in the vaccuum.
Quick thinking by Thing sees a makeshift harness devised, and he is able to dive into the universe and snare his best friend. The Wizard, however, continued to slip out of reach, a victim of his own devices, but sure to surface again.

"Y'know, I'm wonderin' what happened to them other three clowns. Guess they decided ta skedaddle while they could."
Right you are, Thing. Right you are.

The hammer...
The winners by victory or forfeit, depending on how you look at it, the Fantastic Four!

I think I mentioned during the JLU review [Justice League Unlimited #14] that it would be unlikely that you'd see me review another Adventures book.
Well, after doing the already oft referred to review of FF #129, this particular issue sprung immediately to mind.
By no means is it a landmark comic, nor is it even particularly memorable in the broadest sense, but it uses these characters that are just something special, and not seen nearly enough anymore. Not by me, at least.

Another oustanding positive about this issue is the pencil work by Andy Kuhn, and the incredibly complimentary inks of Harry Candelario.
DC did tremendously well in cultivating the Bruce Timm animated style into their spin-off Adventures comic books (and beyond), and really, for quite a while Marvel had no equivalent.

While the Marvel cartoons never had a distinct or uniform style among them, Kuhn cultivates a unique style both suited to animation in it's simplicity, but also it's kinetic action. It appears animated in both senses of the word.
I'm actually surprised I haven't really seen Kuhn beyond these pages. While not what I would call a popular mainstream style, I think it's got a lot going for it. I might even rate him among my favourite artists, if I could do such a thing.

Macchio also competently weaves together a yarn that not only harkens back to some of the great seventies writers, but manages to very vividly highlight the characters therein.

Some of the plot stretches plausibility even further than Mr. Fantastic's longjohns, and it's a story of very little consequence, but on a website like Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, I'll gladly pay it. The more FF, the merrier!

Anyway, this was a pretty lengthy update for a fairly brief book, and ideally I'd like to be up to scratch before December, to do some thirty entries on the days.
We'll see how that goes. Stay sharp, folks!

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Could one moment change a universe? Next up, the swansong of a very unique Marvel hero, and the deaths of many. Be here!

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