Friday, June 22, 2007

Adapt This! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four: Unplugged #1 When: September 1995
Why: Mike Lackey How: Heitor Oliviera

The story so far...
A rainy night in New York City goes from bad to worse for the ever loving blue eyed thing. When he's too late to get a lottery ticket, a good deed goes punished when, having prevented a line-cutter from stealing a woman's cab, the Thing spots the FF emergency flare in the night sky.

Convincing the bedgrudging woman to share the cab, Thing makes for the Williamsburg Bridge where traffic is backed up for blocks. A cop informs him of a dangerous monster on the bridge, and when Thing asks about the Human Torch's progress he gets a nasty shock!

What super-baddy could fool the thing with a flaming signal? None other than the Mad Thinker's Super Adaptoid! Running amok, the Adaptoid has programming for one thing: The destruction of the Fantastic Four! So, watch out! It's a bridge-bound Brooklyn brawl, true believers!

Previous Form:
Thing (#22): Team victories over the Frightul Four & Sinister Twelve.
Super Adaptoid: No Adaptoid has yet been featued on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Super Adaptoid 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 2 (Average)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Super Adaptoid 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Thing 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: Super Adaptoid 5 (Lasers)

Y'know, when it comes to the tape, it's pretty unflattering for the ever lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Unfortunately, that really boils down to his weighted skills toward strength, which lack compensation in any other avenues.

Not that that is really a huge disadvantage for the Thing, who bruises with the best of them! Winning versatility competitions generally isn't a big part of the day when you're fighting the likes of Blastaar, Mad Thinker, Hulk and Sandman!

Of course, it gets a bit more complicated when the clobbering is up against someone designed specifically to counter and mimic your own abilities.
In that respect, the Super Adaptoid resembles the Super-Skrull, but in-truth the way in which the Adaptoid utilizes his mimickery of things like Mr. Fantastic's malleability may be far more brutal than the obscurely honorable Skrull.

When you way it up, Thing is facing the combined might of himself and his fellows in one shot, which puts him at a disadvantage by anyone's math. Generally Thing's heart and determination is going to be what gets him by, if only to buy time for the support of his teammates, but in the absence of the Fantastic Four does the Thing have the necessary might to prevail?

I'd like to think Thing always has a little extra in the tank, but the math is pretty compelling in this circumstance...

The Math: Super Adaptoid (Super Class)
The Pick: Thing (It's clobberin' time!)

What went down...
Before Thing can even digest what's going on, a giant blocky flaming fist comes out of nowhere to smack him in the gaping mouth! A fist that belongs to -- an Adaptoid!

Thing wastes no time taking a shot, but the Adaptoid takes it willingly!
The Adaptoid moves with it, shifting his fingers into jagged talons, and takes a swipe that puts the Thing on the back foot, but catches Adaptoid's hand in a nearby butcher's truck.

Thing uses the opportunity to bury the fist into the mid-section, taking the free-shot while it's there, but Adaptoid quickly rips his hand free, spraying blood (and ribs!) across Thing!

Thing notes a rumbling before taking another shot that sends him flying onto the elevated train tracks! Floored, Thing still manages to roll across the tracks out of harms way, while the Adaptoid pauses, holding his ears as the shriek of the train's brakes scream into the night air.

The train hits the Adaptoid, but it has little effect on the super-durable creature. The conductor comes to check on him, and suffers a decapitation, witnessed as the Thing pulls himself back onto the tracks. It renews his motivation.

The Adaptoid returns to the bridge, flaming blades for hands, as he invariably encounters the woman with which the Thing shared a cab. Towering over the young woman, Thing arrives just in the nick of time!

A left bends the Adaptoid's face outta shape, before Thing nails him with a right that launches the villainous mechanoid into the air!

Alas, it's not that easy! The Adaptoid comes back fast, dodging a wild swipe from the Thing, to hook up with him from behind! With no holds barred, the Thing opens his mighty jaws to bite down into the mushy arm wrapped around him!

The move forces the Adaptoid to release the hold, but Thing is quickly shocked to discover this Adaptoid retains remote control over even pieces broken away! While the Adaptoid recovers from the move, the tiny piece in the Thing's throat begins to wriggle around and try to choke him!

With a devestating crunch, the Thing pounds both of his fists into his rocky abdomen, performing a super-Heimlich maneuver on himself!

The tiny saliva covered projectile lands at the feat of the taxi-cab lady, still desperate to get beyond the fight to continue to her recital. She stomps the chunk of Adaptoid, and finds her expensive shoe snared in it's grip! Using her handbag she pounds furiously at it, before finally proving her worth in the scene. (Gee, could you tell she had a greater purpose here?)

A vial of perfume in the bag breaks, spilling onto the piece of Adaptoid with explosive results! Assuming the reaction was caused by alcohol, she calls the revelation out to the Thing!

With a beer delivery truck conveniently stuck on the bridge, Thing is able to scoop the Adaptoid up and toss him into the truck! The Super Adaptoid thunders back at the Thing, striking him with a cloud of foamy suds burning from his rubbery body.

The Adaptoid's body begins to lose dexterity, gradually becoming increasingly unstable and gooey, until he eventually melts to a smoking stain on the bridge.

And, the lady from the taxi-cab?
Takes off to leave Thing with the toll. Nice!

The hammer...
And after that lengthy account we can call it a definitive win for the Thing!

This is a very interesting comic.
I don't know if I just got a little too distracted writing the fight summary, but the past fifteen minutes are a complete haze!
We've been talking a lot the past month about comics that could provide valuable knowledge to the future of comics, particularly for the generation that progresses out of the shadow of anti-heroes and bad heroes.

This issue sort of touches on some of those writing themes, even if this is a fairly classic take on the Thing character himself.
What you won't appreciate from the scanned panels and summary is the violent quality to the comic. For what is essentially a superhero fight comic, Lackey's script seems to refuse to resign to that, and is ultimately filled with a lot of cheap, throwaway distractions.

The lady from the taxi-cab plays awkwardly, imposing character interaction better fitted to a character who could be developed with the benefit of time, and potentially be a love interest for Thing. Having just seen Strange Than Fiction, I recall the description that in a comedy the love interest begins hating the hero, but ultimately hooks up with him. That's exactly the comedic set-up you have here.

Unfortunately, this is a character that has, as far as I know, no future in Marvel comics from this point, and plays as little more than an intrusive mcguffin to defeat this version of the Super Adaptoid!

Given the hyperactively kinetic quality to the page layouts, these sorts of distractions, and moreso spontaneous scenes of unrelated extreme violence [like the conductor's off-screen splatter execution...], serve to make this a very jarring story. It's no wonder that Fantastic Four: Unplugged didn't become a series.

As a first issue of anything, it's pretty average, but I suppose some benefit has to be given to what seems to be an intent to tell isolated, done-in-one stories with the characters from the FF. I didn't read any of the following issues, so I don't know whether or not that was successful, but needless to say, the ending - which depicts a firey Human Torch declaring he's quitting the team - does not inspire great hope.

We're now in July and I'd very much like to catch-up soon, so I'll wrap it up with a question posed to anyone reading: Is Mike Lackey a pseudonym?!
I'd like to think he is, but then something in the blank that is my mind right now is nagging at me with some forgotten evidence to suggest he's a person.

If he is, I mean no disrespect for this review, and wish he and his family well.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 3

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