THE FANTASTIC FOUR
World War 3 Part 1: Life in Wartime (Marvel)
Where: Fantastic Four #13 When: November 1997
Why: James Robinson How: Mike Wieringo
The story so far...
Two very distinct worlds collide as battles with cosmic forces undo all that is, and redefine it as all that could be. Marvel's mightiest heroes, having been trapped in a parallel universe of Franklin Richards' creation, soon find themselves thrust into yet another existence, this time along side the heroes and villains of Wildstorm.
This new world leaves behind the threats of Galactus and Damocles, creating it's own new history of turmoil.
Asia and Europe have fallen to alien invaders, as the Daemonites and Skrulls form an unlikely alliance with a traitor to all humanity -- Dr. Doom. Together, their technologies and inherent abilities allow them to infiltrate the rebellious remaining walks of life, creating a grim new world of distrust, chaos and war.
Mr. Fantastic (#10): Victorious over Iconoclast, Frightful Four & Sinister Twelve.
Invisible Woman (#17): Victorious over Iconoclast, Frightful Four & Sinister Twelve.
Annihilus, Defile, Burnout & Maul: Each making their first appearances in the Infinite Wars.
Tale of the tape...
Strength: Maul 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Annihilus 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Defile 6 (Generator)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Maul 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Annihilus 6 (Mass Destruction)
So, once again we dive into the unfamiliar waters of Wildstorm comics. It's all become a bit Marvel lately, and while I'm much better exposed than that might lead you to believe, Wildstorm's properties remain something of an unknown quantity for me.
Yes, berate as you please.
This particular Fantastic quarter consists of an even split between traditional and Wildstorm. Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman remain in tact, while Burnout and Maul step in as entirely plausible replacements for the Human Torch and Thing.
Actually, if you didn't take the time to read the issue, you'd be forgiven for assuming they'd slapped a late goatee on the Torch, just to go along with the contemporary beat of the Heroes Reborn philosophy.
For the most part Burnout and Maul fulfill much the same duties as their counterparts. Maul has the distinction of sliding his intelligence in relation to his strength, making him a little bit more like a controlled Hulk than the Thing, but otherwise, he's supplying the muscle for this team.
One of the great things about Annihilation was the way it amped up Annihilus from a regular annoyance, to an A-list cosmic threat. We can't really consider that the definition of Annihilus, but it's nice to acknowledge that potential.
Here, Annihilus and Defile present an atypical villain threat.
Escaping the Negative Zone to wreak a brief wave of destruction is nothing new for Annihilus, nor is thwarting it new to the Fantastic Four. Not that the threat should ever be discounted, but it's not until Annihilation Wave that you could ever consider picking anyone but the FF, here.
The Math: Fantastic Four (Total) Annihilus/Defile (Average)
The Pick: The Fantastic Four
What went down...
Returning from an expadition to the Negative Zone, Mr. Fantastic and his fellows are excited to have gained further knowledge, despite failure to recover their missing ally -- Benjamin J. Grimm aka The Thing.
Richards instructs his teammates to begin the process of closing the doorway to the Zone, while he prepares to contact SHIELD about their findings.
Before Richards can even get a dial tone, their Negative Zone pursuers burst through the gateway between dimensions, bringing lethal intent with them.
Pledged to prevent the leaking of knowledge, the two otherworldly invaders go straight to work. Before Burnout or Maul can activate their powers, the two are sent hurtling through the air by their attackers.
Richards orders the Invisible Woman to continue the closing process, while he attempts to wrangle Annihilus and Defile back into the Negative Zone. Fortunately for Mr. Fantastic, Burnout and Maul recover from their spill, ready to step up to the challenge. Annihilus declares his "small" foes barely worth the sport, but Annihilus is soon forced to eat his words as Maul expands to deliver a giant knuckle sandwich!
Disgusted by the notion of a one-punch defeat, Annihilus prepares to vault off of his buttocks back into battle, but before he can do so a jet of flame pushes him back through the portal!
Meanwhile, as Invisible Woman attempts to hide from sight while initiating the shutdown sequence of the N-Zone portal, Defile comes to menace her. Using his Daemonite senses, he looms over the occupied Sue Storm with evil intent, but soon finds himself tangled in the rubbery limb of her lover, Mr. Fantastic!
The FF leader thoroughly wraps up his foe, able to overcome Defile's impressive strength through sheer leverage. Using his bendy spine, Richards maneuvers the monster back to the portal, and sends him through at the cost of his own safety.
With Defile through just in the nick of time, Richards finds himself on the wrong side of the dimensional gate as it begins to close. He stretches a hand back desperately, finding Maul, who has strength enough to whip the elastic man back into the right dimension at the very last second.
A flash of spectacular white light serves the backdrop as the doorway closes!
The team regroups, victorious against the Negative Zone menace.
The winners through strength of teamwork, the Fantastic Four!
As you might imagine, I chose this entry as something of a bridge between the Heroes Reborn comics we've been discussing lately, and the pencils of Mike Wieringo. There's probably a good chance you've already learned of his shocking death just a few days ago.
I didn't know Wieringo personally, but like many regarded him as one of the many fantastic pencillers working in superhero comics over the past decade.
For me, I probably connected with his energetic pencils mostly through his Spider-man work, but could not escape his influence on books like the Flash, and of course, Fantastic Four. Rightly or wrongly, he's the artist I most identify with giving Thing teeth, which is just a weird little tidbit.
Like many, I'll certainly miss the vibrance of his artwork. He was, with no conceit, part of the contingent of mainstream superhero artists who managed to compromise the so-called photo realistic with a more cartoony, and animated approach to pencilling, which was something I greatly appreciated.
I won't say much more, suffice to say, it's a tragic loss for his friends and family, and the comic book community as a whole.
On a lighter note; you may recall the last entry [Fantastic Four #6] where I described the Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four run as a great collection for fans of the movie, or new readers in general, to get initiated with the characters.
I've obviously been championing the ninties somewhat lately, and as much as I feel Heroes Reborn is worth defending, this is probably where the wheels undeniably fall off.
There might have been a nice enough story here, but the thirteenth issues of the four Heroes Reborn titles live up to the number's dread. I could be wrong, but the way I remember events panning out, each book was only announced for a year's worth, twelve issues each. Presumably, if that was the case, these issues represent a final chance to milk a little extra out of sales all round, and for Wildstorm to slip it's characters into the larger audience, who might not otherwise be reading these characters.
We haven't really touched on the fact that the Heroes Reborn story was built out of the shock commissioning Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee at Wildstorm Comics to return to Marvel, (years after their Image coup), to tackle the sinking core properties of the Marvel Universe.
The deal presented mutually beneficial advantages, among those, the chance for Marvel to come into contact with the Wildstorm digital colourists who were doing a lot of impressive work through the mid-nineties.
After an already garbled crossover amongst the four titles, which featured time travel antics facilitating multiple battles with Galactus and his heralds, World War 3 was not really the ideal way to go out. Establishing a new reality (akin to the Amalgam characters) through flashbacks and vignettes is interesting, if not very effective. Though informative, it isn't terribly exciting, and asks a lot of a reader who may not really be all that interested in investing in what will be a short term spark of four-colour mayhem.
Through the mess of this character shuffle we get a glimpse of another surprisingly topical happening -- paranoia in this dystopian future over the potential infiltration of Skrulls. Something we expect to be dealing with in the coming year with Marvel already alluding to just such a problem in the pages of New Avengers, (written by Brian "Sugartits*" Bendis).
Makes you think!
The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 4
[Not the best written issue in the history of the FF, but a fine representation of Wieringo's kinetic pencils, and stretching influence across Marvel's properties.]
* Not an actual nickname for Bendis.