Monday, August 20, 2007

Whatever happened to Alicia?! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four #358 When: November 1991
Why: Tom DeFalco How: Paul Ryan

The story so far...
After the Beyonder's secret war, the Fantastic Four's Thing opted to stay behind and continue his adventures. It was this act that nearly put a vital snafu to a secret plan launched by the Skrulls to infiltrate their enemies team.

Posing as Thing's blind girlfriend, Alicia Masters, the Skrull soldier named Lyja was forced to take a harsh turn, steering the affections of the Masters girl to an unlikely suitor -- Johnny Storm!

When Thing returned he eventually learned to live with the loss of his love, and was witness to the marriage vows of Johnny and Alicia, or so they thought. With Lyja revealed, the furious Johnny Storm leads the Fantastic Four on a mission to space to retrieve the captive Alicia, but little does he know the overseeing officer in the matter is a Skrull familiar, yet very different...

Previous Form:
Fantastic Four [#2]: Victories over Frightful Four, Iconoclast, Super-Skrull & Annihilus.
Lyja (#178): Lent Mr. Fantastic the assist against Sub-Mariner.
Paibok: Making his first appearance in the Infinite Wars.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Paibok 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Thing 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Human Torch 7 (Solar Power)

What's so familiar about Paibok you say? No? Think all Skrulls look alike?
Yeah, well, I've met your kind, and frankly I don't much care for it! Y'see, there are Skrulls who distinguish themselves through dangerous procedures. Procedures that bestow them with fantastic new abilities!

Kl'rt, the Super-Skrull, is the most familiar of these engineered Skrulls with the powers and abilities of the Fantastic Four. There is, however, another such soldier. One with powers comparable of X-Men -- Paibok, the Power Skrull!

Paibok's powers are fairly simple, but not to be discounted.
He can control and manipulate the formation of ice (ala Iceman), fire bolts of electricity (ala Storm), and has super strength and all that comes with it by way of the ability to change his skin into organic metal (ala Colossus).

I'm running a couple of days late, and it's just been an hour or so of the Blogger server being down, so I won't ramble on too much.

Lyja, having lived among them, is sympathetic to the Fantastic Four's plight, accompanying them fairly willingly to the Skrull station where Alicia Masters has been held. Though they are a fantastic five, Paibok easily overcomes the numbers advantage with a veritable army of Skrull soldiers on board.

The FF are pretty experienced with sweeping up swarms of Skrulls, and have earned their cosmic stripes slapping guys like Kl'rt around, so I'm probably going to have to say they're the better option.

Paibok's powers are impressive, but against a guy who has the effective properties of rubber (Mr. Fantastic), a guy with Hulk-level strength (Thing), and a guy who's made of flame (Human Torch).

The Math: Fantastic Four (Total) Paibok (Average)
The Pick: Fantastic Four (w/ Lyja)

What went down...
Powering to the andromeda galaxy aboard one of Reed Richards' spaceships, the Fantastic Four head for one of the many Skrull imperial ships. Arriving on board, they strip from their suits, ready to raise some hell!

The shape changing Skrulls imitate various alien animals and monsters, their efforts in vein, as the Fantastic Four do what they've done so many times before. The Torch burns them down; Mr. Fantastic wraps some Skrulls up and disarms them; Invisible Woman knocks some Skrulls out with her helmet under the veil of invisibility; and the Thing does what Thing does best -- clobber!

To the shock of the suspicious Human Torch, Lyja takes a gun from one of her fellow Skrulls and turns it against them, much to the horror of her commanding officer, Paibok, who watches from a control room.

The Skrulls mysteriously clear the deck, conveniently clearing a path for a massive rocky ball of ice! The descending chunk ushers in the arrival of Paibok - the Power Skrull - riding atop a platform of ice!

He leaps into the air, flying toward the team, where Mr. Fantastic steps up almost literally with his stretching ability. Wrapping his elastic arms around two jutting structures, he absorbs Paibok's forward momentum and flings him backward like a Skrull-borne slingshot!

Paibok flies through his flight path, coming back around for another attack.
Mr. Fantastic again engages the Power Skrull, using his outstretched arms to tie Paibok up, unprepared for an electric charged shock! His arms snap back, as he flees the flying Paibok who continues to blast electricity and ice.

Thing calls dibs on the Power Skrull, compelling Richards to stretch his way to the airducts, to go in search of Alicia Masters. Paibok welcomes the challenge, powering up to reveal his metallic transformation!

Thing and Paibok come to blows, Thing coming off second best to the metal plated super Skrull! Ever the hearty battler, Thing comes back for more, as Paibok reaches for a metallic column, ripping it from it's structural placing to toss at the rock-hided hero.

Thing pounds through the tech-filled column, and returns the favour to Paibok, knocking him back wit ha stiff left!
Down, but not out, Paibok resorts to his ice powers, blasting Thing at relative short range. He continues his forward march, resisting the gathering frost that builds to a thick layer of mushy snow and crystalizes to ice!

Bursting from the ice, Thing rips up the flooring right from under Paibok's feet!

Despite the attack, the tables manage to turn once more, Invisible Woman making the save for an unprepared Thing with an invisible force field!
She follows it up, encasing Paibok in an invisible force field, giving Paibok another opportunity to stretch his powerful limbs.

Revealing his bio-electricity was designed with Invisible Woman specifically in mind, he channels his power through Invisible Woman's forcefield, frying her into submission with many volts of energy!

Thing quickly comes to Susan Storm's ally, but Paibok delays their rematch, interested instead in executing the flaming brother of the Invisible Woman, who mows Skrulls down with lethal regard.

Sneaking up behind the battling hot-head, Paibok prepares to make a cowardly sneak attack from behind! Fortunately for Johnny Storm, his wife, Lyja, sees the attack coming, and continuing to grapple with her duty and her adopted him, she transforms into a Bierbeast to curtain the unrelenting electric blast!

Lyja drops to the floor motionless, finally breaking through his hate-filled conflict, to provoke the concern of her deceived husband, Johnny Storm.

Distracted by Lyja's traitorous turn, Paibok doesn't notice Thing sneaking up behind him to rip another massive column from it's barings to bring the house down! The roof crumbles atop the Power Skrull, with a morose Thing looking on with quiet distain.

Johnny Storm shares a tender moment with the dying Lyja, making peace with her and the deceptions he suffered. Though originally operating as a Skrull infiltrator, Lyja confesses her true love for the Human Torch, before fading in his arms. Her apparent death is precursor to a sudden return!

With the ship rumbling, Paibok emerges from the rubble. With the "War World" station about to reach critical mass, the Fantastic Four (under a force field produced by Invisible Woman) navigate their way back to their ship, reluctantly leaving behind the limp body of Lyja.

With Alicia Masters in his arms, Mr. Fantastic makes a rendezvous with his team at their ship, making a successful escape from the exploding space station with the rest of the team!

The hammer...
It was a close one on points, but I think you'd have to give it to the Fantastic Four! Lyja has to share in the victory, despite her apparent death at the hands of ex-jilted lover, Paibok.

It may please you to know Lyja actually survived not only Paibok's electricity, but also the explosion of the station! She returns to menace and join-up with the FF again, but as you may have noticed in the contemporary comics, Human Torch and she are estranged.

Running quite behind, I should remind everybody that this is yet another Marvel Ultimate Alliance Monday post, featuring the villains from the smash hit video game! Unfortunately, we won't be be featuring Titannus, the enhanced mutant Skrull from Robert Kirkman's Marvel Team-Up work. I neither have those issues, nor any money to buy them. If you would like to rectify that, you can scroll up the side menu and hit-up the PayPal donations site! Although, honestly, I'd probably rather buy some World War Hulk books...

I should get another thank you out to When Fangirls Attack, the index website with a vested interest in feminist and female-centric issues, cataloguing this time around our feature that discussed Jubilee [Adventures of the X-Men #7].
I've actually really enjoyed getting into a lot of the discussions and topics presented there, and you should see if there's something there for you. We here at the Infinite Wars certainly appreciate their support of our light hearted activities!

Actually, on a side note, working on the coming issues of The Kirby Martin Inquest [which is one of my reasons for being late] brought a nice opportunity to put a bit of WFA programming into practice -- adding a new prominent female character to the series. In earlier drafts there was a conceited reason to avoid female characters, but with a lot of that falling away in the final draft, I'm pleased to put a new spin on a role that would've been more typically cast as a male (a reporter).

Conveniently, the female touch actually brings with it an advantage - so that's been a nice bit of awareness rubbing off on me, and coming in very handy.
We could keep talking about women in comics, specifically damsel-in-distress syndrome with Alicia Masters here, and the weak characterization of Susan Storm. Or, we could even talk about Lyja's desperate attempts to court Johnny Storm's love, which has turned to bitter hatred -- but we won't.
I figure the fangirls only need to see so much of us. Allow them a break!

Instead, there's a prevalent issue in Marvel comics right now, and it conveniently coincides with this, and the last Ultimate Alliance post [Fantastic Four #6], and that's -- Skrulls!

If you've been reading New Avengers, or are just keeping abreast of superhero comics affairs, you'll be well aware that the Elektra who appeared as head of The Hand clan was in actual fact a disguised Skrull! [New Avengers #27]

Though intrigued and excited by the prospects of a mass infiltration of the Marvel universe, it was this issue of Fantastic Four, along with various others, that were the basis of criticisms that this simply isn't an original enough concept to be acceptable.
While the broad point stands, I think I've had the chance to rethink the issue, having reviewed some of the greater details within this issue. What's key here is that Alicia was replaced during the Secret Wars event, which begs a question providing complications for our rankings systems -- When was Elektra replaced? And by extension, when was whoever else replaced?

Issues of New Avengers: Illuminati, co-written by Brian "Nugget Loving*" Bendis and Brian Reed, detail retroactive inclusions of the secret meetings held by the Illuminati, and how their subversive strategums shaped certain subtlties in the Marvel universe. Among those was the provocation of the Skrulls, already being connected to the incursion we're seeing in contemporary Marvel stories, but could it be that the immediate follow-up, featuring The Beyonder, is the clue?

Dare we dredge up memories of the Ben Reilly Spider-Clone by implying the invasion began decades ago? Could it be that these mass switches actually occurred en masse, while the heroes were in a confused state flux having being plucked from reality by The Beyonder?!

There's also a question about the fate of the heroes that have been replaced.
Have they been lucky enough to remain in stasis somewhere in outer space, like Alicia Masters? For the sake of maintaining a copy, it's fair to assume the Skrulls would need a living reference, but you never know with these guys.

Is it not entirely possible that they've all been murdered? Or perhaps disected in the name of Skrull science, allowing them to develop the range and efficiency of how they grant special powers to the likes of Kl'rt and Paibok?

Theories for your consideration, good friends!
In the meanwhile, I should probably try to get some sleep before the sun comes up, because that's when I have to fight crime with the powers bestowed upon me by my hybrid heritage of Irish/Australian. Enter the drunken fist!

I might be doing a bit of retroactive revisions myself, trying to insert some of the many reviews of interest I've missed over the past couple of days. Continuing the free-flowing, interest based discussion of these entries, there's a lot to get to, and I'm finally keen to take a look at a couple of DC features, so fingers crossed I get to do that!

Thanks again to Women In Comics, and hopefully we'll continue to have a positive association with them, providing our own unique skew on women in comics. You'll certainly be seeing more at the end of the week, as we take a look at a certain X-Men classic mentioned in a previous entry.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5
[Square-bound, giant sized, and with a circular hole in the cover exposing the 4? The only thing tragic about THIS comic is the price tag -- $2.50US. Cheaper than most twenty-two page comics. Oh the agony! A great issue, with lots of bonus materials, including a fun little Dr. Doom short -- about retroactive continuity!]

* Not an actual nickname for Bendis.

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