Monday, September 10, 2007

The Enemy Within! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four #366 When: July 1992
Why: Tom DeFalco & Paul Ryan How: Paul Ryan

The story so far...
Adam Warlock, a cosmic weapon who reached omnipotence, purged himself of emotions to create two gestalt entities. From all his good came The Goddess, and from his negative emotions, The Magus.

Seeking total domination over the Marvel Universe, the Magus uses his fantastic cosmic power to exist in a pocket reality, manipulating the pawns of his game from afar.

To the bewilderment of Thanos; a man whose motivations are similar bit distinctly different; the Magus wages war on the heroes through the creation of doppelgangers using items resembling the fabled cosmic cubes.
Crucial to his war on the heroes, the battle between dark shadows and crucial figures within the superhero community. Figures like Reed Richards!...

Previous Form:
Mr. Fantastic (#7): Has led the Fantastic Four in battle against Super-Skrull, Annihilus, Paibok and many others.
Doppelganger: Captain America swiftly defeated his Magus created doppelganger.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Mr. Fantastic 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Genius)
Speed: Mr. Fantastic 2 (Average)
Stamina: Mr. Fantastic 3 (Strong Will)
Agility: Mr. Fantastic 6 (Rubber)
Fighting Ability: Mr. Fantastic 2 (Average)
Energy Powers: Mr. Fantastic 1 (None)

Like the Captain America battle [Captain America #408], we've just gone straight to Mr. Fantastic's tape. You can fairly imagine his doppelganger measures up with roughly the same attributes, with the exception that he's far more malicious, and presumably interesting in doing much more killing than Reed Richards. Then again, those of us who read Civil War, might not be so sure. [Boom boom!]

Mr. Fantastic is an interesting character. We've discussed long ago [Fantastic Four #3] the peculiarities of his rubbery powers, and how they potentially make him live up to the cliche of most powerful man in his universe.
Okay, sure. Guys like Galactus can transmogrify him, or just eat around him until there's nothing left, but in the realm of the traditional hero and villain, Richards has probably got to be about the most deadly sleeper.

Think of it this way: He can reshape his body in all kinds of passive and aggressive lethal positions. There's the bouncing ball of doom, the giant hammer fist, the human-blanket, the python fullbody wrap-around... Not only all that, but defensively the guy can hurl most of what's thrown at him straight back to sender! [Although, recent results suggest that while he shares a molecular similarity to rubber, he lacks the super properties as an insulator; Fantastic Four #358]).

So, what's holding him back? Well, characterization has varied.
Almost universally Reed Richards is restrained by the scientist within, who is almost always too busy giving long-winded directions to his fellows, or analysing the threat with an almost perverse curiosity.

Just think, though. In Civil War he managed to created a cyborg clone of Thor, complete with deadly lightning bolts that had no trouble whipping Hercules around like a muppet, and sliced through Black Goliath in record time.

Just what could that brain do if it were turned loose?
I don't mean Dr. Doom loose, either, which is the obvious answer to the question. No, the best Doom is never unlocked to that potential either. Too busy acting in national interest, or bitter resentment, and even then, without those I think Doom still has standards too high to resort to scientific butchery.

I guess, since this is battle with an evil duplicate, we're about to find out what happens. Can Reed Richards handle the opposition? Hard to say. Sometimes he's a well trained team-leader ready to stretchy-headbutt his way to victory. Other times, he's a bit of a blundering fool, just as likely to trip over his stretching ankles as he is to trip up the villains.

The Pick: Mr. Fantastic

What went down...
The Human Torch has left in a huff - again - leaving the FF in one of their cyclical periods of being short-staffed. Having recovered from the threat of the Inniverse, ruled by Occulus, Reed Richards is preparing security to protect his son, Franklin, from the forces that may seek retribution through his endangerment.

Richards won't complete the added measures of security if the evil Magus has anything to do with it. Just then, as though from nowhere, Mr. Fantastic is confronted by a sinister mirror image of himself, completely unaware of events occuring to the other heroes across New York City.

Stretching free of his doppelganger's wrapping arms, Richards gets his barings with a giant-sized fist that knocks the doppelganger back. Unfortunately the maneuver sends the evil shade toward a weapons rack, where the creature is able to utilize all of Richards' intimate knowledge as his own.

The alien construct turns the advanced weaponry on it's owner, but fortunately Richards' pliable elastic body is able to absorb the brunt of the shrapnel. He flings it back with velocity at his doppelganger, charging in for a supressing offensive-defensive.

With the evil shade playing to Richards' doubts, he faulters, feeling the extent of his own powers as the villainous apparition turns his body into a mass of violently prodding extensions. The move puts Richards on the ropes, giving the doppelganger the opportunity to literally use his head to gain the upper hand.

Richards, with his back against the wall, tries to convince his opponent that they are too evenly matched. Again the doppelganger advances with an assault on Richards' failings as a hero, revealing lethal intent where Richards would have excessive verbiage and proclamations.

Without hesitation the doppelganger clutches Richards by the throat and stretches his free arm into his mouth. Using the stretching ability to expand his arm inside of Richards' throat, the evil shade attempts to choke him to death.
The doppelganger revels in Richards' doom, claiming to be turning the same stubborn foolishness that defeats foes, and distances Mr. Fantastic from his family, right back against him with lethal results.

Fortunately the original Mr. Fantastic is able to keep a cool head, stretching himself into a human top that flings his other across the science lab.
It comes to a thunderous crash landing, but manages to continue to intercept emergency alarm checkpoints, a tactic Mr. Fantastic has noted the entire fight.

Richards again attempts an offensive, seeking means to access the emergency alarms. Unfortunately, the murderous clone continues it's assault, manifesting their differences in physical form, utilizing a spiked club transformation in favour of Mr. Fanatstic's traditional giant hammer.

Again the stretching doppelganger gains the advantage, out maneuvering his predecessor, only to turn the situation like a rubber, super-wrestler.
He traps the weaker Mr. Fantastic while he contorts his stretchy body into a giant bow. With deadly speed Mr. Fantastic is hurled into the air, but he manages to reshape his body into a spherical ball, bouncing around to return fire.

Contestants on the BIGGEST LOSER can look forward to THE HUMAN BLANKET...Arrogance finally gets the better of the doppelganger, who falls into Richards' trap of ignorance. Prepared to swat the ball away, the doppelganger instead faces a wall of humanity as Mr. Fantastic expands beyond him at the last second, forming a human blanket!

Contracting around his evil clone, Mr. Fantastic clenches his entire elastic body like a vice. Foolishly he does not completely envelope the entity, allowing it the miniscule space needed to stretch a hand free.

HEROES FOR HIRE eat your heart out!That hand once again goes for the workshop's rack of weapons, snatching a gun from the wall. Mr. Fantastic stretches his own hand to the wall, attempting to pin his shade's wrist to the wall, but he stretches out of it to fire the gun directly at Reed Richards! The weapon spews a massive blast of flame!

Though stunned into unconsciousness, Mr. Fantastic is not mortally wounded or burned by the presumably alien weaponry. Never the less, his defeat allows his sinister mirror image to carry out it's objective to replace the FF leader.
The evil creature turns it's hand to a slimey mass of tentacles which grow to envelope Mr. Fantastic's body, and though the Freedoms Plaza alarms finally alert Susan Storm to trouble, she arrives unawares to find who she believes is her husband, disarming the "malfunctioning" system.

The Hammer...
Gosh, gasp, wheeze? Not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary story! You witnessed it here folks, the evil doppelganger clone of Mr. Fantastic was successful in defeating the original!

Over last month we talked a lot about stories from the past, and the interesting levels of symmetry between then and now. A lot of those examples had to do with comparisons between classic ideas and the deliberately inspired brand that is - the Ultimate line. This of course is an example built on a contrived series made for reinvention, but here we have a much more interesting parallel apparent.

Though Iron Man took the chief position as masthead for the pro-registration side of the Civil War camps, he had a lot of help coming directly from Mr. Fantastic, who many regard as acting distinctly out of character. Was this just a cast of a slanted fan opinion, or could there be more sinister machinations at work, behind the scenes in the Marvel universe?

The irony here is that it was during the Infinity War that much the same scenario arose, where Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man were each defeated and replaced by their Magus-created doppelgangers to become chief agents against their fellows.
Fortunately the heightened senses of characters like Daredevil and Wolverine were able to detect the facsimiles, but with the recent New Avengers development [revealing Elektra to be a Skrull], one has to wonder just how far methods of detection have been undermined. Wolverine was again one of those present who was unable to detect the switch between Elektra and Skrull, a woman Wolverine knows well enough to spot.

I don't know if we can realistically expect any kind of connection. I honestly think it was just a case of shifting opinions in a contemporary atmopshere of fear and concern, but it's interesting that Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man were able to be such crucial catalysts for not one, but two wars designed against heroes.

Reading this, you might know a combination of events have put me a few days behind our regular viewing schedule. Would you believe a one-two of computer problems and a mysterious power outage? Musta been trouble down at the power plant again. Oh, that wacky Electro!

So, we're wrapping this one up a bit quicker than ordinary, but I should take time to remind you that this is, of course, part of a special month in our Marvel Ultimate Alliance Mondays, replicating the later levels of the game where you find yourself pitted against evil clones of your favourite heroes! That of course precedes the concluding battle against Dr. Doom, which will be next month!

Despite all the wacky schedule interference, I have managed to prepare a lengthy double feature for today [Wednesday] featuring a lot of slurred ravings written after stumbling out of bed with a fixation on the DC Trinity.

Readers interested in the fate of Lyja after her apparent death [Fantastic Four #358], might like to know that it's this issue that concludes with the graduation of a new B-story. Paibok, having encountered the Skrull-killing Devos, reveals a plot to undo their mutual enemies, the Fantastic Four, with the suspended body of the Human Torch's wife -- Lyja!

Suspended in a pod of liquid in much the same way the abducted Alicia Masters was found, Lyja becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot against the man she came to love. It's a fairly classic storytelling model that typifies much of DeFalco's work on Fantastic Four, continued before and after by adjacent writing teams.
It is, of course, suitably complimented by Paul Ryan's classic pencils which are Byrne-esque in their construction, and nicely iconic. He draws a good Thing (hint hint)!

Thanks for stopping by, and make sure you keep hitting us up!
We just dropped a Technorati credit point (expired link?), so get out there and start linking to us! Or else I'll have to send my robot Sentinels after you!

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 4.5

[Continuing the fun of the Infinity War, this issue manages to mysteriously find weight through the progression of stories for each FF character, while focusing mostly on the struggle of Mr. Fantastic. Important beats include Sharon Ventura's return while Thing visits the local gym, and Human Torch's speedy recovery from discovering his marriage was a sham.]


Anonymous said...

Reed shoulda won.
The guy kicked Galactus, The Dreaming Celestial, Robo-Stalin, and a couple of dinosaur's BUTTS in ONE story-arc.

Stupid Defalco.

Mike Haseloff said...

Interesting to note that according to Infinite Wars records, this is indeed Mr. Fantastic's first loss!

Mind you, not even Reed Richards can win them all... *ominous foreboding*