Monday, September 17, 2007

By Reed... Betrayed! (Marvel comics)
Fantastic Four #367 When: August 1992
Why: Tom DeFalco How: Paul Ryan

The story so far...
The Magus, with the aid of mysterious cosmic power, has created an army of sinister mirror images of the greatest heroes of the Marvel Universe in a bid for total domination!

Forced to face their inner shadows, the great heroes fight themselves for their own existance. For Thing, his doppelganger comes at a time already overcast with inner turmoil. Ex-girlfriend and teammate, Sharon Ventura, returns as he comes to terms with the reveal that his greatest love, Alicia Masters, did not marry the Human Torch. Instead, it was another dark diversion, the undercover Skrull Lyja, who married the Torch, which leaves Thing unsure of his feelings for his former flame.

The Puppet Master is sure of his feelings, desiring the happiness of his daughter, but will his love stop him taking advantage of the Thing's predicament, or will he use his fantastic telekinetic controlling clay to save the Fantastic Fourman?...

Previous Form:
Thing (#16): Clobbered his way through the Frightful Four, Sinister Six, Super Adaptoid, Super-Skrull & Paibok, the Power Skrull.
Doppelgangers: The Magus' doppelgangers have been menacing the heroes with mixed results.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Thing 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thing 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Thing 2 (Average)
Stamina: Thing 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Thing 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Thing 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Thing 1 (None)

Well, here we are for another Monday, and another evil doppelganger feature as commanded by this month's special Marvel Ultimate Alliance posts. If you're new here and you want to know what I'm talking about, scroll down to the archives and check out posts made on Mondays, because we're still a full month away from a recap on all of these damned posts!

Anyway -- keeping things moving forward, we've got ourselves a spotlight on the Thing, who is arguably one of the most underrated characters on the site. Okay, over the past few months we've caught up a lot of stock on the Fantastic Four, but for the most part, you really expect the Thing to be up on a fight site.

When you look at the stats as we rate them, you might even argue that he's been underrated on the Haseloff scale, too. I would invite any of you to make your case for shifting Thing's stats, because it's something I've grappled with, particularly something like his fighting ability.

For Thing, I've really gone with the literal for our stats, which is supposedly the laws by which the catalyst information is governered. The scientific credibility is only as good as the accuracy of the information as it is input into the system.
The scientists of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths cannot be held responsible for erroneous data. Keep them honest.

Who will win this fight? Well, the tape's on the sidelines for this one, because it's just been more trouble than it's worth rating the doppelgangers. Essentially they share the statistical value of their original, with the exception of far greater malice.

I think Thing is typified by his heart, so a lousy bum like this shouldn't be any trouble. I guess it just depends on the time of day, really. If it's a quarter-to-twelve, I'm not sure, but if it's clobberin time, well, there you go...

The Pick: Thing (Champion Class?)

What went down...
So, having been ambushed by Sharon Ventura, Thing is surprised to notice a creepy little bald man staring at him through the window. No, it's not Brian Michael Bendis, it's the supposedly reformed FF villain -- Puppet Master!

Having rescued Alicia Masters from the clutches of the Skrulls [Fantastic Four #358], Thing was surprised to discover she had been abducted long before she supposedly married his teammate, the Human Torch, thus, she still loves Ben Grimm as whole heartedly as the day they each disappeared.

Puppet Master lambasts his one-time nemesis, demanding he recognise the feelings of his blind step-daughter. Just then, while the two argue in an alley, a horrible thing appears from nowhere! Though the Puppet Master tries to warn ol' blue eyes, he thinks it's a trick, suffering a sucker punch from his clone!

Thing is thrown into the alley by the punch, a dumpster providing a Neutonian means of halting.

Shaken but never stirred, the Thing picks the dumpster up, ramming it into the spikey, charging doppelganger sent by the Magus. The powerful demon bursts through the metal, following his intent to meet Grimm fist-to-fist.

The ever lovin' original gets in a few good licks, but he pushes his doppelganger back toward a fire escape. The evil shade does well to attack Ben Grimm's mental insecurities, while also assaulting the physical, ripping the iron fire escape to fashion it into a crude restraint!

His arms bound by his side, Thing can do nothing but take the thundering punch delivered by his spikey-self, thrown across the street toward an empty construction site!

The lumbering clone marches his way through the broken barricades as the true Thing gets to his feat, flexing his mighty rocky muscles to burst free of the twisted metal that holds him. Clear of innocent bystanders, he prepares a more severe assault on the monster that continues to taunt him with verbage and visage.

Claiming to be his physical superior, the doppelganger charges at Grimm like a medieval horseman, girder in hand. The blow slams Grimm against the steel architecture, but the shade's attempts to crush him are in vain!

The Thing bends the girder back, and follows it's momentum to charge at his doppelganger with a devestating right that sends it airborne!

Alas, it isn't enough to put the monster out of commission, placing him instead in arms reach of a mechanical earthmover! He hoists the massive machine above his head and brings it raining down atop the FF's muscle with such force, it breaks through the Earth down into the subway!

The Puppet Master and other innocent bystanders watch-on in horror as the machine and monsters come to land on the tracks! Thing does a little taunting of his own, prompting another head-on collission between the two superpowers.

Confined to a tight space, these two raging bulls are content to boil it all down to a one-on-one confrontation of fisticuffs. The monster reveals his plans, promising to defeat Ben Grimm and assume his identity, all part of the Magus' secret strategy of domination over the cosmos.

Watching on, the Puppet Master produces a clay maquette of the Thing, pondering his longtime desire to see him crushed.

As the doppelganger continues to hurl his psychological jabs, he reflects the Thing's own deep feelings for Alicia Masters.
The promise to bring pain to Alicia, and all the Thing cares for, is the final decider for Philip Masters; the Puppet Master!

Resculpting his maquette, he refashions the Thing as he is on this day, to what he once was. Having recreated the spikey doppelganger to the finest of details, he makes his empassioned declaration to defeat the evil shade.

Tossing his psychokinetic clay sculpt onto the tracks, it begins to sizzle and low as it hits the electrified rail of the subway train. Almost immediately Thing appears to gain the upperhand in the fight, summoning his own inner strengths in the name of the blind sculptress the two men share in common.

Mirroring the fate of the doll, the evil clone falls to the tracks, bursting into a flash of energy before disappearing in a smouldering mass of smoke, much to the shock of Puppet Master and Thing alike.

The hammer...
With the unlikely assist from the Puppet Master, it's a clean victory to Aunt Petuna's favourite blue-eyed nephew, the Thing!

Gah, I wish these scanned up better, because there are some great panels there, that certainly do not look like water-damaged wallpaper.
I don't know how widely recognised Paul Ryan is as an artists, and I've run afoul very little praise for Tom DeFalco, but if you ask me, this was a very fun period for the Fantastic Four.

I'm a by the numbers kinda guy. I like to think our format makes us a fun, unique, and easy to reference website, but this is one of those rare occasions when I wish we were one of those one-panel witicisms weblogs.

This issue really represents the culmination of the evil doppelgangers, concluding with a mass assembly of heroes at Four Freedom's Plaza, then home fo the FF.
Reed Richards and Iron Man ironically stand at the front of the assembly, eventually revealed by the likes of Wolverine and Daredevil, (as well as Invisible Woman via some special detecting technology), to be fakes.

In a scene that hilariously mirrors what eventuated in Civil War, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man are attacked, before the entire assemblage devolves into a massive brawl, hero-versus-hero. By issue's end Invisible Woman is able to show up to talk some sense into everyone, but not before the evil Mr. Fantastic clone reveals a gamma bomb hidden in the podium -- that he detonates!

We of course learn that the green explosion the issue ends with was actually contained by the unconfident Invisible Woman, and all is well for the Marvel Universe and it's multitude of assembled superheroes.

It's a scenario like this that is actually posed quite relevantly to the upcoming Secret Invasion story, built on the developing knowledge that there are Skrulls who have infiltrated the Marvel Universe, and are thus far undetected.

In a world of psychics, super-senses, and magic, it's tough to really sell this kind of scenario, and it's going to be up to Brian "Pluck-a-Duck*" Bendis and those involved to come up with a satisfactory answer. With the aftershock of House of M still ringing in Marvel fans ears, I think that layer of scrutiny and attention to detail is going to be especially harsh. Particularly off the back of comments from the writer, who laments the inspiration for the story comes from an apparently narrow reference of Skrull stories, where he wondered (as a child) why the Skrulls wouldn't disguise themselves as a loved one and stab you in your sleep.

The fact that this story, building from the Illuminati issue where the Illuminati confronts the Skrulls around the time of the Kree-Skrull war, places it over a written period of two decades of stories, you have to wonder whether or not Bendis will fall victim to his own questions. That's a long time to wait to stab someone in their sleep!

The Fight: 6 The Issue: 6

[As a checkpoint for recent Marvel history, this is definitely one of the most exciting reads. Crammed in here are B-storys revolving around character relationships, Wolverine infiltrating the FF HQ, and a big ass Thing brawl! Find me a current crossover tie-in that's bringing ALL THAT!]

* Not an actual nickname for Bendis.

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