Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Fourth Member--A Numbers Game, Part I

Well, it's been awhile.

When last we checked it with the ever-revolving, ever-failing membership of the Frightful Four, it was 1980. After turning up, of all places, in Amazing Spider-Man to take on Spidey and Namor (?) the following year, the Frightful Four weren't heard from again until 1989. Oh, all of the individual members had turned up hither and yon, but as a team, out of sight, out of mind.

So after picking a mysterious female who later betrayed them; a brainwashed Spider-Man; another mysterious female who betrayed them; trying as a trio; having a public try-out and ending up with an evil alternate version of Reed Richards; teaming up with an established villain of another hero and failing; and AGAIN teaming up with an established villain of another hero (and failing again)...after all that, what will the Wizard do for a fourth member?

Why, he'd shuffle the deck, of course!!

But first, let's take a look at the contemporary Fantastic Four, which is in something of a state of flux:

Yeah, they were kind of the Fantastic Three at this point.

Ben had been exposed to more cosmic rays, which further mutated him. His gal pal, Sharon Ventura, aka Ms. Marvel, was also exposed, and became She-Thing. Johnny, currently married to Alicia (but before she was a Skrull), is trapped in a permanent state of "nova-flame" thanks to the events of the x-over event Inferno. Crystal had been hanging, but she left at the royal command of Black Bolt to come home and spend time with her family.

Reed and Sue, meanwhile, had left the team to spend more time as a family...and promptly joined the Avengers for about 5 minutes. But Reed has come to see if he can help Johnny, and Sue's there for moral support, so it's sorta kinda the Fantastic Five at this point.

This is one of my least favorite eras of the FF. Marvel editors were forcing Steve Englehart to bring the classic FF back together (and it's hard to blame them, given the quality stories in this run, if you want my opinion), so as a protest he wrote the last 8 issues of his run under the pseudonym "John Harkness." Fortunately for everyone, Walt Simonson was right around the corner...

But back to the Frightful Four. The Wizard has taken over the Baxter Building's security systems with a computer virus, and he's come up with a theory as to why they always lose:

Yes, that's the ticket. Dump the old losers--Sandman's busy trying to reform, anyway, and the Trapster is the definition of pathetic.

So let's go with three other losers!! Klaw, Hydroman (a weak copy of Sandman anyway), and Titania. And they seem like they'll blend so well as a team, too:

Well, Reed is hooking up Johnny in a super-scientific doodad to cure him, but it's crucial that the process not be interrupted:

Which means that, if you're evil, it's the perfect time to strike!

But some things never change...

And you really don't want to piss of the Invisible Woman:

Yuck. I see why you went with the pseudonym, Steve.

Meanwhile, Benjy is stronger than ever...

But Klaw's sound elephant tosses him the wrong place at the wrong time, and...

Ohs, no!!

So they've (accidentally) taken out the FF's strongest member. Is this the time that the Frightful Four finally triumphs?!?

Tune in later today for the answer...

All panels from Fantastic Four #326 (1989)

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