Fantastic Four #22
Returning to where we left off, Yancy Street is running green with Skrull blood because when N’Kalla the Skrull, in the shape of a tiger, had a strange reaction to Alicia Masters and came bounding towards her, a certain claw-happy Canadian leapt into her path and ran her through. Now Jo-Venn, the Kree boy, is upset at the possible loss of his lifelong sparring partner and wants to skin Wolverine down to his Adamantium bones. (One: I wish he could. Two: With Stabby McStabface’s regeneration powers, it wouldn’t do any good.) And Spider-Man’s reaction to The Human Torch’s relationship with Sky of the planet Spyre is priceless. We can imagine the next time the Match-Head sees the Webhead, Johnny is going to hear about this!
All of the above, however, must be put on hold when 4 Yancy Street is set upon by the Dark Harvest, the warrior sub-sect of the Priests of Pama, who I always thought were pacifists (except for self-defense). Well, the ensuing melee gives Wolverine plenty of reason to go slashing and stabbing left and right, and leaves Sky incapacitated by poisonous thorns deployed by the priests. The Dark Harvest wants to abduct Jo-Venn. They start by probing his mind about the previous Kree-Skrull war from The Avengers #89-97 and learn that during that conflict, the Skrulls blackmailed Captain Marvel I into building an Omni-Wave Projector, a weapon that can “send thoughts or destroy minds across the Cosmos!”
The Harvest breaks into 4 Yancy Street, where Franklin and Valeria have taken N’Kalla to have her wounds treated. They mean to abduct the girl as well, but they run up against two formidable obstacles: The Ghost Rider and the Grey Hulk, who once teamed up with Spider-Man and Wolverine as an ersatz “Fantastic Four.” Faced with this new opposition, the pernicious priests decide to retreat with just Jo-Venn as their captive, shooting Wolverine full of the same poisonous thorns with which they took down Sky. Alas, even extraterrestrial toxins cannot snuff old “Canuckles,” as Spider-Man calls him, but at least the Dark Harvest has been seen off—by illusions of The Ghost Rider and the Grey Hulk, cast by Valeria with an image inducer and reinforced by Franklin’s powers simulating the impact of the Grey Hulk’s fists. Nice one, kids.
What follows is a scene even more pleasing than Spider-Man’s reaction to Sky. Franklin, not at all intimidated by Edward Talon Hands, tells him to his face that as a backup for The FF he is “not cutting it.” (So to speak.) He reinforces this critique with a super-energized fist across Wolverine’s jaw. Yes, Franklin Richards, son of Mr. Fantastic, slugs Wolverine in the face! Well, that just made the whole issue for me.
Finally, the Richards kids have an interstellar consult with their father (and I only wish they’d tell Reed, “Dad, will you PLEASE get a shave and a haircut?”), who gives them a pep talk and has The FF’s costume fabricator create current Fantastic Four-style costumes for Spidey and Stabby. Their mission is now to rescue Jo-Venn and thwart whatever the decidedly militant Priests of Pama are up to.
A perpetually bearded Mr. Fantastic, and Wolverine running around in a Fantastic Four uniform. Thankfully, I only have to put up with one of these things for one more issue.
This issue was a brisk read and had its share of very entertaining moments, though for the time being we’re not learning any more about N’Kalla’s curious reaction to Alicia. It does make one wonder just how long the Priests of Pama have been training warriors, and just what motivated their creation of the Dark Harvest, who have obviously been around for a good long time before the current saga of Empyre in which the Cotati are attacking Earth. And just why are the Priests helping the Cotati try to wipe out mankind? Do they think they will somehow be exempt from the alien plant beings’ wrath? We know from the Empyre miniseries that the formerly completely peaceful Cotati have become dangerous because of the human element that has been introduced into them by Sequoia and The Swordsman. So how did the Priests, who trained Mantis in combat skills but were never really dangerous, come by these new villainous tendencies? We’re left to assume that they’ve become bad guys because it suits the Cotati’s purposes. So what happens when the Priests are no longer of any use to the Cotati…?
As for the art this issue, it compares favorably with the recent standard of the artists who have been drawing the current Fantastic Four series: neither better nor worse, but consistent with what we’ve been getting. What was really gratifying to see was that in this issue of The FF (as in all Marvel mags for the week of August 5), there was a full-page tribute to the late Joe Sinnott, who was one of the finest artists and nicest people in all of comics. Joe inked all of Jack Kirby’s most important work on The Fantastic Four and was present for more than half of the historic Stan Lee/Jack Kirby collaboration on Marvel’s original title. In his long career, Joe would work on far more issues of The FF than anyone else including Stan and Jack, and it would be his style as much as Kirby’s that defined the look of this series. The World Encyclopedia of Comics called Kirby and Sinnott’s Fantastic Four “a showcase of graphic excellence,” and I was honored to call Joe my friend. He did excellent work, true, and he was an excellent guy.
Well, we have one more FF issue to tie in with Empyre, and from the looks of things it’s going to be very eventful. How will the Priests of Pama use Jo-Venn to get their hands on the technology of the Omni-Wave Projector, and how will Franklin and Valeria, with an assist from Spider-Man and Wolverine, shut them down? And how will it play into the finale of the Empyre saga? One thing’s for sure: the Richards kids, after this, will have a new reason for not liking their vegetables.
Fantastic Four #22: NOT the New Fantastic Four!
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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