Fantastic Four #25
Fantastic Four #25 has everything in it but the kitchen sink—and trust me, I looked for the kitchen sink. So let’s get started on this incredible ish…
Nick Fury—that is, the son of Nick Fury who was designed to look like Samuel L. Jackson so that movie-goers who don’t pay attention to comic books will have a familiar Fury to read about—gives Sue Richards another spy assignment. (Remember the Invisible Woman Miniseries?) There have been break-ins at secure locations all over the world with secured lock-boxes smashed open by a superhuman intruder or intruders. The predicted next target is inside the Latverian Embassy in Manhattan. Fury wants Sue to go and investigate. Who better to send to sneak into Dr. Doom’s embassy than The Invisible Woman—on whom the Monarch of Evil has sworn “eternal revenge” since she cloaked him from the waist up with the whole world watching?
Franklin, as moody as ever, is immersing himself in mutant culture, still not suspecting what Professor X did to his father at the end of the recent X-Men/Fantastic Four Miniseries (as we discussed in our review of FF #24.) Ben and Alicia are preparing Jo-Venn and N’Kalla to start the fourth grade—until they realize that the bellicose Kree boy and the metamorphic Skrull girl will be better off home-schooled. And when Sue enters the Latverian Embassy, she finds both Dr. Doom and Victorious on the premises. (It couldn’t be easy, right?) Before anything can happen, though, something happens. A huge alien comes bursting in, looking for what’s hidden in the lock-box behind the portrait of young Victor Von Doom and his mother. Doom is completely unsurprised by this creature; he’s expected the alien to appear. He casually blows up the box before the alien can claim what’s inside it. The alien, under the instructions of his master—“The Helmsman,” who calls this being “The Cormorant”—leaves to find his next target. Before Victorious can attack Sue, Doom calls off the battle—and Sue calls her husband. Faster than you can say “cosmic super-battle,” The Fantastic Four is mobilized and Reed has Franklin come along. Their destination: would you believe the Baxter Building?
The Cormorant is making a beeline for The FF’s former residence, now occupied solely by another super-powered foursome, The Fantastix. Reed’s warning to The Fantastix to high-tail it out of there comes too late. At the command of The Helmsman, The Cormorant totally levels the Baxter. (And remember, this is the second Baxter Building; Dr. Doom II destroyed the first one in FF #278-79.) What the alien is seeking is in “a sub-sub-sub basement” of what had been the first Baxter Building. Reed has been hiding it there since right after the first coming of Galactus. He calls it “Container Zero.”
Immediately The Fantastic Four, Franklin, Dr. Doom, and Victorious gird themselves for battle with The Cormorant, who is strong enough to punch The Thing and send him flying for several blocks. Reed sics Franklin on The Cormorant, and the lad brings the full measure of his universe-creating super-cosmic powers to bear—accomplishing nothing but impressing the alien. Only a hastily projected force field from Sue saves the now totally powerless Franklin, who has completely burned out his remaining powers in the attack, from The Cormorant’s retaliation. As The Cormorant continues to shrug off the combined attacks of The FF, Dr. Doom, Victorious, and The Fantastix (who survived the leveling of the Baxter thanks to some emergency dimensional-pocket safeguards that Reed installed), Valeria fires up her new teleporting system and heads out to help the family, taking Jo-Venn and N’Kalla with her—over Alicia’s protests. Meanwhile, Franklin goes to the space portal to Krakoa, thinking he can bring over a team of X-Men for a cavalry charge, only to find the portal no longer works for him. (Sorry, kid, mutants with active powers only.)
The battle having been futile, Reed resorts to pleading with The Cormorant not to open Container Zero. Even when Sue cloaks the container and reveals that what The Helmsman is seeking isn’t in there, The Cormorant opens it anyway—and unleashes what Reed has been hiding ever since Galactus came the first time. It is “the Zero Force,” the energy that causes the end of one universe and the start of the next! If this force cannot be contained, it will scrub away the entire cosmos and replace it with another! It’s almost the end of the universe—until Valeria shows up with her new teleport device and drops it right into the Zero Force. The teleporter reconfigures itself to use the emerging energy as its power source, creating a “Forever Gate” that can be used to reach any and all points in space and time—sitting right out in the open in lower Manhattan!
Finding themselves way over their heads in a situation that only The Fantastic Four can handle, The Fantastix vacate the premises when Reed reclaims the site of the Baxter Building. Dr. Doom leaves Victorious in Manhattan as the new Latverian Ambassador. The FF begin to take shifts guarding the Forever Gate. Reed and Sue have an honest talk about the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other. (It seems Reed knew about Sue working for Fury all along, just as Sue has known for some time about “The Illuminati.”) And Franklin, shorn of his powers, sinks into a depression such as only a teenager can experience. All of which leaves The Fantastic Four in a precarious and very, very interesting spot, and leaves all good FF fans knowing this is a good time to be reading this mag.
Meanwhile on the Moon, a situation that I tried to tell you about in my review of Fantastic Four Empyre Fallout, which was redacted from my text. The entity known as “The Unseen,” who stood and watched the unfolding outcome of Empyre, is really Nick Fury—the actual, Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Nick Fury, not a clone of a movie character. Just then, out of the stolen cosmic eye of The Unseen came The Watcher—our Watcher, whom we first met in Fantastic Four #13, whose eye Fury has been using since he murdered The Watcher. In an epilogue drawn by Paco Medina, The Watcher regenerates himself and wants to catch up on everything that’s been happening since Fury murdered him. He reconstructs his home and plays back all of Fury’s memories from that point. He learns about the ancient weapons that the Cotati were using, which were not meant for mortals to possess. Rather than punishing Fury, The Watcher changes him from “The Unseen” into his new cosmic foot-soldier, who will be called upon to do whatever The Watcher requires him to do in an upheaval that The Watcher refers to only as a “reckoning.” And I “reckon” we’ll be hearing a lot more about that in the months to come.
FF #25 is easily the most eventful issue in the current Fantastic Four series. It features Earth’s greatest heroes sporting a smart-looking new uniform that recalls the original Jack Kirby design. (And long may they wear it; they’re looking fine.) It’s all drawn in a very winning style by new artist R.B. Silva, who is the best FF artist of the current series since Aaron Kuder (who I wish could have been permanent). Everyone looks good—except Reed with that damn beard. In one panel, I swear Reed looks as if he wants to snatch some little boy’s tuppence instead of letting him feed the birds. He looks as if he should be doddering around with a cane, calling people “Sonny” and “Whippersnapper.” Please, for the love of humanity, can we get Mr. Fantastic a good, close shave?
Silva has also taken some liberties with Dr. Doom’s armor that I am not sure are for the good. Doom comes off looking a bit robotic this issue. It would have been nice to see a more classical-looking Doom appearing in this story with a more classical-looking Fantastic Four (except for the annoying beard on Reed). But otherwise we should hope Silva sticks around and gives us a chance to see him grow into this book and his style evolve. All things considered, it’s an attractive looking start to a new cycle of FF adventures.
I have my suspicions about who The Helmsman is, but they may be a red herring, so I’ll keep them to myself—for now. Whatever it is he’s sent The Cormorant to Earth to find, it isn’t the Zero Force. However, the unlocking of the Zero Force has in a rather literal way opened a new Pandora’s Box for our heroes. It’s been a while since there was an ongoing superhuman or cosmic challenge to make The Fantastic Four’s lives interesting, something on the order of the discovery of the Inhumans or the Negative Zone; perhaps the Forever Gate will be it.
It’s interesting to note that Container Zero had been there since the interval between Fantastic Four #50 and 51. Judging by the dialogue, that had to have been when Reed discovered it, meaning it was there during the time when Johnny was starting as a freshman at Metro College, right before the Changeling, using the body of The Thing, arrived to sabotage Reed’s work and murder him. The discovery of the Zero Force may have been one of the steps towards Reed’s opening of sub-space, which led to the Negative Zone. So it was down there under the original Baxter Building halfway through the original Lee/Kirby collaboration, and it was still there when the original Baxter was destroyed, and when Four Freedoms Plaza was put up, and when Noah Baxter lowered the new Baxter (a facsimile of the first one) from orbit, and all this time Reed said nothing about it. This is the latest example of Reed making unilateral decisions and not telling the rest of The FF, and it’s something that always turns around and bites him. You’d think Marvel’s most brilliant hero would learn not to do that. Perhaps this storyline will be his lesson at last.
On one of my Facebook Groups, people like to complain about the way Franklin has been behaving lately. They seem to think he’s a brat. Well, he’s not; he’s a teenager, and his conduct in current stories is consistent with the way teenagers are. Franklin, since the attrition of his powers began, has been wrestling with insecurities in a way that only teenagers can. His issues with his powers go to the heart of his feelings about himself, his place in his family, and his role in The Fantastic Four. His dyeing his hair is an example of a kid trying to create a distinct identity for himself. Teenage boys go through this kind of thing. Franklin’s godlike powers, up to now, have made him special. Without them, he feels overshadowed by everyone. The rest of his family all have powers, except his little sister, who’s being written as being as smart as their father. (This is something that I wish they hadn’t started. I know we’re living in a time when everything is about “diversity” and “representation,” and “female empowerment” is one of the big trends now, but Valeria is a child and I wish they hadn’t started this business of her supposedly being the intellectual equal of her adult father who builds faster-than-light starships and discovers Negative Zones and Zero Forces. Yes, it gives them the chance to say, “Oh look, we’ve empowered a girl and made her a major player in her own right!” But it insinuates that the leader of The Fantastic Four is not the character he was created to be, and it blows up a child to greater-than-child-like proportions. This, in my opinion, is a bad idea, and I hope there will be some story in the future to establish that Valeria’s maturity is not yet the equal of her mentality.) Anyway, Franklin’s struggle for his place and his identity is going to be one of the more interesting stories to watch in The FF’s immediate future. I look forward to seeing where it takes him.
Victorious is now staying in New York—where The Human Torch’s “soulmate,” Sky, is also residing at Alicia’s studio. What do you want to bet that Johnny Storm’s life is about to get a little more complicated?
Anyway, as noted, there is a lot going on in Fantastic Four #25, and it lays the groundwork for what I hope will be a period of stories that will be truly fun to read. The most interesting time to be reading The Fantastic Four since the tenure of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo is right now.
So what is The Helmsman looking for anyway, and when he finds it, what will he do with it? And if neither Reed nor Dr. Doom has it, who does? And what will The FF do about the Forever Gate? These questions and many others might be answered in the next issue of The Fantastic Four.
Fantastic Four #25: Everything Happens at Once
Writing - 9.5/10
Storyline - 9/10
Art - 9/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 8.75/10
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