Fantastic Four #29
The ending of our Fantastic Four’s battle with the Griever at the End of All Things last issue seemed to leave the FF homeless. Fortunately, when Reed decompresses the dimensionally collapsed 4 Yancy Street, the building itself and all of its contents return, mostly undamaged—except for all the pocket dimension rooms that Reed added to Ben’s place, and the entire contents of the Human Torch’s room! Johnny is distraught, as anyone would be, at the loss of his entire wardrobe and all his worldly possessions, until Sky offers to take him on a shopping trip as a date. This is the same Sky who has been royally ticked off at her “soulmate” for the last couple of issues and was fit to hand him over to Lyja the Skrull last ish. She’s done an awfully quick about-face here, going from that to wanting to bond with him in shopping therapy in a single afternoon. And meanwhile Sue—who tried to discourage this whole relationship back in that yarn about Johnny, Wyatt Wingfoot, and the Mole Man last year—is still not liking the look of it.
Johnny’s date with Sky unfolds like something out of a movie, or at least a Movie of the Week. He discovers how well she’s been getting on with the people in the neighborhood of Alicia’s studio where she’s been living. He learns how well she’s getting on with the birds in Manhattan. They go ice skating together and he discovers that she’s never had hot chocolate. (I don’t care what kind of advanced alien civilization she comes from, the girl is deprived.) All the while, we discover that new artist Ze Carlos is drawing Johnny with a bad hairstyle, and Sky continues to profess how their Spyre arm bands mean they are “in perfect sync, more so than any other two beings in existence.”
And then, just like something in a movie, something comes along and ruins it—or someone, I should say. For some reason, Sue reveals herself by knocking her head against her own invisible force field. How it is that the Invisible Woman doesn’t know the boundaries of her own energy projections is beyond me; I’ve never seen this happen with Sue before and it frankly doesn’t ring true to the character. At the same time as this happens, one of Sky’s bird friends also hits the force field, and that alone should have been the “tell” for Sue’s presence. Why did Slott write it this way? If I’d been the artist I would have seriously questioned this; Sue is in no way this clumsy with her own powers. But anyway, this is what tips Johnny and Sky off that Sue has been spying on their entire day together, and Johnny is justifiably not pleased.
Johnny angrily calls out his sister as never having snooped and spied on any of his past relationships, such as with Dorrie Evans and Crystal. And Sue admits that she’s never done it—that he knows of. Okay, this has now gone from clumsy to just plain creepy. Not only is there no precedent for Sue doing this with Johnny, but I sincerely hope that Sue for all these years has had the good taste not to be invisibly spying on Johnny while he was doing things with girls that a big sister should not see her brother doing! Otherwise…ICK! ICK! ICK!
We are for the moment spared any more of this uncomfortable tableau when the Marvel crisis du jour strikes. Suddenly it starts raining black gelatinous glop, and black dragons begin to pour from the sky all over the city. This is the latest Thing That Has Taken Over the Entire Published Output of Marvel Comics—the attack of Knull, the god of the Venom Symbiotes. Yes, Venom Symbiotes like the one from Spider-Man—those things. Faster than you can say, “Jim Shooter, this is your fault,” the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers, and X-Men have mobilized in New York City; the Forever Gate (which Franklin, Valeria, and Bentley Wittman have managed to seal off for now) is under siege; and characters are being inundated and enveloped in living black glop left and right. One of the victims is the Human Torch. Sky, through their “soulmate” bands, senses that the Torch still lives but is struggling. She and Sue have words about Sue’s unwillingness to believe in Sky’s relationship with Johnny—until, through their rapport, the takeover of Johnny by the Symbiotes also turns Sky into a Venom monster! Now the Invisible Woman must battle Sky and the Symbiotes to get back to Reed. The two of them manage to contact the Thing, who assures them that he is hurrying to their side. What Ben doesn’t mention is that he has been taken over and is also a Venom monster! Talk about a house divided… TO BE CONTINUED.
The thing with Sue is not the only bit of questionable characterization in this issue. There is also a moment with Reed that is a bit “off.” As they are heading into the battle, Reed shoots the 4 Flare to let Sue and Johnny know his and Ben’s coordinates, and mentions, “I call myself Mr. Fantastic. I’m not one for subtlety.” Hello—really? That doesn’t sound like Reed at all. The leader of the FF is not actually a showboat, even if his powers lend themselves to being one. We know from the stories of Mark Waid that Reed doesn’t actually like being called Mr. Fantastic; he chose that name purely for effect. The call signs of the Fantastic Four, like their public identities and their uniforms, are all part of a calculated plan on Reed’s part to make ordinary people see them as celebrities rather than as freaks to be feared. The whole thing was Reed’s way of making sure his family didn’t get the same treatment that the X-Men later got; it’s more of a “necessary evil” for Reed than something that he really enjoys. “Not one for subtlety,” indeed.
Do the Venom Symbiotes eat beards? If so, can we feed them the one that has taken over Reed Richards’s face, please?
Jo-Venn, the Kree boy, addresses Ben Grimm, his adoptive father, as “Commander.” That is a strangely endearing character touch.
Venom and the Symbiotes are, like Spider-Man and Wolverine, one of those cash cows that Marvel just loves to milk. They are the lasting legacy of the original Secret Wars, the brainstorm of former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. One of the big talking points of that saga was that it would work “changes” on all the heroes involved—namely, three of the Fantastic Four (Sue Richards was pregnant and sat this one out), Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Avengers and X-Men of that time. Of the participating heroes, it is the FF and Spidey that have felt the most lasting effects. Spider-Man came home with the original Black Costume, which was really one of the Symbiote creatures that are wreaking so much havoc now. That “costume” life-form became the basis for the grotesque Venom, which has repeatedly plagued the Webhead’s life since the late 1980s and has given rise to both Carnage and the Anti-Venom. Together they are some of the most nightmarishly raunchy antagonists in comics history. Meanwhile, it came out in later stories in The Fantastic Four that the Skrulls used the distraction of the disappearing heroes to abduct Alicia Masters and plant a spy in her place—Lyja, who assumed Alicia’s identity and made herself Johnny’s lover while Ben stayed on the Secret Wars Planet. Poor Johnny ended up marrying the bogus “Alicia” and then discovering whom and what he’d really married. The consequences of this have continued to haunt the lives of the Torch, the Thing, and Alicia to this day, and now Lyja has returned and has provoked a still-unexplained reaction of upset in Alicia and Ben’s Skrull ward, N’Kalla. Will we ever see the end of the fallout of The Secret Wars? Probably not. However, I for one look forward to seeing the end of this latest continuity-devouring Marvel “Event” and letting the Fantastic Four return to the business of their own adventures.
As for the art: Ze Carlos is a new artist to me, but he draws well enough (except for Johnny Storm’s hair). My main problem with him is the one I have with everyone who draws the FF these days; he makes the Thing too big and hulking (pardon the expression). This is another thing that we’ll probably never be rid of. His style is okay to look at and mostly free of cartoonish excesses and stylistic extremes. I just wonder how long he’s going to last. People drawing The Fantastic Four these days remind me of Dorothy’s remark about people in Oz: they “come and go so quickly.”
Marvel Comics, at its best, is about stories and characters. A couple of times every year, it seems, Marvel is about sprawling “Events” that take over the whole output of the company. This is the latest and will doubtless not be the last. But for now, at least, the Fantastic Four are up to their armpits in the black slime of Symbiotes.
Fantastic Four #29: “It’s Raining Venoms”
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
User Review( votes)