Fantastic Four Wedding Special #1
The last time Alicia Masters got married, it was to the Human Torch—or so we thought. That story was later undone by having “Alicia” turn out to be really Lyja the Skrull, swapped for the real Ms. Masters towards future villainy by those sinister aliens. This time Marvel has promised us that the wedding of Alicia to Ben Grimm, the Thing, is real. But first, there is the matter of Alicia’s bachelorette party, which thus brings us to The Fantastic Four Wedding Special.
Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman; some of Alicia’s artist friends; and some other heroines close to the Fantastic Four family are taking our celebrated sculptress out for one last night of fun as a single woman. As they’re on their way out, the Thing appeals to Sue to bring Alicia home safely. Being Ben Grimm’s girlfriend has put Alicia in some perilous situations in the past, such as in Fantastic Four #65-67 when she was spirited away to the Beehive to learn the secret of Him, and FF #256 when our heroes leapt back to Earth from the Negative Zone to find that Alicia and Franklin had been beaten nearly to death by Annihilus. Sue promises Ben that his fiancee will return to him unharmed—which will be easier said than done, considering the mysterious figure who’s ruminating bitterly over the Masters-Grimm wedding. She seems more than a little fixated on the FF’s first villain, the Mole Man, and vows that no such wedding will occur.
A limousine arrives with Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk), Medusa, and Crystal; these latter two both being ex-lovers of the Human Torch who claim to the decidedly uncomfortable Johnny Storm that he is not the best they’ve ever had. (As a personal aside, I can imagine Black Bolt being a better partner for Medusa than the Torch was, but I cannot fathom Quicksilver being better than Johnny for Crystal; I never understood what she saw in Quicksilver and I thought the breakup of the Torch and Crystal was a colossal mistake. But that’s just me.) The limo driver is a Latverian named Liosk. Make a note of him for later.
The other gals escort Crystal to a club of the Magic Mike variety whose theme is super-heroes—a delightful idea that is one of the things for which writer Gail Simone is to be commended. As the festivities get under way, we learn the curious fact that Crystal seems to get intoxicated with just the taste of anything alcoholic. As a hunky stripper named Antone assists Crystal in removing his Iron Man-like armor a piece at a time (yes, his name is Antone, a form of “Anthony,” and what is Iron Man’s real name?), suddenly into the club from underground bursts a giant drill, a horde of Subterraneans, and…The Mole Woman? Would you believe the bachelorette party is being crashed by Kala, Queen of the Netherworld? No, seriously; Kala, who rejected the Mole Man in favor of the handsome and sexy subterranean villain Tyrannus, is now obsessed with winning the Mole Man’s affections because he dumped her after she pretended to want him, to use him to gain more power. Her vanity and pride wounded, Kala wants Alicia destroyed because she is in love with one of the Mole Man’s enemies. This is one twisted sister.
The melee between Kala and the heroines comes to an abrupt end when the melancholy Mole Man himself appears--not at all intent on doing harm, as he was when we last saw him the other week in Marvel 2-in-One #12--and breaks it up and tells Kala that her obsession with him does not impress her. Kala, stung by the Mole Man’s indifference, goes slinking back into the bowels of the Earth, while the Mole Man, regretting Kala’s assault on what was meant to be Alicia’s happy night, presents Ms. Masters with a parting gift: a bag of huge diamonds, presumably from the Valley of the Diamonds which we saw all the way back in Fantastic Four #1!
Now, remember Liosk, the limousine driver from Latveria? Given that the blind Alicia cannot fully appreciate the appeal of male exotic dancers, she decides that Liosk—who is working on the night of his 30th wedding anniversary—should be the one to get the party. Accordingly, Sue, Alicia, and the other heroines take Liosk and his wife out for a romantic night all over Manhattan, which is a lovely thing to do for a man who comes from the country ruled by Dr. Doom!
The next story, written by Dan Slott, spotlights the Thing, who takes a ride out to Ryker’s Island for a fateful purpose: to visit the imprisoned Puppet Master—and ask for his blessings on the marriage of his stepdaughter and Ben Grimm. This is no small thing for Ben to ask, considering that the recurring battle between Phillip Masters and the Fantastic Four goes all the way back to Alicia’s intro story in Fantastic Four #8! The shackled super-villain hears Ben’s entreaty for his blessing and—to Ben’s utter shock, approves the union and even calls the Thing “Son”! Ben rushes home and gives Alicia the good news, and our couple is happy that the wedding really is a “go”. Could the Puppet Master’s enthusiastic acceptance of their union have anything to do with the radioactive clay puppet of her stepfather that Alicia is hiding in her smock? Who would have thought sweet Alicia Masters was really such a sly one? Good for you, Alicia!
The final story in the issue, by my old friend, super-hero humorist Fred Hembeck, is a rundown of Alicia’s history, narrated by the Puppet Master, and serves as a little crash course about the blind sculptress’s past, her relationship with Ben Grimm and the Fantastic Four, and the enmity between Phillip Masters and the FF. Hembeck finally turns it into a joke about the Puppet Master’s refusal to give Alicia away or pay for the wedding. It’s Hembeck’s usual funny stuff.
It was The Fantastic Four, in the 1965 Annual of the series, that began the tradition of super-hero weddings being crashed by super-villains. This Special neatly subverts that classic trope by having the villain—or the villainess—crash not the wedding but the bachelorette party. The Special in its entirety does another neat—and very fitting—thing by turning the spotlight on a supporting character. This supporting character, Alicia, happens to be the bride, and since the wedding is all about her, it’s only right that all the stories in the Special are about her. Alicia Reiss Masters, stepdaughter of the super-villain Puppet Master, is one of Marvel’s oldest and most enduring supporting players. She has seen the Fantastic Four through virtually every triumph and tragedy of the team’s history, and her love for Ben Grimm has weathered danger, separation, estrangement, and abduction by Skrulls to get to this point. Alicia has been a part of the extended Fantastic Four family from the beginning, and now she’s officially becoming a part of the family by marriage, it’s high time to celebrate her. This Special does exactly that while serving up a proper little Fantastic Four adventure. Writer Gail Simone in particular, with her script for the main story, is to be commended for her knowledge of the FF and the skill with which she’s used it. But really…that Kala needs some major therapy. That gal who rules a domain beneath the Earth has ended up with gravel for brains!
Illustrator Laura Braga seems to have the same problem that artist Sara Pichelli has drawing the Thing and the Human Torch, who fortunately get only brief scenes here. Braga does a much better job with everything else in the main story than with the Torch and the Thing. Mark Buckingham on the second story draws a much better Thing, and of course Fred Hembeck’s art is in his familiar, affectionately cartoonish style that has endeared him to generations of fans. The best art for this Special turns out to be the variant cover by Mike McKone, a beautiful wedding portrait by an artist whom I really wish could be lured back to draw the main Fantastic Four book—in whose next issue the wedding takes place. We’ll see that the day after Christmas.
Just about everything is now in place except for the Thing’s bachelor party, which I surmise we’ll be seeing in Fantastic Four #5 along with the nuptials themselves. Much as I’m looking forward to the wedding and everything surrounding it (a bachelor party thrown by the Human Torch—what could possibly go wrong there?), I’m even more intrigued with what will immediately follow: the return of Dr. Doom and a battle between the Monarch of Evil and—Galactus! I’m very interested to know what that’s all about and what’s going to come of it!
Fantastic Four Wedding Special: The Marriage, the Mayhem, and the Moles
Writing - 9.5/10
Storyline - 9.5/10
Art - 8.5/10
Color - 9/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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