Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Fantastic Englehart part 1 - Let's Shake Things Up

Fantastic Four Omnibus, Vol. 1
The Fantastic Four's origin has always made changing things difficult.  In 1987, Steve Englehart was charged with bringing the Fantastic Four back from stagnation.  He was making great strides until being hamstrung by Marvel.  In this series of posts, I'll explore the run that could have been groundbreaking if allowed to continue as it had originally been intended.

304 – Fresh from Johnny Storm marrying Alicia Masters, The Thing is back in the fold and Reed Richards wants him to lead the team so he and Sue can be proper parents to young Franklin. However, Quicksilver kidnaps Alicia and the Fantastic Four have to get her back!

It took balls for Steve Englehart to mix up the Fantastic Four like he did.  Reed and Sue leaving?  Sue left the team a couple times, being replaced by Medusa or Crystal, but the two of them leaving to be responsible parents made a lot of sense and seemed like a logical progression.

This issue is mostly Englehart getting his pieces on the board.  I find it crazy that the Fantastic Four has padded cells in the Baxter Building for the likes of Kristoff and later Quicksilver.

305 – The Thing is trying to figure out who he'll replace Reed and Sue with when Crystal of the Inhumans shows up to attend to her captured estranged husband, Quicksilver.

With Crystal joining, only one slot needs to be filled before Reed and Sue can sail off into the sunset with Franklin.  Johnny married to Ben's ex and having his own ex-girlfriend on the team is a nice setup for conflicts down the road, showing that Englehart was planning for the long haul.

Doctor Doom showing up at the end leads directly into Annual 20.

Annual 20 - Doctor Doom kidnaps Franklin Richards to rescue his mother's soul from Mephisto.  While the FF go looking for him, Kristoff escapes and makes his way back to Latveria.

Things go pear shaped when the FF and Kristoff show up, ruining what Doom and Mephisto have going on.  Johnny and Crystal get a little closer and Reed actually seems to care about Franklin for once.

Fun fact:  Doctor Doom eventually went on to free his mother's soul with the help of Doctor Strange in Triumph and Torment - Doctor Dan.

306 - Sharon Ventura, aka Ms. Marvel, joins the team and Diablo attacks!

The missing piece is finally on the board when Ms. Marvel joins the team.  Aside from her appearances in Englehart's run, I'm unfamiliar with her.  Ms. Marvel and her rape trauma gave Englehart more to work with for future stories.  The even male to female ratio was pretty novel for its time.
Not only that, Sharon proves her worthiness by handing Diablo's ass to him.

I haven't mentioned it yet but John Buscema and Joe Sinnott on art give this run a very Kirby-ish vibe to it.

307 - Reed and Sue finally ride off into the sunset with Franklin. Diablo recovers and seeks vengeance on the Fantastic Four!

The bickering begins as the new Fantastic Four battles Diablo and Sue and Reed force themselves not to get involved.  The Fantastic Four pull things together eventually.

With each passing issue, I mourn the fact that Marvel made Englehart hit the reset button.  It's not like he was killing anyone off.

308 - The new Fantastic Four battles Fasaud, a man who exists as a living two dimensional television image and adjusts to life without Reed and Sue.

Ms. Marvel's rape trauma nearly gets Johnny killed and Johnny and Crystal are learning to co-exist.  I have to think Englehart was planning on Crystal coming between Johnny and Alicia at some point.  Fasaud, a Saudi prince, makes an oddly prescient villain.

Whose idea was it to have Johnny and Alicia get married anyway? Or Crystal marrying Quicksilver, for that matter.

309 - The Fantastic Four battle Fasaud again and Johnny has an awkward brunch with Crystal and Alicia.

Here comes the wedge!  Crystal and Johnny fit way better than Johnny and Alicia.  That was one awkward brunch.

The super action was good in this one with Ms. Marvel and the Thing functioning well as a team.  Seeing Ms. Marvel wearing Muslim garb was interesting.  I wonder how well that would have flown today.

310 - Fasaud and his allies plan to use a satellite to increase Fasaud's power.  Meanwhile, Johnny and Crystal are getting a little too cozy for Alicia.  Can the Fantastic Four keep it together long enough to destroy the satellite?

The tension between Johnny, Crystal, and Alicia increases.  Ben and Sharon end the threat of Fasaud and have a tender moment but pass through a cosmic storm.  Ben mutates into a spiky version of the Thing and Sharon becomes She-Thing.

Marvel wanted the Fantastic Four revitalized.  That's exactly what Englehart has done here.  Too bad they wanted revitalization while maintaining the status quo.

311 - Sharon flips out after becoming She-Thing and tries to kill herself. Crystal looks for solace in the arms of another man.

Ben and Sharon wind up in Wakanda and chat with the Black Panther after a battle with a robot and encounter Doctor Doom.

Doctor Doom was surprisingly sympathetic to Sharon and was willing to work with the Black Panther.  I'm wondering what Englehart had in mind for Doom at this stage of the game.

312 - The Fantastic Four are reunited. When a battle breaks out at a parade, The Fantastic Four team with Doctor Doom, the Black Panther, and X-Factor against Kristoff's goons.

Doom shows his true colors and holds Beast and Sharon hostage.  Sharon's character continues to develop.  I have to think Englehart chose her because she had the least amount of history and the most potential for growth.

Seeds for future stories with the Black Panther and Doctor Doom are planted.  Too bad things eventually get derailed.

That's it for part 1.  Things are really getting interesting.  Stay tuned for part 2, leading off with an encounter with the Mole Man!

No comments:

Post a Comment