Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Fantastic Englehart part 2 - Fantastic Voyages

Fantastic Four Omnibus, Vol. 1
Even though the X-Men have been Marvel's big meal ticket for decades, the Fantastic Four was always the flagship book..  In 1987, Steve Englehart was tasked with dragging the Fantastic Four out of the hole it was in.  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.

313 - The Fantastic Four go to Project Pegasus to access a tunnel to reach the Mole Man's realm and ask the Mole Man's help in restoring Sharon to normal.

Englehart continues to shake things up.  The Thing and Mole Man seemed to be forming a friendship before the Lava Men snatched the Mole Man.  Things also seemed to be heating up between the Torch and Crystal.

This Fantastic Four's treatment of the Mole Man was a nice contrast with the way the old version treated him.  Progress, prepare to be reversed!

314 - While exploring the Mole Man's realm, the Fantatic Four battle Belasco, wind up in the city of the cat people, and fall into Master Pandemonium's clutches!

The tradition of the Fantastic Four being explorers continues in this issue.  The Fantastic Four discover teleportation gates below ground and do quite a bit of exploring.  Sharon comes a long way toward accepting her status as the She-Thing and Johnny continues wrestling with his feelings toward Crystal.

315 - The FF battle Master Pandemonium and his demon horde, then join forces with him to find a way back to earth.

Englehart picks up more threads from The Thing's tenure on the West Coast Avengers in this one.  I'd forgotten all about the short-lived Comet Man series and I guess we'll be seeing more of the Comet Men next issue.

Johnny checking out Crystal's ass in the FF uniform was probably my favorite moment of the issue.  No way that marriage was going to survive if Marvel hadn't taken the wheels out from under Stupendous Steve.

316 - The Fantastic Four are back from Arcturus IV with Master Pandamonium and the Comet Men and battle a horde of ice men at the south pole.

I'm pretty sure Johnny's marriage is a sham and both Crystal and Sharon don't care for Alicia after she's pawing the Thing.  It appears that the Beyonder is responsible for a lot of things in the past couple issues.  Let's hope he's ditched the leisure suit.

Note: I'd forgotten how many editor's notes they stuck in issues back in the day to keep people up to speed- Dangerous Dan.

317 - An AIM agent reveals what they were doing at the south pole.  Ben and Sharon are getting closer while Crystal seems to be pulling away from the rest of the group.

The Fantastic Four go up against the builders of the Savage Land.  Despite my interest in the Marvel universe's early contact with aliens, I'm ready for this outer space storyline to be over. since the Fantastic Four seem to be spectators, for the most part.  Fortunately, a trip to the Negative Zone is coming up soon.
Annual 21 - While taking a breather before heading into the Negative Zone, the Fantastic Four are summoned to the Inhuman's city on the moon.  Quicksilver wants Crystal back!  But the Fantastic Four aren't the only ones headed to the moon.  The High Evolutionary wants the Terrigen Mists...

This was probably meant to be Crystal returning to the fold.  Unfortunately, this is probably when things really started going off the rails as Crystal gets back with Quicksilver.  Also, this is one of many examples of crossovers being done for crossovers' sake, in this case The Evolutionary War "event."

318 - Doctor Doom leaves the Molecule Man for dead and goes into the Negative Zone with the three remaining members of The Fantastic Four to find The Beyonder!

This was the issue that made me want to subscribe to the Fantastic Four in the first place when I got it for my birthday one year.  Doom takes out the Molecule Man and Blastaar single-handedly.

Fun fact: When Doom rings Alicia's doorbell, one of the other apartments belonged to Jim Shooter, who was recently evicted.

319 - The Fantastic Four go beyond the Negative Zone to the Crossroads of Infinity and wind up in a universe full of Celestials.  Meanwhile, the Molecule Man comes looking for Doom!

Molecule Man, Volcana, Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds show up to help against The Beyonder.  At least he wasn't wearing his leisure suit. He and the Molecule Man fusing into a new Cosmic Cube was pretty cool.

The Torch continues agonizing about Crystal.  I'm wondering if Englehart planned on bringing her back despite what happened with the Inhumans on the moon.

320 - The recently mutated Thing goes up against The Hulk!

Doctor Doom tricks the Grey Hulk into going up against the spikey Thing and Ben finally pulls off a victory!

Crystal's face is still in the rectangle on the corner, a reminder of what might have been. Each issue I read just pisses me off.  This "Illusion of Change" bullshit has been ruining comics since the 1970's,

On a side note, it's really weird with The Thing and Ms. Marvel kiss.

321 - Ms. Marvel battles She-Hulk!  Cat fight!

Aron, the Rogue Watcher, makes his first appearance here and Dragon Man shows up as well to battle She Hulk and Ms. Marvel after things cool down between them.  Johnny continues to moon over Crystal.

Apparently a crucial Hulk issue happened between Fantastic Four 320 and 321, once again showing that crossovers are asshole marketing moves.

Part two comes to a close, as does any innovation Steve Englehart was planning.  Part three will finish things off as Marvel hits the panic button.

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