“You’re lost buddy. And you’re lost from your family, who needs you at the moment.”
Guest-starring Spider-Man, in a story I like to call “A Tale of Two Man-Boys. . .”
PENCILS: Leonard Kirk
INKS: Karl Kesel
COLORS: Jesus Abertov
LETTERING: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER by Leonard Kirk and Jesus Abertov
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Emily Shaw
EDITOR: Mark Paniccia
STORY: Previously in Fantastic Four (2014): The First Family is broken. After an invasion from Franklin Richards’ pocket dimension (the one he created to save his family & the Avengers from Onslaught, back near the end of the Clone Saga) the government evicted the FF from the Baxter Building, SHIELD took the Richards children into custody, with Valeria voluntarily relocating to Latveria, Johnny lost his powers and has been caught up in his party-boy lifestyle, Reed retreated into his work at a scientific utopia owned by enigmatic futurist John Eden, Sue nearly killed Dr. Doom trying to convince Valeria to come home from Latveria, and Ben has been wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of the Puppet Master and is at the mercy of a jailhouse crew of super-villains run by scorned-ex Sharon Ventura, but has been receiving curious assists from Sandman of all people (*huffhuff*). Wyatt Wingfoot, one of Johnny’s best friends, has met with lawyer and former member of the FF, She-Hulk, to voice his suspicions that someone is manipulating the dissolution of the Four. When they split up to investigate, Wyatt is attacked and nearly killed by the Hawkeye of Franklin’s “Heroes Reborn” pocket universe, before he is saved by Spider-Man, who told him that Jen Walters clued him in that Wyatt might need some protection. Off-panel, Wyatt fills Spidey in on these recent developments. . .
Fantastic Four (2014) #12 picks up with Johnny hanging upside down from a webline and wondering why his two best-buds, Wyatt and Spidey, so abruptly snatched him from the club he was at earlier. Wyatt fills Johnny in on his suspicions towards the FF’s downfall, while Spidey stands there not really doing anything except bringing up the sales on this book by having his picture drawn in it. Then, instead of having an appropriately fleshed-out character-arc of an intervention on behalf of the two men, outside of his family, that know him best, the plot necessitates that Johnny has a change of heart after not really hearing anything except Wyatt’s narrative of the recap page, and has him all “man I’ve been being so dumb,” before sending him off to visit Ben in prison to make amends. Sue comes home to Reed from Latveria after nearly killing Doom in the most recent annual, and collapses into tears in his arms, through her sobs admitting that she suspects the reemergence of her evil Psycho-Man infused alternate personality, “Malice.” Back in the prison yard, Ben approaches Flint Marko, the Sandman, asking why he’s been helping keep Sharon’s goons off of him. Flint tells Ben that he recently discovered that Ben has been sending care packages to his adopted daughter, Kemia, since Marko’s been in prison. The two bury the hatchet and agree to break out together. In Latveria, Valeria tells Doom that she needs to go back to her family, since it really seems like her mom especially is having a breakdown. As Doom watches her leave, he withdraws into his castle, monologuing that he manipulated Valeria into giving him the secret to accessing alternate dimensions. As the issue concludes, Reed approaches his benefactor, John Eden, in Eden’s office late at night, accusing him of being behind the recent attacks on the Four, presenting evidence that Eden has Reed researching the same type of “dream energy” that was found on the creatures that escaped Franklin’s pocket dimension in the beginning of this volume. But the man Reed thought was John Eden all this time was really a patsy and is killed before his eyes as the true Eden, Reed’s lab-assistant “Cully” steps out of the shadows. When asked, “Why?” Cully responds, “Because I hate you.” Then Heroes Reborn Iron Man steps out of the shadows from behind Cully and blasts Reed. To be continued. . .
THOUGHTS: It’s admittedly difficult coming into this book in the middle of the on-going story at hand, but there are still some expectations I had about Spider-Man’s inclusion when I bought this issue. I am also not sure what exactly the aim was of throwing Spidey in here either. Including him into a book nowadays is usually gratuitous and an indication of poor sales, but honestly, from what I gleaned of the story coming into this issue, it really made sense for him to get involved with Johnny’s arc. And yet, as I said in the summary, he doesn’t really do anything except act like the man-boy he’s been portrayed as over the past seven years while Wyatt is the one to express genuine and mature concern about their friend’s recent life-choices. Marvel also has to know that bringing in the Web-Head will put some new eyes on this book, so this ish could have been a great jumping-on point for new readers, but it happens right in the middle of an arc, so that can’t be it. So I’m left with the only remaining assumption, which is that Spider-Man was initially intended to be more of a part of this story, but got relegated to an extended cameo for the sake of plot-progression.
Therefore, as a Spider-Man fan, I’d say pass on buying this issue.
It was a promising set-up: Wyatt and Peter coming together to give Johnny an intervention for how opulent and selfish his life-choices have been of late, hoping to remind him that, even without his powers, he’s still a hero. But this is not really the same Johnny who matured during his nightmarish torments in the Negative Zone during Hickman’s run. The loss of his powers has reverted his character back to the party-boy he used to be. But don’t get me wrong, this is not one of my qualms. It’s actually quite realistic, I think, for us to revert to past misbehaviors in times of trouble and anxiety, and for our good friends to be the ones during such times to knock some sense back into us. I was pretty excited when Spider-Man just yanked Johnny out of the club so abruptly and obnoxiously (with a nice nod from Kirk to the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15, drawn by Kirby of FF acclaim, on page 6). I kind of hoped that this was going to be like a splash of cold water in Johnny’s face before Wyatt and Spidey proceeded to bring him back to his senses in a few pages of well-written back-and-forth between these old friends. But, alas, not much really happened beyond what I said in the summary. It seemed like this really could have been the hook of the issue, and I know that I would have liked it more if this conversation were a bit more played out and gave Spider-Man more than 4 exposition-laden or unnecessarily goofy lines during the main part of the intervention. I understand that we needed to touch in on the other members of the family at some point in this issue, but I still felt unsatisfied with the result, and when Johnny had his “I’m coming back” line at the end of the conversation, I actually had to go back and re-read what was said, because it seemed so abrupt and unearned. Maybe they could have used the first quarter of the issue, which was nothing but Spider-Man whipping Johnny through the skyline, for some of the aforementioned character work. Ah well, hindsight’s 20-20.
But there was still plenty to like here. If you’re a Fantastic Four fan, then you can do a lot worse than the current run by Robinson and Kirk. It’s a fun and thrilling iteration of a story that, though we’ve seen it before, feels fairly new in the hands of these two professionals: the family is broken apart and this is how they get back together. And while I won’t really comment on the rest of the Four’s progression in this issue much, this being a Spider-Man website after all, I do have two more points to make:
First, this book is another clear tie-in to the upcoming Secret Wars redux in 2015. Dan Buckley, the current Publisher of Marvel Comics, has been quoted recently as saying that “every book [in Marvel’s publishing line] is leading to Secret Wars.” With the interesting inclusion of the “Heroes Reborn” characters in this book, you can definitely make that connection. With the “Incursions” in the Avengers books, and “Spider-Verse” in Peter’s corner of the 616, throw in “Heroes Reborn” in FF, and it shows me that Marvel’s plans for its greater universe are actually pretty tight, which I really enjoy. It makes it so that every story “matters.”
Lastly, I thought that Sandman’s inclusion here, even though it was so brief, totally upstaged Spider-Man’s. When Ben asked why Flint was helping him out, I thought that it would be something disingenuous, like blackmail or help in breaking out. But it was because Ben was looking after Kemia. This both warmed my heart and pissed me off. On the one hand, this is totally something Ben would do. He’s rough around the edges, pun intended, but he’s still a really good guy. The fact that he thought about the lives of those people around his villains and made the effort to reach out to the innocents involved shows me the kind of down-to-earth, everyday kind of hero Ben Grimm is. It also gave Flint some totally believable and genuine character motivation for watching the back of his old foe. On the other hand though, this is something that Spider-Man should be doing too, but he’s been such a self-involved idiot of a man-child since OMD that it wouldn’t really cross his mind. Still, nice touch by Robinson and Kirk by including Kemia.
GRADE: C- (meh: not a great jumping on point and Spider-Man doesn’t really do anything; still, the story is another intriguing piece in the build-up to Secret Wars (2015) and the Sandman’s moment with the Thing in this issue was a satisfying portrayal of genuine character motivation)