Wait... more vampires!?
Today, we check out Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #1, Journey Into Mystery #623, X-Men #11 and Blast to the Past for Fantastic Four Annual # 6. Enjoy and spread the word!
That's right. We're back and we're even checking in on an event long since done (even though I haven't actually FINISHED it but never you mind that).
Looking to read up on everything from Secret Invasion to Heroic Age and beyond? Check no further than this link right HERE.
Those youth, they are revolting.
Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt #1
Writer: Sean McKeever
Artist: Mike Norton
In this issue:
• Prodigy is ordered to begin a new, voluntary Initiative by Commander Rogers.
• We check in on various members of the old Initiative and get their reactions. Chief among these members are Thor Girl, Ultragirl, Gravity (with the non-Initiative Firestar), Cloud 9, and Komodo.
• Many of these people meet in Washington D.C. and get a rallying speech by Prodigy.
• After the pep talk, Hardball is a dick to pretty much everyone.
• The New Initiative gets to work, saving lives amidst growing chaos and fear.
• The attack on Washington happens and everyone sees Sin/ Skadi with her gigantic hammer.
• This causes a fear against anyone who has a hammer. Thor Girl is a target not by a mob but by freaked out SWAT policemen.
While this series is called Youth in Revolt, what it really is is an Avengers: The Initiative reunion and I couldn't be happier. The Initiative was a great title. We start things up with one particular former Initiative member: Prodigy.
We've talked about Prodigy before in Super Reads but it has been a WHILE. Here's your overly-detailed history of the character and what he's doing now. The first Prodigy was actually Spider-Man in disguise. Peter Parker actually dressed up as four different super-heroes for a messed up little Identity Crisis (no, not the DC event) storyline. We're obviously not talking about Peter Parker but the second Prodigy, Ritchie Gilmore, wore the same costume after receiving it from a dude called Black Marvel (who surprisingly wasn't black-- or that marvelous). Gilmore ran with a group of heroes who all wore other discarded Spidey costumes (also from Identy Crisis). Together, they were the Slingers and their series didn't last very long. For its time, though, it was a fun ride.
Prodigy had a major chip on his shoulder and it took him a while to gel well with his teammates. By then, things were over and he went off to develop a drinking problem. Not much was heard from Ritchie until they needed a fallguy in the pages of Civil War: Frontline. Prodigy decided that the Super-Human Registration Act was a terrible idea and appeared in public, in costume and drunk out of his mind, to be the first hero to be captured by Iron Man when the SHRA was put into effect. After a while in prison, Gilmore finally relented to the Super-Human Registration Act and started Initiative training. He stuck with the group even after Osborn took over but he wasn't at all comfortable working for a super-villain and rebelled against authority once again. The got him more prison time.
When the Heroic Age began and power passed over to Commander Rogers, Prodigy was exonerated and released. Instead of hitting the town as a super-hero once again, Ritchie Gilmore took a government desk job where he focuses on decomming bits of the Super-human Registration Act. It's not the greatest job in the world but it's got its satisfying moments when you take his history with that bit of legislation.
Gilmore is just rubber stamping plans to make a parking lot out of the well abandoned Camp Hammond (located in Stamford!) when he gets a most unexpected visitor. It's Lieutenant General Charlie Stokes. This isn't a name you've heard before but he's not the important bit. After Gilmore sticks out his chest and points out that no one is allowed into the room, Lt. General Stokes puts down a hologram projector to reveal why we should really care about this meeting.
It's Commander Steve Rogers, current top cop of the United States! Commander Rogers is way too busy in the main Fear Itself book to actually have a face to face with Ritchie but that doesn't mean there isn't an important mission in Prodigy's future. You see, Steve has sent all of his many Avengers around the world to check out those hammers falling from the sky and do some hazard control in the process. Since the Commander was too short sighted to get a new version of SHIELD up and running, it leaves the nation exposed. Rogers needs more heroes to help maintain control and keep the peace. That's where Prodigy comes in.
Gilmore is going to be in charge of a brand new Initiative. This time, there's no registering. It needs to be volunteers and that's exactly why Prodigy has to be the front man. The world needs to see heroes being heroes without threat of jail time. Let the call go out!
In Atlanta, Georgia, a former Initiative team, the Cavalry is still running even without government support. The members are Red Nine (who has a suit that gives him all sorts of powers), Stunt-Master (a former stuntman), Ultragirl (the ex-New Warrior who's dating Justice), and Thor Girl (an alien who decided to model herself after her hero, Thor). Thor Girl is actually interesting when thinking about the events of Fear Itself. The gods have gone away but Tarene wasn't ACTUALLY an Aesir so here she remains, still mimicking her hero, hammer and all. Anyway, the Cavalry is out on the streets, helping out where they can. We catch up to them as they stop a man from robbing a gun shop. It's just one of those kind of days.
When the fight is done, Ultragirl and Thor Girl catch up on current events and discuss how Odin dragged Thor off world to escape this crazy event. Red Nine walks in on the talk to tell them that he just got a message from Prodigy.
In Lower Manhattan, Gravity and Firestar are chasing down the escaped Raft criminal, Big Wheel. Big Wheel never makes an appearance in the comic. We just see his trail of destruction. We also get a conversation between Gravity and Firestar. Greg Willis has gotten the call from Prodigy for the big pow wow in Washington DC but he's not certain if going would be a good idea.
For those keeping score, Gravity worked his way up to team leader of the Heavy Hitters, Nevada's premiere super-hero team. Since then, he's been pretty disillusioned on the hero life. This started rearing it's head in the pages of Young Allies but it kept going in Onslaught Unleashed. At the conclusion of that story, Greg was forced to kill Rikki Barnes, Nomad, to stop Onslaught from getting a foothold in the Marvel Universe. While no one blames him for what he had to do, Greg has taken it very hard.
Firestar realizes this and decides that it would be good for him to go work with his former teammates and friends. Heck, she wasn't a member of the original Initiative but she'll go with him if it'll help. Before that, though, they need to take Big Wheel down.
In the big state of Illinois, Komodo and Cloud 9 are discussing the Initiative get-together. Abby (Cloud 9) isn't going. She never wanted to be a member of the Initiative to begin with and definitely didn't like what she became as a member. Komodo tries to change her mind but it's no use. Cloud 9 wouldn't mind seeing some friends again but not like this.
As I mentioned before, the big meeting of the Initiative is in Washington D.C. This happens well before Nazi mechs start tearing the city apart. Prodigy stands up in front of the assembled heroes and tells them that the New Initiative is going to be strictly voluntary. No registration. If anyone leaves, that's fine. They can go. They need heroes but those hereos have to want to be here.
We get a full page spread of the heroes. All the cast members we've already caught up on (except for Cloud 9) are pictured. The Order, Heavy Hitters, Rage, and Butterball are also up towards the front. When Prodigy's pitch is delivered, we don't see anyone walk away so I'm guessing the dude gives a good speech.
As everyone waits to get their new marching orders, there's time to catch up with old friends. Firestorm and Gravity walk up to Thor Girl and Ultragirl which is only a bit uncomfortable because Ultragirl is seeing Angel's former fiance. Gravity goes to check up on his former team and runs into Hardball.
Initiative fans will remember Hardball as the guy who couldn't make the right decision to save his freaking life. From his powers on down, the dude did some bad things to get where he was. At one point, he became a cell leader for Hydra. When it came to betraying his ex-girlfriend (Komodo), though, he couldn't do it. His whole Hydra mini-empire fell apart because he couldn't keep her depowered. Hardball ended up in Prison 42 in the Negative Zone right before it was taken over by the armies of Blastaar. He assisted in freeing the facility from Neg Zone control and parlayed that into a pardon for his unscrupulous actions. While all of this has douche written all over it, he was only ever a complete jerk when he was leading the Hydra Cell. I originally called this bluster a show for his subordinates to keep them in line and to throw them off the fact that he was intending to free his ex.
What it might have really been was pure fear.
I say that because he's acting the douche all over again and ramping it up another 40% just so we all get it. Somehow, he became the leader of the Heavy Hitters after Gravity left the team. He's really rubbing it in. After Gravity and Hardball are separated, Hardball runs over to Komodo and acts like they're still a couple. K shoves him off and Hardball covers by telling anyone who'll listen that they're having a secret affair. Yep. He's a winner alright.
As that bit of drama passes, Prodigy approaches Gravity and offers Greg a team leader position on one of the New Initiative teams. Gravity isn't certain about taking that responsibility again so Firestar offers to co-lead with her friend. Prodigy doesn't look sure of this but agrees to it.
And... we're off! The New Initiative teams spread across the country, saving lives and keeping the peace as best they can. It's a long night. Prodigy stays behind to coordinate things but even he ends up leaving, heading to Georgetown to calm down a riot. It's a crazy night that is about to turn into a crazier day.
From where Prodigy is, he can hear the attack on Washington D.C. start up. In fact, he might be the closest hero to the action. He definitely won't be enough to stop it. All around the nation, televisions show the devastation visited on the nation's capitol. They see the dome on the Capital Building explodes. Then, they see who's leading the attack. It's Sin/ Skadi and she has a very visible hammer.
In Atlanta, riots are crowding the streets. The Cavalry is trying their best to calm things down but at this point it's a losing battle. Ultragirl and Thor Girl are attempting to disperse the crowd when the riot police see Tarene's hammer. One of the policemen doesn't even wait for Thor Girl to explain herself. He just opens fire on her. Tarene uses her hammer to deflect the shots but the ricochet into the crowd and hit the policeman that fired them in the first place.
Every thing goes nuts. The riot begins crushing itself. People are dying, including Stunt-Master. More police in riot gear surround Thor Girl and demand she surrender.
Fear is truly the name of the game.
Journey Into Mystery #623
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
In this issue:
• The Asgardians return to Asgard-space and prepare for war. Their mission? To destroy the fuel of the fear god. Earth.
• Without Thor around, Kid Loki's life is in danger. Fortunately, Volstagg remembers his oath to protect the little guy and saves Loki from some killing.
• V keeps Loki occupied by cleaning the stalls of Thor's goats. He also tells the story about how the god of thunder broke these animals.
• Kid Loki journeys into the World Tree to discover who "the Serpent" is. The answer causes him to cry.
• Thor gets a visitor in his cell and gives Loki some advice on how to proceed.
• Kid Loki tames a Hel Hound as part of his master plan.
The previous comic in this series was covered HERE.
The gods have left earth and have journeyed to the traditional Asgard-space. Odin builds a planet for his people and then orders them to prepare for war. While the Serpent is the enemy, Odin's objective is to basically destroy the Serpent's supply line. Earth is his fuel and it's gotta burn. Much of this is repeating what we already saw in Fear Itself #2 but learning that Earth is the target is brand new information.
The Aesir get to work, forging weapons and gathering tools of war. Thor is again shown disagreeing with his daddy, and again we see him dragged to his prison. The All-Father will not be swayed.
And now to the all new information and story! Like I said, the gods are gathering weapons and tools. One of those happens to be a Hound from Hel. It doesn't really like being captured and since it can talk, it swears vengeance on anything in sight. On of those in sight is our star, Kid Loki, isn't all too keen on what Odin is doing. He attempts to incite a revolt against Odin's plan but he's the last one that could get away with that at this point. In fact, one of the Aesir realizes that Thor isn't around to protect the godling and pulls out a handy dandy blade. Killing Loki will certainly make Asgard a better place to be.
While Thor is imprisoned, he's not the only one charged with protecting Kid Loki. The Warriors Three swore an oath to keep Loki alive. Volstagg isn't too happy about it but he does his job and saves the trickster god's life. Loki follows Volstagg away from this group of gods and thanks V for his help. The Voluminous One would rather not be reminded of what he just did but still imparts some advice to the trickster: WORK MORE SUBTLEY.
It appears that Kid Loki has found someone who agrees that Odin is going to far and he continues to follow Volstagg after V says he knows what Thor would have Loki do. Where V leads is a little less expected.
Cleaning stables? Loki didn't expect that. Even in such places is vital information given, though. The giant goats, for example, are Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, the Lords of Goats. Back in the day, Thor wasn't as noble as he is now and in a gigantic bought of ego, Loki convinced him that breaking goats would make him ten times more awesome than if he just broke a horse. It took a long time, many falls, and eventually a magical bridle but Thor finally broke the two Lords of Goats and brought them triumphantly back to Asgard. Where he was laughed at for riding goats.
As Volstagg tells it, this was the moment where Loki and Thor stopped getting along and started getting real. V shows Kid Loki the magical bridle which still makes the two giant goats bow just by reaching for it. The massive god takes off to get more drink, leaving Kid Loki with his thoughts. His magpie companion, Ikol, flies in the window.
Kid Loki doesn't have all the answers and for someone like him, that's torture. Odin has been playing things pretty closely to the vest. For example: who's this Serpent and why is this the first comic where the Serpent's name has actually appeared in the story? He asks Ikol for answers and while the Magpie can't tell him who the Serpent is, the bird knows where to go for the information.
The World Tree.
In Super Reads Thor, we went over the latest Thor #1. In that comic, Thor, Sif, and Kid Loki plunged into the depths of the World Tree to find the World Seed. There will be no wasting panels repeating some of the perils found in that issue but we do see that Loki is wearing the same space suit armor that he purchased in Thor #1. We watch Loki descend into the Yggdrasil and patiently wait for the kid to come back up.
Kid Loki pulls himself out of the World Tree and is physically moved by what he has learned. No, he won't be sharing with us WHO the Serpent is but his path now seems a lot more certain. Ikol eggs him on but Kid Loki, eyes filled with tears, decides to get a second opinion.
Thor was taken to a posh prison after the events of Fear Itself #2. Nothing but the best for the prince of Asgard, eh? Loki, being Loki, sneaks into the grated area below Thor's room and asks the thunder god for advice. I'm basically going to copy the questions verbatim because they make the most sense that way. If Thor saw that something bad was going to happen, he would stop it from happening. If THAT bad thing would prevent something even worse, Thor would assure that it happened even if he lost all he had doing so.
Those words seem to confirm Loki's next actions. He tells Thor that he'll need "a few good men." Thor knows that no good guys would ever follow him because, well, he's LOKI. Kid Loki turns back and says, "I'll have to make do with a few bad ones."
And what could be worse than a Hel Hound? Remember it from earlier? That wasn't a throwaway scene. The Hel Hound is caged up tight but Loki tells it that freedom will be awarded for loyalty and servitude. The trickster god makes the Hel Hound swear on its soul. The problem with that is the Hel Hound doesn't HAVE a soul and tries attacking as soon as it's freed. It look like Loki was expecting that.
Using some fancy moves, Loki launches himself onto the Hel Hound's and puts the magical bridle (also from earlier... never waste a scene!) on the beast. It takes some doing to break the Hel Hound but Loki figures this bridle broke the two Lords of Goats. A Hel Hound isn't going to give it much trouble. When all is said and done, the Hel Hound is broken and swears absolute loyalty to his new master.
Loki has his plans in place and tells the Hel Hound what's going to happen next. Next, they're going to free someone else from prison (three guesses and they're all Thor). After that, they're off to Hel.
Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciler: Al Barrionuevo
In this issue:
• Jubilee has a birthday party and doesn't like it. She is upset and runs out. Because she's a vampire now.
• Professor Charles Xavier walks out to talk to Jubilee but he's more interested in telling her a story from the past.
• Kenya 1957! Professor X is searching down a presumed mutant who likes to lift elephants but is coming up blank so far.
• He mentally commands his guide to bring him to a nearby town.
• In that town, Xavier meets a bunch of characters that we probably won't see again because this story happens in the late fifties. One of them is Russian. They still give him some leads and Charles decides to follow them on their trail.
• This leads to a site where a lot more animals have been hoisted up. Xavier is discovered and is in danger of being killed, when a Japanese man suddenly shows up and kicks some Russian tail.
• Xavier scans the man's mind and learns that he's an ancient vampire who doesn't feed on people.
• Charles has told Jubilee this story to let her know that she's not the only one who's chosen to not eat her friends.
Wait!? Curse of the Mutants? Again? That's right. This is an epilogue issue of sorts to the entire Curse of the Mutants storyline. It also helps set up some interest in Tomb of Dracula Presents. Possibly.
You know who is now more confusing that she should be? Jubilation Lee. She started off simple enough: teenage mutant with firecracker powers and "Robin" undertones. See? Simple. Now, continuity has had its way with her. Jubes was depowered during M-Day but ended up getting some artificial powers when she joined the anti-Initiative New Warriors as Wondra (yes, Wondra). That lasted until people realized just how bad this version of New Warriors was. After that, Jubilee got an apartment in San Francisco and waited around until she could become an appetizing target for Xarus, who was the Lord of the Vampires at the time. After Curse of the Mutants ended, Jubilee was still a depowered mutant and still a vampire. She remained in Utopia under close observation.
Some things have changed since then. The X-Men don't seem to be clutching at their necks in fear everytime Jubilee enters the room, for example. Lee is pretty much a member of the group again. To show how much they accept her, the X-Men even throw her a surprise birthday party. It sounds sweet, except all it does is remind Jubilee of something she isn't. Jubilee storms out of her party. Pixie wants to follow her but Wolverine holds Megan back.
Jubilee is on one of the many decks of Utopia, probably thinking about how hungry she is and what a tasty meal one of the X-Men would make when her revery is interrupted by Professor Charles Xavier. Since he's got a movie in theaters shortly after the release of this issue, Xavier is suddenly useable again. He's not out here to offer Jubilee words of comfort because those wouldn't work anyway. No, he's here to offer her some perspective and maybe give her a glimpse of hope. It's what he does.
Xavier also reminds Jubilee that while she's a vampire, NO ONE on Utopia is normal. They've mutants and cast offs and not one of them would fit into regular society without raising eyebrows.
After that, it's story time.
Writing these things has pointed out to me MANY pet peeves I have about comics. I hate Venom's tongue. I dislike mandatory flashbacks. Timetravel stories are hard as hell to write. This is one more for the list: Professor Charles Xavier keeps getting older.
No, really. Let's look at his original history. The X-Men comic came out in 1963. In issue #12 (July 1965), Charles Xavier revealed that he had fought in the Korean War with his step-brother, Cain Marko. Now, considering average military age, and the fact that Xavier had already attended college (though I believe he was admitted early due to his natural intelligence and mutant ability), we can place his age during the War at mid-twenties. Since that war happened from 1950-1953, that would put him in his mid-thirties when the X-Men first formed. Heck, he should be younger than Reed Richards and Ben Grimm who were claiming service in World War II at the time.
Ever since then, Charles Xavier's age has gotten older and older, disproportionate to the other characters. In fact, his flashback takes place in 1957 which means he could almost still have served in the Korean War. The reasons for this are complex. The biggest is to tie him closer to the movie version of the character who is showing up in a movie right now that takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's annoying because most other characters get younger. Not Xavier.
So: Kenya 1957. Charles is a young man all about the adventure. He's come to Africa after seeing a photo of an elephant tied up in the air on poles. Xavier is looking for new mutants and thinks this might be a good lead. To this end, he's contracted a team to search for the whatever caused this incident. His guide, Max, isn't moving very fast and the young Xavier is too impatient to wait. Charles uses his psychic abilities to push Max into hurrying the hell up.
This leads the two of them to a nearby town. Max is there for supplies. Charles is there for clues. He declines taking a gun around town, mostly because he's hoping to test out his abilities a bit more. Entering a bar, he gets a warm beer and some interesting conversation.
This is the late fifties so none of the characters introduced will have much lasting significance. It's only mutants who refuse to die, after all. Still, panel time is used to introduce the tough guy, Thorn. He kills another bar patron after the other guy pulls a gun on him for cheating at cards. Thorn uses a knife. He's nothing compared to his boss, "the Russian."
Svetlana is the Russian and the fact that she can push Thorn around should give you a sense of what a formidable opponent she is. The Russian likes to talk in the first person which is... well, it's kind of annoying. It's like she's auditioning to be Hulk. The men talking to Xavier tell him that the Russian is also tracking down whatever caused the elephant photo so this is the lady that Xavier would have to talk to.
Except Charles can already tell how that would go. Svetlana doesn't seem all that open to comparing notes and Xavier doesn't even try. Instead, he just reaches into her mind and takes the information he needs. The Russian has been hired by the local magistrate to seek out the whatever caused the bleeding out elephant because it wasn't an isolated incident. It's happened too much and the local people wanted it to stop because it was freaking them out. They are following a trail but they don't know what they'll find at the end.
Svetlana isn't aware that her mind is being probed but she can't help but notice Xavier staring at her. This almost causes a fight but what passes for the police is riding by on patrol so she takes off with her crew. The Russian leaves Charles with a warning to leave Africa behind.
Like that's going to happen. Chuck takes Max's vehicle and follows Svetlana at a safe distance. The drive takes a long time and it's well after dark when he finally sees the end in sight. It's hard to miss.
On top of a hilltop, quite a number of animals are hung up on poles, bleeding out on the ground. It's freaky to Xavier, at least. Charles makes the mistake of stepping on a twig and getting all of Svetlana's men's attention. That's not usually a deal for Xavier and he uses his telepathy to stop the whole group in their tracks. Unfortunately, he's not as trained up as he will be a couple decades later and the Russian herself sneaks up behind him and knocks him to the ground with the butt of her rifle. Svetlana's men immediately get out of their trance but they know Xavier has been in their heads and they don't like it.
Before Charles Xavier can be punished for interrupting Svetlana's search, a curious savior shows up and starts throwing ninja stars and kicks around wherever appropriate. After Thorn and the rest of the Russian's men are defeated, the Japanese man responsible makes himself known to Svetlana. He advises her to stand down but that's not how she does things. No, this mysterious man will need to defeat her to stop her. That is pretty easily done.
And that leaves Charles the only man standing besides the newcomer. Xavier thanks the man for the help and then learns that the Japanese man has known about him ever since he started searching for the truth about the elephant. Curious but not interested in actually asking more questions, Xavier tries his telepathy out. What he learns is EVERYTHING about this man. His name is Raizo Koda and he is positively ancient. What's more, Raizo is aware of Xavier's intrusion and could even stop it if he wanted. He doesn't.
The biggest and most relevant fact given out is that Koda is a vampire but he seems to be able to control his cravings. He was trying to lead these people away from his people so that they could relocate in peace. Now that Raizo has revealed himself, that'll be a lot more difficult. There are only two choices. He can kill them here and now, or...
We'll go with "or." Charles uses his telepathy to erase the others' memories of this incident and plants a suggestion in their minds to return home. When it's all done, Xavier turns to find Koda has done the Batman trick on him.
We return to the present where the point of Xavier's story has become clear: stop aging Charles Xavier!
Oh, wait, no. That's not it. It's: some vampires exist that control their cravings and don't feed off humans. Not all vamps are evil. Jubilee can do this.
Part of her knows that but it's also a hard journey she needs to travel and she wishes things were easier. She doesn't even know where to start. Professor X recommends that surprise birthday party that's the X-Men are holding for her. She laughs and thinks a glass of milk and a piece of cake would be a good thing right now.
Fantastic Four Annual #6
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
In this story:
• Reed Richards realizes that the only thing that can save his wife and unborn child lies in the Negative Zone! He, Ben, and Johnny take off on a journey into the Fantastic!
• After checking in on Sue and introducing Annihilus, we go back to our main cast as they all get captured by Annihilus or his minions.
• Annihilus shows us the source of his immortality, the Cosmic Control Rod. After testing the powers of Reed, Annihilus casually destroys a bunch of alien creatures using the device. Reed takes note. This looks like it's just what he needs.
• The lord of the Negative Zone amuses himself by putting the three members of the FF through their paces in his much more dangerous version of the Danger Room.
• The team defeats every threat and then knocks Annihilus unconscious, steals his Control Rod, and make their getaway in Annihilus's rail ship.
• Annihilus sends the Borers after the FF but they use the Cosmic Control Rod to defend themselves. Reed uses the device to fly them back to the portal home.
• Before they get back, Annihilus catches up to them with another of his pursuit craft. During the fight, Reed, Ben, and Johnny end up on another rock heading straight for the negative particle planet, just like in FF #51.
• The FF steal Annihilus's gun because it's just about the only thing Annihilus has left to steal and it seems to be a pattern.
• After squeezing out enough cosmic energy from the Control Rod, Reed trades it to Annihilus for their Negative Zone harnesses. The three members of the FF return to the positive universe... but are they in time to save Sue and her unborn child!?
• No. Sue dies.
• Just kidding. The baby is born and everyone lives. Reed, Ben, and Johnny go in to meet the newest member of their family.
November 1968! The same month that saw the release of Avengers #58, Captain America #10, Amazing Spider-Man #66, Captain Marvel #7, X-Men #50, and Incredible Hulk #109 saw the very first appearance of Franklin Richards.
But it wasn't an easy journey getting there. Let's watch!
Sue has been pregnant at least three times (two of those times with the same baby!) and all of those pregnancies have been difficult. This is the first one and Sue and the unborn baby are in serious danger! Reed is looking into it and finds that it's because Sue still has cosmic energy in her cells and they threaten her life (and the baby's). The only answer lies... in the Negative Zone!
This isn't Reed's first trip to the Negative Zone. Back in Fantastic Four #51, Reed and an imposter Thing headed into the N-Zone and he nearly lost his life for the effort. The imposter Thing DID die, sacrificing his life to save Reed's. This time Reed is more prepared. Mr. Fantastic has designed some Negative Zone harnesses to allow them more freedom of movement when they're inside the Negative Zone. He doesn't intend to bring Thing and the Human Torch along, but they insist and there's no time to persuade them otherwise.
As the three members of the FF prepare to journey into the Negative Zone, we move right in to get a view at some of the Negative Zone inhabitants. The ones we see are under attack by a sole aircraft. Even though they outnumber their enemy, it doesn't matter. The aircraft destroys them all.
When the fight is over and the planet burns, the pilot opens the hatch on the air vehicle to get a closer look at his destructive work. It is Annihilus, the living death! This monster of a sentient being has sworn to destroy all life because he considers them all enemies.
Back in the positive universe at the Baxter Building, Reed and crew have put on their anti-matter harnesses except for Johnny who should have no trouble maneuvering with his flame ability. Together, they enter the portal to the Neg-Zone and emerge into a landscape more alien than anything they've seen in the positive universe. The trio continues on to their destination even though none of them actually know where they're going.
That's ok. Their destination's about to reach out and grab one of them. A flying gargoyle-like creature swoops in and takes Mr. Fantastic away. Reed tries to fight but can't break free. Johnny flies close but Reed orders him to hold off on any attack. He wants to know where the creature is taking him.
Maybe not Reed's best move. The monster loses the Human Torch and flies Richards to an alien planet. This is the world of Annihilus. He greets his minion, called Scavenger, and takes a look at his prize. Reed hears Annihilus talking but the language is unfamiliar to him so he's unlikely to follow any of the conversation. Scavenger drops Mr. Fantastic into a mechanism that brings the hero straight to a cage filled with other alien captives. When they see the human, they strip off Reed's anti-matter harness straight away.
Back on earth in the great city of New York, Sue Richards is not doing well. Crystal, Johnny Storm's girlfriend, is waiting for any positive news but she's not going to get any. One doctor shows her how cosmic impulses are running through Sue's blood stream. It could lead to the death of both Sue and her unborn child.
But don't worry! Our heroes are on the case even though that looks like a whole lot of failure at the moment. They'll turn it around, honest. Thing and the Torch have located the planet where Reed disappeared and has landed to investigate. Ben figures the creature took Mr. Fantastic underground and starts digging up the landscape to no avail.
Then, they get captured by a see through trap. It takes them far underground to another of Annihilus's prisons. The villain of the piece is more than happy that these three are his captives. They seem more formidable than his usual opponents and he definitely doesn't want them getting his Precious.
Yep. Annihilus is killing whole populations so that no one steals his power source. On his neck piece is the Cosmic Control Rod. It keeps him young and has near unlimited power. You'd kill a whole universe so no one got their hands on it, too.
But now Annihilus wants to examine his new prisoners. First up is Reed Richards. The Living Death flies off to Richards' prison and separates Mr. Fantastic from the other prisoners. As soon as the hero sees an opening, he takes it an attacks the strange looking villain.
He won't be getting the upper hand yet. Annihilus uses the Cosmic Control Rod to blast Reed away but he gives up his secret in the process. Reed gets a look at this device and knows that it's the thing that will save his wife and unborn child.
To show just how powerful he is, Annihilus destroys the rest of the aliens in the cell. Reed hardly notices. He's focusing on that Cosmic Control Rod.
But enough of that. It's time to put all three members of the Fantastic Four through their paces at the same time! Annihilus punts Reed across the room and right through a secret door leading to a room containing Ben and Johnny. Behind a window, the villain reappears connected to a bunch of machinery.
Let the games begin.
The three FF members get attacked by all manner of death traps and stuff that Professor Xavier wishes he put in his Danger Room. The Thing is crushed under a giant robot foot!
This isn't the team's first time out and none of these traps have a chance to defeat them. Even that giant foot is ripped out of place by a clobberin' mad Thing. Ben uses it to smash right through Annihilus's window and knock the Negative Zone villain unconscious.
Hey! That gives Reed time to steal the Cosmic Control Rod! Good times! Now, they just have to get out of Annihilus' base so they steal the villain's rail car, powered by the CCR, and ride it up to the surface. It's a long trip.
Before the FF escape the planet, Annihilus regains consciousness and is PISSED when he discovers his power source missing. Revenge is on his mind so he releases the powerful Borers. These creatures cut through rock like they were eating a sandwich. The Borers overtake the trio's rail car, devouring it.
Reed and company would meet a certain death if not for that Cosmic Control Rod. Richards uses it to save the team and then to free them from the planet and maybe take them all the way home.
Not if Annihilus has anything to say about it. The Living Death flies to another air vehicle and starts chasing after our heroes. His first blast stops the team's forward momentum and sets them all adrift.
As long as Reed has that Cosmic Control Rod, the team has nothing to worry about from Annihilus. Mr. Fantastic uses the device to send a missile straight back to Annihilus's ship. This ends the villain's threat for now. The trio of heroes sets down on an asteroid to figure out their next move.
Too late Reed realizes that they're heading straight for the anti-matter planet that nearly did him in in Fantastic Four #51. If they had their anti-matter harnesses, this would be no problem but those are in the hands of Annihilus now. Johnny thinks the CCR should be able to get them right out of this mess but Reed explains that it's useless this close to the anti-matter planet.
Trying to think of a way out of their mess, Reed begins imagining what kind of life might exist on the planet but none of it does any good in escaping the gravitational pull of the anti-matter planet below them. It looks like Richards is just wasting time.
Annihilus reappears on the twisted remains of his airship and starts firing at the team with a negato gun. Since the team has already stolen so much from Annihilus, Mr. Fantastic makes a grab at the gun and takes that away from the villain as well.
Back on earth, Sue's doctors break some confidentiality agreements to tell the press of her condition. It's the same as before. Sue and the unborn baby will die unless something can counteract the cosmic impulses in her blood. The rest of the FF are on the case but time is of the essence!
OK. We're reminded of the reason Reed and crew are messing about in the Negative Zone so we return to the team as they head towards certain doom.
Annihilus is still demanding back his Cosmic Control Rod but he does so without leverage. He just figures if the FF are going to die, they might as well give back what they stole from him. Knowing that Annihilus still has their anti-matter harnesses, Reed agrees to a trade off. Before handing over the CCR, Reed siphons some of its energy off into another container. He still needs to save his wife and baby, after all.
Annihilus hands over the harnesses and our heroes suit up. Reed's smart enough not to hand over the Cosmic Control Rod until they get a safe distance away. At the last possible moment, the trio escapes their doom (Ben grabs Johnny who doesn't have his own harness). True to his word, Reed tosses the Control Rod off into the distance and Annihilus flies off to retrieve it. The three members of the Fantastic Four hope they never see that character again but they will. They'll see him several times. Annihilus will endager the entire universe in time.
Now that they have what they came for and even have a means to return home, Reed, Ben, and Johnny do just that. When they're back in the positive universe, we skip ahead to the waiting room where all expectant fathers wait for good news. The team has done all they can to save Sue and the baby. Now they wait with everyone else.
The nurse enters the room but it's not for Reed. Another man has just had twins and faints when he hears the news. It's when Crystal enters with a smiling doctor that the rest of the team knows that Sue has gotten through this ordeal with flying colors. The news isn't far behind.
All that's left is meeting the new addition to the quirky Fantastic Four family. Everyone races in to check on mother and newborn. Little Franklin Richards won't have a name for a couple years (January 1970's Fantastic Four #94, to be exact) but his parents and extended family already know what a precious little gift he is to the world. The team rededicates themselves to making the world safe for the little bugger.
Then, Reed gets back to his science experiments and forgets he has a son and daughter for a couple issues. They just get in the way, dammit.
Franklin Richards has been an interesting character in comics because he started off as a baby and then is allowed to actually age. Eventually, Franklin is de-aged a bit because a cap on how much time has passed in the Marvel Universe is implemented and they don't want Franklin to get too old. It's an interesting case because characters that seem to be about the same age have grown up while he remains a perennial youth.
Be that as it may, Franklin has reality warping powers that have threatened the universe as well as saved lives. At one point, he became a member of Power Pack as Tattletale. Like most children of Marvel super-heroes, Franklin was taken to an alternate future and returned as an adult named Psi-Lord. As Psi-Lord, Franklin formed an off-shoot group to the Fantastic Four called Fantastic Force. It was the nineties. Franklin was eventually returned to his youth just in time to shunt all the major heroes of the Marvel Universe into an alternate reality at the end of Onslaught.
This reality was kept in a ball that Franklin kept on him at all times. Franklin ended up in the pages of Generation X before his parent returned and took him back. Since then, the first kid of Marvel's first family has mostly remained with the family.
Franklin is usually completely ignored by his father.
WOO! We are totally done, people! I'll see you back here real soon for another action packed installment of Fear Itself!
Until that time: Excelsior!
Written or Contributed by: SuperginraiX