I gotta say— I'm thoroughly enjoying this new storyline from the creative team of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. It's cracking good work. The last few issues have included some grim narration set at a future date. That seems to have been abandoned, or at least put aside, for now. I'm all for it. With issue #4, the FF have enough on their plate without maudlin storytelling as a framing device. Spoilers follow.
So. Who showed up last issue but the Frightful Four? Their latest incarnation includes the Wizard, Wrecker, Thunderball, and the legacy character, Bulldozer.
It's a good old-fashioned dust-up. By methods that remain a mystery, the Frightful Four have gotten a significant upgrade in terms of raw power. They're a legitimate threat to Reed, Sue, and Ben, and that's no exaggeration.
Fortunately, no-one in-universe wants to see the Fantastic
Four Three get their butts kicked, so help arrives in the form of the substitute Fantastic Four Three. Talk about good timing!
The arrival of She-Hulk, Ms. Thing, and Ant-Man (Scott Lang) is a good omen, but by no means seals the deal. In fact, their showing up only inspires the Frightful Four to step up their game— even taking a few chips off of Ben.
The artwork here really sells how much havoc the Frightful Four are capable of. Reed comes up with an ingenious ploy, with Johnny at its heart. The strategy works, but Johnny's mood isn't lifted. At all.
This makes sense. Depression after a loss like the one Johnny's going through is natural. Nothing— not even being called a hero by your best friends— is going to lift Johnny's spirits until he's ready to let it happen. Robinson's writing acknowledges that. This is A-1 stuff.
The Wizard, of course, smugly suggests that their defeat at the hands of the Fantastic
Four Seven Six-plus-Johnny actually counts a win for the Frightful Four. These bad guys are secretive butt-holes, but they don't appear to be lying. If what they're saying is true, then their maneuver is one of two things: a trojan horse— in which their arrest is part of a bigger plan... or a diversion. My money's on diversion. Distract Reed Richards with mayhem in the streets over here so the Frightful Four's mysterious benefactor can take care of another scheme over there. Distracting superheroes with feints like this... usually works. I'm wracking my brain to think of examples of when it didn't.
Reed's smart enough to figure this out... if he weren't distracted by SHIELD's arrival at the Baxter Building. Director Maria Hill's on hand to commandeer the FF's home as a crime scene.
Turns out SHIELD wasn't so hot on the fact Richards was holding onto a dimensional gateway that unleashed thousands of pissed off nigh-invulnerable
bug things mutated humans on Manhattan. The FF may be able to handle Galactus, Doctor Doom, and the Mole Man without breaking a sweat. They're up a certain creek when it comes to handling a subpoena.
The looks on their faces is priceless.
I love, love, love it when superheroes have to face realistic consequences for their deeds of derring-do. Reed is one of the smartest men on the face of the Earth. That doesn't make it any less grossly irresponsible to maintain and operate machinery that connects his home town to dimensions full of those nasty pieces of work.
(I smell a crossover with She-Hulk. She is, at present, the only super-lawyer residing in New York.)
The issue's a strong one, delivering great action, while also furthering the plot of the larger arc. It's a joy to behold, and a fun read. Go pick it up.
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