Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men [COMICS]

Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men was a four-issue limited series pairing together two teams that hadn't interacted before too frequently.  The series came out during 1986, around the time I started getting into comics as a kid, and I'm pleasantly surprised today at how enjoyable it was to read.  Chris Claremont clearly knows these characters inside and out, and in the first issue posits an intriguing question: how could super-scientist Reed Richards not know about the risk of cosmic rays?  What if he intentionally flew into the ray storm on the hypothesis that bodily transformations would result?  It's a storyline that plays perfectly with what we know from continuity but complicates it by putting a different interpretation on it.  Add in good artwork and an appearance from my favourite super-villain (Doom!), and you have the formula for some good comics.

Issue # 1 begins, as pretty much every story involving the Fantastic Four does, with Reed working in his lab on a gigantic piece of machinery.  It's late in the evening, and he's interrupted by Franklin having a nightmare of his father being responsible for the deaths of the FF and the X-Men, and transforming into Doctor Doom.  Franklin is sent to his mother, and finds her unpacking some crates that have finally turned up after years lost in storage.  In one of them Sue finds Reed's old college journal and begins flipping through it.  Exactly what it contains is still a mystery in this issue, but basically it makes it clear that Reed knew the risks of flying into the cosmic storm and wanted he and his companions to be turned into super-beings in order to fight the growing menaces threatening the world.  Sue is flabbergasted by the revelation, by Reed is torn by angst and self-doubt--he doesn't remember things that way, but the account is so plausible . . .  Meanwhile, on Muir Isle, the X-Men are recovering from the Mutant Massacre.  Kitty Pryde is trapped in her intangible form. Her molecules slowly drifting away from each other, and unless she's cured soon, she'll die.  Magneto thinks a certain famous scientists with the initials R.R. could be of help . . .

Issue # 2 sees the F.F. arrive on Muir Isle with the machine to help the X-Men, and as the Constitution requires, a fight breaks out!  Reed's angst leads him to decide that it's too risky to use his machine on Kitty Pryde, but the X-Men don't take no for an answer and try to seize it.  An emissary from Doctor Doom arrives to announce that if Reed Richards' won't help, Doom will.  The X-Men are willing to bargain with the devil to save Kitty, and the F.F. are ousted from the island.

Issue # 3 opens with the X-Men at Doom's castle in Latveria.  Is it bad that I know a lot more about the fictional Latveria than the real Latvia?  Anyway, Kitty tries to off herself!  Fortunately, Franklin's astral body manages to talk her down.  Back in New York, the members of the F.F. deal individually with Reed's apparent betrayal.  Ben heads to Yancy Street (now gentrified) to drink and mope, Johnny finds solace in the arms of Alicia, and Sue mostly just continues to give Reed the cold shoulder.  By the end of the issue, however, the querulous quartet are reunited and off to Latveria as well.

Issue # 4 opens with some sweet scenes aboard the F.F.'s transport between old friends Ben and Sue, and Johnny and She-Hulk (yes, I've neglected to mention she's been hanging out!).  The latter pair discuss stories they've heard about how Reed and Doom were such huge rivals in college, and I imagine there's a lot of good flashback story opportunities there.  Anyway, the F.F. arrive in Latveria, but the X-Men believe they may disrupt Doom's attempted cure and . . . a fight ensues!  As it must.  But Franklin gets the two sides to reconcile, and Reed and Doom together save Kitty.  It's a sweet story of friendship overcoming all and everyone lives happily ever after until seconds later when Sue accuses Doom of having fabricated the journal, knowing it would throw a spanner in the F.F.'s works!

Anyway, all in all, good, clear, crisp storytelling that is definitely worth a read for fans of the genre.

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