From the Files of the Baxter Building comes Multiversity’s monthly deep dive into the comics and characters that inhabit the world of the First Family of superhero comics: The Fantastic Four!
This month: The FF return to New York, but wait…who’s living in the Baxter Building? Plus, Mole Man pulls double duty, “Marvel Two-in-One” draws to a close, it’s girl’s night with Alicia’s Bachelorette party, and much, much more!
Please note: there will be major spoilers for “Marvel Two-in-One” #12, “Fantastic Four” #4 and “Fantastic Four Wedding Special” throughout this article.
It’s been another big month for Marvel’s First Family, with three more issues to dive into, but ironically next month’s installment of Baxter Building promises to be a bit quieter, despite the Big Day fast approaching for Ben and Alicia. Speaking of which, this month we’ve had not one but two stories about the days leading up to the wedding that Marvel is adamant is actually happening…
First though, we care about continuity here at the Baxter Building, and last month I mentioned that “Marvel Two-in-One” #11 came after “Fantastic Four” #3, and while that’s still true, “FF” #4 needs to squeeze in the middle of them, because as we start this latest issue, the family are still reeling from beating the Griever, and getting themselves (and their extended family) back to their home dimension.
When they finally get back to New York after so long away, they want to do what we all want after a big trip: get back home and take a nice long bubble bath. Except, their home isn’t their home anymore, and even their place as NYC’s most fantastic quartet is in jeopardy thanks to the Fantastix: a group so good that we’ve never heard of them before.
While Sue, Reed and the kids have been away for a lot longer, Ben and Johnny have only been gone a few hours at most, so it’s instantly suspicious that this new team of heroes not only seems fully established, but has their own posse of fans – fans with signs.
Well, it takes Val – sorry, Brainstorm – a little longer than she’d have liked to figure it out (blame the inter-dimensional jet lag), but Johnny was right to be suspicious of the sign-wielding posse, as it was the first clue that all of this was completely staged.
Yes, in the age of fake news we now have a completely manufactured superhero team. The new heroes, the Wrecking Crew robbery, even the group of “fans” was all staged by the management team of the Fantastix, who moved them into the newly vacant Baxter Building (left empty after its previous owner Peter Parker lost his global company and seemingly abandoned/sold it) to give their new fake heroes a touch of street cred.
It turns out, however, that the Fantastix were as unaware of this elaborate ruse as the FF themselves, but the one thing they were a part of was buying the Baxter Building. With the iconic headquarters still belonging to these new upstarts, the Fantastic Four are home, but homeless. That is, until, Ben Grimm offers to put them all up at his place.
As the issue ends, we see that the FF have now got a new, slightly more humble digs at number 4 Yancy Street. Ben informs them it may look small, but he owns the whole building so it shouldn’t be a problem. Now, you’ll have to forgive me if I’ve just forgotten, but I don’t remember this ever being revealed before. It makes sense that if Thing was going to buy real estate in New York, it would be on Yancy Street, but without going back through long boxes from about 10 years ago, my best guess as to when Ben bought this building was during that short time when he was a millionaire around 2006.Continued below
Coincidentally, this was around the same time that the “Thing” solo series was coming out, which was written by Dan Slott, the very same writer of this new series. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is a callback to that series, as that’s something Slott likes to do.
Perhaps the two biggest takeaways from “Fantastic Four” #4, are that the Future Foundation – the extended family of the Fantastic Four – have chosen not to return to Earth with the rest of the FF. While there’s no doubt that they’ll be back in the future, and it’s fair enough that Dan Slott would want to spend some time developing the core team back up before moving onto their extended team, it’s a shame we won’t see the Future Foundation more regularly. There are a lot of different characters and dynamics, and I look forward to them coming back.
The other big news is that Alicia Masters – fully aware of how crazy marrying a superhero can get – makes the decision to forgo a long engagement in favor of getting married this weekend.
You can’t blame her, she’s just found out that Val and Franklin have aged five years in the blink of an eye, so why wait around? Or, as Ferris Bueller said it best –
Either way, there’s a wedding happening, and fast! That means there’s a bachelorette party to prepare and blessings to be obtained, but before all that, let’s see what happened in the final issue of “Marvel Two-in-One” shall we?
We see the FF settling in to their new home at 4 Yancy Street, before Sue takes Johnny for a much-needed brother/sister bonding day. Of course, all the best laid plans of superhero siblings get interrupted by angry Mole Men, and this is no exception.
Sue and Johnny make short work of the (robotic) monsters that Mole Man unleash, before running into Rachna Koul. Remember her? She was the scientist that manipulated Thing and Human Torch into using their Multisect into finding a new body for her comatose sister. Of course, Johnny sees things slightly differently…
Rachna, however, explains that things aren’t that simple. Yes, she stole the multisect, but she was then betrayed by the Mad Thinker, who used her lab to turn him and his cronies into the Fantastic Faux (see last month’s Baxter Building for more info, True Believer!) before stealing the Multisect from Rachna, preventing her from returning to save Ben and Johnny. After that, Moleman approached her to help him regain his underworld throne, but she refused him.
Heck hath no fury like a Mole Man scorned, it seems, as he takes the fight to Rachna’s sister’s hospital room. This seems like an unusually dick move for Moley, especially given his personality depiction in the next issue we’re looking at. Either way, he threatens Disha Koul’s life until Reed and Ben interrupt, putting an end to the Mole Man’s schemes.
Being the last issue of the series, it wouldn’t be right if Rachna’s story wasn’t given the proper closure it deserved, and thankfully she gets the chance to make amends. She never seemed like an outright villain, but she was sort of abandoned as a character about 4 issues ago, so it’s about time Chip Zdarsky brought her tale to a close.Continued below
I’ll miss Chip writing the FF team. He’s no doubt moving onto bigger things at Marvel, but he has a subtle way of really diving into the core of the characters and providing meaningful developments through engaging dialogue. He did the same for Spider-Man, when Peter revealed his secret identity to J. Jonah Jameson, producing one of the best single issues of 2017.
What unfortunately won’t be making any Best Of lists is the final issue for this month, the “Fantastic Four Wedding Special.”
OK, so this issue isn’t terrible, it’s just not very memorable. There are two stories here, the first of which – “(Invisible) Girls Gone Wild” – is all about Alicia’s bachelorette party, and the second – “Father Figure” – is about a chat between Ben and his future father-in-law, the Puppet Master. We looked at both Alicia and the Puppet Master in the first Baxter Building, but we see a very different side of both of them here.
Alicia’s bachelorette party is planned by her friend Rikki, and attended by Sue, Medusa and Crystal of the Inhumans, She-Hulk Jen Walters, and two more of Alicia’s friends, Argo and Delia.
Perhaps the funniest part of the issue is seeing Johnny come face-to-face with three of his ex-girlfriends all in one place. Not to mention the bachelorette herself, Alicia, although the version he nearly married was actually a Skrull, but anyway. The second funniest part is the name of the strip club they take Alicia too…
But as we found out over in TiO, the best laid plans of superhero friends get interrupted by angry Mole…women?
Yes, the mighty Kala is reduced to being someone who’s so strikingly self-aware that she has come full circle to being dumb again. It’s unclear how that works, but either way the party is ruined and it takes the Mole Man to save the day…?
It’s a weird flex for someone who was literally just threatening the life of a woman in a coma, but ok. Either way, the superhero bachelorettes decide instead to treat their limo driver and his wife to a night they’ll never forget (he was missing his anniversary in order to work, you see), and that’s the end of the story.
Next up is a tale in which Ben Grimm visits Puppet Master in prison, to get his blessing for the upcoming marriage. It seems like a fairly old-school thing to seek (not to mention from a man who’s tried to kill him multiple times) but Ben’s nothing if not old-school, so it makes perfect sense. There’s a fun part early on in which Ben whispers to another inmate about his G.E.D results:
Not only is it a great illustration of the kind of guy ben is, it’s a nice callback (again, Slott’s speciality) to James Robinson’s run on “Fantastic Four” from 2014/15, in which Thing was falsely accused of murder (the murder of Puppet Master, no less) and spent time here in the Raft.
Ben meets with Puppet Master, sits down in front of him, and you settle in for what promises to be a long, revealing chat that develops their characters through meaningful dialogue.
Except that doesn’t really happen. There’s a moment where it seems like the conversation is going to go the way you expect, but then Puppet Master brightens up and uncharacteristically gives his warm, heartfelt blessing. Thing leaves, as confused as we are, only for it to be revealed that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Alicia has her own radioactive clay that she uses, much like her father used to do, to manipulate the actions of others.
With Alicia being a sculptor, and her father being who he is, this feels almost like we should have seen it coming. Time will tell if this is just a throwaway, fun ending, or if it’s going to carry the ramifications that it almost certainly should. If the latter happens, then that will make this issue far more impactful and relevant, as it stands though, this could easily be skipped. The best part of this second story, and perhaps the whole issue, is Mark Buckingham’s Kirby-esque artwork. He leans into his influences fairly heavily, from Thing’s classic mode of transport –
– to his depiction of the Puppet Master –
– it’s great to see Kirby’s style alive and well in Mark Buckingham, if only for this story.
Join us next time for the Big Day itself, plus, the return of both Galactus and…Doctor Doom!