Friday, January 31, 2020

Fantastic Four (vol.2) #13 (1997)


Fantastic Four (vol.2) #13 (November, 1997)
"World War 3, Part 1: Life in Wartime"
Writer - James Robinson
Pencils - Mike Wieringo
Inks - Richard Case
Colors - WildStormFX
Letters - Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Dave Lamphear
Editor - Ruben Diaz
Editor in Chief - Bob Harras
Cover Price: $1.99

Wait, what?  Is there an issue of Fantastic Four in my DC Comics blog?!  Wassupwitdat?

Well, watch as ya boy jumps through quite a few hoops to make this work.  Ya see, today marks our FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY!  That's four-years of DAILY discussions and reviews at this humble and unspectacular little blog.  What betta book to cover today than an issue of Fantastic Four, right?  Right?  ... Right?  Suppose I could've done a Fourth World book, but... ehhh, I never cared much for 'em.  "Milestone" blog books need to be bigger... or at the very least, more "novel" than that.

But why this issue in particular?  Volume Two... Number Thirteen?  Might seem completely random... and you might be thinking I've completely lost my mind.  You might be right about that last part, but, I promise, there is a method to the madness.

Ya see, just in case you're unaware... the thirteenth (and final) issues of Marvel's Heroes Reborn titles (Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, and Avengers) all took place on Marvel Earth-13031... which just so happens to be (at the time of this comic) a "merged" Marvel and WildStorm Universe dealie.  Since we do cover WildStorm here (taking the imprint all the way back to Day One), I figured I could technically cover this bugger here without breaking (m)any of my self-imposed rules.

Now, it might sound like I'm trying to justify this (very un-DC) pick to y'all... but, don't get it twisted, I'm actually trying to justify it to myself!  Deep breaths... we'll get through this.

Now... let's be self-indulgent and reflect a bit.  I feel like the Fourth Year at Chris is on Infinite Earths (which, if I were a betting man a year ago, I'd swear wouldn't have even been "a thing")... was kind of "defined" by four different things.

First, and perhaps most obvious to those who've been following along... Action Comics Weekly.



From February 1 to November 30 we took a look at every single story that filled the pages of Action Comics Weekly (even the "alternate ending"!).  This might actually be the thing I'm most proud of from all my days of blogging.  It wasn't always the most interesting... or most engaging... and, I tell ya what, it cost me a whole bunch of readers... but, it was a project that, to my knowledge, just hasn't been done before.  I'm happy I saw it through, and it can now sorta stand on its own as a "resource"... because, lemme tell ya, there were definitely times where I wanted to throw in the towel!  If you want to take a look at my coverage... my Action Comics Daily "Post-Mortem" piece is probably the best place to go!

Second, Christmas Stories!  Rather than do my usual "Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths" series... I decided to go whole-hog Hallmark Channel, and make December 1st through the 25th wall-to-wall Holiday stories!



Keeping with the "Anthology Format" the blog had maintained through most of 2019, I covered all of the stories from a pair of DC Holiday Specials.  I actually almost stopped blogging completely when Action Comics Daily wrapped up... and, had it been any other time of year, I very well might have!  I just can't resist writing about Christmas/Holiday stories!  Heck, we even took a week off from ACW in July to do Christmas on Infinite Earths... in July!

Third, Bonus Books!  A topic I've wanted to discuss for quite a while, but wasn't sure quite how to go about it.  Being a "completionist", I kind of feel weird about leaving anything out... so, I always assumed if I were ever going to cover DC's Insert Prevues or Bonus Books, I'd have to do so as a "part" of covering the actual issues in which they appear.  I actually did do that once... and it made for one heckuva lot of words, and one heckuva long blogging session.



It ultimately came down to me reminding myself that... hey, the only rules to this blogging thing are the ones I impose on myself.  I can get away with whatever I want... and so, I decided to just look at the Insert Prevues and Bonus Books... and we looked at all of 'em... which, is another project that, to my knowledge, hasn't been done before!

Fourth, and... most recent... creating my first ever video for the blog.  This probably isn't a big deal to many folks, however, for me... it was a pretty big step.  I never thought I'd get the guts to actually film myself... and to do so, especially as a part of Super-Blog Team-Up, made me feel... I dunno, really good.



I was surprised to get some very kind words about my "performance".  In case you haven't clicked PLAY, it's me talking about the Super-Blog Team-Up topic "Chromium", and finally, after some near three-decades, unbagging Adventures of Superman #500.  Being someone with zero experience in video, or video-editing... it took forrrrrrever to get this right.  Had to make sure I got it all in one-take.  Ten minutes of video... in one take.  Might not sound like much, but... hoo-boy, lemme tell ya... that was a toughie!

Now, with all the misty water-colored memories (of the way we were) out of the way... whattaya say, we hop right into today's book?  It's gonna be a weird one!

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We're actually going to open on the inside fold of the front cover.  This was back when Marvel had this odd, but welcome, gimmick where they'd cram some expositional "catch-up" information inside the front cover... this way it'd be easy to drop some knowledge about what's going on without eating up any'a that valuable paginal real-estate.  It also came justified the four-cent price increase ($1.95 to $1.99) across the board.  Could you even begin to imagine a four-cent price hike?!  We never knew how good we had it.  Anyhoo, it's here that we learn that Galactus was looking to eat the Heroes Reborn pocket-Earth, and that to stop this, Dr. Doom mucked about with the time stream so much that the damn thing just frayed apart.  The very fabric of reality began goes "a bit ca-ca", leaving us with a whole lot of questions... which we'll hopefully begin to make a li'l bit of sense of as we move forward.



When the dust... or whatever "the void" is made out of... finally settles, our scene is New York City.  Doesn't look entirely unfamiliar... probably not a whole lot to worry about, right?



Well... ya see, there's the thing.  Several alien hordes have decided to pull the ol' invasion angle.  This threat is so severe that the only ones who might possibly be able to stop them are the super-heroes.  And so, here's where we meet perennial Marvel mainstays... the WildC.A.T.S?!



These C.A.T.S are comprised of several familiar faces... including Grifter, Zealot, Marlowe, Void, that one dude with the claws... also, Giant Man and Karnak the Inhuman?!  They are fighting off some Daemonites and Skrulls... and look to be barely able to hold their own.



Enter: Reinforcements, in the form of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Black Knights division (led, naturally by Dane Whitman).  As the battle rages, thoughts go to the fallen.  Groups such as the Defenders, and DV8 have perished in the onslaught (not that Onslaught).



The battle continues... but our scene shifts, to outside of what looks like an Armed Forces Recruitment office.  Two young fellas greet each other... with a very odd greeting, that we'll learn a bit more about later on.  It's as though they're both aiming Smartphone screens at one another.  Again, we'll learn about that later.  In the window of the Office is a poster depicting someone who looks a heckuva lot like Captain America doing the old Uncle Sam "I Want You!" gimmick...



We shift scenes again... this time to the Baxter Building, where a certain foursome is just about to return from a trip into the Negative Zone.  Hmm...



Now, it's clear to see that two of our Fantastic Foursome aren't quite the folks we're expecting!  Rather than Johnny and Ben rounding out the team, we've got Maul from WildC.A.T.S and Burnout from Gen¹³!  They hustle over to the computer console in order to close the doorway into the Negative before they can be joined by a pair of pursuers.  They're too late!



We get a few pages of punchy-punchy before Reed goes as far as to sacrifice himself to plunge the baddies back into the Zone.  Luckily, Maul is able to nyoink Stretcho out before the deal seals.



We jump ahead to, presumably, later that day.  Reed is on the video phone with S.H.I.E.L.D., more specifically Director Lynch of S.H.I.E.L.D.  We learn that Nick Fury has fallen... and in fact, his actual head has been staked at Doctor Doom's Castle!  Also, Dum Dum Dugan is dead... but, that is evidently old news.  Lynch inquires as to whether or not Reed was able to locate Ben Grimm... and states that he misses him from their old Team 7 days.



Reed hasn't found Ben... but, he thinks he's found a way to beat back the alien invaders!  He asks that Lynch assemble all of the heroes.  This includes... the Avengers...



StormWatch...



Wetworks and the WildC.A.T.S!  Gotta say, this is some wild stuff to be revisiting!  I mean, just check out some of those mixed-up teams!  Freefall on the Avengers?!  I mean, exactly two years back I added her to the Justice League... but, this is just crazy!  Worth noting, the Captain America above... hmm... doesn't look all that much like Steve Rogers, does he?  Looks a little bit Spartan-y... no?



Back in Lynch's office, he is joined by the woman we know as Voodoo... but here, she's Priscilla Kitaen, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He asks for her to contact Iron Man, Majestic, and Captain America... for the latter she's all "duh, we already got Cap when we called the Avengers!".  He informs her that he ain't talkin' bout no android... he wants Steve Rogers... who is now fighting the good fight under his old moniker of "Nomad".



From here, we get a bit of a quick and dirty on the history of this World War III addled Amalgamation.  The Daemonites invaded... the C.A.T.S and Avengers teamed up and drove them into hiding.  That is, until the Skrulls showed up, and decided that the 'mites would be great pals to have.  Oh, and also... Doctor Doom sold humanity out!  Right now, the baddies pretty much run Europe and Asia.



This has led to some dire times in America... and a whole lot of distrust.  Remember that "iPhone facial recognition" thing from before?  Well, as it turns out... that's actually pretty close to what it is!  Humans can shine those lights at one another to ensure they're neither Skrull nor Daemonite!



We wrap up with a pair of Epilogues... in the first, those two young fellas decide to enlist.  Their names: Rick Jones... and Edmund Chang aka. Grunge.



The second has a pair of figures drifting through empty space... the smaller of the two comments to the bigger of the two that their suit feels all sorts of "rocky".  Hmm...



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Well, that right there was among the funner fever dreams I've ever had!

Wow... it's so easy nowadays to look back at the Heroes Reborn (that is ReBORN, not ReTURN) era and just dismiss it as more "90's garbage"... however, to do so completely ignores what a weird and exciting time this was for comic fans... especially those who had "survived" the early 90's glut.  Now, for me personally... I was not one of those survivors.  This book came out during the tail-end of my first self-imposed "I'm done with comics" temper-tantrum.  I kept up with the "news" by picking up a few issues of Wizard throughout the year... but, didn't see myself ever jumping back in, with both feet.  Boy, what a wide-eyed innocent I once was!

I remember this as being a weird "wild west" time in comics... strange alliances were made, the big companies were "playing nice", big time risks were taken... it was, for all its warts, a very exciting time to be a fan... even on the periphery, like I was.  I recall seeing things like Amalgam, and Marvel vs. DC... and, while I was excited that these projects were happening, I couldn't help but to feel as though something was "missing".  Like, these inter-company meetings should have been more important, ya know?  Both of those projects reeked of creatively-bereft cash-ins.  In having read both in the interim... well, I don't feel I was too far off the mark.

In hearing about this, however... my ears perked up.  We were going to have actual Image Comics characters... in Marvel Comics?!  Like, as part of the Marvel Universe?!  Not some hacky and funny-ha-ha "amalgamation"... not some "punchy-punchy" deal?  Like, just actually existing alongside the (pocket universe) Marvel characters... and it'd be CANON?!  Ya ask me... that's exciting!  Not exciting enough to actually come back to the hobby... but, I was happy to hear it was happening.  You know me, I am quite a sucker for the "everything matters" school of lore.

Granted, I'm pretty sure I thought this was all going to "go" somewhere... and not just be a done-in-one (month) sort of thing... but, whattayagonnado?  Again, I was a wide-eyed innocent.

I appreciate the level of care Robinson and Company put into this... while perhaps some of the team arrangements came down to the "chuck a dart at the board" approach, the assortment has this odd feeling of curation to it.  Like, everything is purposeful... and, though it's been the better part of twenty-years since the last time I even looked at these issues, I'm pretty sure this all winds up making (reasonable) sense.  All of the "fill-in" characters fit where they're slotted... and, everything feels natural.  Well, as "natural" as something quite this jarring could be, anyway!

As far as the story itself is concerned... well, this is a Part One of Four... so, it's mostly just setting the table.  I think it does a really good job, in that the threat is established, the players are introduced... and our world has more or less been "built".  I'd say it was successful in what it set out to do.  If I were reading this for the first time, I'd totally be down to pick up Part Two and onward.

The art here is so much fun.  Mike Wieringo is definitely one of my "candy" artists... just beautiful work here.  While it was a ton of fun in and of itself to see the Marvel and WildStorm heroes standing side-by-side, having them depicted in Ringo! art makes it perhaps a hundred times better.

For reasons that ought to be obvious, this four-parter hasn't been collected... nor is it available digitally.  That's not to say they never will be... after all, stranger things have happened, right?  I often see these books in the cheap-o bins... I actually happened across all four just last weekend!  I almost snagged 'em as "convenience copies" to write today's post.  Much to the dismay of my back, I decided to save the buck-sixty and just dig through my stacks instead.  While I think the story is a lot of fun, I'd say they're worth the hunt... for the novelty alone!  It's not often we get weird little treats like this... especially nowadays!

So, with the solid recommendation out of the way, I can settle up this here anniversary outing.

All I can say is that I really hope everyone has enjoyed this odd fourth year of content.  I know, for better or worse, it's been a fair bit different than what I gave ya for the first three... I wish I had the time to keep doing what I had been doing back then... but, sometimes reality dictates just how much time one can devote to what amounts to a sorta silly little hobby for me.

For all y'all who survived our ten-month excursion into Action Comics Weekly... I humbly thank you for sticking by.  I know it wasn't always easy (it wasn't always easy for me!)... and while this unspectacular little site isn't likely "destination reading" for anyone, it means a heckuva lot to me that there might be some folks out there that dig what I do here.

Tomorrow marks the start of Year Five (though, I guess technically today starts Year Five... this is the fifth January 31st I been at this)... and, to be perfectly honest, I'm still not sure what that means!  I guess we'll all find out together, eh?

Thanks, everybody!

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(Not the) Letters Page:



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Et-Cetera:




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8 comments:

  1. That's was pretty cool. I never saw this issue (or subsequent ones) I never paid much attention to the Reborn era, or Wildstorm at the time so even if I had seen I probably wouldn't have picked it up. The Mike Wieringo art is Dynamite and James Robinson is an excellent writer.

    This was a great choice for a anniversary post!

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    1. Thanks, Jeremiah!

      I thought this one would tick a lot of boxes... a sort of strange novelty, and a story that just doesn't get talked about all that much (though, I feel like it should!) I think it's pretty interesting the, I dunno, "pedigree" these WildStorm characters had unwittingly found themselves getting. These folks are canonically linked with Image, Marvel, and DC Comics. Not many characters out there can say that (assuming they can "say" anything at all)!

      Thanks again!

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  2. I see what you did there. You chose this issue because Wildstorm characters appeared and they later became part of the DCU.

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  3. Many happy congratulations on reaching the 4 year mark. I have been a loyal daily reader since the launch of the Action Comics Daily experiment and I have to say that your little blog that can has indeed become destination reading for me.

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    1. Thanks very much, Chris! I'm glad you're here! I hope you enjoy the what's to come over the next few months!

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  4. Congratulations on the 4th anniversary of this most awesome blog, Chris! This site is a "must check" for me every day. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thanks very much, Dave! I really appreciate it! I hope you enjoy the "Year Five" offerings!

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