Wednesday, March 23, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #254

"THE MINDS OF MANTRACORA"
Writer/Artist: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Al Milgrom | Overmind: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On a planet in the Negative Zone, a being called Taranith deems two of his followers worthy and takes them into an underground cavern where they are confronted by some unseen horror. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four enter Taranith’s town incognito and rent a hotel room. Johnny and Ben explore the community and are forced to use their powers when a group of muggers sets upon them. Meanwhile, at the hotel, Sue and Reed are also attacked, but the fight is stopped by Taranith.

On Earth, Annihilus has used parts from Mister Fantastic’s Negative Zone portal to construct a huge device which he promptly activates. The machine pumps out radiation which drives all humans in the Baxter Building and surrounding structures to flee in panic. The Avengers' She-Hulk and the Wasp attempt to investigate, but are stopped by an invisible barrier.

In the Negative Zone, Taranith hosts the Fantastic Four for dinner, but drugs Reed and turns out the lights. When the Human Torch lights up the blackness, Reed and Taranith are gone. The alien reveals to Reed that he is not of this world, and that he has been connecting various worthy subjects to a large device which drains their intellects to restore power to his long-dead starship. Reed’s superior intelligence provides the final boost he needs to escape the planet.

The rest of the team arrive to save Reed, but Taranith reveals they are too late: their leader's mind has been drained and he is now a mental vegetable.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: The Fantastic Four have now been in the Negative Zone for two months.

Johnny reveals that since he was physically trounced by Doctor Doom in issue 246, he’s been working out.

Reed and Sue spend some intimate time together in the hotel. It will later be revealed that they conceived a child in this moment.


She-Hulk is still apartment hunting. (Though I guess technically “still” applies to the SPIDER-MAN issue rather than this one since it was published a few months later.)


Is It Clobberin' Time? Like the man says, it doesn’t quite apply since he’s ripping up a chunk of the ground, but it sure is!


My Thoughts: This is the first of the Negative Zone stories to really grab me, and that’s mainly because there's an actual enemy for the FF to deal with here. The previous two installments featured the group going against a semi-sentient city and then attempting to help some aliens relocate to another planet. There was conflict in both issues, but no real villain to speak of in either one.

But here we have Taranith, a character with a really cool visual who turns out to be a little cockroach wearing robes and a helmet. There is so much to like about this guy, and the fact that he represents an active threat against the FF – the first active threat they’ve faced in four issues – is only a small piece of that.


Plus, this is the first planet the group’s visited that holds any interest for me. The world in issue 252, with its primitive natives, its sentient city, and its perpetually starry sky, just didn’t float my boat. Issue 253 didn’t feature much of a planet at all, really just giving us a brief look at a green verdant world while confining most of its action to a grungy starship.

But here we have a kind of Arabianesque world populated with attractive humanoids and an interesting architecture. It’s so comfortable for Reed and Sue that they find some time for a little hanky-panky while Johnny and Ben are out exploring! Maybe I just don’t have the capacity to enjoy the more abstract stuff, but I really find this sort of destination a lot more appealing than any of the previous ones.


Plus we get Byrne drawing She-Hulk, which is always a welcome treat, and we have a compelling cliffhanger to cap things off. Between all of the above, this is easily my favorite installment of the Negative Zone saga.

3 comments:


  1. // Reed and Sue spend some intimate time together in the hotel. //

    Just “a few minutes” according to The Passive-Aggress... um, Invisible Girl, but I guess when you’re Mister Fantastic that’s all you think you need.

    // Taranith, a character with a really cool visual who turns out to be a little cockroach //

    Or maybe a thin rat, depending on how much stock you place in anagrams.

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    1. Nice wordplay! I really wasn't sure how to describe Taranith, since he's clearly an alien, but "cockroach" was the first thing to come to mind.

      And hopefully Sue was generalizing a bit as to how long she and Reed were together there!

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    2. The man controls every square inch of his body. I say the moniker "Mr. Fantastic" is wholly earned also and particularly on this area of life.

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