This week, our old pal Uatu the Woolly Watcher (I guess? Is this a Marvel nickname? You’d think I’d be better at this by now.) decides to take a half day and give us four really short stories about the Fantastic Four all having the same powers. All it really did was make me dream of a What If where all of the New Fantastic Four had the same powers because a comic where Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, the Hulk and Wolverine all had stretchy powers is an amazing concept that should be explored more fully.
Our first terrifying tale begins with the inevitable crash of Reed Richards’ spaceship in some garbage field somewhere. As our heroes pull themselves from the wreckage, Johnny Storm discovers the incredible new ability to burst into flames and fly around. Soon he is joined in the sky by his sister and friends, all flying around and on fire. This does not seem the least bit dangerous.
Eventually everyone calms down and they decide to form the Fantastic Four. I would have thought that the Fiery Four or the Flaming Four or hell, the Flaming Freaks might be better but I also think a superhero team where everyone has the same power is fucking boring so what do I know? I guess they also don’t pick code names or anything. These guys are going to have to work a lot harder if they want to be anywhere close to the world’s greatest comic magazine.
Anyway, the FF’s first few adventures battling the Mole Man and the Skrulls go pretty well. You’d be surprised how many deadly foes will surrender to you if you threaten to SET THEM ON FIRE. It’s real quality crime prevention. Their tragedy arrives in the FF’s third adventure when Johnny notices a magician looking at a statue of a monster. Since I think we can all agree that, aside from Penn and Teller, there has never been a trustworthy magician, the Flametastic Four rush to stop him from… whatever the hell he’s doing.
Whatever the hell he’s doing is bringing the statue of a monster to life so it can rampage as much as a giant papier mache lizard that has been given life can. This is not much but the FF still decide to stop it. Mostly by burning down a city block which isn’t the best plan. Now, I’ll admit that the FF give it a cursory glance and recognize that the entire block is shitty and condemned but they still don’t exactly check to make sure the buildings are empty. Which is something you should definitely check when you are SETTING EVERYTHING ON FIRE. Come on, guys. This is probably how Chicago burned down.
So the FF defeat the not terribly threatening monster and then fly off to attack the magician with third degree burns until he surrenders, COMPLETELY IGNORING THE BUILDINGS THEY SET ON FIRE. “The fire fighters will take care of it.” says Reed, arguably the smartest man on Earth. It’s at this point that the police arrive and tell the team that those buildings they burned down ARE BURNING OUT OF CONTROL AND THERE IS A LITTLE GIRL TRAPPED IN ONE. Whoops.
The FF return to the scene of their arson and attempt to absorb the flames, a skill THEY KNOW THEY HAVE AND YET COULD NOT BE BOTHERED TO USE. They’re able to stop the fires but not before the little girl tragically burns to death in the arms of a severely traumatized fire fighter. Okay, as far as third adventures go, this one could have gone better. The FF are somehow acquitted of their arson and manslaughter charges but the team breaks up because killing a child can wear on you. Well, it can if you’re Sue Storm who leaves the team to get thee to a nunnery. Everyone else pretty much just does whatever the fuck they want as Reed gets back into science, Johnny races cars and Ben joins the Avengers. Hooray for moving on with your life! A GIRL IS DEAD, FANTASTIC FOUR. YOU MURDERERS.
Next we head to another reality where the team all have the powers of Mr Fantastic. The ship crashes, the powers develop, Reed suggests they use their new abilities to save mankind and… they don’t.
“These powers are really gross and stupid.” says Sue, not entirely incorrectly.
“Yeah,” says Ben. “How exactly are we supposed to help mankind? By reaching things for them on high shelves?”
Reed considers this for a moment.
“Yeah, they’re actually not that great. Let’s not help mankind instead. That seems easier.”
Meanwhile, Johnny takes the stage name “Mr Fantastic” and appears on Letterman for a couple of weeks before the world tires of his stupid, stupid powers. He eventually gets a job on the Vegas Strip as “Elastic Elvis”, picks up a heroin addiction and dies of a heart attack at thirty-four.*
Our third reality asks what if our four heroes had all become monsters like the Thing. And what happens is that Ben turns into a giant orange rock monster, Reed becomes a purple gorilla man, Johnny a… slightly smaller giant orange rock monster and Sue becomes… Man-Thing for some reason.
The foursome briefly consider trying to figure out a way to cure themselves (especially Sue who can’t talk and is worried about being turned into another comic character.) but Reed exhibits dimming intelligence and mostly just wants to pick fights with Ben and random cars. I guess he’s really excited about not being the traditional 98 lb weakling anymore.
They eventually pile into Reed’s Fantasicar that he’d apparently been working on and head to Monster Island in the Pacific where they can give up on ever regaining their humanity so that Reed can pick fights with Godzilla for as long as Marvel has the rights to legally print his adventures.
Finally, we travel to the reality where everyone has Sue’s invisibility powers and also everyone is working for SHIELD. It seems that, in this universe, Nick Fury was waiting for Reed’s spaceship when it crashed to scoop up whatever weirdness it brought from the stars. Some astronauts who can turn invisible and have military experience? Please sign up for my covert espionage task force.
The team spends most of their time working on whatever their talents make them best at. For Reed, it’s science and development, Johnny works on vehicles, Ben in training and weapons and Sue on dispatch. See, because she’s a woman. But when Doctor Doom attacks in his Doom-o-Coptor and demands Reed because he’s Doctor Doom and he’s a bombastic asshole, the team gets wicked invisible and travels to Latveria.
Upon arrival, Doom drops Reed through a trap door in his chambers because this is his perfect idea of revenge. Alas, there will be no forced trips back in time to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure. Mostly what there is is Sue saving Reed’s life while Ben and Johnny beat the shit out of Doom. There’s a brief problem when Doom threatens the team with a gun that shoots sonic blasts but Reed makes it invisible, meaning that Doom can’t find the trigger. Then they beat up Doom until he isn’t a problem anymore. Hooray for everything!
*In the now legendary “Elastic Elvis Adventures #275”, True Believers!