Recent Dorkiness

Fantastic Four Re-Mix, Part Six: Hot Pursuit!

ff-silhouette

So I got a little carried away this time.

I had planned for this sixth installment of the Fantastic Four Re-Mix (previous chapters may be found at the link) to zip through several storylines in short form, to get my remaining ideas out of the way so I could go into the big finale in the next chapter. But then I started writing, and my quick synopsis for Arc Thirteen started sprouting ideas and details. One thing lead to another thing, and that thing lead to yet another, and another, and that fourth thing circled back around to make me see the first thing in a new light, so I re-wrote and added more details that lead to yet still more details, and… The next thing I knew, I had eight single-spaced pages (close to 5000 words), just for that one storyline.

I could go back and edit, I suppose, but… I don’t wanna. I like it as-is. It’s a tightly plotted thing, with dialogue, back-story, and scene descriptions that sometimes launch off into flights of super-heroic purple prose that I’d be embarrassed to have written in a less ridiculous setting. But this is a story about monsters and mutants, populated with Mole Kings, Sorcerers Supreme, lost Atlantean royalty, and a metric ton of obscure Asian super heroes that I pulled out from the dark recesses of the internet in a single feverish burst of research. It is sprawling and self-indulgent, and epic in a way that I don’t think previous installments of the FF Re-Mix have been. So I’m afraid you’re stuck with it.

First, though…

Hi! Hello! And welcome to the Fantastic Four Re-Mix! If this is your first time reading these posts… Well, hell. Hit that link above (or this one right here) to go back and see what this mess is all about. Briefly, it’s just me getting some fictional baggage out of my head, and rebooting the Fantastic Four from the ground-up. The FF is my favorite super-team of all time, and I evidently have a massive number of stories I’d like to tell about them. So these are those. Got it? Good.

Also before we get started, there’s a small mess to clean up from our last installment. After I posted that one to the site, I discovered an editing error that had omitted an entire section on the sub-plots that were supposed to be running through the Inhumans storyline. So before we continue on, I’m going to include that section here…

ARC TWELVE ADDENDUM: SUB-PLOTS

(Note: In the spirit of excess that this installment has embraced so fully, I’m expanding on these scenes from what I had written last time out. When you’re on a roll, you might as well go with it…)

Sexy Thing

Frankie Ray and her best frenemy Tura meet Alicia for drinks, and we learn a bit about Tura and Alicia’s past relationship. Tura gives her crap for “playing for the other team,” but Alicia says she’s always been a switch-hitter, and sees no reason to stop now. Frankie, meanwhile, wants deets on Alicia’s sex life with Ben. “He’s just so big, and the rocks… I mean, how does it work?”

Alicia pauses before speaking. But she’s a little drunk, and no shrinking violet even when dead sober. So she dishes.

“Well… The rocks… don’t go all the way down.” (Pause to let that sink in.) “So we’ve got that going for us. But, yeah. It can be a challenge, y’know? There’s things we just can’t do, and…” (shrug) “I’ll be honest. The chafing gets pretty bad sometimes. But overall… it’s good, you know? It’s really good. And I’m…” (lop-sided smile) “…equipped to deal…? With the size difference?”

Frankie’s eyes get big. “Whoosh. More power to ya, girl.”

(Note: This isn’t just salacious detail – though I did think it was high time we got back to salacious detail on the sex life of the Thing. Still, the information that the rocks don’t cover his entire body will actually become a plot point in the next story arc (it may also, if you’re reading between the lines a bit, say something about how much control Ben actually has over his appearance as the Thing – even if it is subconscious). Of course, Alicia’s confession that she has the capacity to have sex with a giant – especially after establishing that Sue very much didn’t – also plays into the on-going sub-plot about the possibility that Alicia’s a shape-shifting Skrull. Which brings us to…)

Puppets and Masters

Alicia’s father Phillip Masters (The Puppet Master, who has already been revealed as a Skrull agent) uses his fame as a puppeteer to arrange a meeting with the anti-Skrull demagogue Gabriel. Though Masters is a B- or C-list celebrity at best, that’s the only kind of celebrity endorsement Gabriel can get. But we also learn that he really agreed to the meeting because he’d like Masters to convince Alicia to float the idea of the FF appearing with Gabriel on television to discuss the Skrull threat. Masters tells him that his daughter is strong-willed, but he’ll see what he can do. But mostly, he just keeps Gabriel talking, so that his psycho-active clay (which he uses to make his puppets) has time to bond with Gabriel from its hiding place inside Masters’ briefcase.

The Temptation of Frankie Ray

After their night out with Alicia, Tura puts the moves on Frankie in the car on their way back to the racetrack. Frankie rebuffs her… but only after a couple of passionate panels. And honestly… Who could resist this?

tura-satana-masks

(Note: The above scene should fall somewhere after Johnny’s attraction to Crystal becomes obvious. But more on that below…)

Love and Beauty

Alicia gets a visit from one of the Men in Black (two mysterious agents who’ve been interviewing people who know the FF for several issues now). It’s the white-haired Man in Black this time, and he asks some pointed questions about Ben’s erratic public behavior, and about why she’s attracted to a man most people would say was a monster. The conversation gives Alicia a chance to expound on her sense of aesthetics, how her curiosity about the way things look – she’s blind, remember – translates into desire. She’s attracted to beauty in whatever form she finds it, and what she “sees” when she touches Ben is beautiful to her. Moreover, what she sees inside him is beautiful, as well. He’s troubled and imperfect, but his flaws only put his kindness and heroism into sharper relief.

The Man in Black nods and smiles, seeming pleased. For the readers, however, her attraction to non-standard (even non-human) beauty could once again play into the suspicions that she’s a Skrull. But her feelings for Ben also seem genuine, which may muddy the field a bit. If she is a Skrull, is she one that’s going to betray her own kind for love?

(Note: At this point, the differences between the two Men in Black are becoming apparent. The dark-haired one seems to not like the FF, and tends to take everything he hears in the worst possible light. The white-haired one, while still asking hard questions, is pleased to hear about the good in Our Heroes.)

Political Doom

This covers a few different scenes, to be spread out over several issues. The Latverian rebels, using weapons given to them by Doom, take control of the southern province of Rotruvia, and declare themselves a sovereign state. Afterward, Doom meets with Namor about the possibility of Atlantis sponsoring their call for aid from the UN.

Meanwhile, with Our Heroes…

The Inhumans arc (as well as this week’s follow-up) will be narrated with excerpts from Lands of Confusion: Exploration Under Duress, by Susan Storm.

One of the big issues, starting with the Microverse arc and continuing on through this week’s storyline, is the question of how much the rest of the team can trust Reed. Or, more precisely, how much Sue can trust him. She still feels lingering resentment over Veronica, the ex-wife Reed never told her about. So when he overcomes Maximus’ charisma in the Inhumans arc and breaks from Sue and Johnny (who were still taken in by him), she takes it personally. Even after they escape Atillan, Sue and Johnny aren’t entirely convinced that they were on the wrong side of the fight.

Also in the Inhumans arc, we saw Johnny getting close to the Inhuman princess Crystal, which only makes sense. She’s a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a heart of gold, and her inherent nobility appeals to Johnny’s more heroic side in a way that the vivacious but (let’s face it) slightly amoral Frankie Raye never will. After Johnny’s moral crisis in the Microverse war, Crystal is exactly the kind of woman he thinks he needs. And Johnny seems handsome and exciting to her, just the sort of thrillingly unpredictable man she’d like to run to while escaping her arranged marriage to Triton.

But there’s something else to remember about her: while Crystal may just be entering adult life by Inhuman standards, that means she’s 70-year-old royalty from an alien culture who was, before she met the FF, slated to become the queen of Inhuman Hell. And as we go forward into the new storyline, that will begin to become apparent…

ARC THIRTEEN: HOT PURSUIT

After the intrigues of the last few arcs, this one’s going to be centered a lot more on action, as the Inhumans Karnak and Gorgon…

…pursue the team out of Attilan to bring Ben back to stand trial for (the Inhumans believe) killing a ship full of Inhuman scouts during the Thingbeard Incident.

Kirby Thingbeard

(Because, again… I can’t post this picture often enough.)

One other important thing about this arc: I decided to take inspiration for the current run of stories from another of my favorite Silver Age series: Doctor Strange. At that strip’s height, Steve Ditko plotted out an incredible series of cliffhanger adventures that linked together into an epic that ran for over a year, building on established characters and situations while still expanding the character’s universe, building to ever-greater heights that culminate in a battle between the Dread Dormammu and the living embodiment of everything(!). It’s exciting, bravura storytelling, and I wanted to emulate it here. This really started with the introduction of Medusa in the Frightful Four arc, straight on into the Inhumans arc, and running into this one. Will it go even longer? Read on, and find out…

ONE: THE CHASE BEGINS

An initial encounter with Karnak and Gorgon establishes the chase, and the danger: while the FF could most likely defeat their pursuers in open combat, Karnak’s ability to find the flaws in things enables him to plan devastating surprise attacks. So uncanny is their ability to find and attack the team, no matter how many miles separate them, that it makes them seem more threatening than they really are, and sets Reed to wondering how they’re pulling it off.

He’s got other distractions, though, thanks to Karnak’s psychological warfare. He and Gorgon very much play “bad cop” here, implacable minions of evil king Black Bolt, driving a wedge between the Storms (who were taken in by Maximus’ manipulations) and Reed (who saw through those manipulations). It also makes Sue suspicious of Crystal (a member of Black Bolt’s court), which further splinters the team because of Johnny’s growing affection for the Inhuman girl.

Karnak’s most dramatic psychological warfare tactic, however, is against Ben. In their initial encounter, Karnak punches the Thing square in the chest, putting a large crack in Ben’s rocky hide. While it was just a test-blow for Karnak, something to help him determine the limits of his foe’s toughness, he plays it as if he thought the attack would have split Ben open like a gutted fish. It doesn’t help matters that the crack slowly grows larger as the arc goes on, audibly cracking every time Ben exerts himself. This makes him hesitant in general, and over-protective in future encounters with Karnak.

And not without reason. Because we see Karnak, in several sequences over the arc, figuring out how to actually crack Ben open with a single punch. (Note: good opportunity for some trippy visuals here.) The real key, of course, is Alicia’s earlier confession that the rocks “don’t go all way down.” So while Ben’s protecting his chest, Karnak will eventually figure out that the place to strike is actually the groin.

At any rate. This initial encounter happens while the team is still in Triton’s realm (the Under-Sea), just after Triton leaves them, but before they enter the cave system he’s lead them to. So after a few pages of action, Triton returns to order Karnak and Gorgon off. They refuse, in defiance of Triton’s sovereignty, and the team escapes into the underground while their pursuers battle Triton behind them.

TWO: MOLES

Next, still traversing the caves, the team runs afoul of the MOLE KING, who has moved to his Asian home beneath Bangkok since his initial encounter with the team. There’s some monster-fighting…

ff-vs-mole-man-darrow

…and we get to see the somewhat disturbing “do what thou wilt” society Elder’s outcast Mole People have built for themselves underground. We also meet the Moloids, a native subterranean race that serve as slaves. The Moloids subsist on a diet of pale fungus that the Mole King hordes to further control his underground slave-race. Not that he needs it; they worship him like a god due to his ability to control the monsters. He just limits their food supply because it pleases him to do so. (Scene: the FF break open the fungus vault, hoping to free the Moloids from Elder’s control. Instead, they attack the team for daring to interfere with their god’s plan for them.)

This whole situation breaks down when Karnak and Gorgon attack again. How did they get past Triton? Karnak hints that they won the fight, and have claimed the Under-Sea for Black Bolt. Crystal’s not buying it for a second, and neither is Reed (and they’re right). But things swiftly become too chaotic to give it much thought. Reed pits Elder and the Inhumans against each other, and the team escapes again as Karnak and Gorgon are tied up fighting the mole-monsters.

THREE: THE TOMB

Emerging from the underground miles off the coast, the team finds itself at the source of the Mole King’s strange menagerie of creatures: MONSTER ISLAND! They run afoul of bunches of bizarre Kirby creatures, and discover the source of the island’s strange mutations: a volcanic core composed of an unknown radioactive element. In trying to collapse the cave mouth behind them (thus thwarting Karnak and Gorgon’s pursuit), they unwittingly free the greatest monster of all:

OldFinFangFoom

FIN FANG FOOM! He Whose Limbs Shatter Mountains, and Whose Back Scrapes the Sun! Though he’d been trapped in peaceful slumber for centuries, something recently changed. He awoke one day in frozen agony, paralyzed as his flesh began to bubble and boil. And when the boils burst, they birthed monsters. These are the creatures, these SPAWN OF FOOM, that roam Monster Island and serve the Mole King underground, and they’ve continued to be born to this day.

(Scene: as FOOM tells them the story, he pops a boil on his shoulder in demonstration, and a massive, half-formed fetal monster falls, wet and dying, to the ground.)

FOOM thanks the team for freeing him, and in repayment, he deigns to let them live. The rest of humanity, it seems, will not be so lucky. His revenge for his years of torment will be genocide. The FF try to stop him, of course, but they’re badly outmatched, and he slips into the ocean, headed for the Chinese mainland.

FOUR: Pacifica

Giving chase, the team encounters a group of Atlantean soldiers under the command of NAMORA…

pagulayan-namora

…Namor’s long-lost cousin, another human/Atlantean half-breed and a hero of the Pacific campaign in World War II. Namora rules Pacifica, a splinter kingdom that separated from their Atlantean cousins when Atlantis chose to hide from the world. The Pacificans moved halfway around the globe, with the intent of helping the Japanese rebuild after Hiroshima. An unexpected problem arose once they’d settled in, however: Monster Island. Post-war atomic tests caused strange mutations, Namora tells Our Heroes, and the monsters haunt the Pacific to this day, searching for prey. Devoting themselves to protecting the world from these creatures, the Pacificans live on a constant war footing, and (Reed surmises) suffer from more than a little PTSD.

Geographical Note: Back in the Atlantis arc, I said that Attuma’s people came from the Mariana Trench. Which I, mistakenly, thought was in the Atlantic Ocean at the time. Now I know better.

mariana-trench

Just goes to show that research matters…

Reed explains (Reedsplains?) the truth of Monster Island: the atomic tests didn’t cause mutations. They affected that strange molten core above the TOMB OF FIN FANG FOOM, and caused the monsters to be birthed from his flesh. The SPAWN OF FOOM have plagued the Pacificans for decades (a span of time that seems “recent” to the immortal FOOM), and now the real cause of all their woes is headed for China.

Namora and her men join the hunt for FOOM, and they all fight him briefly in Taiwan, where he’s stopped for sustenance (they find him eating people like candy). But then Karnak and Gorgon attack once again, and FOOM decides that his little snack has fortified him enough to get him to the mainland. He wouldn’t want to spoil his appetite for the feast, after all…

FIVE: SPLITTING THE PARTY

Kind of a complicated issue here, with numerous small scenes moving the story forward. But we pick up where the last issue left off, with…

The Settling of Petty Concerns:

The team faces off against Karnak and Gorgon on the beach in Taiwan, filled with fear and resentment, and uncertain of the outcome. Gorgon blusters and Karnak taunts, still playing the villain, still working the psychological edge. They care not for human matters and human death. If FOOM wants to eat humans, let him! He’ll find Attilan no easy prey! This sets off Namora, who joins the face-off on the side of the FF. She doesn’t care what issue all these surface-dwellers have against each other, but if these two new interlopers are going to interfere in the chase for FOOM, she wants them dead. It looks like it’s about to go down when, suddenly, Crystal intervenes.

She tells (no, ORDERS) Karnak to drop the act. This is not the kind man she knows, the patient teacher who reveals his students’ shortcomings only to help them grow past their faults. And Gorgon is no lumbering monster! He’s a poet and a lover of animals, enemy only to the cruel. And cruelty is what they’re showing these fine people, these heroes, devoted to learning and the protection of the weak. A far greater threat than some centuries-old crime looms over them all now, a threat to all life on Earth, and as members of the Family Royale, the best Inhuman society has to offer, they had damn well better lend a hand to ending it.

Shamed, Karnak and Gorgon bow to Crystal’s superior morality. Their issue with Benjamin Grimm is not settled, he says. But if this FOOM is as great a threat as Crystal says, they can do no less than to follow her example.

Namora, exasperated, rolls her eyes. “If you’re done with all this idiotic posturing, can we please get back to saving the world?”

The Plan:

Karnak, though he caught only the briefest glimpse of FIN FANG FOOM, believes that fighting the monster is futile. His weaknesses are few, and inconsequential. The forces they have arrayed against him now could do little more than slow the beast down. They need more power to defeat him.

Reed agrees, but thinks that, more crucially, they need better intelligence. Someone put FOOM to sleep before, and they must discover how to do it again.

Namora says that she can help with both those things. She’s been working in the Pacific for 70 years, and has allies all across Asia. Allies she can gather quickly to fight the beast and, perhaps, to give them more information.

So they split up. With Ben piloting the Fantasticar, Reed and Karnak go to gather information. To aid them in this, Namora pulls forth a medallion in the shape of an eye, and calls on THE ANCIENT ONE, Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme!

ancient-one

Yeah, but… Never mind Ditko’s usual Ayn Rand crap. Once he hears their problem, the Ancient One tells them to meet him on Monster Island.

Meanwhile, Namora leads everyone else in the fight against FIN FANG FOOM, gathering allies along the way. To aid in this, Karnak reveals how he and Gorgon had been tracking the FF so easily: he produces a whistle to summon LOCKJAW, the Inhumans’ teleporting dog, who will happily follow the commands of Crystal and Gorgon.

Raising the Alarm:

Namora’s team heads out across across Asia, gathering a mismatched collection of heroes, villains, and everything in-between (Namora doesn’t care much about such fine moral distinctions). These characters won’t get much more than cameo appearances in the big fight scenes, but since I fell down the rabbit hole that is researching funnybook characters on-line, and did it for a full three hours, I figure I should at least give you a list of names and descriptions:

The Red Ghost (Considering that Russian communism is long-dead, I figure that a modern-day Red Ghost would probably be Chinese. And as long as we’re making changes, let’s make him female, too. Get a little gender parity up in this Asian Sausage Party. Like the original, she’s a government spy with the power of intangibility. Unlike the original, she has another, secret power to be revealed later.)
Sunfire (Japanese pop star super hero, with flame powers!)
The Silver Samurai (Troubled warrior with a laser-powered sword!)
The Mandarin (Chinese megalomaniac, with ten rings of power!)

mandarin
The Yellow Claw (Chinese crime lord!)
The Jade Claw (Daughter of the Yellow Claw – and his greatest rival!)
Jimmy Woo, Agent of SHIELD (Head of SHIELD’s Asian office!)
Xorn (Mutant holy man with a sun for a head!)
Colonel Fang (Lycanthropic Chinese military hero!)
Chen Lu the Radioactive Man (Scientist hero of Red China!)
The Iron Monk (Invulnerable Tibetan Holy Man!)
The Monkey King (Trickster hero of legend!)
Darkstrider (An eight-limbed Korean Spider-Man!)
Khrag Thung the Enlightened Vengeance (Tibetan Ghost Rider!)
Go of the Radiant Light (aka Go-Devil, a Japanese schizophrenic torn between good and evil!)
Mystical Lao-Tse (Chinese sorcerer!)
Fat Cobra (The Super-Sumo!)
Brother Power and Sister Sun (Solar-powered leaders of a Vietnamese religious cult!)
Red Ronin (Giant robot piloted by Japanese boy hero Rob Takaguchi!)
The Head (The severed head of a genius, with a weaponized flying life support system!)

the-head

(Yes, all those guys are existing Marvel characters, albeit with a tweak here and there to make them fit the tone a bit better. But I figured you had to see The Head to believe it. He was a World War II villain who fought the Young Allies.)

At the Tomb of Fin Fang Foom:

Meanwhile, the fact-gathering team meets on Monster Island, at the TOMB OF FIN FANG FOOM. Reed takes some readings of the strange radioactive element, and Karnak recognizes it immediately: it’s irradiated Terrigen. Karnak speculates that the Terrigen may have lain dormant until the atomic tests. The Inhumans themselves have to activate the stuff after they mine it, and they use mild doses of radiation to do so. This gross over-exposure, however, may have caused it to birth monsters. He doesn’t understand how this batch could have been here, though. His grandparents’ generation mined out all the local Terrigen deposits more than 400 years ago, and now have to travel the globe to find it.

Before they can explore the implications of that, however, the Ancient One arrives, mystically teleporting in from afar. He apologizes for the delay, explaining that he thought it best to collect a friend:

aged-genghis

AGED GENGHIS, a man older even than the Ancient One himself! Genghis seems distracted. Lost in thought. “A very wise man,” the Ancient One says. “In his day. He taught me everything I know. But he had the misfortune to discover the secret of immortality.” When asked why that’s a misfortune, the Ancient One seems startled. “Ah! Yes. I forget sometimes. You are men of miracles, men of science. But you see… Immortality has its limits. Aged Genghis endures, but the human mind can only hold so much time, so many memories. And he’s lived so very long. Longer than any other human being in history, I suspect. So now he’s senile. And quite mad. But if anyone knows the story of FIN FANG FOOM, it is him.”

(Note on Aged Genghis: He swings unpredictably from comedic to scary, cheerful to grumpy, addlepated to deadly serious. And though he’s supposedly a senile old hermit who has no contact with the world outside his cave, his speech is peppered with modern phrasings and slang, much moreso than the Ancient One. He’s in the background of every panel, usually levitating, hovering in mid-air with his legs in the lotus position, not seeming to really pay attention to his surroundings. But before every new revelation or turning point (even in panels that cut to other locations), he makes a small mystical hand gesture that goes unnoticed by everyone else (and maybe by the reader as well). It may be something he does in his madness, or he may be shaping events with magic on a deeper, more subtle level than even the Ancient One can perceive. He takes a particular liking to Ben.)

“I know this place!” Aged Genghis suddenly exclaims. “This is where Tensu buried the dragon!”

Pressed for details, he can’t remember much. Only that they fed the dragon something to make it docile. “Something Tensu made. Clever, clever, that Tensu. Mostly, it was those mushrooms. The ones I had to go underground to find. Deep down where the mole-men live. They weren’t happy to give up their food, oh no indeed.” (Close in on his face, which suddenly looks hardened and dark.) “But I can be very persuasive.”

Reed knows immediately what he’s talking about: the Mole King’s fungus-horde. And something else clicks into place: if the mushrooms could be used to make FIN FANG FOOM docile, surely they could be used to command his Spawn. Another good reason to control the Moloid food supply.

And luckily, the Ancient One knows who Tensu is: an ancient being now known as Dragon Tensu, a dragon trapped in human form. Truly immortal, and with a dragon’s gift for memory. The Ancient One has only met him once or twice, but he thinks Tensu will help them… if they can find him.

So they split the teams again. Karnak whistles for Lockjaw, and travels to where Namora is gathering her forces to meet FIN FANG FOOM at the coast. There, he recruits Sue and the Red Ghost for a stealth mission back to the Mole Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Ben, Reed, the Ancient One, and Aged Genghis search for Dragon Tensu.And at the coast, the fighting begins. FIN FANG FOOM ravages the mainland, even with the full might of the the Asian super-powered community arrayed against him. It’s clearly a hopeless battle, one that can only buy time for the others…

SIX and SEVEN: THE LONGEST DAY

These two issues will jump back and forth between the three missions, but I’ll handle each separately here, for matters of simplicity.

The Mole King’s Larders: The Mole Kingdom is still in disarray after the fight with Karnak and Gorgon. Three of the mole-monsters lay dead in the central square, Moloid slaves out butchering the corpses. Whether for food or easier disposal, it’s hard to say. But the chaos means that things aren’t very well-guarded. So, as Sue makes them all invisible, they head directly for the larders. The Red Ghost passes through the walls and starts handing mushrooms out to the others. Unknown to them, for every one she collects for the mission, she’s collecting another two for the Chinese government, passing them along via her secret power: the ability to open up holes in space, ala the Spot.

the-spot

Thaaaat’s right. Respect, bitches!

She lets the others know when the Larder is empty, and Sue seems confused. There were a lot more mushrooms in there than this when the FF opened it earlier. Assuming that the Mole King moved the rest, and hoping they have enough, they prepare to leave. And that, of course, is when the Mole King confronts them. Karnak explains what’s happening on the surface, but Elder doesn’t believe him. It looks like they’re going to have to fight their way out, but Karnak, ordering the other two back into the Larder, delivers a kick to the entrance, bringing down tons of rock to block passage. They’re sealed in, but it gives Karnak time to summon Lockjaw, and they’re gone. The Mole King rages behind them, gathering an army of Moloids, and calling for a mole-monster known only as The Mountain…

The Search for Dragon Tensu: Reed and his team retreat to the Ancient One’s Sanctum Sanctorum high in the Himilayas, where he works a complex spell of location. “If a dragon does not wish to be found, it is not an easy thing to pry him out of hiding.” (Note: good opportunity for some crazy Ditkoesque imagery as he works his magic.) The spell succeeds, and they find Tensu in Hong Kong, where he lives a life of opulent seclusion among that city’s sea of humanity, admitting only the occasional petitioners of favors, people who seek the miracles of Dragon Tensu.

(Tensu is such an insanely obscure character – appearing in, as far as I know, only one eight-pager from the Timely era – and being a very different character than the one I’m writing, besides – that I don’t have a picture of him. So I’m gonna suggest you just picture Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, and have done with it.)

lo-pan

Tensu greets the Ancient One with a sort of distant respect, but obviously sees Our Heroes as little more than another set of humans coming to him with their petty concerns. He either doesn’t recognize Aged Genghis, or pretends not to.

The Ancient One explains the issue to him, and Tensu flies into an arrogant rage, angered that some foolish mortals have undone his hard work (See? Now the Lo Pan thing is easier, isn’t it?). Ben cracks a joke about his attitude, and Tensu declares their audience with him over. And that’s when Aged Genghis walks up and slaps him. “Get over yourself! All you did was mix the damn potion! I’m the one who gathered the ingredients! The one who tricked the dragon into drinking it! I even picked the location of his tomb! And WHY?” He starts poking Tensu in the chest, and the Dragon suddenly seems cowed in the face of the old man’s assault. “Because YOU. WERE. LONELY!”

And so the truth comes out. Tensu, trapped in human form and outcast from other dragons, conjured up FIN FANG FOOM for companionship. FOOM was tiny at first, no bigger than a finger. He rode in Tensu’s pocket, and learned from Tensu’s wisdom. But over time, he grew. As Tensu’s arrogance and power increased, so did FOOM. Eventually, he was a giant. Seven stories tall. All of Tensu’s power and pride, given physical form. He ripped it all away from his creator, and set off to conquer the world. That’s when Tensu, diminished, sought the aid of Genghis, then Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Together, they laid their plans against FOOM. Tensu had made him indestructible, to protect his tiny, weak companion from harm. But now that he was a giant, that invulnerability made him unstoppable. So Tensu concocted a potion to control him, Genghis tricked him into drinking it, and Tensu ordered him to sleep, far away from people, where they thought he would never be disturbed.

Appropriately shamed, Tensu agrees to help.

Front Line Combat:

As all this quieter action’s going on, Namora leads the assault on FIN FANG FOOM. We’ll see this in short scenes of escalating desperation, FOOM laying waste to the Chinese coast, and advancing toward Hong Kong in spite of the heroes’ attempts to stop him. He’s constantly eating people, as well, scooping up soldiers and civilians alike in great handfuls, whenever he gets the chance. Namora takes notice, and comes to believes that he needs to eat to replenish his power. And she’s right. FOOM has radiation sickness from his time under the Terrigen Core, and is eating prodigious amounts to fight off its effects. It won’t kill him, but he needs food to keep his power levels up. So Namora calls for an evacuation in advance of his assault, getting as many people out of his way as possible, and her team falls back. In response, FOOM simply goes back out to sea to eat a few whales, and resurfaces in Hong Kong harbor, replenished. Issue seven ends with a desperate last stand in an abandoned Hong Kong, as FIN FANG FOOM rises from the depths.

(Like this, but less... Turtle-y...)

(Like this, but less… Turtle-y…)

EIGHT: FOOMWAR!

The Double-Sized Conclusion!

It all comes together in Hong Kong. Karnak’s team delivers the mushrooms to Tensu’s sanctum. The potion is mixed, but Tensu warns that they may not have gathered enough mushrooms to make it effective. Karnak and Sue turn to confront the Red Ghost about the shortage at the Mole King’s Larder. But she’s gone.

Meanwhile, the Battle of Hong Kong has begun. Namora and her allies, desperate and exhausted, fight a losing battle, and are on the verge of defeat when Ben pilots the Fantasticar on a suicide dive directly into FOOM’s face. There’s an explosion and a scream from FOOM. The Fantasticar, wrecked, goes bouncing off to crash in the street below. The demoralized super-army looks on in horror. But when the smoke clears, they see Ben standing in FOOM’s screaming mouth, holding it open by the teeth. Reed, wrapped around Ben’s waist, tosses the potion bottle down FOOM’s throat and Ben leaps away to land safely on the street below.

FOOM staggers in disbelief, choking and clutching at his throat. The Ancient One, Aged Genghis, and Dragon Tensu materialize in mid-air, before his blinking eyes. Tensu speaks. “Hello, old friend. I believe you’ve caused enough trouble for one day. Time to rest.” He smiles and waves his hand…

And FIN FANG FOOM laughs.

The potion didn’t work! FOOM shouts in triumph, and swats the three sorcerers from the air. The fighting starts over again, the exhausted heroes having lost hope. All seems lost.

But then there’s a rumbling from below, and up, through the streets of Hong Kong, toppling buildings in its path, THE MOUNTAIN emerges from the depths! The Mole King and an army of Moloids ride its mighty back as it rises. Up, up… Taller than the city! Taller than FOOM! It towers over the great beast, its every movement a creaking, crumbling roar!

Then the Moloids, in numbers too vast to count, go running up its back, off the cliff of its brow, onto FOOM’s head… and into his waiting maw. FOOM laughs in triumph again, these tiny creatures like lemmings, feeding his strength! Feeding his power! Feeding his… Then his rant trails off, and his eyes grow cloudy. Something’s wrong. The Mole King steps to the edge of the Mountain’s brow, smiling. “Hello, my friend. My name is Rupert. But you can call me…” (the smile twists) “Master.”

Down below, Reed puts it together. The mushrooms allow control of FOOM, and the Moloids eat nothing but the mushrooms. So Elder fed him Moloids until he choked on them. And now… The Mole King controls FOOM!

Thinking quickly, Ben gets Red Ronin (the giant robot) to throw him to the top of the Mountain. Flying through the air, fist-first, shouting…

clobberin-time

…he damn near takes Elder’s head off. The Mountain, not much of a thinker left to its own devices, withdraws below. Ben leaps off before it goes, but the Mole King goes down with it.

Back on the streets, FOOM still stands, dazed, waiting for instructions. Dragon Tensu, bloody but unbowed, appears at his feet. “As I was saying, old friend. It’s time for you to rest, now.” FIN FANG FOOM sits, obedient, and gazes upon Tensu like a loving hound.

The crisis over, we end with a series of epilogues:

The Pacificans aid the people of Taiwan and Hong Kong in rebuilding after FOOM’s assault.

The Red Ghost reports to her superiors on the mind-control potential of the subterranean mushrooms, and tells them where they can find more. In the background, we see three caged apes…

Dragon Tensu and his allies return FIN FANG FOOM to his tomb on Monster Island, and order him to sleep. The Ancient One sets wards on the volcano to ensure that he’s not disturbed again.

The Inhumans remove the Terrigen core from Monster Island, taking it back to Attilan for study, ensuring that no more monsters will be birthed from his flesh.

Jimmy Woo directs a SHIELD operation to cordon off Monster Island, keeping the curious out, and the monsters in.

Namora, suddenly freed from the responsibility of protecting the world from Monster Island, ponders what Pacifica will do next. Perhaps it’s time, Reed suggests, to contact Atlantis.

Johnny works to repair the Fantasticar, which is already starting to pull itself back together.

The Inhumans prepare to leave with the Terrigen Core, but Crystal elects not to go with them. Karnak acquiesces to her desires. Her wisdom, he says, has proven itself superior to his own.

Then Karnak turns to thank the FF for their role in the crisis, apologizing for his earlier manipulation of them. He takes special care to thank Ben, offering him a handshake. Ben hesitates, nervous, then accepts.

Karnak: “You are a mighty warrior, Benjamin Grimm. A worthy adversary, and a great ally. It has been my pleasure to work with you through the recent crisis.”

Ben (smiling): “Y’know, I had you all wrong, Karnak. Yer a soldier. Ya had a job ta do, and you were doin’ it. No shame in that.”

Karnak (smiling): No shame, indeed. There is, however–”

Ben’s smile becomes frozen. He coughs blood. Then his face splits in two.

Karnak (face now impassive, and splattered with Ben’s blood): “…much shame in this.”

We pull back to see that, while shaking Ben’s hand, Karnak has issued a ONE-INCH PUNCH just below the belt, and Ben’s rocky hide has split down the middle. He falls to the ground, unconscious, his outer shell of rocks falling away on both sides. Beneath is a bloody mess.

Before the rest of the team can react, Lockjaw teleports Karnak and Ben away. As they fade out, Karnak’s voice informs the team that they have earned the right to attend Ben’s trial in three days’ time, and offer whatever defense they can…

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

NEXT: Time Travel! Treachery! Doom Triumphant! And… THE TRIAL OF THE THING!

fantastic-four-91

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About Mark Brett (414 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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