So it’s been a while since we did any Fantastic Four Re-Mix. A full year, in fact. What can I say? I hit a snag in the plot and let myself get tripped up on it. And I’ve always felt just slightly silly doing these things, anyway, so it seemed better to just wander off. But I re-read the earlier chapters recently, and realized that I liked them quite a bit. That lead me back in, and I had enough story left to tell that I decided to unsnarl my plot and keep going.
(And then, of course, they announced this week that they’re finally launching a new Fantastic Four book this summer. So I figured that, if I was going to finish this thing, I needed to go ahead and do it.)
But like I said… It’s been a while. So I suppose some explanations are in order. If this is your first time encountering the Fantastic Four Remix, for instance, I’m sure you have some questions…
WHAT IS IT? A far-more-complicated-than-I-imagined working-through of some ideas I had to relaunch the Fantastic Four from scratch, in the present-day.
WHY WOULD ANYONE DO SUCH A THING? Because I love the Fantastic Four. And since there hasn’t been an FF book in a while, I figured I might as well fill the gap.
WHY NOT JUST WRITE STORIES THEN, YOU FREAK? Because I had a lot of ground I wanted to cover, and wasn’t willing to devote that much time to writing characters I don’t own without getting paid for it. I love my readers, but I don’t love them THAT much.
IF YOU REALLY LOVED US, YOU’D WRITE MORE FUNNYBOOK REVIEWS! Piss off! I’m just having fun here, okay?! Gahd! Get off my back!
ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. SO WHERE COULD I READ THE REST OF THIS NONSENSE? IF I WAS INTERESTED? WHICH I’M NOT. Nope. Sorry. Not gonna tell ya. You were rude.
OH FOR GOD’S SAKE! I’M SORRY, OKAY? I’D REALLY LIKE TO READ THEM. IF ONLY TO SEE HOW STUPID YOU ARE. Well… Okay. Previous chapters of the FF Remix can be found here:
ALRIGHT, THEN! Alright!
Ahem. Sorry about that. These new readers can be SO touchy. For the rest of you, though…
WHAT HAS COME BEFORE: Oh, lots of stuff. I am nothing if not a complicated plotter. To really steep yourself in all the various details, you’d have to go back and read the whole thing. I’ll try to fill in background where I can, but here’s a rough overall picture to get you started:
Reed Richards put together a team for a mission to explore the Negative Zone: Ben Grimm (pilot)! Johnny Storm (mechanic)! Susan Storm (the journalist who tells their story to the world)! But upon arrival, they collided with an alien artifact and were bombarded with THE POWER COSMIC! This gave them their familiar powers as the Fantastic Four. They uncover a SECRET INVASION plot by the shape-shifting alien SKRULL, which is an on-going subplot. Reed’s friendly rival VICTOR VON DOOM hires the team to test his experimental TIME PLATFORM, and in the process, Ben becomes Blackbeard (dubbed THINGBEARD by Johnny)…
…an incident that’s still echoing through the story now. Doom is a continuing character in the Re-Mix, a villainous foil to the team, ala John Bryne’s Lex Luthor. He has an on-going scheme to wrest control of Latveria from the tyrannical regime that killed his gypsy family, and a growing suspicion that the FF represent a dangerous threat to mankind that must be eliminated. Likewise, PRINCE NAMOR the SUBMARINER is a continuing character, a noble-but-arrogant anti-hero type who has until recently been romancing Sue. As in the original story, he was discovered as a wandering amnesiac, who’d been missing since the end of World War II. But he’s since found lost Atlantis, saved it from the barbarian Attuma, and been rejected as their monarch (they adopted democracy in his absence). He’s currently serving as Atlantis’ ambassador to the UN, and is romantically entangled with the Lady Dorma.
Re-Mix Dorma is the former consort of Attuma, a fierce barbarian woman tossed aside in favor of “soft Atlantean women” when Attuma conquered Atlantis. She helped Namor defeat him, and has since been wrapped up in a quadrangle of sorts with Reed, Sue, and Namor (weird romance having become an unexpected theme of the Re-Mix). That’s all ended recently, and Reed and Sue are finally starting to look like they might get together after all (though throwing roadblocks in front of that inevitable relationship has been perversely pleasing, and I’m not quite done doing it yet).
But, Dorma. I’ve been struggling to find a decent image that matched the slightly unearthly look I wanted for her (and the Atlanteans in general), but I recently stumbled across an inspiring Photoshop job (unfortunately, I couldn’t find the artist’s name to give them credit). This isn’t exactly what I have in mind, but the eyes are really striking, I think:
At any rate.
In recent issues, the Thing was captured by THE INHUMANS, who want to put him on trial for the murder of a crew of Inhuman scouts back during the THINGBEARD INCIDENT. That murder didn’t happen, however, so the rest of the team freed him, causing incredible strife within the Inhuman ruling class in the process, and then escaped from the SECRET CITY OF ATILLAN with the queen’s little sister CRYSTAL in tow. They were pursued by KARNAK and GORGON, but then there was a whole huge incident with the newly-awakened FIN FANG FOOM, and everybody teamed up to deal with it. In the aftermath, Karnak shook Ben’s hand… AND SPLIT HIM IN HALF WITH THE DEADLY ONE-INCH PUNCH! Quickly teleporting out with the aid of Lockjaw, Karnak informed the team that they were welcome to offer up a defense of Ben at his trial, in one week’s time. And that’s where we pick the story up now…
ARC FOURTEEN: THE TRIAL OF THE THING!
This will be a two-pronged arc, with one side giving a more realistic picture of Inhuman society as Crystal and Johnny return to Attilan to prepare for Ben’s trial, and the other following Reed and Sue as they search for evidence of what happened to the Inhuman scouts. But first…
PART ONE: INTERLUDE
After the all-out action of the last story arc, we take an issue to catch up with the supporting cast and our various subplots:
When last we saw Frankie Raye (Johnny Storm’s girlfriend/rival on the outlaw racing circuit)…
…she’d had a drunken make-out session with rival driver Tura. Frankie broke it off before things got too heavy, but she’s still a little shaken up by it. For one thing, she’s surprised at herself for showing such loyalty to Johnny. I mean, they’re just havin’ some fun, right? RIGHT? Hurm. Heading to the garage the next morning, she hopes to commiserate with her BFF/mechanic Wyatt Wingfoot, but instead walks in on him in the aftermath of a night of passion with Jean-Paul Valley, driver for the Northern Lights racing team (who, in another world, is the mutant super hero Northstar). This is primarily a comedic scene, but Frankie’s confusion and frustration plays off Johnny’s increasing infatuation with Crystal, setting up the inevitable triangle.
Meanwhile, Namor sponsors the Latverian rebels in their bid to be recognized by the UN. It’s a controversial choice, considering Namor’s attack on the country’s legal government alongside Latverian expatriate Dr. Doom. But Namor handles the situation with an uncharacteristic elegance, explaining that his attack is what first brought the rebels’ plight to his attention. “My actions were misguided, based on poor intelligence about a Latverian attack on Atlantis. But the Hammerfell government is tyrannical nonetheless. And just as we in Atlantis have learned to embrace democracy, I believe that the Latverian people deserve the same chance.”
Alicia Masters (blind sculptress, lady friend of the Thing, and possible Skrull) gets a visit from her father Phillip (aka the Puppet Master, a famous stage puppeteer, and a secret Skrull agent).
As he promised he would, Phillip asks Alicia if she’d have a word with the FF about making a public appearance with Gabriel (charismatic evangelist and anti-Skrull activist). Alicia looks suspicious (“Dad, what are you up to?!”), but he assures her it’s all on the up and up. “Nobody wants the Skrull off Earth more than me, honey. You know that.” The two of them exchange a meaningful look, but Alicia remains ill at ease.
Of course, WE know that Masters only met with Gabriel to give his psychoactive clay time to bond, so that he could make a puppet of the man, under orders from the Skrull high command. But Alicia evidently does not. How much she knows or doesn’t know is – hopefully – the subject of much reader speculation at this point.
We also get back to the mysterious Men in Black (who’ve been going around asking questions about the FF for purposes unknown). Somewhere in the American Midwest, the dark-haired Man in Black (the one who seems to disapprove of the team) approaches a tidy home in a small town. The name on the mailbox reads “Grimm.” A sturdily-built elderly woman answers the door. Tall, with steel-gray hair, she’s a handsome woman in spite of her age (think Big Barda as somebody’s grandma). She’s wearing a leather workman’s apron, with a pair of leather gloves tucked into the waist and a pair of safety goggles resting on her head. “Miss Petunia Grimm? I’d like to ask you some questions about your nephew…”
CUT back to Namor, relaxing in his chambers with Dorma after his speech. He expresses distaste with it. “Embracing Democracy,” it seems, is not really something he’s very interested in. Dorma (ever conniving) soothes him, reassuring him that the deception, though necessary for diplomacy, will only be temporary. “If Doom can really deliver on his promises, darling, you’ll be back on the throne again soon. And then you need never worry about lying again.” They kiss, but their embrace is interrupted by a call from Hong Kong. Namor’s annoyance turns to shock, however, when hears a voice he never thought he’d hear again: his cousin Namora, ruler of the Atlantean splinter city of Pacifica, and protector of the Pacific Rim!
(She was introduced in the Fin Fang Foom arc, but that’s wwaaayy too complicated to explain here.)
The issue closes on Dr. Doom, watching news coverage of Namor’s UN speech from multiple different international sources, to gauge world-wide reaction to his scheme. His phone rings (though a phone seems like an awfully prosaic device for Doom to be using – maybe it’s some kind of cell access built into his mask?). It’s his lawyers, telling him that his strategy for dealing with the charges against him for his part in Namor’s attack on Latveria (long story) has worked. There are a few details left to clean up, but it looks like he’ll walk away clean. Pleased, Doom turns to a computer screen and opens a document labeled “Time Drone Analytics: Latverian Overthrow Stage Two.” His reverie is interrupted, however, by an unexpected visit from Reed Richards and Susan Storm!
REED: “We need your Time Platform, Victor! Lives may depend on it!”
TO BE CONTINUED!!
This issue deals with Crystal and Johnny, returning to Attilan to prepare for the trial. Its events take place over the course of a week, as they get things in order and await Reed and Sue’s return, hopefully with evidence that will clear the Thing.
It’s an awkward homecoming for Crystal; when she fled the city with the FF, she flouted generations of cultural tradition, and abandoned her duty to Inhuman society, as well (she was betrothed to Triton, Lord of the Undersea, and Black Bolt’s only equal). If it weren’t for Karnak’s judgment of her moral superiority in the Fin Fang Foom incident, she might be tossed in a cell upon her return. But Karnak’s word holds much sway, and so she is tolerated, if not welcomed back with open arms. Her sister Medusa, in particular, treats her coldly.
Visual Note: I haven’t found many Inhumans redesigns I liked all that much, but here’s a Crystal design I stumbled across that I do like. It’s alien, but still attractive, and the pose gives her a bit more fire to boot:
It’s through these various conflicts that we gain a more balanced view of Inhuman society. Black Bolt is far from the tyrant he seemed in the first Inhumans arc. He actually rules wisely and justly, and is beloved by his people. Gorgon is revealed as a melancholy poet, rather than the brute he pretended to be in pursuit of the FF. And Karnak… His final attack on the Thing has filled him with guilt and (worse for a man of his station and abilities) doubt. He spends every minute in deep meditation, emerging only to tend Ben’s wounds.
Ben, for his part, is doing as well as can be expected. After the attack, he’s undergone a shocking physical change: his rocky outer shell having been split in half by Karnak, his body shed it like a crushed fingernail, revealing a soft “nail bed” beneath. His exposed flesh is reddish-orange and very sensitive to touch. Inhuman medicine has helped as much as possible, but he’s still obviously quite uncomfortable. He faces it with a surprising humor, however, and little of the self-pity that’s haunted him since his transformation. Over the course of the week, he endears himself to many in Attilan, and eventually confesses to Johnny that he feels comfortable there. “For once, I’m not the ugliest guy in the room.”
Part of Ben’s change stems from the time he spends with Karnak. He applies healing unguents to Ben’s sensitive flesh, his abilities allowing him to apply the medications with only the slightest discomfort. But he also teaches Ben some of his meditative techniques, teaching him how to mentally overcome the pain, and in the process, helps him find peace within himself. (Note: this is a good opportunity for some cool trippy visuals. Specifically, some of Ben’s meditations could be built around the patterns of the Thing’s rocky hide.)
Meanwhile, Medusa, Crystal, and Johnny travel with Lockjaw to contact and gather witnesses. Black Bolt (speaking, as always, through Medusa) places a strict limit on the number of outsiders allowed into Attilan, however, and vetoes any of Ben’s military buddies, arguing that agents of human governments would be beholden to reveal Attilan’s existence to their superiors. That leaves them with three options: Alicia Masters, Ben Baxter (builder/owner of the Baxter Building, and mentor to Reed), and (gathered at Ben’s suggestion) his Aunt Petunia. Alicia and Petunia come immediately, with the others agreeing to testify on the day of the trial.
We see Johnny and Crystal grow closer through all of this. His attraction is obvious, and he makes her laugh in a situation that’s otherwise very difficult for her. Triton (to whom Crystal is still technically betrothed) stands between them, making Johnny reluctant to act on his feelings. But Triton hasn’t been seen in the upper city since the confrontation in Black Bolt’s throne room, and Crystal hasn’t attempted to contact him. Her desire for freedom has only intensified since her Terrigenesis, her emotions coming more and more to mirror the tempestuousness of her elemental powers. Eventually, as the week is winding down, she makes the first move. They kiss… And are interrupted by Medusa.
In a cold fury, she informs them that, even though Reed and Sue have not returned, the trial will go on as scheduled. And Crystal has been assigned to speak for the defense.
TO BE CONTINUED!!
So where the hell are Reed and Sue? The next two issues answer that question.
We open with the two of them, and Dr. Doom, preparing for a jaunt into THINGBEARD TIMES to discover the fate of the Inhuman pirates Ben is accused of murdering. They’re dressed in clothing appropriate to the era, with Doom in his more subdued “Phantom of the Opera” style mask (Re-Mix Doom has several different costume variations to suit various social situations), and a few subtle accouterments that function like his full armor, but at only a fraction of the full suit’s power level.
He’s also improved his Time Platform since the last time we saw it, moving on from the prototype to something more streamlined and easier to control. He’s agreed to let them use it, but only on the condition that he himself goes with them, to ensure that they do nothing to alter history… “this time.”
(In flashback, we see how Reed and Sue got from Hong Kong to New York so quickly: they hitched a ride with Aged Genghis, who transported them magically back to the Baxter Building. When they thank him for his aid, he just smiles a vacant smile and says, “Anything for Wise Grimm.” Then he disappears in a puff of smoke.)
And so they’re off! Reed has brought along a sensor device that he’s attuned to detect Terrigen energies, which he hopes to use to find the Inhuman ship and its cargo. But first, they need some idea of where to start looking. That trail begins with the historical Blackbeard, Edward Teach (who capitalized on the fear surrounding the Thingbeard Incident to take the name for himself). Teach has no idea where the Inhuman crew is, but he gives them the name of another pirate who might: Lord Plunder, who’s most likely to be found across the Atlantic along the Gold Coast of Africa.
(Plunder is, of course, a long-standing Marvel name. If you want to assume this guy’s an ancestor of Ka-Zar, I’m not gonna stop you.)
They find Plunder freshly-returned from a trip to the Savage Land, selling live velociraptors to the highest bidder. They attend the auction, hoping to use it as an in to get information out of Plunder. Reed places bids (much to Doom’s chagrin – that could alter history, after all). But luckily, he’s outbid by… THE BLACK PANTHER! This is our first glimpse of the Panther, an ancestor of the modern-day T’Challa (who we’ll see in a later arc). He uses the raptors to destroy a slave port and free some captured Wakandans. Our Heroes get swept up in that action, aiding the Panther, but being helpless to stop the carnage he unleashes in the attack. Once that’s resolved, Plunder tells them what he knows. He has done business with the Inhuman crew in the past, but last he knew, they were heading round the Cape of Good Hope and back up toward Singapore.
An aside: Among Plunder’s crew is a Savage Land native who bears a striking resemblance to Reed’s mother. Reed (who spent time in the Savage Land when his parents took him there as a child) speaks to her in her own language, asking about her heritage. She tells him that her grandparents came to the Savage Land mysteriously one day, and disappeared just as mysteriously when she was a child. And Reed, she says, looks a lot like her grandfather… (TO BE CONTINUED!!)
(Note: Other Marvel Comics pirates who could be in Plunder’s crew:
Patience Drew (aka the Queen of Spiders)
Jebediah Fate (an immortal)
Long John McGurk (a stranded space alien)
Raza Longknife (another stranded alien, posing as a Pacific Islander)
Jim Spliny, Black Mike, Maura Hawke, Slug McCarthy, Fredric Falkon, Heinrich Von Grubb
Most of these would just be easter eggs, names assigned to various background characters. But since I crawled down an interweb rabbit hole to get them, I thought I should share.)
Plunder’s information leads Our Heroes to the South Pacific, and the Terrigen detector leads them to the future Monster Island, where they find the Inhuman ship run aground. There’s no sign of life, or of the ship’s Terrigen cargo.
Reed, Sue, and Doom split up to search the island for clues. Reed heads immediately to the volcano at the island’s center, and confirms his suspicions: the Terrigen has already been dumped inside. Searching for the cave the team found in the last storyline, he also finds the dormant Fin Fang Foom slumbering in peace, the Terrigen’s mutagenic effects not yet birthing monsters from his flesh.
Doom, meanwhile, finds a survivor of the shipwreck in the jungle. He’s just finished covering up a mass grave, in which he’s buried the bodies of his fellow crewmen. Delirious and half-crazed, he tells Doom the story of how the ship came to be there. They were caught up in a vicious storm, the worst any of them had ever seen. Conditions were so bad that communications with Attilan became impossible, and they feared they might be lost at sea. Struggling to keep afloat, they were then set upon by an armored warrior who came out of the storm itself and slaughtered everyone. This lone survivor lived only because he was pulled overboard during the attack, and brought to the island. He was delirious through much of the experience, but he claims that his benefactor was the man who helped them retrieve the Terrigen cargo in America: Benjamin J. Grimm, the man they dubbed Blackbeard!
Elsewhere, Sue explores the wreck of the ship. Using her ability to make other things invisible, she looks around for secret compartments, or even just things they might have overlooked on their quick initial search. After poking around a bit, she finds the ship’s log tucked away in the captain’s quarters. It confirms the FF’s departure (Reed coming off far worse than Ben), then reveals the same story just told to Doom, but (crucially) ending before the arrival of the armored warrior. She finds a knapsack among the captain’s gear, puts the book in it, and is about to leave, but stops when she hears something. Turning toward what appears to be an ordinary part of the ship’s hull, she reaches out to make it invisible. We don’t see what’s inside, but she gasps as we…
CUT to the jungle, where Doom pumps the pirate for more information. But, exhausted from his exertions and nearly dead from exposure, he instead collapses into Doom’s arms. Doom lowers him to the ground and, holding him in a soothing manner, calmly snaps the pirate’s neck.
CUT back to Sue as she exits the ship, carrying the knapsack, but nothing else. She seems pensive, but none the worse for wear. Reed’s arriving on the beach at the same time, and, brandishing the bag, Sue tells him that she thinks she’s found what they need to clear Ben. Doom, however, is nowhere to be found.
CUT to Doom, emerging from the Time Platform back in his Time Lab in the present. Stepping calmly to a computer console, he begins reviewing records of previous time jaunts, revealing that he was the one who killed the Inhuman crew! He was positive, in fact, that he’d gotten them all. But his review of the tapes reveals something he’d missed in the heat of the battle: a scaly orange hand pulling one cowering pirate overboard, and away from Doom’s wrath.
“Grimm,” he says. “Obviously more resourceful than I gave him credit for.”
He pauses, thinking. Weighing his options. Then he goes over to the Time Platform control panel, and cuts the tether to Reed and Sue.
CUT to the two of them on the beach, at the exact moment we last saw them. Suddenly, they’re ripped out of spacetime, screaming in a psychedelic void.
TO BE CONTINUED!!
A Few Words on Inhuman Justice: In a society that regularly spawns psychics and empaths, it strikes me that trials would work a bit differently. The truth of any testimony could be determined on the spot. But because memory is faulty, truth is relative. Two different people can testify to the same events, tell different stories, and both be truthful according to how they remember things happening. So the Inhumans depend on something I’m calling “Psychic Forensics.” A jury of psychic sensitives listens to testimony from as large a pool of witnesses as possible, and collates all the various stories into one narrative that’s then accepted as truth. Hard evidence trumps this, of course, and the arguments of the prosecution and defense can help shape these narratives, as well. But in a case like Ben’s, where there is no hard evidence due to the great length of time that’s passed, testimonial truth is enough to convict.
That would seem to make this a simple matter, then. Both Ben and Johnny were there when Reed forcibly removed Ben from the Inhuman ship, when the crew was still very much alive. But things are more complicated than they appear…
(Storytelling Note: We get varying degrees of detail on all testimony, seeing it filtered through the lens of the psychic jury. This allows for some trippy visuals (always a good thing), but also for us to avoid going into too much detail about things the reader already knows. So it’s conveyed through snippets of dialogue, flashback, and warped, hazy remembrances shaded by each speaker’s own perspective.)
The trial begins at dawn. Black Bolt serves as judge, with Medusa as prosecutor, and Crystal on defense. Karnak sits at the head of the jury, vigilant for flaws in their understanding of events. The prosecution goes first, establishing their case against the accused, leaving the defense to argue against once the case has been laid out.
Medusa opens by calling Ben and Johnny to the stand. They testify to their leaving the ship, and are found to be telling the truth. But Medusa seems unperturbed, and presses on to establish Ben’s history of violence, arguing that he is not always in his right mind, or in complete control of his own actions.
Petunia fills in some childhood background on Ben. She raised him from around age 10, when his parents were killed in a car accident. Young Ben struggled with depression and anger throughout his adolescence, constantly getting into fights and becoming increasingly aggressive before finally finding an outlet for it in football. Johnny and Bob Baxter pick up the narrative with the Breach Craft team, and Ben’s history as The Thing, with Medusa emphasizing his erratic behavior throughout.
She finishes this line of questioning with Ben’s most recent rampage, when he was (unknown to anyone) under the control of the Puppet Master. Ben himself testifies to that incident, and his memory of it is fractured and hazy. He remembers only parts of it, and in those memories he’s like a spectator to his own actions, watching impassively while his body does things of its own accord.
We give special focus to Karnak during this testimony. Something is troubling him, but he’s not quite sure what. Everyone else, though, is shaken. The team’s been buffeted from adventure to adventure so much since this last rampage that none of them have taken time to really think about it. But when it’s laid out like this… There’s clearly something wrong with him. Even Ben himself starts to wonder if he’s too unstable to be allowed to roam free.
Her argument having been rather convincingly made, Medusa then closes the first day of the trial by lowering the boom: her ally Victor Von Doom (who, like Reed and Sue, is unavailable for testimony) has given her Time Drone video footage, which she shows to the court. It mirrors that of the footage we saw at the end of last issue, with the Inhuman ship in the midst of a terrible storm. But instead of Doom slaughtering the crew, it’s Ben!
This, Medusa argues, is incontrovertible proof. Not that Ben killed their scouts during the Thingbeard Incident, but that he WILL do so, in some future time jaunt rampage that’s yet to happen. The question before the court, then, is not one of guilt or innocence. It’s whether they will execute him for crimes he has yet to commit, or prevent him from committing them in the first place, by simply imprisoning him in Attilan… forever!
We pick up the night after Medusa’s devastating prosecution argument. The first day of the trial has ended with things not looking good for Ben. Alicia tries to comfort him, but he’s fallen into despair. He no longer trusts his own sanity, and tells her to leave. “I might hurt ya, baby, and not even know it. So scram. Get outta here. Go back to New York and forget you ever knew me.” But she’s not having any of it. She knew the risk when she started dating him, and honestly kind of likes it. “So you don’t get to push me away, you big orange bastard. Not over this.”
CUT to Crystal’s chambers. Medusa comes for a visit, and they have it out over Crystal’s abandonment of her duty to Attilan (and Triton) over what Medusa calls “lust for a pretty young human boy.” Crystal bristles at that (visual note: her elemental powers flare up around her dramatically when she gets mad), but ultimately Medusa’s concern is well-intended. She doesn’t want to see her sister become an outcast because of a youthful indiscretion. They part on better terms, but Crystal is left confused and upset. She doesn’t want to marry Triton, but should she really throw her lot in with a bunch of outsiders because of that? She worries about her sympathies in her upcoming defense, as we…
CUT to Karnak, deep in meditation once again, replaying Ben’s testimony in his head with the aid of an elderly Inhuman named RANDAC the ORACLE, an experienced and highly-skilled psychic. Karnak doesn’t believe that Ben was lying, but he noticed something, and its exact nature escaped him. But now, with Randac’s aid, he spots it: a flash of something, just as Ben is talking about blacking out in advance of his last rampage.
Visual note: the “flash” could be expressed as a very narrow panel, showing a sliver of whatever it is he gets the impression of, but not enough to identify it. They continue working to uncover it, through the night and all the way until…
DAWN! Though Karnak has sent word that he is unable to serve with the jury, the trial continues, and Crystal begins her defense. She starts by casting doubt on Doom’s video. Johnny testifies to the bad intelligence Doom gave Namor (which caused Namor’s ill-advised attack on Latveria), and Baxter reveals Doom’s threat to “deal with” the FF if he ever deemed them too dangerous to live. “Without this man here to submit to questioning, the truth of his work can’t be confirmed! So can we really condemn Benjamin Grimm to death for a crime that even the prosecution admits he has not yet committed?”
CUT to Karnak, zeroing in, the narrow flash panel getting wider… wider… but still not wide enough.
BACK to the courtroom! Crystal cites Ben’s many acts of heroism, and explains the torment his transformation has caused him (something the Inhumans, whose entire culture is built around such transformations, don’t really understand at all). Johnny and Bob Baxter act as character witnesses, guided now to discuss Ben’s positive qualities. They admit to Ben’s instability, but stress the great good he’s done, and can still do. This terrible future – if that video does, indeed, show the future – can still be averted with the support of friends and advisors, and a woman who loves him.
That’s Alicia’s cue to take the stand, and she gives eloquent testimony to Ben’s heroic soul. Even Medusa seems moved by it. In the background, we see an Inhuman court official conducting a genetic scan on her (as he’s done for every other witness), looking first puzzled, and eventually alarmed. Just as she finishes her speech, the Gene Lord leaps to his feet, and makes a shocking proclamation: “THIS WOMAN IS A SKRULL!”
CUT to Karnak. Finally, something clicks, and the flash panel stands fully revealed: it’s Alicia’s first statue of Ben!
BACK to the courtroom! Alicia tells her story. Sent to Earth as a far advance scout decades ago, Phillip Masters (the Puppet Master) settled, married a human woman, and gave birth to a daughter: Alicia herself. Her parents kept her father’s true nature from her until she hit puberty, when her Skrull genes began to manifest. Full shape-shifting isn’t possible for her, but she can slightly alter her form by shifting mass from one part of her body to another. It’s useful for retrieving things she’s dropped into tight spaces (and for her love life with Ben), but otherwise it’s not something she even thinks about very much. As far as she’s concerned, she’s human.
She knows nothing of the Skrull beyond that. As far as she knows, her father severed ties with his people after she was born, and hasn’t worked for them since. She doesn’t know the details, but he’s told her not to worry. His loyalty lies with her, and her loyalty lies with Earth. The jury verifies the truth of her statements, but the revelation still unsettles the courtroom. Alicia looks plaintively at Ben, but his expression is impossible to read.
Black Bolt signals for a recess, but before court can adjourn, there’s a flash of energy as a portal opens in the center of the room. Out of it step an elderly Reed Richards and Susan Storm, dressed in primitive tribal garb, and seeming to have aged 40 years since their departure. With them is a strange young woman, tall and thin, with pale green skin and bulbous black eyes. Reed is holding a device that looks like a modified version of one of Doom’s Time Platform remotes. He turns a dial on it, then looks around and smiles. “We made it, Sue! We finally made it!”
The portal collapses behind them, and Sue steps forward, holding the knapsack she collected from the Inhuman pirate ship. “Lord Black Bolt. We apologize for our tardiness. There were… difficulties on the road. But we have important information for the court!”
TO BE CONTINUED!!
And that, believe it or not, concludes The Trial of the Thing. Yes, there are still issues to be resolved. But the story goes somewhere else for a while first, so that’s what we’ll deal with next time. For now, though, all we’re left with are…
ARC FOURTEEN NOTES
The long break between posts masks this somewhat, but I’m slightly concerned that I may be giving the audience “adventure fatigue.” I very much wanted to emulate the great Steve Ditko Dr. Strange run through this part of the Re-Mix, with its string of endless cliffhangers, new creations, and excitement. But readers eventually need an ending, and we’re now roughly 26 issues into never-ending adventure. Seriously. We’ve gone from the introduction of the Frightful Four (6 issues) to the introduction of the Inhumans (6 issues) to Fin Fang Foom (8 issues) to the trial (6 issues), with each arc rolling right into the next, and the only true resolution being the defeat of Foom.
Even I’m getting tired at this point, which may be an additional reason I stalled out on the series last year. So I think it may be time to wrap things up a bit. I still have a good bit of story left to tell before I’m done with my ideas for the Re-Mix, but it might be wise to have some clear beginning-middle-and-end arcs before we launch off into the grand finale.
(An aside: I just went back and did a rough issue count for the Re-Mix to date. This arc takes us up to issue 82! Insanity! I had originally thought this might take around 100 issues total, but I’ve got enough for another 50, easy. More, if I explore a few half-formed side concepts along the way. Hmm. Maybe I should go for 200 instead. Hmm…)
One last thing: In re-reading the previous installments of this series, I became acutely aware that I haven’t focused enough on Sue. I have to keep reminding myself that she’s our narrator, so we’re getting her perspective on everything as we go. But I had this idea at the outset that she would become more self-confident as time went on, and that her powers would grow accordingly. But she doesn’t even have her force fields yet! So I need to give her some attention. And soon.
But speaking of the future…
In Our Next Exciting Episode: Adventures in Time and Introspection! Past Peace and Future War! Politics! Wakanda! Plus… INFINITE THINGBEARD!