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This issue runs concurrently with X-Men #56 so honestly, either this or that other one could be read first.

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 Fantastic Four #416 (September 1996)

cover

Unfinished Business
[Onslaught, Phase 2]

Writer:  Tom DeFalco
Penciler:  Carlos Pacheco
Inker:  Bob Wiacek

At the Fantastic Four building, Invisible woman strolls through the crowd of injured heroes.  She stops at Ant-Man, Scott Lang, who was injured when the EMP struck back in X-Men #55 fried his helmet.  Beast is there (having been freed over in X-Factor #126), tending to the wounded.  Her father-in-law is also there, expressing a desire to run from the battle and take his family with them.  In his future, this is where the Fantastic Four and most other heroes die.

In Onslaught’s citadel, Franklin sits, meditating, trying to mentally contact his parents.  Onslaughts senses his attempts and decides to alter them ever so slightly.  The result?

Invisible Woman

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, the Puppet Master and his daughter, Alicia Masters, show up, making peace with both Invisible Woman and the Thing.  Meanwhile, Cassie (daughter of the aforementioned Ant-Man) is chit chatting with Kristoff, the spiritual successor to Dr. Doom when suddenly, Kang appears in the room.  Kristoff, wearing a version of his dad’s armor, immediately goes on the offensive, but it doesn’t take much for Kang to disappear in a puff of smoke.

The Thing, while reconnecting with Alicia, is interrupted by a giant grey…thing.  But hidden in the shadows is Psycho Man (seriously, where do they get these names).  Ben is almost beat but at the last minute, he tosses the grey beast onto Psycho Man and they both vanish.  As Torch and Lyja reconcile, two more show up to battle them:  The Super Skrull and Paibox the Power Skrull.  However, Torch and Lyja are aided by Karnak, Gorgon and Blackbolt of the Inhumans.  But with the skrulls defeated, Blastaar shows up.  Medusa arrives and takes him down, but as Johnny quips, it’s beginning to look like a “super villain convention”.

Black Bolt

Elsewhere in the building, Mr. Fantastic is chasing down the Wizard while Invisible Woman battles the Mad Tinker.  The two vanish when defeated and Reed is beginning to suspect what is going on.  But he is immediately set upon by Devos the Devastator who is then struck from behind by Namor!  Devos, like those before him, vanishes into smoke.  With the slight reprieve, Namor and Mr. Fantastic, who have long been adversaries, admit their mutual respect for one another.  Imperious Rex!

Nearby, the Red Ghost and his army of apes has Nathaniel Richards on the ropes when Black Panther and the Fantastic Force shows up to his rescue.  As the Ghost disappears in smoke, Nathaniel recognizes that his grandson, Franklin, is somehow behind all this.  Even as Reed prepares a device that will save them all, She-Hulk and the Thing team up to take down Tyros the Terrible.  Once Devos vanishes, Thing turns his attention to the machine Reed is putting together.

imperious rex

In the air above FF Plaza, Torch is in a pitched battle with Dragon Man and Annihilus when suddenly, they are both struck down and Torch sees that it was Dr. Doom.  Back inside, Invisible Woman is dealing with Malice when Agatha Harness dispatches the scantily clad foe.

Finally, Mr. Fantastic turns on his device, which causes waves of energy to radiate outward and suddenly all of the villains still inside vanish.  But this does prove to both Sue and Reed that Franklin is still alive.  Finally, the Fantastic Four gathers together, with all of their friends and allies behind them, vowing to put an end to Onslaught.

fantastic four

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Part of me wants to cheer at this issue, thinking that this…this is how you write a series ending issue (especially when your characters are last going to appear in the larger story’s own magazine instead of their own).  It’s well drawn (Pacheco is one of my favorites), exciting, and heartfelt, with the Fantastic Four coming together as a team at the very end and giving  us a great visual of them as well as past friends and lovers.

But on the other hand…this issue is really confusing and almost feels like one of those television montage episodes where they flash back to all the events through the 10 seasons even though you wanted some actual character development.  Bad guy after bad guy shows up…pretty much every major bad guy they’ve had to face (except maybe for Galactus).  And the names are so cringe worthy, reminding us just how corny the Fantastic Four have been over the years.  It seems like half of them have the word “the” somewhere in their name.  Heck, there’s so many of them that the story doesn’t even give many any screen time, showing Mole Man, Diablo, Molecule Man, Trapster, and Impossible man all disappear in small panels (plus two others I don’t recognize…because I’ve never been a big FF reader).  This also brings up another point…  so many of the villains have the word “Man” in them.  It makes me sad.

And then, this issue serves to remind us of just how bad the FF allies were during the 90’s.  I mean…the Fantastic Force?  Seriously?  At least most of the other allies seem appropriate and not at all dorky.  And it was nice seeing them all come together (even if Panther would have been more appropriate in an Avengers story).

Like I said…mixed feelings.  It seemed to be more of a series ender than Avengers #402, the art was amazing, and it did manage to hit so many high notes.  But so much was thrown in there.  Maybe if I’d been more of a FF fan and knew who half these guys were this would’ve meant more – that and maybe if we knew they weren’t getting immediately rebooted…

back cover

 

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