Today is Thursday, so I'm sitting around reading the new comics I bought on Wednesday. Usually I post a line or two to "What Comics Have You Read Today?"; sometimes I devote an entire post to a single comic; other times I break the series off into a discussion of its own. FF:LS is one of those series.

#1: THE '60s

First off, a note to Cap (who expressed concern (in "This Week in This Week in Comics: May 17-23)) that "given that Reed and Ben are World War II vets, they're going to need some writer's fiat to make it to 2000, much less 2021," there is no mention of WWII service in this version of the legend. Oddly, it is Johnny, not Reed, who knows Ben (in an unrevealed way) from before and who brings him onto the team. Now...

IF YOU TRUST ME: Do not read anymore of this post until after you have read FF:LS #1.

IF YOU DO NOT TRUST ME: Read on.

In this version, Reed's mission is the fourth (Cassandra 4) authorized by President Kennedy after three previous failures. The team are already wearing the familiar blue uniforms with the "4" logo prior to their ill-fated flight. Reed brags that "The suits are inflammable!" to which Ben understandably replies, "Ain't puttin' my mind at ease, doc." (Wouldn't it be better if the suits were non-inflammable?) Don't let this gaff get in the way of your enjoyment of the issue, though. (I hope it will be fixed in the reprint, but it's an odd mistake to have slipped by both the writer and the editor, not to mention Reed Richards.) 

Speaking of the writer, Mark Russell is one of whose works I would ready practically anything he wrote. I can't even say that about Tom King (but then, Mark Russel has never written Batman to my knowledge). 

Also introduced in the "1961" section is Dr.  Ricardo Jones, who Reed Richards replaced on the Cassandra 4 mission. It wasn't until the "1967" sequence that I remembered that ":Ricardo Jones" was the ex post facto name assigned to the previously unnamed scientist from FF #51. (On Earth-J he has always been "the Lex Luthor of the MU"). I should also mention that, during the space flight, Reed Richards has some sort of "vision" of the threat of Galactus.

FF:LS #1 delivers the best rationale I have ever seen of why Reed decided to fly an unauthorized mission, but you're going to have to read the issue to find out what that reason is; I'm not going to tell you. It is President Kennedy himself who names the team after their return.

PAGE 17 bridges the gap between 1961 and 1964. there are weddings (Reed & Sue's), funerals (JFK's) and marches (Civil Rights). The FF make their public debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, on the same night as the Beatles.

1967: Reed Richards and Ricardo Jones both appear on a late night talk show (which I mention here just to plug CNN's original series, "The Story of Late Night"). The Thing's girlfriend in this version is Sally, not Alicia. He hasn't really seen her since before the Cassandra 4 mission. Dr. Jones and Ben Grimm do do the body swap in this version, but in a way quite different from FF #51. In this version, Reed is trying to find Galactus, not venture into the Negative Zone, and both Mr. Fantastic as well as the ersatz version of the Thing are drawn in. Dr. Jones, who up until this point had not believed Reed Richards about Galactus, is now confronted with the truth and saves Reed's life. It is the result of this experiment which draws Galactus' attention to Earth.

1969: Two years pass with no contact between the Thing and the rest of the team. After the birth of fanklin, however, Ben drops by for a visit. The issue ends with the FF watching the Moon landing. 

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I loved this issue, as I expected to. I'm curious, too, about how Johnny knew Ben. I loved seeing Sue at the Civil Rights march, and I loved how Dr. Jones was retconned in to being there throughout FF's early history. And I loved the developments with Galactus!

Yep, I loved it. 

I found the comic interesting, but I found the tweaks to continuity odd.

#2: THE '70s: I am somewhat less enthusiastic about issue two than I was issue one. For one thing, Mark Russell doubles down on his misuse of the word "inflammable" in such as way that it seems to be a last-minute reaction to his misuse of it in #1. (His script has Johnny Storm remark that "It's actually a pretty confusing word...") I hope this running joke doesn't become a hallmark of the series. Beyond that, Reed Richards becomes distanced from his wife throughout the decade as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea of Galactus. This issue is actually Sue's story as she finds her own identity apart from her husband and the team. By 1979 she and Reed have separated. Sue is with Namor and Reed is rooming with Ben. 

Nuts, I missed that issue this week!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

#2: THE '70s: I am somewhat less enthusiastic about issue two than I was issue one. For one thing, Mark Russell doubles down on his misuse of the word "inflammable" in such as way that it seems to be a last-minute reaction to his misuse of it in #1. (His script has Johnny Storm remark that "It's actually a pretty confusing word...") I hope this running joke doesn't become a hallmark of the series. Beyond that, Reed Richards becomes distanced from his wife throughout the decade as he becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea of Galactus. This issue is actually Sue's story as she finds her own identity apart from her husband and the team. By 1979 she and Reed have separated. Sue is with Namor and Reed is rooming with Ben. 

As George Carlin said, there are only two options. Either it flams or it doesn't flam.

Gotta say, not so overwhelmed by this, probably because it's not quite what I expected it to be. I had thought that the story would re-tell existing continuity as it would have been had the characters aged normally.  Instead, there are many tweaks to established continuity:

  • Johnny knows Ben instead of Reed
  • No Alicia Masters
  • Galactus doesn't come to Earth in the 60's
  • Reed doesn't recognize Victor Von Doom
  • Victor Von Doom doesn't become "Dr. Doom" until the 70's

I'm also not wild about the characterization, especially Reed's.

In the end, I suppose it's that they gave me an "Elseworlds" when I was expecting a "What If".

Just read issue 2 -- I'm fine with the running "inflammable" joke. 

And I went into this one with my expectations a little tempered by your reactions (and the reactions of other people online). But I'm still pretty high on it. I'm not crazy about Reed's characterization, although it's not unprecedented. We've certainly seen him characterized this way before, taking Sue for granted, getting lost in a project to the exclusion of all else -- but we've just seen it last for issues, not a decade. And this does feel like a slightly different approach than the Spider-Man Life Story. But perhaps a team's story necessitates a different approach.  

Bits I loved: Sue's line that her invisibility power was sometimes superfluous.

Betty Friedan's autograph to Sue.

The heroes meeting, and how while almost everyone else is in street clothes, Namor is in the Speedo.

Reed's distrust of Carl Sagan's SETI project.

Johnny telling Sue that she was the one he looked up to, not Reed.

Franklin's changing allegiances as Sue and Reed separate. 

Reed & Ben becoming the Odd Couple.

"That poor horse."

I just went through the long-box that contained 2003's Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules and I remember not liking it a whole lot. Makes me wonder why it was even published.

This is definitely one I'll look for at the library when it goes to trade.

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