“Enjoy your first glimpse of the Negative Zone, Wyatt Wingfoot. It will be your last.”
(This issue bridges events that occur in Sub-Mariner #67, but which have no direct bearing on this story) The story starts with Annihilus flying through the Negative Zone, speaking to himself and then to an unknown being. He wishes revenge on Reed Richards for past events. In our world, the Fantastic Four have rejoined Reed just as Sue contacts him, asking for his help in finding the cause of Franklin’s seizure in the last issue. Her transmission breaks up and, frantic, Reed makes to go after her instantly, but he is waylaid by the rest of his team. Meanwhile, Sue leaves the Landers’ farm in Pennsylvania, heading back to New York, but on the way Agatha Harkness appears and takes her to a place where she tells Sue she will be safe to discuss matters concerning Franklin. Later, the FF find Sue’s abandoned car and Reed analyses the site, finding that it contains a high level of radioactive anti-matter particles, which indicates the involvement of the Negative Zone. They all head back to the Baxter Building and there encounter Annihilus, who is much powerful than he has been previously, and who very quickly incapacitates the entire team. Wyatt Wingfoot is the first to awaken and Annihilus tells him at length his own origin story. When he finishes, he throws Wyatt into the Negative Zone, where the others are already adrift. Annihilus is apparently victorious.
Things have definitely picked up with this issue. It is a very well-paced start to a tale of the return of a strong Fantastic Four villain, and enough intrigue in the surrounding plotlines to keep us eagerly wondering what will happen next.
Most of the story is taken up with Annihilus’ origin, and it’s actually a very interesting back story. As was, come to think of it, the Miracle Man’s a couple issues back. A comfortable amount of time is given to it and although it doesn’t reveal a great deal of complexity in the character of Annihilus — he is be no means a conflicted consciousness — the setting is primevally alien enough to be compelling, and his manner of relating it is matter-of-fact, and the tension that the length of the tale builds pays off the twist revelation at the end where it shows that Annihilus has already disposed of the bodies of the Fantastic Four, and the world is now apparently all his for the taking.
It’s very nice to see Sue in transit from the place she had been staying at. And Agatha Harkness’s appearance is unexpected but not surprising. She still proves an enigmatic character with slightly opaque motivations and she is seen here obviously exploiting Sue’s anxiety to urge her to do what she wants, which is to come with her. What the result of this will be, we cannot yet guess.
There is also some (perhaps inadvertent) humor early on when we see Medusa smack a visibly distressed Reed on the head with a wrench as a way to calm him down. This is an unwarrantedly violent measure to take against a teammate, and Ben calls her on it almost immediately. It’s amusing to think (although no indication of this is given in the story) that Medusa was just waiting for the thinnest possible excuse to hit Reed in the head with something hard — either because of his occasional arrogance, his terminal mopeyness, or maybe some leftover aggression from her time in the Frightful Four. It actually shows a bit of chutzpah in this character who is proving to be something of a wet fish, not really adding as much as Sue did in ability, emotional connection to the readers, or relational ties to her teammates.
Also with a lot of great John Buscema visuals, there is a lot in this issue to enjoy.