Appearing in "Nightlife"
Races and Species:
- New York City
Synopsis for "Nightlife"
The Human Torch streaks across Manhattan's skies, exulting that the Fantastic Four are a team once more. He skywrites a huge "4" and treats the bystanders below To a brilliant fireworks display. Not all are entertained, however, and it is not long before the New York Fire Department is called and Captain Forbes, a battalion chief, tells Johnny to stop. The city has been as dry as a tinderbox for the last three weeks, he says. Not wanting to be a fire hazard. Johnny quickly complies, and then he soars away past the Baxter Building to Alicia Masters's apartment. The top floors of their headquarters have been empty since the Fantastic Four's breakup, he muses, wondering whether Reed intends to have the team move back in soon.
Johnny enters Alicia's place through a window, and Alicia, Franklin, Agatha Harkness, and his teammates greet him. Ben chides him for being late, while Franklin and Agatha compliment him on his fireworks. Ben has a copy of the Daily Bugle that headlines a string of mysterious disappearances in New York, but no one notices, because they have gathered for another reason. Alicia says that she summoned Agatha from Whisper Hill to present her with her latest work. Then she unveils a statue of Agatha as a young woman. The old lady is struck speechless by the beauty of the piece, marveling at the blind sculptress's expertise. She sculpts with her soul, says Agatha, so all is revealed to her in spite of her sightlessness. She declares that she can never thank Alicia enough for reawakening her precious memories. Reed says that they will be happy to transport the statue to Whisper Hill when the Pogo Plane is out of mothballs.
Soon Reed and Sue escort Agatha and Franklin to the train back to Whisper Hill, leaving Ben. Alicia, and Johnny in the apartment. Ben hoists Alicia into the air. proud at how happy she made the "old woman," but Alicia, perplexed, wonders what old woman Ben might be referring to. Johnny interrupts their conversation by giving Ben a hotfoot, and Ben retaliates by grabbing the fleeing youth by the collar. Things are back to normal, laughs Johnny, and Ben. his anger gone, herds him and Alicia out the door to celebrate at a Brew n' Burger around the corner. After they leave, a sinister figure that was disguised as one of Alicia's statues silently gets off its pedestal in the darkened apartment and opens a window. The Mole Man then climbs down a chain of his subterraneans to the street and orders them to proceed with their mission. The city is theirs, he says, because the unsuspecting Fantastic Four will not hinder them.
First the subterraneans Kidnap a blind man, whose seeing-eye dog runs away in a panic, by wrapping him up in a transparent cloth, and then they make off with a statue. Then they capture a derelict and a cleaning lady. A chain of subterraneans stretches up the side of a building to the apartment of blind attorney Matt Murdock, but when they enter to abduct him, he is gone. A radio broadcast about the mysterious disappearances alerted him, so he changed into his Daredevil costume and swung out into the night to investigate. All through the night the strange kidnappings continue, and the city's panic grows.
Chapters Two: Encounter! The next morning, the Daily Bugle reports the latest wave of abductions. Reed buys a copy from a newsboy, who. being a brother to some Yancy Street Gang members, starts to insult the Thing. Ben becomes annoyed and accidentally splits open his sportscoat. and after raging for a while, he turns over the remnants as a souvenir to some schoolchildren. Suddenly a police limousine pulls up. District Attorney Blake Tower and Detective Kris Keating, having heard that the Fantastic Four are back together, request their assistance with the disappearances, but Reed has to decline because his equipment is still in storage with SHIELD.
They don't even have access to their headquarters at the Baxter Building, says Reed. As the lawmen leave, disgruntled,' the teammates and Alicia take a bus in search of a place to stay. (They do not want to impose on the Avengers, who are having security problems.) The passengers take a dim view of sharing the vehicle with "freaks" and quietly get off, but fortunately the bus driver is one of their fans, and he cheerfully chauffeurs them around the city. As night falls, the subterraneans creep out of their hiding places, and the Mole Man directs them on what he says will be their final raid.
Again the creatures form a chain up the side of an apartment building* and the Mole Man climbs back into Alicia's studio. He directs them to remove all of Alicia's statuary, hurrying them along lest the Fantastic Four catch them there. Unfortunately, at just that moment the elevator door opens and the four teammates and Alicia step out. Radio City Music Hall was sold out, says a disappointed Sue, and Johnny affirms that the line tor the next show was around the block. As Alicia walks up to her door, she hears someone moving inside, and then they all hear one of her statues shatter on the floor.
Chapter Three: Confrontation! Ben breaks down the door, and they catch the Mole Man and his minions red-handed. Reed comments wryly that the case of the mysterious disappearances has just solved itself. The Mole Man. vowing not to be thwarted this time, counters Reed's attack with his staff and trips Ben. who Is quickly inundated by a wave of subterraneans. The Mole Man gloats that they must battle in the darkness, his own element, because he smashed the fuse box, and as Reed stretches to Ben's aid, the Mole Man electrically jolts Reed and causes him to briefly lose control of his power. Then Johnny strips off his street clothes and flames on. But the flame does not affect the subterraneans, and the Mole Man explains that he treated their bodies with a fire-resistant chemical.
As three subterraneans bring Johnny down and snuff out his flame, the Mole Man turns toward Alicia, the one they came to abduct. When Ben sees her in danger, he hurls the subterraneans aside to go to her rescue. At the same time. Sue turns invisible, but the Mole Man finds her with his batlike radar sense and knocks her to the floor with his staff. The Mole Man grasps Alicia's hand as Ben runs up, and then he stuns Ben with another electrical Jolt from his staff. Then he picks Alicia up. crashes out of the window, and runs down the chain of subterraneans to the street. Sue, who revived in time, races invisibly after him. Reed, Ben, and Johnny slowly recover from the effects of the Mote Man's neuro-shocks as the last of the subterraneans hurry through the window. When Sue cannot be found. Reed assumes that she followed the Mole Man. Sure enough, a few moments later they see the "4" signal flare light up the sky.
Chapter Four: Pursuit! They take a cab and find Sue, her flare gun still smoking. The driver demands payment, but Ben argues that it Is a matter of life and death. The cabbie insists, and Reed tells Ben to tell the driver to bill the ride to Tony Stark. This annoys the driver even more, and he wishes them all bad luck. Ben soon discovers that the cabbie grew up on Yancy Street. Sue, meanwhile, objects to Reed's patronizing attitude and gets him to promise that she will assume her fair share of the danger on this mission. Then she says that the Mole Man took Alicia down an abandoned subway tunnel, and when the four teammates descend, they discover a vertical shaft bored up into the subway bed from below. Johnny flames on and streaks down It, and Reed turns himself Into a slide for Sue and Ben.
At the bottom they find a large cavern containing a subterranean village, wherein they see the stolen artifacts and the kidnap victims. Alicia hears them arrive, and when Ben sees her, he spnnt3 to her rescue. Unfortunately, the Mole Man knocks him to the ground with an energy blast. The Fantastic Four are trespassing, he declares, but Reed replies that the Mole Man Is a thief and a kidnapper. Not so. says the Mole Man. The people are there of their own free will, and the statuary has merely been borrowed. Ben stands up and hurls a boulder at the Mole Man, even though Alicia asserts that the Mole Man Is telling the truth. Ben thinks that she has simply been brainwashed along with the others.
Chapter Five: Battle! The Mole Man ducks and tells the foursome to depart before his subterranean army destroys them, but they ignore him and brace themselves for the onslaught. The Mole Man turns the ground under Ben to quicksand, and then he nerve-jolts Reed. Then Johnny circles the Mole Man In flame. In desperation, the Mole Man calls on his supposed victims for aid, and the blind and deformed derelicts and outcasts advance toward the Fantastic Four, calling on them to leave them alone. They want to be with the Mole Man, explains Alicia. Better to live in the darkness underground than endure the pity and the Insults of the people on the surface, they say. Not wanting to injure any of them, Sue quickly surrounds herself and- her teammates with a force field, against which the blows of the people fall harmlessly as they tell the Fantastic Four to return home.
Ben interprets some of their comments as insults and angrily begins to pound the force field. He wants Sue to drop the. barrier so he can get at them. The blows exhaust Sue, who lets her field down, and the outcasts swarm" over him. Ben grabs some and asks what has gotten into them, and they explain that the Mole Man gave them a world in which they are all accepted. They beg Ben not to take them back to the surface. Then Reed separates the Mole Man from his staff and carries him away for a talk. The Mole Man wails that he has lost again, but Reed says that this is not necessarily so. It appears that many of the people are telling the truth, he continues. Alicia explains that the Mole Man wants to copy the statues that were taken and return the originals. Comprehending at last. Reed releases the Mole Man. Many who were kidnapped are blind and depend on others to describe the loveliness of the world to them, says Reed.
Others, says the Mole Man, hate to look at themselves, even as he once did, so he gave them beauty they could touch, hear, and taste. There are sculptors, chefs, and musicians in the underground village, says the Mole Man, but no mirrors. And now, he laments, the Fantastic Four want to deprive them of this. Then Alicia agrees to donate all her sculptures to the outcasts, except those already promised to others, and she promises to give the Mole Man a gift fit for a king. Sometime later, the Fantastic Four oversee the departure of those kidnap victims who wish to return to the surface. All the statues have been carefully reproduced in the Mole Man's foundries, and the originals are back with their rightful owners. Those who remain with the Mole Man will become his friends, he says, the first he has had in a very long time. Then Alicia unveils a statue in clay that the Mole Man can cast in any metal he chooses. As his fingers go over the statue's contours, tears come to his eyes, for he recognizes it as a statue of himself. He will cast it in gold, he proclaims, for Alicia has portrayed him as a grand and handsome monarch. All the teammates are touched save Ben, who grumpily declares that it is time to head back home.
- Right out of the gates, Johnny mentions how the Fantastic Four recently got back together:
- The group broke up in Fantastic Four #191, due to the fact that Reed had lost his powers in Fantastic Four #178
- The group remained apart until they were forced back together by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #196
- Reed's powers were restored by Doom in Fantastic Four #197.
- The Fantastic Four officially reformed as a group following the defeat of Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #200.
- Johnny also mentions how they no longer live in the Baxter Building. The team moved out when they broke up in Fantastic Four #191, but Reed manages to rent it back again in Fantastic Four #201 due to the fact that their old land lord Walter Collins couldn't find any new tenants.
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