Appearing in "The Tunnels of the Mole Man!"
- Dr. DeVere
- New York State
Synopsis for "The Tunnels of the Mole Man!"
The Fantastic Four have come to Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. where they meet with Dr. DeVere. There they learn that the operations have been scaled down considerably since the Thing used to work security at the facility and that most of the super-villains that used to be contained there have since been transferred to the Vault. The Thing tells DeVere that they are looking for the Mole Man and heard that there was a tunnel that ran under the facility. DeVore tells them that there is, but it was sealed off following an attack by the Lava Men, but agrees to take them to it. Along the way, Ben spots the room where his old charge Wundarr used to live and once again has to remember how things have changed over the years. His mind then goes back to why they decided to come here in the first place...
Earlier the Fantastic Four and their ally the Black Panther were busy hunting down an destroying the various spy devices implanted in their headquarters by Doctor Doom. This leads to a discussion about Doctor Doom's current struggles to regain the Latverian throne. When Black Panther tries to explain Doom's motivations, the group misunderstands him initially and he has to explain that a king will do whatever he can for his country, although he doesn't agree with Doom's chosen path. Sharon talks about her own path, telling the group that if nobody was there for her after she was transformed into a She-Thing, she would have cracked. When Ben chastises himself for not being as smart as Reed and avoid trouble from Doom, the rest of the group assures him that he has proven what it takes to be leader of the Fantastic Four. With the bugs all destroyed, the Black Panther tells his friends that he must go and bids the new Fantastic Four farewell. This gets the Thing to thinking about the Mole Man, and how he tried to help him in the past, he decides that they should return the favor and try to find him, and that maybe Sharon could talk some sense into their old foe...
.... As Ben finishes his recollection, he recalls how his intention was not to have Sharon just talk to the Mole Man, but hopefully have the Mole Man cure Sharon of her mutation. When they reach the cap to the tunnel of the Lava Men, DeVoor opens it for them and the Fantastic Four jump down and begin their trek, unaware that they are doing DeVoor's sinister work for him.
Deep in the tunnels of Subeterranea, the Fantastic Four are suddenly ambushed by a group of Moloids. Johnny gets them to shrink back by flaming on to temporarily blind them. When Ben asks them why they attacked and where their master is, the Moloids explain that the Mole Man abandoned them because of the Fantastic Four's last battle with the Mole Man. They explain that without the Mole Man to protect them they are at the mercy of the Tyrannoids and Lava Men who also dwell below the Earth. Agreeing to go looking for the Mole Man, the Fantastic Four are led to the tunnel that leads to where he was last seen. As they traverse, the Thing thinks about how he hopes his plan will play out and Sharon can be cured. But as they go along, Sharon remarks about how with her new body she can take on anything. While behind them Crystal confides in Johnny that she misses her family, and Johnny assures her that while she is away from the moon, the entire team is there for her.
When they reach the lair of the Mole Man, they find that it has been overrun with Tyrannoids who are trying to steal his weapons. When Johnny tries to flame on to blind them, the Tyrannoids are smart enough to put on goggles to protect themselves from the blinding glare. However the creatures are only slightly smarter than the Moloids and they are easily trounced in a fight. Ben demands to know where the Mole Man has gone, but the Tyrannoids also don't know. When the Moloid's arrive moments later they notice that not only is their master gone, but he took his heat suit to go even deeper to one of the hotter parts of Subterranea. After some consultation, Crystal believes that she can control the elements around Sharon and Ben to keep them safe while they travel deeper to find the Mole Man.
As they get even deeper still, Johnny spots the Mole Man from up ahead. When Ben calls out to him, the Mole Man stops. At first the Mole Man is angry as everyone he has trusted has betrayed him. Ben tries to appeal to the Mole Man, telling him that without him his Moloids are without protection or a leader. Before the Mole Man can make up his mind, suddenly an army of Lava Men come out of a nearby lava pool and begin to attack. Johnny goes to fend them off, but when Ben tries to run into battle as well Crystal stops him, telling the two Things that they need to stay close to her if they want to be protected by the tremendous heat. Even though he is on his own, Johnny is able to fight off the Lava Men and force them into retreat. In the heat of the battle, the Mole Man tries to help, but is quickly grabbed by two Lava Men and is pulled into the molten magma with them.
With no other choice, Crystal has to leave Ben and Sharon's side to try and save the Mole Man, as her elemental powers can protect her from the lava. She dives into the magma it is too dark and too deep that the strain begins to be too much. When she tries to reverse to the surface, one of the Lava Men grabs her leg. In order to free herself, Crystal summons air bubbles that causes a minor eruption that shoots her back up to the surface. Johnny rushes to her side and holding her close, uses his powers to draw the excess heat from her body, saving her life just in time for her to use her elemental powers to protect Sharon and Ben again. With their mission a failure, Johnny covers over the Lava Men's pool to prevent them from attacking the Moloids further.
Back at the Mole Man's lair, Ben explains his real motivations for coming down there: to try and get the Mole Man to cure Sharon. Sharon is touched by this, but assures Ben that she is finally comfortable with her new form and doesn't want to be cured anymore. In the aftermath of everything, Johnny comes to the horrifying self-realization that hold Crystal in his arms again felt good.
- The continuity of this issue is offset by both a flashback and events happening behind the scenes. The flow of continuity is as follows:
- The scenes where the Fantastic Four and the Black Panther destroying Doom's spying devices in the Four Freedoms Plaza occur first.
- The group are next seen in Alpha Flight #61 where they are watching Alpha Flight's televised court trial.
- Ben is later seen in Amazing Spider-Man #300 where he allows Spider-Man to contain Venom at the Four Freedoms Plaza.
- The team is next seen in Damage Control #2 where they fight Doctor Doom at the offices of Damage Control.
- The group is visited by the authorities in Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 while Nick Fury is a fugitive of the law.
- Ben mentions that he used to work security at Project PEGASUS. He had that job from Marvel Two-In-One #53–58.
- DeVoor mentions how Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. was a repository for super-villains this has been the case since it was first seen back in Marvel Two-In-One #42, however since the Vault was opened in Avengers Annual #15, all the super-villains have since been moved out.
- The tunnel that the Fantastic Four mention being beneath PEGASUS was first discovered in Avengers #236 when the Lava Men used it to attack the surface.
- Ben recalls his old ward Wundarr, an alien with childlike intellect who Ben took into his care back in Marvel Two-In-One #2. Wundarr lived at P.E.G.A.S.U.S. from Marvel Two-In-One #41–58.
- The Black Panther appears in the flashback in this story, his appearance here is between Silver Surfer (Vol. 3) #10 and Captain America #342.
- The group goes over some of Doctor Doom's issues of late they are:
- Ben mentions Reed not being around. Reed and his wife Sue took a leave of absence from the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #306 so they could spend more time with their son Franklin. The couple remain on leave from the team until Fantastic Four #326.
- The Thing's master plan is to try and get the Mole Man to cure Sharon after the Mole Man was able to help Ben previously. Here are some more details on that:
- In the Thing #35–36 the Thing was infected with a virus by the Power Broker that caused him to mutate further.
- He sought the aid of the Mole Man in Fantastic Four #296 who was able to cure him. Although shortly thereafter the Fantastic Four battled the Mole Man leading to the sinking of Monster Island.
- Although the narrative makes it appear as though Doctor DeVoor will have a role to play later, this plot thread is never explored again.
- The Moloids mention that the Tyrannoids were also recently forsaken by their master. They are referring to Tyrannus another would-be ruler of Subterranea. He rejected his followers in Incredible Hulk #243.
- Throughout this issue there is a great deal of tension between Johnny and Crystal because of the following:
- Johnny and Crystal dated between Fantastic Four #65–105 until the outside world's pollution forced her to return home to Attilan.
- Crystal ended up rescuing Quicksilver along the way and the two fell in love as seen in Fantastic Four #131–132. Crystal and Quicksilver later got married in Fantastic Four #150. Johnny had a series of failed relationships.
- Sometime later Johnny began showing interest in the woman he thought was Ben's old girlfriend Alicia Masters, around Fantastic Four #265. But, as explained in Fantastic Four #358, Alicia was secretly replaced by the Skrull spy Lyja who was sent to infiltrate the Fantastic Four. With the Thing no longer part of the team she focused her attention on Johnny.
- Johnny recently married "Alicia" in Fantastic Four #300.
- Meanwhile, Crystal had and affair with Norm Webster and was eventually caught during the events ofVision and the Scarlet Witch (Vol. 2) #6 through 12.
- Reed elected Ben to replace him as leader of the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #304
- Ben then asked Crystal to join the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #305, this was partially out of spite of Johnny marrying "Alicia."
- Johnny went so far as to accuse Crystal of trying to break up his marriage in Fantastic Four Annual #20.
- Johnny and Crystal buried the hatchet in Fantastic Four #306 and began working together as a team by Fantastic Four #310.
- Sharon mentions how she choked the last time she had to try and save Johnny's life. This is a reference to Fantastic Four #308 when she couldn't bring herself to catch Johnny as he was falling. The reason why was because prior to that, as revealed in Fantastic Four #306, Sharon was raped by the minions of Karl Malus while she was his prisoner in Captain America #330–331, as a result she couldn't bring herself to touch men at the time.
- Although the Mole Man is seen here being taken captive by the Lava Men, he somehow gets away and is seen ruling over his minions again when he next appears in Fantastic Four #329.