- I useta worry ya wouldn't like me if I were Ben Grimm, insteada the Thing, Alicia! Ain't it nice fer both'a us that it don't matter any more?
Appearing in "Why?!"
- Turino XL
Synopsis for "Why?!"
During an attack on the Fantastic Four by the Frightful Four, the Thing was knocked into one of Reed's cosmic ray machines, the resulting explosion has restored the Thing back to his human form. As he watches the other members of the Fantastic Four fight on without him, he recalls how he was recently the strongest member and leader of the Fantastic Four, but wonders where he will fit in the picture now. He also thinks about how he had given up hope of ever becoming human again, and here he finally has what he always wanted, when his team could use the Thing's strength the most.
Ben is not the only one thinking about his sudden return to human form. Sharon is the first to notice as she battles Titania. This distracts her for a moment, but once Titania lands a solid blow, Ms. Marvel refocuses her attention to her attacker. Likewise is Johnny distracted fighting Hydro-Man. But when his foe douses his flames, Johnny increases his heat enough to turn his attacker into steam. Meanwhile, Sue tries to defend Alicia and Franklin from Klaw. But when her enemy tries to use Franklin as a hostage, he realizes how much of a mistake that is when Franklin unleashes his mutant powers and sends him reeling with a psi-blast. Mister Fantastic on the other hand does not fair as well against the Wizard, who manages to incapacitate him as they battle. Ben rushes to Reed's aid, only to be blasted aside himself. However before Ben can be harmed further, Sharon sends Titania slamming into the Wizard. Then the Torch swoops in and uses his flames to make his Wonder Gloves too hot to wear. Sue then tries to keep the Frightful Four disorientated by using her invisibility powers to lift them all off the ground, but the Wizard has a contingency plan. Activating a device on his chest, he summons a vortex that keeps Sue disorientated long enough for the Frightful Four to escape.
With the battle over for the moment, the group take a moment to process the fact that Ben is human again. While Reed's interest in examining Ben leads Johnny to hope that Reed and his sister are returning to the group, Sharon can't help but think how small Ben looks now. She gets nervous when Alicia feels Ben's face, but Ms. Marvel is surprised when Ben runs to hug her. With this happy moment, Reed stretches off to try and find out how the Frightful Four managed to attack them. Sue storms after him, upset that he has made a snap decision to retake control of the team. When she calls Reed on it, he admits it, and Sue tells him that he is making assumptions when Johnny and Sharon are equally as capable of leading the group. Reed tells her that he is here to help the team, that he loves his time away in Connecticut, but also yearns to be back with the team. However, he is only here to help them in their time of need and if he decides to stay remains to be seen. After the couple make up, Reed tells his wife that he has discovered the Wizard's computer virus and can use it to track the Frightful Four back to their hideout.
Meanwhile, at a warehouse on Long Island, the Wizard chastises his new team for failing to destroy the Fantastic Four. This leads to a full blown argument between himself and Titania. Hydro-Man and Klaw break up the fight, and the Wizard sends them all away while he thinks of their next course of action. Left alone, the Wizard rages over the fame and recognition that Reed Richards receives while he himself is seen as nothing more than a crackpot. Remarking about the changes in the Fantastic Four's overall numbers and how he can hire more people himself to his cause. As he is saying this, he is unaware that he is being watched by the Dragon Man from the window outside.
Back at the Four Freedoms Plaza, Ben goes through his trunks of old clothes and remarks at how dated his clothing is. Sharon cuts into the conversation, insecure over what his return to human from means to their relationship. Ben reassures her that he still loves her and wants to continue their relationship, telling her that it doesn't matter what either of them look like to him, his feelings will always be the same. This tender moment is suddenly interrupted by Reed who calls them into his lab. Reed explains that he has tracked the Wizard and his minions to an abandoned warehouse. With this news, Ben turns the reigns of leadership over to Reed. Soon Reed, Johnny, Sharon and Sue are off in the Fantasti-Car to face their foes. Along the way, Sue feels sorry for Ben, having become human again after losing Alicia to Johnny and becoming the leader of the Fantastic Four, only to lose it all. Watching his teammates fly away, Ben remarks how he and Alicia used to worry about him ever returning to his human form, and how great it is now that he's achieved it now that it doesn't matter anymore.
The Fantastic Four soon ambush the Frightful Four at their hideout, and as the battle rages on the Fantastic Four gain the edge and start taking down their foes one by one. When the battle is all but won, suddenly the four heroes are incapacitated by a mental bolt. When the Frightful Four recover, the Wizard introduces his team to their newest allies: Aron the Watcher and the android Dragon Man.
- This is the first time the Thing has been restored to human form since he lost the ability to switch back and forth in Thing #22. He remains in human form until his voluntarily gives it up in Fantastic Four #350.
- Ben remarks how he was the leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed turned over leadership to him in Fantastic Four #304 and eventually left in Fantastic Four #307 so he and Sue could spend more time with their son Franklin.
- Johnny recalls how Ben could not return to human form, Reed told Ben this in Thing #23.
- Johnny recalls how the Inferno crisis briefly enhanced his powers. This happened in Fantastic Four #323, Reed cured him of his condition last issue.
- The woman posing as Alicia Masters here is actually a Skrull spy named Lyja, as revealed in Fantastic Four #358. She replaced the real Alicia around Fantastic Four #265 in order to spy on the group.
- The Wizard's remarks that the Frightful Four's past defeats was due to its weaker members. These times were:
- The original incarnation which included the Wizard, Trapster, Sandman, and Medusa, who the Fantastic Four defeated in Fantastic Four #36, 43 and 94.
- Another incarnation which included the Trapster, Sandman and Beetle in Amazing Spider-Man #657.
- Another short lived incarnation which included Trapster, Sandman and Blastaar in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Comics Magazine #10
- His incarnation which included Trapster, Sandman and Thundra who were defeated by the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #130 and 133.
- The failed incarnation which included Trapster, Sandman and the Bruce in Fantastic Four #178.
- Yet another failed union involving Trapster, Sandman and Electro in Fantastic Four #218.
- And most recently a failed version of the Frightful Four which included Deadpool, Taskmaster and Constrictor in Deadpool #35.
- Mention is made of Ben's losses over the last few years due to his fluctuating powers and how they affected his romantic life:
- Alicia used to date the Thing for years, starting in Fantastic Four #9.
- In Fantastic Four #245 Reed theorized that Ben could change back and forth between his human and Thing forms by was psychologically incapable of doing so due to the fact he believed that Alicia only loved him as the Thing. Reed decided to keep this a secret.
- When most of the Fantastic Four were among those kidnapped by the Beyonder to battle in the first Secret Wars on Battleworld, Ben discovered he could change back and forth and believe it was because of Battleworld itself. He decided to stay there in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12.
- Ben remained in Battleworld between Thing #11-22 where he eventually lost his ability to change back into Ben Grimm and returned to Earth.
- 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. Lyja took Alicia's place during the events of Fantastic Four #265.
- When Ben returned to Earth in Fantastic Four #277 he discovered that "Alicia" and Johnny were in a relationship. This on top of Reed revealed what he knew about Ben's powers in Thing #23 and this led to Ben leaving the group on sour terms.
- Ben was eventually convinced to grudgingly return to the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #296.
- Johnny later married "Alicia" in Fantastic Four #300
- In Fantastic Four #303 Ben realized that he still loved Alicia Masters.
- Reed elected Ben to replace him as leader of the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #304
- Ben then asked Johnny's former girlfriend Crystal to join the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #305, partially to spite the Torch.
- Johnny went so far as to accuse Crystal of trying to break up his marriage in Fantastic Four Annual #20.
- The two buried the hatchet though in Fantastic Four #306, when Ben invited Ms. Marvel to join the team.
- Ben tried to pursue a romance with Sharon who was still coming to terms with the fact that she had been raped in Captain America #330-Captain America #331, which made her fearful of men.
- Eventually Sharon was mutated into a She-Thing and Ben mutated further after being exposed by cosmic rays in Fantastic Four #310, eventually this drew Ben and Sharon together and they decided to pursue a relationship in Fantastic Four #316.
- Sue and Reed mention how they have been living in Connecticut since taking leave from the Fantastic Four. They moved there in Fantastic Four #307.
- The Wizard complains about the times the Fantastic Four have been more or less than four members. He's got a point as....
- When Crystal joined the team in Fantastic Four #81 while Sue was on maternity leave, she remained with the team even after Sue returned, bringing the groups membership up to five between Fantastic Four #86-105.
- When Reed and Sue separated in Fantastic Four #130, Medusa joined the group in Fantastic Four #132. She remained with the team after Sue returned in Fantastic Four #149, bringing the groups roster up to five until Medusa returned to Attilan in Fantastic Four #159.
- When it was discovered that Johnny's girlfriend Frankie Raye had flame powers, she briefly became an unofficial fifth member of the Fantastic Four from Fantastic Four #239-244 when she agreed to become a herald of Galactus.
- When the Thing selected the She-Hulk to succeed him in the Fantastic Four in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12, she remained on the team even when Ben returned in Fantastic Four #296 until she left the group following the events of Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #4.
- Even though Reed and Sue intended to leave the group in Fantastic Four #304 they did not leave until Fantastic Four #307. This lead to the roster going up to five when Crystal rejoined in Fantastic Four #305 and to six when Sharon joined in Fantastic Four #306.
- The teams roster dropped down to three when Crystal later left in Fantastic Four Annual #21. Ben, Johnny and Sharon remained at that number between Fantastic Four #318-326 when Reed and Sue returned.
- Ben wonders how long it was since he was first turned into the Thing. Per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616, the events of Fantastic Four #1 happened roughly seven years prior to this story.
- Johnny uses his powers to suck the heat out of Hydro-Man's body causing him to freeze. The last time Johnny used this ability was back in Fantastic Four #106.
- Reed uses the Vibranium knuckles first used against Klaw back in Fantastic Four #56.
- Aron and the Dragon Man were last seen in Fantastic Four #323 when they abandoned Aron's hideout in the Empire State Building during the Inferno.
- The script credit on this issue is to "John Harkness" due to Steve's unhappiness with the editorial direction he was obliged to undertake.
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