- Reed, if we have to fight these guys, we're liable to kill them!
- -- Ms. Marvel
Appearing in "Death by Debate"
- General Neddington
- Hamilton Nathanson
- U.S. House Subcommittee on Super Human Activities
- Diego Ramirez
Synopsis for "Death by Debate"
The Fantastic Four have arrived in Washington D.C. to speak to a special senate hearing to determine if there is a need to create a new Super-Powers Registration Act. They land at Virginia National Airport where they are met with a throng of reporters who want word on the Fantastic Four's position on the proposed Act. Quickly answering the questions from the press, the Fantastic Four quickly call a cab and are off. Unseen by all gathered, a strange device dislodges itself from the Fantasti-Car and flies after the heroes. When the Fantastic Four arrive at the Capital Building it leads to much fanfare by both spectators and the press at the hearing. The members of the Senate presiding over the committee demand order be restored. Reed apologizes for the disruption their arrival has made, and the group goes to wait to be called before the committee. As they take their seats, the device that followed them all the way from New York silently attaches itself to the ceiling unseen.
The committee calls upon General Neddington who comments on how the Pentagon would approve of the proposed registration act as it would allow the military to draft super-heroes into their service in order to maintain a balance of military power between the United States and other nations. The Senators are not sold on this idea, with Congressman Paul Grant pointing out that when the draft was in place put a disproportionate amount of the poor and visible minorities into military service. Congressman Pat Mullet also points out that this also presses people to be drafted into make-work details such as garbage collection, and a waste of resources. After Neddington is dismissed, the Senators call upon Hamilton Nathanson, a representative of the National Rifle Association. When Sharon asks who that is, Johnny explains Nathanson as a member of the NRA, and comments of the irony that he would defend super-heroes not having to register with the NRA's positions against gun control in the country.
As the American public tunes off C-SPAN for more entertaining television, Nathanson explains his position to the committee. His positions appeal to Ben, who finds it hard to believe he could ever be on the same page as the NRA. With Nathanson's testimony complete, the committee notes that the Avengers and the mutant group known as X-Factor are absent and unable to testify on the behalf of the super-hero community. Suddenly security interrupts the proceeding when reports of the mutant terrorist known as Apocalypse being sighted in the area are brought to the attention of the committee. As everyone rushes to safety, the members of the Fantastic Four rush to change into their costumes, but it all turns out to be a false alarm when Apocalypse merely flies over the Capital Building instead of attacking.
With the apparent crisis over the Fantastic Four return to the committee hearing. When they are about to be called to the stand, the strange device kicks in and suddenly a man in a trench coat, sunglasses and a hat reveals himself to be the cyborg villain known as Ramrod. When Ramrod tries to charge at the Fantastic Four, he trips over his own feet and knocks himself out when he lands head first onto the floor. Realizing that this is similar to the villain attacks they experienced in New York, Reed starts to see a pattern forming from it. With news of Ramrod's attack interrupting regular broadcasts, the people of America begin tuning back into C-SPAN in the hopes of seeing more super-villains attacking the hearing. The hearing next calls the Superhuman Commission's Henry Peter Gyrich to the stand. Gyrich makes a distinction between the proposed Super-Human Registration act and defending the previous Mutant Registration Act, pointing out that mutants are not humans, and therefor not guaranteed the same rights as normal humans. He points out that while super-humans are a minority, the registration of their powers is necessary to benefit the many. From their seats, Johnny and Ben are unimpressed with Gyrich due to his previous attempts to run down the Avengers and his involvement in the anti-mutant Project: Wideawake. However, Gyrich takes a turn, pointing out that the Super-Human Registration Act would be considered unconstitutional to some, but points out the Draft before it only made military service required by men and not women, yet it still exists. Although Gyrich makes a compelling case, the congress is convinced that Gyrich was using the opportunity to put on a sales pitch in the hopes of being put in charge of such a law if it should be passed.
Finally the Fantastic Four are called to the stand, but the Senators do not recognize Ben Grimm, prompting Reed to explain that he recently lost his powers. Before they can begin their testimony, the Fantastic Four are suddenly attacked by both Plantman and the Quill, who not only attack at the same time, but are spouting the same dialogue. When they charge at the Fantastic Four, they run into each other, knocking themselves down long enough to be arrested. In light of the phony Fantastic Four clones running amok in New York recently, the Senate asks Reed to provide documentation that proves that his positions against the Super-Powers Act are valid. Reed then has the court security bring in piles of documentation that support his position. Reed then goes through his lengthy files explaining of all the various times the Fantastic Four were able to help mankind from dangers without the need for government registration. Eventually the Senators put a stop to the reading of the reports to ask questions to the other members of the Fantastic Four.
sue tells them of how her son is a mutant and how registration will impact his life if passed into law. Johnny also sarcastically points out how difficult it would be to make foes like Doctor Doom and Annihilus register their super-powers. Ben also makes the point of how gun control doesn't stop criminals from obtaining and using guns in their crimes, and how the needless bureaucracy of such an act could waste precious time verifying credentials while people are in danger.
Suddenly their testimony is interrupted yet again, this time by the Flying Tiger who is easily knocked out by Ms. Marvel. Sharon then points out the number of people in the room that are wearing trench coats, hats and dark glasses. Upon this discovery, the device in the room activates all the super-villains. Suddenly Vanisher, Thunderball, the Eel and Mad Dog reveal themselves and all attack at the same time. These villains are also easily incapacitated by the heroes. As the commotion begins to die down, the device then forces one of the guards to pull a gun on Reed. Ben manages to push Reed over, and at that moment Sue notices the device that has been controlling the villains the whole time. Johnny blasts it off the ceiling and Reed tries to deactivate it. Suddenly the hearing is interrupted by Congressman James Pertierra, who accuses the Fantastic Four of creating the device to bend the hearing to their own needs.
- The press asks questions about the impostor Fantastic Four. This is a reference to the clones created by Aron the Rogue Watcher to pose as the Fantastic Four from Fantastic Four #328-333.
- The US Congress mention the absence of the Avengers and X-Factor. At the time of this story the Avengers were knee deep in the Acts of Vengeance conspiracy as seen in Avengers #311-312, Avengers: West Coast #52-53, Captain America #364-367, Iron Man #250-251, Thor #409-412, and Quasar #5-7. X-Factor meanwhile was offworld at the time as seen in X-Factor #43-50.
Of the Villains features in this story:
- Apocalypse was previously seen in flashbacks from Wolverine: Jungle Adventure #1 and is next seen in X-Factor #49.
- Ramrod was last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #221 and appears next in Captain America #411
- Plantman was last seen in Solo Avengers #20 and appears next in the third story of Avengers Annual #19
- The Quill was last seen in Captain America #346 and appears again in Captain America #368
- Flying Tiger makes his appearance here after Iron Man #177 and appears again in Avengers Spotlight #29
- Vanisher was last seen mentoring the Fallen Angels in Fallen Angels #8, he appears again in Web of Spider-Man #98
- Thunderball was last seen in Damage Control Vol 2 #1 and is seen imprisoned in Avengers:Death Trap, The Vault #1
- The Eel was last seen in Power Man and Iron Fist #110 and also appears next in Avengers Spotlight #29
- Mad Dog last appeared in Avengers Spotlight #25 and appears again in Alpha Flight #111
- Some of Gyrich's less than illustrious career is mentioned here by Ben and Johnny:
- Mention is made about how he almost "ran the Avengers into the ground", this is a reference to his time as government liaison to the Avengers which began in Avengers #165 up until he was fired from the job Avengers #192. His most notorious effort was in Avengers #181 when he forced the Avengers to greatly reduce their numbers and an diverse team, to a determent of their effectiveness.
- Gyrich also has a long time association with the persecution of mutants, being made part of Project Wideawake in New Mutants #2, an organization that actively hunted young mutants. He later helped enforce the Mutant Registration Act when it came into law in Uncanny X-Men #188. He later became a member of the Commission on Superhuman Activities in Uncanny X-Men #199, an organization centrally focused on dealing with the mutant "problem".
- The Senators don't recognize Ben Grimm, who had been restored to his human form back in Fantastic Four #326.
- Although Reed states the Fantastic Four never met Plantman before, that's not entirely accurate. Johnny fought him early on in his career as the Human Torch back in Strange Tales #113.
- The case Mister Fantastic is reading to the Senate committee involved how the Fantastic Four stopped the Mole Man from blinding the surface world. This is a reference to Fantastic Four #88-89.
- While the none of the Fantastic Four have ever battled this incarnation of the Eel before, Johnny fought his predecessor in Strange Tales #112.
- Ben, Johnny, and Reed all encountered Thunderball previously in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12.
- This issue is reprinted in comics and books, see references for more info.
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