Appearing in "The Flame, This Fury"
- New York City
Synopsis for "The Flame, This Fury"
In order to search for Alicia Masters, Reed has constructed a Trans-Temporal Reflector, a device that will allow them to see into the recent past to determine what happened to Alicia. Activating the device in Alicia's apartment, Reed, Ben and the Puppet Master view recent past events and learn that Alicia was kidnapped by Aron the Rogue Watcher while the entire Earth was in suspended animation. Realizing that they are up against a great threat, Reed tells the Puppet Master to stay at the apartment while he and Ben head back to the Four Freedoms Plaza.
On their way back in, Reed and Ben are stopped by Roberta -- their robotic receptionist -- who lets Ben know there is a visitor for him. When it turns out to be Sharon Ventura, Reed leaves the two of them to catch up. Inside their headquarters, Reed is surprised that there are no workers making repairs to the damages done during the Infinity War and begins to wonder where his wife is. Reed is in for a shock when he sees his wife trying on a new and quite revealing costume. When she asks him how he likes it, Reed is uncomfortable with this new look and quickly changes the subject to the repairs being done to their headquarters. This angers Sue to lash out at her husband and an argument starts over how Reed neglects to notice his wife. The two fight unaware that their son Franklin is watching them. Hating to see his family fight each other, Franklin vows to make them stop any way possible. As he thinks this, his eyes begin to crackle with energy.
At that moment, Paibok, Lyja, and Devos are monitoring the Earth from orbit in order in order to locate the Human Torch. They spot the Torch just as he is heading to Empire State University to take his classes. Johnny's thoughts are focused on how the heroes of today have gotten darker with the times, and Johnny wants to follow this trend. While back at the Four Freedoms Plaza, Sharon Ventura offers her condolences when she learns that Alicia has been captured. Ben quickly breaks off their conversation so that he and Reed can continue their search for her. As Ben goes up the Fantastic Four's private elevator, Sharon reports back to her mysterious employer. Ben joins Reed in his lab where Mister Fantastic is using a device to try and mentally contact the Watcher on the Moon. Although the Watcher receives contact with Reed, Uatu decides to not respond, determined to merely watch. While getting ready to go, Reed tells Ben how he can't find Johnny and Sue won't be joining them. Before they can leave by themselves they are joined by Sharon Ventura, who volunteers for the mission and has created a new Ms. Marvel costume just for such an occasion.
Back at ESU, Johnny spots the woman who berated him the other day and tries to make a move on her. The young student introduces herself as Bridgett O'Neil, but is in the process of telling Johnny to leave her alone when suddenly she is frozen in a block of ice. Johnny suddenly realizes that he is under attack by both Paibok and Devos. Johnny flames on in order to fight off his two foes, who keep them on the defensive. As Johnny battles his enemies, he is concerned for Bridgett, as is is unaware how cold the ice she was frozen into is, and whether or not it will kill her.
Back at Alicia's apartment, Johnny, Ben and Sharon have returned to the Puppet Master to prepare for their mission. The Puppet Master has issue with Ms. Marvel going as she is competing with Alicia for Ben's affections, and complains about why he can't accompany them. Ben explains they need the extra help, plus someone waiting back home to pull them out of any danger that they can't handle. Reed then activates his Trans-Temporal Reflector which opens a portal to take them to where Aron has gone with Alicia. As they go, the Puppet Master refuses to stand by and leave the fate of his step-daughter in the hands of his greatest foes. The trio appear outside the cave entrance of Aron's hideout located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Inside they find Alicia strapped to a machine with a massive cube hovering over her. Within the cube, the heroes notice that it contains what appears to be a pocket universe, with a version of Earth in the center. As they try to figure everything out, they are confronted by Aron who informs them that it is a pocket universe where he gets to control events and that they are going to learn first hand what that's like, from within.
Meanwhile the battle at Empire State University rages on. Johnny manages to get to Bridget and uses his flame powers to thaw her out. Seeing that she is mostly fine, Johnny gets her to another student and tells them to flee. Johnny then flames on and prepares to re-enter the battle when he is blasted from behind. To his surprise this new attacker is his former wife Lyja, a woman that Johnny thought was dead. Lyja is furious that Johnny left her for dead when they went to rescue Alicia Masters, a woman that Lyja posed as for years and lashes out at him. More so she is angry that he abandoned her and their unborn child. This causes Johnny to give Lyja the upper hand in the battle. Because he is outnumbered, Johnny decides to try and call for help and fires a Fantasti-Flare into the sky. It is seen by Sue, who is thanking Agatha Harkness for returning to help them to care for young Franklin. Amid Agatha's secret concerns about Franklin, she is troubled by Sue's new attire and attitude as she leaves to answer Johnny's signal.
Seeing that Johnny has called for help, Paibok, Lyja and Devos attack all at once. Overpowered and at risk of being killed, Johnny decides that the only way out of this situation is to utilize his nova flame. Hoping that all the students have managed to get away, Johnny unleashes his nova blast at full force. As Sue arrives she sees a blinding flash of light. When she gets to the scene of the battle, there is only Johnny left who has been knocked out from the exertion. When she lands the Fantasti-Car to check on her brother, Johnny tells her that he lost control of his powers. When they finally look around, they realize the total damage done by Johnny's desperate gamble: Empire State University is burning.
- The members of the Fantastic Four were last seen in the pages of Fantastic Four Unlimited #1.
- Alicia Masters was captured by Aron during the Infinity War event in Fantastic Four #369. It was during a period of time that the people of Earth were frozen by the Magus, as seen in Infinity War #5.
- Roberta's appearance here is between her appearances in New Warriors Annual #5 and Fantastic Four #376.
- Ben's referral to Aron the Rogue Watcher as being a "Ninties kind of guy" should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.
- Many of the themes in this story are centered by the complex romantic circle involving Ben, Johnny, Alicia, Sharon and Lyja. These outlying issues are as follows:
- Alicia and the Thing began dating in Fantastic Four #9
- After Ben was kidnapped by the Beyonder to participate in the Secret Wars in Thing #10, Alicia was left alone and (as revealed in Fantastic Four #358) replaced by a Skrull spy named Lyja.
- When the rest of the Fantastic Four returned from the Secret Wars without Ben in Fantastic Four #265, (who decided to stay behind in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12) "Alicia" decided to pursue a relationship with Johnny Storm to maintain her connections with the Fantastic Four. Ben eventually returned to Earth in Fantastic Four #277.
- Johnny and "Alicia" later got married in Fantastic Four #300.
- Ben eventually was given leadership of the Fantastic Four for a period of time, recruiting Ms. Marvel to the group in Fantastic Four #307.
- Sharon was later mutated into a She-Thing in Fantastic Four #310 and by Fantastic Four #317 she and Ben were in a relationship.
- Eventually Sharon and Ben's relationship soured when Ben was cured of being a Thing in an accident in Fantastic Four #326. Tragically, as seen in Fantastic Four #350 on the same day Sharon secretly sought out Dr. Doom to cure herself, Ben purposely changed himself into the Thing again.
- Sharon disappeared after her last mission with the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #354.
- Shortly thereafter, Lyja was exposed as a Skrull spy in Fantastic Four #357 and the real Alicia was rescued the following issue. Thinking that she and Ben were still an item, Alicia has not been told about Ben's relationship with Sharon.
- Reed mentions repairs needing to be done to the Four Freedoms Plaza. The upper floors were blown up in Infinity War #2/Fantastic Four #367.
- Sue's change in costume and more aggressive persona is due to the fact that she merged with her Malice persona in Fantastic Four #368.
- Franklin's powers are starting to flare up after being dormant due to the machinations of Occulus seen in Fantastic Four #362–365.
- Sharon's mysterious employer is actually Doctor Doom as revealed in Fantastic Four #375. He appears here between Shadow Riders #2 and Fantastic Four #373.
- Johnny has been struggling with becoming an "edgier" superhero since he used his powers to slay various doppelgangers during the Infinity War in Fantastic Four #368–370.
- The Watcher appears here between What If? (Vol. 2) #45 and Fantastic Four #373. The Watcher is forbidden to interfere in the actions of others due to a solemn vow of non-interference. This was due to the fact that the last time the Watchers got involved in the lives of other races it led to the Prosilican race annihilating itself, as seen in Tales of Suspense #53 and expanded upon in Original Sin #0. Although Uatu has occasionally assisted the Fantastic Four, as early as Fantastic Four #13, he has not done so relative to this story. This is because he had recently been put on trial by his peers in Captain Marvel #39 and is on a tighter leash.
- Aron's hideout is the same one he used from Fantastic Four #321–333 when he created his clones of the Fantastic Four to run amok.
- Johnny thought Lyja had died on their mission to rescue Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four #358. It was also during this story that Lyja told Johnny she was pregnant, but later when she was appearing to die she said she was lying. Her mention of it here is not entirely untrue. She is carrying life within her, however it is not a child she spawned with Johnny. As explained in Fantastic Four #390 Paibok gave Lyja laser powers, but she needed a special implant inside her body to utilize those abilities. It's also at this point that he implants a Sha'Barri egg within her as well, as explained in Fantastic Four #391.
- Agatha Harkness returned to the employ of the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #368. She used to care for Franklin Richards, looking after the boy from Fantastic Four #94–150 when she left the boy's care to train the Scarlet Witch in her mystical abilities. She returned to the Fantastic Four's employ in Fantastic Four #181–195 until she returned to her home of New Salem in Fantastic Four Annual #13. The group last saw her in Fantastic Four #222–223 when Harkness helped exorcise the spirit of her son Nicholas Scratch from Franklin's body.
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