Appearing in "The Final Gantlet!"
- Raphael Suarez
- Psi-Lord (freed from Malice's control)
- Black Panther
- Devlor (First full appearance)
- Dark Raider (Possessed by Malice) (Apparent death)
- Watcher (Aron the Rogue Watcher in Disguise)
- Sha'Barri (Corpse)
- Mister Fanastic (Earth-944)
- Invisible Girl (Earth-944) (Corpse)
- Reed Richards (Earth-94689) (Only in flashback)
- Earth-94689 (Only in flashback)
- Brazil (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "The Final Gantlet!"
On a world where the Fantastic Four were killed during their first battle with Galactus, Reed Richards returns to Earth to find his wife dead. Having spent too much time on the Worldship of Galactus searching for a device to stop the world devourer, the entire Earth has been decimated, including his teammates and beloved Sue. This tragic scene is witnessed by the three surviving members of the modern day Fantastic Four who have been brought back to the citadel of the Watcher on the moon in their native dimension. The Watcher explains that he rescued the Fantastic Four at the last moment, replacing them with their counterparts from that world when they failed to stop Galactus so that they would survive. This doesn't sit well with the Thing who accuses the Watcher of manipulating them. When Johnny begins pressing the Watcher for the answers to how the team will die, the Watcher instead teleports them away.
The Fantastic Four materialize within their headquarters on Earth, the Four Freedoms Plaza, following in the aftermath of a battle in their headquarters. They learn from the Sub-Mariner, Ant-Man, Lyja and Raphael Suarez that they had just slain a Sha'Barri, the creature that was implanted Lyja's body which she convinced everyone was her and Johnny's unborn child. When Lyja tries to run into the arms of her ex-husband, Johnny angrily rejects her for this most recent deception. Finally having had enough, Johnny decides to quit the team and flies off. With Johnny gone, Namor offers his condolences to Sue, after which Ant-Man suggests that they give the remaining two members of the Fantastic Four a break and leave, taking Raphael Suarez with them. Lyja apologizes for what has happened, but Sue tells the Skrull woman that she is a part of their family now and that the Four Freedoms Plaza is their home. Lyja thanks them for the offer but tells them that without Johnny around she has lost her reason for staying and departs as well, shape-shifting into a bird in order to fly away.
With both Lyja and Johnny gone, Sue begins to wonder if the Fantastic Four are finally coming to an end. Ben is optimistic, pointing out the times that the group has broken up in the past, only to reunite later. When he suggests they stick together, Sue isn't sure, but before she can make her mind they are interrupted when the Dark Rider suddenly teleports into the room. He demands that they turn over the Reed Richards of this reality if they want to win, then suddenly recognizes Ben and Sue for the version of the Fantastic Four who previously tried to thwart him from killing the Reed Richards of a different another reality. When the Thing tries to attack the Dark Raider, the intruder pulls a "tornado whip" device from his belt and activates it. Meanwhile on the roof of the Four Freedoms Plaza, Franklin and Huntara teleport there aboard the Time-Sled. When Huntara asks why they have returned to the based of the "four who must be destroyed", Franklin is attacked Malice, who has been trapped within his mind. When Huntara asks what the matter is, he dismisses her help. Suddenly they are joined by the Black Panther, his ward Vibraxas and the Inhuman known as Devlor who have come seeking the Fantastic Four's aid. Although Vibraxas doesn't like the look of Franklin or Huntara, the Black Panther decides to question them peacefully regarding the strangers presence on his allies headquarters. As things between Devlor and Huntara begin to grow heated, Franklin suddenly clears his head. With his hound-scars blazing on his face, Franklin tells the others that his mother and uncle Ben are in danger.
While down below, the Thing is downed by gas fired from the Dark Raider's gauntlets. When Sue attempts to turn invisible to evade her foe, the Dark Raider activates his infrared. But before he can attack the Invisible Woman, the Dark Raider is bowled off his feat by the vibratory powers of Vibraxas. Next comes the Black Panther who tries to close in for a personal attack only to be trapped in Encaso-Globe. When Huntara attacks with her psi-scythe, the Raider is able to block it with a force field, and when Devlor transforms into his monstrous form and attacks he is held back by ever enlarging crystals. With the others down, Sue and Franklin attack their foe in tandem but are easily blasted back as well. Just then the Watcher suddenly teleports into the room to observe the on going battle, and demands that the Dark Raider reveal the truth. The Dark Raider complies, tearing away his mask revealing the face of Reed Richards underneath. Stunned only for a moment, Sue realizes that this isn't her husband, but the Reed Richards of the world they failed to save from Galactus. The Dark Raider confirms this, stating that after he failed to stop Galactus himself, he believed that every version of Reed Richards needed to pay a the price for his failure and began travelling the multiverse and systematically wiping out his counterparts in other realities. When Sue questions the Watcher about the validity of this claim, the Watcher has become silent.
Suddenly the Dark Raider realizes that the Watcher only interferes when it suits his purposes and realizes that the Watcher could have saved his world. Growing increasingly unstable, the Raider pulls out the Ultimate Nullifier and threatens to destroy all reality with it. When the heroes try to attack again, the Dark Raider erects his force field again. Stymied for a means to stop their foe, Sue and Franklin suddenly realize that they have the perfect weapon: Malice. Forming a mind link, Sue and her son then manage to excise Malice from Franklin's mind and implant her within the Dark Raider's instead. This causes the Dark Raider to drop the force field and Nullifier long enough for Sue to contain him and Franklin to grab the weapon. The Dark Raider then gloats that no prison can hold him and that he will come back for them. When the Watcher concurs that this is the case, he shocks those gathered by using his powers to seemingly destroy the Dark Raider. With the threat over, the Watcher then tells the Fantastic Four that he is banishing himself forever for his interference in affairs and teleports away with the Ultimate Nullifier. Sue pleads to the Watcher in vein to tell her the fate of her husband, as the Watcher disappears no answer is provided.
In the aftermath of the battle, Sue decides that she will continue searching for her husband until she can confirm if he is alive or dead, pointing out that Johnny isn't coming back and that she may not survive her mission. When Ben insists on tagging along, Sue declines his offer. When he presses the issue, Franklin tells his uncle to back off and let his mother deal with this on her own. Ben pauses for a moment then agrees to let Sue go off on her own, telling her that if she needs help all she needs to do is ask. Soon after saying her goodbyes, Sue teleports away on the Time-Sled to continue her mission. When the Black Panther asks what will become of the Fantastic Four, Ben states out that the group is finished.
- The alternate world (Earth-944) that the Dark Raider hails from is an alternate reality where the Fantastic Four failed to stop Galactus the first time they battle him. The original version of that story was told in Fantastic Four #48-50. In this reality, the Watcher sent Reed Richards to collect the Ultimate Nullifier instead of the Human Torch, leading to a delay that resulted in the destruction of this world.
- This is not really Uatu the Watcher but Aron the Rogue Watcher in disguise, as revealed in Fantastic Four #398.
- The Thing's face is scarred here after he was slashed in the face by Wolverine in Fantastic Four #374. His face is eventually healed in Fantastic Four #409.
- As explained, Lyja was implanted with the Sha'Barri egg as seen in the flashback from Fantastic Four #390 (which took place after the events of Fantastic Four #359). Lyja has claimed that she was carrying Johnny child since Fantastic Four #371.
- The plot thread involving Raphael Suarez is dropped after this issue and as of this writing the character has not been seen since.
- The Dark Raider's costume is patterned after the Invincible Man costume worn by the Super-Skrull (Fantastic Four #32), Mister Fantastic (Fantastic Four #196) and Doctor Doom. (Fantastic Four #287).
- Ben mentions that the Fantastic Four have broken up a few times in the past only to be reunited again. This has happened a few times:
- The group first temporarily broke apart in Fantastic Four #15 to pursue individual interests. This was all part of a failed scheme by the Mad Thinker to steal Reed's inventions.
- When Reed was forced to shut down Franklin's mind in Fantastic Four #141, this caused the team to break up. However they were brought back together by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #144.
- When Reed lost his power in Fantastic Four #178 he eventually decided to disband the group in Fantastic Four #191. The group was eventually forced to reunite when Doom once again attacked the group, restoring Reed's powers in the process in Fantastic Four #196-200.
- The Four Freedoms Plaza is shown here completely repaired. The building was damaged by a gamma bomb in Infinity War #2/Fantastic Four #367. Repairs began in Fantastic Four #385. It's interesting to point out that this story continues immediately after last issue, where the Four Freedoms Plaza was depicted as still undergoing extensive repairs yet in this issue, the repairs are totally finished.
- The teenage Franklin seen here was delivered to the modern age by Nathaniel Richards from Earth-6311 to replace his Earth-616 counterpart. This occurred in Fantastic Four #376. Although everyone reacts as though this is Earth-616's Franklin all grown up, the young Franklin is returned in Fantastic Four #413. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #14 confirms that they are separate entities. Franklin believes that his mission was to stop the Dark Raider from destroying the Fantastic Four as explained in Fantastic Four #387, however this is part of a larger scheme to stop Hyperstorm that is not realized until Fantastic Four #414.
- Franklin has been plagued by Malice since she possessed his mind in Fantastic Four #384.
- Malice is transferred from Franklin's mind into that of the Dark Raider. Although she is not seen or heard from again, one can presumably remained connected to the Dark Raider, who does not perish here, but is later slain in Fantastic Four #399.
- Sue demands that the Watcher reveal the fate of her husband. Reed and Dr. Doom were seemingly slain in Fantastic Four #381, however as revealed in Fantastic Four #406-407 they are actually prisoners of Hyperstorm.
- Although the Fantastic Four break up here, they are eventually drawn back together in Fantastic Four #397-399.
- Following the events of this story, Black Panther gathers Franklin, Huntara, Devlor and Vibraxas and organizes the group Fantastic Force, as seen in Fantastic Force #1.
- January 28, 2016
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