Appearing in "You Can't Get There from Here"
Synopsis for "You Can't Get There from Here"
Ben Grimm, in human form, is driving up to the city of Sunshine City in Florida. He has finally gotten the nerve to do what he needs to do, and he begins to think back to the events that have brought him to this moment....
A day earlier the Thing was in Reed's lab with the rest of the Fantastic Four and Namorita trying to find a way to help Johnny regain control of his flame powers. Although Reed builds a containment sphere that dampens Johnny's powers, it only proves to be a temporary solution as Johnny's powers flare out of control again. Johnny is horrified by the inability to control his powers. Reed warns that the Nega-Energy that he absorbed during their battle with the Gideon Trust is the cause and that draining this energy could be a risk to his health. However, Mister Fantastic believes that he can devise a suit that Johnny can wear that will help him regulate his powers, but it will affect his ability to fly. Johnny is not concerned about being able to fly, telling Reed that he is willing to sacrifice anything in order to be able to hold Namorita's hand again. This get's Ben thinking and he turns his attention to yet another letter that he has received from Alicia Masters...
... Looking at that envelope now just outside of Sunshine City, Ben transforms into his Thing form. Finally ready to meet his destiny, he gets back into his jeep and drives off. He soon arrives in town where he is a little surprised that nobody seems to take particular notice of him. He comes up to the home addressed on the envelope and rings the door bell. There he is greeted by Alicia Masters who is happy to see him and greets him with a hug. Meanwhile it Littlefield, Kansas, the Invisible Woman meets with Abigail Baxter to tell her the fate of her husband Noah. As it stands, Reed isn't sure what happened to Noah and his space station and is continuing to search for them, however Sue tells Abigail that Noah could be dead. However Abigail is convinced that Noah is still alive out there somewhere and is unconcerned, telling Sue to go back to New York and attend to matters there.
In New York, Reed has completed a prototype containment suit for Johnny which gets his powers back in check. Johnny then apologizes to Reed for blaming him for what happened and tells Reed he really needs to get some rest. However Sue soon returns and discovers that a package was delivered while they were out. It's unaddressed, but it's from Ben, and the letter inside tells them that he is quitting the Fantastic Four. Johnny is unphased by this and believes that Ben will be back in no time, but asks if Namorita can fill in while he is gone. However Reed and Sue are more concerned about this. They believe that Ben might be gone for good now that he has discovered a way to change back and forth between human and Thing forms. However Reed wants his best friend to tell it to their faces, so after learning Ben did not send back his 4 Signal, Reed goes to the computer and begins tracking its location.
They track Ben to Sunshine City where the Fantastic Four begin staking the place out in disguise. They find the place eerily mundane, like a picturesque version of small town America. As Reed and Johnny explore they are unaware that they are being observed by the Puppet Master, who is carving a puppet of the Thing. They soon find Ben operating a tractor at a farm and when they confront him, Ben explains that he just wants to be left alone and lashes out at Reed. This also causes Johnny to lose control of his flame. Knowing that Sue is lurking around somewhere nearby, Ben also forces her to become visible and begins fighting his teammates. The battle alerts Alicia who goes outside to see what is happening. When Alicia is almost put into harms way, Reed realizes what is happening and they force Ben to change back to human form, causing him to regain his sanity. Just when they come to the conclusion that the Puppet Master is involved they are warmed by a mob of locals. Johnny tries to fly off to look for their foe but somebody blasts him from behind.
The Fantastic Four soon find the Puppet Master at the local playhouse, but before they can deal with him they are stopped by two government agents. They explain that the Puppet Master has been granted immunity so that they can examine his powers while also reprogramming him for a normal life. Masters agreed to this instead of life in prison but was allowed to have his step-daughter live with him, however this proved to be a mistake. Later, Ben and Alicia are spending time alone and Alicia is certain that her father did not force her to mail out the letters to him. When they both realize that the Puppet Master just wanted them to be happy together, both Ben and Alicia realize that they while they still love each other, they are no longer in love with each other. Deciding it's best that they be friends for now, they both hug one more time.
- The Thing recently gained the ability to change back and forth from his Thing forms in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #39 he maintains this ability until Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #58.
- Johnny's powers and Noah Baxter's apparent demise all occurred last issue. The plot thread about Johnny needing special suits to control his powers is eventually dropped by Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #49. However to date, the true fate of Noah Baxter has yet to be revealed. The plot involving the death of Noah's daughter years earlier is also dropped after this issue. Johnny's powers are restored to normal by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #54.
- Johnny and Namorita have been loosely dating since New Warriors (Vol. 2) #3.
- The Thing's unwillingness to open the letter from Alicia Masters is due to their long standing history together. The pair had been a couple starting in Fantastic Four #9 but things got really complicated:
- After being together for years, Ben decided to stay on the Beyonder's Battleworld at the end of the Secret Wars to sort out his feelings with Alicia in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12.
- Meanwhile, Alicia was kidnapped by the Skrulls and replaced by Lyja as explained in Fantastic Four #358 circa Fantastic Four #265.
- When the Thing returned to Earth in Fantastic Four #277, "Alicia" was in a relationship with Johnny. When Johnny and "Alicia" got married in Fantastic Four #300, Ben moved on and eventually began dating Ms. Marvel in Fantastic Four #317.
- Things got rocky when Ms. Marvel got cured by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #350 and began spying on the Fantastic Four and Lyja's exposure and Alicia's subsequent rescue in Fantastic Four #358. Ben's romance with Marvel ending in Fantastic Four #375 and the Puppet Master's subsequent failed attempts to get Ben and Alicia to get back together in Fantastic Four #393
- When Ben next saw Alicia, circa Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #4 she was in a relationship with the Silver Surfer. However their romance came to an end after the Surfer returned to space at the end of Galactus the Devourer #6.
- She has been sending letters to Ben asking to see him since Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #35.
- Johnny mentions how everyone has quit the team at one time or another. To date each founding member of the Fantastic Four have quit the team many times only to rejoin later:
- Johnny was the first to quit the team back in Fantastic Four #3 when he didn't like being treated like a child. He later returned the following issue when he revived the Sub-Mariner and helped the FF stop his rampage.
- Johnny quit again briefly, this time over money, to join the Acrobat's Torrid Twosome until he discovered the crook was using his powers for crime.
- In Fantastic Four #15 the group was tricked into disbanding by the Mad Thinker to pursue other goals, only to be drawn back when they proved less fullfilling.
- Ben briefly quit in Fantastic Four #30 when Diablo promised to cure him. Ben returned to his teammates when he discovered this was all a trick.
- Ben quit again when his newly restored humanity was taken from him again during a battle against Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #40. He rejoined the team after being a pawn of the Frightful Four in Fantastic Four #41–43.
- When Sue gave birth to Franklin in Fantastic Four Annual #6 she took a leave of absence from the team from Fantastic Four #80–86.
- When Ben was given the ability to change back and forth between his human and Thing forms in Fantastic Four #107 it altered his personality making him evil. He quit the team in Fantastic Four #111, but rejoined in Fantastic Four #113 when Reed removed this ability, restoring his mind.
- Sue later left the team due to growing martial problems in Fantastic Four #130, which got worse when Reed was forced to shut down Franklin's mind forcing Ben and Johnny to quit as well. While Doctor Doom forced Reed, Johnny, and Ben to reunite in Fantastic Four #142–144, Sue did not return to the Fantastic Four until Fantastic Four #149. But she did not resume a full time role on the team until Fantastic Four #159.
- When Ben was restored to human form in Fantastic Four #167, he was replaced with Powerman the following issue until Reed was able to build an exo-skeleton for Ben in Fantastic Four #169. Eventually Ben's powers returned in Fantastic Four #175.
- When Reed lost his powers in Fantastic Four #178 he later disbanded the team in Fantastic Four #188. However from Fantastic Four #191–200, Doctor Doom manipulated the team into reforming, even going so far as restoring Reed's lost powers.
- In Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #12 the Thing decided to leave the group having She-Hulk take his place on the team as of Fantastic Four #265. As per Fantastic Four #358, Ben's girlfriend Alicia was replaced by a Skrull spy named Lyja. When Ben returned to Earth in Fantastic Four #277 and learned "Alicia" was with Johnny and in Thing #12 that Reed had been hiding some important details about his mutation, Ben became estranged from the group. He was eventually convinced to return in Fantastic Four #295.
- Reed and Sue later left the team to spend more time with Franklin in Fantastic Four #307. They eventually returned in Fantastic Four #326.
- Reed was seemingly killed battling Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #381 and was replaced with Ant-Man until Reed was found alive and rescued from Hyperstorm in Fantastic Four #409–410. Also during this period, Johnny quit the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four: Atlantis Rising #2 to join the fledgling Fantastic Force. His absence from the team lasted from Fantastic Four #403–408.