Tony Stark invites Reed and Sue Richards to a gala celebrating Stark International's latest "scientific breakthrough" to produce "self-regenerating power." This is done by sucking up brains. Of course, Tony and the others do not realize that the big gizmo is in fact a trap to suck up Reed Richards' or anybody else's brain, but they soon learn.
The evil genius behind the brain drain is based on a Marvel classic. This particular villain already was reintroduced in a previous issue of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, but continuity for this line is iffy at best. His "premiere" is a good one, yet it pales in comparison to the more comedic, surprising debut in the prior issue.
The story sort of makes sense in the context of Marvel science fiction, but Iron Man sticks out like a sore thumb. This story could have taken place anywhere. The event didn't have to be at Stark International, and given the presence of the mad doctor that instigates the whole-shebang, one must question whether or not Stark Industries gives its employees psych evaluations. Iron Man is clearly just substituting for the Thing, and Shell-Head doesn't do anything special. On the other hand, as far as gratuitous guest appearances go, I've seen worse.
Scott Koblish and Ulises Arreola offer the best reason why to buy this book. While the story is seemingly just a thin disguise to pimp Iron Man near the DVD release, Koblish and Arreola make this team up between Iron Man and Sue Richards gorgeous. Sue, in fact, comes off as the more powerfully portrayed. Koblish puts steel in her stance as she beams force-fields at a familiar army. Iron Man tends to block fists with his face, though he does get a couple of good hits in.
In the second story, the Thing's licensed toys just aren't selling. This leads a marketing guru to soften Ben's image by having him become a Big Brother sponsor. The Torch makes a fateful wager, and a lab accident sends the two FF members into action.
I couldn't work up that much enthusiasm for this story. A ridiculous contrivance catalyzes the plot, and I would have preferred the lab accident evolving naturally rather than being triggered. That said, Caramagna characterizes the two teammates well, and he nails their rivalry perfectly. The artwork by Lolli, Vecchi and Mari is eye-catching, and I particularly like how they balance the super-hero/adventurer aspect of the characters visually.
The two stories in Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four have strong characterization and artwork in common, but flimsy plots, one that barely excuses the presence of Iron Man, make this issue a superfluous purchase.
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