Rampage was a UK-only magazine for the teen market. Each issue featured a couple of short out-of-continuity stories with Marvel comic characters. The remainder of each issue contained a few pages of puzzles, posters and fact files, but was generally bulked out by an overly generous helping of comp-ad-titions and promo-mercials for DVDs, video games, sports, movies and other commercial products - some of which was Marvel, but much of which was not.
The creative team from Rampage seems to cycle through the same basic list of UK creative talent that produces the Spidey stories for Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine), as well as being responsible for most of the stories in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) which picked up when Rampage was cancelled.
The earlier issues featured a pair of six-page stories. Since around issue #20 or so, even that meager quota of original content has been cut back to a single six-page story per magazine. This month, we continue with part five of the Fantastic Four story-line that began back in Rampage (UK) #19.
Back in part one of this tale the Fantastic Four were captured by "The Collector", a hugely powerful humanoid who roams the universe acquiring specimens for his inter-stellar zoo. Our heroes managed to escape his clutches, but not before being infected with an alien disease that is slowly turning their flesh into metal.
The Fab Four subsequently spent the following three issues bouncing around deep space being captured and generally harassed by first a band of Skrull Pirates, and subsequently by a space ship belonging to the powerful Kree Empire, the crew of which were revealed to have been infected by the alien Brood.
Now, the Fantastic Four (in their "borrowed" Kree spacecraft) have tracked the Collector's ship back to planet Earth once more, where they intend to re-board the space vessel with two specific goals. Firstly they desperately need to acquire the antidote to the metal-virus with which they are infected. Secondly, they wish to free the various alien beings from the Collector's Zoo, along with another as-yet-unidentified human specimen that the Collector has just acquired.
But when our heroes approach the Collector's space ship, they find it drifting. And boarding the vessel, they discover mass destruction. The Collector can not be found, and all of the exhibits have been killed, by... Doctor Doom!
Who? What? Where? When?
Ah... it turns out that Doctor Doom was the "unidentified human specimen" most recently acquired by the Collector. But Doom is nobody's museum piece. Victor quickly broke free, and then used the Collector's own weaponry to defeat and imprison the Collector, then kill all the alien life forms (supposedly in order to punish the Collector).
Doom now turns those same stolen high-tech weapons on the Fantastic Four, nearly defeating the heroes, until Reed Richards manages to turn the tables by using more stolen weapons to overcome Doom.
With Doom out of the picture, Reed then finds the Collector, locked in once of his own display cases. The Fantastic Four make a deal with the Collector. In return for giving him freedom, the Collector must cure the Four of their infection, and then promise to leave their galaxy alone for ever.
The Collector agrees. The Four are cured, and they return to earth in their very own space craft which took them into this adventure in the first place. Doom, meanwhile, seems to have disappeared.
Ladies and Gentlemen, that concludes this five-part space opera. Five months, thirty pages later, what have we learned? Any thoughts, anybody? Well, there's a couple of things that come to my mind. Three, actually.
The first is that these fancy spores that transmute flesh to metal (is that even possible without a nuclear reactor?) were a bit of a disappointment. Even by the end, none of the Fantastic Four actually had any visual change in their appearance. Not even a glint of metal appeared on the Thing's rocky flesh. Nor did we see any difference in the others. Seriously, if you're going to spend five issues talking about "turning to metal plates", you could at least show us a hint of something in the artwork! Complete waste of a cool concept.
Secondly, did you all notice that Doctor Doom just murdered several thousand sentient beings in cold blood. Sure, they weren't "human". But remember that the Collector acquires the most important items and life forms from each planet, so the vast majority of these would be rational, self-aware aliens. Since when was Doctor Doom a callous mass murderer? And since when did Reed Richards see that kind of thing without even blinking?
This is just careless plot writing, without considering consequences. Think about it. The Collector kidnapped all these beings and took them as slaves. So, the best punishment is... killing the slaves? That's a great message to give to all those kids reading the comic, not.
Finally, thanks Mr. Richards for ridding our galaxy of this super-powered slaver-taker. However, the galaxy that he just moved to might not thank you quite so much. Your "solution" is kind of like America exporting its nuclear waste to Mexico. You're not really fixing the problem, you're just making it somebody else's problem. That's Mr. Fantastic for ya. Mr. Selfish.
Artist Paul Marshall has done a decent job throughout this entire arc. Unfortunately, the plot started off as silly, and finally collapsed into its ill-considered and fatally flawed conclusion.