These are not your daddy's Fantastic Four! Literally, because in reality they are clones of the original versions created by the immortal Watcher Uatu to usher in a new age of heroes to the 2099 universe. Seeing as how their series only lasted eight issues, I would say that gambit was a failure. I guess the world of cyberpunk cynicism just doesn't mix well with a relic of Space Age optimism!
The FF (minus Susan) are trying to recall what happened to them. Reed's last memory is of entering the Negative Zone and getting blasted through some sort of space rift. The blast knocked Johnny and Reed out, but Ben says he stayed conscious long enough to get a glimpse of Annihilus. Before more can be disclosed, however, Chimera (the person who initially freed the group from the NZ and brought them to the world of 2099 in issue #1) rushes in saying Sue is dead after an accident in Downtown while they were searching for food and supplies.
Except Sue isn't dead. She followed Chimera back to their hideout and accuses her of trying to kill her. She naturally doesn't trust her. Chimera spews a sob story about being a sex slave (I think) to some overlord of the NZ and all is forgiven.
Ben pipes up about trying to get back to their own time, but Reed says they can't leave “without trying to make this world a better place.” Ben says they are fugitives and wanted because Stark-Fujikawa Corp says they are just clones and property of the corporation. Reed says they could clear their names if only he could run a simple DNA analysis on themselves. Chimera says that Alchemax could help them. So it's agreed.
Chimera says Ben would be too conspicuous, but Sue says they aren't leaving anyone behind again. They creep along the streets in not very convincing disguises. Luckily, the city (not sure if this is Downtown or the upper part of Manhattan that we are used to Spidey hanging out in) looks entirely deserted except for one guy in an alley smoking a cigarette that spooks Chimera for some reason (more on him later).
So, while they are trying to break into Alchemax, Miguel O'Hara is listening to the vid news about the return of the FF and wondering what to do about them. (This is relatively late in his career where he has taken over control of Alchemax form Tyler Stone). He wishes there was some way he could find them and help them out but doesn't know where to begin looking.
Fortunately, they are basically right outside his window. They break in on the 237th floor as Reed just sort of takes the glass out of the window easy peasy. They all crowd in but don't hear any alarms. Miguel is immediately alerted, of course, and changes into his Spider-Man costume. Meanwhile, the FF get captured in a glass cage. Ben easily tears that apart and then all hell breaks loose. Spidey swings in thru another window (the future really has to start investing in breakproof glass it seems) and then the heavily armed security cops appear.
Johnny surrounds Spidey in flame but our hero jumps up to the ceiling to get out of that. Of course, none of them believe he is the real Spider-Man, just some goon taking his name. Meanwhile, Sue puts up an invisible shield between the FF and the rent-a-cops. Spidey yanks her off her feet with his webbing. Reed blocks Spidey's path by enlarging and flattening his body but Spidey knocks him away so he doesn't get shoot. Now it's Thing's turn. He just smacks Spidey straight out of the building, no muss no fuss.
Of course, the group makes short work of the rent-a-cops, who are given the order to fall back from Miguel himself. He tells them that it will be easier to let Spider-Man fight the FF than waste the lives of Alchemax's security force. They fall back and Spidey pops back in the window he recently got knocked out of. He explains he's there to help and shows Reed to the genetics lab.
Unfortunately, after some complex DNA calculations, Reed still can't determine if they are the real deal or not. He says the cloning in 2099 “...is virtually flawless. No micro-scarring... no markers... no way to prove who we are or what we aren't.” So, this entire excursion was a big waste of time. (And they're gonna drag out the origin of this new FF a while longer.) Sue says the next best place to find out what is going on is by returning to the Negative Zone.
Time for some teasers and a wrap-up. Miguel speaks to the head of Stark-Fujikawa and requests to review the company's recent actions regarding the Fantastic Four. Meanwhile, one of SF's employees, Ryan Wingfoot (no doubt Wyatt's distant descendant), requests another chance to capture the quartet (he was in the NZ as well when the group was released in issue #1). Hikaru-Sama says, “It is no longer this corporation's active policy to pursue the Fantastic Four.” So, I guess that angle has been resolved at least. But who should the sky pilot meet in the hallway but that same trenchcoated cigarette smoking man from earlier! He calls himself River Styx (get it?) and promises Wingfoot another chance to defeat the FF.
Speaking of which, our heroes are suiting up to go back into the Negative Zone. For some reason they leave Ben behind and take Chimera, who has yet to reveal any superpowers at all. Ben gets mopey after they leave and vows to quit the team again.
There's not a lot to like here. The FF as fugitives is just not a theme that lends itself well to good storytelling. In the original Marvel universe this theme was introduced and wrapped up all in one issue (Fantastic Four #2 - “The Skrulls from Outer Space”). Dragging it out for issues on end gets boring after a while. And the lingering “are they or aren't they” clones plot is dragged out too long, as well. It worked with Doom, but the FF are supposed to be the per-eminent superhero team. Let them get busy with the super heroics already!
And what is with Reed's blase attitude towards Chimera's weirdness? He's a freakin' genius and should be able to see right thru her at breaking up the team. She uses her knowledge of 2099 world as leverage, sure, but Reed should be able to suss things out with a couple of taps of a computer screen. He seems very dumbed down in this incarnation.
Very disappointing. The fight with Spidey was perfunctory at best, and a crappy deus ex machina at worst. It makes sense for him to appear given the set-up, but why couldn't the team do any of this on their own? They don't seem very super or heroic.
This team was a bad choice to be given the 2099 treatment. I know I'm harping on this, but I think this is one of the reasons this series failed to catch on. The FF represent the hope of the future and how science and technology can improve people's lives. The world of 2099 is a such a nightmare because that very tech that was supposed to help people has instead been used to make it worse. It just isn't a good fit.
Not to mention we're just four issues in and they're already re-treading old FF chestnuts like the Thing feeling sorry for himself and quitting the team. Geez, I think even Lee and Kirby waited until issue Fantastic Four #8 before they tried that!
If you squint you can see an homage to the FF and Spidey fight from Amazing Spider-Man #1 but with the roles reversed.
This version of the team was revealed to be clones created by Uatu the Watcher in 2099: Manifest Destiny.
This plot is very similar to Ghost Rider 2099 #7. Check out my review of that issue to compare and contrast the approach each creative team takes.