Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman have been captured by the Skrulls. The Human Torch, the Thing, and the Richards children have suffered a different fate: they've been exiled to the Negative Zone, along with the upper storeys of the Baxter Building. While Ben and the kids confront a swarm of Nega-bugs intent on eating them all up, Johnny confronts the Skrull infiltrator responsible for all of this: Lyja, his ex-wife.
|Inker:||Barry Kitson, Mick Gray, Scott Hanna|
After a quick, fetchingly drawn, but wholly gratuitous tour of the Human Torch's romantic history, we dive into the Lyja-Johnny confrontation. Lyja's hurt and angry that the Torch had forgotten about her for so long, to the point where he wasn't even sure if she was dead or alive. It only takes a few verbal barbs before they begin exchanging energy blasts.
Elsewhere, the Thing squishes bugs.
Lyja and Johnny keep sparring, their fight moving "outside" into the void of the Negative Zone. Johnny can't burn Lyja, but he moves too fast for to be tagged with one of her laser bursts, so the two seems to be stalemated. Fortunately for Johnny, luck his on his side: the N-zone portal is still open, and a police cruiser floats through it, on a collision course with Lyja... only her back is to the portal, and she's unaware of the danger.
Now Johnny was perfectly willing to burn her to a crisp, but—for some reason—the prospect of something else killing Lyja bothers him, so he swoops in at the last second and pulls her out of the way. Lyja swoons at this evidence of Johnny's love, and the two float in space, sharing a passionate kiss.
In another gratuitous move, a Nega-jellyfish appears and battles the pair for a few pages.
Elsewhere, the Thing finds out where Franklin and Val got to: they secreted themselves inside an impregnable suit of battle-armour that Reed built for them to hide in when danger struck. I guess each of them can pilot it simultaneously, or the sibling rivalry would be unbearable. Anyway, after they take out a Nega-octopus with their energy cannons, the kids and Ben rendezvous with Johnny, who flies in with an unconscious Lyja.
So what will Ben, Johnny, and the kids do? None of them have the technical know-how or ability to repair the damage Lyja did to the Baxter Building machinery, so returning to Earth seems a hopeless task. Thankfully, Franklin is smarter than the two adults, and has the idea of traveling across the Zone to Prison 42. One of the prisoners there may have the smarts to bring them all back!
Tune in next issue for "Project Breakout!"
...or don't. Seriously, that would be my recommendation.
Just like last time, the issue is ludicrously padded. Unnecessary splash pages abound, and the story itself doesn't actually begin until page 4. Seriously, you could begin reading on that page and the story would make perfect sense.
Plot problems abound. In no particular order:
Still no explanation for heat, light, oxygen, and gravity being so abundant in the N-Zone. What exactly is Johnny's flame burning when he's adrift in the void, anyway?
And the biggest one of all...
Lyja responding to Johnny's advances I can just barely accept: perhaps she did what she did to get revenge for Johnny's lack of affection, and comes crawling back at the first sign that he cares. It's contemptible, but believeable. But Johnny making those advances... he's macking up the woman who's destroyed his home, menaced his niece and nephew and friend, handed his sister and brother-in-law over to murderous enemies, and is actively trying to murder him. Even Johnny admits in a voiceover caption that it defies all plausibility. Sorry, Marvel, but hanging a lampshade on your plot problems doesn't give you a pass from them.
Either this is ludicrously bad writing, or we're supposed to believe that both Johnny and Lyja are ludicrously shallow, selfish, and stupid. Take your pick.
Barry Kitson's superb pencils are the only reason to give this a look, and even they are hampered by uneven inking and Kitson's unfortunate tendency to make Johnny bald when he's flaming on. Half a web, and I think I'm being generous.