A mysterious force is attacking targets of interest across New York. The Baxter Building and Roxxon Industries have been assaulted by gigantic spore creatures that appear out of nowhere, do massive structural damage, and then disappear. Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards has been blown up by weird pink energy: it seems as if he and his family have all been killed. And a strange pink alien has ambushed Nick Fury while the undercover agent was enjoying lunch...
Spider-Man and the Human Torch are web-swinging / flying across New York when they see a gigantic energy cloud engulf several city blocks. They approach, to discover Nick Fury having a gunfight with the pink alien. Nick’s managed to survive this long thanks to his personal force field, which protects him from energy blasts, being knocked through windows, etc. Nick’s heavily outgunned and his forcefield just ran out of juice: but, like a streak of light, Spidey and the Torch arrive just in time.
The Torch wraps up the alien in a ring of flame, and the alien, after a few desultory energy blasts, disappears. Nick is grateful for the assist, but he’s privately annoyed that he has to reveal his presence in New York to Spidey. “No one knows I’m alive,” he thinks. “Only a few know I’m on Earth.”
Huh. I think he got that backwards?
While Spidey and Nick compare notes, the Human Torch hears another explosion and takes to the skies, where he’s horrified to witness the attack on the Baxter Building. Hmm: I guess the attacks on Roxxon, Richards, Fury, and the Baxter Building are all happening simultaneously. The Torch amps up his flame and zips to his sister’s aid.
Outside the building, the Thing is pounding fruitlessly at the spore creature, only pausing long enough to tell the incoming Torch that the Invisible Woman is inside. Johnny bursts in and tries to bring her out with him, but she won’t go. “I’m okay, Johnny... not yet!” Why she wants to wait is never made explicitly clear, because we cut back to the Thing, who is still punching the spore monster, even as it teleports away. Unfortunately for Ben, this leaves him in mid-air without support, and he plummets to Earth. Fortunately for Ben, his rocky hide allows him to survive the fall.
The three surviving members of the Four regroup at street level. Sue explains that she doesn’t think she was the primary target of the attack: rather, the Baxter Building was. Sure enough, the spore monster seems to have escaped with the upper half of the building, leaving only a stump behind. But it wasn’t a clean getaway, because Sue has snipped off a bit of the spore monster and has imprisoned it in a forcefield. What is this thing? “I don’t know”, she says, “but Reed Richards will.”
Eep. Let’s check in with Spider-Woman, who’s headed home now that the Roxxon spore monster has disappeared. She turns on the TV news and learns, to her horror, that the Baxter Building was also attacked, but before she has time to process that news, another one of the weird pink aliens bursts into her apartment. She takes one look and decides she’s out of her weight class here. Using her webbing to wrap up the aliens’ six eyes, she dives out of the window and web-swings away. The alien sends a few energy blasts after her, and then teleports away, just as the spore monsters did.
Cut to the burned-out shell of the Richards home, where the Fantastic Three plus Spidey have gathered. They are horrified to hear that, yes indeed, Mr. Fantastic is dead (as is the rest of his family). Ben and Johnny are gobsmacked, and Sue is so distraught that she passes out. The forcefield surrounding the spore tendril remains intact, though. Spidey is concerned, because no one knew that the Richards family lived here. They had a fake name and lived here secretly. Spidey thinks about that, and thinks about the fact that no one knew Fury was in New York either. Fury was also in hiding, and yet the aliens knew where he was and where he lived.
They knew where he lived.
The penny drops, and Spider-Man cries “Does anyone have a phone?”
Cut to the Parker home, where Bobby “Iceman” Drake and Gwen Stacey are doing their homework under Aunt May’s watchful eye. As May answers the phone, we readers see a pink alien materialize in the front yard...
Lots of action this issue, with weird pink aliens throwing down with Nick Fury, the surviving members of the Fantastic Four, and Spider-Woman. Despite all this the story does advance a bit, as we now know that the aliens are targeting New York’s heroes but also its advanced research labs. I wonder why? And apparent confirmation that yes, Mr. Fantastic is dead. Sheesh, he survived Ultimatum but gets taken out by an alien bomber? Harsh.
There’s also good bits of Bendis dialogue mixed in, like when Spider-Man explains that he absolutely will not merchandise his Spider-Man persona. Why not? “If you start making dolls of yourself," he explains, "then on some level it becomes about making those dolls sell and doing things that get you attention so the dolls sell. I don’t want any part of it.” That’s a economically-put insight into the Parker ethos, plugged into a bit of story space between big events. I like it.
Later Bendis fills some of that space with an amusing comment on the so-called school that Professor X used to run. Gwen and Bobby are talking math:
Gwen: “Do your own homework, Bobby.”
Bobby: “I did. I just want to see if it matches yours.”
Gwen: “You don’t know how to do this homework, do you?”
Bobby: “I do, kinda.”
Gwen: “Did they actually teach you anything at that X-Men school that you went to?”
Bobby: “They taught me that mutants are the future of mankind. So give me your homework and I’ll make sure you’re spared at the—”
Aunt May: “Settle down over there.”
It’s a pretty light story: a few alien attacks and the threat of more to come. We still don’t know who is doing this or why. But there’s a little bit more of a story than last time, along with some decent action sequences and some typically well-wrought Bendis dialogue. So it gets a slight bump from last issue. Three webs.
Cover accuracy check: yes, this issue does feature Nick Fury shooting a pair of guns a bunch of times.