Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fantastic forces of faux pas timing

Chris Claremont sometimes just can't catch a break.

Sure, the man loves his mind control, not to mention an almost criminal amount of hyperbole ridden dialogue per panel. But even he didn't deserve the sheer awkwardness that resonated from his Fantastic Four oneshot Fantastic 4th Voyage Of Sinbad. 

So, what's so awkward about this, you wonder? Well, for one thing there's the September 2001 coverdate. Of course this meant it came out back in July, but having 'September 2001' stamped on an anything really connects it with you know what... Anything that could even remotely be considered inappropriate was censored. Remember how the first Spider-Man movie had to cut that infamous scene that saw Spidey catching a helicopter by spinning a web between the twin towers?

Anyhoo, what did this September 2001 Fantastic Four oneshot deal with?

"I am JIHAD! And you will bow before me."
Ah yes, Jihad, the Arabic word for 'struggle' but more commonly known as the term used for 'holy war'. Talk about painful... Still, lets get to the actual story. The Fantastic Four had just returned from a recent mission and were enjoying some downtime with their children Franklin and Valeria, not to mention nanny Caledonia and Puppy, the teleporting dog. Everyone was sound asleep when they were suddenly attacked in their Pier 4 headquarters by Jihad who teleported them to an ancient Arabic sailing ship.

It didn't take long for Valeria to figure it all out. For those of you wondering why Valeria doesn't look like the toddler we've seen in recent years... Well, this is actually her alternate future teen counterpart, raised by Doctor Doom and his wife, Susan Richards. Yes... I know. Still, the smarts were there. She deduced the FF were supposed to go on a Sinbad style adventure. Lets have her explain it...

Hey ho, hey ho... its off to challenges we go. Actually, the Invisible Woman used her powers to grab the Crystal Casque with very little effort. So, a slightly overconfident foursome sails towards their second challenge and there we have some good ol' mind control and body morphing waiting for them...

Meet Iblis the eternal, mother of djinns and demons. Her gaze is able to turn any creature into either a demon or stone. Three of the Fantastic Four have already fallen victim to her, but she intends to complete the set by turning a man already made of stone.

Ah, the classic claiming of body and soul... forever. Unfortunately for poor old Iblis, Ben had other plans and turned the djinn queen's powers against her.

Talk about borrowing a page from the mythological Medusa's book. With Iblis gone, there were still two more artifacts to win. One was gained after Mister Fantastic used his actual teammates in a game of chess and the other? Well, it involved a giant bird roosting in a giant statue and... Check the dialogue and remember... coverdate September 2001.

Out of all the skyscrapers in New York, the Thing had to mention the World Trade Center?

Wotta revoltin' development indeed!

Getting back to the mind control part of the post... The Fantastic Four were able to find the four artifacts just in time for Jihad to show up and do this.

Keeping the mind controlled wooden forms of Franklin, Valeria, Caledonia hostage, Jihad forces the team to give him the artifacts. But, what's the ship's figurehead doing there? And better yet, who will the team rescue first?

"Benjamin J. Grimm (...) What could have possessed you...?!"

Turns out he really was possessed... by the ship's masthead who turned out to be. Ow, you guessed it...

Teaming up with the mythical sailor Sinbad, the Fantastic Four sail off to confront Jihad who is busy using the artifacts and the mind controlled offspring of both the FF and Sinbad to merge his reality with our own, and making him the absolute ruler of both.

"Double, double... toil and trouble..."

"Fire burn and cauldron bubble!"

Thank heavens for that teleporting puppy you decided to adopt, eh?

Anyways... Jihad is stopped, the artifacts are used to restore Franklin, Valeria and Caledonia to life and Sinbad is reunited with his daughter Dioné. Time to take the team home...

"Mommy! Daddy! It's home!"

Coverdate September 2011 and the Fantastic Four are sailing towards the barely visible image of the twin towers covered in mist.

Just plain awkward... though nothing quite tops the ending...


Which, really, is a typo... The actual spelling is 'Insha'Allah', or: 'God willing'. What seemed a clever, topical ending in July really ends up leaving a bitter taste in one's mouth a mere two months later.

That concludes this look at Fantastic 4th Voyage of Sinbad, a oneshot plagued by so much bad timing it almost could have been an actual Sinbad fable without the happy ending.

Oh, and for all you conspiracy theorists out there... Did you know you can't spell 'Sinbad' without 'sin' and 'bad'? And the man's an Arab as well... I know. Crazy, right?