Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Recap: Fantastic Four: WGH "Doomsday"

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes, aka “There was a Fantastic Four cartoon after the 1990’s?”

Yeah. There was.

It was aired between the first and second films and was meant to draw in viewers of the first one and get people pumped for the second one. And if you’ve actually seen those films, you won’t be surprised to find out that this show lasted only one season. Less than that in the US. Only seventeen episode aired in the original US run, out of order, with a huge gap after the first eight episodes.

Sounds promising, huh? Let’s take a look at the first episode. Well, it was supposed to be the first one. Much like Batman: TAS and Firefly, the series aired out of order.

So you'd think this would be a good sign....
Episode 1 and/or 3 opens up on the theme music that visually hints at the team’s origin. If you don’t know it, I’ll elaborate.

On an outer space adventure, they got hit by cosmic rays. And the four were changed forever in some most fantastic ways. Reed Richards is elastic, Sue can fade from sight, Johnny is the Human Torch, the Thing just loves to fight. (And, you know, the whole “rock-man” deal.) Also, Victor von Doom went up there and apparently suffered no ill effects but an allegedly-scarred face. Possibly. It’s never really explained. …Great start!

Seriously though, while the theme to the old cartoon is infamously bad, this show has an awesome one; it’s almost like a techno version of the theme from The Spectacular Spider-Man. One thing I’m not so keen on, however, is the design of these characters. I’m not a fan of the pseudo-anime look. Everybody’s face is too pointy and “bishounen.” Or “biseinen,” if you want to get technical.

Hey, Johnny. Where’s your Buster Sword?
But from what I've read, France apparently had a big ol’ anime craze in the mid-00’s, and this was made by Moonscoop, the French animation studio that gave us something called Code Lyoko that seems to be popular. (I don’t watch anime.) How big of an anime craze, you ask? Well, and this is a true story, the animators in France fought tooth and nail to give Sue Storm pink hair. Because anime. Honest to Bob.

Now maybe we should actually look at the episode, now that I’ve apparently given it what-for.

Hmm. I wonder who the villain will be.
We begin with some funky music playing over a shot of the Baxter Building. Inside, some old granny listens to her classical music, because this show takes some cues from the early comics where ordinary citizens lived there, too. Her music is disturbed by a quake, and her ceiling is broken by the gigantic insectoid monster outside. Luckily, the Thing and the Human Torch are on the case.

Apparently, Johnny did something stupid, setting it free from an extra-dimensional realm called the Negative Zone. Reed and Sue join the fray, and Reed quickly uses some SCIENCE to send it back home with his portal glove.

There's some standard team banter, some technobabble, something watching the team in secret; this isn’t a bad set-up for a Fantastic Four episode so far. But it gets better. After the monster is warped back home, the press shows up demanding to know their reactions to the latest news.

Reporter: “Reed Richards purposely exposed you to cosmic rays as part of an experiment. It’s all over the wire!”

Hey, I love Idris Elba!

A cut to a TV screen confirms that this is indeed all over the news, and the Thing wants to know if it’s true.

Thing: “It was an accident… right?”

Of course it was.

Reed: “I did publish a paper on the possible biological effects of cosmic rays years ago.”
Well, if you officially published it, then check with whatever scientific journal you published it with. Failing that, check the internet for that paper. Various colleges and non-profit archives should have it in .pdf or .docx format.

Reed: “…but there wasn’t anything in it about experimentation.”

Yeah. Check the internet. Show the media. Verify that the one they're reporting on has been falsified.

Reed: “Ben, come on. You can’t think that I would do such a thing.”

Internet. Check.

But Ben needs some air, and he leaves. Reed is still feeling guilty about the whole situation. Accidental or not, the shields failed. And Ben paid the price while the rest of them got superpowers they can turn off. But Johnny’s had enough, too.

Johnny: “Thanks for my powers, Dr. Evil, but I’m getting out of here before you grow me an extra head or something.”

Wow, I bet all the kids think Johnny’s a “righteous dude” with pop culture references like that.

Sue goes off to talk to them, and Reed is left to stew. Sue and Johnny turn invisible in the lobby to avoid the paparazzi and continue their conversation, but Johnny flames on and runs away when a random guy begins bad-mouthing Reed. As Johnny and Sue fly over the city, he finally lets Sue in on what’s really bugging him: Ben.

Johnny: “He got real ugly.”

Truly, there is no greater tragedy.

Johnny: “And if Reed did this to us on purpose, how can we ever trust him again?”

Not even Sue has an answer for that. Meanwhile, Ben is talking this over with his girlfriend, Alicia.

Who, unlike Sue, did end up with pink hair.
Alicia: “First off, Ben Grimm, you are no monster.”

Says the blind woman.

But she manages to convince him that Reed would never have exposed them on purpose, especially what with all his lingering guilt over the whole situation. As Ben vows to find and take care of whoever faked this whole situation, the wall explodes and an evil enters. At the same time, a robot takes out Johnny and one goes after Sue. One by one, the robots defeat the three and carry them away.

Over with Reed, he’s finally checked his alleged paper and discovered that he didn’t write the incriminating part. Someone apparently changed the text and sent a new file to the media, who apparently did no fact-checking before they ran the story. Bugle Media, ladies and gentlemen.

But when Reed downloaded the doctored file, he downloaded something else, too. A virus. And it’s taken over his lab’s systems. And its creator, Victor von Doom, has showed up to make the place his own. And yes, he’s rocking some Iron Man-style armor. I’m not sure why.

The red-and-yellow scheme is only due to the lighting, but it still looks like he just robbed Tony Stark.
Ben wakes up in a cell somewhere, near Johnny and Sue. Escape is a no-go, thanks to the various counter measures in their cells. Acid, water, and a giant crusher. For somehow, the deathtraps turn off before they die. Meanwhile, Reed is wearing electro-manacles that zap him when he tries to stretch. Doom steals Reed’s portal gauntlet and opens a portal for his evil plan: Create an imbalance that will send part of the city into the Negative Zone. The world will forever blame Reed Richards, and Doom will have his petty revenge. All because of a single virus in a file Reed Richards downloaded.

"Why did I open up that attachment that said 'Gain 6 inches'? I can stretch!"
At the same time, Sue formulates a plan of escape: Free each other. Johnny uses extreme concentration to melt Ben’s cell from a distance, and Ben takes out the Doombot guard and frees the rest. He rips open a wall, allowing them to take in their surroundings, and they realize they’re in the Latverian embassy. Through leaps of logic, they figure out that Doom must have planted a fake journal, and they go to save Reed.

Meanwhile, a crowd gathers under the red skies and… I’m sorry, but what’s with the comically large breasts on this random bystander?

I guess animators get bored, too.
Anyway, molecules start to destabilize, teleport beams shoot everywhere, and alien monsters begin to prowl the city.

Reporter: “Where is the Fantastic Four?”

Don’t worry about them. The Avengers have defeated green-caped men who use portals to summon alien monsters before. Let them handle this one.

Reed struggles to break his bonds, but this only earns Doom’s mockery. Luckily, Ben just arrived. And he brought fists. And friends. The four work together to take Doom out as Reed reclaims his glove. He turns the portal off, but there’s too much Negative Zone energy outside. Unless they do something, the city will be sucked through dimensions anyway. The new plan: Fight monsters while Reed tries some SCIENCE. Ben and Johnny like this plan. They’re excited to be part of it.

Sue goes after Doom’s escape vehicle in the Fantasticar and saves a falling Johnny. Suddenly, the day is saved and all the monsters get sucked back home as the sky clears up, thanks to Reed's efforts. But Reed leaped super high into the air to close the portal, so he starts falling to Earth. Luckily, the Thing manages to wake him up and just wait a dang second.

This looks familiar.
Is it just a coincidence… or did this inspire the climax of The Avengers? Replace the Negative Zone with space, Hulk for the Thing, Iron Man for Reed, Loki for Dr. Doom…. Holy crap. Joss Whedon, did you actually watch this show?

…Oh yeah, the episode.

The day is saved, the misconception about the space station stuff is cleared up, Johnny does his Dr. Doom impression.

Johnny: “My brains is unparalleled! Yet I always lose! For I! Am! DOOM!”

Apologies from Ben, apologies from Reed, vows of revenge from Doom, and the episode ends. Review time.

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