Collecting issues 1–4 by Jeff Parker and Mike Wieringo
I bought this collection because it was the last work by the sorely missed Mike ‘Ringo’ Wieringo, an artist whose work I really enjoyed. He was taken from us too soon, and it’s a shame to think of all the work we won’t get – he was supposed to be working on a project with Warren Ellis, which sounds like a crazy combination …
As expected, Ringo’s art on this book is a joy to behold – the blend of cartoony yet sleek and dynamic is a delight. Playful yet serious, imaginative yet grounded in reality, he is a perfect choice for Spidey and the FF, characters he was very familiar with after two long runs on their books in his career. And he works his magic on Impossible Man so beautifully (cowboy, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Demi Moore pose, even Spider-Man and his Spidey mobile), it’s as if he was born to draw him.
Impossible Man has come to Earth to warn our heroes of an invasion by the H’Mojen, spearheaded by The Imperator (who seemingly destroys Impy). Spidey tells the Fantastic Four (after we see a lovely joke by Ben on Johnny), while Reed and Sue are on holiday, but they can’t stop The Imperator.
The second issue has The H’Mojen taking over the human population. (In all of this, Parker still adds nice human touches, such as Reed and Sue telling their kids they only get one cartoon, and Spidey’s reaction to the Fantastic Four’s home, ‘Wow, sweet widescreen’; Ringo keeps things real by drawing women anatomically correct – what a novelty). The H’Mojen are grafting themselves onto all humans, because they are a symbiotic species, but they don’t take over everyone (they will be ‘relocated’) – anyone who has DNA which is different (e.g. the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man) cannot be grafted onto (unfortunately, the likes of Captain America and Doctor Strange are not immune). This is the perfect threat for the FF and Spidey – it’s a huge threat, but Spidey keeps it on the human level (Mary Jane and Aunt May have been changed).
There is a lot of good humour in this book: Spidey saying, ‘”Johnny Storm” and “fact-finding mission” just don’t ever get near each other in my head somehow.’ Or Reed giving Spidey a Fantastic Four ‘4’ badge, to which he replies, ‘I don’t know what to say.’ to which Ben says, ‘Aw, he slapped that thing on Lockjaw last time Susie went outta town.’
Reed travels to other planets that have been used by the H’Mojen, looking for answers, while Ben, Johnny and Spidey are avoiding the clutches of the H’Mojen, who want to remove people who are not allowing themselves to change. After a fight, Sue rescues them and they fly to Wundagore mountain for answers from the High Evolutionary (who gives them a machine that will stop the aliens) and then to Latveria for help from Doctor Doom (they get through his pride by fibbing, telling him that Reed couldn’t make the machine work, which is a nice touch.).
In the final issue, Reed returns from hyperspace, which disrupts the Imperator’s technology, allowing the FF to fight him. He fights back using huge animals made of different DNA – things look tricky until these creatures are eaten by Impossible Man or, rather, the entire Poppupian race (‘The Body Conglomerate’), who have been regurgitated by Spidey. They can remove the H’Mojen from human race, but this will kill the H’Mojen, which is not something the FF want. The Imperator takes back the H’Mojen but the 9 billion Poppupians want to stay on Earth – so Spidey asks if the Imperator can contain them, and so they combine the two alien species in the final great merge on an empty planet Reed found on his trip.
This is an old-fashioned tale told in a thoroughly charming manner – Parker has a lightness of touch to his scripting and his fondness for the characters shines through in his dialogue. Matched with Ringo’s ebullient art, and you have pure, fun, entertaining superhero comics.