Fantastic Four (1st series) #314

Issue Date: 
May 1988
Story Title: 
The Scenic Route!

Steve Englehart (writer), Keith Pollars (penciler), Joe Sinnott (inker), Jock Workman(letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Marc Siry (assistant editor), Ralph Macchio (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)


Brief Description: 

In the tunnels of the Mole Man, the Fantastic Four lament their latest mishap, that the Mole Man could not transform She-Thing back into her human form. However She-Thing tells her teammates that she isn't too worried, for it is nice to have real power for a change. The team briefly discusses this, before decide to go exploring the tunnels before they return home, starting with a tunnel that the Mole Man never let his Moloids enter. As they enter the tunnel, She-Thing reminds the team that the original Fantastic Four have uncovered many mysteries on their journeys, and an instant later, the heroes find themselves strangely transported to another cavern. Another teleport later, and they realize that there is a series of warps in the tunnels, which must have been how the Mole Man moved such vast distances beneath the earth. The team continues to explore, and the Human Torch and Crystal comment on how She-Thing seems to be over her slump, and realize that she seems to have feelings for the Thing. The Human Torch reiterates how much he loves his wife, as if to remind Crystal that she is out of his life now. The Human Torch's wife, Alicia, is in Manhattan with an art dealer, and while Alicia feels a sudden wave of heat, the dealer informs her that the sky is full of fire. The Fantastic Four come to a river of lava, and the Human Torch goes off to have a closer look at the firefall. Thing and She-Thing confess their feelings for each other, and almost kiss – but the Human Torch returns and points out that Crystal has vanished. They search for a warp, but can't find one, however they do locate a hidden tunnel, and enter it. The tunnel brings them to some sort of fortress, sealed off amongst the cavern. The Human Torch is unable to melt the gate down, and they deduce that magic is involved here. The Things are able to bend the gate apart though, and the trio enter the fortress to find Crystal the prisoner of Belasco, who warns the heroes not to come any further unless they want to die. The heroes are determined to get Crystal back though, and when a mysterious fire ball appears, they use it to their advantage, making Belasco believe that the Human Torch conjured it. But when the Human Torch flies towards Belasco, he is turned into a pig. Belasco starts to transform Thing and She-Thing but is unable to, and She-Thing punches him out. The Human Torch reverts to his human form, and the heroes rush out into the tunnel, with Crystal explaining that she doesn't recall how she got here. Belasco wakes, and the heroes hear him roar, so they find another warp, which takes them to another cavern, where a large underground city, complete with its own sun is spralwed out before them. The Thing has been here before – it's the home of the Cat People, and he explains his previous adventure here. But when they go to the city gates they are met with hostility, and are forced to battle the Cat People, until Belasco teleports into the midst of the battle. The Cat People drop to their knees and worship him, and Belasco gives a bit of insight as to his recent activities, before deciding that he will strip the flesh from the Fantastic Four's bones. However, before he can act, another fireball appears, and an image of Dr Strange battling Shuma-Gorath can be seen amongst the fireball. Dr Strange's actions prove enough to distract Belasco, who believes that Strange and Shuma-Gorath will collapse all the nether-realms unless he stops them. The Fantastic Four escape into a boat on a nearby river, which the Cat People know is the River of Oblivion. As they go further along the river, the heroes soon go through another warp, which deposits them at the feet of the villain called Master Pandemonium!

Full Summary: 

Somewhere underneath the Earth, in the tunnels of the Fantastic Four's first foe, the Mole Man: The Fantastic Four stand around, looking somewhat dejected, while dozens of Moloids stand nearby, looking at them. Sharon Ventura a.k.a. Ms Marvel and now the She-Thing tells her teammates not to let it worry them. 'So the Mole Man couldn't turn me back to normal. “Normal” isn't a thing I want to be right now – so to speak' Sharon reveals. Sharon tells her friends that she knows they thought she needed to be human again, to deal with all the things that have happened to her, but this new body is a refuge for her now. She adds that once she decided to go forward, she discovered how nice it is to have real power, and not to be ogled by the male half of the population. 'No – now you're ogled by all the population!' Crystal declares. Ben Grimm a.k.a. The Thing, in his extra-rocky mutated form, tells Crystal that it is not in the same way. 'Males are not bad by nature, folks!' Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch tells the others. The Thing agrees, but points out that if you want somebody of the opposite sex to care about you, being big and orange usually stops that quick.

The Thing remarks that he doesn't want to get into his problems, but that the fact is, the number of hot nights on the town available to Sharon now, she can count on one hand. 'And us Things only got four fingers!' Crystal adds that every woman knows what it is like to get tired of being on display. 'Don't tell me you're down on men, too!' Johnny asks his ex-girlfriend. 'No... not me!' Crystal responds, before the Thing tells his teammates that this all has nothing to do with being the Fantastic Four, which is finally what they are starting to do. He turns to a Moloid, and pointing at a tunnel obscured by some rocks, asks the Moloid where it goes. 'Why, Ben?' Sharon enquires. The Thing replies that if they are really putting the past behind them, then maybe it is time they had a little fun. He points out that the others never really explored the Mole Man's tunnels, but he has. 'They're a kick and a half – let's do some looking around before we go home!' the Thing suggests, while the Moloid announces that their master never let them into that tunnel. 'Then that's a good place to start' the Thing decides.

The Thing and She-Thing start to pull the rocks away from the entrance to the tunnel, 'I like it, Ben! It gives me a chance to use my strength!' She-Thing exclaims, 'Lady, yer gonna love this!' the Thing tells her, but suddenly, an off-putting smell wafts past them. 'On the other hand...' the Thing mutters. 'Never mind! I want to take whatever comes!' She-Thing announces, adding that what she always admired about the Fantastic Four before she joined them was the incredible adventures they had. The Moloids look on in awe as the Fantastic Four enter the previously blocked tunnel, as Sharon adds that the Fantastic Four have found out things that had been mysteries to the rest of the world for all recorded hime. 'Yeah – mostly by going someplace no sane person would even consider!' the Human Torch remarks, adding that it used to be because big-brain Reed said so. 'Now it's the Pumpkin that Ate the Bronx who gives the orders!' Johnny jokes. 'This is not the Bronx by any means, Johnny! It's – stupendous!' Crystal gasps as the team stands on a narrow walkway surrounded by rock formations, and seeming darkness all around them. Suddenly, they shield their eyes as a brilliant light engulfs them.

'Look at this now!' the Thing exclaims as the heroes look around and realize they are in a different cavern. 'An attack by Lava Men or Tyrannoids again?' She-Thing asks, as the heroes stand ready for battle, while Crystal announces that their position in the planet really has changed, adding that she knows from teleporting with Lockjaw, and what they just experienced felt a lot like teleporting. 'Yeah? There's one quick way ta check!' the Thing points out as he walks backwards, and is engulfed by light again. 'Ben!' the Human Torch calls out, but almost instantly, the Thing re-appears, announcing that Crystal was right, the other cavern is right back there – if you use that warp field. 'That explains how the Mole Man moved such vast distances beneath the Earth! You've never reported seeing any vehicles!' Crystal remarks. The heroes walk on, as the Thing adds that the Mole Man's only vehicles were trucks for hailing weapons. 'Moley was a walker, all right!' the Thing remarks. 'I am too! These legs are great, Ben!' She-Thing declares, as the Human Torch tells her that there is one more age-old mystery cleared up for her, adding that you have to wonder whether the mole man created the passage in the first place.

Johnny turns to Crystal and quietly tells her that he thinks Sharon is back amongst the living. 'I think she's there for the first time since we've known her' Crystal replies. 'And i'll tell you what else I think – I think she likes Ben!' Crystal reports. Johnny tells Crystal that the Thing likes Sharon, so that could add up to something, adding that he hopes so, as he didn't really think he would practically destroy the Fantastic Four when he fell in love with Alicia. 'And I did, y'know – fall in love! I couldn't help myself. I love my wife' the Human Torch exclaims, thinking about his wife, Alicia Storm nee Masters, the former girlfriend of the Thing. Johnny then thinks to himself that Crystal is out of his life now.

Meanwhile, on the wintry surface of Midtown Manhattan, Alicia Storm is also living a life. The sculptress stands on a balcony amongst several works of art and informs an elderly man, Frederick, that she has several new pieces and that he should come by the studio anytime. Frederick tells Alicia that he is so pleased she has been working since her marriage to the Human Torch. Alicia explains that marriage seems to have inspired her, before suddenly, she starts to sweat, and putting her hand to her head, asks 'What's that heat?' Frederick replies that he doesn't feel anything, before suddenly, he turns towards the sky, 'Now I do! It – oh, my God! The sky is on fire!' he gasps, looking at the sky in a blaze of red, orange and yellow.

But, miles below, there is no sky, and the Fantastic Four stand on a ledge overlooking a river of lava, which flows from a massive firefall, which the Thing alerts everyone to. 'Yes, and that's it for this direction' Sharon points out, adding 'You told me this skin had a heat limit, and now I know it!' Johnny switches to his Human Torch form and takes flight, telling the others to hold up while he has a closer look at the firefall. 'Wait, Johnny, I'll go with you -' Crystal calls out, but gets no response. The Thing tells Sharon that he is glad they are all together now, as it didn't feel right hating the Torch. 'Though when I think about him and Alicia – I still start getting mad -' the Thing admits, so Sharon tells him not to think about them. 'You know, I'd like to think about you' the Thing informs Sharon, supposing that he is never going to get there. 'Oh, Ben, you can;t really be interested in me now! You said what being a Thing means to a love life!' Sharon replies. 'Not if you Are a Thing' Ben replies, taking Sharon's hand. Ben informs Sharon that he never had anyone the same as him before. 'Sure, you were beautiful, normal – I'm still a man! But I'm more than that now – just like you! And I never had anybody I could relate to on the same level before'.

The Thing continues, telling Sharon that he knows she is hiding out from men because of what some of them did to her, but that she really is still beautiful to him. 'And maybe someday...' the Thing's voice trails off. 'Maybe... today, Ben...!' Sharon replies, taking the Thing's other hand and looking into his eyes. But suddenly: 'Hey, you guys! Where's Crys?' the Torch asks as he flies back towards his teammates, only Crystal is not with them. 'What? Huh? Dad-blast it, Torch!' the Thing complains, but Sharon tells him to wait, as Crystal is gone. The Torch reports that Crystal is not in the lava below, as he would have seen her. He suggests they check for more teleportation warps. The Thing is clearly annoyed at he and Sharon being interrupted, but he starts to check, 'Nothing over here!' he reports. 'Or here, Johnny' Sharon announces as she checks a space nearby. Johnny notices a pile of rocks that are glowing and alerts Sharon to them. 'I'll bet that's her powers!' Sharon exclaims, before tearing at the rocks and breaking them apart. 'I think I win!' Sharon calls out, announcing that there is a hidden tunnel here. The trio enter the tunnel, and Sharon remarks that Crystal can't be far ahead, while wondering what could have captured her so silently. 'We're darn well gonna find out!' the Human Torch declares. 'Yeah, we -' the Thing begins, before they entera large cavernous space. 'Whoa!' the Thing exclaims.

The heroes see some large walls built into the cavern, and Sharon points out that there are some bats rising from behind the walls. She declares that something is disturbing them. 'That's nothing to what'll disturb whoever's attacked the FF!' the Human Torch exclaims as he flies towards the gate, while the Thing tells his teammates to be careful, as he has a bad feeling about this place. 'I'm being careful! I'm cutting you two a quick way in!' the Human Torch exclaims as he opens fire on the wall, but his flame bursts did not affect the metal. 'Magick!' the Torch declares. 'I knew it' the Thing mutters, before suggesting that straight strength might do the trick. 'You called it, Ben!' Sharon agrees as the two of them start to rip open the gate, and the trio enter a corridor. Sharon reminds her teammates that there are still plenty of Subterraneans down here, like Lava Men. The Torch agrees, but points out that Lava Men don't do magick, as far as he knows. 'This is serious sorcery!' Johnny declares, when suddenly, they come to a halt. 'LOOK!' Johnny shouts, for up ahead, they see a motionless Crystal in the arm of a devilish looking man dressed in red, his tail wrapped around his ankle.

'You have entered the keep of Belasco, most powerful servant of the Gods from Beyond – most powerful master of the Worlds Within the World!' Belasco announces. Belasco announces that he will have Crystal as his mate, and that there will be no interferences, for the time is full past for Shanna and Illyana. 'Then our partner won't do you now good, 'cause her name's not Crysanna!' the Thing exclaims as the heroes move closer.

'Wit in the face of adversity! Crude – but wit! Ka-Zar was such a dullard!' Belasco replies, before beams burst from his eyes and cut into the ground at the feet of the Fantastic Four. 'Cross that line and you die!' the Thing warns the heroes. 'Listen, pal, we don't really hang out with Ka-Zar, so I don't know how heavy you really are, but nobody's taking that girl!' the Human Torch exclaims, shaking a fist at Belasco. The Thing boasts that the Fantastic Four has got a lot more to offer than any jungle boy, while Sharon warns Belasco that if he wants a fight, here it is. Suddenly thought, a flaming fire ball appears overhead. 'Your power is spectacular, flaming one – but inneffective!' Belasco announces as everyone looks up to the energy overhead. 'He thinks I created that fireball – but I didn't' Johnny thinks to himself.

'But if he didn't and thinks I did, this is my chance!' the Human Torch tells himself, as he flies forward, warning Belasco that the next one will be balanced right on his horns. 'And I'm not gonna get near your line!' the Human Torch calls out, when suddenly, 'No matter' Belasco replies, as he fires two beams from his eyes, which strike Johnny and turn him into a pink pig. 'Snort!' the pig cries as it walks in front of Thing. 'Go, Double-M!' the Thing tells Sharon, as they both rush forward toward Belasco, who just grins, 'Yes! Come! I withdraw the line – that I may transform you two to something far worse than pigs!' Belasco calls out as energy bursts from his eyes and strikes both of the Things – but nothing happens, and She-Thing strikes Belasco's face with a strong punch, 'Too late, Chuckles!' she tells him, as Belasco falls to the floor. Johnny reverts to his human form, 'Yucko-mondo! No more bacon!' he remarks as he checks his hands, while Sharon supposes that the magick stopped when Belasco lost consciousness, as he lay sprawled out behind them. The Thing goes over to Crystal, who wakes, adding that for them the transformastion never started. 'Must be, we're already transformed' he supposes.

Crystal thanks Ben and informs her teammates that she was watching Johnny fly, sensed the air shift behind her, and then that is all she remembers. 'Well, you wanted to show us what's down here, Ben – and you're doing a heck of a job so far!' the Human Torch exclaims. 'He didn't expect this, Johnny' Sharon points out. 'We all know that' Crystal assures her, as she and the Torch take flight, they move out of Belasco's fortress back into the cavern. 'Just like I know we'd better beat it while the beatin's good!' Johnny suggests, and the Things run along underneath them. The Thing tells everyone that he still has a bad feeling about this, before asking if they came down this way. 'I wasn't really looking -' Sharon begins, while the Human Torch announces that he thinks they missed a turn off somewhere. He offers to do some scouting and flies away. As he goes, Johnny hopes to himself that these trails don't change by magick. Just then, the remaining heroes hear a horrid scream echo through the cavern. 'Uh-oh, sounds like chuckles woke up!' Sharon remarks, to which the Thing remarks that he heard Sharon hit him, so he must be tough if he is up already. He hopes that the Torch will hurry up, and suddenly, a fireball can be seen overhead. 'How does Johnny do that?' Sharon asks, as the trio look up at it. 'I don't! I don't know who does!' Johnny calls out as he returns to the group.

'But guess what I found over here!' Johnny calls out, as he leads the heroes down another tunnel. 'A dead end?' Sharon asks as they approach the end of the tunnel. 'Straight ahead, yeah – but not straight up!' Johnny calls back as he flies up, and vanishes through a portal, only to peer back down through the portal, smiling. He explains that he made a wide turn here, found another teleportation warp against the rock. 'How many warps are there?' the Thing wonders. As the Thing hoists Sharon and Crystal up through the portal, he remarks that he never saw anything like this when he was under Monster Island, to which Sharon tells him not to forget that the Mole Man was keeping knowledge of tunnels like this from everyone. 'Kid, this is nuts!' the Thing exclaims as he climbs up through the portal, 'Nuts, but increasingly enthralling!' the Thing adds, before the heroes look out down out of a tunnel, and see a small city with its own sun, in the caverns. 'And that ain't the half of it – I know this city – it's a city for kitties!' the Thing announces. 'did you leave your brain down below?' the Human Torch asks the Thing, who declares that he is serious, and states that there is a bunch of Cat-People here, related to Tigra. 'Tigra?' Sharon asks. The Thing and Sharon walk across a swing bridge towards the city, while Johnny and Crystal fly above them, and the Thing realizes that he never told any of them about his time with the West Coast Avengers.

The Thing continues, 'Well, once we did this spell and some Cat-Guy teleported us here! I had no idea ya could walk in!' The Thing explains that the king was going to help Tigra out with her two souls, and wonders if he ever did. The heroes approach two guards at the main entrance, 'Hi there, fuzzy – you mayy not recognize me -' the Thing begins, when suddenly, an army of Cat-People appear, armed with weapons, 'Kill the outworlders!' they cry. 'They don't recognize you, Ben!' Johnny points out. 'I'm the Thing! You threw us a party!' the Thing tells the Cat-People, who don't listen, so the Thing starts to smack them back as they approach him. Crystal announces that the sun overhead is not a real sun, her power over fire can't affect iit. 'But there's more than enough earth to do my bidding!' Crystal exclaims as she opens up the ground around several of the Cat-People, causing them to fall over. 'Power over fire's all I got, boys, but that just means I've developed it to its full potential!' the Human Torch remarks as he darts around a group of Cat-People, trapping them in a ring of fire. 'These tomcats are tough and fierce – but not in our league at all!' She-Thing exclaims as she knocks several of the feline warriors back.

A leader of the Cat-People steps forward: 'That may be, monster, but we will scratch and claw until one pack or the other is dead!' the warror exclaims. 'Fergeddaboudit, ya Garfield reject!' the Thing replies, telling that Cat-People that he doesn't know what their problem is, but that they don't need to stay where they are not wanted. 'We'll leave the way we came in!' the Thing assures the Cat-People. Suddenly, in a burst of energy, Belasco appears. 'No, you will not' he tells the Fantastic Four. 'Wha'd I tell you guys? I've got a bad feeling!' the Thing exclaims. 'The Cat-People are worshipping him!' Crystal exclaims as the Cat-People drop to their knees before Belasco. Sharon points out that Belasco still has his eyes on Crystal, while the Thing remarks that Tigra trusted the Cat-People. 'The West Coast Avengers returned to without you, Thing – to discovert, as you now have, that their trust was misplaced!' Belasco announces, explaining that these creatures are demons, sent to the “Land Within” by ancient sorcerers. 'The greatest of whom was myself!' Belasco boasts. Belasco states that in later years, he turned his attention to the Elder Gods and grew even greater in their service, but he rtains his hoary mastery over this catabolic coterie.

'We beat this bozo before – we beat the cats! But I'm beginning to realize just how far we gotta go to get home from here. Whose idea was it ta explore this maze?' the Thing thinks to himself, before exclaiming 'So ya moved down ta be near yer pets, Bel-Boy?' to which Belasco states that he had no idea that the realms were connected, that so many realms are connected, if one knows where to look. 'Why don'tcha tell us all about it?' the Thing suggests, but Belasco grits his teeth and declares that he would rather strip their flesh from their bones. But, before any further action, another fireball appears overhead, matching the flames which burn across the skies above, unknown to all here. But this time, an image shimmers in the sudden heat – Dr Stephen Strange appears, energy coursing between his hands, while a large eye with serpent-like attributes hovers nearby. 'This is a mystic image of your planet Earth. What I do yto this globe will affect the real Earth -' the eye begins. 'Earth is mine, Shuma-Gorath! I have changed myself terribly, but my mystic fires shall protect it!' Dr Strange replies. 'You cannot be Vishnu and Shiva with the same sweep of the hand, strange! There is simply no way you can win!' Shuma-Gorath responds. 'So be it, then!' Dr Strange replies as he tosses the energy resembling the Earth towards the eye, declaring that he chooses the way of Shiva the Destroyer, and that Earth's image shall be his weapon.

Dr Strange has battled Shuma-Gorath once before, and truly it was said that anywhere magick lives, magicians know what mankind cannot. 'They'll collapse all the nether-realms if I fail to stop them!' Belasco exclaims as fireballs start cascading downwards towards the Fantastic Four, and the Cat-People, who scatter to safety. 'Benjy?' the Human Torch calls out, 'Ask me later, firefly!' the Thing replies as the heroes rush to a nearby river, with Crystal asking what is it about this world which fascinates so many aliens? 'If you ever find out, don't tell anybody new!' the Human Torch calls back, and as they help Sharon into a small boat, she asks them where they are going. 'Out of here!' We'll worry about our destination when we get there!' Johnny declares. 'That's the great thing about being the Fantastic Four, Sharon – one way or another, we can always take care of ourselves!' Crystal exclaims as the boat starts to float down the river, dodging fireballs that land nearby.

The leader of the Cat-People calls the Fantastic Four fools, and tells one of the other Cat-People that they have entrusted themselves to the River of Obliviion. 'Water must seem ann inviting alternative ot the fire – but watch them hit the wall!' one of the Cat-People replies. Indeed, the small boat carrying the Fantastic Four suddenly hits a wall, but the heroes find themselves teleported through another warp, and they fall out of the other side of the portal onto a cold floor, and looking up, they see a strange man in a red and orange costume standing over them. 'Mephisto's screams! Someone else from planet Earth!' he exclaims, before welcoming his visitors to the Fourth World of the star-sun Arcturus. He hopes for them that the fates provide that they know how to escape it, otherwise the rest of their lives will be spent in captivity beside him – Master Pandemonium!

Characters Involved: 

Crystal, Human Torch II, She-Thing, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Alicia Storm

Dr Strange



Master Pandemonium







Cat People

Story Notes: 

Ms Marvel II was mutated into the She-Thing in Fantastic Four (1st series) #310. The team sought out the Mole Man last issue to see if he could restore her to her human form, but the Mole Man was captured.

The Thing explored Mole Man's tunnels when he lived there as an outcast in Fantastic Four (1st series) #296.

It is implied that, as Ms Marvel II, Sharon Ventura was gang-raped by Malus's henchmen in Captain America (1st series) #330.


Belasco's refers to Illyana as in Magik, and Shanna as in Shanna of the Savage Land. His schemes with those women took place in Magik #1-4 and Ka-Zar the Savage #10-12.

The Thing's adventures with the West Coast Avengers can be seen in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #6-10.

The West Coast Avengers, along with Hellcat and Hellstorm, visited the Catp People in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #15-16.

Dr Strange's battle continues in Strange Tales (2nd series) #14. Dr Strange had previously fought Shuma-Gorath and said that anywhere magick lives magicians know what mankind cannot in Doctor Strange (1st series) #10.

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