Fantastic Four (1st series) #348

Issue Date: 
January 1991
Story Title: 
Where Monsters Dwell! (Or is it… Where Creatures Roam?)

Walter Simonson (writing), Arthur Adams (penciling), Gracine Tanaka (penciling assistant), Art Thibert (inking), Al Milgrom (inking – pages 13-16), Bill Oakley (lettering), Steve Buccellato (coloring), Ralph Macchio (editing), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief), Arthur Adams and Art Thibert (cover art)

Brief Description: 

Aboard a Fantastic Four aircraft, the new Fantastic Four – Wolverine, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Ghost Rider – begin their search for the monsters and the cause of what killed the real Fantastic Four. Eventually, they happen upon a flying moth monster and follow it to Monster Isle. At the same time, the Mole Man observes the aliens on his island and opens up a crater to swallow their ship into the ground below. There, he confronts the aliens when the new Fantastic Four show up. After a brief discussion, they learn all about the Skrull renegade De’Lila from the Skrull captain. Using her powers, De’Lila (in the guise of Sue) uses Reed Richards to help her find what she is looking for. Ultimately, it brings them to the same place where the Skrulls, the New Fantastic Four, Mole Man, and his followers are. Discovering the ruse, the Hulk goes to attack “Sue” but is stopped by Reed who tells him he’ll have to kill him to get to Sue. The Hulk responds that, since he already saw his dead body, it shouldn’t be a problem to kill him, the Skrull.

Full Summary: 

Suffice it to say that the Hulk, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Ghost Rider have gotten together for a little joy ride. We’d like to explain what’s happening, but even we aren’t sure. So bear with us on this one. It may never be very clear but we guarantee it’ll be fun!

As the Hulk pilots a flying vehicle away from Four Freedoms Plaza, Spidey asks him if he can watch those turns. Some of them have delicate stomachs and no Dramamine. Maybe somebody else should be driving this hot rod. The Hulk tells him to button his lip motormouth. He doesn’t need anybody else’s help and if he doesn’t like it, he can always get out and walk. Spidey replies that it was just a suggestion.

The Hulk adds that if he hadn’t seen the Fantastic Four’s bodies with his own eyes, he wouldn’t even be there. But after Sue Richards (De’Lila, a Skrull, unbeknownst to them) told them what happened, he couldn’t skip out on her. He recalls that she told them that the assassins attacked while she was shopping but Reed lived long enough to tell her that his killers have released the Monsters of the Earth to attack mankind. And they had killed the Fantastic Four to prevent them from stopping them. The assassins must be found, and dealt with. She then gave them Reed’s experimental gravity wave rider, which will enable them to travel to the ends of the Earth, if necessary. And the sub-photonic spectro-analyzer she gave Spider-Man will pinpoint their energy configurations, revealing their locations. For the sake of all humanity, for the sake of her dead husband, they must be found and destroyed.

Spidey remarks that he doesn’t blame her, but that’s one bloodthirsty lady. Hulk responds that she picked the right guy for the job. He had a lot of respect for Richards, and he’s going to nail their hides to the wall. Them clowns can watch. Looking down at one of the monitors on the vehicle, Wolverine remarks this baby’s got everything including monitors, short wave scanners, and a mini-fridge. An’ Sue was right. Giant critters are comin’ outta the woodwork, attackin’ cities around the world. Should make pretty interestin’ viewing. Wonder if they got any brew in the mini-fridge.

Spidey asks him how he can even think something like that right now. Wolverine tells him lighten up web-head. Every army and super-hero team are gonna be joinin’ the action. Those monsters’ll never know what hit ‘em. They’ll get nasty when they catch the guys they’re lookin’ for. Once the device Spidey is holding starts to sound an alarm, Wolverine asks him what he’s got. Spidey replies that the scanner’s picking up an energy source already – southeast at a range of about a thousand miles. Ghost Rider says then let them depart that vengeance may be meted out. Hulk tells him he’s got that right flame-face. He then tells the others to hold onto their tail feathers, they’re outta there. With that, the heroes speed off into the distance.

Behind the swiftly dwindling heroes, in the deepening shadows of Four Freedoms Plaza, De’Lila (in the guise of Sue Richards) exclaims they’ve gone at last. And this pretense is no longer necessary. The misguided earthlings shall slay her enemies and she shall have the time she needs to achieve her goal there on Earth. She adds that Reed Richards’ computer files should provide the answer to her quest. And for her, they will be child’s play to operate.

In short time, De’Lila finds the information she seeks. Blast it! Although there’s a thorough record concerning the first Skrull mothership to arrive on Earth as well as detailed reports of subsequent landings, there’s no trace of the thing she seeks. There can only be one explanation. It had already begun to awaken by the time it arrived there and has gone to ground. Which means that now, it could be anywhere. And unless she can locate it, her efforts will have been in vain. But how? Although she can access his data banks, Richards’ laboratory is more sophisticated than she first thought. And she doesn’t have unlimited time. She doesn’t know if she can operate the equipment with sufficient skill to utilize it to its fullest potential. Of course! With his family hostage, Richards himself shall locate the object of her search, before she disposes of them all.

Somewhere deep within the Bermuda Triangle is a place known only as Monster Isle. There, the Captain of the Skrulls on the ship points out that the Skrull empire will reward them handsomely if they bring De’Lila back dead or alive. And kill them if they fail. One of his followers tells him they won’t fail. There on the island, they’ve found dozens of monsters. The Captain adds that thanks to their slave darts, they are theirs to control. And know they’ve scattered them around the planet carrying sensors that enable them to scan the brainwaves of this world’s entire population. They know De’Lila’s on Earth. Sooner or later, her mind will be revealed to them and they shall have her. Their mission will be accomplished before anyone even knows they’re there.

Hiding in the jungle, Mole Man uses a modified starlight scope to enable him to scan the intruder easily, but he fails to recognize the type of ship. It doesn’t look like one of Richard’s craft. But he’s certain whoever’s aboard is responsible for disturbing the security of Monster Isle and for disturbing his monsters. Can they never be left alone?

As he begins to remark that they’ll pay for this, a Skrull exits the ship. Mole Man sees him and immediately notices that he’s not even human – he’s an alien, an alien on his island, disturbing his monsters. He is not surprised. Only the most abysmal ignorance could excuse such unbelievable effrontery. But no matter. Even aliens must learn the folly of attacking those who live under the protection of the Mole Man. Turning towards Giganto, Mole Man points to the Skrull ship and tells him to fetch.

Back at Four Freedoms Plaza, De’Lila (in the guise of Sue Richards) bounds the members of the Fantastic Four and places them in an elevator. She remarks that should do it. If any of them recover consciousness and tries to escape, they will all strangle together. And the simple expedient of leaving them hidden aboard the FF’s private elevator at the bottom of the shaft will prevent anyone from discovering them accidentally.

Pressing the button, De’Lila remarks that now she must awaken her host. As she makes her way towards Reed Richards, she adds that she’s dropped the mind-locks she set to hold him. He’s coming around. Grabbing him by the collar, De’Lila tells him let’s not waste time. As he’s already guessed, she’s not his precious wife. But she holds the lives of his family in her hands. She needs him to find something for her. Succeed and she’ll let him and his teammates live. Fail, and they’ll all die. Horribly! She then tells him not to even bother trying to stretch. She’s removed his ability to control his own form.

As Reed tells her that she doesn’t leave him much choice, he thinks to himself that whoever it is, it’s a perfect duplicate of Sue and probably a telepath of some sort. But without knowing her purpose and the whereabouts of the others, he’s helpless. Reed tells her that he’ll do whatever she wants and then asks her what they are looking for. De’Lila tells him that it’s an egg. An egg such as he has never dreamed of. They’re looking for an inorganic technotroid, an ITT. In its dormant state, an ITT is a sphere but it’s self-propelled, capable of concealing itself until it’s ready to hatch. And it can defend itself if necessary. It’s out there somewhere, hiding, but it must have been seen at some point. Somewhere, in the voluminous records of his society is the answer. And she wants it.

Reed informs her that he can access literally billions of bits of data through a variety of news services and computer networks but he can’t promise anything. De’Lila tells him to just find ITT is he expects to see his family again. Although, personally, she thinks he should dump his wife. It’s a pity he caught on so quickly when she captured him. They could have had some fun. As he scans the database, Reed thinks to himself that it’s curious. She looks exactly like Susan so naturally, she’s quite beautiful. But there’s something even more exciting about her.

As Reed’s thoughts take an interesting turn, the new Fantastic Four heads south inside their vehicle across the Susquehanna River. Wolverine informs the others that reports ‘re startin’ ta come in from all over. Looks like the monster mash has hit Moscow, San Francisco, and even Mexico City. They’re zeroin’ in on major population centers. Ghost Rider adds they’re nearing Washington, DC but he has yet to see any first-hand evidence of the monsters’ presence. Spider-Man tells him to take a look above them. He thinks they’re about to get their first taste of trouble. The Hulk states “wake up and smell the coffee chumps.” He’s only been closing in on him for the last five minutes.

After seeing a gigantic moth monster perched on top of an airplane, Spidey remarks that he sees it but he doesn’t have ta believe it. Pulling in front of the plane, the Hulk tells “Spider-breath” that he’s in a pretty good mood. Jumping out of their aircraft, he adds that this looks like fun so why doesn’t he drive for a while. After Spidey states that the Hulk must be nuts, they wouldn’t catch him doing anything like that, Wolverine tells him bad new, he’s drivin’ and Spidey is gettin’ out. After Spidey asks what!?, Ghost Rider agrees with Wolverine. The plane is starting to come apart and only he may be able to fix it. As he leaps down onto the plane, Spidey remarks that maybe being a solo sort of guy has its advantages. This is too much like having a couple of older, meaner brothers.

Noticing that the plane is indeed starting to come apart, Spidey begins to use his webbing to try and hold it together. While he does, he adds that the plane is beginning to lose its integrity. His patch’ll hold it temporarily but if they don’t get her down in a hurry, all the webbing in the world isn’t going to keep it together. Readying his chain, Ghost Rider states that the Hulk could use some help and while innocent lives are threatened, the Ghost Rider cannot stand idly by.

Continuing to pilot their craft, Wolverine points out to Ghost to watch it. Don’t hit the Hulk… Although come ta think of it, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad plan. After striking the monster with his chain, Ghost Rider notices that it’s starting to turn away from the plane, they’ve distracted him. At that moment, Wolverine remarks that he hopes this was a good idea.

On Monster Isle, inside the Skrull ship, one of the Skrulls informs the Captain they have found fully integrated Skrull mindwave readings. They’ve found her! She’s in the middle of New York City. The Captain states excellent. Recall the scouting parties and get the anti-matter generators on-line. All boards to green. They depart in five minutes. They’ll nail her before she knows what’s happening. Arm the blockbusters. Just then, another Skrull informs the Captain that he’s getting another Skrull-type reading – 63.02% similarity. Right next to the ship but there’s nothing out there. At that moment, the Skrulls feels seismic activity; it’s a tremor of sort. What do they do? Before any of the Skrulls can move, they find they have run out of options when they sink into the ground below them.

Some distance away, nine thousand feet up, Hulk continues to pound away at the moth monster. As he does, he remarks that beating on it is like hitting a rubber wall. He just keeps bouncing back. Just then, the moth monster lets out a screech and goes stiff. Making his way back to their craft, Spidey yells out to the Hulk to get clear, he’s taking wing. Jumping into their craft, Hulk says yap, yap, yap. Doesn’t he ever get tired of the sound of his own voice? But he’ll give him, Spidey, a gold star for jumping onto the plane. And Wolverine did a great job of keeping his seat warm. He was a big help.

Spidey tells Hulk to knock it off. The energy trace they’ve been tracking just vanished. And that thing’s heading southeast on the same bearing they were traveling when they spotted it. The Hulk tells him yeah, and then asks who died and left him in charge. Spidey replies that they’ve got to follow it and in case he’s forgotten, it was the Fantastic Four who died. Hulk tells him not to get smart with him. He doesn’t really want to tick him off. Spidey interjects that there’s something else. They’re heading right into the heart of the Bermuda Triangle. Wolverine asks Spidey we aren’t superstitious are we, a tough little arachnid like him? Maybe he’d better quit subscribing to that Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown series.

Ghost Rider remarks that Spider-Man’s right. The horizon’s starting to disappear and the sky’s turning green. Spidey states that it’s the effect of the triangle. A flight of dive bombers got lost in there after World War II. They radioed back that they were unable to see the horizon before they vanished forever. Hulk says forget that stuff. A little light show isn’t going to slow him down. Besides, it looks like their friend is finally going to ground. Looking down at the island below, Wolverine points out it’s a nice looking chunk of real estate. He can count the condos on the beachfront already. Reading his monitor, Spidey informs Hulk that he’s getting residual energy readings coming off of that pit in the ground. Whatever they’re looking for is down inside there somewhere. Flying into the pit, Hulk states no problem. As he does, Spidey asks don’t the rest of them get to vote. Hulk simply tells him nope.

Far away, in Manhattan, Reed informs De’Lila that he may have something. Some campers in the Catskill Mountains reported seeing a flying saucer matching her description that was grabbed by a Bigfoot and carried off into a great tunnel under the mountains which was subsequently covered by an avalanche. It’s from the Enquirer which doesn’t necessarily enhance its credibility but the avalanche was genuine. He’s cross-checked it against reports from the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in New York.

Departing the control room, De’Lila tells Reed that they must investigate the report at once. She wants an on-site inspection. When Reed asks about his family, De’Lila tells him they will remain where they are. Reed states that perhaps getting away from there for a bit might be best, for both of them. As they pass by the front desk, Roberta, the Fantastic Four’s robot receptionist tells Dr. Richards that she’s been getting some strange readings from various parts of the laboratory. Is anything wrong? De’Lila says to Reed doesn’t he think he’d better tell his robot receptionist what they’re doing darling. Reed replies of course, dear. He’s been doing a little work on the computer records, bringing them up to date. If anyone asks, they’re just taking a day trip together. Everything’s fine. And in view of the national emergency, be sure to tell that to all his friends in the Marines.

Shortly, in the skies above the Catskills, Reed remarks this should be it. They’re about twenty miles northwest of Tillson, right where the sightings are said to have occurred. And there’s the avalanche site. Landing the speeder nearby, Reed points out that most of the slide scar has been covered with new growth but you can still see where the base of the slide came to rest. De’Lila tells him to stand back. A slight adjustment on her synapse disruptor and it can actually break the molecular bonds holding the rocks together. Using her disruptor, De’Lila quickly and easily disperses of the fallen rocks. While she does, Reed remarks that it’s incredible. And the avalanche did cover a tunnel of some kind into the mountains. Driving the speeder into the tunnel, Reed tells his companion that she really is quite a remarkable woman if in fact that’s what she is. De’Lila tells him that he needn’t worry about that. Just call her Sue and don’t forget that for now, she is his wife.

In the meantime, far away and far below, Mole Man tells Giganto that’s far enough. He thinks the time has come to greet their guests in the appropriate manner. Shake them out! With that, Giganto shakes the Skrull aircraft until all of the Skrulls inside have fallen to the ground below. Once on the ground, one of the Skrulls informs the Captain they are surrounded and asks what they should do. Blasting at the ground in front of them with his staff, Mole Man tells them that they’ll do what he tells them to do or his subterraneans will tear them to pieces. Ordering them to stand up, Mole Man tells the aliens that he wants to know who they are, what they’re doing with his monsters, and he wants to know now.

Not far away, the new Fantastic Four make their way through the tunnel. Wolverine quietly calls out to the Hulk, who is leading the way, to wait up. They ditched the bike so they could sneak in closer, not bull their way in. Hulk tells him forget it. The Hulk walks where the Hulk wants to walk and nobody gets in his way. Just then, the Hulk runs face-first into the leg of Giganto. Looking up and seeing the gigantic monster, Spider-Man remarks that he recognizes him. It’s the giant creature the Mole Man used to attack New York City years ago. Wolverine mentions that he looks like a kid with a new toy, the way he’s holding the spaceship in his arms. Ghost Rider adds that he doesn’t think he sees them. Hulk states that they’ll fix that.

Before he can get the monster’s attention, Giganto steps on the Hulk’s foot which causes the behemoth to yell out in pain. Enraged that Giganto stepped on his foot, the Hulk punches him in the leg and tells him that he isn’t some costumed clown he can just walk over. Reaching down, Giganto grabs hold of the Hulk and begins to squeeze him in his hand. Spidey asks what they should do now and Wolverine replies that they could just say good riddance, but why don’t they give ‘im a hot foot instead.

Popping his claws, Wolverine remarks that he wouldn’t wanta lose his membership in good standing in costumed clowns anonymous. With that, he jams his claws in between Giganto’s toes which makes him drop the Hulk. Dropping to the ground, the Hulk says clowns is right. While they were busy watching him, company came calling. Wolverine tells him not to bother thanking him; it’s all in a day’s work.

Just then, Mole Man, flanked by his minions the Moloids tells the new arrivals to stay where they are and asks what the meaning is of this intrusion. Wolverine remarks that it figures. That’s gotta be the Mole Man and his jolly crew. Hulk tells Mole Man that if that oversized tomato plant is one of his, pee wee, then he’s just the guy he wants to see. Ghost Rider proceeds to tell the Hulk to be quiet. There is more to this than they suspect. Justice will be served, but only when they know the truth. Spider-Man then asks them to give him a second to parlay but to watch his back.

Making his way towards Mole Man, Spidey tells him that they didn’t come looking for trouble. They’re on the tracks of some beings who’ve caused monsters to attack the surface world. If that’s him, they’ve got to talk. And if it isn’t, then they need to track them down, whoever they are and stop them. Mole Man tells him he already has, they’re aliens. When Spidey asks him he begs his pardon, Mole Man states that the beings he’s looking for. They’re aliens. He’s captured them and he intends to execute them for what they’ve done to his pets. Spidey asks if they can get a look at them. They’ve got a lot of unanswered questions about just what’s going on. Mole Man asks how will he know he can be trusted. Spidey replies quite honestly, he doesn’t. But he does seem to have the advantage of numbers. Mole Man replies good answer and tells him to follow him but not to stray off into other tunnels. Wolverine asks stray? Heck, there’s hardly enough room to walk.

Pointing over towards the Skrulls, Mole Man says there they are. But one of them is missing, the one they called “Captain.” Wolverine tells the others they’re aliens all right, they’re Skrulls. And there’s no other way in or out. Hulk then asks Wolverine what he knows about Skrulls. Slicing apart a nearby rock with his claws, Wolverine answers just enough, how about him. Smashing some nearby rocks, Hulk says the same. He feels like breaking a few rocks. He then asks Ghost Rider if he wants to give them a hand. See, the thing about Skrulls is that they’re shape changers. Get it? Breaking a few rocks himself, Ghost Rider states that he’s beginning to.

Standing over the last boulder, Hulk prepares to smash it when it transforms into the Captain. Spider-Man proceeds to tell the Captain that he better tell them what’s going on while the Hulk is in one of his good moods. The Captain defiantly replies never. Skrull commandos can resist any form of torture. They are answerable to the Emperor alone. Grabbing him by the collar, Ghost Rider tells him that they have no time to waste. Using his powers, Ghost Rider tells the Captain to gaze into the penance stare of the Ghost Rider and see there his past.

Shortly, the Captain tells Ghost Rider that their mission was simple. Among the few malcontents within the Skrull homeworld is a small cadre of rebels, bent on the assassination of the Emperor. One of these leaders, a Skrull female named De’Lila, escaped and fled toward Earth. Although even her captured confederates are ignorant of her actual plan, it is clear that they believe that here she will obtain the aid by which the Emperor will be slain. They must stop her. They employed the great creatures because they discovered that their mind structure bears striking similarities to the Skrull mind, making them susceptible to their slave darts. They had planned to excite the level of mental activity on Earth until they had located De’Lila’s whereabouts. Wolverine adds and then off her. Holding up the device, Spider-Man says that he maybe telling at least part of the truth. Their equipment is responsible for generating the energy they’ve been following. But whether or not…

One of the Skrulls points out to the Captain to look. The earthling holds an experimental spectro-analyzer. When Mole Man asks what he’s babbling about, the Skrull remarks that the device Spidey is holding is a highly classified Skrull weapons lab prototype. Spidey asks say what, this is a Skrull weapon? The Skrull tells him there are only two or three such devices in existence and asks him how he came by it. Spidey tells him that it was given to him by a lady in New York. The Skrull asks a lady, in New York City? It can only have been De’Lila. But this is perfect. With a minor adjustment, the device should be able to locate the rebel herself. After the adjustment, the Skrull remarks curious. He’s getting a double reading. And one of them is coming from a source very near to their current location. Spidey adds that his spider-sense is starting to tingle too.

Just then, Reed and “Sue” arrive on the speeder. Once they land, “Sue” begs Reed to protect her. Once the Mole Man and the new Fantastic Four see that it is Reed Richards and his wife, Sue, Hulk remarks this is great. This saves them the trouble of having to find her. He gets first dibs. Standing between Sue and the Hulk, Reed tells him to hold it. The only way he’ll get to her is over his dead body. Peering at him, Hulk tells him no problem. Seeing as how they already saw Richards’ dead body, it looks like he’s going to get his wish, scummy Skrull.

Characters Involved: 

Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine (“New” Fantastic Four)

Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Invisible Woman (Sue Storm), Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), She-Thing (Sharon Ventura) and the Thing (Ben Grimm) (all Fantastic Four)

Alicia Masters (Johnny Storm’s wife)

De’Lila (a Skrull who has taken the form of Sue Richards)

Various unnamed Skrulls. Only ones named are the Captain, Meg’Ror and Bag’Le.

Mole Man, Giganto, and various unnamed Moloids

Various unnamed monsters from Monster Isle

Roberta, the Fantastic Four’s robot receptionist

Story Notes: 

De’Lila took the real Fantastic Four and its allies captive back in Fantastic Four (1st series) #347 and was able to convince Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man and Wolverine that they were dead.

The Time-Life “Mysteries of the Unknown” series was a series of books published between 1987 and 1991 by Time-Life regarding the paranormal. There were 33 volumes in the series. They include: Alien Encounters, Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects, Cosmic Connections, Cosmic Duality, Dreams and Dreaming, Earth Energies, Eastern Mysteries, Hauntings, Magical Arts, Master Index and Illustrated Symbols, Mind Over Matter, Mysterious Creatures, Mysterious Lands and Peoples, Mystic Places, Mystic Quests, Phantom Encounters, Powers of Healing, Psychic Powers, Psychic Voyages, Search for Immortality, Search for the Soul, Secrets of Alchemists, Spirit Summonings, The Mind and Beyond, The Mysterious World, The Mystical Year, The Psychics, The UFO Phenomenon, Time and Space, Transformations, Utopian Visions, Visions and Prophecies, and Witches and Witchcraft.

Mole Man used Giganto to attack New York City back in Fantastic Four (1st series) #1.

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