Fantastic Four (3rd series) #24

Issue Date: 
December 1999
Story Title: 
Last Farewell

Chris Claremont (writer), Salvador Larroca (penciler), Art Thibert (inks), Liquid! (colors), RS & Comicraft (letters), Bobbie Chase (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

The Fantastic Four realize that some sort of “chaos wave” will soon strike Earth. The team consults the Avengers and Professor Xavier, among several others, on ideas on how to avert the impending catastrophe. Mr. Fantastic also makes his own scenarios in his computer and discovers he must protect both the Earth and the Sun from the chaos storm by way of an unbreachable shield to ensure the Earth’s survival. The team spends the next few hours trying to relax, including enjoying a dinner together. Late at night, the alarm is sounded, signifying that the chaos wave is going to strike much sooner than Reed had calculated. The Invisible Woman reveals that she has made a ship in order to send her son, Franklin, off this world and thus save him. Franklin, together with his nanny and dog, depart, just as a giant wave rises above New York City.

Full Summary: 

It is Puppy who first warns the Fantastic Four of the approaching storm. The dog starts whining and bouncing in circles, trying to pull them deeper into the warehouse, where he thinks they’ll all be safe. However, a glance out the windows reveals clear skies and a lovely morning, so everyone, including Franklin, Valeria and Caledonia, goes up on the roof for a better look. One moment, all is tranquility. The next, as sudden as that, absolute and all-consuming chaos.

A celestial thunder erupts around the team like a fanfare of kettledrums and, suddenly, the city changes before their eyes. They see different worlds, different realities, a cavalcade of snapshots presenting every imaginable version of this specific place and moment. With each new image comes its own unique blend of sights and sounds, creating the cumulative and terrifying impression that it is the ground beneath their feet that is undergoing these profound and continuous transformations.

Seemingly unaware of what’s just happened, the mail carrier known as Wilhelmina Lumpkin climbs the ladder that leads to the roof of Pier 4, the warehouse that houses the team. Wilhelmina greets everybody and then asks them if everything is alright.

Conspicuously shocked by what they just experienced, the team realizes that the storm is finally vanished. Johnny, however, pretends they’re fine and thanks Wilhelmina for asking. Wilhelmina admits that seeing them all up here, in uniform, at this hour of the morning makes her worry that she has walked into the middle of something. Reed insists her concern is much appreciated but groundless: they are fine.

After Wilhelmina leaves, Ben expresses his concern over the incident. Reed believes that, violent as that squall was, reality appears to have defaulted back to normal, without suffering any lasting harm. Ben, however, believes that Reed should reconsider that observation and advises him to take a look at the morning’s mail. Each of the stamps on the letters depicts an aspect that corresponds to one of the realities they just saw. Reed apologizes and admits he was wrong: the situation is far more serious than he imagined.

A while later, they are all having breakfast in the kitchen – save for Reed. When Sue asks Ben if he’s contacted the Avengers, he replies that he’s called everybody on Reed’s alert list. Apparently, they are the only ones who experienced that storm. “But why?” Sue wonders. And why was only their mail affected and nothing else? Johnny reminds her that she’s asking the wrong guy. Her husband’s the big brain.

Ben asks Franklin why he’s looking so gloomy. Franklin explains those were “dream worlds.” Franklin himself has the power to make dream worlds real and wonders if this is his fault. “No way!” Valeria assures him. She argues that, as long as she’s around, that power he is so afraid of, doesn’t exist! She reminds Franklin she’s his sister and asks him to trust her.

Johnny aggressively asks her “why should we?” After all, her last name is von Doom and Doctor Doom is the worst enemy of Fantastic Four! Annoyed, Valeria asks him what he’s saying. Johnny retorts that, even if she’s right about her powers neutralizing Franklin, who’s to say that’s automatically a good thing? He suggests that maybe it’s her zapping his powers that brought on this crisis in the first place! Johnny insists he doesn’t believe in coincidences and believe her being here is for a purpose. The question is: whose?

Valeria asks him if he’s implying she would betray the Fantastic Four and harm her own family. Johnny reminds her that her family is headed by Doctor Doom, whereas theirs by Reed Richards. What if a moment comes when she has to choose between them? Sue intervenes, telling Johnny that’s enough. Regardless of Valeria’s origins, or whatever reason brought here, she’s more than earned their respect and trust.

Reed walks into the room, telling Johnny that when the Invisible Woman uses that tone of voice, it’s best for her opponent to cut his losses and retire gracefully from the field of combat! As Johnny is about to protest, Reed assures him that his concern is commendable. However, at the moment, they have more pressing concerns.

Reed unfolds some maps on the table which represent all the data he’s accumulated on the approaching chaos storm. Reed would like them all to review the files for any information or inspiration that might prove useful in coping with it. Johnny wonders what good that would do; after all, it’s Reed who’s the resident genius. Reed retorts they’re a team. Given all they’ve experienced as a team, they all have unique perspectives and insights that might allow them to spot something that he might miss.

When Franklin asks his dad if they’re going to stop the bad storm, Reed explains this is a force of nature, like a hurricane. It may be that all they can do is try to weather the tempest and make sure nobody suffers in the process. He tells the boy that their abilities are a gift and with it comes the responsibility to use it to defend humanity against harm. Franklin urges his father to not be scared: everything will be okay.

A little bit later, Franklin goes around the house, together with Puppy, looking for the others. The boy finds nobody in the kitchen or the living room. Finally, he hears voices coming from the storage closet and heads towards it. There, he sees his nanny, Alysande Stuart, also known as Caledonia, together with his uncle, the Human Torch. Johnny rises in the air, releasing his trademark shout “Flame on!” In an instant, he generates more light than heat to get a better sense of the dimensions of the closet, the “closet” being actually more of a tesseract, a room whose interior dimensions can be expanded almost to the point of infinity.

Soon wandering around again, Franklin and Puppy find Ben Grimm, the Thing. Ben is surrounded by holographic images of various superheroes whom he’s just briefed on the current situation. Ben informs them that Reed has uplinked all his data to their personal buffers and they are now open to suggestions. Tony Stark addresses Ben, clarifying he’s an engineer, but not a theoretician. Once Reed tells him what he wants to build, it’s his. Ben thanks him. Captain America and Scarlet Witch, speaking for the Avengers, assure him that the Avengers’ resources are also theirs.

Each in turn, the greatest minds on Earth are consulted. Information and ideas are speedily exchanged and soon all the holograms vanish, as everybody gets back to work. Left alone, Ben admits to himself he hates this. As the Thing, he’s one of the strongest beings alive. Yet, in a fight like this, his muscles don’t count.

Professor Xavier’s astral form suddenly appears before Ben. Xavier apologizes for the intrusion. Since time is short, he’s taken the liberty of discerning the necessary information directly from Ben’s thoughts. Ben grumpily agrees that it’s indeed a liberty. Xavier assures him that he understands what is required of him. However, he also cautions Ben that he is no longer the telepath he once was. Moreover, for reasons that do not concern the Fantastic Four, he has disbanded the X-Men. “Ain’t that a kick inna head,” Ben comments on that. Still, he asks Charles to do his best. As Xavier departs, Ben thinks that the Professor looked even grimmer than Reed. He hopes they all understand what’s at stake here. If the storm hits, it isn’t just a question of the world surviving but the whole cosmos!

Franklin decides to go to his dad’s lab, even though he realizes he’s not supposed to disturb his dad when he’s working! Franklin stands outside the sealed entrance that leads to Reed’s lab, shouting “I’m scared” for his father to hear.

Valeria appears in the entrance, telling Franklin that she is happy to see him: it’s because she’s scared! Franklin doesn’t believe that. She can’t be scared, she’s never scared: she’s Marvel Girl! “So what?” Valeria replies. She advises him to look how everybody’s acting, like this time all their power and smarts and courage may not be enough to make a difference.

Franklin insists she’s wrong. She’s his baby sister. She hasn’t been born yet but she’s there, so that means that everything turns out alright. Valeria informs him that Reed says this storm breaks all the rules and makes up new ones in their place. Franklin reminds her that he’s her big brother and he will protect her! He asks her if dad wants her to work with him. Valeria believes she was getting on his nerves but he was too polite to say. The kids depart to play some ball.

In his lab, Reed himself watches a simulation of the coming chaos storm. He feels like he has never in his life seen any aspect of nature that was so beautiful – or so terrible. As he gazes upon it, he feels it’s like the moment before Genesis and he’s staring into a void that is formless and without content. All the insults that have been inflicted upon causality in recent months – events that transposed time and warped space – have prompted this equal and opposite reaction.

Some while back, when Earth was threatened by a race of interstellar freebooters called the Z’Nox, Charles Xavier harnessed the psychic energy of virtually every mind on Earth, focused it on a beam of coherent force and used it to drive the Z’Nox away. Reed hopes he can employ a variant of that stratagem to engulf the Earth-moon planetary system behind an unbreachable shield. If they shape its configuration, they should theoretically deflect the brunt of the chaos wave around the planet.

Suddenly, the results of the simulation become less and less hopeful. Reed sees the shield generating a backwash, with reactive sine waves of energy bouncing back towards their source. In horror, he sees the sun being hit from both sides, the primary wave front and some secondary ripples. They’re initiating a cascading chain reaction in the solar core; the sun’s exploding; it’s going super-nova! All the other planets in the solar system are instantly vaporized! Reed contemplates the two scenarios after that: if the shield holds, they’re left floating in empty space, without a star left to sustain them, until they freeze. If the shield fails, one brief millisecond of agony as they are consumed by fire! Neither outcome is acceptable.

A little later, Franklin and Valeria are playing soccer together, with Franklin applauding Valeria’s skills and some kids watching them even inviting her to play in a pick-up game around there. Sue watches them from the window, noticing how happy they look together, just like Johnny and her when they were kids. Sue goes back to business and orders the computer to update Reed’s progress and display the latest scenario. As she sees the simulation of the storm, she wonders whether they are deluding themselves to think they can defend their world against so primal a force. And regardless of their fate, what about the children?

A little bit later, on the warehouse roof, Johnny “flames on” and flies away, telling Caledonia that he won’t be away long – if he doesn’t find himself some action, he feels like he’s going to explode! Caledonia thinks she should be with him and watch his back but she can’t leave Franklin unprotected. Sue approaches her, urging her not to worry about Johnny as he will be fine; he may be occasionally hot-headed but he’s nobody’s fool. In the meantime, she could give Sue a hand with something else.

Meanwhile, Johnny vents his rage on whatever criminals gets on his way. In the Wall Street Financial District, he encounters some bank robbers in armor form. Uptown, he battles the Hydro-Man. Even more uptown, he confronts Razorback.

A little later, Ben crosses the Yancy Street, dressed in a coat. Several people are shocked and even disturbed to see him walking around in normal, “human” clothes. Ben thinks that, no matter how many times he’s saved the world, people still get spooked when he walks by.

Watching him from atop some roofs, the brats that constitute the Yancy Street Gang wish to teach Ben to not trespass on their turf and throw some water balloons against him. However, the female bounty hunter known simply as Bounty grabs the balloons before they reach the ground and “rescues” Ben. Bounty appears right before Ben who asks her what her problem is. This is his old neighborhood; does she think he doesn’t know what happens when he goes strolling down Yancy Street? With all that’s ahead, he figured he’d give them one last decent shot a him. It’s not like they can do him any real harm! There was no cause for her to interfere.

Puzzled, Bounty remarks that they meant to humiliate him; what of his pride? Ben insists that his pride can survive a few water balloons. Bounty admits she doesn’t understand him. Ben admits he feels the same about her. He tells Bounty that this will never work: him and her together. How they can learn that for certain if they never try, Bounty asks? The two of them proceed to kiss. The kids on the roof are disgusted by this sight and prepare to strike again!

Back in the warehouse, Sue packs all of Franklin’s stuff in his suitcase, which is basically a mini-version of the tesseract, otherwise all this packing would never fit. As she holds Franklin’s favorite stuffed cuddly tight on her, she starts weeping. As Valeria approaches her, Sue admits that just like Franklin can’t bear to be parted from his cuddly, she can’t bear to part with him.

Valeria insists it’ll all be okay. Reed will find the answer, as always. Valeria feels that talking to him is like talking to her dad; sometimes, they’re so alike it’s creepy! Sue admits that Reed feels the same way about Valeria and herself. As Sue offers to dry and comb Valeria’s hair, Valeria asks her if it will be like what Aunt Marigay used to do to Sue, after Sue’s mom died. Sue is puzzled as to how she could have known that. Valeria explains that Sue told her, when she was little.

A little bit later, notified by the FF signal on the sky, Ben, Bounty, Johnny and Reed – the four of them grabbing a cup of coffee together – return to Pier 4, where Sue demands from everyone to go and get themselves changed for a proper dinner. They all soon reappear, all dressed up. Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, Valeria, Franklin, Caledonia and Bounty spend together an evening of laughter and fellowship, reminiscing past adventures.

Later that night, Reed and Sue put Franklin to bed. Reed tells her that this was a wonderful thing she did for them all. Sue replies that it was just a reminder of the fact they are, first and foremost, a family. Reed asks him to trust her; things will be all right. Sue tells Reed that he’s her world but Franklin’s her life. She’ll do whatever necessary to keep him safe. Reed insists “as would I.”

Sue tells him she will hold him to that pledge. Reed insists that he has the answer, the means to protect both the Earth and the sun from the chaos wave. Sue asks him how much time there is before the wave hits. “Four days,” Reed replies. Sue asks him if he’s done everything he can. “Yes,” Reed answers. He can’t do any more right now that will make a difference. The couple then passionately embrace.

Later that night, they both wake up from the alarm. Reed exclaims it can’t be possible! His calculations were precise! He orders the computer to give him active and real-time display, sitrep on the chaos wave. Horrified, he sees that the timetable’s been accelerated at a tremendous rate; there’s a massive causal disruption on the far side of the sun. His plans and scenarios are useless! Sue admits that’s what she was most afraid of: the unexpected! As she grabs the sleepy Franklin from his bed, Reed asks her where he’s taking him. “Where he’ll be safe,” she replies. Suddenly, reality loses all meaning and solid forms become as pliable as Reed’s elastic body, each molecule of their bodies separate from one another, flowing in a steady stream through the air.

The moment passes and Sue rushes with Franklin to the hangar, with Reed following her, quite puzzled. As they enter the hangar, Reed sees a strange ship in the middle of the room and asks what the devil this is. Everybody else is already there and Ben explains that this is a special project they’ve been working on while he was locked up in his lab. Apparently, Sue didn’t tell him. Reed demands an explanation from Sue: it’s also his son they’re talking about! Johnny reports to Sue that he’s checked the ship and she’s ready to launch!

Sue tells Reed that they’re facing the fight of their lives. However, she can’t be an effective member of the team if she’s worried about her baby. She needs him to be safe. At least, with Franklin safe, they can focus all their efforts on saving all the children that are not as lucky as him. If they succeed, they bring him home. If not…

Reed asks her why she didn’t tell him. Sue replies that she thought they had time – and prayed for Reed’s usual miracle. She admits she’s sorry. Reed believes she should be: it’s also his son. He asks her where she is sending the ship. Sue asks him to trust her: she called in a marker.

The whole team bids Franklin farewell. Caledonia, Valeria and Puppy are to go with him. However, Valeria is nowhere to be found. Johnny leaves to go look for her. Franklin, Caledonia and Puppy enter the ship. Reed proclaims that the chaos wave is unstable; they have to launch the ship now or never. Valeria appears and shuts the canopy of the ship. She bids her farewells to her brother. As the ship vanishes to an unknown destination, Franklin’s voice fades away, telling everybody he loves them. Exasperated, Reed shouts to Valeria that she was supposed to be aboard; there’s just this one lifeboat! Does she realize what she’s just done?

Johnny asks them all to come join him on the roof; they won’t believe what’s coming. When they get there, Ben confides in Reed that he thinks they’ve got a problem here. Sue thinks it’s called the end of the world. What they gaze at is a giant wave rising above New York City – a wave with something as a face materializing on it.

Characters Involved: 

Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Franklin Richards

Valeria von Doom/ Marvel Girl II




Wilhelmina Lumpkin



Members of Yancy Street Gang

Armored bank robbers

People in the streets

People in café

In holographic images:

Captain America, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Scarlet Witch (all Avengers)

In astral form:

Professor Xavier

In photos:

Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Thing (all Fantastic Four)

Franklin Richards

Valeria von Doom/Marvel Girl II

Seen in alternate realities:

Lucas, Redwing and various unknown individuals

Story Notes: 

One of the realities seen at the beginning of the issue was explored by the team in Fantastic Four (3rd series) #16.

Xavier disbanded the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #372/X-Men (2nd series) #92. The reason behind this is revealed in Uncanny X-Men #375.

Xavier fought the Z’Nox in X-Men (1st series) #65.

Issue Information: 
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