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Fantastic Four 361
"Miracle On Yancy Street!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND February, 1992
Paul Ryan & Tom DeFalco
Plot, Pencils & Script
Danny Bulandi
Inks
Bill Oakley
Letters
C. Scheele/ E. Lazellari
Colors
Ralph Macchio
Editor

It's Christmas Eve, and Ben Grimm grimaces in pain, as his left arm is being pulled by a mechanical device...

With The Thing's arm thoroughly examined by Reed Richards' device, Mr. Fantastic applies cement foam to the concrete reinforcement rods which will serve as an impromptu cast, and The Human Torch's flame speeds up the drying process. Reed tells Johnny to go easy on the heat, as to avoid cracking. Ben is less than pleased at having to wear a cast during the holidays, and believes that his ever-lovin' fans will think less of him. In the lobby of Four Freedom's Plaza, a visitor wonders if he has made the right decision in coming...

Having no other place to go, he is greeted by the robotic receptionist, and soon, Ben Grimm hears that he has a visitor... William "Slugger" Sokolowski is an old friend, and whether The Thing is eager to see a long-lost friend or prefers to avoid more of Stretcho's gadgetry is unknown. Sokolowski receives a warm greeting from his fellow Yancy Streeter...

At Rielly's Bar, Ben and "Slugger" reminisce about old times, but Sokolowski's visit was purely a social call, and he needs help. His son has gotten distant from his father and been thrown off the high school football team! Sokolowski fears that it's drugs with the sureness which only a parent can know. Knowing that Ben Grimm is considered a hero to the children in the old neighborhood and represents the possibilities beyond Yancy Street, "Slugger" wants him to talk to the boy. He also mentions that people have been disappearing from the neighborhood, and this is another reason why he's asking. Seeing his old friend's concern for his son, Ben agrees...

On Yancy Street, Jimmy Sokolowski knows that he's being followed ever since he made his buy! With a possible narc or criminal on his trail, Jimmy is confident that he'll lose his pursuer as soon as he races down a certain alley... The boy stops in his tracks, for there is another trenchcoated figure laying in wait for him! Jimmy's troubles are seen by a figure on a rooftop, who takes the drumsticks in his clenched fist, and begins to play a beat on the roof tiles...

At Four Freedom's Plaza, Johnny has found a gift he had intended to give Alicia months ago, and ever since they discovered that a Skrull had taken her place since the time of the Secret Wars, the blind sculptoress had kept her distance from him. He hears Alicia telling Sue how all of her things have been used by the alien who impersonated her, and who married Johnny Storm. She wishes to begin her life again and have no reminders of that monstrous creature, while Johnny discards the carefully wrapped gift in the garbage.

Near the store room, Johnny sees Franklin trying to drag a large box containing old Christmas decorations to the living room. He tells his uncle how everyone is being sad, but they need Christmas now -- more than ever! Johnny wonders when his nephew grew up to be so smart, and vows to make this the best Christmas ever.

Ben has found his way to Yancy Street, and has learned more about the disappearances of street people from the police, just as a thrown snowball strikes the side of his face! He gives the thrower a merry chase, but he slips on a patch of ice, which sends him against some trash cans, and in the presence of The Yancy Street Gang.

The current roster includes: Dictionary Dawson, Little Larry Lee, Smooth Manny Merengues, Rhythm Ruiz, Lugwrench Libowski, and Two-Fisted Tommie Boyd! (Holy Cosby Kids, Batman! It's a homage to Kirby Kids!)

The tom boy known as Tommie has another snowball up her sleeve, and wants to know what The Thing is doing on Yancy Street. When Ben tells them that he's looking for Jimmy Sokolowski, the gang exchange looks with one another, and tell how Rhythm Ruiz was the one to see Tommy's captors. He leads Ben and The Yancy Streeters to where Jimmy was taken...

Dictionary Dawson figures that the object of their search is in the abandoned building, while Ben wonders if he was bitten by a radioactive thesaurus! When Ben tells them to go while he does his Thing, Lugwrench tells him that they're not just a bunch of whinin' newsboys who can be ordered around. Smooth Manny uses his skills to pick the lock, while Ben leads the way when the door is opened. The inside is far from what would be found in a crack house, and resembles the sort of environment where Reed Richards would work on his scientific research! Tommie turns and sees that they have company!

Ben takes a punch from the trenchcoated automaton, who in turn receives a sampling of "Clobberin' Time!" One robot has been downed, with others fast approaching, and on a monitor, their progress is being watched by their creator, and an unconscious Jimmy lies restrained on an examination table.

He awakes and sees the fight on the monitor, wanting to be saved, but his captor assures him that no one can help him now! Rhythm Ruiz uses his walkman to momentarily distract a robot, while Ben clobbers the rest. Lugwrench admires the craftsmanship of the robots, while Tommie has found a new role model in Ben. Manny wonders why anyone would abduct street people, while Ben warns of possible booby-traps... right before he walks into one!

The blast does little more than tear Ben's jacket, and he turns to see Doctor Doom standing on the catwalk overhead. The Thing tells The Yancy Streeters to beat it! (Holy Michael Jackson, Batman!)

Doom rockets off the catwalk to confront The Thing, who intends to use the catwalk against him! Since he intends to become master of the world, Doom doesn't want to be the ruler of a population of drug addicts, and his intention is to rid the world of this debilitating condition. (Holy Just Say No, Batman!) Doom fires his pistol once more, and the catwalk comes apart in Ben's hand. Little Larry Lee throws a large piece of debris at Doom's arm, causing him to drop the pistol.

Doom assures them that he doesn't need the pistol, for he is power incarnate, and proceeds to prove this by firing twin blasts from his gauntlets. Unusual though his attackers may be, Doom does not make war on children, and instead, favors to have them age in becoming his loyal servants. Doom has scarcely finished his speech when another piece of debris strikes him in the back! Ben wants to continue the fight, and uses his great strength to cause the building to shake...

Doom's personal force field protects him from the attack, while Ben wonders why he went on such a spree. Expendable subjects were needed for the experiments... ones who would not be missed. Ben is appalled at this and begins to charge, while Doom begins to fire at him... driving him to the ground, while conceding that the drug problem may be more than he can handle.

When Ben asks why Doom doesn't simply finish him off, Von Doom tells him that there is little satisfaction in crushing a foe who is not at his best, and takes his leave. The Yancy Streeters have found Jimmy Sokolowski, and he is glad to hear that his dad has been looking for him. Ben tells the others to leave the building, especially since Doom isn't likely to leave it standing for long.

Indeed, they make it outside before the building is blown to bits.

On Yancy Street, Jimmy is reunited with his father, who promises to be there for him. "Slugger" is about to say something to his childhood friend, but Ben puts the kibosh on it, and shakes hands. The Yancy Streeters gather around Ben, telling him that he will alway be welcome on Yancy Street, and to have a happy holiday. So caught up in the merry mood is he, that The Thing fails to notice the "Kick Me" sign taped on his back, or that his wallet was stolen by them.

At Four Freedom's Plaza, the tree-trimming is almost done, with Johnny and Franklin placing each ornament carefully, while Reed deftly places the star on top of the tree, as only he can. Sue and Alicia join them in the living room, having found the discarded gift in the hall. Johnny presents the gift to Alicia, telling her that it's to help her begin with the rest of her life in the new year.

Ben arrives, having discovered what The Yancy Streeters have given him for Christmas. He has his favorite jacket torn, lost his wallet, and found the sign on his back. Sue assures him that this is a season of good will for all, and Ben assures her that he'll wish them the best... in intensive care when he gets his hands on them. Reed offers him some eggnog, and Ben accepts... only if he can have a cinnamon stick. Johnny tells him to cheer up, especially since it can always be worse, and Dr. Doom could always pay them a visit via the chimney. Sue holds mistletoe over Ben's head, and both she and Alicia kiss him, while he is worried that he'll lose his bad mood. Even The Thing can admit defeat, as he turns to face the reader, and wish them a Merry Christmas.

Back in February, 1992, a Marvel Comic was $1.25.

I've enjoyed Paul Ryan and Tom DeFalco's run on Fantastic Four, but thought that towards the end, things had been dragging for many issues. Danny Bulandi has been a favorite since I saw his work on What If Thor Met Conan in #39(?) of the original series. Bill Oakley is another favorite letterer, Christie "Max" Scheele and E. Lazellari did a fine job of coloring the issue, while Editor Ralph Macchio is a former letterhack, and is still an editor at Marvel. Associate Editor Len Kaminski would later write Iron Man.

Ben has met his friends from Yancy Street, most notably in the first issue of The Thing, by John Byrne and Ron Wilson.

Rhythm Ruiz resembles Gabby from The Newsboy Legion.

Alicia Masters had been replaced by a Skrull during the time of The Secret Wars, as was revealed during DeFalco's time on Fantastic Four.

Little Larry Lee resembles Odd Job from "Goldfinger." Dictionary Dawson is a homage to "Big Words." Manny Merengues reminds me of Vibe from The Detroit Justice League. Lugwrench Lubowski is reminiscent of "Gears" Garvin from Machine Man, while Two-Fisted Tommie Boyd is a distaff homage to "Scrapper" from Newsboy Legion.

Dr. Doom seemed to be slumming in this issue.

Four Freedoms Plaza took the place of The Baxter Building, which had been sent into outer space by Doctor Doom, during John Byrne's run on the title.

Among the titles available in 1992: Avengers West Coast, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Conan, Darkhawk, Guardians of The Galaxy, G.I. Joe, Marvel Tales, Namor, New Warriors, Marvel Age, Punisher, Quasar, Sleepwalker, Silver Surfer, NFL Superpro, Web of Spider-Man, X-Factor, X-Force, X-Men Classics, What If?, What The?, Marvel Comics Presents, Alpha Flight, Dr. Strange, Moon Knight, SHIELD, She-Hulk, The Nam, Excalibur, Deathlok, Excalibur, Ghost Rider, Punisher War Journal, Punisher War Zone, Warlock And The Infinity Watch, Groo, Conan Saga, Savage Sword of Conan.

For Christmas, kids could wish for a Nintendo and Nintendo Game Boy. A Game Genie was available for those who wanted to change the rules on their video games.

In Marvel Merchandising, t-shirts featuring X-Men by Jim Lee, Spider-Man by McFarlane and Larsen, Ghost Rider by Mark Texiera, and X-Force by Rob Liefield were being sold.

Steve Chung
"Review On Yancy Street!"