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Stan Lee Presents..!
A four issue limited series of comic books produced by the Marvel Comics Group in early 1987. Written by Chris Claremont, with Jon Bogdanove and Terry Austin as artists on the project, edited by Ann Nocenti and Jim Shooter. The basic thrust of the story for the purpose of selling the comic books was to get two of Marvel's bigger selling team books together under the same cover, so they could make more money. The result however is still an enjoyable read with a plot that while not seamless is quite mentally invigorating.

The tale focuses on the plight of X-Men member Kitty Pryde who by the late 1980s was also being referred to as Shadowcat. Due to a previous battle in their comic book series, Kitty was trapped in a ghost-like form and her molecular structure was slowly breaking down, killing her. The X-Men, led by ex-con Magneto sought out the assistance of Fantastic Four's Reed Richards also known as Mr. Fantastic with the elastic body. However, Reed is undergoing his own inner turmoil and lack of faith in his own beliefs, because even years later he still blames himself for the accident that turned him and his friends into mutated misfits of humanity with strange powers. This mental stumbling block is turned into a mountain block when an old journal of his is discovered. In it, Reed Richards allegedly wrote how he purposefully orchestrated the accident in order to mutate his friends' genetic structure, hoping it would somehow save humanity. He claims this is not entirely true, although it is in his own writing. This realization threatens to tear the fabric of the team and family apart, and causes Reed to turn away the X-Men's pleas for assistance in using his technology to save Kitty. Wolverine attacks Reed outright, and the other major players intervene in what almost escalates into a football tackle pile at one point. Then Dr. Doom enters the picture, offering to play hero where Reed dared not tread, and so the groundwork is laid for a tremendous showdown of wills.

The most endearing and memorable part about what is otherwise just a classic hero stompfest, is the use of a little-known but effective character in The Marvel Universe. Reed Richards and his wife The Invisible Girl gave birth to a son. Franklin Richards is little more than a toddler in this tale, but due to his parents' special DNA, Franklin is manifesting special powers of his own, mostly involving astral projection and dreamwalking. Franklin sees the worst of what's about to transpire before anyone else, and our being privy to his perspective lends a strong sense of foreshadowing and impending doom. Again, corny and schmaltzy, but endearing nonetheless. The use of this young character adds dimension to an otherwise tired tale of brute forces colliding, and when young Franklin sees his friend and field commander of the X-Men Storm harmed by friendly fire, the audience sees that this is more than just silly people in costume throwing word balloons at each other. We sense the pain that Franklin feels: friends vs. family, and we too wish to cry out and stop the violent display. This is of course no Dark Phoenix Saga but it is a spirited and memorable read.

All the lead roles for the Fantastic Four appear in the tale. Besides Reed and Sue we also see The Human Torch and The Thing Ben Grimm. Sue opts to stay at home with Franklin however, and The She-Hulk steps in to replace her temporarily, as she's occasionally done before. The casting of X-Men for this piece takes a bit of explaining, because that group has undergone some dramatic changes over the years. Fans of the most recent movie would probably not recognize much of the comic books from the late 80s. Though Professor Charles Xavier is usually the leader of the X-Men, due to story events not detailed in this limited series, he's out of pocket, as are many more familiar characters from the comic books and the many other formats in which this tale has been told. Magneto replaces Xavier's lead positioni for a time because at the time he had turned over a new leaf. Besides Kitty, Storm and Wolverine, other X-Men alumni who make appearances include Rogue, Dazzler, Havoc, Longshot, Psylocke and Kitty Pryde's pet Lockheed the dragon.

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