Fantastic Four #173 (August 1976)
"Counter-Earth Must Die-At the Hand of Galactus!"
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott
NOTE: Unfortunately the dreaded deadline doom has caught up with Doug, but don't fret, it's only because he is enjoying vacation! He'll be back for part 2!
Karen: Welcome to our first entry in what we're calling Roy Thomas Wednesdays! All this month, we'll be reviewing Rascally Roy's mid-70s work on that flagship Marvel title, Fantastic Four. Although Roy might be better known for his multi-year run on Avengers, his work on the FF was no less exciting. Roy has always had a gift for intricately plotted stories, and this tale is no exception. Now, we are sort of jumping into it mid-stream, but the reason for this is that the previous issue, while plotted by Roy, was scripted by Bill Mantlo, so it didn't seem right to start with that! Here's all the background you need: the FF fought a mysterious golden gorilla, who turned out to be an emissary of the High Evolutionary. It seems that Galactus had discovered the location of Counter Earth, and decided that if he couldn't have the real Earth, this one was just fine to chomp down on! The FF go into space to stop him, and the Thing, now really Ben Grimm wearing a Thing exo-skeleton, , fights off Galactus' latest herald, the Destroyer! When it looks like the Thing has beaten him, he comes face to face with the Big G himself.
Karen: Reed and Galactus engage in a long telepathic conversation about Galactus' actions. We get a nice recap of Big G's history here, as well as a reinforcement of the theme that originated back with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's first Galactus story: the he is not an evil being; he simply does what he must to survive. I liked this line from Galactus: "Most beings are fortunate enough never to have to face the unpleasant, numbing truth about themselves: That given the choice between survival and extinction...most would do precisely the same as I!"
Karen: The High Evolutionary then enters the discussion, to dissuade Galactus from consuming the world he has created (and remember, it was Roy who wrote Marvel Premiere #1, which featured the creation of Counter Earth and Adam Warlock). H.E. threatens to battle Galactus if he does not leave. Reed jumps in, trying to persuade Big G to find an alternative, saying that the battle might even destroy the world he wants to consume! But Big G is not moved.
Karen: Although I've never been a big fan of Reed, the way he's portrayed in this scene does highlight one of the better aspects of the character: the effort he always made to find a way to resolve things that would lead to the least amount of harm and suffering. he may have been a bit oblivious to things at time, but he certainly seemed to have the best intentions.
Karen: Galactus comes up with a possible solution, but it's sure not to the FF's liking: either find an inhabited planet where the populace is willing to sacrifice itself, or have the FF pick out another planet for him to devour. Talk about bad options!
Karen: The FF enter the High Evolutionary's orbital HQ and confer with him. He is aware of three planets nearby that might work for Galactus. One is Earth-like, another is a world of mechanical life forms, and the third seems to be a barren moon, although H.E.'s sensors indicate it has life. The FF splits into teams -with Sue staying behind! Reed tells her he needs to hold her in reserve, but I think we can guess pretty safely that he just didn't want to put her at risk. So Gorr the gorilla and the Torch are teleported to the Earthlike planet, while Reed and Ben go to the mecha-world.
Karen: On the mecha world -which incidentally, is named Mekka! - we find a race of robots, and Ben runs into an old pal: Torgo, the robot gladiator from issues 90-93. Roy always managed to bring old characters and events into his stories, something I am fond of. It's interesting that when Reed and Ben first arrive, before Ben sees Torgo, he is willing to let the robot populace be sacrificed to Galactus. However, once he realizes that they are led by his friend, Ben comes to see that although the robots are not human, they are still 'living' beings. He and Reed realize they cannot ask Torgo to give his world to Galactus. However, as they prepare to leave, Torgo tries to capture them, as he fears they will change their minds and lead Galactus to Mekka. As they battle the robots, Ben demolishes one, to his deep regret, and then forces himself to pull his punches. Unfortunately, as he and Reed try to avoid hurting the mechanical men, they are readily stopped and imprisoned.
Karen: Meanwhile, Johnny and Gorr have landed on a medieval planet, complete with a dragon and a princess that needs rescuing. Although they save the lady, they are knocked out by some armored knights and captured. Sue and the Evolutionary have been watching the events on both planets. Sue says that H.E. must send her to these worlds to rescue her family, but H.E. now believes that this is inconsequential. He must prepare to face Galactus!
Karen: I enjoyed this story a great deal, despite the fact that the first portion of the book consisted primarily of dialogue! It's amazing how many words are present in Roy Thomas stories. But we have a real dilemma here for our heroes and the artwork is -as always when Buscema and Sinnott are involved -dramatic and exciting. I know Big John did not enjoy drawing machinery but he does a great job, especially with Galactus' ship, which has a real Kirby feel to it.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons, also both married.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
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