Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bigger They Come...:Fantastic Four # 243

Fantastic Four #243 (June 1982)
"Shall Earth Endure?"
John Byrne -writer/artist

Karen: To recap: Terrax, herald of Galactus has returned to Earth, and has scooped Manhattan out of the planet and is sending it off into space. Reed, Johnny, and Ben have gone to confront him on top of the World Trade Center, only to discover that Terrax wants them to attack Galactus, whose energies are at low ebb.
Doug: Byrne did a nice job with that last panel of issue #242, building excitement for what was to come. I have to say, after reading this installment of our 3-parter that Mr. Byrne definitely delivered the goods!

Karen: This issue
starts with Sue and Frankie Raye atop what's left of the Baxter Building -Terrax cleaved the top two stories clean off! Sue is using her powers to keep Terrax's force field surrounding Manhattan opaque -now I really don't know why this is necessary but Reed told her to do it, so there you go. Frankie on the other hand is tripping out over the reality of Galactus. We also get a quick peek at the Avengers as they try to figure out what's going on.

Doug: This whole bit about flying Manhattan into space is about as silly as when Hercules had to tow the island back into place back in Marvel Team-Up #28 -- you don't think people would just feel that something was a bit dif
ferent? Maybe the windows vibrated a bit or something? I suppose the force field is hidden so that folks don't panic, but I thought this was way off the "kosher plot vehicle" meter. And speaking of Frankie, I always find it odd that these events that we the readers are privy to are complete mysteries to the people who inhabit these four-color worlds.
Karen: You know, I had the same thought about that old MTU story! Yes, it's extremely ridiculous, but Byrne manages to sell it. Outside the force field, Terrax blackmails the three FF men into attacking Galactus' ship. Although Ben protests, Reed convinces him that they can't fight Terrax. Byrne has Reed use a line from an episode of the original Star Trek ('The Day of the Dove'): "Only a fool fights in a burning house." Somehow that just sounded really weird to me.

Doug: Well, I spent my childhood rerun time on the 1966 Batman TV show, as well as Lost in Space -- I didn't get the Trek reference, but also found it to be stra
nge. And wouldn't it just be a pain-on-the-butt to be around Reed Richards? He's seemingly got this smug clairvoyance -- Brainiac-5 is the same way. Seriously, has either of those eggheads ever taken someone else's suggestion?
Karen: Inside Galactus' ship,we see the giant planet-eater pondering the situation. He expresses some remorse at his actions, but uses the ship's energy reserves to build up his strength. The FF board his ship and Reed begins talking with Galactus, trying to find some way to convince him not to attack Earth. But Terrax is getting itchy fingers and tears the hull from the ship, ordering the FF to attack the Big G. There's a nice panel here where Galactus gets very angry and restores Manhattan to the way it was before Terrax removed it. Then it's time to deal with his unfaithful herald. Galactus absorbs Terrax's energy, reducing him to his mortal form.

Doug: Good lord, but this scene was cool! First off, I am just in awe of shots of Galactus in repose, as Byrne first shows hi
m. The guy is just massive, and so seemingly insurmountable to us puny humans -- the potential for great visuals is always there, and Byrne really grabs that bull by the horns throughout this story. Terrax is so much nastier than Norrin Radd or Gabriel could ever hoped to have been. Hey -- pause moment: when we did that Galactus story with the High Evolutionary, we skipped the issue where the Destroyer was the herald. What did you think about him as the seeker of worlds?

Karen: Well, I still can't believe Odin would allow it, since we now know that the Destroyer was a big part of his plans for the Celestial threat. But of course, at the time Gerry Conway didn't know Odin had those plans! I t
hought it was a great deal for Galactus, as it seemed like the Destroyer was essentially just a robot -no humanoid personality to have to contend with! Choosing Terrax always seemed like a mistake. But with Terrax gone, the threat's not over, because Galactus is hungry. He starts setting up his machinery to absorb the planet's energy. Reed again tries talking to Big G, asking him how he can kill billions, but Galactus tells him, "Do not speak to me of four billion lives. Galactus has seen the end of forty times four billion worlds! Must we know grief for each of these? Had he but tears to cry Galactus would weep oceans in their memory, and in the end they would still be dead, and madness would at last have claimed me." Now if that ain't some Stan Lee-flowery type dialog I don't know what is!
Doug: There is lots to love in this scene. How about when Galactus doesn't have the time or energy to go to his ship to get the cosmic vacuum, so he just whips it up out of matter in our atmosphere? I really had that god-like sense toward Galactus in this story, although Reed makes it clear that Big G is not a god. But His Awesomeness is pretty awesome!
Karen: Obviously Byrne is trying to show us that Galactus does indeed feel some guilt and sorrow over what he's done, setting the stage for next issue.

Doug: And, rather than post an Open Forum, let's just right here revisit a topic that you and I participated in several years ago on the Avengers Assemble boards -- is Galactus evil? Byrne would certainly tend to tell us "no". How about it, readers?

Karen: Before Galactus can get very far with his equipment, a massive energy blast strikes him, knocking him off his feet! It's the mighty Thor, accompan
ied by Cap and Iron Man. The heroes manage to get Galactus to street level without getting any civilians killed, and then the god of thunder really cuts loose.

Doug: The whole time I'm reading this scene, I'm thinking of Avengers #1
48-149 when Moondragon is telling Thor how superior he is to his fellow Avengers and how he's been slumming with them. Wow -- aye he be powerful...

Karen: Daredevil and Spider-Man also show up -and decide to sit this one out! I'm serious. Daredevil tells Spider-Man, "We're small time super-folk compared to what's being unleashed down there. We'd just be in the way." So they just watch...meantime, I see both Cap and Wasp helping out...hmmm....
Doug: Apparently Bendis hasn't gotten the memo that Spider-Man doesn't work in cosmic-level stories.
Karen: In the middle of this who should show up but Dr. Strange (looking very Ditko-era I must say). Reed is kind of rude to him, saying, "Su
rely even your powers are of no use against the like of Galactus?" Hey, the guy is the sorcerer supreme! Dr. Strange then proceeds to school Mr. Smarty Pants by casting a spell that causes Galactus to scream in terror! As the world-devourer stands there stunned, Reed and Ben play slingshot, with Reed as the sling and Ben as the bullet. Our rocky skinned hero slams into Galactus' face and knocks him out.

Doug: Wasn't that scene wit
h Reed and Ben reminiscent of a scene from the Silver Age where Reed is all balled up and launches into Galactus. The memory may betray me. Here's something kind of dumb -- I've often wondered why Galactus is only an FF villain. Surely he's a big enough threat that the Avengers, X-Men, and anyone else's help could certainly be justified and appreciated. Yet in this issue, when seeing a host of Marvel do-gooders lending a hand, it just felt a little off. And I've never been a Doc Strange fan. He's just way too powerful! He's a walking, talking deus ex machina.
Karen: With Galactus lying in a pile of rubble, the heroes gather around (sort of reminded me of the end of King Kong). Ben asks what Doc Strange did to him. The good doctor replies that he used a spell that caused Galactus to see the ghosts of all the people he had slain. Reed speculates that Galactus had to shut down his mind so he wouldn't go mad, but now he is dying. Johnny says, "I hate to sound too hard-heated, but that will solve everything, won't it?"
But Reed insists that in fact, they have to save Galactus!

Doug: I absolutely loved the panel of the staggered Galactus! Wow! See -- this is wha
t I complained of above. How could anyone (Frankie Raye included) not have knowledge of a being like Galactus? You see this, I think you'd remember it! It was a nice idea, what Byrne came up to stop the Big G. It dovetails nicely with Galactus' soliloquy about all of the deaths he's caused.
Karen: This is a briskly paced action yarn, for the most part very fun. I still find
it odd that Spidey and DD would sit back and watch the show, and it's frustrating that Sue has no role at all in the story. But those are minor quibbles.

Doug: The information below was contained in Marvel's solicitations for this month. Since it's so topical to this 3-part series we're in, I thought I'd pass it on!

It was the world's greatest comic magazine -- again! Not since the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had a creator so perfectly captured the intense mood, cosmic style and classic sense of adventure of Marvel's First Family. Fresh off an earth-shattering and reputation-making run as penciler on UNCANNY X-MEN, John Byrne proved his writing talent was every bit the equal of his art as he pulled double-duty on FANTASTIC FOUR, launching Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny into realms of imagination and wonder into which few creators before had dared to travel. From the four corners of the globe to the farthest reaches of space to the deepest depths of the Negative Zone, the FF face off against foes old and new -- including the Dr. Doom, Galactus and Annihilus! Plus: The FF aid the Inhumans, bid farewell to the Baxter Building, don new costumes and celebrate their 20th anniversary in style as Byrne reminds us all there's a family at the heart of this team of adventurers! Collecting MARVEL TEAM-UP (1972) #61-62; MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #50; FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #215-218, #220-221, #232-262 and ANNUAL #17; PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN (1976) #42; AVENGERS (1963) #233; THING (1983) #2; and ALPHA FLIGHT (1983) #4.
1,084 pages, $125.


david_b said...

I never really delved into John Byrne's FF, until apparently his downslide (as others have called it here..), with She-Hulk's tenure by '85/86.

Excellent cover and the story looks substantial, so I'll have to start buying up this story arc.

William said...

The Byrne "Galactus Trilogy" was actually one of my favorite stories back in the day. This issue especially. I like it so much I even did a recreation of this cover using Marvel Legends figures. This particular comic had a big influence on me. I very much remember the scene of Spidey and DD running into each other and then just having to hang back and watch in awe the cosmic battle unfolding below. I did a scene very much like it (as an homage) in a recent action figure comic I made where the Avengers battle the JLA. But I digress.

I always loved that whole Spidey/DD sequence (and the rest of the issue as well) because it really brought home the idea that the Marvel Universe was one big happy place, where the characters could just run into each other at any time. I really miss that about Marvel. Nowadays, even though the heroes interact and cross over all the time, it just doesn't have the same feel as it used to for some reason.

You posed the question; "Is Galactus evil?" I would say, no of course not, but he's still a mass murderer and Reed Richards was a jackass for saving him. It's flawed logic to say that Galactus had to be saved because he's a force of nature (or some such b.s. as that) and does what he does merely to survive. Well, so do viruses. They're not "evil" either, but they do kill a lot of people, so we try to wipe them out whenever we can to ensure our own survival.

On side note, the decision to save Galactus would come back to haunt Reed Richards in a future Byrne FF tale.

J.A. Morris said...

Doug wrote: you don't think people would just feel that something was a bit different? Maybe the windows vibrated a bit or something?

That's what happens in this episode of the 60s Spider-man series:

Yes, a silly series, but at least it shows Manhattan shaking.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yes, this whole 3-issue arc is a good story, but the rationale for saving Galactus never made sense, not here, nor in that later issue where Reed was placed on trial for saving him...

david_b said...

Incidently, I just grabbed these three NM all for $10 last night on eBay. QUITE refreshing after buying up all the Silver Age comics for so much more.

Really looking forward to reading these. Thanks!

Horace said...

Fantastic Four #243 rules!

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