Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Start Me Up: Fantastic Four # 244
Fantastic Four #244 (July 1982)
"Beginnings and Endings"
writer/artist: John Byrne
Karen: When we last saw our heroes, they had defeated Galactus, but Reed Richards had declared that they must save the world-devourer. This issue picks up some time later, when an exhausted Human Torch shows up at his friend Julie's place and collapses, saying repeatedly that "Frankie's gone". Reed and Sue soon arrive, and Reed then begins to tell Julie the reason behind Frankie Raye's disappearance. We have a nice full-page shot of a collapsed Galactus. He appears to be shrinking as he dies from lack of energy. The FF and Avengers crowd around him.
Doug: This scene is the opposite of Avengers #140, when Yellowjacket collapsed and started to grow. The overhead shot of the prone Galactus with the heroes surrounding him is really good. I want to say, that of all the costumes Jack Kirby designed, Galactus' get-up is perhaps my favorite. A comment on Johnny's duds in this scene: Byrne's depiction here is somewhat reminiscent of how Alex Ross draws his super-dudes, in that the clothes bag a bit. However, since most other artists generally opt for the skin-tight uniforms, one must be led to think that Johnny's lost about 20 pounds while he's been missing. Oh, and one more clothing observation -- did you hear Irene Cara singing when you saw Julie's full exercise outfit?
Karen: Yes, the book definitely is dated by that 'Flashdance' outfit. The heroes briefly debate what should be done. It was interesting to see that even back in 1982, Iron Man is the one who says Galactus should be allowed to die. Of course, Reed and Cap disagree. Oddly no one else argues with them, and they begin their efforts to save Galactus.
Doug: Briefly, yes -- I understand time was critical here, but c'mon. I thought the decision was reached awfully quickly. Think about it: Galactus was dying a natural death; if there had been such a thing as a cosmic hospice, it would not have been out of the question to call for it. But I suppose Reed felt something akin to the responsibility of the Hippocratic Oath. Tony, on the other hand? Yes, closer to more recent characterizations, but as a capitalist he could perhaps be excused for thinking in terms of efficiency, cutting his costs, etc. But very callous, yes. Personally, I thought that big softy Ben Grimm would have spoken up, or even Thor with his knowledge of the cosmic order of life and death across eons.
Karen: Stark provides some gigantic doohickey and Thor's mystic hammer provides the power. However, Galactus begins to draw on Thor's life force via his hammer! Cap flings his shield at the machine, severing the link and saving the thunder god. Big G awakens, surprised that he still lives. He follows the FF back to their headquarters.
Doug: Do you recall when Hank Pym was in his "Dr. Pym" role, where he kept all sorts of gizmos shrunken in his jumpsuit? It's almost like Reed has a solution to any possible problem, and he gets at it relatively easily. Too easily.
Karen: I really hate the way Sue is portrayed here. When she sees the team returning with Galactus, she freaks out, saying, "It's Galactus! He's pursued you here! Oh Reed, no! We can't fight him again! I can't bear..." This is the woman who has traveled across the universe, faced all manner of threats, and she's reduced to a quivering jelly. Please.
Karen: Reed uses his equipment to locate six planets, all without life, that have the type of energy Galactus needs. But Galactus isn't convinced. He says they are too far for him to travel in his weakened state, if they should prove unusable to him. Then Frankie Raye pops up, and brushing aside Reed and Johnny, offers herself as a new herald for Galactus! Reed tells her that she might be required to lead Galactus to inhabited planets, and she responds callously, "So? A few less bug-eyed monsters? What's that compared to my being able to go...out there?" Wow! Who knew that little old Frankie was so cold-hearted and self-centered?
Doug: Did it occur to you that if Reed could jump-start Galactus with artificial energy, then why couldn't Galactus' own technology create a similar operation? Talk about the USA relying on foreign oil... Maybe Galactus should have been researching alternative fuels. And Frankie Raye absolutely was a cold-hearted, self-centered you-know-what. Wow, Johnny -- great choice! Another in a long line. Dorrie Evans must have been looking pretty good after Crystal and Frankie, huh?
Karen: Galactus finds her motivation acceptable and transforms her into his new herald, a being of golden flames. She soars off into space, with a heart-broken Johnny trying to follow her. Note that at this point she was not called Nova. I always felt bad about Rich Rider losing his name to her. The Big G teleports away, saying that only here on Earth can Galactus say he has friends.
Doug: Did I read it right? Norrin Radd was too pure in heart, and Tyros was too corrupt. So Frankie was right in the groove? Yeah, good job, Johnny...
Karen: With the recap over, we rejoin Reed, Sue, Julie, and Johnny in Julie's apartment. A disconsolate Johnny has recovered and the three go home, leaving poor Julie stunned. We then get several pages of prologue, where we see the Baxter Building being fixed, a glimpse of Dr. Doom, and finally Franklin again using his powers, this time blowing up Herbie. Is that such a bad thing?
Doug: Many have likened Byrne's run to the Lee/Kirby run, and I'd say that in regard to him ending the third part of this trilogy and then launching into the next storylines halfway through the book feels an awful lot like FF #50.
Karen: I know! I was shocked the first time I read the Galactus trilogy, when we were done with Galactus by the middle of the final issue, and spent the rest of our time with Johnny at college. That was a bit of poor planning on someone's part. All in all this was a fun story, although I felt the heroes gave in way too quickly when Reed decided they had to save Galactus. Of course, now we'd have a 6 issue mini-series about it. Reed's actions would have consequences, as he later was put on trial by the rest of the galaxy for saving Big G.