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 'F
lashdance' 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 hamm
er 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, whe
re 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.
Doug: Amen.

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 unus
able 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.


Edo Bosnar said...

Ah, yes. You noticed Julie's leg-warmers - as I noted in a previous comment, I think nothing dates these issues more than that.
As for Reed saving Galactus - yes, this was not at all well thought-out on Byrne's part. Galactus being at death's door is what drove the plot for this otherwise enjoyable story arc, but Byrne couldn't just kill off such a major character. So here and later, he had to come up with these tortured explanations as to just why Galactus had to be saved from dying a natural death. Never made sense - in that regard, I don't even think Iron Man was being particularly ruthless, just kind of sensible.

J.A. Morris said...

I'll start by saying that I love the art in this issue, and every issue between 236 and 271. John Byrne made me a fan of the FF. I had a few issues, but it was his run that made me want to read back issues of the title.
But yeah, Sue's portrayal in Byrne's early FF's is pretty awful. I remember a book called 'Focus On John Byrne' where he said Sue was "pre-feminist woman", due to when she came of age. But after so many adventures, her reaction to Galactus is ridiculous. Plus, there had been "pre-feminist women" in pop culture who didn't act scared at the site of bad guys (Nora Charles of the 'Thin Man' movies being one example).
Not to mention, I'm sure Reed had some sort of communicator, he could've called the Baxter building and said "Sue, I'm bringing one of the most dangerous beings in the Universe home with me, just letting you know!"

david_b said...

Still reviewing the story arc, but I thought Byrne gave us a nice tie-up ending.. that it would be better to have Galactus as a 'galactic ally' than always comin' around Earth to do whenever he had the munchies.. :)

I didn't like a lot of cosmetic changes Byrne made, but his story-telling early on was interesting. I didn't like the more prominent black collars, so the later white collars actually seemed like an improvement. I didn't like Sue's character much under him, but she did improve over time.

I do recall almost belching when I saw Johnny's butch cut in the mid-80s, when I started recollecting. But by that time, Byrne's art had gotten way too sketchy and as bland as his writing. His stigma of drawing nearly everyone's facial features to look the same was at it's most prevalent.

Fred W. Hill said...

To start with, I love Byrne's art, especially from the late '70s and to mid-80s when in my estimation he was at his peak, and he's written or co-written some great stories as well, but I found this particular story rather disturbing. Reed was once willing to destroy the universe in order to save the Earth from Galactus but here he's actively saving Galactus' life, even knowing that Galactus will consume other planets with lifeforms??? And Ben, Captain America and Thor all going along with this? And Frankie so willingly volunteering to be Galactus' herald, nonchalantly shrugging at the possibility of being an accessary to the destruction of inhabited planets? All of this just seems wildly out of character for Reed, Cap, Thor, Frankie, et. al. Yeah, Galactus kills out of necessity, to maintain his life, but all life ultimately dies. Life on Earth will continue after humankind is extinct, and I don't recall reading that the universe was dependent upon Galactus' continued existence. Smallpox isn't actually evil either, despite the millions that virus killed, but I wouldn't expect Reed to advocate spreading the Smallpox virus around again so it can do what it was meant to do.

Edo Bosnar said...

Fred - pretty much agree with you 100%, except for the point about Frankie's characterization. I think there was a few points earlier in Byrne's run when he dropped hints that Frankie was kind of ruthless and cold-hearted, although characterizing her as indifferent to helping Galactus regularly commit genocide on a planetary scale does seem a bit of a stretch...

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