Friday, January 18, 2013
BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus part 1: Fantastic Four 120
Fantastic Four # 120 (March 1972)
"The Horror That Walks on Air!"
Stan Lee-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott
NOTE: This post was originally published on January 19, 2010.
Karen: We're going to look at yet another super-team (we love team books, obviously) this time around. While the Fantastic Four are best known for the ground-breaking 60s work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the FF had a number of good years in the 70s as well. I personally began reading the Fantastic Four with issue 113. Although I also had the Marvel's Greatest Comics reprints which featured Kirby's art, the FF artist I grew up with was Big John Buscema. The story we'll be examining over the next several posts runs through issues 120-123 and was one of the earliest sagas I personally can recall.
Doug: I came to the FF a bit later, but have certainly had a blast over the subsequent years catching up on everything before the 140's. This is one of the best arcs -- I had a friend who had one or two issues in this run, but the first time I read it completely was in a Marvel Treasury Edition.
Karen: FF 120 is like a non-stop roller coaster. The story doesn't break down into sub-plots at all but follows the FF continuously, from an ill-conceived attack on the Baxter Building by some thugs to their search for the mysterious Air Walker, whose coming seems to spell our doom. This was a really strange method of telling the story -almost like a movie done all in one long take! At least it felt that way to me.
Doug: I was a little mystified at the "thug attack" scene. In these days of heightened security, terrorism, etc., their entrance to the Baxter Building seemed a bit too easy. And of course we all know of Stan's penchant for the melodramatic... don't you think Sue just could have thrown up a forcefield around the would-be baddies and stifled the operation? However, the scene at the end with the landlord, who instantly riled Ben's hackles, was a nice pay-off.
Karen: Agatha Harkness, the FF's friendly sorceress baby-sitter, warns the team of a great, alien danger to our planet. Reed begins scanning the globe for signs of this threat. We get some rather amusing scenes from around the world -Stan uses the short-hand of having witnesses to the Air Walker make some colloquial comment, such as "Blimey!" for an Englishman and "Mamma mia!" for an Italian. The Air Walker is a somber man clad in what looks like a silvery breast plate, vaguely Roman skirt and leggings, and a strange fiery cape or plume from his back. As drawn by Buscema, it all works and looks amazing. True to his name, the Air Walker literally strides or glides on the air, over the skies of the world.
Doug: I agree, Karen -- the costume is somewhat unique, and quite impressive-looking. Not sure if John Romita designed it or if it was Buscema, but the color scheme is unusual as well. A really nice effort. I liked his power to hover, walk, glide, and "zoom", as Stan wrote it. His strength was impressive, too, when he lifted the Fantasticar with one hand. Now that takes some leverage!
Karen: The FF track him down and then manage to lure him back to the Baxter Building. Of course there's a fight, and of course, the FF are out-matched. The military is also helpless against this strange being (nice cameo by Thunderbolt Ross here!). Finally, the stranger speaks. Pulling a golden horn out of thin air, he proclaims that his name is Gabriel, and he is here to trumpet the end of the world!
Doug: I thought there were some real parallels between this issue and the original Silver Surfer/Galactus arc, which we dealt with some time ago over on the Two Girls, A Guy... blog. The omnipresence of the Air Walker, the fear on the faces of those around the world, the presence of Agatha Harkness to warn the FF (as the Watcher had done), etc. Formulaic, maybe, but you know what? It wasn't tired to me. Stan just has a whimsical way of holding my attention, and the last page splash was a great teaser to bring readers back the next month.
Karen: I think the very best thing about this book was the art. It's just amazing to me how good Buscema's FF looks even today. Gabriel also looks wonderful, despite a costume that has the potential to be ludicrous. Buscema imparts such drama to his figures that you can't help but take them seriously. Sinnott (oddly enough credited on the splash as "John" Sinnott) is not my favorite inker for Buscema, but by this time (1972) he had become such a staple to the title that his work seems almost essential - he provided a certain continuity from Kirby to Buscema (and later to Rich Buckler).
Doug: Yes, Karen, you and I have commented before -- most likely over on the Avengers Assemble message board, that Sinnott can be one of the most overpowering inkers. But your point is very well taken -- he was the glue that held the book together through the post-Kirby turmoil. If moving from Jack to Romita to Buscema is turmoil!
Karen: Oops! I can't believe I forgot Romita was in there! But to be honest, I never felt his style worked with the FF.
Doug: The Jazzy One was on the book for such a short period of time... And I agree, he works on the FF for promo art, but I also didn't care for him during his tenure on the book. Strange, because he's one of Marvel's best and I'd never say I didn't like him on Spidey or Cap. Can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about his FF work.
Karen: Check back next time for the sensational second part of our series!