Wednesday, January 23, 2013

BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus, part 3: Fantastic Four #122

Fantastic Four #122 (May, 1972)
"Galactus Unleashed "
Stan Lee/John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on February 1, 2010.

Karen: Before we get on with the review, I have to say this: Galactus is goofy looking. I'm not talking about the helmet, which I really dig, or even his chest piece with its short sleeves. No, the thing which makes me cringe is his skirt/short pants...

Doug: No doubt! I was surprised to see Galactus dressed in the no-pants look! I originally read this entire tale in the pages of Marvel Treasury Edition #21 (1979), and in that version Galactus looked like he had recently (at the time) in the pages of FF #'s 172-175 (July-October 1976) and the then-current Galactus/Terrax/Sphinx yarn in the early 210's -- the colorist of the Treasury had covered the flesh-tones with blue.

Karen: And it doesn't matter who the artist is -- Kirby or Buscema. The bare-legged look just does not work! Well, glad I got that off my chest. Now let's get to the review.

Karen: We discovered at the end of last issue that the Big G was behind Gabriel. The FF is shocked, as the last time Galactus was on Earth (FF #50) he pledged never to attack the planet again. Galactus informs the startled heroes that he isn't attacking - his use of Gabriel was all a ploy to get the Surfer to show up. Now, we should note Galactus did return to the outskirts of our solar system in issues 73-77, and threatened to devour Earth if the Silver Surfer was not returned to him. So we already have a similar situation popping up here in this issue. We know Stan sometimes repeated himself, but considering how enjoyable this story was, I can forgive him!

Doug: Yeah, the part of the story in #'s 120-121 was a nice treat (gave Big John an excuse for that last page killer splash in #121!!), but you'd think a godlike being like Galactus could sniff out the Surfer on his own without some ploy. Shoot, that Punisher dude Galactus attacked the FF with back in #49 (and #74) was one bad dude -- why not just have switched away from his pursuit of the Surfer and go with a creature like that? He'd have never had the conscience issues to worry about...
Karen: The Surfer refuses to go; he says, "Here will I live! Here will I die! Call me an exile - but never a slave!" The FF -mainly Ben and Johnny - decide to attack Galactus and wind up just ticking the big guy off.

Doug: The scenes where the good guys attack Galactus were great. In particular, Ben's toppling of the giant was playfully reminiscent of his actions on the rooftop when first they met (FF #49). This issue gave us a view of Galactus as a much more physical fighter; prior depictions gave us the impression that he was almost above fighting, instead using guile or when necessary energy projections of some sort. The backdrop of the amusement park as a battle scene provided an almost-Silver Age DC feel to the story, what with the rides as giant props. Interesting, too, was that with the ferris wheel, et al. Galactus seemed normal-sized and the FF looked small.
Karen: What was it with Stan Lee and circuses/carnivals? It seems like they popped up in every title he wrote at one point or another. It is pretty cool here though, although I would say that I think Galactus works best as a more aloof threat, not stooping to physical (personal) attacks.

Karen: The Surfer tries to reach Galactus' orbiting spaceship, thinking to the threat of its destruction to make Galactus leave, but because of the barrier Galactus has put into place to keep the Surfer on Earth, he is unable to reach it. However, Reed thinks this is a worthwhile plan so he and Sue rocket off to the immense spaceship. Reed manages to get inside and take control of the ship, threatening to destroy it, thereby exiling Galactus on Earth!

Doug: Cliffhanger-type element, yes. Plausible that even with Reed's genius he'd have been able to discern the workings of the mechanisms, etc. -- no.

Karen: Oh come on Doug, Reed found the stickshift! What else does he need to know? OK, that is kind of silly. This issue moved along at a brisk pace and was quite entertaining. The Buscema art is terrific. The highlights for me were the Surfer's attempt to reach Galactus' ship, and the battle in the amusement park, where Galactus makes it clear that he has no desire to harm the FF - he even says to a fighting-mad Torch, "I have spared you thus far out of respect for your valor!"

Doug: I would agree with all that you've said. This third chapter was quite a contrast to the previous two issues, and provides a whole lot of momentum heading toward the conclusion!

Doug: We have another round of original art pages from this issue to show you, courtesy of a dealer on eBay:


Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I definitely read a reprint edition of this story in which Galactus was recolored with blue leggings, etc. Seeing that panel with the Thing knocking him over with the original coloring makes me almost cringe. For Ben's sake, I hope there's at least a supersize thong down there...

fantastic four jacket said...

Keep up the good work.Thumbs up to you chris you have done tremendous work in f4

Edo Bosnar said...

I stand by my original comment: I just took another look at that picture of the Thing knocking the big G. down, and cringed. As david_b notes, Galactus should show minimal skin.

david_b said...

Great discussion awaits us today, all..!!

As I mentioned in our last outing for ish 121, this is not your Silver Age Galactus:

"This issue gave us a view of Galactus as a much more physical fighter; prior depictions gave us the impression that he was almost above fighting.."

Very well said, Doug, along with Karen's mention of 'aloofness'. Showing skin on Galactus works totally against his heralded status as 'supreme being' on the cosmic scale and is darnright embarrassing to look at (imagine just how sinister and ominous Doc Doom would make the world shudder wearing short sleeves and burmuda's..??)

As those here can attest, I'm a huge Buscema/Sinnott FF fan and always will be, but this issue's execution works against it on a few levels..:

1) In my opinion, Lee's story idea is super, but is underminded by the panel work (and other issues, mentioned below...). Like the cover, every page seems a tad 'too busy' with all the commotion going on in the panels. Granted Big John's representing the ire and destruction going on, but compared with the earlier majestic Galactus Trilogy, you see a lot of action; but as lamented last time, Galactus should never be placed in the 'direct aggressor' role; it plays against his character. This story arc conclusion suffers greatly for it. Also, the ferris wheel/amusement park background adds too much clutter and makes focusing on the action harder. It lightens the story tension too much; middle of Manhattan would have been MUCH better.

(Worst part about it, if the Watcher came in on page 7 and started throwing punches, it would not have been out of place here, regret to say..).

2) There is a very much missed 'supreme galactic elegance' to the being we call Galactus, as a cosmic being who's sole intent was to survive as he has for so many millenium.

Granted 'he knows how to make an entrance..', but... why is he interacting with 'ants' proclaiming their doom..?

Much like later appearances by the Borg in Next Gen, their initial character and intentions changed: Intially they had NO interest in humans at all, simply to assimilate technology ('humans were nothing to them' as Q first warned..), later they were overwhelmingly into putting fangs into lifeforms to create further drones (which saves big corporate dollars on recruitment and membership drives, undoubtably..). We see the same motive change in Galactus, effectively reducing his status to that of another Doom or Kang, forsaking great future story potential for a knockout-dragout fight with the FF.

Would the Big G have waged a similar physical battle with the Skrulls..? As we saw in the opening pages of ish 48, it certainly didn't seem like it.

3) I still doubt Reed would have figured Galactus's ship so quickly. At least with the Watcher's guidance in the past, Reed could figure out galactic technology. Here..? Seems far too gimicky for a three issue climax.

Just a few ponderances. As others will agree with, Stan squandered Galactus's supremeness, and it took Byrne years later to reestablish Big G to his former heralded self.

david_b said...

Edo, agreed on your comment about reading this in reprint form, primarily for both the skin-covering on Galactus AND for not having to look at these three terrible covers.

Besides the large Treasury edition, where else has this been reprinted in comic form..?

(Not talking Essentials or Masterworks).

Funny as it is, I actually prefer reading the next two-part Creature story for better story and Buscema/Sinnott art.

Karen said...

"if the Watcher came in on page 7 and started throwing punches" -now I'd pay to see that!!

But seriously, as much as I enjoyed this story way back when, I think it illustrates the drop off in quality of Stan's work towards the end of his writing days at Marvel. It has a slap-dash, repetitive feel to it. Sure, it's fun to see Galactus tearing it up, but really, it goes against what we know of the character. It just feels like a rush job. But the Buscema/Sinnott art sells it for me. But just barely.

dbutler16 said...

Galactus' ship looks rather small here. It seem like I've seen it depicted (in Secret Wars, for instance) as being planet sized, if I remember correctly. Obviously the big G needed to upgrade, though. I agree that the shorts don't work for Galacty, either.
Anyway, this looks like an action packed issue!

Inkstained Wretch said...

I gotta say, I love the image of Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew taking on god-like Galactus without a second thought, as if trading blows with with a being powerful enough to *eat* the Earth was just something he does -- which of course it is. Which is how the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing became the idol of millions.

"I ain't gonna lose my superhero merit badge!" -- That's our Ben Grimm.

david_b said...

dbutler, I'm thinkin' this ship was like Big G's little 'Mini-Coupe' or something.

Y'know, something sporty to tool around the 'verse with, windows's down. You get the picture.

Not to counter my earlier comments but I do like this issue, if for nothing else as Karen mentioned, a really super-duper slugfest. The story arc could have taken an approach more in line with how the majesty of G's first visit unfolded a few years earlier.

But hey, it's Big John and Joe Sinnott drawing a 3-issue Galactus story...!! For all our armchair analysis some FORTY yrs later, truely, what's not to love..?

Karen said...

I actually love that Big G's ship looks nothing like what we typically think of as a spaceship but more like a factory or a big hunk of machinery.

And yes, Ben is just the best.

Anonymous said...

I personally think that Stan sacrificed Marvel continuity and long established character traits for action in this story. This is the main reason why Galactus would seem to be willing to stoop to trading blows with 'ants'.

As always, the Buscema/Sinnott artwork is stunning.

- Mike 'remember when Hercules made the big G laugh?' from Trinidad & Tobago.

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