Posted - November 1, 2010 | Updated August 29, 2011 | February 5, 2012 | August 9, 2015
Favorite Stories from the Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four 210 : In Search of Galactus
If you're reading this and are not familiar with Marvel's cosmic-level tales, then you're about to get the same introduction as I did so many years ago - through the pages of Fantastic Four 210.
This tale was written by Marv Wolfman before his celebrated run in Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths and illustrated by John Byrne and Joe Sinnott. Byrne will be returning to the FF as both writer and artist for an extended and excellent run. But all that is in the future.
The central character in this story is no less than Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. He's only one of Marvel's many cosmic entities but he is, in my opinion, the best.
We are thrown immediately to the action in this issue, so a brief backgrounder is in order. A super-powered immortal called the Sphinx has tired of his existence and is looking for death. In order to find out how he can perish, the Sphinx has absorbed the knowledge of one of the most advanced computers in existence - the living computers of Xandar. Once the knowledge was his, the Sphinx didn't want to die anymore - he wanted to destroy the Earth itself. Overwhelmed by the power of the Sphinx, the Fantastic Four came in search of someone who can defeat him : Galactus. To complicate the situation, three of the four - Reed Richards, Sue Richards and Ben Grimm- have been subjected to the Skrull Aging Ray and their increasingly accelerated aging gives them only days of survival and weakens them for this mission.
As I said, we jump right into the action. The splash page presents us with a meteor storm hitting the hull of the foursome's ship. They borrowed this mile-long ship from the Xandarian hero Nova and his friends (Diamond Head, Powerhouse etc.). The Thing and the Invisible Woman are doing their best to destroy as many meteors as they can right before the ship goes into hyper-space.
The art is exquisite. Just look at these two panels.
Reed Richards has made calculations on the coordinates of Galactus' ship. According to Reed if he makes a mistake, they could be off course by a thousand parsecs. One parsec is equivalent to 19.2 million miles - amazing! Reed, as expected, does NOT make a mistake and they are suddenly in front of their destination.
It's ingenious how Byrne and Sinnott use the Human Torch's flying pattern to give us an idea of the vastness of Galactus' ship. Check out the panels below.
It is a measure of Reed Richards' obsession with science that given the danger to the Earth, and their rapidly aging bodies, he seriously bemoans the fact that he doesn't have the time to study the wonders inside the ship. After a while they happen upon Galactus himself - and the most striking panel in the whole comic. This really took my breath away when I first saw it.
But the Fantastic Four can't simply talk to Galactus; apparently, even super-powered humans are less than gnats to him. Nothing gets his attention. Not Johnny's nova blast or Ben's strength. It is Reed who figures things out yet again as he instructs the others to let go of every creature in Galactus' menagerie. They have his attention now, but the awesome Galactus cares not for Earth until Reed does something that seems very foolish
Years ago, during Galactus' first attack on Earth, the Fantastic Four managed to prevent him from consuming our world with the help of Galactus' then-herald the Silver Surfer. Reed used a devastating weapon called the Ultimate Nullifier to extract an oath of protection from Galactus - an oath that would prevent the World Eater from ever victimizing the Earth. An oath that he is rescinding in exchange for Galactus taking a hand on stopping the Sphinx. The question on my mind, and apparently on Sue's, is how will they withstand Galactus a second time?
But Galactus has the upper hand in these negotiations and he knows it. So aside from getting the oath rescinded he also manages to send the four on a mission - a mission which will give him a new herald: the terrible Terrax the Tamer!
Fantastic Four 220 : And the Lights Went Out All Over the World
There's a plot arrangement in this story which shows what each member of the Fantastic Four is doing during a massive blackout. I love the way this structure "braces" the story - it makes the story simple to understand yet not simplistic.
Later on, John Byrne will regale us with how much detail he can give the panel, but not here. Here, his panels are large and spare, a little like his Next Men work but better. The art fits the straightforward storytelling very well.
This story is the first part of a two-issue story arc.
Fantastic Four 221 : Tower of Crystal, Dreams of Glass
I have great memories of this comic from childhood so that will color my commentary a bit.
Years later, when Wade and Weiringo, that legendary team, were casting about trying to "boil down" the FF to its roots, they will present them much as this John Byrne story is presenting them here. As science explorers. I've always viewed the FF as perfected "Challengers of the Unknown" types.
This tale is the concluding tale of a two part story arc and it will take you to the Arctic, introduce you to alien technology and some very formidable alien bodyguards. The ending couldn't be better as the FF work out a win-win for everyone involved with Mr. Fantastic showing that he is the smartest man in the Marvel universe.
Fantastic Four 232 : Back to the Basics
There's lots to like in issue 232.
John Byrne's art equals the power and detail level of George Perez. I just enjoy each and every panel. I specially like the way Diablo is drawn.
This issue, the FF, whom I've always taken to be avatars of the four classical elements are pitted against elementals typifying the four classical elements. Entertaining to watch, specially the Thing. How the FF manages to beat these guys is just so clever. I'm specially happy about Johnny, whom I've always considered a poor shadow of the original Human Torch.
For those of you who want a story to "stay within the covers" well, you'll be happy with this one. It begins at the beginning of the issue and ends with the last page - all that and a cameo by Dr. Strange.
Fantastic Four 233 : Mission for a Dead Man
Johnny Storm used to have his own comic called Strange Tales. Poor Johnny eventually got kicked out of his own book!
With issue 233 of the Fantastic Four, older readers can go back to the Strange Tales days, and newer ones can see what the Torch is like on his own. Having a whole comic devoted to the Torch allows John Byrne to showcase the flexibility of Johnny's flame powers. You'll see him go up against common thugs and an armored hammerhead, all this while playing detective. Once again, a done-in-one issue; this one has a bittersweet ending.
Don't let the terribly ugly cover drive you away, this is a great issue.
Inside you'll meet someone with Molecule Man class power. It's always been a cornerstone of every belief system that we create our reality and John Byrne makes an interesting play on that concept in this issue.
Taken as a preview issue to the matchup with Ego, the Living Planet, in the next issue, I find the plot ingenious and proof of just how good a run John Byrne has undertaken in the "the World's Greatest Comic Magazine".
Fantastic Four 235 : Four Against Ego
From a four-color entertainment standpoint, one can't go wrong with Ego, the Living Planet. This deranged sentient world is magnificent to read about. It's not his first appearance having previous encounters with Thor. So how tough is Ego? His "natural enemy" is Galactus. Now that's tough.
Knowing that Byrne will jettison the Thing for She-Hulk as his run progresses, I'm treasuring the focus on Benjamin Grimm in this issue. He's shown as the last hero standing when it comes to taking the pressures of a journey into the heart of a living planet. Very strong, angular and tough-looking, this is the Thing I know and love.
Fantastic Four 247 : This Land Is Mine
This is a commentary on Fantastic Four 247.
John Byrne's six-year run on the Fantastic Four is celebrated. This is one of the issues from that run.
For those coming into this issue with no knowledge of Doctor Doom and his previous encounters with the Fantastic Four, here's a brief backgrounder: Many years before, Doctor Doom wrested control of a small, Eastern European country called Latveria. Doom built it up into a technological powerhouse. Zorba, the brother of the previous ruler, incited a rebellion, and, with the aid of the Fantastic Four, succeeded in throwing out Doom. Zorba turned out to be despotic, just like Doom. But, unlike Doom, Zorba also turned out to be incompetent. Latveria began to degenerate.
At this point, Doom return's to reclaim kingship of his shattered land.
He's not exactly unwelcome as this panel will show.
I love this next panel, Doom is holding the body of a woman he has promised to protect. One of his robots, now under Zorba's control, shot the girl right from under him. After reading this panel you just know Doom is going to kick some serious ass.
And here's the power of Doc Doom on display.
I'm not too crazy about John Byrnes drawing of Reed and Sue (I'm not saying it's bad - John Byrne does not know how to do a bad drawing), but his rendition of the Thing is awesome. Check this out.
This is another great scene between a townsman called Josef and Doom. The people of Latveria are not convinced that Doom has truly returned, since he was reported as having perished, but, apparently, Doom is validated by how he carries himself. Underneath that mask, Doom is grotesque, but not in this issue. In this issue he's the handsomest man in town.
Comic books should be simple. If we had a comic called the Fantastic Four we should see each of the four in awesome action against a bunch of baddies. Oh yes!
The Invisible Woman.
The Human Torch.
The Thing. Look how tough he is.
Here's another scene that show's the special bond between Doom and his people. Boris is his butler; faithful to Doom even under torture.
Notice how the immensity of the castle is rendered magnificently by Byrne.
Up in the castle, smoke billowing from the ravaged City. Doom prepares to take out Zorba. I just love the composition of this panel, the mood is spot on.
This story is tremendously satisfying taken as a single issue. The pacing and the ending is truly wonderful. The personality and history of Doctor Doom is the focus here and it really cements him as a major villain in the Marvel Universe - only a few can stand beside him, Magneto and the Kingpin come to mind. If you are only going to read one issue of the Fantastic Four this should be it.