Fantastic Four Antithesis #2
We left off at the end of last issue with the daunting question, “What is it in the universe that can beat up The Silver Surfer and murder Galactus, and do we even want to know?” As we rejoin our Fantastic Four this issue, they have taken The Surfer back to the Baxter Building and he is laying the whole story on them.
As The Surfer was leading Galactus to his next meal, a monster came out of a hole in spacetime leading to the Negative Zone and ripped Galactus’s armor off! He then threw Galactus’s mortal form into the aforementioned antimatter universe and set about traveling from one planet to another changing entire populations into soulless pod people like those in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and just about blasted the Simoniz and Turtle Wax off The Surfer when he tried to intervene. Reed does the math on the situation and realizes that the breaches into the Negative Zone in New York City (last issue) and what happened to Galactus and The Surfer are related events. And The Surfer warns that the creature who took the polish off him is now on his way to Earth.
Reed’s probe of the Negative Zone immediately turns up Galen of Taa (spelled “Galan” here), the sole survivor of the universe preceding our own, who was transformed into Galactus when the Big Bang flung him out into our universe. He's not dead after all! The Fantastic Four mount a mission to rescue Galen, having The Surfer leave them a lifeline of Power Cosmic to follow back home. They succeed in grabbing Galen and are immediately set upon by Annihilus and a swarm of what can only be described as his “Mini-Me’s.” In the ensuing battle, Annihilus severs The FF’s lifeline, forcing The Surfer to take drastic measures. Faster than you can say “Walk, Don’t Run” (an old surfing song by The Ventures; look it up), the boogie-boarder from beyond has fashioned another cosmic lifeline to whisk our heroes and the ex-Galactus out of the Negative Zone, to land aboard…Galactus’s space station, where The Torch has been before (when he fetched the Ultimate Nullifier in Fantastic Four #49.)
Where do they all go from here? That’s for next issue, o’ Fantastic ones.
There are a number of notes on both story and art for this issue. To begin, I want to quote something that George Perez recalled in the book George Perez, Storyteller about a chat that he had with Roy Thomas when George first took on the task of drawing The FF.
“And Reed Richards: unlike a lot of elastic characters at the time, he was not a character who … stretched at the neck. He stretched at the waist. You didn’t see his neck elongate. It was an undignified thing that Reed would not do.”
I bring this up to bring your attention to the cover of this issue. Look at what our Mr. Fantastic is doing in this drawing. I know that Neal Adams is accustomed to DC super-heroes and has probably worked a lot with Elongated Man and Plastic Man, but the two of them are completely different characterizations than Mr. Fantastic. They stretch at the neck. Reed does not. Artists today keep losing sight of this point of physical characterization and they need to be reminded of it; this needs to become a standard again. It’s not that Reed has never stretched his neck; even Kirby had him do it a few times. But as a general rule, he doesn’t. Every time someone has him do this, it’s out of character.
Leaving off Reed, there’s something else that Adams has done here that is not the way it’s supposed to be. The Silver Surfer does not have visible pupils in his eyes. Look at Page 14, panel 3. The Surfer does not have eyeballs that we can see. He just doesn’t. You don’t draw him that way. Not even if you’re Neal Adams, Mr. “Realism in Comic Book Art”; it’s wrong and it looks wrong.
Otherwise: Adams has taken some liberties in drawing Galactus. The armor—before the Negative Zone monster sucks it off him—is off-model in the details, especially the helmet. Of course, everyone takes liberties in drawing Galactus because no one seems to want to draw Jack Kirby characters the way the King designed them (Lord, look at Thor for the last few years, and don’t even get me started on The Inhumans), but every such departure makes for a glaring discrepancy. As for the Fantastic Four uniforms, Adams has drawn the original Kirby design beautifully, except the “4” symbols on the chests look as if a kid in Kindergarten did them.
Now, as I hear a chorus of reader voices groaning, God, this Fludd guy is such a nitpicker, I do have something nice to say about the art. Neal Adams actually does draw Reed Richards and Johnny Storm themselves the way they ought to be seen everywhere. Adams’s Reed is handsomer than I’ve seen him since George Perez, and because this story is out of present continuity, Reed here is free of that sleazy-looking beard he’s been sporting in current stories. This is one of the nicest-looking interpretations of the leader of The FF I’ve ever seen, and the same is true of Johnny Storm in this story. Adams, unlike many other artists, remembers that The Torch is no longer a skinny, gangly teenager but is a young lad in his twenties who has grown into his sexy leading-man adult body, and he gives Johnny an appropriately “heartthrob” handsome face. Other artists should study the way Adams has drawn Reed and The Torch. This is what we need to see wherever we see The FF.
With that said, on to story notes. The Monstrous Alien Menace with a Hole Through Its Midsection is kind of familiar. We’ve seen a cosmic threat like this in Marvel stories before, just not in The Fantastic Four. This creature reminds me of Infinity. I’m referring to the Infinity in the story of “The World Beyond” in The Mighty Thor #184-188, a cosmic presence that reached across the universe with a hand of darkness that could envelop whole planets. The population of any such planet in the grip of Infinity would at once be reduced to pod people, just as in the story before us now. I won’t go into the whole story of “The World Beyond” except to say that the gods of Asgard must get awfully nervous whenever Odin goes into the Odinsleep because the worst things always happen when the All-Father takes his power-restoring forty winks.
Reed tries to convince Sue to stay behind with the kids because they need their mother while he, Johnny, and Ben go to rescue Galen. Really? I’m surprised at Mark Waid for pulling out this old chestnut; he should know better. He has Reed and Sue mention that they had this conversation when Franklin was born (I don’t remember that; Stan and Jack never did any such scene), but what he completely omits is that Reed’s overprotectiveness of “the mother of his child”—Franklin being an only child at the time—almost tore The Fantastic Four apart. Perhaps Waid doesn’t remember Sue taking the kids and leaving Reed, and Medusa taking Sue’s place, and Reed and Sue almost getting a divorce, but The Sub-Mariner and The Inhumans manipulating them into a reconciliation. I, however, remember it very well. It’s a bit of a selective rewrite of history, here, and I should expect better from Waid, who must know Reed has learned better since then. Fortunately, Sue asserts herself and the entire FF goes into the Negative Zone.
The Thing objects to the rescue mission to save Galen, pointing out that The FF have been “trying to take [Galactus] out of the picture for years.” This is another selective rewrite of history. The Fantastic Four have never tried to do away with Galactus; it’s not something that Earth’s Greatest Heroes do (The FF are classical super-heroes; they avoid deliberately taking lives) and they know they haven’t anything like the power to do it. If anything, The FF have gone through a lot of stories doing everything to see Galactus off when he gets hungry, and Reed once even saved Galactus’s life when he was dying (FF #244). Why Ben would have the idea of The FF wanting to take Galactus off the board completely escapes me; this is something the editor should have caught.
(As a side note, our story also doesn’t bring up the fact that Galen/Galactus has been to the Negative Zone before, when Reed sent him there at the end of Fantastic Four #123. Will Waid have remembered this in the scripts for the next two issues of this mini? I’ll give you even money he won’t.)
And that’s about all there is for this issue. Next time, we’ll see how The FF deals for the second time with a Galactus reduced to mortal stature. And you should remember that the first time this happened, they actually had Galen for a houseguest, and it was right at the end of the FF stories of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo. (Remember the story of “Rising Storm,” a.k.a. “Johnny Storm, the Invisible Boy” and the issues immediately following it?) Will Mark Waid remember his own work as we continue this saga? Place your bets on that one too, while you’re at it.
Except for some glitches in art and history/continuity, this is a basically entertaining second issue of Antithesis. Reed and Johnny look great, Sue is as strong and beautiful as we want her, and The Thing still looks a bit too anthropoid. Neal Adams draws a cool Silver Surfer, except for the visible pupils in the eyes in that one panel. And it remains to be seen whether the alien menace gets any more original from here on.
Fantastic Four Antithesis #2: Galactus Gets Whacked!
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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