Fantastic Four: Antithesis #3
The Antithesis being from the Negative Zone continues to emit his energies across our universe, converting whole planetary populations into conquering armies. The Fantastic Four have formed a surprising alliance with Galen of Taa—who was Galactus until the Antithesis got him and stripped him of all his power, rendering him mortal again—to stop the invader. How can they accomplish this, having only their own powers and the former Galactus’s technology to work with? Galen has the answer: by using his ship’s systems to do with The FF as Galactus did with Norrin Radd of Zenn-La to change him into The Silver Surfer. He gives the four of them a super-cosmic power upgrade, charging them all with the Power Cosmic to magnify the powers of The FF to “Herald of Galactus” levels.
Having their powers jacked up also comes with complete makeovers for our force-some foursome. They all immediately sport shiny new silver-and-blue uniforms, complete with high heels for Sue, because, you know, that’s what cosmic power upgrades do; the enormous bump in power always comes with a new costume, and if the character is a woman who didn’t have heels in her previous design, she’s now sporting some pumps to match her powers. Gotta love comics.
Anyway, our heroes’ mission is now for Reed to stay with Galen while Sue, The Torch, The Thing, and The Silver Surfer take off into space to collect the energies of the Antithesis from the planets to which he has distributed it; said power being merged with what the Negative Zone being stole from Galactus, which will enable our heroes to lock in on it. And what will Reed and Galen do with all of that collected energy? Wait for it.
Of course, when the three members of The FF and The Surfer start hitting the planets that the Antithesis has affected so far, they find some interesting new twists on their own powers because, you know, they’re cosmic now. Sue can project a phasing power as well as her invisibility. The Torch can now generate super-cold and ice as well as super-heat and flame. The ramped-up powers serve our heroes well in dealing with the transformed, hostile aliens affected by the Antithesis—until it starts to hurt! And then, as if that’s not bad enough, the alien monster with the hole in his midsection senses what Reed and Galen are up to and comes after them.
The Antithesis gives a proper super-villain speech about his nature as the opposite of the planet-devouring Galactus and expounds on how it is his nature to saturate whole universes with his power, which he calls his “deathblood.” He gives them the standard lecture about how creatures such as Galactus and The Fantastic Four are beneath his notice. You know, the typical cosmic-villain rant. Then, when Sue, Johnny, and Ben reappear with the energy that they’ve absorbed, Reed flips the plan that he and Galen have worked out in advance and has them release their energy right at Galactus’s space station. Reed and Galen have modified Galactus’s vessel to sort and purify the power of Galactus while returning the Antithesis’s power to him at a greatly boosted level. Being juiced-up with his own magnified powers creates a “like charge” of energy that hurls the Antithesis back into the Negative Zone where he belongs, and we can only hope this is the last we’ll ever see of this bizarre and rather dull bad guy.
Meanwhile, where does all of Galactus’s purified energy go? Surprisingly, not back to Galen. Instead, it all sizzles into Reed, who is transformed into a funky-looking new Galactus! Well, there’s a twist to be sorted out in the final issue of this mini.
The twist ending of this issue seems to be the payoff of an earlier scene with Reed and Sue, in which Reed is worrying about his ability to understand and use Galactus’s technology and fears that it means he’s having a loss of cognitive ability. Where exactly is this coming from? There’s nothing in the previous issues to suggest it, nor is there anything in practically any other FF story to point to it. The nearest thing to a precedent for Reed’s apparent trouble is all the way back in FF #217-273, in which Reed confides in Sue about gaps left in his memory after his experience with the “Mantracora” alien from the Negative Zone in FF #254-256. But between then and now, Reed’s cognitive problems haven’t remained an issue or a story point, so why is this suddenly surfacing again now? And really, Reed Richards has never had a problem figuring out alien technologies before. He was able to use the Mantracora alien’s tech to get The FF home from the Negative Zone and even reintegrate his mind after the creature downloaded it into its own ship’s systems. In fact, as far back as Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), Mr. Fantastic was able to suss out what alien gadgets do just by visually examining them; that was how he spotted the time displacer in The Watcher’s home, which enabled Reed to see off the pogrom of villains crashing the wedding. Reed suffering from an intellectual gap now of all times seems a little contrived.
The Antithesis monster, which was touted as the biggest, baddest, most terrifying threat to challenge The Fantastic Four since Annihilus, proves to be a big, bad snooze. For someone who’s the opposite of Galactus and a danger to the entire universe, he comes across as just another weird, ugly cosmic monster. His speeches about his nature and what he does and why he must do it are just a tedious retread of things we’ve been hearing from Galactus ever since he first appeared, only he’s not as interesting, and the ease with which he is dispatched seems like an anticlimax even before the big twist in the story. With the strange hole in his midsection, the Antithesis is like a big, walking Life Savers candy, and he’s not even your favorite flavor.
And really, this whole bit about The FF being charged with the Power Cosmic and becoming de facto Heralds of Galactus, while Galactus is reduced back to mortal stature, has been done before, and much more interestingly, by Mark Waid himself. If you want to see this yarn done really well, take another look at Waid and Mike Wieringo’s story of “Rising Storm,” a.k.a “Johnny Storm, The Invisible Boy” from FF #517-524. In Antithesis, Waid is just doing a less-impressive riff on material that was much more entertaining from him the first time.
Finally, for a surprising twist, we have Reed becoming another Galactus, with one more issue to go in this yarn. Well, okay, it is a surprise on the face of it, but after the hardly-original developments of this issue, the finale of this saga had better be a lot more intriguing and exciting. We’ll see how it goes next month.
Well, this whole Antithesis thing just goes to show that you shouldn’t believe all of Marvel’s hype. They used the art of Neal Adams as a big draw for a story that doesn’t really take us anywhere we haven’t previously been and doesn’t really show us anything we haven’t already seen, and the precedents for the whole thing are really a lot more entertaining. The only thing really “new” here is that Neal Adams is drawing a full-length Fantastic Four story for the first time, and the novelty doesn’t quite cover the price of admission.
Fantastic Four Antithesis #3: Anticlimax of the Antithesis
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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