Monday, February 15, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #243

"SHALL EARTH ENDURE?"
Story and Art: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Invisible Girl and Frankie Raye remain atop the damaged Baxter Building, the Avengers become aware of Terrax’s power. Meanwhile, Mister Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Thing infiltrate Galactus’s world-ship at Terrax’s order. There they confront Galactus and speak with him. Outside, Terrax grows impatient and tears open the ship. Angered, Galactus restores Manhattan to Earth. As soon as it returns, Sue passes out from exhaustion while Frankie descends into the Baxter Building.

Galactus, Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Terrax materialize atop the World Trade Center, where Galactus strips Terrax of his power, then prepares to devour the Earth -- but the Avengers show up and team up with the FF to battle him. With the arrival of Doctor Strange as well, Galactus is overcome and falls, defeated.

As the heroes survey their beaten foe, Reed declares that Galactus’s life must be saved.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Frankie is overtaken by thoughts of Galactus for unknown reasons.


The Avengers in this issue are Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the Wasp. Later, Spider-Man and Daredevil put in an appearance, sticking to the sidelines as they realize how useless they would be in a fight against Galactus.


Terrax blames the Fantastic Four for delivering him to Galactus in issue 211.


Galactus recalls his recent encounters with humans in DAZZLER #10 and 11, and ROM issues 26 and 27.

Reed reveals that in FF 212 – 213, he was forced to release Galactus from his previously made promise never again to attempt to devour the Earth.

Is It Clobberin' Time? No, but we do get an “I say thee nay!” from Thor.

My Thoughts: This issue fares much better than the last. 242 felt mostly like filler to me, while I don't think anything could be excised from 243. All the conflict — Galactus vs. Terrax and Earth’s heroes vs. Galactus — is logical and important to the story. And unlike last time, where the Avengers’ cameos felt gratuitous and padded, here their participation feels natural to the story’s events.

However, I have to take issue with the heroes’ decision to save Galactus’s life — or rather with Captain America’s decision to do so. We will learn later in Byrne’s run that Galactus is more than a person; he is a force of nature necessary to the existence of our universe. But I'm not sure Cap knows that here. So when Reed decides Galactus’s life must be saved, Cap declares, “…I concur. Galactus may be the greatest menace we've ever faced, but he is also a living being.”


All well and good in a vacuum, I suppose. Code against killing, and all that. Only thing is, earlier in the issue, when Reed begged Galactus to spare Earth and its four billion inhabitants*, Galactus replied, “…do not speak to me of four billion lives. Galactus has seen the end of forty times four billion worlds!”** So maybe Cap didn't hear that, but moving on: when Doctor Strange arrives, he distracts Galactus by forcing him to confront the souls of every life he's ever taken, which leads to him screaming and shutting down his own mind rather than comprehend how many people he's killed.


So we wind up with a Captain America who comes across as completely out of touch with the situation, and who looks to be unquestionably in the wrong given the evidence presented. Galactus has, per his own words, extinguished 160 billion planets, killing countless innocents; men, women, and children alike. And Cap doesn't necessarily know he's a force of nature, doesn't realize he has a part to play in the evolution of the universe. He simply wants to save his life because he's one living being. Measured against the untold number of souls Galactus has taken and will continue to take, how can this possibly be justified in his mind?

Heroes are supposed to be better than us because of their morality, but in this case Cap, one of my favorite superheroes -- a man who witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by the Nazis and should realize more than any of the others present just how many deaths could have been prevented by the demise of one person -- comes off looking like an idiot.

That "Galactus falls!" splash page is pretty sweet, though.


* I know China has exploded, but has Earth’s population really increased by more than three billion people in the past thirty-some years? That is absolutely insane.

** I like to imagine Byrne had to say "forty times four billion" because in 1982, no calculator could display the number 160,000,000,000 and he thus was unable to figure out the solution to that math problem.

11 comments:

  1. when Doctor Strange arrives, he distracts Galactus by forcing him to confront the souls of every life he's ever taken, which leads to him screaming and shutting down his own mind rather than comprehend how many people he's killed.

    Yes but does he have an ultra-cool chain and fiery motorcycle?


    So we wind up with a Captain America who comes across as completely out of touch with the situation

    Everything's forgiven on account of his actions on the cover. So awesome! One of those perfect comicbook moments!

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    1. Yeah, Cap chipping away at Galactus's foot is pretty great.

      So I have to ask, Teemu -- was the Ghost Rider mention just random, or were you specifically referencing the episode of the nineties' FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, in which Ghost Rider filled Doctor Strange's spot in their adaptation of this story? I'm inclined to think the latter, but you never know!

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    2. Nope, never saw no cartoons, but I know penance stare at work when I see it. And I also was a teensiest bit thinking Ghost Rider being one of the members in the short-lived A. Adams-drawn iteration, and Doc Strange playing a role in the Spirits of Vengeance alongside GR. I'm afraid to check up if they were in Champions/Defenders too together (well, Johnny Blaze at least).

      I had a vague memory of having heard that GR did it to Galactus sometime but absolutely no idea where. (could have read about it at Supermegamonkey; I noticed after commenting that I may have been inadvertently channeling the points made at there)

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    3. Nope. Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider were never members of the Defenders or Champions at the same time.
      Dr. Strange was never a Champion.
      Ghost Rider was never an official member of the Defenders.

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  2. Well, considering the side Captain America took in the lead up to the recent Secret Wars mini-series, I'd say that Cap's stance in this issue seems pretty accurate.
    That Captain America refuses to purposely take any life, no matter the circumstances.

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    1. Interesting, I'm unaware of Cap's role in the new SECRET WARS. Maybe I'll look into it.

      In general, I have no problem with Captain America killing enemy combatants during wartime or under extreme circumstances -- and, in my own opinion, this would qualify as an extreme circumstance. Plus, it's not like they'd be actively killing Galactus -- they'd just stand by and let him die naturally.

      Though I should reiterate, I understand why Reed believes he must be saved. He's a force of nature and the universe needs him. I just believe Cap's reasoning for helping is wrong.

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  3. I say thee it is clobberin' time when you use Mr. Fantastic as slingshot and hurl the Thing into Galactus' face, whether or not anyone says it aloud. Ben's doubtlessly thinking of it whilst flying but it's lost under all the sound effects.

    The way I see it, Galactus is just really big and has appetite to go with it. Reed himself was earlier there commenting he's never seen Galactus as "evil"; he's not eating planets out of spite but for his sustenance. Very natural order, only in really big scale.

    Gotta love Terrax. He's been around, what, five issues, and already Galactus feels no one has given him grief like Terrax has.

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    1. Galactus kind of brought Terrax on himself when he chose to recruit a merciless warlord as a herald!

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    2. It was fun to go read #211 (I think) afterwards; Big G is quite magnanimous in pumping up Terrax there with all the cosmic powers. And then has to slap him around pretty much immediately when he gets uppity. I chuckle at the parallel to The Three Musketeers (the novel), where the others tell d'Artagnan to do just that when his personal manservant gets a bit snide in way of wanting to get some food and pay.

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  4. I too am pretty rabidly "superheroes don't kill!" but Cap does indeed come off poorly here. The easy sidestep is to simply not have him weigh in on the matter either way until after Reed explains his reasoning, then have him support Reed.

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    1. Good point -- if Cap had just remained mum on the matter, it wouldn't bother me at all!

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