Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #244

"BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS"
Author: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Alpha/Omega: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Five days after the defeat of Galactus, a disheveled Johnny Storm shows up at Julie Angel’s apartment. Julie calls Reed and Sue Richards, who arrive soon after. Reed then tells Julie what happened to send Johnny on a weeklong bender:

With Galactus dying, Reed concocted a plan to save his life. Using materials provided by Stark International, he built a machine which slowly replenished a portion of Galactus’s energy. The FF then returned to the Baxter Building with Galactus, where Reed searched for uninhabited worlds for Galactus to devour. But when Galactus deemed the planets too far and restated his need to consume Earth, Frankie Raye volunteered to become his herald in exchange for his sparing the planet once more. Galactus agreed and transformed Frankie, then they both left Earth.

The story concluded, Reed and Sue convince Johnny to come home with them. Three months pass, during which time the damage done to the Baxter Building by Terrax is repaired, and the FF make plans to return their prisoner, Doctor Doom, to the Latverian embassy. A few days later, Sue leaves for a TV interview while Reed gives a lecture at Empire State University, leaving Ben to babysit Franklin. But when Ben leaves the room, Franklin’s mutant power manifests and his robotic playmate, HUBERT, is destroyed.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Not exactly continuity, but Byrne draws the top half of Johnny’s uniform untucked throughout the issue’s present-day scenes, leading to the conclusion that the FF wear two-piece outfits rather than full bodysuits.

Reed recaps the events of the past two issues for Julie, then, within his extended flashback story, Iron Man references the events of AVENGERS 215-216, which guest-starred the Silver Surfer.

We're reminded that Terrax demolished the top two levels of the Baxter Building in FF 242.

Frankie references Norrin Radd, the afore-mentioned Silver Surfer, as precedent for Galactus sparing a planet by accepting a herald from among its inhabitants. Some of the character traits Byrne has seeded for Frankie over the past few issues pay off here, as she callously notes that leading Galactus to devour “a few bug-eyed monsters” is well worth the trade for her being able to soar the cosmos.


Frankie becomes Galactus’s herald this issue, and though she doesn't adopt the name here, eventually she will take to calling herself Nova.

Stark International performs the repairs to the Baxter Building, having submitted a very small bid out of gratitude for all the FF has done for the Earth. When he's pestered by his landlord over the damage to the building, Reed exercises a clause in his lease which allows him to purchase the building outright. A footnote regarding the lease points to issue 9.


Doctor Doom has been in the FF’s custody since issue 236, some months ago. Reed says he's called the Latverian embassy numerous times in that span, but never got through to anyone. Now, however, he's instructed to bring Doom to the embassy by an ambassador taking orders from… Doctor Doom?!


Is It Clobberin' Time? No! The FF spent three straight issues dealing with Galactus, and not once did the Thing call for clobberin’ time!

My Thoughts: First and foremost, it seems that despite my belief last time, Captain America is at least somewhat aware that Galactus eats planets because he must, not because he chooses to. And as I noted last time, I have no problem with the heroes' saving Galactus if they all know this. However Cap still seems to phrase his understanding as if he believes Galactus has free will in his never-ending mission to eat every planet he comes across. It's this philosophy that I can't agree with when one takes into account how many billions upon billions of lives Galactus will snuff out in the near future. Save him because the universe needs him -- sure. Save him because he's one living being and you're sworn to preserve all life -- I don't buy it.


At any rate, for all the hype about saving Galactus last issue, this installment is a bit of a let-down. I like Byrne’s framing sequence, and the epilogues -- setting up Doom’s return and Franklin’s power -- are good. But the main segment of the story just feels like it's going through the motions. The heroes decide to save Galactus and they do so very easily. His choosing of a new herald, which seems like it should be a huge event, is done very quickly and then she just flies away without even saying goodbye, which seems odd. Frankie was a pretty major supporting character here for the past several issues, so her unceremonious departure does her a disservice.

What I do like, though, is Galactus’s little monologue before he departs, in which he declares Earth safe forevermore from his hunger, and in which he comes as close as we might expect to thanking Reed for saving him, even going so far as to declare that perhaps he might be able to consider the FF his friends. It's a little sappy, but I love stuff like that. It's almost enough for me to forgive the heroes’ boneheaded decision to save him in the first place!

I assume director Tim Story used the middle panel as his sole visual reference
for Galactus when making FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER.

6 comments:

  1. Byrne draws the top half of Johnny’s uniform untucked throughout the issue’s present-day scenes, leading to the conclusion that the FF wear two-piece outfits rather than full bodysuits.

    Unstable molecules.

    I love impatient Galactus peeking through the open roof.

    I love Frankie not needing "empowering", and Galactus humoring her and merely adapting her.

    Frankie's story is still everything but over at this point, so the departure here doesn't bother me. She's excited and can't wait and has nothing on Earth.

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    1. Her transformation just seems sort of abrupt to me. Not that it wasn't built-up; Byrne did a find job of planting the seeds for it. But it's more that as soon as she changes, she's gone. No goodbyes or anything.

      Though perhaps that's Byrne's point -- maybe she already believed she was beyond Earth and after she transformed, she felt nothing, not even Johnny, could hold her there.

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    2. Which is kind of what you said in the comment I replied to. I'm blaming the cold medicine.

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    3. Well. I was myself thinking that didn't I say it vaguely and confusingly the minute I had had it said. But I'm all for putting it on cold medicine, too.

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  2. Is Frankie Galactus' longest-tenured herald (at least in terms of publication time; not time spent in-universe serving him, which would have to go to Silver Surfer)? She pretty much sticks with him well into the 90s, doesn't she? Or am I forgetting a later story?

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    1. I think you're probably right. Nova is a herald for at least a decade. I think she's freed of her service at some point (and then, sadly, she's killed off), but I know she's still working for Galactus circa INFINITY WAR in 1992. I don't believe any other herald lasted that long.

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