Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Star Is Born

You might have to dodge an elephant in this final installment of


If you're coming in late to this series, this panel should bring you up to speed on why everyone is pretty worried about Galactus:

So now, in spite of Eternity once warning that Galactus' continued existence is crucial to the survival of the universe, Earth's heroes--along with the Silver Surfer and an armada of species from across the galaxy--have gathered on the Shi'ar homeworld for a last stand against Galactus, who has made the planet his latest target. Reed's plan to defeat him involves a series of distractions, which aim to bring down Galactus' ship and then to weaken him further with a combined assault. While that's going on, the Surfer travels to Galactus' larger ship in space in order to take control of it--and, in combination with his power to create a space warp, uses the ship's ability to transmute planetary matter to energy in order to absorb and transmute Galactus himself:

And then, Galactus makes a startling transformation, which Reed describes for all:

Jeez, Reed is fond of these grand proclamations, isn't he? There was a time he said Galactus would never return from the Negative Zone, and he did. He's declared the threat of Doom ended so often I've lost count. And here he is using the word "never" again in reference to Galactus. But near the end of the story, Reed and the Surfer take a step back, and realize that this "resolution" to the threat of Galactus may be just the prelude to another threat yet to manifest:

And look who finally shows up, only to put a big fat question mark on the end of this series:

For all the good this informal epilogue does us. I don't know whatever was planned for the "evil" that was unleashed as the result of Galactus' transformation, a threat which the Surfer was supposedly going to investigate and track down. In January of 2000, there were scant details given of a proposed sequel to this series, but it never fully materialized as such. For all intents and purposes, this story ended here. Galactus, however, was recreated in the pages of Fantastic Four #49 almost two years later, completely side-stepping the events in Galactus The Devourer--instead involving a character named Abraxas, who was consumed with destroying alternate reality versions of Galactus.

The last issue of this six-part series makes a considerable effort to establish a major development in the existence of Galactus, and also attempts to put into continuity that Galactus was aware of his condition even when he first created the Surfer--as well as making the revelation that he had specific reasons for choosing Norrin Radd as his herald:

Which doesn't quite connect all the dots. For instance, it doesn't really make sense for Galactus to have tampered with the Surfer's memories and thus made him a more single-minded herald focused on his sole mission, if his intent was for the Surfer to grow in such a way as to insure his master's end. On the other hand, it would add an interesting facet to Galactus' decision to "hold" the Surfer on Earth--the only world that was able to effectively defeat his plans.

I think my hope for this series was that it would expand on the events of Fantastic Four #262, where an intergalactic court absolved Reed of any wrongdoing in his decision to save Galactus at a point when he was near death. The verdict was made following the astonishing appearance of Eternity, which put Galactus' role in the universe into brief perspective:

All very profound, but all too vague and far too based on faith. Odin, another witness in the trial, perhaps better describes Galactus as a force of nature:

Subsequently, Reed's exoneration brought a giant elephant into the room, which Eternity, Odin, and the Watcher all but urge everyone to ignore: how to stand by while Galactus continues his attacks and planetary destruction? The Watcher stated that no mortal mind can retain the "cosmic truth" that Eternity revealed--which means that no one present at the trial really understands why they agreed to sic Galactus on the universe again. In this series, that elephant that represented the role of Galactus was once again quickly skirted around:

So essentially, you have a situation where you have a deadly force decimating entire worlds and displacing whole populations (assuming they're even capable of evacuating their respective planets)--while those who would intervene in defense of those worlds (or their own) are in conflict with their subconscious knowledge that this force must nevertheless live in order to strike again elsewhere. It seems absolutely mad, virtually crying out for resolution.

And what of Galactus himself? While he does often dramatically invoke his mantra that "Galactus must survive" and "Galactus must not die," and announces his name as if he is a law and a force unto himself--which falls in line with the kind of necessary being that Eternity reveals--he also frequently makes references to the life forms inhabiting the planets he targets as being unimportant and inconsequential in light of his own survival, even comparing them to ants who should be stepped upon without hesitation. And despite maintaining that his actions are without malice or other, lesser motivations, he's certainly been known to aggressively respond to those that would hinder his plans (e.g., Ego, the Living Planet). Combined with the fact that, when Galactus approaches a planet, he has one goal--to destroy it--it's not unreasonable for species of the galaxy to see something other than a necessary force that, in Odin's words, has come to "test" their worth to the universe.

No species in their right mind, threatened with destruction, would stand idly by and allow themselves to be incinerated down to the last man, woman, and child because the being responsible for it has been revealed to be correct in its actions insofar as the "big picture" is concerned. Nor should they be adversely judged for not hesitating to do their utmost to take out that kind of threat. And any species capable of conscious thought would have every reason to question the kind of entity that would unleash such a force on the universe. That's the opportunity that I think Galactus The Devourer misses here. The word "devourer" in this case is likely indicative of the constant desperate state now driving Galactus' search for sustenance--and as such, it could have been used to explore the fallacy of Eternity vis-à-vis Galactus, as well as the notion that no entity is qualified to rubber-stamp murder, whatever the form it takes.

Galactus isn't some indiscriminate force of nature--he specifically targets whole planets, whether they are populated or not, for a process which will render them lifeless. He even sends out a scout to find them. This is no mindless destructive storm--this is Galen, formerly of the planet Taa, who has been transformed into a being who now requires the life energy of worlds in order to survive. He creates and uses specialized technology to that end. His actions are wholly premeditated, and he leaves billions dead or displaced in his wake. And as this series has now established, his physiology can unexpectedly evolve to make his needs spiral out of control. It's a wealth of material that Galactus The Devourer has chosen to only skim the surface of. And perhaps somewhere, Eternity breathes a sigh of relief as a result.

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