Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Objects Are Closer Than They Appear

Sandwiched inbetween the story that saw Dr. Doom return to Latveria and confront the usurper of his throne, Zorba, and the tale where Gladiator comes to Earth and faces both the Fantastic Four and the "X-Men," FF #248 allows us to catch our breath a bit with a story featuring the uncanny Inhumans and an incredible threat that not only decimates the Great Refuge but destroys Earth's moon!

Yikes! Maybe we should have rephrased the description of this issue--as in, "...has our breath catching in our throat!"

It's Triton, one of the most overlooked Inhumans, who opens the door to the threat, as he indulges in some time to explore the Refuge's new home in the location of the abandoned Kree outpost on Earth's moon, a blue-hued area which still retains its breathable atmosphere--and, to Triton's delight, sub-lunar waterways.

Triton receives quite the surprise when he approaches the crystalline structure, but we'll see the ramifications of his discovery shortly. (Though we likely won't learn who "Argon" is--perhaps writer/artist John Byrne meant to refer to "Agon," the Refuge's former ruler and Black Bolt's father, and simply miswrote. On the other hand, we could always assume that Triton knows of someone named Argon, eh?)

As Triton comes to grips with what he's encountered, we turn to a happy event on the surface, where the Fantastic Four have arrived for a ceremony to celebrate the naming of the child of Crystal and Pietro.

It's at this point that Byrne immediately shifts the story to crisis mode, as gravity goes wild and the chamber and its occupants are thrown into disarray--and that word pales in comparison to what happens to the moon itself!

As we'll see further into this story, the sheer size of the scenes and objects the characters encounter with a mixture of shock and awe are balanced by their perceptions of the impossibility of it all. The Torch, for instance, makes a reconnaissance flight covering a distance he shouldn't be able to; and a similar flight by Black Bolt and the FF reveals their captive vessel to have Earth-like atmosphere and gravity, despite its mammoth size (which we're assuming is considerably larger than Earth--otherwise its gravity wouldn't be all that abnormal).

But speaking of gravity, how "Earth-normal" can it be if something like this happens?

When the ship's occupant (or at least one of them) shows up--a being around 5,000 miles tall--things continue to make little to no perceptive sense to the FF. The alien emerges from a doorway over 1,000 miles away, though the FF see him as if he were standing over them. The Torch rejoins the group, his flame exhausted and barely able to sustain his landing; and Reed questions the evidence of his eyes, that Johnny has seemingly flown all the way from the moon--a distance of at least 100,000 miles, which simply can't be. Reed also makes the observation that the alien has human proportions, though with his colossal size his own weight should shatter his legs. (Though in an earlier Thor story which also has its heroes confronted by beings who dwarf their size, writer Gerry Conway and artist John Buscema obviously differ with Byrne on that point.)

As for the alien's intent, his casual inspection of the moon produces catastrophe for the Inhumans, and leads to a predictably retaliatory response.

It's perhaps to Reed's credit that he continues to assess the situation with a critical eye, despite the scope of events playing out and the horrific circumstances everyone finds themselves trying to cope with. He has no cause yet to disbelieve what's happened--but the situation raises more questions than it answers, with things continuing to happen too quickly and not giving anyone time to (how did we begin all this?) catch their breath.

And matters only get worse. The alien, now aware of "pests" that he cannot see unaided, unleashes a gas that threatens to kill Black Bolt and the FF--and the Torch, who only moments ago was too weak to ignite, now blazes toward the alien and attacks with his nova flame. Instinctively, the alien swats at the air, and the Torch is killed; while below (or, we should say, thousands of miles away), the Invisible Girl's force field fails to stop the effects of the gas, and the group begins to collapse--including Black Bolt, who, shockingly, coughs aloud but causes no damage whatsoever. Acting quickly, the Thing begins ripping out a wall section to create an escape route that's free of the gas, only to find a great hand grabbing at the metal scrap (a hand which shouldn't even be able to grip the comparatively minuscule piece of metal that the Thing holds); and the alien, seeing nothing to take note of, tosses the metal aside, taking the Thing with it on a several-thousand-mile plummet to his death.

Below, Sue succumbs to the effects of the gas, which begins to dissolve her. It's the breaking point for Reed, who refuses to accept the reality of these events--and his refusal, apparently, serves to pull the plug on this madness.

It would take a little time before everyone would be able to compare notes and discover what caused this kind of mental incursion; and we have to assume, after all, that neither Reed nor Black Bolt would be prepared to just let this matter drop. (In fact it wouldn't be surprising to find them paying the Watcher a visit, who's passed on information before while keeping his oath of noninterference intact.) But perhaps they simply waited until the return of Triton, who has found the problem's source and fortunately lived to tell the tale.

Not the best way to get to know your new home, surely--though Reed could definitely share with the Royal Family a story of his own on that note.

Fantastic Four #248

Script, Pencils and Inks: John Byrne
Letterer: Rick Parker


Anonymous said...

It's strange what we remember and what we forget over time - I remembered that Crystal's baby was called Luna and the gigantic ship dwarfing the moon and the fact that it was all an illusion but I totally forgot everything else so thanks for this review, CF. By the way, I'm surprised you haven't covered the actual issue where the Great Refuge travels to the moon - that was an awesome event !! And John Byrne was right that the giant alien's weight would crush his own legs - also those giant insects beloved of science-fiction would be crushed by their own exoskeletons (which is good to know). Giant Man would have some problems too :D

Anonymous said...

I kinda enjoy following our space program, and I've been more than intrigued by the evidence they've found of vast, underground oceans of liquid water (!) on a few of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, maybe even Ceres.
It's now thought that underground bodies of water like the river depicted here, kept relatively warm by gravitational or volcanic forces, might not be uncommon.
Who knows what strange things might lurk in those dark, ancient seas. Probably something with tentacles, I expect.

Comicsfan said...

Gosh, Colin, I think that the only thing I'd want to explore concerning the Great Refuge being moved to the moon is: Where would they have been able to stash the entire Inhuman population that was able to keep their heat and air supply from being sucked into the void? The last time I checked, the Refuge wasn't space-worthy!

Anonymous said...

Ah, good point. But surely they had some way to overcome that problem ? MP, Jupiter's moon, Europa, is the best candidate for an underground ocean beneath the frozen surface. It would be great if there were alien tentacled thingies swimming around in it but sadly it's more likely to be just single-celled organisms. But you never know - and even single-celled life would be the greatest scientific discovery ever.

maw maw said...

Small correction on the credits: Rick Parker, letters. (Jim Salicrup was the editor.)

Comicsfan said...

Quite right, maw maw, thank you!

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