Saturday, November 17, 2012

When Comes Galactus  (No, seriously, when?)

If memory serves, this series in 1999 was the Big G's first apparent attempt at carrying his own book:


At least, you'd get that impression if you saw the first issue's cover:

But there's a reason I say "apparent" attempt. With the looming figure of Galactus on the cover, the impression you'd form is that the guy is pretty much in charge of things from page one. But in Galactus The Devourer, Galactus himself is really just a feature player dealt into other scenarios playing out, with no shortage of other characters virtually eclipsing his own.

And frankly, I'm not sure how a series "starring" Galactus could exist otherwise. On the most basic level, Galactus is a threat, first and foremost. At his approach, we know two things: people are probably going to die by the millions, and a world is definitely going to be rendered lifeless, if not worse. That is his "role," if you will--his role as a Marvel character, but also (thanks to events from his "trial" in Fantastic Four) his role in the universe. I probably have a whole separate post rolling around in my head about that FF story, as eager as I am to dissect its contentions; I'll just make the point here that with such a defined modus operandi, there would be little of Galactus himself to expand on in a series of his own. We already know his origin; we already know how he regards other life forms; we already know how he feels about his existence; and we certainly know what consumes his time. That would leave his heralds, and his victims, and various other characters to take up the slack of a Galactus book.

In Galactus The Devourer, we get a taste of how such a book would be, even though at first glance we don't yet realize it. I remember buying the first issue thinking, "Okay, Galactus is going to take center stage and drive the stories personally. Wonder what that'll be like?" I could even understand stacking the deck on the cover with Earth's major heroic players, as well as a defiant (or suppliant) Silver Surfer, for the book's launch. And indeed, the opening pages look intriguing:

For all the good that does us. Because in this, the first issue of a series called "Galactus The Devourer," Galactus himself doesn't appear again until the very last page, himself devoured in his own book by a who's who of Earth characters whose names are not in the issue's masthead.

Whatever the scope of this series, it would seem the Surfer is going to play a main part throughout. At this point in time, the Surfer is again spending time on Earth, as the boyfriend of Alicia Masters. Who's having an art show. Who can wear super-powered armor that also allows her to see. Whose show is attacked by the Mole Man as a diversion so that he can make off with one of the city's sewage treatment plants.  You now have the main events happening in this first issue.  Tell me if you see how Galactus would even consider having a part in all of that mess.

Only after the Mole Man makes his getaway with the plant (yes, even after the bulk of the issue spends time scrambling heroes to stop him--including armored-up Alicia--nothing comes of it) do we get any symmetry connected to the events of the opening pages. A meteor, falling to Earth and threatening widespread destruction--and yes, in their direct vicinity--is deflected by the Surfer at the last minute, and a being emerges. We see it's of the same race as that which inhabited the planet that Galactus destroyed earlier:

And that sets up the dramatic "oh oh, he's on his way" last page where we get a token appearance of the guy we really paid to see:

We get the sense from the Surfer's appearance in this issue that his actions during his time as Galactus' herald--i.e., voluntarily leading Galactus to the slaughter of countless worlds--will have some bearing on the events that develop. For instance, although he's become very happy with Alicia, he can't push out the one thought gnawing at his conscience:

Even though I own this series in its entirety, it's been years since I read it--so in these reviews of each of its six issues, for me it'll be like bringing them home from the comics shop one by one. I don't remember having a very high opinion of it overall--but maybe my perspective on it will change as I get closer to its ending. Hey, maybe by that time we'll even see a little more of Galactus!

On to Part Two!

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