Friday, April 25, 2014

Shall Earth Endure?

Recapping from Part One of John Byrne's "Galactus trilogy":

Terrax the Untamed has come to Earth looking for the Fantastic Four, in order to make use of their resourcefulness in destroying the being who made him what he is, but keeps him on a leash that chafes at him--the mighty Galactus, who prefers the former despot known as Tyros remain quite tamed in his service as his latest herald, locating life-rich worlds for him to sate his hunger on. Terrax has given the FF no choice but to help him--that is, if they don't want to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people on the now-orbiting island of Manhattan:

But, while the Thing is more than ready to choose his foe right now, Reed Richards decides that the team should accede to Terrax's demands. And as good a track record that Reed has in making the right decisions, it's hard to believe the leader of the FF would ever make the choice of capitulation:

Yet, there's more to Reed's choice than siding with the enemy who's currently poised to destroy millions. Because Reed is aware that Galactus' energies have been depleted--and there's also the little fact that, thanks to a bargain Reed made in order to secure the aid of Galactus against the Sphinx, Galactus is no longer bound by a promise to leave Earth inviolate. In short, Reed fears what Galactus may be driven to do, if left to his own devices--and, as Terrax said, Galactus is at his most vulnerable. It seems that the team will have no better chance to do what they must.

And yet, once the FF board his ship and locate Galactus, the situation is almost instantly defused by Reed himself:

Just what is it that Reed has in mind?

Would you believe we never find out?

Really. We never learn why Reed doesn't attack. He doesn't have any proposal for Galactus. In fact, he doesn't seem to have a Plan B at all. This story development just dwindles away. And proof of that is coming right up.

For now, let's step back a moment to the roof of the Baxter Building (that is, the new roof of the building, now that, thanks to Terrax, its top two floors have been vaporized), where Sue Richards is struggling to keep Terrax's energy field visible so that the populace of Manhattan doesn't realize where they've been taken. Frankie Raye, Johnny's girlfriend and a Torch in her own right, picks a lousy time to divert Sue's attention by starting a Q & A on the backgrounds of their foes:

Those of you who have read this story know what groundwork Byrne is laying with Frankie, so we'll just let this scene simmer for awhile. I'll only ask you to keep in mind that Frankie is becoming preoccupied with a being whom she's only heard second-hand accounts of up to this point. That's all I'm saying for now. From 0 to Preoccupied in ten seconds.

But, come on--do we want to sit this battle out here with Sue and Frankie, or do we want to head back into space? Because our boy Terrax thinks he's given the FF enough freakin' time to follow his orders--and so he makes a powerful strike on Galactus' ship and makes sure the FF are clear on their rather simple instructions. But Galactus has had more than enough of Terrax, and decides that this herald has proven to be more trouble than he's worth.

With Terrax's hold on the FF now lost to him, the axe-wielder has no choice but to square off with his master personally. As it turns out, though, Terrax is going to end up getting what he wants. Just not the way he wants it:

With Terrax out of the way as a threat, now would be a good time for Reed to let us in on the plan he's arranged with Galactus in order to score one for the win column and keep Earth safe. Which, I'm sorry to remind you, was a plan made of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Well, it's nice to know our pollution is good for something. But, come on, Reed--we know you've got something up your sleeve! I mean, it's not going to just come down to pleading, is it? Pleading with a being who, as we've seen time and time again, can casually sidestep any moral argument to spare his victims?

Fortunately, there's a God of Thunder who's around to pick up Reed's slack. And he doesn't even have to think about his choice:

With the Avengers now on the scene, it looks like we're gearing up for one heck of a battle--something new from the original trilogy that Byrne brings to the table, a development which he'd only briefly give space to in a later story but now gives his full effort to. And there are other heroes who arrive, though apparently they're not feeling very heroic:

That's alright, guys. Because fortunately we have the Wasp--a person only about the size of your index finger, but who seems to be more of a hero than THE TWO OF YOU PUT TOGETHER:

By the way, if you read the full story (and hopefully you'll treat yourself to all three parts), try not to make a drinking game out of all the times you spot the word "Galactus" in bold, even when it's not needing emphasis. (Look at the first two panels of the Wasp's attack to see the difference.) I'm not really clear on why Byrne is doing it--I mean, isn't Galactus awesome enough of a character without this constant prodding to regard him as such?

Anyway, it looks like Reed and the rest of the FF have joined the party. Heh, Reed even has the nerve to start giving tactical orders. That's okay, buddy, the Avengers already know what their plan is:

We also have a very cool appearance by Dr. Strange, who proves that you don't always need a crack in the jaw to deal with a foe:

But, whose mag is this anyway? Now that Strange has softened up the rapidly weakening Galactus, Byrne of course gives the honor of the final blow to the FF:

That would seem to be that--but the disposition of someone like Galactus isn't exactly as simple as finding a jail cell for him. In the aftermath of the battle, the heroes discover that Galactus is near death. And we find that Reed has one more hard choice to make:

Gosh, Cap--and yet you never thought to clue in your allies about not killing other living beings who also happened to be responsible for mass murder:

There's also the odd situation with Frankie Raye to be resolved, who now seems downright captivated by the thought of Galactus:

It's a very odd (and redundant) scene from Byrne.  Galactus, to Frankie, should be little more than a curiosity at this point--but she effectively ditches the well-being of not just Johnny but the rest of the FF in order to follow her train of thought.  It seems little justification for what's to come.

At any rate, the question that will be facing our heroes in the final issue of this trilogy looks to be two-fold: Should they try to save the life of Galactus, who will go on to destroy other worlds and end lives by the billions? And if so, how?

Let's hope Reed has at least thought this one through.

Fantastic Four #243

Script, Pencils and Inks: John Byrne
Letterer: Jim Novak


Anonymous said...

Reed should have said to Doc Strange "Where were you all the other times we've tackled Galactus? You'd have saved us a lot of bother if you'd mentioned that little trick before !"

Hube said...

Right on, Colin!

These scenes with Manhattan in space remind me of those 2nd season 1960s Spidey cartoons where that crazed green-skinned scientist did something similar to the island.