Monday, August 31, 2015

Galactus Unleashed!

OR: "Trapped On A World He Never Ate!"

The Fantastic Four's encounter with the "air-walker" known as Gabriel presented the team with a powerful threat, yet one they weren't quite sure how to handle, or even investigate. For if Gabriel were indeed the Biblical angel/messenger arriving on Earth to herald the end of the human race, what indeed was there to be done?

Yet while humanity was cowed by Gabriel's demonstrations of his power and became resigned to their fate, the FF fought on--for Gabriel was not only arrogant but also malicious, his actions and manner resembling a super-villain rather than what we would think an angel would represent, even as he still alluded to the notion that humanity would meet its fate at the hand of another.

Enter the Silver Surfer, who battled and overcame Gabriel and exposed the sham of this foe's pretense. Of course the real foe, of both the FF and the rest of humanity, would make the threat of Gabriel seem insignificant by comparison.

But, is there more to the arrival of Galactus than meets the eye?

(Sheesh--after that entrance, I don't think my eyes can take any more!)

You almost have to admire the sophistication of the Gabriel robot. We know there was a real Gabriel who became the herald of Galactus, and that, once that individual met his end, Galactus fashioned a robot in his likeness to continue on. But as we've seen, the robot's disposition was vicious, almost merciless--and chances are it relished its role of coming across helpless species and announcing that their world would soon be terminated. But why assume the pretense of an angel here, complete with a blaring horn? Galactus wouldn't bother with such nonsense, nor would it further his purpose in his return to Earth--nor would the robot would have any reason to take the time and trouble to research Earth's religious beliefs and take on the aspect of the Biblical Gabriel in order to announce "Judgment Day," unless it were really bored and had a perverse desire to amuse itself before Galactus was ready to act.

And now that Galactus has arrived, Part 3 of this four-issue arc takes things up a considerable notch, with Galactus sounding almost like a broken record in terms of picking up where Gabriel left off:

But has Galactus indeed come to pronounce the doom of Earth--or to strike, of all things, a bargain?

Despite his good-natured tone in his aside to readers, writer Stan Lee isn't kidding when he says it's slipped his mind when Galactus swore that he would never threaten Earth again--since, as far as I know, there was really no instance of Galactus making such a pledge. It's clear by the words he's given to Reed that Lee believes he had Galactus once issue this vow; otherwise, we have to assume he would have written the scene differently, since he now has to deal with the complication of having Galactus maintain the integrity of his word yet in the same breath breaking that word by being "merciful" with the choice he's offering. All that's missing is Reed responding with a curt "Hogwash."

As for that vow, well, we know it wasn't made when Galactus first departed Earth--then, he simply gave his word to leave once Reed surrendered the Ultimate Nullifier to him. (Thank goodness the Watcher vouched for his word then, or Galactus might have stayed to continued the attack with an arrogant "Idiot! My word means squat when I'm starving!") He later returned to Earth when he was ravenous, in his first attempt to conscript the Surfer back into service--and it was here that Lee perhaps recalls a vow, though Galactus in this scene simply makes a reference to a pledge that was never made.

When it comes to the rationalizations of Galactus, it seems "ephemeral" probably again translates to "hogwash"--though it's clear that even here, Lee felt faced with the need to work around a vow of Galactus, which supposedly represented "the spoken truth--as lasting as time itself."

As for the Surfer, we know he would eventually surrender to Galactus's terms--but in the early stages of this story, he fiercely rejects them.

The FF (or at least half of them) follow suit--with the Thing and the Torch tackling Galactus when he makes clear that the Surfer's refusal means the Earth's destruction. After the attacks against him are spent, Galactus rebuffs them miles away to an amusement park--where, anything but amused, they assess their situation and the Surfer proposes a course of action.

It's not really clear what the goal of this plan is. The Surfer seems intent on drawing Galactus away from Earth by presumably taking control of his former master's ship and using it to force Galactus to pursue him. But, assuming the Surfer can use the ship to leave orbit without the barrier of Galactus affecting his passage, how does he expect Galactus to follow him, if he believes that Galactus cannot journey without his ship? Wouldn't he simply be stranding Galactus on Earth?

Yet the point becomes moot when the Surfer discovers that Galactus has left his ship beyond the barrier, where the Surfer can't reach it. And when he returns, he finds that Galactus has angrily engaged the Fantastic Four in battle, when he believes they have somehow concealed his former herald.

As we've seen in this issue, artist John Buscema has brought a bit of nostalgia back to Galactus by leaving his arms and legs unclad as they were in earlier Fantastic Four and Thor stories drawn by Jack Kirby. And while Kirby, Buscema, and other artists went on to gradually have Galactus's attire fully cover him, Buscema's scenes here give us an idea of how Galactus would appear in action had his look remained constant. So what's the verdict on "summer" Galactus? Less imposing, or equally as impressive as his later appearances?

Galactus may have chosen a look to beat the heat, but the FF and the Surfer are probably wishing someone would take the heat off them, as their best efforts are little more than a holding action against this foe. And speaking of heat, the Human Torch is about to find himself on one heck of a hotseat.

The Torch might want to think about whipping up a LOT of those flaming decoys right about now.

Lee has had both Reed and Sue keeping a disappointing low profile in what's shaping up to be a classic battle issue with one of the FF's most memorable foes--with Reed only offering a barrage of cautionary warnings to his team and next to nothing in the way of action or direction, while Sue might as well have turned invisible in order to reflect her contribution here. Yet now, with the battle reaching its most desperate point, both of them abandon the others in order to follow up on the Surfer's earlier idea, but with an added twist yet to be revealed.

It takes some doing--but with Sue's help (imagine that!), Reed penetrates the ship's defenses and successfully boards it. And what he has planned is dramatically revealed, just as Galactus is on the verge of triumph in his dealings with the Surfer.

Wow! Does Reed really hold all the cards here? Or is the reaction of Galactus more out of effrontery than fear? However Reed's hand plays out, it's a good bet that Galactus isn't planning on folding.

(Not to be confused with "The Hogwash of Galactus.")

Fantastic Four #122

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Artie Simek


david_b said...

Mixed, mixed feeling about this story arc..

First off, I'm in the crowd of thinking this era of Buscema/Sinnott was the best art ever (next to Kirby) ~ Weak at first, but gradually getting better to surpass even the King. It's of course the time in which I first started collecting, so of course I'm partial..

I didn't like Lee's characterization of the Big G at all. I still have yet to comb his first visit, but since when did he need a spaceship..? I originally looked at Galactus as just a god-like being who didn't need a spaceship. Plus with all his comparatively-juvenile rantings against our FF, it just seemed like Galactus wasn't all that Omni-present or as big a threat as Lee/Kirby originally envisioned him. So that's a big disappointment for me here.

Loved the great internal art, hated the bare-skinned-knees-and-elbows ranting Big G. And hate to say but the covers weren't all that awe-inspiring or memorable either.

Comicsfan said...

david, I think part of the reason I like Galactus is his dependency on technology, despite the obvious power he wields. He seems to have a number of ships at his beck and call, depending on his needs at the time; and there's of course the technology he uses to drain the life force from planets, though he seems able to accomplish that himself when he can't spare the time to tinker. Reed's gambit also doesn't take into account Galactus's ability to summon transportation to him when necessary.

I'm definitely with you on his rantings, though. Perhaps the one thing we can count on at Marvel is that, the more an enlightened and aloof being maintains that he or she is above emotional displays, the more likely it is that there's a tantrum on the way.

Anonymous said...

It's a cool comic just for showing us Ben Grimm in a really bad mood, and able to completely cut loose without fear of hurting anybody. He's not spanking the Trapster here, or chasing Diablo, he's pounding on entities who are a lot more powerful than he is, and he's out to put as much hurt on 'em as he can. He's got a mad-on that won't quit.
I would have preferred, however, that Galactus had bothered to put on a pair of pants that morning, instead of those bicycle shorts, after he got outta bed and decided to go out and eat the Earth. I mean, sometimes I don't feel like putting on pants in the morning either, but we gotta do what we gotta do.

david_b said...

Great comments.., thanks for the reminder on technology as well.

Yep.., gotta wear pants. Probably next best thing to bringin' your towel in 'Hitchhikers'.