Fantastic Friday: Planet X is lovely in the springtime

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Last issue took our heroes into space, and now, in issue seven, it’s back into space again.

The issue starts with our introduction to the villain of the week/month, Kurrgo, the master of Planet X. He’s got this huge, bulbous head and a tiny body. He sort of looks like he could be a Dick Tracy villain, if Dick Tracy villains wore disco pants.

He gives a big speech to no one about how the planet is far more advanced than Earth, but all of its tech can’t save it from the asteroid about to destroy it. Because the people of Planet X (X-ians?) choose not to visit other planets, there are only two spaceships and no time to build any more. Kurrgo decides to send his pet android to Earth and recruit the Fantastic Four. Although he trash-talks about Earthlings, he says they’re the only ones who can help.

From there, we get the customary several pages of the FF showing off their powers. They’ve been invited to a gala banquet in WashingtonD.C., and everyone’s apprehensive about it. Ben thinks everyone will react in fear upon seeing his monstrousness, Sue fears she’ll get embarrassed and turn invisible, and Johnny is concerned he’ll lose control of his fire powers while telling a joke about beatniks (no, really). Some of Ben and Johnny’s horsing around caused the building to fill up with steam, so Reed has to stretch into the air conditioning and fix everything.

Once all that’s taken care of, it’s off D.C., where things start out just fine. But then Kurrgo’s android arrives, and bombards the entire planet with a “hostility ray.” This makes everyone at the banquet hate each other (politicians hating each other? I’m shocked!) and it especially turns everyone against the FF. They escape the mob without hurting anyone, and then are chased by the android until he delivers Kurrgo’s message. He says he’ll turn off the ray if the FF help save Planet X. If they don’t, they’ll spend the rest of their lives being hated by everyone on Earth. No one asks why Kurrgo does all this instead of just asking politely.

So it’s off to Planet X. Ben says he doesn’t trust Kurrgo. Reed agrees, but then says he went along anyway because visiting another planet is too exciting an opportunity to pass up. Again, why didn’t Kurrgo just ask politely? The FF would have gone anyway! Our heroes finally meet Kurrgo (Ben calls him a “puny-lookin’ shrimp”), who tells the FF that Planet X only has 24 hours left, and if they don’t save the planet, they die along with it. The four try to escape, but the android easily defeats all four of them. Reed says there no choice but to try to save the planet.

In Planet X’s “most modern lab,” Reed comes up with a plan. He invents a “reducing gas” which will shrink all the people of Planet X (X-ites?) to tiny size, allowing them all to fit in one spaceship. Upon arriving on a new homeworld, the gas will reverse and everyone will be fine. (No one asks how Reed is going to do all this in 24 hours. Maybe the days are longer on Planet X.) Kurrgo comes up with an alternate plan. He’ll keep all the gas for himself, and turn into a giant on the new world, ruling over all the people of Planet X (X… men?).  So that’s why Kurrgo didn’t just ask politely: He’s a total dick! Fortunately, Reed pulled a fast one on him. Kurrgo has an empty canister. The rest of the aliens will remain tiny on their home, which won’t matter, as long as they’re all the same size. As for Kurrgo, he’s stuck behind as Planet X is destroyed. The FF just leaves him there? Cold, man.

The FF takes the second Planet X ship back to Earth, never once asking whether the “hostility ray” from earlier was ever turned off.

Unstable Molecule: Reed’s stretching into the air conditioning vents is nice and freaky, especially the one panel of his head flat like a piece of paper. Plus, his brains save the day again.

Fade Out: Poor sue doesn’t do much. Her plan to distract the android is cut short during the fight, so we never get to see if it would have worked.

Clobberin’ Time: Ben isn’t strong enough to stop the android, and he tosses a few boulders around as Planet X falls apart. His biggest contribution is being right not to trust Kurrgo.

Flame On: Johnny also fails to defeat the android. (Can nothing stop it?) His only role in this issue is comic relief, really. I wish we could’ve heard his beatnik joke.

Trivia Time: Kurrgo obviously never became a headlining character. It’s not likely he’ll show up in a blockbuster film adaptation, but he was prominent enough to be a villain of the week in the 1967 Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four TV cartoon.

Am unrelated character named “Kurrgo” shows up in the Star Trek tie-in novel The Art of the Impossible. This Kurrgo is a Klingon restaurant owner living on Cardassian Prime. Hey fan fiction writers, let’s get these two guys together!

Fantastic or Frightful: It’s another goofy, borderline-nonsense issue, but there are a few cool bits. Jack Kirby’s far-out depiction of Planet X is all crazy Kirby style, and the twist at the end is amusing, if dark. Not a “classic” issue, but a fun one.

Next week: Introducing Alicia.

Like to read? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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