Fantastic Friday: Soarin’

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Is there anything to say about issue #72?

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Last issue, Reed announced he and Sue were leaving the team. This issue skips all the goodbyes, starting with them already gone. Johnny and Ben are moping about this, but Crystal tries to cheer them up, suggesting a vacation to Bermuda or Florida. Wanting to run off and see the world has been a big motivation for Crystal since she was first introduced. Ben considers calling Alicia, but he frets about what’ll happen if Alicia meets another guy. So I guess their on-again, off-again relationship is off-again in this issue.

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Then, somewhat randomly, the Watcher appears in the room. Although he’s sworn to never interfere, he’s breaking that vow again, because it’s just that dangerous. This time, he says, the Silver Surfer is on the move, and is threatening to destroy all mankind.

Before that can sink in, we join Reed and Sue on board a train, heading to California. They too worry about what will become of the team, but they both know their leaving is what’s best for the baby. Then we cut to the Silver Surfer. After being trapped on Earth for a while, he’s had it with us foolish humans. He speechifies about how we could turn Earth into a utopia, but instead we stink up the place with hatred and bigotry and whatnot. So he declares war on all humans. He causes huge fires, creates giant plants to do his bidding, stirs up massive tidal waves, and even destroys the Pyramids in Egypt (I guess they got better). He finally unleashes a sonic wave on New York City. The Watcher disappears, leaving Earth’s fate in the FF’s hands.

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Fighting! Johnny flames on and takes to the air, attacking the Surfer with “nitro fire.” This doesn’t faze the Surfer. By “contracting molecules,” the Surfer creates a wall in midair for Johnny to crash into. The Surfer flies on and trashes a bunch of skyscrapers before Ben catches up to him on his flying jet-cycle. Ben and the Surfer exchange punches for a few pages. Although the point is made that the Surfer is more powerful, Ben doesn’t let up.

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Back to the train. The Watcher appears on the tracks, forcing it to stop. He’s come for Reed, saying Reed is needed to stop the Silver Surfer. Reed agrees to help, and insists that Sue stay behind for her and the baby’s safety. The Watcher teleports Reed away. From there, we cut to the army, where a general is preparing the “Sonic Shark,” an experimental missile that, we’re told, is powered by cosmic energy.

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After defeating Ben, the Surfer takes off again, heading for Washington, D.C. Reed appears at the Baxter Building, where he and Johnny compare notes. There’s several pages of business where Reed and Johnny find Ben in the city and use the FF’s pogo plane to reunite with him, then they’re off to chase the Surfer. Reed learns the Sonic Shark has been targeted at the Surfer, and this could kill him. Reed won’t stand for that, so he has Ben punch the missile so hard that it goes off course. Before it exploded, though, it somehow absorbed a huge chunk of the Surfer’s power.

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Now weakened, the Surfer doesn’t fight back. He says that no one being can bring sanity to the human race. Reed tries to speak in favor of humans, saying that humanity is not hopeless, and someday humans will “illuminate the universe.” The Surfer flies off, and Reed ruminates that there is no one else like him.

Unstable molecules: Reed saves the day not with his powers or with his science, but merely through leadership – taking charge and bossing Ben and Johnny around.

Fade out: I’m afraid “Sue gets left behind” is going to be a thing from now until the baby comes along.

Clobberin’ time: The issue’s highlight is Ben’s multi-page, midair slugfest with the Silver Surfer, with some great, powerful punches.

Flame on: No idea how Johnny’s “nitro fire” is different from his regular fire. Maybe he’s just trying to sound cool.

Trivia time: It’s generally believed that the general in this issue is General Fredericks, who was a minor supporting character in early X-Men comics. There doesn’t appear to be an official confirmation of that, though.

Commercial break: Yep, it’s 1968 all right, as seen in this ad for rock n’ roll LPs:

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Trivia time: Despite some eye-popping Jack Kirby fight scenes, pretty much nothing happens in this issue. The Surfer’s big freakout seems out of character. Yes, it’s 1968, so a reaction to bigotry and war and oppression is expected, but in terms of plot, it comes out of nowhere. Basically, the whole issue is just fighting for the sake of fighting.

Next: Crossover craziness.

****

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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