Fantastic Friday: Shall Earth endure?

Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #77 concludes our twisted tour through the Microverse – and what a strange trip it’s been.

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Quick recap: Galactus returned to Earth, demanding to be reunited with the Silver Surfer, so the Surfer can find new planets for Galactus to devour. The Surfer fled into the Microverse, and the FF followed. Seeing Reed’s heroism, the Surfer decided to return to Galactus, so Galactus doesn’t destroy Earth. The FF stayed behind in the Microverse, to track down their enemy Psycho-Man, who lives there. Got all that?

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Johnny asks how they’ll find Psycho-Man, and Reed correctly predicts that Psycho-Man will find them. This happens as some crazy-looking probe thing confronts our heroes. Reed takes a moment to speechify about how the basic laws of nature are completely different in the Microverse (perhaps this also explains how they’re able to breathe, etc.) The probe teleports them to Psycho-Man’s ship. Psycho-Man does the “polite James Bond villain” act, saying he’s there to welcome them personally to his home before he disposes of them. Reed is far more aggressive, saying he’ll put a stop to Psycho-Man before Psycho-Man has a chance to go after Earth again. Johnny attacks, but Psycho-Man fakes him out. Turns out this was just an image of Psycho-Man, courtesy of his “Encephalo-projector.”

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Back on Earth, the Silver Surfer emerges in Reed’s lab, and is found by Crystal. He reports that the others are safe. (His exact words: “Your menfolk are alive!”) Sue, now bedridden, is overcome with worry, and then there’s an uncomfortable bit where the Surfer uses his power to put her to sleep. He then flies out of the building and into the sky to meet Galactus. Galactus projects an image of himself across the cosmos, saying the Surfer has “only seconds” to find a new world for him, and the Surfer pleads with Galactus to spare the Earth.

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Reed, Ben and Johnny mess around with some of Psycho-Man’s equipment before finding Psycho-Man himself. Only now Psycho-Man is twice the size he once was, and is so strong that he throws Ben around the room. With no way of knowing if this is the Psycho-Man or another trick, Ben fights on until Psycho-Man is destroyed. Reed is full-on scientist mode, saying he wanted to analyze Psycho-Man’s form for a weakness, but that opportunity is lost now.

Free of Earth, the Silver Surfer is back out among the stars. He finds a “flaming meteor” striking a long-dead planet, releasing a vast amount of energy into space for Galactus to devour without harming anyone.

The FF are now lost inside Psycho-Man’s giant ship, with a huge splash page of Kirby’s funky designs. Stan breaks the fourth wall in a caption, saying, “Another of Jolly Jack’s somewhat spectacular street scenes!” Psycho-Man attacks, now wearing a bulkier suit of armor. He proudly declares that this time it’s not an illusion and they’re facing the real him now. He has raw strength to deal with Ben, high-voltage attacks to counter Reed’s stretching, and a “jet wash” to snuff out Johnny’s flame. Only Ben isn’t down for the count, bringing a huge piece of machinery down on Psycho-Man, burying him in debris.

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The Silver Surfer shows Galactus the space energy, and asks to be set free in exchange, but Galactus refuses to do so. He wants the Surfer somewhere he knows he can find him, so the Surfer is back to his imprisonment on Earth. He gets all dramatic, saying that despite his anguish, he knows he did the right thing.

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With Psycho-Man defeated, Reed tries to reason with him, explaining that if Galactus destroys the Earth, that will also destroy the Microverse. Psycho-Man scans Reed’s mind and sees this is the truth, so he agrees to teleport the heroes back to Earth. It almost reads like a cliffhanger, except for one last caption, “As they soon shall learn, Earth endures!”

Unstable molecule: Reed’s analysis of the teleporter is straight from Star Trek: “It transformed our bodies into basic electrons and then reassembled them – instantaneously!”

Fade out: She’s overcome with fear and then she gets knocked out. Geez, people.

Clobberin’ time: Despite all of Reed’s efforts to out-think Psycho-Man, Ben’s the one who defeats the baddie through pure brute force.

Flame on: Johnny first attacks Psycho-Man with a “thermal blast” and later with a “thermo-blast.” So, are these two different types of attacks, or what?

Trivia time: In the credits box on the splash page, under the creators’ names, there are the words, “Nil Nisi Optimus.” I think what Stan meant to say was, “Nil Nisi Optimum,” a popular Latin phrase meaning, “Nothing but the best is good enough.”

Commercial break: Learn deadly martial arts… at home!

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Fantastic or frightful? This whole multi-issue arc has been an odd one, full of weird pacing choices and odd story elements. Galactus never actually reaches Earth and our heroes never confront him in person. The FF just storms into Psycho-Man’s home and starts trashing the place, basically picking a fight with the guy. Sue’s “weak and helpless” mode is really embarrassing. Fortunately, we have Jack Kirby glorious artwork. This arc pretty much gave birth to “mega-weird 1970s Kirby” and for that we should be grateful.

Next: Human again… again.

****

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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