Fantastic Friday: Leggo my Ego

Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Writer-artist John Byrne takes into space in a big way in issue #235, answering the question, “How do you fight an entire planet?”Ego7

This issue’s first page has no dialogue or captions, other than the title and credits. All we see is the Thing walking through a tunnel of purple goo, with a big machine on his back. We don’t get the context of what’s happening until the next page. He’s suffering extreme heat, and he says he has to get to the “core.” From there, we go into a flashback, going over what happened in the last issue. The FF are investigating some strange earthquakes, only to deduce the cause as an attack from outer space. They flew into space, where they were confronted by… Ego, the living planet!

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Ego shoots down the FF’s ship, even while Reed is astonished at how the surface of the planet is Ego’s “skin.” On the surface of the planet, the team comes across a gigantic “siderial propulsion unit” which Ego uses to travel through space. Ego tries to keep them away from the device by blasting them with psychic energy. He then summons a bunch of anti-bodies (big purple humanoid monsters) to fight the FF. The FF fight the antibodies and reach the propulsion unit. Reed says the device is not part of Ego’s body, but was attached to him by his enemy, the person he has come to Earth to destroy. Reed then says he’s seen this technology before.

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Cut back to Earth, where Johnny’s new romantic interest Frankie Raye is just getting out of the shower. Wha-hey! Okay, all we see are her legs and her bare back, but remember this is the era in which sex and violence were upped in a big way in this comic (and comics in general). There are no clean towels in the bathroom, so Frankie has to walk around her apartment naked to get one. She spots herself in the mirror, and is shocked at what she sees. The caption merely states, “She knows!” (We won’t find out what she knows for quite a while.)

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On the surface of Ego, Ben and Reed remove a “mini-pack” from the propulsion device. Then, they leap into a hole that Ben describes as bigger than the Grand Canyon, but Reed says it’s just one of Ego’s pores. (!) The heroes travel deeper into Ego’s body (ew) and after only a few minutes, they find Ego’s brain. “I can feel it thinking!” Sue says. But wait, this is only a decoy brain, to throw off intruders. (?) The team ventures farther into Ego, but heat and pressure cause Reed, Sue and Johnny to turn back, leaving Ben alone.

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After much travel inside the planet, Ben finally reached Ego’s true brain. The brain makes Ben see Ego’s origin. Right after the big bang, a “clot of star stuff” congealed into a living consciousness, which we now know as Ego. Ben then sees a vision of Galactus, Ego’s natural predator. Then there’s a short recap of Thor’s encounter with Ego (told in previous Thor comics), and how Ego refused to let aliens settle on him, and how Galactus “vanquished” Ego to deep space. Ego has come to Earth because it’s the last place Galactus was seen (in Fantastic Four #213).

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Ben throws the mini-kit at Ego’s brain, and makes his escape. This somehow causes the propulsion device to misfire, so Ego flies away from Earth and toward the sun. Ego dissolves when getting too close to the sun, and Ben is flung into space. It looks like it’s over for Ben, but then the FF’s ship flies by and saves him. Ego has been destroyed, and the FF head home.

Unstable molecule: Reed is fascinated by Ego’s bio-construction, but then doesn’t seem to mind when Ego is killed right in front of him. Guess it was either that or save the Earth.

Fade out: Sue can’t turn invisible while on Ego’s surface, because he can sense everywhere she steps. She instead uses a force field to fly over the surface.

Clobberin’ time: While Ben marches alone toward Ego’s brain, the captions wax eloquently on the courage and strength of character of test pilots. There’s even a quote from Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, which would become a movie two years after this issue was published.

Flame on: Johnny says the constantly-changing surface of Ego reminds him of “Broomhilda.” Anybody have any guesses what he’s talking about? He doesn’t appear to mean the classic myths of Brynhildr, or the beloved comic strip witch.

Commercial break: The most horrible monster of all time!

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Trivia time: No, Ego isn’t dead. In his next appearance, in Rom #69, it’s established that sun’s energies restored him to his original glory. Instead of going after Earth again, he gets mixed up with those no-good Dire Wraiths. Later, a surprise plot twist in a Silver Surfer issue reveals that Ego is actually one of the Elders of the Universe, the oldest and most powerful beings in the universe.

Fantastic or frightful? Can’t think of anything bad to say about this one. Another great Star Trek-type story, with eye-popping artwork throughout. You get a fun sense of saving the Earth as being just another day at the office for our heroes.

Next week: Not quite Smallville.

****

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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