Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #240, writer-artist John Byrne ends the “getting his feet wet” phase, crafting a huge sci-fi tale that permanently changed the Marvel Universe.
The issue begins with Quicksilver zipping through the streets of New York with his super speed. He makes it inside the Baxter Building, where the FF see him in the dark. Assuming he’s an intruder, there’s a few pages of fighting. Johnny suspects it’s Quicksilver, so he prevents Frankie from burning the attacker. Reed manages to stop Quicksilver, and everyone calms down.
Quicksilver catches us up with everything that’s been going on with the Inhumans at their hidden city Attilan, in the Himalayas. First, Medusa was abducted (which happened back in issue #207, and has gone unresolved until now), then Attilan was attacked by the mad scientists of the Enclave. The Inhumans allied with the evil Maximus to stop the Enclave, only for all of Attilan to succumb to a mysterious illness. The illness also threatens Crystal and Quicksilver’s unborn child.
Quicksilver summons Lockjaw, the Inhumans’ giant teleporting dog (they have a giant teleporting dog), to transport everyone to Attilan. Reed insists that Frankie stay behind because she hasn’t completed her training. The FF and Quicksilver arrive in Attilan to find the city trashed and deserted. Medusa steps out of hiding. She explains that the Inhumans almost lost the fight against the Enclave, until Maximus sacrificed himself to save them all.
Underground, Black Bolt collapses after using all his energy to keep the remaining Inhumans safe. Reed deduces that the illness is caused by Earth pollution, the same malady that caused Crystal to dump Johnny and leave the team. Medusa says the entire city must be moved, reminding everyone that this was done once before (in a backstory in What If #30). Problem is, there is nowhere on Earth with air clean enough, which inspires Reed to look at the night sky and say, “Maybe there is a place.”
We get a lot of business with the Inhumans preparing to move. Karnak and Gorgon (who once single-handedly defeated the FF in battle, let’s not forget) create a fissure around the entire the city. The city’s power generators are converted to anti-grav machines. Black Bolt enters the caves beneath the city to round up the Inhumans’ servants the Alpha-Primitives. With that done, Black Bolt uses his super-voice to break the city free of the Earth’s surface. He leaves behind a Kree word carved in the rock, as a memorial to Attilan.
The city flies into space, passes a S.H.I.E.L.D. satellite, and makes its way to the moon. There, the city arrives at the Blue Area, the remains of an alien city inside a crater, where there is breathable air. There’s an amusing bit where the Watcher comes out of his moon house to observe the city, remarking that he now has neighbors. The city comes down for a landing, settling on the surface, on the exact spot where Jean Grey died to save the universe in the landmark Uncanny X-Men #137. The Inhumans march out to check out their new home.
Then, the happy event. In the Inhumans’ hospital, Reed and an Inhuman doctor deliver Crystal’s baby. It’s a girl! Turns out that Crystal’s Inhuman genes and Quicksilver’s mutant genes cancelled each other out, so the baby is perfectly human. She’s the first child born on the moon.
Unstable molecule: Reed is a real problem solver in this issue, coming up with the idea to transport an entire city to space. We can add pediatrician to Reed’s skills.
Fade out: Sue tries to create a force field for Quicksilver to run into, but Reed stops her so she doesn’t harm him. Somehow, they have this entire conversation as Quicksilver blasts toward them at top speed.
Clobberin’ time: Ben calls upon his pilot/astronaut background to chart a course to the moon. The caption tells us “It’s been too long since he was called upon to use his mind rather than his muscle.”
Flame on: Johnny has mixed feelings upon learning that Crystal is pregnant, but then is happy for her at the end.
Four and a half: Ben begins the issue hiding Franklin’s Christmas presents, saying that it’s getting harder and harder hide stuff from the kid. He comments, “It’s almost like he knows what I’m thinking.”
Fantastic fifth wheel: When asked to stay behind, Frankie remarks that being a superhero isn’t what she thought it would be. She laments, “Where’s the pomp and circumstance? The cosmic grandeur?” Foreshadowing, much?
We’re meant to believe that Medusa was held captive by the Enclave between issue #207 and now, except that she showed up in The Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel in between. Maybe she escaped the Enclave, and then visited Mar-Vell during the Enclave/Inhuman war. (And yes, it is kind of a bummer that we never actually see this war, but I suppose that’s because the Inhumans weren’t marquee stars at this time.)
H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot appears in one panel, still serving as Franklin’s nanny. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.
Commercial break: Don’t play with your food, kids.
Trivia time: It’s rare to see a permanent change in comics, where the almighty reboot button is constantly being pressed. The Inhumans living on the moon, however, has since become an iconic Marvel Universe thing, so much so that when you think of the Inhumans, “They live on the moon” is one of the first things you think of.
Fantastic or frightful? This one is interesting, because there’s no villain to fight. Instead, it’s all about the heroes working together to solve a problem. John Byrne’s art is excellent, and the drawings of the city flying through space are real “sense of wonder” goodness.
Next week: Raiders of the something-or-other.
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