Rereading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. After all those stand-alone stories, writer-artist John Byrne’s run on the title really takes off with a huge cosmic epic. It begins right here in issue #242, so buckle up.
We begin with Terrax, who you’ll remember as Galactus’ new herald from all that confusing business with the Sphinx and Nova back in issues #208-212. Terrax is flying straight toward Earth, and the caption tells us that he is no longer a herald.
From there, half of this issue is all character-based stuff. It’s Christmas in New York, and Reed and Sue are putting up the tree, only for Reed to reveal that it’s an artificial tree. (Futuristic!) Then little Franklin makes one of his toys fly across the room, except that it (Buzz Lightyear reference) is not a flying toy. Ben is walking alone in snowy Central Park where he’s attacked by muggers (!) and rolls them up into a big snowball, like you do. Johnny and Frankie visit Frankie’s friend Julie Angel, who is rehearsing for a play. The daily life stuff is then interrupted when a strange grid-like phenomenon appears in the sky over New York.
Our heroes dutifully reconvene at the Baxter Building, where Reed says a “space warp” has materialized around the city. Then, unimaginably, the top two stories of the building are destroyed! It’s Terrax, and he goes nuts with his powers. He punches Ben downward several stories, and then he throws Reed and Johnny around. Ben returns to the fight and punches Terrax out of the building and through several other buildings. Terrax doesn’t really give a reason why he’s mad at the FF, he just is.
Terrax flies to the top of the World Trade Center (sigh) and goes even crazier with power. He surrounds Manhattan with energy waves, cutting off the bridges and tunnels. In Queens, this makes Peter Parker’s spider-sense go haywire. The same happens to Daredevil’s radar sense, almost making him fall off a rooftop. Also outside the city, Thor and Iron Man drop what they’re doing and investigate.
Terrax then lifts all of Manhattan off of the Earth’s surface and into space, where Galactus’ ship is waiting. The FF confront Terrax on the rooftop, where Terrax makes his demands. He says Galactus is in a weakened state, his powers almost at their lowest. He wants the FF to destroy Galactus. If they don’t, he will destroy Manhattan.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Reed is eco-friendly all of a sudden, not wanting to senselessly kill a tree just to celebrate Christmas.
Fade out: Sue demonstrates one of her rarely-used powers, to make visible anything that is invisible. She does this with Terrax’s energy field around Manhattan, pushing her power to the limit.
Clobberin’ time: Ben is melancholy because, he says, he’s still dwelling on living the good life in Liddleville, the artificial world where he was human again, from issue #236.
Flame on: While out for a stroll with Frankie, Johnny passes by the flophouse where he first met the Submariner, for a little continuity nod.
Fantastic fifth wheel: Frankie is asked to stay behind when the guys confront Terrax. Only this time it’s to act as bodyguard for Sue, after exerting her power left her in a weakened state. There’s a little bit of foreshadowing when Frankie says she hasn’t had a superheroic opportunity to save the world yet.
H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot is still around, helping take care of Franklin. Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.
Four and a half: I guess we’re meant to believe that Franklin used his powers to make his non-flying toy fly. Sue and Reed aren’t that concerned about this, even though Franklin’s powers once threatened to destroy the world and all that.
Commercial break: I love that the mom is knitting while on the roller coaster.
Trivia time: The play Julie is rehearsing contains lines and staging taken directly from Elfquest #3, by Wendy and Richard Pini. Richard later wrote a letter to Marvel expressing how flattered the Pinis were with the reference. Marvel would eventually reprint the original four volumes of Elfquest and John Byrne would go on to write and draw some Elfquest comics of his own. And, because we’re talking Elfquest, here is the required-by-nerd-law 1976 photo of Wendy Pini dressed as Red Sonja:
Fantastic or frightful? This is a fun issue that combines thoughtful character-building moments and far-out cosmic action — it’s everything what we want from a Fantastic Four adventure. I hope the makers of the new movie have read this one. Say, just when is that new movie going come out?
Next week: We interrupt our regular schedule to bring you…
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.