Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Here’s the next part of the multi-issue Negative Zone arc, promising more spaced-out space adventure.
We begin in the Negative Zone, on board a gigantic spaceship, that’s all cruddy and run-down inside. The aliens on board locate a strange ship and beam it aboard. It’s the Fantastic Four’s exploratory module. Our heroes are quick to comment on the musty stink of the inside of the ship, and Reed estimates that it is ten thousand years old. The aliens rush out to confront our heroes, and there’s a brief fight.
The alien commander stops the fight, and says the FF are their honored guests. They treat the heroes to a lavish meal, which Reed says is safe to eat. The commander tells his story. The aliens are from the planet Kestor, which was once a paradise. After a series of eco-disasters, it was decided that the planet was no longer inhabitable, so the entire population was loaded onto an arc. Most are in suspended animation, except for the crew and their descendants. Then, there was another disaster, which shorted out the ship’s computer, erasing the location of their new home world. The aliens have been wandering space ever since, in hopes of finding it. Reed takes a look at the computer and says there are backups that he might be able to fix.
Back on Earth, Julie Angel is hanging out with her roommate Sharon. Julie has just got a spunky new short haircut, and calls the Baxter Building to ask if Johnny wants to come over a see it. Annihilus is still lurking all alone inside the Baxter Building, and he inexplicably answers the phone (!) and tells Julie off. He then collapses, finding it hard to breathe. He removes his exo-skeletal helmet (we don’t see his face) and, although we don’t learn his plan yet, he promises annihilation for both his universe and ours.
In the Negative Zone, Reed has located a planet nearly identical to Kestor. The alien arc lands, and the commander and his number one are first to set foot on this new world. It’s a lush green paradise, complete with pretty butterflies, but the aliens won’t have it. They rush back into the ship, calling the planet foul and polluted. Reed realizes that the aliens have evolved to live inside the filth-ridden ship, but the ones in suspended animation are still primed for conditions on the new world. The commander refuses this explanation, saying, “We do not evolve.”
The commander launches engines. Reed tries to stop him, and a fight breaks out. The aliens duke it out with the FF for a few pages, when number one reveals to the commander a terrible truth. The FF fight their way into the commander’s chamber, to find him dead of suicide. Number one says that when the ship’s computer was damaged, everyone in suspended animation also died. This was kept secret from the surviving crew, so they’d have something to hope for. The FF agree to keep the secret. They part ways with the aliens. We’re told the aliens will continue on their hopeless quest… forever.
Unstable molecule: Reed has invented special nutrition pills for the FF to eat during their journey, which keep them sustained but have no taste.
Fade out: Sue uses her powers in multiple ways during the fight, tricking them with invisibility and stunning them with force fields.
Clobberin’ time: Ben starts eating the alien food before Reed gives him the okay. Perhaps Ben has a super-strong stomach.
Flame on: Julie’s roommate Sharon thinks to herself that she wouldn’t mind having Johnny visit again, so Johnny’s new romance is now officially a love triangle.
Commercial break: Yum.
Trivia time: This issue was on TV! On a February 1983 episode of The A-Team titled “A Small and Deadly War,” the character Howlin’ Mad Murdock can clearly be seen reading this comic.
Fantastic or frightful? Another old fashioned sci-fi short story, this one heavily reminiscent of early Star Trek. It’s odd that Reed just lets the aliens go at the end instead of continue trying to help them, but along the way there’s a lot of fun human/alien interaction and more jaw-droppingly gorgeous art from John Byrne.
Next week: Intellect and romance triumphs over brute force and cynicism.
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