Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #257 is called “Fragments,” which is appropriate because it contains a little bit of everything.
We begin in outer space, where Galactus is dying. He’s experiencing a rare bout of compassion, having passed up several populated worlds, sparing them and starving himself. Death — that is, the celestial being that is the universe’s living embodiment of Death — appears before Galactus. We learn that the two have a relationship of sorts, with Death calling Galactus “My husband and father, my brother and son.” (Try finding that on Facebook.) She talks him out of the whole compassion thing, saying the universe is a garden the two of them must weed. Nova (formerly Frankie Raye of Earth) shows up and says she has located a planet for Galactus, the Skrull homeworld.
As Nova battles the Skrull armada, the Skrull empress and her daughter Anelle console each other, knowing it is the end of the world. Galactus arrives on the surface of the planet, and uses his powers to sink straight down the its core. The planet is destroyed, and a fulfilled and sleeping Galactus is returned to his ship, with Nova watching over him.
Back in New York, Johnny is out apartment-hunting with girlfriend Julie D’Angelo and her friend Sharon (who, remember, also has a crush on Johnny). Johnny wants a place of his own, and he really likes this Manhattan loft, complete with a skylight for easy entrance and exit when flying. They go to lunch, where there’s talk about why the FF’s costumes are different now, and some comedy shtick with Johnny using his powers to freak out a waitress.
At the hospital, we learn Franklin is recovering from his injuries. Reed announces that the Baxter Building is not a safe place for Franklin, so he and Sue are planning on buying a house in a small town outside the city, to raise their son in an “atmosphere of normalcy.” Ben thinks this is the end of the FF, but Reed says he and Sue will divide their time between parenting and superheroing. Ben is so happy to hear this that he lifts Reed and Sue off the ground. The doctor tells Ben to be careful because of Sue’s “condition.” Yes, she’s pregnant!
Reed and Sue check in Franklin, and writer-artist John Byrne treats us to a poem. That’s right, a poem! In a Marvel superhero comic book! It’s called “What is a child?” Here it is:
Days later, Sue, disguised in a brown wig, goes house-hunting “along the Atlantic coast,” and finds a suburban home for sale she really likes. She rings the doorbell, and that’s the first cliffhanger of the issue. Reed visits Avengers mansion to check in on the still-comatose Vision. While he’s there, the Scarlet Witch fixes him some tea (!) when the alarm goes off. She runs to the medical lab and finds a huge hole in the wall next to where Reed was just standing.
The “to be continued” for this issue is notable, because it promises no further explanations of Reed’s disappearance or Sue’s house-hunting, and no new developments for Ben or Johnny. The “next issue” box on the letters page is just an empty space with no text. Talk about mysterious!
Unstable molecule: Reed says he and Sue are not leaving the FF simply because whenever the team members go their separate ways, circumstances always bring them back together.
Fade out: The letters page for this issue has a reader suggesting it’s time Sue change her name from Invisible Girl to Invisible Woman. The editor offers a third choice: “Mrs. Fantastic.”
Clobberin’ time: Look closely: The doctor at the hospital is actually Ben’s uncle, whom we got to know back in issue #239. The Thing solo series established that he and Aunt Petunia relocated to New York.
Flame on: Johnny says he’s paying for his new apartment with the money he’s earned as owner of 25 percent of Fantastic Four Inc. The skylight in the apartment recalls the bathroom skylight from Roger Stern’s run Amazing Spider-Man around this same time.
Fantastic fifth wheel: We’re told that Nova is so fully transformed that there’s nothing left of her human self anymore. She considers the possibility that she’s falling in love with Galactus.
In one panel, we see that Reed has built a new version of H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot, now named H.U.B.E.R.T. the robot. (Freakin’ H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.)
Commercial break: Not superheroes, mind you, but supercharacters:
Trivia time: Ben’s worrying about whether this is the end of the Fantastic Four was the big cliffhanger at the end of The Thing #2, leading right into this issue.
Why doesn’t Galactus use that big machine of his to devour the planet? The machine is needed to devour one hundred percent of a planet. In his weakened condition, however, Galacus in this issue just goes in and takes what he needs. He still destroys the whole planet, though.
Fantastic or frightful? Here’s a whole issue that exists only to set up future storylines. The Galactus stuff is stellar, especially when you know it isn’t filler but part of something much bigger. There are also some nice character moments and a feeling like these are genuine people.
Next week: In the spirit of this cliffhanger, next week I won’t be reviewing issue #258. In fact, I won’t be reviewing a comic at all. What am I up to? What will it be?!?
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