Fantastic Friday: Dick Tracy destroys the universe

Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #341 continues and almost concludes the FF’s latest journey through time and space with the fate of all existence on the line.

The FF, Thor, and Iron Man have traveled into the distant future, where Galactus is using an astronomically huge device to devour not just planets but the entire universe. Also, Reed believes Sue and Johnny are dead, when Johnny has secretly become possessed by mysterious blue-skinned woman and has abducted Sue. As this issue starts, Reed says the heroes must find the Ultimate Nullifier, the weapon that stopped Galactus way back in issues #49-51. Then Reed gets a message from Sue, still alive, pleading for him to return to Earth. Thor uses his newfound teleportation ability to go back to Earth, where Sue has fought Johnny, knocked him out, and has him trapped in a force field.

The heroes secure Johnny to the time sled, and head back into space. Thor teleports everyone to Galactus’ ship. (This is a new ship because one, his original ship was destroyed in the first Secret War and two, we’re still in the distant future, remember.) Inside, the heroes fight their way through what appears to be security weapons, but is actually just the ship’s housecleaning machines.

The heroes find Galactus’ weapons vault, another mind-bogglingly huge space containing weapons from all over the universe. (Why does the godlike Galactus even need a weapons vault? We’ve never seen him take trophies from planets he’s destroyed.) Ben tries a light switch, only to find it broken. From this, Reed deduces that the Ultimate Nullifier would be hidden in plain sight, and it is behind the broken light switch. (Why is there a human-sized light switch in an alien space fortress? Why does a room bigger than a planet operate its lighting on a single switch? I’m really over-thinking all this, aren’t I?)

Sue snatches the Nullifier out of Reed’s hands, revealing that she is now the one possessed by the blue-skinned woman, having switched places with Johnny. Finally we get the reveal that this is space criminal Nebula, who, along with fellow villain Dr. Druid, concocted this plan to follow the FF into the future and secure the power of the Ultimate Nullifier for themselves. Nebula tries to nullify the heroes. Reed, however, saw this coming, and he and Iron Man rigged the Nullifier to backfire. Backfire it does, separating the disembodied Nebula from Sue.

The team travels back to Galactus, where they get his attention by attacking his mouth (!) with the combined power of Thor’s hammer, Johnny’s nova flame, and Iron Man’s repulsors set to max. Galactus reaches to grab the heroes, only for Reed to throw the Nullifier into Galactus’ hand. Then the Nullifier does what it was designed to do, and nullifies Galactus. This is depicted by a plain white space representing pure nothingness, spreading outward from Galactus. Just as it, too, threatens to devour the universe, Reed says that if the heroes exit the time bubble at the exact point where they entered it, the bubble will seal behind them, isolating the nullification from the rest of the time stream.

The FF barely escape the nullification, depicted as a blank white space growing around them, culminating in an all-white page of the comic. When this comic was originally published, however, there was an ad for the 1990 Dick Tracy movie on the opposite page. The ink bled through, showing the ad on the all-white page. In his Modern Masters vol. 8 interview, artist Walt Simonson describes this as, “Hi, we’re racing away from a giant picture of Dick Tracy.”

The heroes exit the time bubble and reenter the time stream. They reencounter Nebula, who is floating around in the time stream, and try to save her. They’re too late, and she vanishes. The FF successfully arrive back in the present, in Four Freedoms Plaza. Thor and Iron Man don’t make it back, but Reed says because it’s time travel, they can go back for them later. (!) All seems well, but in the other room, a TV news report states that U.S. President Dan Quayle and Soviet Premiere Josef Stalin are at odds, and the world is on the verge of nuclear war.

To be continued!

Unstable molecule: Is it too much of a stretch for Reed to figure out as much as he does? Probably it feels this way because he reveals how much he knows only after the fact.

Fade out: Nebula said it gave her “inexpressible pleasure” to kiss Reed while she possessed Sue. Is that creepy? I’m thinking that’s creepy.

Clobberin’ time: When Reed and Sue are reunited, Ben makes some sarcastic quips, but Sharon is there to point out that he’s just as glad Sue is still alive as anyone.

Flame on: Johnny spends most of the comic unconscious, but manages to summon his all-powerful nova flame to attach Galactus.

Fantastic fifth wheel: On Galactus’ ship, Sharon stays behind to watch Johnny, saying she can defeat Johnny in a fight if she really has to. (We don’t get to see if she can back up that statement.)

Commercial break: Do you have the stomach for this ad?

Trivia time: It’ll later be revealed that Nebula in this story is not Nebula, but Ravonna, the love interest of Dr. Druid, merely disguised as Nebula. (I’m not entirely clear on why she does this. When this is revealed in Avengers Spotlight, Ravonna merely says that “Nebula” is but one of many names she goes by.)

Thor at one point exclaims, “By the Gjallerhorn!” In Norse mythology this was a powerful horn blown by the god Heimdall. You can be sure Marvel’s Heimdall also his own version. These days, however, most folks know the name Gjallerhorn as one of the weapons in the Destiny games.

Fantastic or frightful? Some have criticized this story for being all plot and no character, but I say it once again has the human Reed standing tall in the face of cosmic space gods and coming off as their equal. That’s serious character strength right there. The kind missing from the Fantastic Four movies, I might add. Walt Simonson’s sci-fi artwork continues to impress as well.

Next week: Welcome to the gun show


Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.


About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH.
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