Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. How do you do a Galactus story different from the original, classic Galactus story? There’s no right answer to that question, but Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo give it a try in issue #522.
Recap: Aliens obsessed with using invisibility to hide from Galactus came to Earth wanting to destroy Sue for her powers. Reed faked them out by switching Sue’s power with Johnny. Then Galactus himself showed up and made Johnny his new herald. While Johnny and Sue adjust to their new powers, Reed, Sue, Ben and special guest star Nova head off into space to confront Galactus and get Johnny back. Johnny, not wanting to lead Galactus to any inhabited planets, confronts Galactus as to why the guy even needs a herald. Galactus gave him a stern, “Go on.”
This issue begins with Johnny recounting Galactus’ origin story. Galactus was originally Galan, a scientist on the planet Taa. Fearing the planet was doomed, Galaen and three others flew into space in hopes of salvation. Something went wrong and they were bombarding with cosmic rays and were transformed. Johnny remarks how similar this is the FF’s origin, and he moves on. Galan’s ship is destroyed, and he’s contacted by the “sentience of the universe” who draws all matter into itself and collapsed the universe, creating the big bang, and naming Galan as its heir. Galan was transformed into Galactus, a being with great cosmic power, and hunger to devour entire worlds.
Cut back to the present, and Johnny says Galactus has forgotten what it means to be human, even though hunger is a basic human need. Galactus zaps Johnny with energy blasts to put him back in his place. The FF and Quasar show up to rescue Johnny, albeit temporarily. Using his newfound powers of cosmic sight, Johnny is able to see his teammates’ memories.
Galactus loses interest in Quasar and starts preparing his converter machine, which he uses to help him devour planets. Johnny comes up with a plan to wreck the converter. Ben, Sue, and Quasar go about trashing the inside of Galactus’ ship, while Reed and Johnny debate whether the cosmic power that transformed Galactus is the same as the cosmic rays that gave the FF their powers. Johnny says it’s the same in principle.
Using the knowledge given to him by Johnny, Reed has Quasar build a machine out of quantum energy. Galactus threatens to remove Johnny’s cosmic power, while Ben and Sue succeed in destroying the converter’s self-guidance system just as the converter heads down to a nearby planet. Galactus comes to the planet to repair the converter. Ben points out that Quasar’s machine is a variation on the one that switched Johnny and Sue’s powers. Johnny uses the power cosmic to fire up the machine, telling everyone to cross their fingers.
A beam shoots out of Quasar’s machine and strikes Galactus. It appears to have no effect at first, but then Galactus seems to disappear and his armor collapses to the ground. Johnny transforms back to normal, losing his cosmic awareness. Then a man emerges from Galactus’ armor. Galactus has transformed back into Galan – human again.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: In Johnny’s vision of Reed, he sees Reed as a gifted scientist in college, exploring a jungle, and romancing Sue. This further establishes Reed as a Doc Savage-like adventurer, rather than a stuck-up guy never leaving his lab.
Fade out: Johnny’s vision of Sue is only her caring for Franklin and Valeria. It kind of sucks that we don’t see her have any other interests or experiences, but maybe Johnny is bringing his own preconceptions to the vision, as Sue was a surrogate mom to him growing up.
Clobberin’ time: Johnny’s vision of Ben shows Ben as a football star and as a heroic test pilot. It’s telling that Johnny only sees Ben as human and not as a rock monster.
Flame on: Johnny is upset with his teammates because he believes that not only did they replace him so quickly, they replaced him with Quasar of all people. I for one am not seeing any official “welcome to the team” scene for Quasar, so unlike Johnny I’m okay with Quasar being a guest and not an official FF fifth member.
SUE-per spy: The 2019 Invisible Woman miniseries established that Sue has had a double life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent all this time. Johnny doesn’t see this in his vision of her, though. Either he’s only seeing her life before that, or maybe he somehow already knows about her spy gig.
Trivia time: Galactus’ origin story is sort of like Doctor Doom’s in that there have been so many retellings of it, there’s no way to be sure which version is the real one. Prior to this, the origin was told in Thor #169, and then a longer version in Super-Villain Classics #1. It’ll later be retold again in Ultimates vol 3 #2 and in Fantastic Four: Grand Design.
You might recall that Galactus transformed back into human Galan once before, in the Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Comics Magazine miniseries. But, that part of the story was wiped from everyone’s memories by the Cosmic Cube. This issue suggests that even Galactus himself had his memory wiped of that incident.
Who, exactly, is the “Sentience of the universe” who saved Galan from destruction while also causing the big bang? The Marvel Wiki reports that this was Eternity, the living embodiment of all things. It’s a rare moment of Eternity taking an active rather than passive role in matters regarding creation and existence.
Fantastic or frightful? This is another issue where everything moves a fast pace, setting all the pieces in place so that we get all the good stuff in the next issue. That seems to be intentional on Mark Waid’s part, with one issue being plot followed by one focused on character, then one on plot, and so on. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of fun cosmic Marvel action in this one.
Next: So this is Earth.
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