Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. If you thought this story arc was getting far-out and cosmic already, issue 531 goes even further… by going back.
Where were we? After taking a top-secret government job, Reed deduced that the cosmic rays that originally gave the FF their powers was no accident. The rays contained a signal from an alien being hoping to contact explorer-geniuses like himself. Then a battleship from the alien’s home world shows up. They are threatening to attack the Earth, believing the alien to be a heretic. Also, the U.S. Army is out to get Reed, after he sabotaged their attempt to recreate the FF’s powers for a bunch of astronauts. Also-also, a social worker is investigating Reed and Sue with concerns that the new Baxter Building in unsafe for their kids.
The FF and the alien have a quick debate about how a scientific, space-faring race can also have crimes against heresy, the alien teleports himself and the FF to a deserted tropical island for their safety. Reed insists on going back to protect New York from the invaders, but the alien says he must do whatever it takes to survive. They debate it some more, and the alien uses the last of his strength to teleport everyone back. The Baxter Building is under fire, with little Franklin and Valeria still inside, being babysat by a group of prospective nannies.
Sue takes the alien down to Reed’s lab, with Reed naming the alien “the Entity” for the first time, making it his name from now on. Johnny is tasked with getting the kids to safety, and Reed slingshots Ben into the sky to clobber the alien ships. Inside, the Entity takes notice of the Negative Zone portal, which hilariously has a big “Do not touch!” sign.
The Entity contacts Reed telepathically. Reed leaves the others to the fight and joins the Entity in the lab. The Entity says the Negative Zone is the one place where he can go that his people cannot find him. Reed says it’s too dangerous, but the Entity is willing to take the risk. He says it’s better to end it all than to keep running.
Outside, Sue and Johnny manage to drive back the invaders, only for them to call in reinforcements. In the lab, Reed recalibrates the Negative Zone portal for the Entity’s unique energy signature. The Entity says he’d been searching for someone like him for three hundred Earth years. In all that time, Reed was the first to respond. He thinks that Reed is despairing, because he’s spent his life only seeing and not truly living. He warns Reed not to become like him, a question in living form. Reed readies the portal, but then tells the Entity, “I want to understand everything.”
We get some more fighting outside the building. Then back in the lab, the Entity offers Reed his hand, saying “You will see all that I know, and all that I still seek.” Then one of the invaders’ missiles gets past Johnny and hits the building. This causes the Negative Zone portal to go haywire. He and the Entity are transported to an outer space scene, which Reed describes as, “Between then and now. Between existence… and the void.”
Reed further elaborates that he is touching the fabric of creation itself, and he’s being hurtled backwards millions of years through time. He and the Entity end up surrounded by darkness, which the Entity says is the void, a time before the big bang. The Entity obsesses over how life came to exist from nothingness. He adds that he must also understand himself. A light appears, and the Entity says it came from “that which is the galaxy within me.” Reed asks if the Entity’s desire for understanding is what caused the big bang. The Entity says, “There is but one way to be sure,” and, “Let there be light.”
Turn the page, and we see the Entity expanding outward, being the big bang, with Reed still floating at the center of it all.
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: This issue tries to get at the heart of who Reed is as a character, suggesting that Reed is unfulfilled because of his desire to understand the nature of the universe. Does this line up with everything we’ve seen about the character we’ve seen before? It’s debatable.
Fade out: Sue takes a leadership role during the battle, hanging back and giving orders to Ben and Johnny.
Clobberin’ time: Ben jokes about wanting the Millennium Falcon to fly down from space and save the day, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. At least, I hope this is a joke.
Flame on: Johnny’s big hero moment is when he rescues the kids and the nannies by blasting a bunch of aliens out of the building. But then he fails to stop an alien missile, which sends Reed and the Entity back to the big bang.
Four and a half/Our gal Val: Franklin and Valeria also get a hero moment, putting themselves between the invaders and the nannies. They maintain faith that Johnny will save them, which he does.
Trivia time: The Marvel Universe has established multiple reasons for why and how the big bang happened. The most well-known is how it’s tied into the origin of Galactus, as seen in Super-Villain Classics #1. But then, an Avengers story stated that the big bang came when leftover matter from a bunch of alternate universes crashing into each other. And then, in Venom of all places, the symbiote king/god Knull said the Celestials did the big bang, and that Knull was there at the time. This FF storyline, meanwhile, is not included in the Marvel Wiki’s entry about the big bang.
Fantastic or frightful? In earlier posts, I praised J. Michael Straczynski for bringing far-out cosmic sci-fi to Fantastic Four, but does he go too far in this issue? Tying the creation of the universe to one character’s search for meaning is some seriously heady stuff. And the thing is, it’s going to get even headier.
Next: Time and again.
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