Saturday, March 26, 2016

Black Saturday - If This Be Doomsday!

The cover of Fantastic Four #49 is awe-inspiring, the weird green figure of Galactus obscured but omnipresent in the background with the Silver Surfer swinging freely around his neck like a cosmic chain, the energy bolts erupting from his fingers dashing the ground beneath the feat of the fleeing Fantastic Four, it's all here the drama and the dilemma which faces the planet Earth now that the "Big G" has come.

Galactus has landed on Earth! The Fantastic Four look on at the giant powerful figure as he confers with The Watcher. The Watcher pitches his case for the defense of Earth, but Galactus rejects his petition and forges ahead with his plans to devour the planet's vast energy resources.

Ben Grimm attacks, punching forward as only he knows how and finds his blows have no effect save to cause Galactus to drop a capsule which emits a deadly toxin, to erradicate such pests. The Human Torch attacks, immersing Galactus in flames but those are absorbed and Galactus snuffs out the Torch's fame with two quick eyebeams. The Watcher tells Johnny Storm to desist and join his comrades in the Baxter Building. Johnny does and is shocked to find Ben and Reed cleaning themselves up when in his mind they should be gathering to fight the new menace. He instructed to be patient.

Meanwhile the Silver Surfer finds himself atop a skylight in another part of town and slides inside the apartment it looks down upon. In a moment of great coincidence it turns out to be the apartment of Alica Masters, a blind sculptor and the girlfriend of Ben Grimm. She recognizes the alien nature of the Surfer but also due to her great empathy finds buried in his shining visage vestiges of nobility. She offers to break bread with him, and he accepts.

At the Baxter Building Galactus contructs his massive Energy Converter using the building as a base. The Fab 4 watch the equipment which descends from the orbit assemble and the Watcher describes what will happen. First the oceans will be evaporated as the energy is absorbed and then Earth's cities. Eventually even the core of the planet will be consumed and the Earth will be only a husk when a sated Galactus departs. The Watcher says there is little they can do on their own, but he offers a plan which requires the help of the Human Torch.

At Alicia Masters' apartment the Surfer is put off by the quaint human need for food and transforms mere food and other objects in the room into pure energy free to absorbed directly. Alicia is alarmed by his cold demeanor but again urges him to seek something deeper in his inner self. He admits to discovering beauty in the face of Alicia but again says that he is but the servant of the mighty Galactus, though the plight of the people of Earth faced with imminent destruction does evoke pity. The people of New York City look on helpless and hope the Fantastic Four can save them from a threat they do not really comprehend.

Galactus has at last finished his Converter but when he triggers it there is no function. He discovers The Thing atop the machine destroying a vital element. Ben Grimm is able to catch the great Galactus off guard and knocks him from the building but Galactus does not fall as he has command over gravity itself. Instead to meet this new annoyance he summons from his orbiting ship the Punisher, a might cyborg servant who races to attack.

The Watcher readies Johnny Storm for his quest beyond time and space to retrieve an object which might defeat Galactus.

The Human Torch is transported an impossible distance across space to the homeworld of Galactus himself, a vast space station.

The Punisher lands and confronts the Fantastic Four immediately locking horns with The Thing and Mr. Fantastic. But the Punisher's speed and power are too much for the heroes and they take shelter behind the Invisible Girl's powerful force fields. But Galactus has bought the time he needs to repair his machine and he calls off the Punisher, returning him to space. The three members of the Fantastic Four look on helpless.

Meanwhile Alicia has struck a chord in the soul of the Surfer and he for the first time sees himself as more than a tool for the benefit of Galactus, he feels a kinship with mankind and so goes for the first time to stand against his master. The Watcher sees this and fears what this unplanned intervention will mean for his carefully laid plan to save Earth, and he fears the worst.

This issue of the Fantastic Four shows step by step how helpless the FF are in the face of the cosmic threat of Galactus. Without the intervention of the Watcher they'd have been caught completely off guard and the Earth would have been destroyed. But even with the Watcher's help, in defiance of his sacred pledge to intervene in the affairs of man, they have only a slim hope of salvation.

Galactus has come to Earth, the god has descended and it is the end times unless a savior should appear. The Silver Surfer, an instrument of Galactus is transformed again by the beautiful soul of Alicia Masters, an artist who is able to find beauty in the ugliest situations. She is able to ignite a spark which still smolders inside the herald of Galactus and he himself in defiance of his sacred pledge rises up to defend mankind. The Watcher's doubt throws the whole hopeful moment into one of suspenseful anticipation. Both the Watcher and Alicia have ignited a defense against the awesome Galactus, but will those plans interfere with one another. The finale awaits.

See you tomorrow as mankind's last hope for salvation shows up.

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  1. I always thought they blew it by retconning a "forgotten" humanity to the Surfer. But even that disappointment fades in significance when confronted with the real revelation here, Kirby's beautiful pencils. He was only the best.

    1. As a character in a large cast his novice status as "human" makes sense, but I understand why Stan thought it necessary to create "Norrin Radd" and broaden the background when he was given his own series. It did though reduce the special nature of the character and his symbolic power.

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