Written by: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by: Leonard Kirk
Colored by: Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by: VC’s Cory Petit
Published by: Marvel
Weaver: So 616 Galactus walks into an Ultimate Universe and the bartender says…
Seriously, I wasn’t expecting this issue to be about 50% comedy, but it definitely makes the Played For Serious ending that much more serious.
Maillaro: Just a quick observation. This is the first time a story completely set in the Ultimate universe didn’t have Ultimate in the title. Spider-Men did feature Miles Morales, but a lot of that story was still set in the 616 universe.
I know a lot of people don’t like the fact that the 616 universe has been creeping into crossovers with the Ultimate universe. A lot of people point to statements made when Ultimate Spider-Man came out (way back in 2000) that said the two universes would never meet and then say “MARVEL LIED TO US!” Personally, I don’t care if Marvel lied as long as the stories have been good. Spider-Men was a lot of fun, and so far Hunger seems to be solid too.
This book really reached back to touch on some slightly obscure elements from the Ultimate universe, like Rick Jones being Peter Parker’s neighbor at one time before being granted powers by the Watchers. Rick even had one of obelisks that the Ultimate Watchers had used in one of the many generically-named Ultimate crossovers following him around.
I thought this was a nice touch, and these details never detracted from any non-Ultimate reader who might have wandered in to read it.
Or been dragged in by their writing partner!
I agree with you that I wasn’t expecting so much humor. But I also think it set up the end of this comic brilliantly. We see glimpses of a war between the Skrull (whoops, I mean Chitauri) and the Kree…two enemies that refuse to set aside their differences even when faced with cosmic level threats. Things very quickly get dark and dangerous as 616 Galactus merges with the Gah Lak Tus swarm from the Ultimate universe. I liked Joshua Hale Fialkov’s work on I, Vampire quite a bit, though I haven’t read his run on Ultimate Comic Ultimates yet. If it is anything like his work on Hunger, I might have to check that out.
Weaver: I haven’t read much Ultimate universe at all, but I never saw it as an issue when they started bleeding over into other universes. I think the Ultimate Fantastic Four/Marvel Zombies one was the first, right? In any event, I didn’t find this hard to get into at all. None of it seemed to be too deep, very easy to get in on the ground floor. And man, that sequence when Galactus is coming through…beautiful.
The artist was phenomenal. He managed to have a different feel in all the settings that showed up, from Burger Shack to the Skrull ship to the vastness of space. The colors in this were also beautiful…an energy being like Rick Jones turns into or an effect like the Watchers have when they merge with a mortal are both things that can look bad if they’re not handled well with colors. No complaints here, and the vibrant purples of Galactus, including some glints of reflected light, just great stuff. The art team knocked this one out of the park.
I know this is just a set-up comic, and I like it, but I felt like it wasted some page count along the way. There was a lot of repetition in the text at the end, which I know was thematic, but…
Maillaro: Leonard Kirk is one of those artists that never gets the attention he deserves. Anything I have seen by him is great, and he is able to shift styles to fits the book and each scene so smoothly.
Yeah, some of the repetition was damn annoying. The end. New Energy Source. Consume. Merge. Serve. Annoy reader. I was kind of reminded of bargain basement versions of the Borg or the Cyberman. Personally, I like my cosmic destructive forces to be much more articulate. Galactus pretty much typically never shuts up in many of his other appearances. More on that later.
I am a Rick Jones fan boy, so my favorite panel of this book was the two-page spread where we see Rick Jones’ complicated past. Just another ripple effect caused by WOLVERINE, DESTROYER OF REALITY!!!
Weaver: It’s bad enough when one character/group is repeating something over and over and over, here, everyone was doing it. I think ultimately (ha) it didn’t stop this from being a good comic, but it did kill some of the momentum that the excellent beginning set us up for. Thankfully Leonard Kirk to the rescue!
It may be that I’m not an Ultimate universe fan, but at the end of this, I really didn’t feel like grabbing the next issue. It’s hard for me to describe, but here’s Galactus and…I don’t really care.
Maillaro: I will definitely be picking up the rest of this as I am really curious where they are going with this story. Ultimate seems to love stories that wreck the status quo. It is very likely the already pretty battered Earth will be taken another beating here, and I love those kinds of story, especially when we actually get to see some follow-up and everything isn’t okay once the story is over. I am far more interested in this quick, self-contained mini-series than Age of Ultron or Infinity. Epic on a very small, contained scale is definitely in my wheel house.
Weaver: Damn it, now you’re selling me on it too.
Scores? The repetition makes me tax the writing down to a 3. That’s harsh, but it was really offputting. Leonard Kirk and the rest of the art team worked hard to get a 5 here, it’s a beautiful thing.
Maillaro: By the way, a few years ago, Starlin actually created a character named Hunger in Thanos ongoing series who was trying to trick Galactus into helping him eat the universe. When I first saw this title, I was wondering if he was going to pop up here. My guess is probably not.
Don’t forget, a lot of my early comic reading was Silver Surfer. I love Galactus, and seeing him actually presented as a threat and not just someone a more powerful being beats up on (Annihilation) or manipulates (Thanos ongoing) has a huge appeal to me.
4/5 for the writing. 4.5/5 for the art.
Fantastic Four #48-50
Written by: Stan Lee
Penciled by: Jack Kirby
Inked by: Joe Sinnott
Lettered by: Artie Simek
Published by: Marvel
Maillaro: So, this Galactus fellow…he’s been around in comics for a while… Way back in the 60’s, he arrived with his surfboard riding herald to eat Earth.
How much drugs were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on to create a character called Silver Surfer? And how much drugs were the readers on to make that character beloved and to have him keep coming back, including getting a series that lasted well over 100 issues. This is the most ridiculous concept for a character ever…
Well…okay maybe Black Racer, the skiing embodiment of death is a tad worse…
But it somehow works!! Uhm..Surfer, not Black Racer… That guy just plain sucks…
Weaver: I don’t know…I mean, I love science fiction films from the 50’s, and you can see that they inspired the style and actions of the Surfer particularly a lot. The guy sent to Earth to herald the coming of a destroyer is a classic sci fi meme, and usually he’s someone that looks human enough except for a few minor differences, like he’s extra tall, or wearing strange clothes, or…shiny and just wearing underwear and hanging out on a surfboard.
You have to remember, this was at a time when surfing was a really popular pop culture thing, with all the beach blanket movies and the Beach Boys one of the most successful bands not named The Beatles. The surfboard gave it a connection to something popular in Americana at the time, which gave a stark contrast to the message coming out.
Maillaro: Are you serious defending the creation and design of the Silver Surfer?
I have to call a time out on this review to try other ones…
Weaver: The only piece of comic art on my wall is an issue of Green Lantern signed by Martin Nodell. A green lantern was a symbol used by train conductors to signal that everything was safe, which inspired the character back when rail travel was a significant part of the American experience. To a generation of Americans, the green lantern was a sign of safety and comfort.
Maillaro: Stilt Man? Rainbow Raider? I will admit those are both cheats. They are no where neat as popular and iconic as Green Lantern or Silver Surfer…
Weaver: You love Stilt Man and you know it. Don’t even try to front.
Maillaro: Damn right I do! I also love Silver Surfer. The question was “How the hell do these characters even exist?”
Weaver: The better question is how can Stilt Man NOT exist. I mean, there’s epic amounts of awesome, and then there’s Stilt Man, way above the normal awesome scale.
When you pick up a comic, you need to be able to be prepared for the ludicrous. Even a serious comic like Sandman has moments of hellbent silliness. If you’re not prepared to accept some strange stuff, you probably shouldn’t be in this hobby. I mean, look at some of the most popular characters…Spider-Man, Batman…these are animals that most people despise and don’t want anything to do with, but stick a guy in a costume based on them, and they’re awesome. Superman came out during a time when Nazi Germany’s ubermensch rhetoric had kind of poisoned that idea for a lot of people, but it was subverting that idea into an honest to god nice guy (until the 60’s superdickery era) that made him work out.
Maillaro: Well Batman was trying to strike fear into criminals who are “a cowardly and superstitious lot.” And I have always consider Superman the perfect example of “taking it back” especially since he was created by Jews.
But you make many good points. I concede this debate to you. Pretty sure that is the first time in history I have ever said those words to you…
Now let’s get back to the FF. One thing that immediately jumps out at me is that this is a three part story. That was very rare at the time. I will admit I am far from an expert, but all the early Fantastic Four stories I read were all one and done’s. In the first twenty issues, I didn’t even come across any two part stories, much less a three parter.
What is even odder is that the story doesn’t seem to begin or end where it show. There are probably two issues of content for the Galactus story, but they are sort of off-set to spread over three issues. Issue 48 starts with about 10 pages wrapping up an Inhumans story, before we get the Silver Surfer arriving on Earth to herald the arrival of Galactus. And in issue 50, the Galactus problem is sorted in the first 15 pages, so the last ten pages are all about Johnny Storm arriving at college and meeting his new roommate, Wyatt Wingfoot. There is also an oddly placed subplot about a football coach who feels at the end of his career and really in need of some star power to revitalize him.
One thing that has always stood out at me about this story is how the FF ended up defeating Galactus. Watcher giving them access to the Ultimate Nullifier and Silver Surfer deciding to betray Galactus are pretty much the only reasons Marvel Earth isn’t dust. This wasn’t a victory by the Fantastic Four as much as series of assists from cosmic beings who decided to draw the line at stopping Galactus from eating Earth.
Weaver: That’s the really interesting thing about the Silver Age. The Golden Age, if you ever read a Golden Age comic…well, each comic kind of takes place totally separate from each other one. It’s almost like they sat the writer and artist in a room with nothing but a desk, said, “Batman versus Joker…GO!” and waited a couple hours. The early Silver Age had similar things. You had your origin story, and then it was just monster of the month. I remember reading Essential Avengers Volume 1 and being shocked when a cliffhanger occurred, because those things just didn’t happen back then. Marvel (and I imagine DC too, but I haven’t read many early Silver Age DC things, plus their Silver Age started earlier) was starting to realize there were people who bought their comics every month and wanted a little payoff for doing so, so we start getting multipart stories and continuity. And we start getting fierce continuity too, more than the old “Doom forced us to write him in!”
Maillaro: What is really amazing is that many of these changes are still around to this day. The comic industry did a lot of shifting in the period from the 30’s to the 60’s. Pulp heroes, to superheroes, to crime/horror/romance/monsters to superheroes, which at some point basically just dominated the entire market. And has stayed that way! And yes, I know I am oversimplifying, but this column has wandered off track enough already. We can go into more details on that at another time.
Another thing I miss from the time is anthology books! We talked about this some in our Pym column a few weeks ago. Comixology recently popped up the first issue of Mad, which started as an anthology parody series of various comic genres that were big at the time.
Weaver: Remember Marvel Comics Presents? It had two covers and four stories and was usually pretty great since you could have things like, say, a Havok solo story or some random story about a dog or whatever because the Wolverine feature would make it sell anyway. That was a great revisitation of that great idea.
ANYWAY. So the Fantastic Four basically save the day…through no real fault of their own. Which is pretty amazing, actually. How often is it that the heroes have such a small role in their own success? Great comics. And I think they age well, even if they’re super super wordy.
Maillaro: You know what is really weird. The Ultimate Nullifier keeps popping up in comics lately. In Morbius of all places, the Rose seems to be working on building one. It showed up someplace else recently, but I can’t seem to remember where. This just seems like a one time DEM that should never have come up again, but Marvel does love sifting through their history whenever they can.
Weaver: But you can’t just make something that awesome then throw it away. It is established here as being awesome. It is awesome here. Someone is always going to want something like that revisited.
Maillaro: HEY! It just occurred to me, this was the big budget summer blockbuster before there was such a thing!
Weaver: Yup, it was definitely a summer blockbuster, complete with the somewhat nonsensical lead-up. “I can just eat you right now…but I prefer to play with my food.”
Maillaro: And the every day citizens turning against the heroes.
Did you ever read Marvels? I love the retelling of this story there.
Weaver: I have not! Is it available digitally?
Oh, also, scores. I’m going to give Stan a 4 on this totally crazypants story, with an asterisk indicated that it’s extremely influential and deserves probably a contextual 5. Kirby is in his element with big crazy stuff, but he’s still doing a billion titles a month, so his figures have that blockiness that he found hard to shake. I’ll give him a 3.5.
Maillaro: Marvels is available digitally on Comixology, BUT, there is a catch. They split the 4 issues into two parts each, so instead of 4 issues at 2 bucks a pop, it is now 9 issues at 2 bucks a pop. It is on Marvel Digital Unlimited though.
One thing I did want to comment on before I got to the scores is that I love that Galactus changes his outfit from issue to issue. In the first issue, he is a dreadful green and red. In the second issue, he is wearing purple, but he is wearing a way too tiny skirt. I kept laughing at any scene where he is towering above people below. Talk about adding insult to injury…MY DONG IS BIGGER THAN YOUR HOME…WHICH I AM ABOUT TO CONSUME! It isn’t until the last issue, he finally gets all that sorted out and he’s in the costume he has basically worn ever since with minor tweaks.
Black Bolt is also having some costume issues…what is with that bone headpiece in the beginning of issue 48? Even sadder? He wore the same thing in the issue of New Avengers that came out this week… SOME FASHION MUST DIE???
Weaver: Things like that…they didn’t really have focus groups for comics back then, Stan and Jack were just banging them out as fast as they could. So Galactus’ miniskirt or goofy colors have to be corrected in the next issue after getting the “WTF” letters from readers, or having people personally mention it, since Stan was a very approachable person…still is, really. The problem comes in when a modern artist or writer wants to conform with the “original version” of something, and the reason that version isn’t still around is that it just wasn’t working. Yellow costume Daredevil is another example of this. I understand wanting to tell a story based in Daredevil’s formative years, but can we just pretend (like we have many other times) that he always wore the red? No? Why not?
I’d like to revisit the fact that there were other stories melding into these three issues…again, what you have is the transition from one and done to longer story arcs, with Stan and Jack experimenting with running an issue with more or less two stories, one from the previous, and one leading to the next. I don’t like Fantastic Four, really. Never have. But I respect the fact that this was very much the experimental room that set the tone for Marvel as a whole. Every other title they had was much safer, building on what they discovered here. And like any experiment, sometimes it fails, so you have to try it again.
Maillaro: It’s sort of like when people ask questions like why do Klingons look so different between Star Trek and The Next Generation. Anyone with half a brain understands that the reason was because of changes to make up, budget, and special effects. Not to mention changes to what is and isn’t politically correct. I always loved the line in the first X-Men movie where Wolverine mockingly asks “What, you guys don’t wear yellow spandex?”
Yeah, it is very clear that Stan Lee and Marvel were willing to try different things to make themselves stand out. DC had a pretty big head start on them when it came to superheroes since Batman and Superman were basically published straight through from the late 30’s, so Marvel really humanized their characters more and came up with these “never ending” arcs. By starting and stopping the stories off-set like that, you create a situation where there is not a clear jumping off point. It’s smart business, and very ahead of it’s time. Like I said, you can still see those influences today.
Weaver: An even better example is the people who talk about “Worf’s mutating head” in the first few seasons of TNG. They moved it around a bit before they got comfortable with a design. Art needs to be tested.
Alright, it’s time for you to pony up on scores. I’ve already listed mine.
Maillaro: Sorry, I had some delays in finalizing scores…more about that in the post script to this column!
I would go with a solid 4.5 on the story. If it was JUST the Galactus story, it probably would be a 5, but the whole football thing at the end of issue 50 kind of annoyed me. This is the 50th issue of your flagship series, and the end of a big story. Ending that comic the way they did was so anti-climatic. Art…I really am just not a fan of Kirby or old looking comics. I respect what he did for the industry, but it’s just not for me. 3/5 is the best I can do for it.
Next look is sort of a comics desert (damn fifth week months). Fearless Defenders is starting a new arc, so we can probably hit that. And yes, the sexual connotation was intentional.
Weaver: I’m all over Fearless Defenders. Let’s make it our next Morbius. Except for the part where Marvel cancels it.
Maillaro: Any thoughts on an old school review?
Weaver: I thought we were sorta talking Marvels on that.
Maillaro: That is actually what I was going to suggest, so win!
I learned something today!
Hey, kids! Mike Maillaro here. You might remember me from such great masterpieces as this column. I am here to tell you that it is always a good idea to actually read the comic you are reviewing BEFORE you start reviewing it. I started my review of FF 48-50 before I had actually sat down to read it, and made some factual mistakes based on reading other sources and other adaptations of this story. Whoops. Thankfully, I was able to correct that bonehead mistake before we finished the column.
So, this is a public service announcement. DON’T BE A LAZY BUM, KIDS!
Weaver: I actually started it before rereading it (I’d read it before), but I regret that too. From now on, intellectual honesty above all.
Maillaro: See y’all next time!
|Maillaro – Story||Weaver – Story||Maillaro – Art||Weaver – Art|
|Fantastic Four #48-50||4.5||4||3||3.5|