Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fantastic Four #545

Black Panther
Fantastic Four #545

In which we learn the Gravity of the situation…

"Reconstruction: Chapter Two – Don’t Make Me Embarrass You in Front of Your Friends”
Writer – Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller – Paul Pelletier
Inker – Rick Magyar
Letterer – V.C.’s Russ Wooton
Colorist – Paul Mounts
Asst Editor – Molly Lazer
Editor – Tom Brevoot
Editor-in-Chief – Joe Quesada
June 2007

We intro’ed these shenanigans a bunch last issue, so I’m just gonna roll right into the story today…

We begin with Reed and Sue solar sailing their way to Titan. Sue’s a bit miffed at not knowing their destination, but as they close in on Saturn’s moon, a hologram of Mentor appears and welcomes them to his home. That kind of blows part of the reveal of where they are going, but only a small part of it. Reed still gets to pull back the curtain and show Sue where they are headed.

And of course, she worries about how things are back with the other two of the superhero foursome, which is the perfect lead-in for the book to drop is right where they are. And where they are us about to go toe-to-toe with the Silver ‘fricken Surfer.

And the reason for this upcoming throwdown is the planet-sized kelpto named Epoch, who just happens to be harboring the body of a stolen Earthman superhero named Greg Willis a/k/a Gravity. Epoch is sheltering the remains for some reason. The FF just arrived here to question him, but now it seems the Surfer is going to feed him to Galactus for a snack. 

There’s a bunch of reasons for this beyond Galactus is hungry which we will get into next book, but first a word from our superhero team!
And that word is “get-ready-to-rumble”! I love this sequence because we catch T’Challa in some very human like interactions. He plays Ben’s straight-man, which is very much Reed like, shares an intimate second with Ororo which isn’t something Reed would let happen this close to a developing situation, and then instead of putting a leash on Johnny, he encourages the lad to “go wild” in a way that Reed wouldn’t. Panther doesn’t avoid diplomacy but he actively believes in preparing for the worst, something that Reed wouldn’t do. Reed wouldn’t want it to seem like the FF was provoking anyone, whereas T’Challa wants to negotiate from a position of strength. I’m intrigued.

Ben attempts to de-escalate things, but Surfer’s not having it…

…which sounds to Ben like that is the bell of round one. Ready, everyone? ‘Cause Here! We! GO!

Ben about gets turned to pebbles by a blast of the Power Cosmic…, but Johnny swoops in just as Surfer gets serious and makes off with his teammate to a nearby asteroid.

And while they prepare for the Surfer to follow, he’s detained by the sudden appearance of a thicker patch of space that he wrongly attributes to Epoch…

…only to find that it is courtesy of Storm, who is feeling a bit cocky. That’s the Silver Surfer, dear. What do you think you can do against a guy that wields cosmic power, Ororo? I mean, if you’re bluffing that’s great, but he’s clearly unimpressed.


Pardon me for thinking Storm was pulling a fast one here. Even in space, girl’s got game.

And speaking of game, this entire thing is about obtaining the dead body of Gravity, whom Epoch is sheltering. That trophy won’t go to the winner of this beat down though, because Epoch starts speeding time up at the cost to her own power reserves in order to accomplish THIS!

That’s right, baby! Gravity’s BACK! (I really liked him in Beyond! Did you go get it yet? No? Bad reader! Bad! Bad!)

And we know what Epoch’s deal for Gravity being chosen as the recipient of the greatest honor in the universe prize. It’s the same thing Eon gave Quasar and Captain Mar-Vell, the coveted Protector of the Universe prize.

After having to ask twice if he was dead, Greg decides he’s on an LSD kick of some kind gand given that he’s floating in space talking to a giant planetoid with a glowing face and tentacles I’d say that’s probably the reaction we’d all have in his situation.

Epoch isn’t having it though and forces some cosmic knowledge and power on Gravity, in a rather painful way.

While all this is going on, the Surfer has broken free of Storms electrical discharge and he’s a bit…miffed.

Johnny takes him off his board, but for a guy bonded to that cosmic surf plank that just makes a usable project aimed at an enemy. Nite-nite, Torch.

However, upon calling back his flying steed, the Surfer encounters an unexpected rider…

…Isn’t that a neat graphic? Anyway…

T’Challa bests the Surfer in hand-to-hand combat and gets him in a wrestling hold even the Surfer can’t break. He wants a chance to de-escalate the situation and talk things out.

..sadly, as soon as Panther starts talking Stardust steps in and blasts him and the Surfer back to neutral corners. He drops Ben into some kind of force ball and apparently knocks Panther unconscious. Which is sad, as Panther’s maneuver bore fruit: the Surfer wanted to hear why the Fantastic Four were searching for Epoch too.

Except T’Challa is playing Opossum and Surfer knows it. At this point however the tension between the groups has dissipated and Surfer learns the group is only there to recover Gravity’s body.

And this aside happens between Ben and Norrin that really shows a sliver of what McDuffie can do with these characters. For all this banging about for the past 17 pages, if there can be moments like this then you’ve got a winning FF run, in my opinion. As long as you spice up your people punching things with some philosophy or smarts, then I’m on your side, book. No matter who makes up the FF nor how I feel about the editorial mandates enacted to make them come to be.

And certainly I feel that when the book turns the tables on us and has Ben flat declare that he isn’t going to let Galactus nosh on Epoch. The team discussion that follows is EPIC. Johnny and Storm side with Ben. T’Challa attempts making a blanket decision against taking a stand for Epoch…

…and this bit of face-off in the wake of Reed’s actions during Civil War is amazingly pointed. Wow! What a dynamic the book sets up here. Had I been buying Marvel at the time, I would have put the FF on my pull list the very day I read this one. Love to see where this would end up going.

Storm forces T’Challa’s hand, flatly stating that they can’t walk away. Love that Ben is chomping at the bit here and Johnny has to talk him down. 

The group tells Surfer who’s reply is “…take this opportunity to tell him yourself.” as Galactus’s ball-shaped spaceship appears. While Galactus starts putting together his world-eating machine, T’Challa has Michael Collins bring the ship around and they bug out. Gone in a flash! That’s Panther’s big plan apparently. 

The thing is flabbergasted and then gets pissed. Storm’s calm demeanor belies something else in the works though. She truly trusts her husband.

He’s about to take his frustrations out on the Surfer when suddenly…

…a cosmically powered-up Gravity finally makes himself known, heralding a REALLY big head-to-head next issue.

We’ll take a look at that tomorrow, but for now let’s agree that first two books show a bunch of promise for this new squad. Way better than I had ever hoped for.

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