Fantastic Four #205-214
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #205, Fantastic Four #206, Fantastic Four #207, Fantastic Four #208, Fantastic Four #209, Fantastic Four #210, Fantastic Four #211, Fantastic Four #212, Fantastic Four #213, Fantastic Four #214
Well, this arc meets the "long" part of the qualification for epic, anyway.
The good news is that there's really not a lot going on here, so i don't have to waste too much time summarizing it. It's a crossover with the soon-to-be-cancelled Nova (i have the Nova issues placed prior to this arc).
There's a war between the Skrulls and the Xandarians.
The Fantastic Four minus the Human Torch have followed Xandarian Queen Adora up a beam of light and back to her homeworld.
The FF join in against the Skrulls...
...but soon get captured and zapped with an aging-ray.
There's some Skrull politics going on as well. We've got Emperor Dorrek, longtime leader of the Skrulls. His daughter, Princess Anelle, is nowhere to be seen. But he's a got a wife that we haven't seen before, Empress R'Klll. She says that Dorrek is only in power because he killed her father and married her.
Later in this arc R'Klll kills Dorrek and assumes control of the Skrull Empire.
Meanwhile Nova, along with the rejects from his canceled comic (Powerhouse, Diamondhead, Crimebuster, and Comet) (collectively the New Champions, apparently), along with the Sphinx and Dr. Sun, travel to Xandar, a planet that has been blown up and reconstructed with a series of tubes.
The Sphinx wants to figure out how to kill himself. The others are sort of just along for the ride. Reed, Sue, and Ben escape from the Skrulls and hook up with the New Champions.
Meanwhile, back on earth, the Human Torch gets hypnotized by the Monocle and Spider-Man rescues him and they team-up.
Spider-Man gets involved thanks to a job assignment from the Daily Globe. He went to the Globe looking for freelance work after getting fired from the Bugle, and instead got a salaried position.
The Monocle was working in alliance with the Enclave, who have captured Medusa.
The Medusa reveal is setting up a plot that won't ever get resolved on panel, leaving Medusa in a state of limbo. It will finally be addressed in Fantastic Four #240.
After dealing with the Monocle, Torch beams himself to Xandar.
The Sphinx accesses the Xandarian Worldmind. The Worldmind is literally a computer with a jar of floating brains. They are the brains of all who ever died on Xandar.
Once he is empowered by the Worldmind, he decides he doesn't need to kill himself after all.
The New Champions decide to stay on Xandar and help fight off the Skrull armada. The Fantastic Four go to find Galactus to ask him to defeat the Sphinx for them.
There's a weird interlude issue where the FF fight off some alien criminals in a Sargasso of Space.
The aliens will be named Sligs in 1987's Marvel Deluxe Handbook #15.
Reed Richards builds H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot to act as a mobile computer center. H.E.R.B.I.E. stands for Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-Type, Integrated Electronics.
There's some references to the FF cartoon show, with Johnny saying he was out of town the day contracts needed to be signed, so Reed submitted his robot design as a replacement.
They eventually find Galactus' ship but can't get his attention.
They release all the creatures in Galactus' zoo (what??) to get them to notice him. He agrees to defeat the Sphinx if they release him of his vow to never eat the earth and they go collect a new herald for him. It's a planetary warlord named Tyros.
Tyros has the mutant ability to control earth and stone. The Fantastic Four are able to defeat him and bring him to Galactus, which seems to me to be a real moral problem - sure, he's a dictator, but do the FF have the right to drag the guy off his planet and force him into servitude under Galactus?
Anyway, Galactus imbues Tyros with the power cosmic, turning him into Terrax.
Terrax vows to serve Galactus, but bears a grudge (rightfully so!) against the FF.
Galactus fights the Sphinx...
...and Terrax fights an aging Fantastic Four.
The FF defeat Terrax...
...but the strain accelerates their aging.
Galactus defeats the Sphinx, destroys his Ka stone, and sends him back in time to live his life all over again.
Meanwhile, Ben and Sue are put into suspended animation...
...as Reed uses a fake Ultimate Nullifier to drive Galactus away after the defeat of the Sphinx. The Watcher helps by standing nearby, which somehow prevents Galactus from reading Reed's mind and knowing the Nullifier was a fake.
The Watcher claims that this doesn't actually count as interfering, because all he was doing was observing the thoughts in Reed's head and blocking Galactus was an aftereffect. Reed passes out after the fight and Johnny - who was not present when the Skrulls applied the aging ray - puts him in suspended animation as well.
Johnny tries to contact Tony Stark but neither Mrs. Arbogast or Jarvis know where he is. Turns out he's helping SHIELD with some radioactive waste and can't come out to play right now.
Johnny then gets attacked by Skrull X, the 3 fingered mutant Skrull that first appeared when this arc kicked off, in FF #204.
Like Super-Skrull, he's got the powers of all of the FF, but he says he can use his powers all at once (something that Kl'rt can sometimes do also, but inconsistently).
Turns out Skrull X is a robot.
But luckily he's got an aging ray gun. So Johnny wakes up Reed, who is able to reverse-engineer a cure.
It's said the cure works so well that Reed, Ben, and Sue are younger and more powerful than ever. We can use that to explain how they've been alive long enough to have fought in World War II if we want, then.
Overall, i guess this wasn't that bad. Certainly once John Byrne starts drawing (with #209 - the H.E.R.B.I.E. / Sargasso issue), the art gets really good. The Terrax and Galactus/Sphinx battles are very nice. But the characterization is poor, the dialogue is simple, and the plot is meandering. This is Nova Marv Wolfman, not Tomb of Dracula Marv Wolfman.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Most of the FF leave with Adora at the end of #204 and shouldn't appear elsewhere between that issue and this arc; the other comics i've placed in between could be thought to be taking place concurrently with this long arc. A Daily Globe article in Amazing Spider-Man #194 references the Spidey/Human Torch fight with the Monocle, so this needs to take place prior to that story but before Amazing Spider-Man #193 since that issue is referenced. Medusa is missing when the Avengers show up in Attilan in Avengers #188, so this needs to take place before that as well.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (19): show
This arc (actually starting with issue 204 with the arrival of the Suzerain of Xandar at the Baxter building) is fondly remembered from my childhood (age 12); I eagerly awaited each issue, even secretly purchasing them when I was "restricted from comics" due to my grades!
Posted by: Joe | August 25, 2012 12:27 AM
Byrne later stated that he did most of the plotting on #214 and Wolfman rewrote some scenes without his knowledge.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 18, 2012 4:14 PM
Byrne's first Fantastic Four art(the Thing) appeared in FOOM#5(4/74).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 10, 2013 5:26 PM
"Xandar, a planet that has been blown up and reconstructed with a series of tubes."
Xandar was reconstructed with the internet?
(That joke/reference may be passing its expiration date.)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 9, 2013 1:31 AM
Rejuvenated by alien gun is what happened to Magneto not long before this. I wonder if Byrne decided to use that idea here to get around the FF's aging -- was the seven-year rule in effect at this time? I didn't hear about it until the '90s. In the '80s several Marvel titles were either moving in close to real time (X-Men) or could hand-wave away the question of when the earlier stories were set (Spider-Man). FF was unusual in having characters active since WWII. Nick Fury was another in that category, and he gets the infinity formula right around this time.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 18, 2013 11:37 PM
#209's "Sargasso in Space" story is indeed an odd interlude, breaking the flow somewhat.
However, it was a good spotlight for John Byrne's skills on drawing weird aliens (and his first FF issue if I am not mistaken).
It also foreshadows the somewhat important reveal coming in #217 while giving readers time to write about where they stand on the relevant matter.
And then, there is the time factor. Marv Wolfman may have wanted a breather issue in order to better figure where he was going with the plot, particularly with his Nova characters. Or perhaps, considering that they are all but forgotten after #209 until Mantlo returns to them about two years later in ROM #24, Wolfman attempted to use them more but lacked permission from editorial.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 12, 2015 7:58 AM
The Empress' name is actually R'klll, not R'kill.
Posted by: Dan H. | October 14, 2015 1:31 AM
Thanks Dan. Hazards of comics being in all caps, i guess.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 14, 2015 7:23 AM
The Sphinx's recreation of Egypt recalls Kukulcan's recreation of the Mayan city in X-MEN #26.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 6, 2016 9:07 AM
The Condor is not actually among the refugees from Nova's book seen here. Having been, I believe, written out c. NOVA #10, he would not return for more than a decade.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | October 16, 2016 4:28 PM
I hadn't realized 'til now that John Byrne's first issue at penciling the FF was also the comic book debut of: H.E.R.B.I.E.! How appropriate.
Egypt is in Earth's "quadrant nine" lol (#212, p. 7)
Since Johnny was left out of the aging/de-aging scenario, that should have narrowed the gap between his age and his sister's age. In fact, he could even be the "older" one after this.
Posted by: Holt | December 24, 2017 8:12 PM
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