Fantastic Four #271-273
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #271, Fantastic Four #272, Fantastic Four #273
So after a fun little birthday sequence...
...Reed breaks off to confer with Sue privately. Under the tenuous connection of trying to remember things, Reed then recounts an adventure they had in the pre-Fantastic Four days, during what i would now call the Monster Age. The 8 page flashback is drawn in a deliberately simpler style, and details a close encounter with Gormuu, Warrior of Kraalo.
Reed was "Central City's leading scientist" at the time, so he's called in to help with the threat. Gormuu continues to expand in size during his visit on Earth, and the standard way to beat growing giant monsters is to feed them energy so that they'll continue to grow beyond their capacity and expand harmlessly into the universe. So that's what Reed does here, although he has to punch out Ben Grimm in order to do it.
And check out the villain-speak after he starts up his device.
Anyway, the plan works.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much the exact same way that Maelstrom will be defeated in an issue of the Avengers published two months later (and which actually takes place concurrently).
Explaining the giant monster flashback story, the lettercol has the following editorial note:
WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?
The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe adds:
Gormuu is obviously an homage to the classic Jack Kirby creations of pre-FF monster comics; the entire flashback is done in that style. In fact, he greatly resembles the Kirby creation Rommbu, and his home planet [Kraalo] appears to be derived from Kraa. --Also, the scenes depicting Reed and Sue sighting Gormuu's craft, and Reed investigating the craft were lifted almost directly from "I Challenged Groot" (Tales To Astonish I#13) --Prime Ed-ternal
Here's some scans that look very similar to some scenes in Tales To Astonish #13 (click on that entry link to compare, and here's Rommbu). Definitely a deliberate homage, although it's clear that Reed and Sue had a better relationship than the original scientist and his wife.
At the beginning of the flashback, Sue says to Reed, "It seems like only yesterday I was an impulsive little girl with a giant crush on a certain college senior I knew...". Reed responds "I must admit you were a terrific embarrassment back then. Ben used to..." before being cut off by the arrival of Gormuu. The dialogue is a nod to the fact that Sue was really way too young for Reed in the earliest depictions of their first meetings.
Recognizing that his little flashback had absolutely nothing to do with his memory loss, Reed decides to head back to his father's house in California to see if anything there will trigger his memory. The entire FF extended family, including Franklin, Alicia (or actually, as i'll have to continually point out, Lyja Lazerfist), and Wyatt Wingfoot go with them. There we meet Reed's father's butler, Peacock, and his wife.
The Peacocks casually mention that that they've been seeing cowboy ghosts ever since Reed's father disappeared three years before the formation of the Fantastic Four. The ghosts, who have been harmless, have been appearing in diminishing cycles of three (first six years ago, then three years ago, then 1 year ago, etc), which Reed says sounds almost like a Taft-DeMaibring sequence (which Google denies all knowledge of, so i guess it's a made-up thing) (also note: the first appearance was right after Reed's father disappeared, which was 6 years ago and 3 years before the Fantastic Four's first appearance. So as of 1984, Marvel's sliding timescale had everything from FF #1 to the present occurring within a span of 3 years?). Anyway, it's enough for Reed to realize that it must be something triggered by technology.
Investigating Reed's father's lab (which involves a neat break-in involving a nice use of the Invisible Girl and Human Torch's powers), they discover a time machine that looks identical to Dr. Doom's.
Regarding time travel, Mr. Fantastic notes:
My own experiments with Doom's machine have shown there is much, much more to what we think of as time travel than anyone has guessed. There are countless safety valves in the space-time continuum. If my father attempted to use this machine to journey into his future, my experiments have proven he would have, in actuality, been shunted sideways in a parallel time-stream.
We know the mechanics of the kind of time travel he built are very unpredictable. Time is not, after all, a conveyor belt which we can jump on and off at will.
Reed suspects that his father may not be aware of this aspect of time travel, so he uses the time machine to go to the same coordinates that his father last used, taking the FF and Wyatt along with him.
Click to embiggen that screenshot above, which is a pretty cool depiction of the time machine in action.
In what totally qualifies as an "imaginaut" storyline, the FF travel to an alternate timeline that includes high tech cowboys...
...H.G. Wells style tripods...
...and Valkyries on mechanical dragons.
Byrne continues to show Sue using her powers in new ways.
We're first led to believe that Reed's father Nathaniel Richards is the evil Warlord who rules this post-apocalyptic world...
...but it turns out that the real Warlord is his wife, a rogue Valkyrie. Nathaniel is naive and just happy to have what seems to be a loving wife and a child (Reed's half-brother!).
One thing about this story is that it is wrapped up extremely quickly. All of the sudden there's a two page montage describing a great battle that we barely get to see.
And then there's a big explosion (Wyatt saved the day) and then a one page wrap-up. We don't get to see much of the father/son reunion, Reed's memory issues aren't resolved, and Nathaniel Richards quickly decides he's going to stay in the alternate dimension (at Reed's encouragement, actually). Between the truncated fight and the quick wrap-up, it's almost like this was originally planned to be another issue in length but it got cut short.
Despite that, this was fun set of issues, with the Monster Age tribute and then the time-travel/alternate dimension romp.
In the lettercol for issue #272, there's a note from John Byrne indicating that "over the next few months you're likely to be seeing some changes in the pages of the books I illustrate. Some will be so minor you might not even notice, while others will be more obvious, and I thought I'd just warn you in advance." He doesn't say exactly what he'll be doing differently, only that his pencil work specifically needs to "mutate into something else, hopefully for the better".
I don't notice any differences, yet, but i'll observe that this is the most manly Valkyrie i've ever seen.
Generally, though, the art is still very very nice.
The story ends with an epilogue that implies that Kang is actually an ancestor of Nathaniel (and therefore Reed) Richards.
A note says:
Long-time readers are bound to be surprised by this revelation, though new-comers maybe confused. But worry not, for all will be made clear in an upcoming Avengers saga.
That Avengers story won't be published until Avengers #267-269, about a year and a half later than these issues.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place concurrently with Avengers #250; the Vision tries to contact Mr. Fantastic during that issue but finds they are away, with a footnote indicating that they are traveling in time.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: N/A
Inbound References (2): show
When did Wyatt Wingfoot start getting tomato-colored? It seems strange considering all the hubbub over Asians being lemon-colored in Master of Kung-Fu several years before this. Wyatt appears to have normal coloration back in, say, Fantastic Four 80.
It seems to happen in the late 70s/early 80s. In 1975, Thunderbird has the same coloration as the white X-Men, but when Sara Wolfe is introduced in Doctor Strange #38, she's very tomato-hued. Dani Moonstar also winds up getting the tomato treatment a lot, too. On the other hand, while Shaman is redder than his Alphan teammates, it's more subtle than Sara, or Wyatt in these issues. Seems to be hit or miss, maybe based on the colorist, which unfortunately i don't track here.
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