Silver Surfer #15-18
Issue(s): Silver Surfer #15, Silver Surfer #16, Silver Surfer #17, Silver Surfer #18
We saw in Silver Surfer annual #1 that Galactus is having tummy troubles from eating the Elders, and he's asked specifically for Sue Richards (although Reed can come too). The fact that Sue was specifically requested helps override the fact that the Richardses are nominally retired, and it even convinces her to let Franklin come along.
If you had visions of Galactus needing Sue to make his belly invisible so we can see the indigestible Elders poking around inside, you're not alone. But the solution turns out to be a little more cosmic than that. The idea is to retrieve the soul gems, and use the soul-stealing gem to pull the Elders out of Galactus' belly. The Silver Surfer will navigate into the black hole where the rest of the Elders, and the gems, were pulled. And since the gem steals souls on contact, they need Sue Richards to pick them up with her force field.
I would still think that anyone with telekinesis, broadly defined, (including the Silver Surfer) could pick up the gems, but that's the justification for bringing in the Invisible Woman.
Reed asks Franklin if his precognitive powers have warned him about anything, and i think that's an important moment. Many (including me) have speculated that Reed's original reaction to his kid being a mutant were a bit anti-mutant, but now he's embracing his son's powers.
Nova stays behind to watch Franklin (and Galactus) ...
...and Franklin's not worried because his parents have taught him to "expect success". I guess for a guy who will grow up to have reality altering powers, that's a reasonable thing to teach him, but most of us have to work for it, buddy.
The Silver Surfer leads Sue and Reed through the black hole and into the Ditkoverse.
This literally is the Ditkoverse; it'll be said in these issues that this is the same dimension that we've seen in Dr. Strange and also in Starlin's Warlock issues. I always thought that Starlin was just paying homage to Ditko and it wasn't meant to be the same place, but apparently Steve Englehart thought differently.
As the trio travels through the magic world, Sue starts talking about how dark it is, while Reed starts getting more and more logical and emotionless in his speech. They encounter the Possessor...
...who tells them that the other two Elders in this dimension, the Astronomer and the Trader have used their skills to become allies of the locals, who are called the Sinalinas, while he himself didn't have any useful skills so he became their Tale-Er, or storyteller.
The Possessor won't tell the Surfer and ex-FFers where the other Elders or the gems are, but the Surfer is able to track them.
Meanwhile, though, the attributes of this dimension continue to affect Reed and Sue, with Sue reverting to her "Malice" identity.
In a footnote on the opening splash for issue #16, we're assured that the Malice appearing here has no relation to the one in X-Men.
I find the re-emergence of Malice to be problematic. The original John Byrne idea wasn't that Sue has some permanent dark side to her. It was that she was emotionally tortured by the Psycho-Man and that torture brought to the forefront all of the feelings she's been repressing about basically being repeatedly put in her place over the years. And it was from this that she grew as a character and basically became an assertive adult, changing her name from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman. Englehart treats it more like a (comic book version of a) split-personality disorder and i'm especially annoyed to see her ranting about how evil she is. Now the idea here is that this dimension is ruled by the cosmic entities Lord Chaos and Master Order. And Sue's reversion to Malice is paralleled with Reed becoming comically logical. He's even logically aware that he's being overly logical.
So the idea is that each character is being pulled to an extreme, and in Sue's case that extreme just happens to already have a name. And that's better than Malice being a psychic entity that lives in Sue's head and comes out and possesses her during moments of extreme stress, which is how i understand it will be explained in Tom DeFalco's Fantastic Four run. But i still don't buy it. First, because i've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since i was 9 and i know that Law and Chaos don't have to equate to Good and Evil. Dr. Doom is Lawful Evil, for example; he's a bad guy but someone who is disciplined, usually honorable, and believes in the rule of law. So there's no reason for Sue to suddenly become evil just because she's under the influence of Master Chaos; you can just as easily be Chaotic Good. But the bigger reason is that while i definitely can see identifying Reed with Order, i don't see anything about Sue that specifically pushes her towards the Chaos sphere. I guess the idea is that as a manifestation that was basically a rebellion against Reed's controlling nature, she by default was Chaotic, but that was far from the point of the original story. The original story was about growing Sue as a character; yes, she was twisted by torture, but she wasn't inherently chaotic or evil (it wasn't chaotic or evil for her to want to be treated like an adult). The original story may have been too overt a metaphor, but it was powerful and important in bringing Sue's character forward; this story makes it seem like Sue permanently has a chaotic and evil side to her, basically that she's unstable. Thinking about it that way, maybe i do like Tom DeFalco's version better because at least we can just write that off as being a separate evil entity that possesses Sue. But obviously i'd prefer if we never saw any hint of "Malice" again after the Byrne story.
Beyond that, there's a really weird bit where Englehart tries to create a weird parallel. To understand this, recall that Englehart established that in our universe, there is Eternity and Death, the two polar opposites, and in between them is Galactus. And in this "magick" universe, there is Lord Order and Master Chaos, and in between them is, well, the In-Betweener.
And what this is leading to is a conflict between the In-Betweener and Galactus.
I don't really "get" the parallel, even if i accept Englehart's idea for Galactus, because the In-Betweener has always been shown to be a servant - if an unwilling one - of Order and Chaos, whereas Galactus is "in between" Eternity and Death because he is an immortal being from a previous universe and thus not bound by their rules. It's really an apples to oranges comparison.
But anyway, before we get to all of that, Reed and the Surfer have to hunt down Sue.
While they are fighting, for some reason an image appears of a scene from Fantastic Four #319.
Distracted by that, Mr. Fantastic touches the green gem.
And that turns out to be the Soul Gem, so he's really possessed now too.
The Soul Gem tries to take the Silver Surfer's soul next. But the Surfer resists, drawing on a recent experience of fighting to save his soul from Mephisto.
The footnote references "the upcoming Silver Surfer Graphic novel", but see below for more on that.
You have to love that Reed and Sue are both possessed by different psychic entities and are punching each other.
It turns out that it isn't actually the gem possessing Reed though. It's only a vessel for the In-Betweener.
By the way, there were also some double-dealings with the three Elders that were trapped in the Ditkoverse that i'm not getting into, but the gist of it is that they were working with the In-Betweener. They all teleport back to the real universe (aka "the realm of Death and Eternity"), leaving the Surfer and the ex-FFers behind (i like Possessor waving bye-bye).
Nova and Franklin spot them coming out of the black hole, and Nova deploys the Punisher (as the footnote says, no not that Punisher) to slow them down (i guess Galactus took it back at some point after the Rigellians stole it).
But slow them down is indeed all it does, and Nova's unable to stop them either.
However, the In-Betweener finds that he can't actually kill Galactus.
The In-Betweener considers instead throwing Galactus through the black hole into the Ditkoverse, but the Elders don't like that idea. When they start challenging him, he summons Death, and she's able to kill the Elders for reasons i don't really understand or care too much about.
The In-Betweener then takes off in Galactus' ship. Meanwhile, the Surfer has gone to make a personal appeal to Lord Order and Master Chaos...
...and they're not happy about what their servant has been up to, so they agree to help.
There's been a lot of crazy stuff and high cosmic concepts going on, so you can be excused now if you'd like to just sit back and watch Galactus and the In-Betweener get into a fist fight.
Alright, i guess we have to get back to the plot at some point. On the one hand, you have the Elders that used to be in Galactus' belly. They've been released, and now Champion and Grandmaster are betting on the outcome of the fight.
And Franklin Richards has dreamed about using the Ultimate Nullifier.
Note that Reed says Franklin is six years old at this time. He was four and a half when he first joined Power Pack, so we're not quite aging in realtime but it does seem too fast for Marvel's sliding timescale.
Also note that Franklin "don't wanna" grow up, a point for the opposite idea that Franklin subconsciously keeps himself from aging:
As you can see, Franklin goes for the Nullifier despite his parents prohibition. To prevent Franklin from actually reaching the Nullifier, we have a kind of weird scenario. The ship we've been seeing Galactus use throughout this series is his round spaceship.
I don't think there's a name for that ship. But that's different than Taa II, his giant sprawling artificial homeworld that we saw him eat during Secret Wars. However, Sue uses her powers to hide the Nullifier from Franklin by using an apparently photographic level of recall of Galactus' ship, assuming it's an exact replica of the ship that was destroyed in Secret Wars. And Sue's photographic recall is based on a description given to her by Johnny.
So not only can i not fathom the kind of detailed conversation Johnny must have had with Sue about the original ship, but it's still the wrong ship entirely.
Anyway, as usual, shows what i know, because it works.
I guess let's just get back to the Galactus/In-Betweener fight.
At this point everyone, including the surviving Elders who aren't very happy with the In-Betweener (and except for the Grandmaster, who doesn't like his bet with Champion being interfered with), decide the best thing to do is to help push the In-Betweener and Galactus through the black hole and into the Magick dimension...
...where Lord Order and Master Chaos can stop the In-Betweener.
And that's it, and everyone who belongs there returns to the regular universe.
A fun crazy cosmic story of which i don't intend to worry too much about the implications. I guess a part of this is to allow Englehart to give his take on Reed, Sue, and Franklin since he wrote them out of the Fantastic Four book. But mostly it's a showcase for Ron Lim's art, and it's just a lot of fun seeing him draw these crazy cosmic characters.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm not counting the (current member) FF's appearance in these issues as a chronological appearance since as Reed notes, "they must be traveling in space/time". I'm counting it as a Reference, of course, but i don't think it's necessary to sync these issues up with Fantastic Four #319 (although i have done so anyway, but i reserve the right to move either entry if necessary; it's already caused some shuffling since i'm keeping Fantastic Four #318-319 concurrent with West Coast Avengers annual #3). Regarding the reference to the "upcoming Silver Surfer Graphic Novel", which was meant to be Silver Surfer: Judgment Day, i've had to ignore it. See that entry for more details. Sue and Reed actually remain in space until an epilogue to this story at the beginning of next issue, which i'm treating as a kind of flashback and keeping issues #19-20 in a separate entry not directly following this.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
FNORD, couldn't Galactus' new spaceship have the same inside configuration as Taa II ala TARDIS rules of "bigger inside than outside"?
Posted by: clyde | July 14, 2014 7:39 PM
That's a good No Prize fix, but how would Sue *know* that?
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2014 8:16 PM
Warlock implied that the other five gems did not steal souls, back when he told his story to the Avengers in 1977's Avengers Annual #7. That was why Thanos stole all the other five but stopped short of Warlock's.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 14, 2014 9:39 PM
The reason why the MCP placed the Judgement Day Graphic Novel circa Silver Surfer 28 is because the plot involves Mephisto magically removing Nova's reluctance to lead Galactus to inhabited worlds in order to force the Surfer to deal with him. Nova doesn't have any qualms about leading Galactus to inhabited worlds at this point but in later issues, her reluctance to lead Galactus to populated worlds would be a recurring theme. It is strange, though- you'd think they'd either make sure Nova's characterization matched up or not mention the Graphic Novel at all.
Posted by: Michael | July 14, 2014 9:58 PM
The gems also had different colors from their first appearances. Warlock's was always green, while the Gardener's and the Stranger's were yellowish and reddish, IIRC. That is made even more apparent in Avengers Annual #7, which also suggested that they varied in size as well.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 14, 2014 9:58 PM
Thanks Luis, obviously i needed to re-read Avengers annual #7. I've added some scans to that entry and deleted my comments here about it being the first time the gems were colored and the mention of only one "soul gem" being a soul stealer. I do find it weird that Starlin (and others after him) continued to call them all soul gems when it was established at that point that only one stole souls.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 14, 2014 10:11 PM
I hadn't thought about it before, but my best guess is that it was implied that all six gems had souls of their own and differentiated powers. It just turned out that Warlock's gem had powers (and needs) that relate to the souls of others.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | July 14, 2014 10:51 PM
The Infinity Gems were originally part of a gestalt being known as Nemesis. That was revealed later in the Ultraverse crossover.
Posted by: clyde | July 14, 2014 10:57 PM
Death is angered over being forced to kill the Elders. This motivates her to resurrect Thanos.
Posted by: Steven Printz | July 15, 2014 2:10 AM
*Ahem* It's Ron Lim doing the art. I think you were thinking of Ron Marz since he takes over the writing after Jim Starlin's run while Lim is still on the book, hence "The Two Ronnies." (Little in-joke for you British readers.)
This was a fun cosmic story. Englehart's style far better suits the Surfer than it does the West Coast Avengers. That book really should have gone to Roger Stern in the first place.
Agreed with Michael about the panel with Sue and Frank. I know Byrne didn't much care for Frank, but he can be an interesting character given the proper treatment. Far from the Mary Sue wannabe he could have turned out to be, Franklin Richards just might be the most powerful human being in the entire Marvel Universe.
Posted by: Clutch | July 16, 2014 6:20 AM
Thanks, Clutch. Corrected the Marz/Lim slip.
Posted by: fnord12 | July 16, 2014 7:36 AM
This ship of Galactus gets called the Star Sphere in the Heroes Reborn dimension.
Posted by: Mortificator | May 28, 2015 2:25 AM
I quite liked Ron Lim's gleaming conception of the Surfer, which was distinct from the way Kirby, Buscema, Byrne, Rogers, etc. drew the character.
This series became a kind of watering hole for Marvel's cosmic characters, and it was obviously great to see the Surfer finally released from Earth for the long haul.
Although I have mixed feelings about the series, it did very significantly integrate Starlin's 70s "mythos" with other cosmic strands, notably Surfer/Galactus. (If you think about it, it seems a little odd that the Surfer was MIA for the conclusion of the First Thanos War on Earth. Or is there some excuse for that I'm not recalling? But he obviously couldn't have gotten to Sanctuary for the Second.)
Posted by: Instantiation | July 23, 2015 11:46 AM
Maybe worth mentioning that the "Galactus has indigestion" thing was done previously in FF #175 (from '76) ... which was a horrible finish.
Posted by: Instantiation | July 23, 2015 11:54 AM
It's cool seeing scans of things that would be big plot points for Starlin's Infinity Gauntlet story. Death being forced to work for In-Betweener, Order and Chaos putting him in a prison and of course Drax getting his brain destroyed in an Avengers story.
Posted by: david banes | July 23, 2015 2:30 PM
Love this story mainly due to Lim's awesome art. I didn't like the "Malice" character only because it didn't make much sense to me knowing Sue Richards. Jean Grey being manipulated into Dark Phoenix was enough. Then after this we have a similar plot in "Darker than Scarlet" which screws up Wanda. Gets old real quick.
Posted by: Grom | September 13, 2016 1:41 AM
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