123. This World Enslaved

Fantastic Four 123 cover

Issue One Hundred and Twenty-Three, June 1972

Humans! Fickle and inconstant as the changing wind! I must soar aloft — for a new breath of air — and sanity!

SUMMARY
Reed holds Galactus’s ship hostage, bartering for its return if Galactus will leave the planet. Galactus says he will only leave earth unharmed if the Silver Surfer returns with him to space. Everyone, most vocally President Richard Nixon, thinks this is a fair exchange, but Reed says this is unacceptable. The Army attacks Galactus, causing him to go on a rampage. Reed returns Galactus’s ship to him and he leaves. The Surfer starts to follow, but Reed grabs on to him, preventing him from doing so. An Army sharpshooter shoots Reed in the back, apparently killing him. Ben and Johnny attack the army. The Silver Surfer takes Reed to a secluded spot and revives him with his cosmic power. Traveling back to Manhattan, Reed and the Surfer stop at Agatha Harkness’s residence and they use her mystical powers to project Reed’s “image and voice” into the Oval Office where he explains what he’s done. Then Ms Harkness projects Reed’s image and voice to everyone on the planet and he explains that he reprogrammed Galactus’ ship to fly into the Negative Zone instead of into space. The Silver Surfer thanks Reed and says that he’s grateful he doesn’t have to be Galactus’s prisoner, but at the same time he’s pretty disappointed that he has to stay on earth.

COMMENTARY
Logic takes a holiday in this issue. It seems the only excuse for what must be referred to as the “storyline” is just to have a bunch of fight scenes and people shouting at each other. For the first time the artist himself is complicit in terrorizing the reader as the possible ways that Galactus is contemplating killing the Fantastic Four are illustrated in EC Comics-style gruesomeness: Mister Fantastic is exploded, The Human Torch is left to die encased in a block of ice, The Thing is melted into a pool of orange sludge, and the Invisible Woman is turned invisible permanently. It is needless sadism and done only to fill paper.123untoldThe characters lack logical consistency, and their philosophical viewpoints flip-flop instantly between the panels. As the story begins, Reed threatens to destroy Galactus’ ship, and it’s not even three full pages later that he appeals to the Silver Surfer saying that “There can only be peace through good will, not the sacrifice of another!” Galactus himself describes the ways in which he will individually kill the members of the Fantastic Four and then destroy the planet… only to be astounded that the US Army begins to shell him. “Is their madness so deeply rooted–” he exclaims in shock, “That force is their only answer?” Both Galactus and the Surfer at numerous times claim to be above morality, possessing near god-like awareness, but nowhere is this evidenced. Galactus is tricked by his own ship, which the creators of this issue demand we must accept he cannot pilot out of the Negative Zone as easily as he was sent into it, and no compelling reason is given for why the Surfer would not prefer to go off with Galactus anyway and leave his earthly imprisonment — only that Reed thinks he shouldn’t (and again, no Reed gives no reason for this).

123nixonPresident Richard Nixon also appears as an active character, portrayed as the epitome of a vacillating politician, worried as much as the upcoming election as the imminent destruction of the planet. Reed is able to communicate with him using a radio in his belt in the first half of the issue, but then for some reason he needs Agatha Harkness’s magical powers to do so again at the end of the issue.

Very little thought has been put into this issue. Stan Lee has returned to the issue only, apparently, to take a tour of past glories, pulling weak imitations of once-brilliant and imaginative characters and concepts out of the cupboard and cooking them down into a very thin gruel.

EVALUATION: 2/10

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