145. Nightmare in the Snow

Fantastic Four 145 cover

Issue One Hundred and Forty-Five, April 1974

“You jest outsider –but you will not jest for long. As I destroyed your sky-ship, I will destroy any others who come to rescue you!”

The Human Torch and Medusa have crash landed in the Himalayas. They presume their ship was attacked, and when they are ambushed by large, hairy humanoids speaking an unfamiliar language, this is confirmed. They manage to fight off the creatures but they end up nearly completely exhausted by the effort. Thinking back to earlier that day, Medusa recalls being back in New York as Reed receives a call from Black Bolt using the mysterious phrase “Project Revival”. Medusa will not say what this means but enlists Johnny to go with her to the Inhuman Kingdom in the mountainous East, which is where the story began. Now bracing themselves against the cold of night, one of the creatures stumbles upon them but begs they don’t attack him before he can tell his tale. His race once lived as animals until a Tibetan monk came to them and civilized them, teaching them skills of craftsmanship and language. When he died, there was no one to lead them and a powerful opportunist, Ternak, took the lead, and it is suggested that he has designs on conquering the world. It is then that Ternak finds them and captures them, revealing his plan of using a “climate gun”, or ice ray, to change the planet’s temperature to one in which his race will thrive, and all other die.

145foolAt the end of the last issue, we were promised a tale that involved snow somehow, as fat flakes of the stuff started to drift down from the New York sky. That turns out to be a misdirect because the snow we find here is of the permanent, Himalayan variety. It’s just as well because a March snowfall is just a little out of season, ever for the Eastern seaboard.

But nit-picking aside, this issue is a nice change of pace. We have a fine guest artist here — Ross Andru, a veteran of the craft who was responsible for a very respectable run on The Amazing Spider-Man among other things. But apart from that, we have a compelling setting in the blizzardy Tibetan mountains. Also, we have the unlikely pairing of Medusa and Johnny Storm, who we haven’t seen as a dedicated dynamic until now. They are brought together on this mission because of different ties to the Inhuman community, one as the queen, and the other as the erstwhile lover of one of the royal family. Even though Sue and Franklin do not appear, and Reed is only in a few brief panels, we are far too interested in how Medusa and Johnny interact to care for their absence.

The encounter with yeti-esque monsters is fairly predictable, but not wholly uninspired. The tale of the priests venturing out and all but one of them making it to the monster race and then civilizing it is oddly compelling and speaks well of both the Tibetan monks, and this fictional tribe of ice-temperature beasts. The monk approached this animal race with grace and patience to learn, while in turn he was met with patience to learn. And the subsequent societal collapse that his death brings is very plausible, as is the entry of a violent opportunist like Ternak. Their apparent ability to create disintegration and freeze rays is far-fetched enough to not even be glossed over by any explanation. Where exactly did they get the ability (not to say materials) to build those? Perhaps the beasts’ latent intelligence surpassed that of their master? But then is it plausible that the yeti-society would collapse?

Really, it’s not worth pursuing because frankly any sort of ray machine is par for the course at this point in comic book history. In literally the previous issue it was Doom’s vibration device, in the story before that, it was Annihilus sapping the FF’s powers with a ray beam. It is just something that has to be accepted.Fantastic Four 145

Two other high points are a nice bit of mystery with this mention of Project Revival relating to the Inhumans, and Ross Andru’s depiction of the Human Torch’s low point, which is shackled to a metal bar and about to freeze to death. The sequence is displayed with the right amount of underplaying , which serves to draw us further into his struggles as we try to decode his face which we see only at a sharp angle, locked in concentration, interspersed with images of his static arms. There is more emotion and meaning in that two-thirds of a page than there is in the two-page action sequence that follows because the Torch’s victory costs him a great deal of effort, far more of an interior struggle than an exterior one. Ross Andru understands that and sells it perfectly and that’s why I described him as a fine artist at the start of this. Although his draftsmanship is outmoded by current standards, his storytelling is perfect, and that is what we are appreciating here.

In short, good, classic FF fun.


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