155. Battle Royale

Fantastic Four 155 cover

Issue One Hundred and Fifty-Five, Feb 1975

“No! Although my spirit my writhe in immeasurable torment — The Silver Surfer cannot kill!”

The Fantastic Four are walking through Central Park when a gang of muggers attempt to assault them. Ben easily intimidates them but just at that moment, the Silver Surfer arrives and nearly destroys them. Taking them right to the point of death, he stops in moral torment. He reveals that he has discovered that Shalla-Bal, the love of his life from his home planet, is in Latveria, wiped of her memories, and apparently married to Doctor Doom. Doom tells him that he will release Shalla-Bal to him if he destroys the FF. Recalling this, the Surfer rallies and begins to kill the FF once more.


On this page, the image of the Silver Surfer himself joins the collective FF in his destructive torment of them.

On this page, the image of the Silver Surfer himself joins the collective FF in his destructive torment of them.

This is a slightly shorter than usual issue of the FF, and most of it is told in flashback, but it is a very fun and exciting issue. To begin with, it is nice to see the Silver Surfer back in these pages. We last saw him in issue 123, where the planet was debating whether or not to give him back to Galactus in order to have him leave our world alone. It is nice to catch up with him and find out what he has been up to in the mean time.

This information is relayed to us in a series of very compelling visual montages. Rich Buckler has really shifted up a gear and made what could have been an awkward, exposition heavy issue a complete visual delight. As we enter the world of the Silver Surfer’s recollection, the panel borders swim and mold themselves to the characters they contain. Important images are exploded to intimidate or minimized to undercut the tension. A vibrant double-paged spread with no internal panel borders is followed immediately by a page segmented by two many, designed to thwart our narrative expectations of a comic flow. Not only have the images of this story been creatively imagined, but also their composition on the page, and even the sequence in which those pages are presented.

Fantastic Four 155And we also have the return of Doctor Doom, who Buckler has always excelled at portraying — his very first tale on this title was a Doom story, it should be remembered. Here he is maniacal, cloak billowing about him in the storm of his own madness, a much more commanding visual presence than even the powerful Silver Surfer.

We feel the predicament that the Surfer is in, and we really do wonder what the resolution for our heroes will be. The Surfer’s humanity is, after all, still very young in him — his power is older, and his love for Shalla-Bal precedes even that. Therefore, the lives of the FF weigh comparatively light in the balance.


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