163. Finale

Fantastic Four 163

Issue One Hundred and Sixty-Three, Oct. 1975

“There is… no point to further battle.”

Ben tries to get Reed’s disc passed Gaard and through the hole in the nexus, but he is blocked at every attempt.  Meanwhile, Johnny and the Reed from the Second Earth track down and defeat Akron. That leaves just Ben in the nexus to do his part. Somehow the two Reeds are able to beam an illusion of The Thing into the nexus area and this confuses Gaard enough for him to throw his cosmic scepter at it, thus disarming himself, and allowing Ben to place Reed’s disc in the nexus void, collapsing it. Ben leaves Gaard, who is revealed to be the Second Earth Johnny Storm.


Unfortunately, what was a clever and exciting storyline finished up in a confused and uninteresting ending. Even the characters themselves don’t care enough to have the resolution explained to them.163ffip

Where to start? First of all, there’s Gaard, who is, literally, a cosmic ice hockey goal keeper. No doubt it is a conscious continuation of the thought process that resulted in the Silver Surfer, but whereas the Surfer had an elegant simplicity and weirdness that translated into a spooky, otherworldly vibe. However, the contrivances necessary to give Gaard — not only a hockey stick (his “cosmic scepter”), but also a mask, shin guards, padded gloves, and (god help us) golden skates —  just leave him looking ridiculous. The revelation at the end that Gaard turns out to be the presumed dead Second Earth Johnny Storm is bewilderingly pointless. It adds nothing. It’s a character we have never seen before, who has a goal that is fairly meaningless.

Reed Richards: Scientific genius, shameless hypocrite.

Reed Richards: Scientific genius, shameless hypocrite.

This issue is also thematically psychotic. At one point Reed berates the man who he himself sold out to for selling out. Second Earth Reed is just as erratic in his harangue about peace and violence when pummeling Arkon into paste. At one moment he laments the use of diplomacy and peace initiatives if they don’t have force to back them up (thereby completely contradicting an important plot point in the last issue, where Johnny and his army get talked down peacefully), but then turns the blame on himself for staying in his castle and making war robots. It’s such a weird barrage of contradictory statements, possibly meant as a commentary against the Viet Nam War, maybe the Cold War, perhaps even both. In terms of this particular story, there is potential for something meaningful to be discussed in what Second Earth Reed points out is a targeted assassination of a military leader to end the attacks, but that is left by the wayside in a confusion of anti-military polemic.

And the climax of the issue should not be the climax. There is no reason at all that sneaking a disc past a cosmic goallie in a hyperspace dimension (which apparently has air to breath and talk into) should solve all the conflicts of the past issues. There’s no reason to believe that collapsing some sort of hole in that dimension would prevent people traveling from the other portals, especially when Ben has no difficulty in getting back from that one, and Johnny from the next one after Ben has defeated Gaard.

A disappointing ending to a really great four-part story.


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