173. Counter-Earth Must Die… At The Hand Of Galactus

Fantastic Four 173 cover

Fantastic Four Issue 173, August 1976

“My reasoning was simple, apeling. It is whole worlds I must devour, one life is worth nothing to me. To one who hungers mightily, what good is a meagre crumb?

SUMMARY
Ben Grimm confronts Galactus, who announces his intent to consume Counter-Earth. Running out of oxygen, he is rescued by Reed and drawn back into the artificial asteroid where the High Evolutionary has his base. Reed negotiates with Galactus–if he can find a substitute planet where every being is willing to sacrifice themselves in place of Counter-Earth, Galactus will consume that planet instead. Three contenders are found and the Fantastic Four split up. Ben and Reed go to Mekka, a robot planet, where Torgo (introduced in issue 93) lives. They quickly discover that the planet will not sacrifice itself and are prevented leaving in case they disclose the planet’s location to Galactus anyway. Johnny and Gorr arrive at a planet which bears a striking relationship to Earth’s Medieval period and, while trying to rescue a princess from a dragon, are both hit from behind and captured.

COMMENTARY
Fantastic Four 173 GalactusThe opening pages of this story promised an exciting change-over: Roy Thomas back as full writer, and fan favourite John Buscema back on as artist. And, yes, that’s Jack Kirby illustrating the cover as well.

Alas.

Although there are two bright spots in the tale’s narrative, there is no inspiration. Nine of the nineteen pages of this issue–almost half–are devoted to rehashing the story so far, whether that be of recent issues of the FF, other of Galactus’s recent appearances, or the past history of Counter-Earth and Galactus. Even at the time this story was written–a time where back issues or histories were not as universally available as they are now–this is way overdone. The plot is at a dead standstill for the first half of this issue and the second half is concerned with an obvious fool’s mission to find a planet just as life-inhabited as Earth where every sentient creature is willing to die in place of a previously unknown planet. Halfway through his mission, Reed “smartest man on the planet” Richards admits that he hadn’t really thought the whole thing through. Sue gets sidelined again, when Reed, literally, pulls rank on her.

Ultimately it’s an issue of little consequence. It’s nice to see Torgo again, but he doesn’t add much to the narrative. Galactus’s lore is not expanded upon, despite his lengthy dialogue, except that he now can speak telepathically with anyone. This serves no purpose except as an expedient to allow everyone to talk in space.

EVALUATION: 4/10

Reed Richards – genius, jack ass.

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