This issue may not have it all, but it’s got as much as it’s possible to have in 20 pages. This issue scores a 10/10, but for those of you that are just browsing the 10/10 rated issues, I recommend that you run back a few issues and pick up the story at the beginning because you only get the full affect if you let it build.
We have here another development in the narrative style of the Fantastic Four: the end of one story at in the first half of the issue — the longest to date at 3 1/2 issues — and the start of another multiple issue storyline.
To wrap up the Inhuman’s storyline first — frankly, it’s a pretty standard close, with the thwarting of a super-villain’s total destruction plan. The two remarkable aspects of the devolution is, first, that the FF did nothing to bring it about — it failed through a miscalculation on Maximus’ part in thinking that the humans were a different race than the Inhumans. They aren’t. What, exactly, they are is not revealed yet, but for those readers who know what the term Terrigen Mists means, this revelation resolves a conflict that they had with The Seeker’s explanation of who the Inhumans are back in issue 45.
The second interesting aspect of the Inhuman’s first storyline is that this is the first time that the words ‘Negative’ and ‘Zone’ are seen together, but not yet in the sense that we will all come to know and love (that will happen in issue 51). In this issue, it is the name given to a type of ‘impenetrable barrier’ that Maximus the Mad produces in order to cut the Inhumans off from human society, and vice versa. The real dramatic element is The Torch’s fight against his escaping teammates and his insistence that they he stay with Crystal, who also does not want him to leave her. The tension is heightened because it happens in the space of seconds, and it is an unwanted decision forced upon the Torch by the rest of the FF, much like that of Reed’s to force Ben’ change back to The Thing in order to fight Doctor Doom back in issue 40.
That ties off the first part of the issue. Next comes the part that everyone remembers… one of the most famous in comics history. The advent of the Silver Surfer and Galactus is played out perfectly, giving the reader just the right number of glimpses of the strange-looking Silver Surfer — the perfect ambiguous figure, a human mirror — and build-up to the gigantic Galactus. In fact, it seems like a playbook of ways to build up an introduction. One of the most compelling happens in just two panels when a Skrull scout ship crosses the Surfer’s path and they immediately advise that the entire Skrull solar system be ‘blacked out’. Just seeing someone associated with Galactus terrifies them so much that it plunges their entire galactic empire into terror.
On their arrival back home the FF witness the sky catch fire, and are helpless to calm a panicked public, but then the fire transforms into stones in the sky. Reed locks himself away in his lab to study the phenomena and Sue, angry at being ignored, breaks in and finds him in conference with Uatu, the Watcher. That’s a surprise. And it’s made Reed the go-to-guy on the planet for issues cosmic. It’s revealed that Uatu is behind the events in the sky as he’s been using one of his clever gizmos to try to hide the planet from the Silver Surfer, who nonetheless discovers Earth and sends a signal to Galactus.
The last couple pages show Galactus’ arrival appropriately shown in massively large panels, one of them another Kirby Kollage, and the last showing the enormous World Devourer announcing his intent to drain the planet of all of its elemental life energy.
That’s it from a plot point of view, which by all accounts, Kirby and Lee were sharing a fairly even hand in at this point, but let’s just look also at the art. Take a moment to look over the images in this post. They range from tight melodrama to otherworldly spectacle within heartbeats. It would be very easy to fill this post many times more over with just as compelling images. In fact, there’s so much in this issue that it’s easy for the eye just to blitz out without taking in the true mastery of what’s being shown.
It doesn’t get weirder or more exciting than this, from a story or visual point of view. This is the highest example of the art — words and images, story and visualization working in perfect harmony.