The second act of the premiere Galactus story is a very good solid second act, and it does everything that a second act, under the rules of convention, should do. The danger is heightened, the true threat explained, and the characters set on a trajectory that will lead to the conclusion.
There is a great feeling of scope in this issue, comparable to that of the threat felt in Annual 1 when the Sub-Mariner invaded New York. The otherworldly threat in a familiar place has become the hallmark of the FF, more than any other title that Marvel published (or D.C., which always at this point used fictional cities). This time, the danger is a cosmic one that even The Watcher feels the need to involve himself in, albeit indirectly. There is a compelling opening scene where The Watcher confronts Galactus and tries to reason him away, but Galactus only turns his shoulder on him. It is the dispute of two enormously powerful beings who recognize each other, and whose courses have already been set in unalterable motion.
The Fantastic Four are, once again, caught slightly behind events that they do not fully understand yet, and the action is set alternately between trying to delay Galactus’ machine from sucking the life force from the planet, and desperately trying to survive the machines he almost casually tosses at them in response. Reed is pushed to his limits once more — another hallmark of the Lee/Kirby era — and angrily demands that The Watcher empower them to destroy Galactus.
The Watcher chooses The Torch of all of the Fantastic Four to go on a race through cosmic dimensions in order to find the thing that will deliver the world. It is a good choice since he has the ability to run the metaphysical gauntlet, but is the personality least suited to it. Set on this trajectory, we are left wondering if the Torch will even be able to understand what he is looking for when he sees it.
The Silver Surfer has been a little lost in the shuffle, and his storyline is probably the least well-thought-out of all of them, at least to someone who has been a regular reader up to this point. Knocked across the city by The Thing, he lands by accident upon Alicia Master’s skylight and she takes him in, feeds him, and tells him of his nobility of character, the elements of all of which we have seen before, in some form or other. Had this been the first time seeing this happen, then it would have been compelling, but another contrivance could surely have been created. Why not have Alicia be AT the Baxter Building while this is happening and go over to attend to a trounced Silver Surfer. That would have been better.Anyway, the end result is that the Silver Surfer suddenly becomes touched by the plight of humanity and decides that he is going to do whatever he can in order to stop his master from destroying them utterly. The Watcher observes him doing this and worries that for his good intentions, the Surfer may end up thwarting his own plans to rid the planet of the World Devourer.
There’s a good amount of tension, and it’s a story that encompasses the universe and dimensions beyond our own, and yet is still anchored firmly into the world we know and see every day. It’s exemplary craftsmanship, and it is only diminished by its familiarity in being partially told and retold for so many years. With a fresh mind, this still thrills.