50. The Startling Saga of the Silver Surfer

Fantastic Four Issue Fifty 50

Issue Fifty

The title here is quite misleading, since we don’t have the origin of the Silver Surfer in this issue, as one would expect.

Instead we have an excellent end of the our first Galactus tale. The Silver Surfer, in an effort to save the earth, tries to reason with and contain Galactus. The Silver Surfer claims that Galactus has never seen his full potential, which actually goes against his origin story, since we will come to know that Galactus gave him his power.

Galactus incongruously argues that the human beings are like ants (how would he know about ants? He’s only been on the planet for half an hour. Come to that, how are they speaking English?) and that the Surfer wouldn’t hesitate to step on an anthill. Not that Surfer steps anywhere, of course. The Watcher backs him up by explaining to the Fantastic Four that Galactus is above good and evil, and that’s the masterstroke for his character makeup.

Fantastic Four Issue Fifty 50

Ben strikes a perfect everyman note throughout this issue. In most of the others, he’s slightly obnoxious.

He isn’t a villain anymore, he’s a force of nature, and one that humans have never experienced before.

Johnny Storm arrives back from where the Watcher sent him with a device that will stop Galactus. He arrives distraught, and it’s here that the niggling anthill analogy pays off, because Johnny Storm, who we should remind ourselves is still just a teenager — arrives in shock and in the middle of a near mental breakdown, repeating “we’re like ants… just ants… ants…”. He has seen the universe as Galactus has seen it — and he agrees with him! It’s a very haunting touch, and a profound counterpoint to the character of the Silver Surfer who, out of empathy with Alicia has sided with the human race. But Johnny, through empathy with Galactus, does not side against him, and he makes no other action until the adventure is finished.Fantastic Four Issue Fifty 50The device Johnny brought back is the Ultimate Nullifier, a small machine that could apparently unravel the fabric of the universe. Galactus is so terrified, not just of the device itself, but that it has been put into hands that don’t even understand what it is. He backs off and makes a treaty immediately, and it’s an action that makes sense. It’s like burglar who breaks into a house and who is then convinced to leave when the home owners give the detonator to a nuclear explosive to their three-year-old child. He departs, but first passes judgment on the Silver Surfer by imprisoning him on earth.

Fantastic Four Issue Fifty 50And that is the end of the story, but it’s not the end of this issue. Just in the way that this story started half-way through another issue, it is fitting that it finishes half-way through another. And here we see the strength of the characters that Lee and Kirby created, because we accept this, and really want to see how these adventures have affected them emotionally.

Ben is the first strand to be dealt with. He watches Alicia tries to console a purposeless Silver Surfer and a misheard conversation between them leads Ben to believe that she doesn’t love him any more. He leaves, heartbroken, just as Alicia turns to him. Once again, he self-sabotages his relationship with her, enforcing his own emotions at his state onto her.

Fantastic Four 50 Silver SurferNext we see Reed and Sue, back at home, trying to return to normal. Reed is ignoring her to the extent that he almost absent-mindedly zaps her with one of their experiments. The adjustment to married life isn’t going well for them.

The last we see is Johnny Storm’s first day at college. But there is a ┬ábrief interlude with a scene of a coach of the college football team having conflicts with his star quarterback which, in the context of the rest of the issue, is a very odd vignette and one that does not, yet, involve any of our main characters.

Johnny arrives at ‘Metro College’ and meets up with Wyatt Wingfoot, a student from an Indian reservation outside of Tulsa. The dean finds that both students have met and he leads them into his study, and here we find Johnny in a great deal of conflict, but not with any character, but within himself. He reflects on everything that has happened to him in the course of the last seven issues — his cosmic journey and his thwarted love affair with Crystal the Inhuman and wonders how, with the life he’s led, he could ever do anything so mundane as earn a degree.

A brilliant issue which breaks the boundaries of expectation and convention.

Fantastic Four Issue Fifty 50

A Jack Kirby splash page, form an movement used to full effect.


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