“I should read the entire Hickman Fantastic Four run before reading the Infinity event.”
“Wait – maybe I’ll read all of Hickman’s Marvel work, since he’s a writer that builds on his previous comic stories. Okay. I’ll do that.”
“Hmmm… where did Marvel actually start building the whole Infinity Gems thing? Oh look – the Thanos: Final Threat mini-collection has the two 1977 Annuals introducing the Infinity Stones (as they were called back then). That’s a good start.”
“Is it really that much more to add all of Thanos’ comic appearances? Naaaaahhhhh…. Thanos great read, here I come!”
“Star-Lord has always been a favorite. And he doesn’t have too many early appearances, so I could throw that it in as well since it’s around the same time. Done!”
“Hmmm… but Captain Mar-Vell.”
“Uggghhhh…. Warlock was originally Him. From an issue of Fantastic Four. Siiiiiigggghhhhh….”
“But… the Galactus Trilogy!”
And there you have it. That’s how it happens. That’s how a Jonathan Hickman read turns into a Thanos great read culminating into an overall grand Marvel Cosmic mega-read!
Is it any wonder I can never catch up?
So with all of that – and no, I’m not going back any further – here’s the first stop on the Road to Infinity: Fantastic Four #48-50 (1966) featuring the epic Galactus Trilogy!
Not only is this my way to learn about Marvel Cosmic first-hand – rather than rely on articles or assumptions (that sometime are incorrect or don’t tell the full story) – but already I’m seeing how the building blocks connect forward into the future of Marvel Cosmic comics. These won’t be full breakdowns of issues. The easy fun part of all of this is when and where I come across the actual word “infinity” and deciphering if it has weight and meaning to the characters, the comics, the later works by Hickman (and others creators), etc. That will be the focus of these posts.
001: “Into the center of Infinity!”
In Fantastic Four #49, Johnny Storm is sent on a quest through space and time by Uatu the Watcher, in hopes of finding “the one object that may stop Galactus” and his plans of devouring the Earth and its resources:
The Watcher lays down major Marvel cosmology here: Johnny is transported out of his own “time continuum”. He passes through “celestial barriers known as Un-Life” (considering this is a Kirby comic, I have to imagine this could be a precursor to DC’s Anti-Life). These bands of Un-Life are capable of erasing a planet, according to issue #50 (which made me think of DC’s Hypertime concept from the Superboy “Black Zero” story: if you touched the element Hyperium, you were erased from all existence and realities. Ouch). The Torch continues beyond the “final dimension curtain”, into a far distant galaxy until he eventually reaches Galactus’ world ship (which would later be named Taa II). It is on this giant space station that Johnny will find the object the Watcher sent him to retrieve.
002: “He brought me through Infinity!!”
We move to Fantastic Four #50, where the Watcher is guiding Johnny back to the battle over the Baxter Building through sub-space, “the only entrance back to his own universe”. And that’s when we get Johnny’s reactions to his mind-bending journey:
Johnny has re-entered his time continuum and tells the others about his experience: “I travelled through worlds… so big… there aren’t words…! We’re like ants… just ants… ANTS!” The Watcher assures the FF that the memory won’t last: “The human brain cannot long retain a concept of such indescribable magnitude!” It’s the scope of Johnny’s journey that speaks to the larger Marvel Cosmology that is just forming here in these issues.
The object Johnny brought back is the Ultimate Nullifier, And when I talk about assumptions of comic lore, I just imagined it was Reed Richards who first came across the device. When you think of what happens to Johnny under Hickman’s run, there’s a nice connection to having the Torch be the first Marvel through Infinity. It also speaks to the power of the Human Torch (and the Fantastic Four as a whole). Under John Byrne’s FF run, the idea was kicked around that Sue Storm could be the most powerful member of the bunch due to the untapped potential of her powers. When it came down to pick someone to retrieve the Ultimate Nullifier, Uatu had this to say about Johnny: “It is in a place that only the Human Torch can reach!” and “…only you have the ability to fly safely past such obstacles”. Johnny isn’t just jumping hoops through the Un-Life, he’s flying through sub-space, through a “distance… so great that your language holds no words”. The FF are empowered by cosmic rays. Their very design concept is made of the four basic classic elements. Just as Galactus is part of the cosmic order, could the members of the Fantastic Four be as well? Galactus even hints at such a potential during his departure:
Considering Marvel’s concept of the cosmic rays, Cosmic Awareness, the Destiny Force, not to mention the potential of Franklin and Valeria, and all the other human Marvels touched by something more, Galactus’ words are a promise and a warning and could speak volumes to the future of the Fantastic Four family. Just as Galactus is the last survivor of his universe, it makes me wonder what could be on the other side for the FF? Considering the wrap up of the most recent Secret Wars, it kinda all makes sense.
I’m glad I went aaaaaaaaaaaaalllllll the way back to the Galactus Trilogy. I’ve never read it before, outside of the viewpoint given during Busiek/Ross’ Marvels, and it certainly lives up to its epic nature. Doesn’t help that now I want to add all of Galactus’ appearances to my Marvel Cosmic read. Ugh. I’m hopeless.
It did lead me to another classic however, “This Man… this Monster!”, which will give us the next stop on…
…the Road to Infinity!