Page 45 Review by Stephen
Features the first appearances of the Silver Surfer, The Inhumans and Galactus!
Also the wedding of Reed and Sue!
"Fools! It is I, Madam Medusa, who has trapped you!
"Of what use are your clumsy guns and fists against my unconquerable hair!"
I used to think exactly the same thing too.
I do apologise: it was me who single-handedly destroyed the ozone layer with my daily, almost geological strata of hair mousse, hair gel, spray gel, then hair spray, heat-drying each individually applied coat to such a concrete immobility of spikes that the post-punk array once withstood an open-topped journey on a double-decker bus to Haringey in a howling, rain-swept gale.
You can see the results in Page 45's Photograph Gallery, four photos right at the end.
I should point out that the INHUMANS' Medusa is no Gorgon. Nor is the INHUMANS' Gorgon, for that matter, and Madame Medusa's hair is merely prehensile rather than a hissing nest of snakes. Nevertheless, that's good enough for the Frightful Four to enlist her aid in invading the Baxter Building, wisely waiting for the Avengers and X-Men to leave the engagement party. The what now?!?!
Yes, Sue Storm and Reed Richards have announced their plans to be married!
Sue to the Submariner; Reed to his work.
No, no, to each other!
They didn't even have the common courtesy to send Doctor Victor Von Doom an invitation, but he was always going to find out eventually: it's splattered all over the newspapers, which he rends asunder with wrath.
"Reed Richards, the only man in the world ever to defeat me, getting married today!"
"This is my greatest chance for revenge - now, when he will least expect it!
"My attack must be foolproof, irresistible, all-powerful! Only by scoring the greatest victory of all time can I wipe out the humiliation of the past!"
God, it was only a game of Tiddlywinks.
Or was it strip-Tiddlywinks? Was your winkle tiddly, Victor?
Weddings: there's always some trouble and strife. Traditionally, that is the end result, unless you're left at the altar. What's the cockney for left at the altar? Rocked in Gibraltar?
No one has ever wanted to marry me.
"Sue - my darling!"
"We're married at last! And nothing will ever part us, my beloved!"
Yeah, not so much, really.
It's not the supervillains who really get in the way, although an awful lot of them do try their hardest on the big day itself: Mr. Hyde, the Mandarin, the Mole Man, the Skrulls; the Red Ghost, the Black Knight, the Grey Gargoyle, the Pink Panther; the Puppet Master, the Mad Thinker, the Human Top, the Alien Bottom and Kang The Conqueror. Plus there's Attuma the tuna and those pungent Masters Of Evil. Each and every one is "summoned" by Doom only to be dispatched by the most dysfunctionally dressed guest list in marital history: the Avengers, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Spider-Man. At least Nick Fury and Charles Xavier bring their tuxedos
No, the real culprit - as we will discover over the next five decades - is Reed "I've got a test tube and I'm not afraid to let it obsess me for months before I actually get around to using it" Richards.
These are actual quotations.
"Don't get too near them, darling - !"
"Stop sounding like a wife and find me that gun, lady!"
Yes, but she is your wife, matey, and - oh! - everything else in that sentence.
"Reed! Look at you! You haven't even shaved! And you must be starved!"
"For the love of Pete, girl! Is that what you disturbed me for?"
So much for the honeymoon period.
The wedding aside, this is one long epic which begins with magenta-maned Medusa of the Frightful Four being frightfully forward with Ben then awfully backward in addressing her roots. By which I mean not her follicle folk but her brethren, the Inhumans, revealed here for the first time and determined that they should all return whence they came, sequestered away in the Himalayan Great Refuge. But netting the human hairdo means venturing out themselves which is when Johnny "hotshot / brain-rot" Storm first spies Crystal and promptly falls head over heels in love with the one woman he cannot have.
It's one of the most fertile FF eras with the introduction also of the Silver Surfer, Galactus and even Wyatt Wingfoot, and it's here you will learn how the Silver Surfer comes to be stranded in exile on Earth, how he attracts the attention of The Thing's girlfriend Alicia, and what the true nature of the Ultimate Nullifier is, other than a device evidently used on an infant Johnny Storm's brain.
The collection is rounded off with a far more introverted affair which readers were led to believe would focus on Ben Grimm's plight as a man of deep feeling trapped in a body of bricks that made touching his girlfriend a somewhat abrasive affair.
'This Man, This Monster' kicked off with what was quite literally a splash page as The Thing is caught in a New York rainstorm at night. You'll find it parodied by Evan Dorkin in THE ELTINGVILLE CLUB (second piece of interior art down).
A couple of policemen in a patrol car offer him a lift, but instead he chooses to be alone with his soggy old thoughts until accosted by a bald-bonced Billy No Mates who lures him inside for a cuppa. God knows how much ketamine the cuppa was cut with, for Ben's instantly out like a light, then it's the old switcheroo with Ben reverting to human and the real monster of the story out to destroy the Fantastic Four disguised as the Thing. It is, however, a story of that monster's redemption as a moment of crisis leads to another of heroism and Billy suddenly realises why he had no mates: he is a bitter and selfish old plonker.
It is a classic, but it's also completely ridiculous.
Somehow Billy No Mates is familiar enough with everyone to know their nicknames and even who Aunt Petunia is, but gives the game away almost immediately by 'forgetting' how much he can lift. Neither Reed nor Sue raises an eyebrow even when their beloved Ben bursts in to confront the impostor. Instead they send Ben packing and immediately Reed puts his life in the imitator's hands. No pause for thought there. No, "Err, I think I'll let Sue handle this one while you're on the other side of the planet just to be on the safe side. You know, given that it's 50/50 as to which one of you is trying to get one over on me." Instead it's straight into sub-space for a space-time experiment clearly marked "DANGER!" with the evil doppelganger on duty as his life-line.
Do you think it's all going to go horribly wrong, dear readers?
More issues and "issues" from the swinging sixties, then, complete with the occasional piece of whacky photography illustrating the ocean's depths, the far reaches of space, or Mr. Fantastic's banks of weird and wonderful scientific doo-dads built from things that are grey.
It's immediately striking whenever Joe Sinnott's on inks (Kirby was famously dismissive about inkers - a very rare error of aesthetic judgement), and there are some cracking covers including a sunset scene anticipating Galactus and a most unusual choice in browns on issue #50's.
Also, although Galactus's now traditional purple attire is adopted in #49, moments earlier in #48 he's clad more like an early Wonderman at a Transformers fancy dress party. Colour coordination is so very important.
For even more merciless mockery and the occasional kind comment about Kirby, please see more FANTASTIC FOUR EPIC COLLECTIONS.
Meanwhile, "If only Bruce Banner could be here," muses someone at that engagement party.
Someone who is quite clearly insane.