Marvel Madness

That Time the Fantastic Four Beat Up an Angel

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When tracking down the weird Marvel stories that I feature here on Marvel Madness, I have a few different methods. Occasionally I talk about famously weird stories, the type of comics that end up on all sorts of “weirdest Marvel stories” lists, and which are usually pretty fantastic, but which end up a little obvious. I will dole them out every now and then, stories like “Capwolf” and the one where Luke Cage calls Dr. Doom honey, because they really are worth the discussion. Other times I specifically seek out certain stories, especially the more themed ones that I talk about, like Christmas stories or ones that feature Dr. Doom interacting with someone strange. But, I think the purest method for finding stories to feature on Marvel Madness comes from me just stumbling upon something special. I’m at all times working through the classic runs of just about every single major Marvel character, eagerly looking for some strange adventure to talk about. And, there are definitely some triggers that basically ensure I’m going to talk about a comic I just happen to read. Doctor Doom is an obvious one, as are any appearance of a vampire, especially Dracula. And, sometimes I come across something I never even knew I needed in my life. Such as when I realized that the Fantastic Four comics I was reading was going to feature Marvel’s First Family beating the hell out of an angel, weirdly something I’ve already tackled on this site. So, you better believe I was already ready to talk about this story, and as it went on and starting taking some of the wildest twists imaginable, I knew I had to talk about it.

This story begins as so many other Fantastic Four stories do, with Reed tinkering on some new contraption while Johnny helps him and Ben appears to be reading pornography instead of helping. And this pleasant afternoon in is ruined by a sudden emergency klaxon warning them of some new impending doom. Reed, Johnny, Ben, and Sue rapidly get together to figure out what’s going on, just as a bunch of masked men begins storming the Baxter Building with machine guns, eager to come kill the Fantastic Four. They stampede through the lobby of the Baxter and head up the elevator, and just pour out into the home of the Fantastic Four guns blazing. And, you may wonder, why is this happening? Well, apparently these brilliant criminal geniuses have decided to just attack the Fantastic Four, kill them with Uzis, and steal all of Reed Richards’ “formulas” so they can sell them and get rich. Which, seems like kind of an underpants gnome plan, but whatever, they’re the geniuses.

 

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And, as you might have guessed, the Fantastic Four make pretty quick work of these randos. They begin attacking their invaders, using their abilities to more or less just prank the killers. Reed stretches around, confounding the criminals who are unable to get a bead on him. Sue decides to go a body-horror route and make some of the men’s arms and legs become invisible, causing them to panic and drop their weapons. Johnny melts the floor under their feat, burning their shoes. And, Ben just throws heavy machinery at them, ready to just pulverize their stupid bodies. All in all it just kind of reminds you why the Fantastic Four aren’t shown fighting petty street crime, because they’re just kind of too over-powered.

However, a standoff is reached when one of the killer makes a very strange threat. He runs up to an open window in Reed’s lab, and starts dangling a grenade outside, threatening to drop it down into the crowd below, figuring it would surely kill at least one person. Unfortunately, he’s a little too busy focusing on Ben, and doesn’t notice that Reed has stretched out of a different window, and has essentially snuck up on the man. Reed grabs him, causing the grenade to do exactly what the dude threatened to do. Luckily, Reed is able to quickly stretch down and grab the grenade, whipping it up into the air so it can explode harmlessly in the sky. However, once the criminals are taken care of, they realize there’s still one problem. The elevator cables have been frayed in the battle, meaning Ben has to personally grab the elevator and lower it to safety himself. And, when he’s one with that, he finds an even more intimidating villain waiting for him in the lobby.

 

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Hey everybody, it’s everyone’s favorite Fantastic Four side-character, Walter Collins the Fantastic Four’s cranky landlord who hates them! Did you know that for a shocking amount of the time the Fantastic Four didn’t own the Baxter Building and in fact just rented space in it, meaning that they had a mean old landlord with serious J Jonah Jameson energy while sharing the building with random other tenants? Because that was a thing that happened! And, as you might have guessed, Walter Collins doesn’t like the Fantastic Four. They cause all sorts of problems with their superhero shenanigans, and this latest terrorist attack has become the last straw.

Collins announces that he’s going to initiate eviction proceedings to kick the Fantastic Four out of his building once and for all. Which results in Ben Grimm basically threatening to pound him into a fine paste. And, this doesn’t really do much to deescalate the hostilities. Collins flees for his life while Reed is able to talk Ben down, ensuring him that they’ll figure out some way to placate Collins and keep their home. And, while doing so the Four suddenly find themselves in the magical presence of Agatha Harkness, a powerful witch and part-time babysitting for Franklin Richards. She has astral projected into the Baxter Building to warn the Fantastic Four that there is about to be a great danger for all mankind arriving in New York. And, what could it be? Well, we get a montage of a whole bunch of stereotypes from around the world reacting in abject terror and fascination to whatever is rapidly zooming around the entire planet, approaching New York. And, what could this be? Well…

 

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Nice cape, my man. So, this fellow is the great danger that Agatha Harkness warned the Fantastic Four about, and he has been power walking across the planet just to reach them. Which, honestly doesn’t rank too high on the list of weirdest stuff the Fantastic Four have seen in their illustrious career. But, it’s still weird enough that they decide to investigate. So, they hop into the Fantasticar and give chase, eager to see what his deal is. Unfortunately, the being doesn’t seem to interested in stopping to talk to them, so Reed requests Johnny do what he’s best at. Being annoying. Johnny flames on and begins tossing fireballs past the being, getting his attention and drawing him toward them.

And, shockingly, this works. The being starts looking at the Fantastic Four, giving them his undivided attention. The only problem is that Reed needs all his stuff at the Baxter Building to get a proper reading, so they basically chase the guy back to their home base. And, while Reed starts fiddling with all of his gadgets, they see the being start to get bored and drift away. So, Sue responds by tormenting Ben to keep the guys attention. She turns parts of him invisible and starts tossing his body around with her force fields, much to Ben’s consternation. But it keeps the being there, ominously floating above the Baxter Building. And, when even that starts boring the being, Johnny starts setting off more and more elaborate fireworks with his powers. However, eventually none of this is enough to capture the air walker’s attention, and he decides to just float up in to the sky an destroy a passenger jetliner.

 

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Well, that’s less than ideal. Reed Richards sees this insane show of force and immediately calls General Ross, the madman who has made a career out of unsuccessfully fighting the Hulk, to tell him what’s going on. Which means that the Army quickly is sent out to protect New York from this strange caped man. But, all this leads to is finding that the being is able to easily shrug off several direct missile hits. He then lowers himself to the streets so he can brush aside all of the civilians with hurricane-like gusts of wind, and melts all of the military’s tanks with a single gesture.

Which is when the being just starts speaking English. He explains that he’s come to this wretched world to deliver a simple message. Mankind is doomed, and he’s here to destroy them. And this is a sign for the Fantastic Four that it’s officially time to start kicking ass. They all attack the being, now that he’s explicitly labeled himself a threat. But, he’s pretty easily able to defeat them all, before moving onto the second part of his plan. Which is so summon a massive horn. He then explains to the defeated Fantastic Four that his name is Gabriel, he’s from heaven, and he’s here to trigger the Apocalypse, Book of Revelations style.

 

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Yep! This isn’t some random angel, it’s the Archangel Gabriel, and he’s here to destroy mankind with his magical horn! Which, maybe seems out of the Fantastic Four’s jurisdiction, but whatever, they’re the ones on the scene. Gabriel continues to exposit about how powerful he is, and how they’re all going to die. But, he also tells the assembled masses that the exact moment of their destruction is purely up to him, and that they should all just go home and wait out the end of days.

Which isn’t really going to be okay with the Fantastic Four. Reed gets up and tries to explain to Gabriel that it’s not particularly cool for him to destroy mankind. But, Gabriel hears that complaint and responds by calling them less than ants, and generating another massive gust of wind that just blows the FF away from him. Reed and Ben are able to save as many civilians as they can from the winds, and end up getting Gabriel to stop the wind storm by intimating that he’s only doing this to impress them, which throws him into a pouty rage. And, in retaliation he decides to add a little spice to the terror that the assorted masses are feeling by announcing that if they kill the Fantastic Four he’ll spare their planet.

 

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And the people of New York hear that message, and valiantly decide that they would never betray the heroes who have saved their lives countless time. Oh, just kidding, they immediately turn on the Fantastic Four, to the point that a random dude literally tried to run Johnny over with his car. Luckily, Johnny is able to melt the car around him, saving his life. He then starts just throwing fire around, causing the homicidal citizens of New York to flee in terror so that the Fantastic Four can flee to safety. And, for some reason, they decide that they should storm into a nearby television studio so that they can go on live TV and tell people to stop trying to kill them in the streets

When they get inside though they find that the security guards want no part in helping them, and actively hope that they get killed by Gabriel. So, the FF have no choice but to run past them and storm onto live television to make their case. But, it turns out that the studio has shut down their broadcast, since the world is ending and all. They tell Reed that there are reports all around the world saying that people have just kind of given up on life, and are ready for Gabriel to destroy them. But, Reed and the FF promise they won’t stop until the Earth is safe, and race off to deal with Gabriel. So, they zip back over to the Baxter Building so Reed can grab some sort of science gun before getting back into the Fantasticar to track Gabriel down. And, when they get the angel in their sights, Reed just unleashes hell.

 

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Ladies and gentlemen, Reed Richards just performed a drive-by shooting on an angel. Comics are the greatest medium in fiction.

So, after Reed kills the angel, he starts to doubt himself, because he really didn’t think that this gun was supposed to do what it did. And, sure enough, it turns out that he didn’t really disintegrate Gabriel. He just turned him invisible, or something. And Gabriel responds by picking up an entire steam trawler at the Fantasticar, sending out heroes careening down into the ocean. And, while they struggle not to drown, Gabriel shows back up ready to beat some ass. He triggers a massive tsunami and picks the Fantastic Four and the Fantasticar up and sends them jettisoning toward New York City, causing even more devastation.

The Fantastic Four are then split up, with Reed managing to rescue Sue and climb onto a random rooftop to catch a breather, while Ben does the same thing on a different rooftop with an unconscious Johnny. Unfortunately, the rooftop that Ben and Johnny end up on also contains Gabriel. And if you don’t think that Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew isn’t going to start talking shit to a goddamn angel, then you don’t known one Benjamin J Grimm. He starts yelling at Gabriel, which leads to Gabriel punching him so hard he goes sailing off the rooftop and into the waiting arms of Reed Richards. And, in this moment of absolute defeat, the Fantastic Four get a surprise bit of aid. Because it turns out that a friend of theirs has been observing this entire farce while floating in space, and has decided that it’s time to lend a cosmically powered hand. That’s right, it’s time for the Silver Surfer to show up!

 

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So, this is still from the time when Silver Surfer was trapped in the relative area of the Earth, unable to explore the cosmos at his will, and he got a chance to watch Gabriel’s shenanigans on Earth. So, he’s arrived to Earth to help defeat this ornery angel. But, while the Silver Surfer is eager to help, he’s almost immediately jumped by Gabriel, who quickly establishes that he’s a) just as powerful as him and b) knows exactly who the Surfer is. Which, is more than a little alarming.

And, as if all of that wasn’t weird enough, Gabriel drops a shocking revelation. He doesn’t give a crap about ending the Earth. He did all of this just to draw the attention of the Silver Surfer so that he could defeat him. It was all just an elaborate farce! The Surfer is pretty shocked by this reveal, but also decides that he’s just going to give it his best shot, and begins attacking Gabriel as ferociously as possible. And, he starts to beat the hell out of Gabriel, during which he just so happens to rip off Gabriel’s weird feathery cape. Which, was a bad call, because it turns out that that cape was the source of all of Gabriel’s powers. Gabriel plummets from the sky, where he promptly hits the ground and explodes. But, instead of gore, or whatever you’d think angles would be made of, it turns out that Gabriel is actually some sort of robot. So, who would go through all of this, creating an angel robot and picking a fight with the Fantastic Four, just to draw out the Silver Surfer? Well, my first inclination was obviously Doctor Doom, but the real answer is much crazier.

 

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Oh shit! That’s right, Galactus is behind this clever ruse! He’s somehow arrived on Earth unseen, created a robot angel with his extensive knowledge of the Christian Bible, made that robot powerful enough to control the elements, and has used it to lure out his former employee. Having a real normal one, Galactus! And, his presence quickly raises some red flags. Primarily the fact that the Fantastic Four have already defeated him, and made him promise to never return to Earth with hostile intent. Reed points this out to the surly space god, and Galactus starts playing with semantics. He says that he isn’t here to eat the planet, but he will destroy it, unless Earth gives him back the Silver Surfer, who he himself imprisoned here.

The thing is though, Silver Surfer isn’t on board with this plan. The whole reason that he’s imprisoned on Earth was because he was sick of Galactus’ shit and helped Reed Richards scare him with the Ultimate Nulifier, and though he hasn’t exactly loved his time trapped on this backwater planet, he also doesn’t want to go back to his old job aiding planetary genocide.  So, Surfer flies at Galactus, ready to fight him, and promptly gets snatched out of the air. But, before Galactus can just stick Surfer in his pocket or whatever, Ben Grimm decides to help out, and starts pummeling Galactus’ Achilles tendon like he’s in Pet Sematary. 

 

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And, surprisingly, this doesn’t go well. Ben is able to flip Galactus onto his back, which is a little surprising, but all it really does is piss Galactus off more. Which, Surfer warns against. He gets free of Galactus, and warns the Fantastic Four to stop fighting Galactus, in fear of having him lose his temper and eat the planet. But, the FF don’t really listen, and keep pestering Galactus until he gets fed up and just kind of flicks them across town, sending them careening toward Coney Island. The Fantastic Four land inside the famous amusement park, causing quite a bit of damage, and decide to regroup.

The Silver Surfer flies to meet them, telling them that his life isn’t worth the fight. But, Reed counters that it totally is, and the Fantastic Four promise to do whatever they can to help him. And, the Surfer does have one idea. Because Galactus must have a ship somewhere close, since he can’t travel through space without it. And, finding that ship is the key to Surfer’s plan. So, he takes to the skies to try and find Galactus’ ship, which proves pretty simple. It’s basically just floating right outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Which is a shame, because Galactus purposefully parked it right outside the barrier that keeps the Silver Surfer in Earth’s radius, meaning he’s unable to get to the ship on his own. So, the Surfer returns to Earth just in time to see Galactus start absolutely wrecking an amusement park.

 

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The Fantastic Four are doing their best to fight back Galactus while mitigating the destruction done to the amusement park, but they aren’t don’t very well. So, the Silver Surfer flits down to Reed Richards, and tells him that their plan hit a little snag. And, while Reed and the Surfer chat about alternate plans, Ben does his best to distract Galactus by ripping a Ferris Wheel out of the ground and just smashing it over Galactus’ head like a barstool in a drunken brawl. This results in Ben getting the absolute shit beat out of him, to the point where the Surfer has to help again, attacking Galactus directly. Which was a mistake, because Galactus is able to just smash the Surfer into a wall, knocking him out.

Johnny is starting to panic at this point, which isn’t helped by the fact that Reed and Sue appear to have fled the battle, leaving him the only standing hero against the Eater of the Worlds. And, where have Reed and Sue scampered off to? Well, they’ve decided that if the Surfer isn’t able to reach Galactus’s ship, it’s up to them. So, Reed and Sue race back to the Baxter Building where Reed and Sue prepare to launch themselves into space using a prototype rocket they’ve built. They fly out of the atmosphere, right past the Surfer’s invisible barrier, and reach Galactus’ ship. And, thanks to the Surfer’s advice on the inner workings of the ship, Reed is able to gain control of Galactus’ vessel, and flies it right back to the amusement park so he can taunt Galactus.

 

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And, as you might have guessed, Galactus isn’t too keen on the fact that little grubby human has simultaneously stolen his car and his house, touching all of his stuff. And that irritation just gets worse when Reed starts delivering an ultimatum. It’s the same plan that the Silver Surfer was going to attempt, and that’s to tell Galactus that if he doesn’t leave the planet immediately they’re going to blow up his ship, stranding him on Earth. The ultimate punishment! And, this threat makes Galactus pretty darn angry. He informs Reed that if they don’t stop this shit immediately he’s going to officially see the human race as enemies rather than minor irritations, at which point he’ll just wreck them all. He even goes into vivid descriptions of ways that he would personally kill each member of the Fantastic Four. After which he’ll wander the planet, killing every living being.

So, the options are pretty clear. Reed has to give up and let Galactus steal the Surfer, or he’ll kill everyone on Earth. Reed immediately starts to panic, and tries to lecture Galactus about ethics and empathy, to which Galactus just informs him he has until sundown to surrender or Operation Destroy the Earth will begin. Which is a problem, because it turns out that the United States government has been keeping an eye on this whole Galactus situation, and decided that it’s time for them to solve it the only way they know how. To launch a bunch of missiles at Galactus’ head! It does not go well. Galactus is able to shrug off all of their attacks, and makes short work of the military, throwing trains at them and melting all of their missiles. Which is when Sue Richards gets a surprise call back in the Baxter Building.

 

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It’s all fun and games until goddamn Richard Nixon shows up! He has called the Fantastic Four to tell them that he wants them to just let the Silver Surfer be taken by Galactus, and to end this attack. Which, honestly, is the more logical decision here. But Sue promises them that Reed has a plan that will totally work, and not end with Galactus eating the planet. Sue then hangs up on the President, and tells Reed that things are getting a little too intense. So, he returns to Galactus, ready to try bargaining again, only to find that the Surfer has also arrived, and is willing to just give up and serve Galactus again.

There’s only one problem. Goddamn Richard Nixon. He’s become worried that he can’t let Reed Richards boss him around, because it’ll make him look weak in the upcoming election, so he’s ordered the military to strike once again. But, they arrive just in time to see Reed Richards giving up. He tells Galactus that they will obey his demands, and that the Surfer will follow him where he goes in the universe. Galactus then happily gets inside his ship, and leaves Earth, while the Surfer prepares to follow. However, Reed does his best to keep the Surfer on Earth, telling him to stay behind while Galactus leaves, even though that seems to invalidate their deal. The Surfer refuses this plan though, and prepares to leave, causing Reed to hop on his back. Which, is enough to cause the military to panic, thinking that Reed is screwing them over again. So, they shoot him.

 

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So, the military has shot Reed Richards in the back, causing the Silver Surfer to panic. He realizes that there’s no time to bring Reed to a hospital or anything, because the wound is too severe for human medicine, so he comes up with a different plan. The Surfer just kind of balls Reed up and starts rapidly fleeing from the city, causing everyone to lose their minds. The military attempt to attack the Surfer, leading to Johnny and Ben defending him, which means it’s time for the Thing and the Human Torch to just kick some soldier ass while Reed is carried away like a baby.

The Silver Surfer then flies the body of Reed Richards out to what I assume is upstate New York, at a pleasant secluded lake. Because apparently the Surfer needs solitude to enact his plan. He begins wielding the Power Cosmic in a specific way that’s able to heal Reed’s wounds, bringing him back to life. And, with Reed healthy, he asks the Surfer to bring him back to New York, after a trip to talk to Agatha Harkness. Reed asks the old witch for an assist, and then they all head back to New York where Harkness uses her powers to let Reed Richards speak to every human on the planet simultaneously to tell them what’s up. Basically, when he was on board Galactus’ ship he reprogrammed the navigation to send the vessel to the Negative Zone. This will give Galactus a whole new universe of planet to eat, while also technically saving the Silver Surfer, since they made a deal for him to follow Galactus anywhere in this universe. And, thanks to those semantics, the day is saved! Reed Richard is hailed as a hero, and the Silver Surfer is free to roam the cosmos once more.

 

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What a wonderfully goofy story. It’s tales like this that remind me why I love Marvel Comics, because this thing is just a roller coaster of insane ideas. The Fantastic Four books are always some of the craziest Marvel comics, because it seemed like they used it to experiment with any strange ideas, letting them weave between all sorts of tones and concepts. Which is how you get a story like this, that begins with the Fantastic Four fighting what appears to be the Archangel Gabriel, which is in actuality a robot that Galactus made in order to make the Silver Surfer jealous. That is so crazy, and I love every bit of it. Galactus is such a strange character, and the insane ways that the Fantastic Four have found to best him over the years delight me to no end. I really don’t know how Galactus got back from the Negative Zone after the events of this story, but it is a pretty clever idea, despite the fact that it requires a whole lot of specific language to get this con to work. But, it does work, while delivering a staggering amount of terrific elements. I mean, how can you not love a story that features the Fantastic Four, the Archangel Gabriel, the Silver Surfer, and Richard Nixon? It’s a work of art. I have no idea how people don’t find the Fantastic Four interesting, and haven’t been able to make adaptations of them work, because stories like this prove that you can do just about anything with these characters, and it’ll work. Want to mix Christian mythology with amusement park fights and a planet eating space monster? Sure, that makes sense! It’s a glorious thing. Although, I am going to be concerned over whether or not the Fantastic Four were able to convince their mean old landlord not to evict them. You’d think saving the planet would be a pretty good mulligan on that end.

 

Fantastic Four #120-123 were written by Stan Lee, penciled by John Buscema, inked by Joe Sinnott, lettered by Art Simek, Sam Rosen, and Jon Costa, and edited by Stan Lee, 1972.

 

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Benjamin, your family is present! 

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