Friday 7 January 2011

Fantastic Four #64. A Sentry not out.

Fantastic Four #64, the Sentry makes his first appearance
Sometimes in life, unlikely strands combine to focus our minds on a single matter. With me, a combination of reviewing The Avengers' Kree/Skrull War and reading of the not-that-recent-death of Zecharia Sitchin has brought me to the front doorstep of The Fantastic Four #64.

For those not in the know, Zecharia Sitchin was in the Erich Von Daniken envelope of claiming the Earth had been visited in the dim and distant past by aliens who'd then interfered in its development, a theory that formed the bedrock of the whole Kree/Skrull epic and that, in Marvel Comics terms, was first laid down in this very issue.

Now, you or I, when we need to get away from it all, resort to the nearest travel firm but the Fantastic Four rely on a much more reliable source of a good holiday. They get the Thing to throw a dart at a map of the world. Despite the dart clearly landing in the North Pacific, they decide it's landed on an island in the South Pacific and determine to go there for their holiday. Never mind that the Thing's "choice" is uninhabited, has no hotels, no people, no amenities and seems to be only a hundred yards wide, this is the Fantastic Four and clearly all common sense was destroyed when they got zapped by those Cosmic Rays.

Sadly for them, they're not the first to visit the place. An archaeologist's beaten them to it and he and his lackey have just been captured by the Kree's Sentry 459, guardian of the ancient alien base that lurks beneath the island. Awakened from his slumbers, by the duo's intrusion, he sets up a force field to keep everyone else out, just as the Fantastic Four arrive. Needless to say this leads to a fight, one that only ends when the Human Torch shows up and accidentally blows the island up, leaving the FF to flee with the archaeologist and his flunky, as the Sentry stays behind to perish with the base.

Although the writing's credited to Stan Lee, the story feels like 100% Jack Kirby, especially as he regurgitated an awful lot of the ideas behind it for his 1970s' Eternals strip. Even the deriving of the name "the Kree" from the Krel in the classic Leslie Nielsen movie, Forbidden Planet - as seems to be the case - feels like pure Jack Kirby.

One of the things that strikes you, reading this tale, is how mysterious and alien the unseen Kree seem, in comparison to the distinctly human-like race we know later. To a large degree it's a shame their sense of alienness wasn't maintained in future appearances.

For me, The Fantastic Four at this time found Jack Kirby at his peak as an artist, due in no small part to Joe Sinnott's bold and unambiguous inking. And if this issue's characterisation of its women is less than dynamic, at least it makes up for it with the vigour and intrigue of its central tale. Such is the pulse-pounding power of this outing that it's hard to believe that the start of Jack Kirby's decline on the strip was just four issues away. But, as Johnny Morris used to say on Tales From the Riverbank, that's a story for another day.


Kid said...

Johnny Morris - Tales of the Riverbank - now you're talking. Considering that ol' JK lifted an awful lot of his concepts from various other sources (the Pulps, SF magazines, books, movies, etc.) was he really the ideas genius most of us consider him - or just a bit of a burglar? Answers on a postcard please...

Steve said...

Well, there's that old saying; talent borrows but genius steals.

Caescarna said...

What if it was left out of the storyline that the F4 had decided on a camping holiday? No need for hotels etc in that case.

Also - it wouldn't be hard for The Thing to build a camp, he'd just need to pull up a few thousand year old trees or something to make a log cabin. Heat wouldn't be a problem either :)

Anonymous said...

That's one of my first marvel's comics book.

Steve W. said...

Katars, and it was a great issue to start your Marvel reading with.