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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 157 (April 1975) September 8, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews, Flashback.
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Either I’m easy to please, or I’ve been really lucky the past couple weeks because this issue is yet another great read that was randomly picked. I mean, the cover should say it all: the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, AND Dr. Doom? How could this issue NOT be good? The story is the finale of a three-parter (I haven’t read the first two parts, so I’m not too familiar with the entire story) as Doom has captured the FF (which includes Medusa as a current replacement for Sue) and is transferring a portion of the Silver Surfer’s Power Cosmic into his own Doomsman android.

First off, Rich Buckler needs to be awarded kudos for his very Kirby-esque pencil job. He also definitely gets tons of cool points for his last four pages being seemingly framed by fire (which makes sense when the master villain is revealed.) Of course, good art is always to be paired with a great story, and Roy Thomas delivers. Much of it is typical FF drama as the team tries to work their way through a series of dangers and traps that Doom has planted for them.

But the heart of the story comes with the seeming reunion of Norrin Radd and Shalla-Bal. Shalla-Bal seems to have lost her memory of the Surfer, until the two embrace, only to find tragedy. The reason she has lost her memory is because she never had it: she is only an Earth look alike, tricked into serving Doom to help capture the Surfer. As the Surfer is able to break free and help the FF defeat the Doomsman android and Doom himself, the Surfer leaves, sorrowing, and wondering if he shall ever see his Shalla-Bal again.

Here, Thomas pulls back the curtain and reveals that all of this was carefully constructed by Mephisto to further torture the Surfer. And the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) part? There was no look-alike. The girl is indeed Shalla-Bal who has been implanted with false memories from Mephisto. Norrin will continue to attempt to escape Earth to find his true love, while she will be living here, unknown, while he does this.

As I said, I didn’t actually read the first two parts, but I probably will. If this issue was any indication, this arc is a great piece from the early “Bronze Era” of Marvel Comics. It may be old, but if you ever get a chance to read these issues, I once again have a high recommendation. (I’m almost hoping next week’s pick will be a bad or mediocre one, so I don’t have to keep telling you guys to look up all these great old back issues! 😉 )

Next week: Fantastic Four 285 (A Secret Wars II tie-in!)