April 1979: Fantastic Four 208 – In which we learn the Sphinx was an early goth.


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Fantastic Four 208 was written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Sal Buscema and opens with the Champions of Xandar (the cast of Nova 25) blasting a Skrull ship, that unknown to them, houses three of the Fantastic Four Reed (Mr Fantastic) Richards, his wife Susan (Invisible Girl) Richards and best friend Benjamin J (The Ever Lovin’ Blue Eyed Thing) Grimm. It turns out they were fleeing Skrull space after been hit with an energy beam that ages them. Nova brings them aboard and once more the Sphinx talks about his great destiny and how he is above all their concerns. Then he senses the Xandarian computers and both he and Dr Sun chase off after them. Once again we have Dr Sun appear in an issue and then just wanders off panel and you never see what happens to him afterwards. The ship returns to Xandar and the aging FF are reunited with Johnny (Human Torch) Storm who was teleported to Xandar by it’s leader, who at this point isn’t named. Everyone is happy to see everyone else. Nova is amazed to be on Xandar and there is a random bit where Prime Thoran ( a scientist and acedemic) merges with the living computers of Xandar, he emerges powerful and glowing and leads the forces of Xandar to battle the Skrulls with the Champions and the Fantastic Four find that Sphinx has done the same thing and is now Galactus-like in stature.

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Now possessing the power to end his life as he SO MANY TIMES told others he wanted, he no longer wishes to waste the power and awareness he has on simple death, when he can do so much more. So basically, the whole wanting to die thing was a cry for help powered by ennui. The Champions of Xandar and the Fantastic Four battle the Sphinx and get pretty much nowhere. Sphinx now has the idea of returning to Earth, his former prison, to destroy it and the FF are clearly outmatched, even if three of them weren’t rapidly aging.

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Taking an off hand comment from Ben, Reed comes up with a solution. The Champions will stay on Xandar to battle the Skrulls as this was their fight to begin with, whilst the Fantastic Four head to Earth to save it from the Sphinx, but not alone, Reed’s intention is to get the help of the only person who could stop the Sphinx, Galactus.

Notes: This was not a great issue, the ideas presented within it are interesting, but it is just a bit too busy. The FF members are aging, but not so fast that it affects the story too much. Johnny arrives on Xandar and is kinda non-plussed. Nova arrives on Xandar, the home of the centurion who gave him his powers and that amazement lasts about a panel. Prime Thoran gains power and leads the warriors away, the Sphinx’s lust for life is restored and he is off to destroy Earth. Dr Sun is… well lets be honest, no one cares there.

It is satisfying to see Nova arrive and giving him a decent sized role in this issue gives Wolfman the chance to help wrap up Rich Rider’s story for the time being, leaving us with the story ahead of trying to get Galactus to stop someone destroying Earth. That’s like asking a fox to prevent a badger eating all the chickens. But it’s a crazy plan that has potential.

The art is workaday, but Sal Buscema is a great story-teller and the only problems with the art is that colouring techniques weren’t as good in 1979 as now. It looks very 70’s, but that isn’t a bad thing. Also it has the thing doing “It’s clobbering time!” and I always love to see that. This is a story that a modern writer with more time could flesh out, but as it stands, it’s an exciting single issue that makes you want to read more.

Next Time: Sweet Christmas, Danny and Luke are back.

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