Fantastic Four #225 – “The Blind God’s Tears”

Published: 1980

Creative Team: Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz

Summary: The team have found themselves in a strange crystal biosphere, somewhere in the Arctic Circle, where a race of Vikings worship Korgon, a fifteen-foot tall ‘God’. Korgon keeps the biosphere going with his radioactive crimson tears, but he has recently begun to die and wants the team to save him. Complications ensue but essentially, they do.

Analysis: A comic badly in need of coherence. The turn of the 80s were a somewhat directionless time for Marvel, with Jim Shooter still establishing his editorial reign, and the company riding out a lean time for the industry with toy and film tie-in comics and slightly desperate creations like the ‘Disco Dazzler’. (In itself, a comic about disco isn’t a bad idea. A comic which has to sell a necessarily drug and sex free version of disco to small boys probably is.)

This issue, then, shows a Marvel in transition. Hallmarks of the Shooter era are already present – his edict that “every comic is someone’s first” means that all the characters spend plenty of time recapping story points. But the overall vibe of the issue is 70s Marvel – wordy, weird, convoluted, with plot playing a poor second to trippy ideas.

In the hands of Marvel’s better writers the approach worked – at its best 70s Marvels were the strangest, funniest, most mind-expanding reads on the stands. On the other hand you might just end up with a confusing splat of half-thought-out ideas. If this issue had been my first, though, and if I’d been the right age, I might well have loved it despite its flaws – the tall, skinny, weeping Korgon is an arrestingly bizarre image, even if his story is kind of boring. (The Vikings on quad bikes on the cover might or might not have put me off.)

Doug Moench, writing, was a strange choice for the FF – his best-known stuff is Master Of Kung-Fu, Batman and Moon Knight – comics about individuals exerting their will and sense of morality on a shadowy, criminal world. The Fantastic Four operate in the brighter uplands of superhero comics, and it’s dreadfully apparent that he doesn’t have a real interest in the characters. Reed Richards is the motor of the plot, but furrowed brow aside he doesn’t do much. Ben Grimm pops up to give an “I’m a monster but” speech, Johnny Storm does exactly nothing and the Invisible Girl’s one character moment is an embarrassing outburst along “Why can’t we be normal?” lines. The only figure Moench seems to have any time for is his pet weirdo Korgon, who turns out to be a mutated Viking cursed with immortality. In his character design and descriptors – “The Blind God”, “The Mad God” – Korgon is straight out of Michael Moorcock, though if Moench planned to go anywhere with the homage it’s a mystery to me: the wrap-up to his story, courtesy of a Mighty Thor cameo, is desultory.

Pencils on this issue are by Bill Sienkiewicz, still two or three years off from the startling reinvention in his art style that made him famous. He seems a competent enough cartoonist here but it’s very hard to get much impression, as the story absolutely drowns in dialogue and exposition. Stan Lee’s 60s comics could be wordy but this is something else – every spare bit of panel seems to be taken up with waffle, so making visual storytelling completely irrelevant. Again, I’d see this as a legacy of late 60s and 70s Marvel, when the company played to its perceived college- and high-school age audience with a lot of self-consciously ‘literary’ writing, with occasional flashes of hand-me-down Stan flair.

At the end of the issue, Korgon’s status quo is reset, and we leave him still playing God to his vikings in their crystal sphere. The FF swear never to breathe a word of his existence, and judging by his total absence from the last 26 years of Marvel Comics, they were true to their word.

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