The last few dozen issues of FF have had a real sense of drastic escalation; the FF losing their powers fighting their evil counterparts, then having to deal with their deadliest enemies while powerless, then being forced to turn against one another and made evil and then battling an entire hidden civilization of powerful superhumans. All this comes to a head in what's still considered the biggest comic book arc of all time in The Coming of Galactus.
Sidebar, but there were two things that I saw a lot in cartoons and comics and the like that absolutely terrified me as a concept when I was tiny; one was being shrunk down tiny and falling inside someones body and killed by their immune system (still haven't had a chance to confront and overcome this one) and the other was Galactus. Well... Unicron, technically, since I saw the Transformers movie before the Fantastic Four cartoon, but there's a couple of important fundamental differences between the characters. But I'm getting ahead of myself; we're still not actually finished with the Inhumans Saga.
Last time, having realized that his conquest of Attilan crumbled the very instant he met any kind of resistance, Maximus the Mad lived up to his name by activating the Atmo-Gun, a weapon capable of producing vibrations capable of ripping people apart at a molecular level, carefully tuned to leave Inhumans alone, as part of a bid to keep the people of Attilan safe from Humans interference.
Black Bolt quickly realizes what his brother is up to when the hidden city starts literally shaking itself apart, and confronts him; setting up what's sure to be a dramatic and exciting conclusion to this conflict between royal brothers, a saga as old as time.
Except that Blackbolt is having none of it and just backhands Maximus across the room, right in the middle of evil evil rant.
And the threat of the Atmo-Gun turns out to have been far worse than the reality of it, as it didn't actually do much; despite all of Maximus grand-standing and denigrating of the human race, there's no difference between the two; Inhumans just figured out how to trigger super-powers in people; we're all the same species. All the Atmo-Gun wound up doing was knock some people over with its shockwaves.
Max takes THIS defeat far less calmly than the last several and demands that the people of Attilan will respect him as leader when he saves them from humans once and for all; if he can't kill the human race he's going to FORCE the Inhumans to be safe; and he activates his final trump card; a fully indestructible Negative Zone Barrier that envelopes the city, causing it to sink deep into the earth. The FF barely escape the city before the barrier finishes forming, locking them outside forever, while the Inhumans are trapped within.
Also; despite the name, I don't think this Negative Zone has any connection to the other more popular Negative Zone in the Marvel Universe, Stan just knew a cool name for some mad science when he came upon one.
Johnny and Crystal are both just absolutely inconsolable at this, both firing everything they have at the barrier trying to break it so they can be together (they managed to fall for each other pretty hard, despite the only thing they know about each other being that they're both hot, in both senses of the word), but the laws of physics, even crazy made-up physics are stronger than the hearts of two love-struck teens and you don't get out of being called an Indestructible Negative Zone just because a doofus and princess want to smooch.
One of the few times I actually feel for Johnny though, kid is just CRUSHED by this whole experience, big props to Jack for the layouts here. And so, bringing the Inhumans saga to a close, the FF head back to New York, with Reed having to add another impossible scientific challenge in trying to break open the Negative Zone Barrier, turn Ben back to Human, cure Alicias blindness and make his wife divorce him.
That last one is conjecture on my part, but there's lots of evidence to support it.
MEANWHILE IN DEEPEST SPACE
We cut to the Fifth Quadrant of the Andromeda Galaxy, specifically around the Skrull Homeworld, where the Skrulls are in a complete panic when their sensors pick up a mysterious silvery man surfing nearing the planet and immediately command a blackout for the entire empire out of the desperate hope that whoever this silver figure is, that'll be enough for it to overlook them.
One of the Skrulls thinks this is a bit ridiculous, they have an interstellar empire with unquantifiable weaponry and advanced technology, surely they can stop just one person. And the Emperor insists that even if that were true, which it *certainly* is not, the problem isn't him, it's what follows him.
And this is our first big hint that this is going to be a BIG DEAL in the very near future, because what we have here is the Herald of Galactus, The Sentinel of the Spaceways;
The Silver Surfer
Surfers origins got expanded on in a spinoff comic a few years later which, apocryphally, was the last straw in getting Jack Kirby fed-up with Marvel and leaving the House of Ideas since he had no input whatsoever in fleshing out a character he wholly created and which went against all the characterization he'd laid out. A good chunk of that characterization was brought back in by later writers, but still, had to sting. What's immediately clear is that the Surfer is single-mindedly hunting down specific planets in service of his master, Galactus, he can travel easily through space and literally surfs on the wake of exploding stars and crashing comets, which looks rad AF and is another case of Jack Kirby just drawing the HELL out of a comic book. Or possibly the side of a van. You know, whatever medium he's working with at the time.
And by george, the Surfer thinks he's found just the planet he's been looking for in the next galaxy over.
MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH
The FF don't really get time to catch their breath after the emotionally draining day they've just had, as when they arrive in New York, they're a bit surprised to see a second sun in the sky. They're slightly more surprised when this second sun immediately *sets the entire sky on fire*. Johnny sees this and figures this is right in his wheelhouse and flies off to investigate things. Sue's happy because this will get him out of the moping he's been doing for the last couple of hours of watching a girl he has a crush on be sealed away forever by an energy wall. Reeds less happy because the entire city of New York is understandably panicky because ALL OF THE SKY IS CURRENTLY ON FIRE, and they might turn on the known doofus who solves all his problems by creating fire and not considering the outcomes of his actions.
And, well, Reed is right. The FF briefly get involved in trying to calm the crowd (a tough guy tries to pick a fight with Ben, saying "A belt in the LABONZA will take the wind outta yer sails" before breaking his hand punching him), but what calms the crowd far faster is the fact that the flaming skies suddenly disappear being replaced with the images of floating rocks, as though the earth was being torn asunder.
Weirdly, this is calming instead of even more alarming for people.
As it turns out, when Reed returns to his lab and sees him standing there, these apocalyptic visions are all being caused by The Watcher; and Sue quickly calls him out for completely terrifying the entire population of the Earth. Even by Uatus pretty relaxed standards for what constitutes "never interfering", this is pretty out of character behavior for him.
Uatu is having none of it, because something is coming to Earth, and he has to try to stop it by any means necessary; vows to watch and not interfere are meaningless if there's nothing to watch or interfere with, afterall.
And this, more than the terrifying holograms covering the planet are what make the FF realize that this is... a much bigger situation than they're used to dealing with.
And it's all for naught anyway, as the Silver Surfer has found the Earth and seen through the Watchers illusions and prepares to summon his Master. In a last ditch effort to stop whatever is about to happen, Ben punches the Surfer at full strength and knocks him clear across the city, but it's far too late;
The titanic Star Sphere of Galactus appears in the sky, descends on top of the Baxter Building, and Galactus the Devourer of Worlds appears.
Oh... Oh shiiiiiiiiii~
Next Time: Things Get Worse