Fantastic Four #7

"Prisoners of Kurrgo, Master of Planet X"

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Dick Ayers
Letterer: unknown
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: October 1962< br /> Cover price: 12 cents
Current value: about $1275

It wouldn't be fair to call this a filler issue, but it has all the elements of one: a throwaway villain who would (almost) never appear again and a plot which does not build upon past adventures or lay the foundations for future ones. And yet, it manages to work as a successful story and has the flavor of a Twilight Zone episode, with elements of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

"It Came from the Skies!"

Meet Kurrgo. He's Master of Planet X. And he's watching the Fantastic Four. He's a little annoyed because these primitive Earthlings will survive while his advanced civilization will soon be destroyed by a runaway planet. Why not simply fly away? The residents of Planet X, for all their advanced technology, have never cared for space travel and only have two space craft. I guess that's why they called their homeworld "Planet X", to scare everyone away. Kurrgo, who is Master of Planet X and thus has the authority to do such things, has sent his personal robot in one of those craft to Earth to capture the FF, for reasons which will soon become clear.

Meanwhile, the FF are due to be honored at a government function. Reed says they must attend, but the others are nervous. Ben resorts to causing a ruckus to prevent their departure, but it fails. Reed castigates Ben, saying that he will be inconvenienced as well because he has to interrupt his rocket fuel experiments. Ben's retort is one of the many funny lines he would utter over the years: "Big deal! We already got rocket fuel, haven't we?"

The FF take the Fantasticar to Washington DC while Kurrgo's robot evades the jets pursuing his craft and lands near the capital.

"Outlawed!"

All eyes and cameras are on a nervous FF as they are presented with a trophy which looks like it should be won at the Kentucky Derby. Kurrgo's robot, back in his saucer, activates his "hostility ray" and suddenly everyone who was honoring the FF is now calling for their heads. The FF evades the Army and piles back into the Fantasticar. But now Kurrgo's robot is in pursuit, and despite Reed's aerial acrobatics, they can't shake the saucer. So they land on the roof of the Baxter Building back in NYC and face the robot on their turf.

"Bound for Planet X!"

Kurrgo's robot tells them what fate will await them on planet Earth, conveniently not mentioning that it was the hostility ray which whipped them all up into a frenzy. Asylum on Planet X seems the only way out, but the FF are motivated more by curiosity then self-preservation. Though space travel would become commonplace for them, at this point the FF had never been to another planet before and jump at the chance, even though they know it's probably a trap.

"Twenty Four Hours Till Zero!"

The FF are enthralled by the technological wonders of Planet X, until Kurrgo informs them that the planet and its five billion inhabitants will soon be annihilated by that runaway planet, another fact Kurrgo's robot neglected to mention. Kurrgo brought them here to find some way to stop that planet in a mere 24 hours. Kurrgo really doesn't care about his subjects and could just take off in one of the two ships, but you can't be Master of Planet X without a Planet X and people to boss around, can you? So, to avoid Kurrgo's robot from opening up a can of whoopass and to save the people of Planet X, the FF spring into action.

"The End of Planet X!"

Under the direction of Reed, the FF construct what looks like a giant cannon. Reed demonstrates for Kurrgo the effects of "reducing gas". Will Reed reduce the runaway planet? Or will he shrink Planet X so it can escape its path? Neither, since apparently the gas only works on people. Reed proposes using the cannon to shoot pellets of the shrinking gas all over the planet, this allowing the five billion Planet Xians to enter a single space ship and escape destruction. How these newly tiny aliens will make it to the space craft from all over the planet and how they will operate the now enormous controls of the craft go unexplained.

An uncharacteristically generous Kurrgo allows the FF to return to Earth on the second craft, which they do. Kurrgo, carrying the canister of enlarging gas provided by Reed, dreams of being a giant ruling over his tiny tiny people. As the planet crumbles around him, Kurrgo clutches the canister, refusing to abandon it. He can't make it to the ship in time and his people leave him behind to certain doom. And on the other craft, Reed reveals to the others that there actually was no enlarging gas. Reed rationalizes this nasty trick by saying, essentially, everything is relative, so it doesn't matter.

Even lame villains like Kurrgo come back from the dead. He reappeared in Marvel Feature #11, where we find out he was saved by his trusty robot (Klaatu barada nikto!) with the help of a hidden third space craft. Kurrgo gets into a squabble with The Leader, and they decide on a contest of strength - other people's strength, of course. They choose their champions - The Thing and The Hulk, respectively - and manipulate them into fighting one another, one of the many Thing/Hulk slugfests over the years, an event always popular with readers.

For an affordable reprint of this story, I recommend the Marvel Masterworks series, which reprints FF # 1-10 in color in one volume for $12.95. (ISBN 0760737959)

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