A Brief History of Kang, Part 27: Into the Time Bubble!

By John Simons

The following summaries may a bit more pithy than usual, since Kang is so very tangential to the proceedings. As far as I can tell, the only RD Kang involved is "Fred Kang", who has about 3 lines before he is toasted by the Human Torch. However, since the story is important as far as the timeline of Nebula Kang goes, as well as redeeming Dr. Druid and wrapping up the Time Bubble saga, it is worth looking at, albeit briefly.

FF #337:
Only the powerful force fields of the Invisible Woman save Four Freedom's Plaza when a bomb appears in Mr. Fantastic's lab. Reed's analysis of its fragments leads him to conclude that the bomb came from the future! He suspects the bomb was meant to destroy his "radical dodecahedron", a device capable breaking through space-time. However, Reed explains that the "time bubble" along the future of their timeline is interfering with any time travel beyond it. Fearful that the entire universe will end when present time catches up to the period of the time bubble, Reed says the team must investigate.

As the team split up to take care of pre-mission preparations, the overworked Mr. Fantastic falls asleep in his lab, where soon he is tempted by visions of a blue-skinned woman. His love for Sue is enough to fight off the temptation. Later, Johnny is napping and he too is visited by the sexy blue woman. When he seems reluctant, the blue woman is suddenly attacked by a vile snaggletoothed monster. Johnny flash-fries the thing, and the woman leaps into his arms to thank him.

Dropping off Franklin with the Power family and recruiting Avengers Thor and Iron Man for some extra muscle, the FF board "Rosebud II", a time sled created by Reed, and head off. As they near the probability flux around the time bubble, they see hundreds of other time sleds from different realities. The other sleds seem to drop away one by one, but a vortex opens in front of our heroes. With a powerful "SKLAWHAAMM!" they penetrate the time bubble!

FF #338:
The three Kangs of the Crosstime Kang Corps, Chairman, Mesozoic and Fred Kang are floating helplessly in the flux when they witness the approach of the time sled. Seizing the opportunity they've been waiting for, they match the sled's course and speed and enter the bubble when the heroes do. Meanwhile Nebula and Dr. Druid, who are also still trapped in the bubble's perimeter, are unable to do the same. Nebula makes Druid cast her spirit out of her body-- and into that of her willing "vessel"-- the Human Torch!

The Fantastic Four and their allies appear in a futuristic city, where time has completely stopped due to a "time dilation effect" caused by the bubble. Reed uses a "chrono-scan" to locate the source of the bubble-- "an unbelievable warp in time and space" emanating from beyond the Andromeda Galaxy. Before they can investigate further, they encounter another time-lost traveler-- Death's Head!

DH has been hired by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) in order to investigate the bubble and possibly do something about it. Their conversation is cut short by an attack from Mesozoic Kang, who is certain our heroes are there to get their hands on the "great weapon". Mesozoic's armor is shorted out by a "photon overburst" from Death's Head's sky-cycle.

After interrogating him for what he knows, DH rips apart his armor, stranding him in this time, and the heroes travel via Thor's hammer to the source of the time bubble: an artificial construct the size of a galaxy, which is sucking in the entire universe. Reed feels that the time-sled's "Heisenburg neutralizers" will allow them to fight off the intense gravity of the machine's core, so they fly in to investigate. Here they encounter the two remaining Kangs, who naturally attack. A combination energy blast and strike from Mjolnir takes Chairman Kang out of the fight. While Fred Kang is blasting the "probability generator" on Death's Head's cycle-- phasing him right out of time, the Nebula-possessed Human Torch seizes the moment to unleash a nova blast, killing Fred Kang. (Which is for the best, I suppose. How could anybody possibly respect a bad guy named "Fred"?)

Realizing that the Human Torch is really Nebula, Chairman Kang decides to take his chances in the core. Fearful that he will reach the great weapon first, Nebula flies in after him. Fearful for Johnny's life, the heroes follow. In their last moments before being absorbed into a black hole, the heroes finally realize the purpose of this mighty machine: it is enabling Galactus to devour the entire universe!

FF #339:
Trapped inside the black hole, the heroes are only able to escape by combining the energy of Iron Man's armor and the power of Thor's hammer to that of the time sled. Once they are free, they take Johnny to task for killing an opponent. Reed and Sue can see that something isn't right and decide to keep an eye on him.

In search of something powerful enough to destroy Galactus' universe eater, the heroes travel to the Shi'ar galaxy, where the time dilation has frozen everything. This makes it fairly easy for them to stock up on giant bombs from a Shi'ar munitions plant, until they are spotted by Gladiator, who has overcome the time dilation by traveling at hyperspeed. Quite suddenly, the big-haired Imperial Guardsman and the long-haired Norse Avenger are duking it out in grand style (prompting the caption on the cover of this issue, which asks, "Hey! Whose book is this, anyway?")

After Ms. Marvel breaks up the tussle, and Gladiator learns the reason they're there, he agrees to help them. He reveals that every Shi'ar "weapons pit" on the surface of the planet is actually a starship, capable of bringing the fight to any enemy. In short order, the weapons pits are launched towards Galactus' machine... Human Torch/Nebula sabotages Gladiator's ship when the Shi'ar seems to notice an odd "fusion" about Johnny... and back on Earth-- the Dreaming Celestial awakens!

FF #340:
Quite suddenly the Dreaming Celestial (AKA the "Black Celestial") appears at the scene of the attack-- and teleports the weapons pits into Galactus' cosmic cuisinart. They are all destroyed, and their total energy is consumed by the ravenous Galactus. Only Gladiator's ship was spared the destruction, and the heroes board it and travel back to Earth. Iron Man explains that the Celestial's base is beneath Mount Diablo, so the heroes decide to check it out.

The Celestial's home is guarded by legions of Deviants, and a big brouhaha results. Tapping into the Black Celestial's rather sarcastic computer, Reed learns that their opponent was cast out of the host for breaking the Covenant (possibly he created the Deviants). They entombed him, asleep, in the bowels of Mount Diablo, but in his dreams he summoned Deviant servants to build a mighty complex capable of reawakening him. When Galactus was once near death (surely we've all read FF #244?), the Dreaming Celestial slightly altered the world-eater, so his appetite would increase geometrically. The Black Celestial wants Galactus to destroy the entire universe, including the other Celestials, so that it can emerge from its protective void under Mount Diablo and become the creator and nucleus of a whole new universe! (Are you following all this?)

When Deviant reinforcements arrive, the heroes must flee-- but Sue and Johnny are missing! They have no choice but to leave them behind-- and in the next few minutes, Gladiator destroys the Black Celestial's base by flying his starship straight into it, kamikaze-style!

Mr. Fantastic is distraught by the death of his wife, and when the Black Celestial arrives back on Earth, Reed screams at and taunts the giant opponent. He threatens to travel back in time and warn the other Celestials of their wayward brother's plans. Then the heroes fly off through time, with the angry space god in pursuit. They weave in and out of time, hurtling across the years, until their enemy doesn't realize they are headed right for Galactus. At the last possible second, Thor teleports them to safety, while the hapless Celestial flies right into Galactus' cosmic maw! Oops!

The awesome amount of energy from absorbing the Celestial is enough for Galactus to regain his sanity-- but only for a moment. The uncontrollable craving returns and he continues to eat the universe! (Man, what a hog...)

FF #341:
The heroes are happy to get a transmission from Sue, who reveals that she and Johnny are still alive back on Earth, thanks to her force field. When they are reunited, she explains that she was attacked by Johnny, who is now unconscious. The Torch mumbles helplessly about a blue woman.

Reed has decided that the only thing that can stop Galactus now is the ultimate nullifier. The heroes find his world-ship, and, after a few false starts, locate the cleverly hidden device. Suddenly Sue grabs it with her force fields and exults triumphantly. She reveals that she is actually Nebula, who has jumped bodies from Johnny to Sue. It was she who sent the bomb back in time to blow them up. She tries to use the nullifier on her enemies, but Reed had placed a booby-trap on the device, which gives Sue/Nebula such a shock that the spirit of the villainess is ejected from the body.

Flying back to Galactus, the heroes can only get the giant being's attention by sending a combination of Mjolnir, repulsor rays and Torch's nova blast right down his throat. Galactus regains his sanity long enough to reach out, take the itty-bitty nullifier in his gigantic hand, and activate it. The heroes escape in their time sled just in the nick of time. Galactus and his machine and this timeline are all nullified, ending the danger to the rest of existence. Although Iron Man and Thor are temporarily lost in the timestream, and the FF return to the wrong Earth, they at least survive the terrifying events of the Time Bubble saga!

After being ejected from Sue Richards' body, Nebula Kang's spirit apparently returns to her own body, as this story opens with her once again in the company of Dr. Druid.

They are living in a peaceful glade and happy in each other's company, but they are both suffering from amnesia. Druid insists on trying to recover his memory, so he and Nebula merge their thoughts. Suddenly all of their past comes rushing back. The glade disappears from around them; it was only a mental facade, which no longer fools them.

They are still trapped in the periphery of the time bubble!

Druid is disappointed to learn that Nebula is through with him. She immediately flies off into the timestream in search of power (how she manages to do this with her armor short-circuited and in tatters is not explained). Almost instantaneously, she has reached "the heart of time" (which she uses interchangeably with "the center of the time bubble", although they seem like two totally different things to me). She feels incredible power coursing through her, and gains control over what she dubs "anti-time".

She teleports herself and Druid to Lincoln, Nebraska, in the year 1961-- before the current crop of super-humans emerged. Therefore, there is nobody but Druid to stop her as she spreads her "anti-time aura" in a 15-mile radius. (She also claims that the time bubble had a 15-mile radius, but this seems awfully small; when it was first introduced the bubble was described as being 15 years long. She also claims to have been a member of the Council of Kangs, but she is misspeaking. She was actually a member of the Crosstime Kangs Corps). She plans to turn back time throughout the world. Druid tries to subdue her but she uses her time powers to teleport him away.

Luckily for Doc, he happens to land outside the Lamasery in Tibet where he originally gained his powers. He relives his origin and goes to again meet the Lama who gave him his mandate. Only this time, he learns that the Lama is really only the Ancient One in disguise, and that he was only sent out to be Dr. Druid until such time as Steven Strange was ready to be sorcerer supreme. Somehow, this revelation causes Druid to come to his senses and realize all the crappy things he's done lately.

While Nebula Kang uses her time powers to age and de-age people for kicks, Druid goes to a local museum, and weaves a spell around an ancient Celtic vase, summoning "three mother goddesses of war" to help him. The result is that three duplicates of Dr. Druid are created-- the current one, a very young one from the start of his career, and a very elderly, wizened one. They attack Nebula and, because they are from three different time periods, they are able to turn her powers back on herself. Her age goes from young and old and back again and then she is hurled off, defeated, back into the timestream. The two older Druids disappear, leaving only the youngest one-- the one with a full head of hair-- to redeem the name of Dr. Druid in the eyes of the world.

Walter Simonson does a wonderful job of wrapping up a storyline he started in an entirely different title, that of the mysterious Time Bubble. This story is a lot of fun, very exciting, and for the most part works in tandem with the first story quite nicely. It's interesting to note that Dr. Druid's predictions about who would enter the bubble (which he made in AVENGERS # 297) are correct: Thor and a woman are present, the Black Knight is not.

Unfortunately, we also saw in that issue that it was an Avengers quinjet that would breach the bubble, while in this story we see it was rather a time sled. But we can forgive Walt for this inconsistency, since he probably had it in his mind that he would be writing AVENGERS for longer than it turned out.

The less I say about the SPOTLIGHT story the better. Absolutely horrible stuff from Roy Thomas and Bob Hall, two people who are certainly capable of much better. Did they only have 24 hours to churn this dreck out, or what? It doesn't seem like Thomas even read any previous stories before doing this; Hall's "artwork" looks like doodles he sketched out while he was talking on the phone. Avoid at all costs!

John, Lord of Time