Archive for December, 2010

The Fantastic Four #249

December 30, 2010

John Byrne
December 1982
****
Gladiator, an alien ally of the X-Men, cleans the FF’s clock, mistaking them for Skrull shapeshifters. He’s Marvel’s cosmic stand-in for Superman, which gives his victory an ironic twist—but note that it’s just the first round. It’s an issue of slam-bang action, a throwback to the ’60s done well.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #248]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #250]

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The Fantastic Four #248

December 28, 2010

John Byrne
November 1982
***
Another of Byrne’s one-off, more insubstantial than most. Tho’ framed as a nightmare & capturing the logic of dreams, the ish doesn’t actually illuminate the mind of dreamer Reed. It simply underlines the irreality of a fantastic trope in sci-fi: aliens so advanced & so titanic, they are as gods.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #247]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #249]

The Fantastic Four #247

December 27, 2010

John Byrne
October 1982
*****
Byrne upends our perspective on Doom: he was beloved by his subjects for enforcing peace & bringing prosperity. And so the Four help depose the usurper who has ruined the principality—politically it’s dubious, but luckily they only fight robots. Also, Byrne’s layouts are growing more imaginative.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #246]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #248]

The Fantastic Four #246

December 26, 2010

John Byrne
September 1982
*****
Byrne’s art & writing mesh fluidly as he crosscuts btw. each hero escaping a deathtrap. Doc Doom’s escape from a mini-robot prison (see #236) is ingenious yet obvious—naturally he preprograms Doombots for such contingencies! And the cliffhanger (Latvaria in ruins) makes next ish a must-read.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #245]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #247]

The Fantastic Four #245

December 25, 2010

John Byrne
August 1982
****
Byrne wrestles w/ feminism via Sue’s role on the team. It’s v.g. but not wholly successful. Sue’s responses on a TV interview hide a conservative position behind an aggravatingly individualist POV. Then, when her son’s mutant powers give him an adult body & child’s mind, her maternal love saves him.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #244]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #246]

The Fantastic Four #244

December 24, 2010

John Byrne
July 1982
*****
Byrne isn’t a modernist, but his sleek lines set a high bar. Having bested Galactus, Reed resuscitates him in a show of humanity. Big G anoints a new herald: Johnny’s g’friend, She-Torch! She shrugs @ the awful burden & soars into space in a flaming apotheosis (in an echo of Byrne’s Phoenix).
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #243]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #245]

The Fantastic Four #243

December 23, 2010

John Byrne
June 1982
*****
Marvel’s Silver Age heroes are mustered to help the FF fell a hungry Galactus. Their pell-mell battle offers by far the most action of Byrne’s run to date—but it’s also conventional (& far-fetched). As Big G is drained of power, so is the story. A stark contrast to the original, combat-free G Saga.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #242]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #244]

The Fantastic Four #242

December 21, 2010

John Byrne
May 1982
****
Cosmic alien Terrax demands the Four help him shrug off the yoke of his master, Galactus. In an echo of #240, Byrne lifts a city—here, New York—into orbit, as Marvel’s heroes scurry to contain the damage. Effectively a prologue to a grander arc, this ish has a measured pace that’s uncommon for FF.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #241]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #243]

The Fantastic Four #241

December 20, 2010

John Byrne
April 1982
***
Byrne’s early FF work isn’t just retro, it has a genre-anthology feel. This ish is a combo of ’50s sci-fi & jungle adventure (w/ a nod to Indiana Jones): a safari thru Wakanda uncovers a hidden Roman city kept alive by alien tech. A fun concept but the story doesn’t gel & guest Panther is underused.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #240]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #242]

The Fantastic Four #240

December 17, 2010

John Byrne
March 1982
****
Byrne’s FF deliberates shuns comics’ impulse to depict violence: a war btw. humans & Inhumans begins & ends off-page. Instead, Reed & co. help the super-race resettle on the Moon (the magisterial flight of their celestial city takes up several pages). In a coda, Quicksilver & wife have a child.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #239]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #241]

The Fantastic Four #239

December 16, 2010

John Byrne
February 1982
***
We meet Ben’s Aunt Petunia! She’s a nice surprise in a mostly damp issue that has the Four fail to save a small western town from fear demons. Okay, good to see that superpowers don’t solve every problem. And I like that Byrne’s reaching beyond Stan’n’Jack’s superhero team to echo ’50s weird tales.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #238]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #240]

The Fantastic Four #238

December 15, 2010

John Byrne
January 1982
A-story: **** // B-story: ***

A diptych on metamorphosis. One focuses on Johnny, who ironically is the most self-reflective of Byrne’s Four. His on/off g’friend learns she’s got flame powers too, hypnotically repressed by her stepdad (inventor of the ’40s Torch!). In the other, the Thing reverts to his original hide (oops!)

last issue: The Fantastic Four #237
next issue: The Fantastic Four #239

also this month
Daredevil #178

The Fantastic Four #237

December 14, 2010

John Byrne
December 1981
****
Another family-friendly one-off: a nine-foot tall amnesiac female alien is helping a hobo gang commit crimes. Mr F deduces that she’s not a felon & helps her recover her wits & her crew. The most typically superheroic tale so far is a display of artistic confidence—& Byrne loves drawing Stretcho!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #236
next issue: The Fantastic Four #238

Also this month
Daredevil #177

The Fantastic Four #236

December 13, 2010

John Byrne
November 1981
*****

A double-length story for the book’s 20th anniversary. Byrne shifts his FF run into high gear w/ a double-splash of Dr. Doom looming over the horizon (a nod to #39’s classic cover). The archenemy has trapped the team in mini-clone bodies, living suburban lives in a model town. It’s quaint, part of Byrne’s reversion to the Lee/Kirby era: done-in-one arcs, a moody Thing, Doom caught in his own trap…
last issue: The Fantastic Four #235
next issue: The Fantastic Four #237

Also this month:
Daredevil #176

The Fantastic Four #235

December 12, 2010

John Byrne
October 1981
****

From the pages of Thor, one of Kirby’s weirder ideas: Ego, a sentient planet. The FF must destroy it before it crushes Earth (no quibbling over ethics). Only the Thing can journey to the center of the Living Planet; note the nod to his early trip down a monster’s gullet, A-bomb on his back.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #234
next issue: The Fantastic Four #236

Also this month
Daredevil #175

The Fantastic Four #234

December 11, 2010

John Byrne
September 1981
****

Byrne’s run so far is old-fashioned, even retro. #234 reads like a Twilight Zone scenario: a joe is so ordinary, he doesn’t realize that his mind remolds reality! It’s bold of Byrne to give the oblivious Four mere supporting roles, performing superheroic rescues as the city crumbles around them.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #233
next issue: The Fantastic Four #235

Also this month
Daredevil #174

The Fantastic Four #233

December 10, 2010

John Byrne
August 1981
***

A warm, innocent little one-off focusing on Johnny Storm as he clears a convict’s rep. The tale has a retro 1930s Warner Bros. feel w/ a scene on death row, an old immigrant ma, & a Dick Tracy-style gangster. Byrne’s art is sleek & confident; he’s carefully finding his characters’ voices.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #232
next issue: The Fantastic Four #234

Also this month
Daredevil #173

The Fantastic Four #232

December 9, 2010

John Byrne
July 1981
***

Byrne bails on Uncanny X (& on Cap) to auteur his own mag. As the issue says, it’s back to Silver Age basics: a mage pits the FF against a set of elementals (IE doppelgangers). It’s strong on superheroics & hard science, paced well, & a dream to look at: Mr F’s coils are cool & Sue uses fields to fly.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #231
next issue: The Fantastic Four #233

Also this month
Daredevil #172

The Immortal Iron Fist #16

December 8, 2010

Matt Fraction // David Aja
August 2008
*****

Few comic book runs open up character like Immortal has—& in under 20 issues! Fraction calls Aja back for a superb final issue. On one page, IF simply meditates! More generally, Rand turns his financial empire into a charitable trust. It generally points a way forward, not just for IF but for the creative collab.

last issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #15
next issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #17

also indexed for Aug. ’08

The Immortal Iron Fist #15

December 3, 2010

Matt Fraction // Khari Evans
July 2008
****

Sadly, the IF creative team’s disbanding. A solo Fraction gives an encore to the Fist of the British Empire. This brush with post-colonial ideas sees the imprisoned hero team up w/ his Hindu counterpart—even at the end of the abbreviated run, he’s adding to the IF mythos! Evans’ work is scratchy tho’.

last issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #14
next issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #16

also indexed for Jul. ’08
Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1 of 1

The Immortal Iron Fist #14

December 2, 2010

Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction // Kano, Clay Mann, & Tonci Zonjic
June 2008
*****

Aja is missed, but Zonjic’s capable & the tale’s so good, it doesn’t matter. Bru & Frac harmonize their actors in a grand finale of kung fu: the Heroes for Hire, the Immortal Weapons, the women’s revolution, even Steel Serpent redeems himself. A satisfying conclusion to a superb 13-issue epic arc.

last issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #13
next issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #15

also indexed for Jun. ’08

The Immortal Iron Fist #13

December 1, 2010

Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction // David Aja, Kano, & Tonci Zonjic
May 2008
****

Bru & Frac pull a superb bait-&-switch: this arc isn’t about a kung fu tourney at all, it’s about a revolution! The warriors join IF & help to defend heaven from terrorists! Craziest stake: will Fist archfoe Steel Serpent fight with them or against them? Aja, sadly, is nearly MIA & sadly missed.

continued from The Immortal Iron Fist: Orson Randall & the Green Mist of Death #1 of 1
last issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #12
next issue: The Immortal Iron Fist #14