Archive for January, 2011

The Fantastic Four #273

January 31, 2011

John Byrne
December 1983
****
The FF liberate an alternate Earth from a sci-fi tyrant: the young wife of Reed’s long-missing dad! Drawn with typically sleek, cool vigor, the tale offers no real surprises except its location’s history, a patchwork of pulp fiction, from Zane Grey to HG Wells to generic sci-fi. It folds into FF #19!
[continued in The Thing #19]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #272]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #274]

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The Fantastic Four #272

January 30, 2011

John Byrne
November 1984
***
The FF travel to an alternate timeline where cowboys still roam the California coast—but they’ve got raygun pistols & robot horses! #272 is mostly straightforward action (She-Hulk topples a titanic ‘bot), except how is Reed’s father Nathaniel involved? Narrative conundra hint @ time travel.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #271]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #273]

The Fantastic Four #271

January 29, 2011

John Byrne
October 1984
*****
Missing memories on Reed’s 40th b’day send the FF on a visit to his family estate in Cali—where they find a time platform in the basement! But first, the celebration inspires a flashback to pre-issue #1 days: an Atlas-era sci-fi monster tale, drawn in passable imitation of King Kirby’s style.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #270]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #272]

The Fantastic Four #270

January 28, 2011

John Byrne
September 1984
****
Half of #270 sees Mr F cast an alien into the Earth’s core w/ sci-fi wizardry. The other, better half peeks in on introverted moments w/ the Storm siblings. Invisible Girl, post-stillbirth, resents equating her sense of powerlessness w/ femininity. Good stuff, tho’ nothing’s left to subtext.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #269]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #271]

The Fantastic Four #269

January 26, 2011

John Byrne
August 1984
***
Assisted by Larry Niven, Byrne lays the science on thick. First, Stretcho conducts another cockamamie experiment (he implodes a tennis ball). Then a Kirby-esque cosmic titan inscribes its name across the US. The small moments are hammy: Johnny crushes on the Thing’s blind GF & Sue throws a tantrum.
[continued from The Fantastic Four Annual #18]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #268]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #270]

The Fantastic Four Annual #18

January 24, 2011

John Byrne & Mark Gruenwald // Mark Bright & John Byrne
July 1984
***
Weddings in the Marvel U never go without a hitch. This annual sees the long-awaited marriage in the Inhuman royal family interrupted by a mano a mano combat meant to decide the eternally simmering Kree-Skrull War. Both Gruenwald & Bright are uncharacteristically wooden, but that’s par for an annual. And who knows why Byrne sets the prologue at the outskirts of his epic Dark Phoenix finale?
[continued from The Fantastic Four #268]
[continued in The Fantastic Four #269]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four Annual #17]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four Annual #19]

The Fantastic Four #268

January 23, 2011

John Byrne
July 1984
****
Byrne doesn’t take much time to mourn the awful events of last issue. That’s a real shame.  Instead, he delivers a surreal, faintly ridiculous dust-up w/ Dr. Doom’s mask, controlled remotely. Would’ve been nice to see new teammate She-Hulk solve the problem, but as usual, it’s Reed to the rescue.
[continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #18]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #267]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #269]

The Fantastic Four #267

January 22, 2011

John Byrne
June 1984
*****
W/ his wife undergoing a fraught & ultimately stillborn labor, Reed seeks a specialist in radiation: Dr. Octopus! The liberal optimism of his trust in a supervillain plus the dramatic focus on Reed & the stress on family distinguish this issue as the peak of Byrne’s FF run as well as its midpoint.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #266]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #268]

The Fantastic Four #266

January 21, 2011

John Byrne // Kerry Gammill
May 1984
***
A fill-in delays the fraught delivery of Sue & Reed’s second child. Flash back several months, when a villainess uses super-cosmetics to pit the Thing against Invisible Girl. Tho’ inked by Byrne, Gammill’s art is noticeably less vivid. And the plot misses the opportunity that its subtext presents.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #265]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #267]

The Fantastic Four #265

January 20, 2011

John Byrne
April 1984
A-story: *****
B-story: ****
A deftly executed pair of tales. The bravura A-story takes the POV of Paste-Pot Pete as he breaks into an empty Baxter Building. The stillness & absence of people creates a unique tension. The B-plot skips to the end of Secret Wars, giving nothing away ‘cept She-Hulk now subs for an MIA Thing.
[continued in Secret Wars #1]
[continued from Secret Wars #12]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #264]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #266]

The Fantastic Four #264

January 19, 2011

John Byrne
March 1984
****
The mag’s at a peak not reached since the heights of Lee & Kirby. Byrne’s art has a classical balance, w/ layouts that the eye glides over. And even a minor arc like this one (pt. 2, in which the Thing & the Torch team up w/ the Mole Man) offers little twists, tensions, & a touch of melancholy.
[last issue:  The Fantastic Four #263]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #265]

The Fantastic Four #263

January 18, 2011

John Byrne
February 1984
****
After last issue’s heights, #263 offers simpler pleasures. The first half stages the Richards’ suburban cosiness, w/ Reed commuting to work & Sue feathering the nest. The back half is gee-whiz superheroics as Ben rescues a kidnapped Johnny from a crackpot who wants to heat up the Earth’s core.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #262]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #264]

The Fantastic Four #262

January 17, 2011

John Byrne
January 1984
*****
The trial of Mr Fantastic is actually an allegory on entropy. The most powerful beings in the Lee/Kirby/Ditko universe—the Watcher, Galactus, Odin, Eternity—justify Big G’s necessity. It’s science fiction as primitive philosophy, justifying not through reasoning but an act of creative cosmology.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #261]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #263]

The Fantastic Four #261

January 16, 2011

John Byrne
December 1983
*****
The trail of missing Mr F leads thru a Ditko Dimension in the Watcher’s lunar home & out into deep space, where a fleet of alien refugees means to execute Reed for showing Galactus mercy. The brilliant conceit of trying Reed for his mercy ranks w/ Lee/Kirby in its staging of liberalism.
[continued from Alpha Flight #4]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #260]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #262]

The Fantastic Four #260

January 15, 2011

John Byrne
November 1983
****
Action mavens will enjoy this issue, a work of pure, streamlined comics pleasure. It’s rare to read a superhero fight w/ so much vibrancy, clarity & pacing. With Mr F MIA, the Fantastic 3 & Doc Doom are outclassed by a cosmic tyrant, till salvation arrives via a blazing cavalry: the Silver Surfer.
[continued in Alpha Flight #4]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #259]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #261]

The Fantastic Four #259

January 13, 2011

John Byrne
October 1983
****
It’s probably smart to bench Mr F for a few issues, since he tends to lead the plot in Byrne’s stories. Instead, Sue takes center stage, first as she goes househunting & then as she rallies the F3 against Dr. Doom & his ally, a former Herald of Galactus. I’m skeptical about the move to the burbs.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #258]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #260]

The Fantastic Four #258

January 12, 2011

John Byrne
September 1983
*****
The mag’s title is a misnomer: the FF don’t appear in this issue! Instead, we check in on Doom. Having rebuilt his Balkan state, Dr. D initiates on his latest scheme: to re-empower a former Herald of Galactus (temporarily). No surprise insights, #257 simply lets us revel in Doom’s company for 22 pages.
[continued from The Fantastic Four Annual #17]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #257]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #259]

The Fantastic Four Annual #17

January 11, 2011

John Byrne
August 1983
****
A minor character stumbles into a dairy town infected w/ Skrull DNA—thanks to those cows back in issue #2! It’s Byrne executing yet another of his clever one-offs, fusing an homage to Lee/Kirby FF with a weird sci-fi tale of alien infiltration. “Skrull Kill Krew” would revisit these very ideas 12 years later, w/ G. Morrison adding a dash of relevance w/ an early critique of food additives.
[continued from The Fantastic Four #257]
[continued in The Fantastic Four #258]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four Annual #16]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four Annual #18]

The Fantastic Four #257

January 10, 2011

John Byrne
August 1983
*****
Both halves of this diptych are prologues w/ portent. The first part sees Galactus consume the Skrull’s capital planet. Under purple prose, it conveys a sense of awe at cosmic events. Back on Earth, the team moves into safer digs: a Soho loft for Johnny & a suburban manse for pregnant Mrs. Richards.
[continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #17]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #256]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #258]

The Fantastic Four #256

January 9, 2011

John Byrne
July 1983
****
Trapped in the Negative Zone, Reed & the team neutralize an energy transfer that will destroy both ‘verses. This climax to the Zone “Saga” runs parallel to Avengers #233. Despite the build-up, a sense of rushed action & potted sci-fi undermines the finale to Byrne’s second year on the mag.
[continued from The Avengers #233]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #255]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #257]

The Avengers #233

January 8, 2011

Roger Stern & John Byrne
July 1983
***
Stern invites his pal Byrne to a crossover. A nihilistic beastie threatens our universe & its mirror. As the FF work over in their mag, on this side, a rookie Cptn. Marvel stops an energy transfer via slingshot around the sun. Great pacing & high stakes but Sinnott’s inks cloud Byrne’s art.
[continued from The Fantastic Four #255]
[continued in The Fantastic Four #256]
[last issue: The Avengers #232]
[next issue: The Avengers #234]

The Fantastic Four #255

January 7, 2011

John Byrne
June 1983
****
Reed’s psyche has been harnessed to a spaceship, so he takes control & zips the team homeward. Pity, I liked the exploring! Like so much of Byrne’s FF, any fighting in this ish is superfluous. Of his four leads, Byrne’s most comfy w/ Mr F, who uses super-intellect as much as stretch-power.
[continued in The Avengers #233]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #254]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #256]

The Fantastic Four #254

January 6, 2011

John Byrne
May 1983
****
The FF continue their exploration of the Negative Zone w/ a baroque tale that recalls ’70s Doctor Who: a buggy alien rules a barbaric planet secretly so it can syphon off IQ to power its ship. The doozy of a cliffhanger leaves Mr F mindwiped! Back in NYC, a Kirby alien from the Zone begins his invasion.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #253]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #255]

The Fantastic Four #253

January 5, 2011

John Byrne
April 1983
****
Byrne’s hit upon a great device for his retro sci-fi tales. The second entry in his Negative Zone saga is his version of the standard Space Ark trope: a 10K-year-old ship w/ green beasties seeks a planet to colonize w/ their cryogenic banks. A pair of ironic twists demo Byrne’s ease w/ the genre.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #252]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #254]

The Fantastic Four #252

January 4, 2011

John Byrne
March 1983
****
Another solid volume of Byrne’s weird sci-fi tales. As they map the Negative Zone, the Four find a race reduced to barbarism by a hypertech city. The irony is that the city is sentient, which Reed only deduces after it’s dead. Also #252 has a one-off gimmick: the art’s flipped 90 degrees.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #251]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #253]

The Fantastic Four #251

January 3, 2011

John Byrne
February 1983
****
Into the Negative Zone (a surreal Ditko Dimension, albeit by Kirby)! Somehow it’s the first ish to feel wholly Byrne’s: a sense of anticipation, of looking forward. A prologue dramatizes each member’s ambivalence towards a life of derring-do & a desire—or lack thereof—to live a normal life.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #250]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #252]

The Fantastic Four #250

January 1, 2011

John Byrne
January 1983
****
Skrulls imitate the X-Men as they attack the FF. It’s cynical to point out that Byrne indulges his fans’ (& maybe juices his sales) by revisiting Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, & Cap—& thus totally out of keeping w/ this double-sized issue’s simple pleasures. #250 is a rollicking fight, & Byrne seems to revel in the superheroics, esp. Mr. F’s defeat of Gladiator & Cockrum’s superb costume designs.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #249]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #251]