Archive for February, 2011

The Mighty Thor #337

February 28, 2011

Walt Simonson
November 1983
*****
In his inaugural issue, Simonson nails the mag’s epic grandeur—& pulls a brilliant surprise too! An oncoming starship contains an alien menace (quirkily named Beta Ray Bill) who proves worthy of wielding Mjolnir. He (it?) gets shanghaied off to Asgard, leaving Don Blake stranded & mortal in Midgard!
[last issue: The Mighty Thor #336]
[next issue: The Mighty Thor #338]

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The Fantastic Four #295

February 25, 2011

Roger Stern // Jerry Ordway
September 1986
***
Byrne’s off to strip & revise Superman from the foundations on up, leaving close collaborator Stern as the FF‘s temp caretaker. Roger wraps up Byrne’s last sci-fi arc in a conventional way, tho’ w/ a few good touches: the Four rescue a city from a relativistic force-dome & mutated inhabitants.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #294]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #296]

The Fantastic Four #294

February 24, 2011

John Byrne & Roger Stern // Jerry Ordway
September 1986
****
Stern steps in. Byrne’s FF run has shone brightest when he indulged his inner nerd. His latest arc—& out of the blue, his last—engages tropes from ’40s & ’50s sci-fi: fear of the A-bomb, relativistic time & post-human evolution, scientific hubris, & even the revision of current events into religion.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #293]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #295]

The Fantastic Four #293

February 23, 2011

John Byrne
August 1986
****
Solid sci-fi with an air of adventure & enigma. A black dome sprouts up around a mid-sized American city; inside, time passes more speedily. W/ the WC Avengers playing back-up, our heroes storm inside—to find a clean, futuristic civ that worships the Four! Gordon’s inks are meshing nicely w/ Byrne.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #292]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #294]

The Fantastic Four #292

February 22, 2011

John Byrne
July 1986
***
A letdown capper to a dashing arc. Nick Fury guns Hitler down w/ a nasty quickdraw. But the whole jaunt to 1936 is the “dream” of a comatose mutant who warps reality. Five years into his run, however, Byrne’s art is cool as ever, & he continues to apply the FF’s powers in fantastic new ways.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #291]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #293]

The Fantastic Four #291

February 21, 2011

John Byrne
June 1986
****
A puzzling predicament: the F3 & Nick Fury are unstuck in time, slipping btw modern NYC & 1936! With Reed MIA (presumed dead), how can they sort it out—esp. now that the WW2 vet has run off to kill Hitler while he’s got the chance!? Zippy plot & metaphysical quandary add meat to fun superheroism.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #290]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #292]

The Fantastic Four #290

February 20, 2011

John Byrne
May 1986
****
W/ the FF in the crossfire, Kirby Conquerors from the antimatter universe grapple to lead an invasion armada. Mr F may have bought the farm, while the rest of the team (& Nick Fury) has been shunted to 1936! Hugger-mugger space opera, great momentum, & a more subtle focus on Sue’s emotional state.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #289]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #291]

The Fantastic Four #289

February 19, 2011

John Byrne
April 1986
***
The first chapter to what so far is a conventional space adventure. The FF charge thru a transdimensional hole in space to find the usual Kirby tyrants cackling over schemes of invasion. In recent months, Byrne’s been approaching layouts even more traditionally than before: 2×3 & 3×3 panels per page.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #288]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #290]

The Fantastic Four #288

February 18, 2011

John Byrne
March 1986
****
That Doom/Secret Wars snafu gets resolved via time loop. That is, the Beyonder pops in from SW2 to reconstitute the Doc & send him to Battleworld, May ’84. If you ask me, it’s a solution to a non-problem, but I’m less OCD about continuity gaffes than some fans. Anyhow, Sinnott’s inks are glorious.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #287]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #289]

The Fantastic Four #287

February 17, 2011

John Byrne
February 1986
****
Doom, “dead” since #260 (despite Secret Wars, I guess?) makes a rousing return in this fast-paced, action-packed issue. After a choppy ’85 & the Phoenix Resurrection, Byrne’s FF is getting back on track. Inking his own art helps—it adds a Curt Swan cleanliness that other inkers don’t capture.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #286]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #288]

The Fantastic Four #286

February 16, 2011

John Byrne
January 1986
*****
The most audacious & tendentious retcon in comics: Reed & co. open a cocoon holding the live body of Jean Grey! Byrne (or Shooter?) (or Stern? Kurt Busiek?) plays fair by serial rules, inserting a scene in the gutters btw. X-Men #100 & #101. Byrne’s art is more classical in layout than usual. But he also validates a massive revision of his & Claremont’s Dark Phoenix Saga that undercuts its tragedy.
[continued from The Avengers #263]
[continued in X-Factor #1]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #285]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #287]

The Fantastic Four #285

February 14, 2011

John Byrne
December 1985
**
Vamping for time, Byrne folds FF into Secret Wars II once again. It’s a tacky bit of sentiment about a latchkey kid who immolates himself to emulate the Torch. His sacrifice inspires Johnny to remain a hero. Blech. The story might play out in a comic-book world but it has no real-world relevance.
[continued from The Fantastic Four Annual #19]
[continued in The Avengers #263]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #284]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #286]

The Fantastic Four Annual #19

February 13, 2011

John Byrne
December 1985
****
A two-chapter annual with an ebullient late Silver Age tone. It may be a little more like Thomas-era Avengers than Kirby-era FF, but that style is underscored by Joe Sinnott providing retro inking to Byrne’s art. Pt. 1 sees our heroes pop into space to foil a faction of Skrulls—after the Galactus Event, they’ve collapsed into civil war. Pt. 2 crosses into The Av‘s annual (rather confusingly).
[continued from The Fantastic Four #284]
[continued in The Avengers Annual #14]
[continued in The Fantastic Four #285]
[last issue:  The Fantastic Four Annual #18]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four Annual #20]

The Fantastic Four #284

February 11, 2011

John Byrne
November 1985
****
A notable moment in comic-book feminism: Sue changes her codename from “Girl” to “Woman”. It tops off a five-month arc that had her mind-raped by an emo-manipulator—a climax undercut as she works violent vengeance in turn. But the feudal microverse is a kick & so’s She-Hulk’s shaggy feminist subplot.
[continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #19]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #283]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #285]

The Fantastic Four #283

February 10, 2011

John Byrne
October 1985
***
The arc’s four issues & counting, but a lack of momentum turns it into a trad super-adventure. The heroes—well, Mr F as usual—make their escape from a torturesome baddie. That the FF face a villain whose Kirby roots are gloriously self-evident only undermines the story’s old-fashioned tone.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #282]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #284]

The Fantastic Four #282

February 9, 2011

John Byrne
September 1985
***
The plot hiccups, even if you’ve followed it thru Secret Wars II. The Four zoom into a pocket ‘verse to face an old Kirby baddie… but when did they learn he was their foe? Sue’s belligerent & hysterical cuz of the arc’s mind-rape. But the Microverse & Franklin’s prophetic dreams both look snazzy.
[continued from Secret Wars II #2 of 9]
[see also Secret Wars II #3 of 9]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #281]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #283]

The Fantastic Four #281

February 8, 2011

John Byrne
August 1985
***
A wooden script & Ordway’s scratchy inking sabotage the breakneck pacing. Reed breaks the spell on Sue by playing the chauvanist—which stimulates love thru hatred? Byrne aims to undermine sexism thru irony but he only entangles himself. This mag has been less fantastic since Sue’s stillbirth.
[continued in Secret Wars II #2 of 9]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #280]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #282]

The Fantastic Four #280

February 7, 2011

John Byrne
July 1985
****
Byrne lifts a couple pages from Chris Claremont’s playbook. First up, he addresses bigotry as NYC turns into a lynch mob, courtesy of a new, shapeshifting Hate-Monger. The baddie also abruptly flips Sue from good to evil, a Dark Phoenix redux complete w/ fetish gear! Exposition will be forthcoming…
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #279]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #281]

The Fantastic Four #279

February 6, 2011

John Byrne
June 1985
****
In an incredible setpiece, the Four return to Earth from low orbit—without a ship! Instead, they apply their powers w/ cunning & bravery, then make quick work of the ersatz Doom. Next question is, now that their HQ’s destroyed, where will they live? A shockingly vulgar scene of bigotry caps the issue.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #278]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #280]

The Fantastic Four #278

February 5, 2011

John Byrne
May 1985
****
Jerry Ordway comes on as inker, subduing Byrne’s slimline beauty. JB, for his part, shows us the face of Doom—audacious but disappointingly conventional. More interestingly, Doombots brainwash a kid w/ the Doc’s personality. The new Doom lifts his old plan from FF #6 to launch the HQ into space.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #277]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #279]

The Fantastic Four #277

February 4, 2011

John Byrne
April 1985
****
Rather than splitting #277 into an A- & B-plot, Byrne runs them concurrently as a vertical diptych. It’s clever but fails to deliver a visual or narrative wallop. In the soapy upper plot, the Thing returns to find his gal Alicia in Johnny’s arms; in the bombastic lower, the Richards fight the Devil.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #276]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #278]

The Fantastic Four #276

February 3, 2011

John Byrne
March 1985
***
Mistaking the suburban Richards for sorcerers, an exorcist attacks their CT home. But the necromancer’s out of her league when they page Dr. Strange! A stronger storyteller would make this plot into a metaphor for Sue’s unattainable dream of normalcy, but so far Byrne simply goes for ghoulish action.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #275]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #277]

The Fantastic Four #275

February 2, 2011

John Byrne
February 1985
****
Byrne finally takes an ish to find She-Hulk’s voice. She’s been on the team for nearly a year, so it’s about time! A sleazy publisher snaps a paparazzi pic of the lady as she sunbathes topless. The combo of sexiness & comedy foreshadows Byrne’s take on his character-defining runs in five years.
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #274]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #276]

The Fantastic Four #274

February 1, 2011

John Byrne
January 1985
****
Al Gordon’s inks reveal Byrne’s stylistic debt to Neal Adams’ realism. Subplots proceed apace on Earth (in a surprise, Spidey’s black costume escapes the Baxter Building!). The issue’s core joins The Thing, already in progress, as he frees Universal Horrror monsters from a Battleworld circus.
[continued from The Thing #19]
[last issue: The Fantastic Four #273]
[next issue: The Fantastic Four #275]