The last time I did a comprehensive FF re-read I stopped with the last of the Kirby issues (or rather the first two of the four Romita issues that wrapped up the story). That brings me up to Fantastic Four #105. John Romita was as humble to take over Fantastic Four for the King in 1970 as he had been to take over Spider-Man from Steve Ditko in 1966. He didn't feel qualified in either case, as did his best to draw in their respective styles both times. Why Stan Lee didn't assign Joe Sinnott to ink I have no idea, but #103-105 were inked by John Verpoorten.
#105 opens with the Thing, Johnny and Crystal enjoying some hot dogs from a street vendor, when suddenly the city is wracked by a series of explosions. Crystal unexpectedly collapses, and Johnny flies her back to the Baxter Building to seek Reed Richards' help. Meanwhile, Sue has been shopping and finds herself closer to the source of the mysterious explosions. She goes to the street to find Dr. Zoltan Rambow, a colleague of Reed's, pursuing an energy being.
Back at the Baxter Building, Reed has diagnosed Crystal as having an adverse reaction to the pollution she has no resistance to and says she must return to the Inhumans' Great Refuge or die. Reed has also discovered, in Crystal's DNA, what he thinks can be a cure to the thing's condition. Summoning Lockjaw, Crystal quickly says her goodbyes and departs immediately for the Great Refuge. Johhny flies off in frustration and soon comes upon his sister in conflict with the energy being. Sue cannot leave the conflict, but urges her brother to get Reed and Ben. Johnny returns to the Baxter Building only to find Reed at a critical juncture in his attempt to cure Ben.
CLIFFHANGER: Reed must choose between the life of his wife and that of his best friend.
It is widely accepted that Jack Kirby plotted most if not all of the Fantastic Four stories. I have generally come to the conclusion that if Stan Lee is credited with "script" that Jack Kirby provided the plot (or at least co-plotted). The credits for this issue list Stan Lee "story" and John Romita "illustration." #105 is one of the most densely-plotted and action-packed issues in a long time (the Sub-Mariner/Magneto conflict notwithstanding). Jack Kirby certainly didn't have anything to do with this issue. I think just because Stan Lee hadn't been regularly plotting Fantastic Four for some time doesn't mean he couldn't.
When I was talking about the Doctor Doom robot and Arcade, I meant to mention the "feud" between Chris Claremont and John Byrne. They butted heads often when they worked together on the X-Men, but now that they weren't on the same book anymore, I guess Byrne felt as if he didn't have to put up with him anymore. As far as Claremont was concerned, he was writing about the real Dr. Doom in X-Men #145-146. But his characterization flew in the face of Byrne's understanding of the character, so he "overturned" it in FF #258.
This is what a lot of folks refer to (incorrectly) as "Mopee-ing" a character. If one were to truly use that character (from Flash #167) as a verb, he or she would simply ignore, in this case, Claremont's characterization of Dr. Doom and never mention it again. But what Byrne did in FF #258 went a step beyond: he actually overturned it. I actually enjoy this type of storytelling (and rivalry between and among creators), but it can get out of hand. For example, the later feud between Perter David and Erik Larsen got out of hand when the swipes became personal and had nothing to do with the story. "But I digress."
This comes to mind now because of Thing #3-4 (which occurs between Fantastic Four #258-259). I don't know what Byrne was thinking when he wrote that Mopee-worthy tale, but it was left to Peter David to overturn it in an issue of X-Factor. Maybe such an act can be referred to as a "Lockjaw" as in, "Peter David really Lockjawed John Byrne in the latest X-Factor."
It always confused me that it was a Doombot that was flirting with Storm who showed an interest as well. What would have happened if "Doom" had seduced Storm?
Not only that, but Wolverine should have been able to tell a robot from the real thing. That cognitive disconnect, at least, was latter addressed on a letters page. the explanation was that the Doombot may have smalled like an oil can but, for all Wolverine knew, that might be Doom's normal scent.
The splash page heralds this issue as "A bold new beginning for the Fantastic Four!" A new story arc so soon? Maybe, but I don't think so. In any case, the prologue to the current storyline (i.e., #258) should be included in a story arc. More likely, the blurb refers to Reed and Sue closing on their new house in the 'burbs. their house is in Belleport. CT, BTW, and their secret identities are Reed and Sue Benjamin. Sue wears a brown wig and Reed contorts his face.
The jet carrying the thing home from his latest adventure in his solo series lands at LaGuardia. The other passengers are upset that the Thing was allowed on a commercial flight in the first place. As he boards a taxi, he wonders whether people think their foes will attack them at any time. Just then, in a bit of situational irony, Tyros slices the cab he's riding in half. A battle ensures.
Meanwhile, Sharon visits Johnny in his new loft. Quite uncharacteristically, she's wearing a very feminine pink dress. She makes a play for him just as Johnny spots the Thing's emergency flare through the skylight. At this point in time, Reed is still examining the Vision and has not yet been "snatched" from Avengers Mansion. Sue is still 50 miles north, returning to Manhattan after her house-hunting expedition. A ship belonging to Dr. Doom slips in quietly above her and draws her Fantasticar in. The first "Doom" she confronts is a robot. she accuses him of cowardice, but by that time they're over the site in Queens where Ben and Johnny are fighting Tyros. Doom chooses that moment to play a mind game. He says that she can either stay and fight, or leave to help her teammates, thereby acknowledging that Doom is her "master." Of course she leaves to help Johnny and Ben. But she's not happy about it.
Meanwhile, on the edge of space, the silver Surfer spots the matter transfer beam used to abduct Reed Richards and heads off to investigate.
This issue begins with a splash of Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, flying through the air and follows his story for three pages before coming to the second splash of Ben and Johnny fighting Tyros. By this time, Byrne has developed a rhythm to introducing sub-plots and hooking new readers. Imagine, if you will, a non-FF reader attracted by the cover. If he or she opened the cover to the splash of Johnny, Ben and Tyros in medias res, the decision might be not to come in in the middle of a story and back the comic goes to the rack. But the splash of Namor looks like a new story (and, in fact, it is), and by the time a new readers gets to the second splash he's hooked!
The fight goes on for three pages, then Sue joins. [Incidentally, Byrne has started a new way of depicting the use of Sue's powers by not drawing it. Up until now, her powers had been depicted as kind of opaque, within dotted lines. But here, when she lowers herself into battle on an invisible platform it looks as if she's flying, and she puts a bubble around Tyros' head, we can only see his hands up against nothing.) Two more pages and she fires off her flare to call Reed. Then Doom himself descends from his ship and enters the fray.
If Reed Richards is not present, he doesn't want to defeat the rest of them. He tries to stop Tyros, but Tyros turns on him. After two more pages, Tyros uses the power cosmic to fuse Doom's armor. Now Doom cannot move, he's trapped in place. then the Silver Surfer arrives! Peter Parker's Aunt May is one of the witnesses to this battle, which is taking place in a grocery store parking lot. She says something to the man standing next to her, who drops his bag of groceries and replies, "Be silent, old woman! I have no time to listen to your ridiculous prattling!" How rude!
After four or five pages (depending on whether or not you count the one with Aunt May) of the Surfer fighting Tyros, the artificial power burns Tyros up and he explodes in a fiery conflagration. In the aftermath, the Surfer is still alive but Dr. Doom has been totally destroy; the only thing left of him is his mask. Sue picks it up and takes it and Norrin Radd back to the Baxter Building. Ben and Johnny go about their business (presumably Bem to Alicia's and Johnny to his new loft). Sue settles the Surfer into the infirmary, then sets about looking for Reed. He left for Avengers Mansion at 10 AM and expected to be back before three. It is now well past 3 PM. Suddenly, Sue is aware that someone is in the residential section after all. the Sub-Mariner staggers in and stammers, "Susan Richards... I have need of you!"
And that's the end of #260, the first volume of the omnibus, and my last post of the day. Because I haven't mentioned it in a while (and it's about to change), Sue's hair is now down to her back. Tomorrow I'll be back with volume two and "The Search for Reed Richards!"
ALPHA FLIGHT #4:
JB FF OMNI v2 begins with a bonafide crossover, from Fantastic Four #260 to Alpha Flight #4, not like that Avengers #233 nonsense from v1. We've already read the first four pages of this story in FF #260, pages 1-3 and 22. "Barbarian" encroached on Atlantis from the North, and when Namor went to investigate, he was overcome by "poisonous" waters. AF #4 picks up shortly after where FF #260 leaves off, with Sue accompanying Namor to the Arctic in a Fantasticar.
No sooner do they spot some sort of vast complex underneath the ice than they are fired upon, destroying the Fantasticar. Luckily, sue saw the blast coming and was able to encase herself and Namor in a force field. they find a way into the complex from underwater. It stretches for miles and miles. After about 40 minutes of searching, they find a man who refers to himself as "The Master" interrogating a young amphibious woman named Marrina.
In cases like this, where I'm following the storyline of one specific title (in this case, FF), I skip over all of the sub-plots of the crossover title (in this case, AF) and read just the scenes in which Sue and Namor participate. (That's most of the issue, in any case.) Besides, there is also a John Byrne's Alpha Flight omnibus edition which I will no doubt get around to reading one of these days.
Invisibly listening, Sue and Namor learn that the complex they have been exploring is actually a spaceship and that "The Master" is 40,000 years old, the result of genetic experiments conducted by the aliens who sent the ship in the first place. The ship's original purpose was colonization, colonization of a somewhat parasitic nature. It was designed to lure a given planet's dominant lifeform into itself, then send out "seeds" or "eggs" based on that lifeform to infiltrate and take over the planet.
But something went wrong the the ship crashed instead of landed, and the eggs were sent out without being imprinted. It turns out that Marrina hatched from one of these eggs and, under the Master's direction, the ship recently sent out a "homing signal" for all the offspring to return. Marrina was the only one who came. The rest of Alpha Flight soon arrives, and Subby gives Sue a lift back to NYC. Marrina goes with them.
NEXT: "The Search for Reed Richards"
Alpha Flight was interesting as it was a team book that focused on its individual members for its first year or so.
It also had back-up features in issue #2-11 detailing the origins of the team. Alpha Flight debuted in the X-Men and, after guest-appearances across the MU for the next three years, were granted their own series. Issue #1 of the series, however, took place only weeks after their last appearance in X-Men, then it jumps to the "present" in #2 and the back-ups begin.
If one were to read the series in omnibus format, however, everything is put in more-or-less chronological order: the X-Men appearances, the appearances across the MU, issue #1, all the back-ups from #2-11, then the rest of the Byrne issues presented sequentially from #2, which is how it should be read. Byrne's tenure came to an end in a crossover with The Incredible Hulk when the creative teams switched titles (Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola coming to AF from Hulk) in 1985. Both sides of that crossover is included, and the omnibus cames to an end with the two-issue X-Men/Alpha Flight limited series from 1988.
Anyone who read FF #260 but skipped AF #4 is likely to approach #261 with a bit of confusion. They last such a person would have seen was the Sub-Mariner staggering into the residential section of the FF's Baxter Building HQ in search of help; #261 begins with a splash page of Namor and Sue sharing a very passionate kiss. Marrina (Namor's future wife, although he doesn't know it at the time) looks on. It's been a busy day for Sue! Within the last 24 hours she has seen the defeat of The Master, Tyros and (as far as she knows) Doctor Doom. Now it's time to set about the task of finding her missing husband.
The first thing she does is contact Avengers Mansion. Jarvis tells her about the breach, but all of the other Avengers left to investigate the matter transfer beam. He doesn't know whether or not Reed went with them. By this time, the Silver Surfer has recovered from his battle with Tyros. Because it was a matter transfer beam he was investigating in the first place, after mentally retrieving his board, he decides to follow up on that clue and takes Sue along with him
Sue's Hairstyle Update: Before getting on the board with the Surfer, Sue ties her by-now-rather-long hair back in a ponytail, which will remain her fallback hairstyle until #271. Also, not that this has anything to do with the story at hand, but I recently finished watching all of Star Trek: Voyager, and it is Tim Russ' voice which I hear in my mind's ear when I read the Surfer's dialogue.
They find the Scarlet Witch still at Avengers Mansion, watching over the comatose body of her husband, the Vision. (She didn't go into space with the other Avengers but, like a good butler, Jarvis didn't mention it to Sue because Wanda said she didn't want to be disturbed.) It falls to Wanda to tell Sue about the disappearance of her husband. The Surfer uses his Cosmic Power to "replay" his abduction. He knows where Reed has been taken but, because of the restrictions placed on him by Galactus, cannot follow.
Sue calls a meeting of the rest of the FF and, once again, takes the leadership role. They fire up their spaceship and head for the Moon, giving the opportunity for an origin recap on the way. They bypass Attilan and head right for the domicile of the Watcher (which is about 200 miles away, BTW). Byrne draws Uatu as Kirby originally did, not his "chubby" self as Kirby himself Kirby later revised. The Watcher is aware of the situation (as he should be) and has already contacted his people. Because his own race is potentially affected, he has been given permission to participate in the proceedings.
Basically, a group named "The Survivors," a loose conglomeration of survivors of worlds Galactus has consumed, is putting Reed Richards on trial for his role in saving Galactus' life back in #244. then Lilandra, Majestrix Shi'ar arrives and her speech provides the next issue blurb: "Reed Richards Must Die!"
Incidentally, I have never considered this before, nor have I ever heard anything of this nature, but I wonder if Lilandra's involvement might not be due to Chris Claremont trying to "Lockjaw" John Byrne for overturning his X-Men story back in FF #258. Let me save you the suspense: it's not. Although Lilandra did censure Reed Richards (in an issue of X-Men, by sending a hologram into Reed and Sue's bedroom) as soon as she found out about his saving Galactus' life, the timing is not right for any kind of behind-the-scenes sniping.
FF #244 (JUL 82) - Reed saves Galactus' life
XM #167 (MAR 83) - Lilandra censures Reed
FF #257 (AUG 83) - Reed is abducted
FF #258 (SEP 83) - Byrne overturns Claremont's Doom story
Perhaps Byrne did bring Lilandra into the proceedings because of X-Men #167, but more likely it had more to do with Jim Shooter's emphasis on continuity between and among titles. That's my take, anyway.
Before moving on to "The Trial of Reed Richards" I'd like to discuss "Assistant Editors' Month" and...
THE THING #7:
I've said for a long time (like, almost 40 years now) that "Assistant Editors' Month" was a litmus test for the quality of Marvel titles at the time in that the best titles were those affected the least. for those who may not know, AEM was a gimmick for all issues shipping in August of 1983. the premise was, while all of the editors were in San Diego attending the ComiCon, the assistant editors were left in charge and cold do anything they wanted. It was a pretty stupid premise because the contents of those issues would have had to have been approved and prepared months in advance. If they wanted to make it at all believable, the AEM books should have come out a few months after the con.
FF #262 next time, but Byrne took advantage of AEM to present a largely metetextual back-up feature in The Thing #7. The main story was written by Byrne and drawn by regular penciler Ron Wilson. It featured a ridiculous villain named "Goody Two-Shoes" who gave the Thing the fight of his life! When the Thing read it (in the back-up feature, written and penciled by Byrne), he becomes incensed and pilots his sky-cycle down to the Marvel offices to have it out with Byrne et al.
Byrne already had a reputation for having a swelled head, and he played that angle up in the story. For example, he drew his own supposed office at Marvel Comics to look exactly like the Sub-Mariner's movie studio office back in issue #9. I got such a kick out of this story, the whole issue, really, that I remember trying to explain it to a non-comic book-reading friend of mine. (At the time, all of my friends were non-comic book readers.) I even showed it to him, but he just didn't get it. Oh, well.
The back-up feature (being all Byrne) is included in the omnibus (at the end, so as not to interrupt the story), but the silly main story (the set-up) is not. That's okay; the back-up story pretty much stands on its own anyway. I just didn't want to deal with AEM too much during my look at #262. We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion.