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

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Jeff of Earth-J said:

#267:

On the way. they pass one of J. Jonah Jameson's Daily Bugle billboards posing the eternal question: "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?" this is enough to trigger Octavius' psychosis. At the NYPD Security Holding area, Octavius' octopus arms become active and make their was to intercept the FantastiCar. Octavius doesn't seem to be aware, at first, of what is happening; the arms are being controlled by his subconscious mind. as the battle wears on, however, Octavius' "Dr. Octopus" persona emerges. Mr. Fantastic defeats him in a manner Spider-Man never thought of, and again appeals to him professional identity to help Sue, and once again convinces him to help.

I remember reading this issue and coming to the scene where Doctor Octopus' mechanical arms activate and bust out of their vault and make their way to him, and thinking, "Why didn't they deactivate the damn things when they put them away?"

And on the next page, a character in the story says, "Why didn't they deactivate the damn things when they put them away?" Someone responds it's because of a court order. I thought that was good writing.

Some comments:

  • I thought that She-Hulk replacing the Thing was a bit forced. It had little build-up in Secret Wars, IIRC. I do remember being annoyed by the "Rocky Grimm" stories in The Thing.
  • I think that Byrne needed a break from drawing the Thing and saw what his buddy, Roger Stern was doing with She-Hulk in Avengers and "borrowed" her.
  • Of course, Sue's miscarriage was a tragic and pivotal moment in both the title and comics. I don't think that it was given the depth it should have but there may have been restrictions on them.
  • I grew up with Doctor Octopus being a criminal mastermind, usually drawn more fit by Ross Andru in Amazing Spider-Man so it was a shock seeing him as an unstable little man here.

I remember being really struck with the craft of that page. It's a major moment, and deserves a page all of its own. It's too important not to have that. But at the same time, it's a small moment -- one that would be disserved by a full splash-page two-show of the doctor and Reed. Byrne's solution is brilliant. The thick black border lends the scene a walls-closing-in feeling without the effect being in-your-face.

This remains one of my favorite pages in comics, simply because of how well it takes advantage of the form. 

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Back at the hospital, however, something terrible has happened. Johnny and Alicia commiserate. Has sue died in childbirth? Soon Reed and Octavius arrive and Reed is informed that Sue "lost the baby a little over thirty minutes ago."

ANNUAL #18:

Next up is Annual #18, which the the parameters of the omnibus, but just barely. Byrne plots, but someone else scripts (Mark Gruenwald), pencils (Mark Bright) and inks (Mike Gustovich). Despite the fact that this comic book features the wedding of Blackbolt and Medusa and the end of the Kree/Skrull War, you'd think I'd like it more than I do, but I don't think I've read it since its original release... unless I did as part of an "Inhumans" re-read. It's really more of an Inhumans story, and that where I have the original filed, not with FF.

The main story spins out of X-Men #137 which, even in "comic book time," was months (if not years) ago. The Kree and the Skrulls each appointed a representative to witness the execution of Phoenix (long story), Bel-Dan and Raksor respectively. They eventually go off fighting on their own, never to be seen again... until now. Their battle is really cramping the watcher's style, so he contacts the Skrull Empress and the Kree Supremor and, because the war has been going on for so long with no clear winner, they agree to let the two warriors fight it out mano a mano, winner take all. After an eleven-page prologue, the main story is ready to begin.

Essentially, the fighting spills over and disrupts the wedding festivities. Reed and Blackbolt concoct a plan to maneuver Bel-Dan and Raksor into teaming up. the Inhumans and the Fantastic Four all pretend to be defeated, the Watcher steps in and declares the war a draw, THE END. The annual is better than I remembered, but it's still an interruption to the Byrne run and better skipped to be read in another context. 

#269:

This issue sees the return of one of my favorite supporting characters, Wyatt Wingfoot. He's riding his ATV across the desert as the story begins, and witnesses a half mile-wide energy beam slicing down from space and cutting a 1000 ft. deep chasm in the terrain in a seemingly random pattern. Who ya gonna call?

While one supporting character is reintroduced, another is in the process of being cut loose. Back in New York, Johnny storm is having lunch with Sharon Selleck. Johnny sees Alicia Masters down the block, ditches his date, and that's the last wee see of Sharon. 

Back at the Baxter Building, Sue has her long hair tightly pulled back in a very unattractive manner. It has been ten days since her miscarriage. Dr. Lansing, her obstetrician, has determined that the loss of her child had nothing to do with being concieved in the Negative Zone, but rather is due to her and Reed's own irradiated cell structure, and has advised them against having children in the future. 

Byrne twice includes some hard science in this issue, first with an experiment in averaging the relative velocities of two objects, in this case, the Sun and a tennis ball. The tennis ball is much worse for wear after Reed's experiment, but Reed is trying to apply his finding to a new form of motive energy which would require no fuel and produce no pollution. 

The phone rings. It is Wyatt Wingfoot, who tells him about the beam he witnessed just before the same beam hits the New Jersey Palisades and moves into the Hudson River, stopping just short of hitting Manhattan. Then the President (Ronald Reagan) calls and introduces his new scientific advisor, Clement Standground, who advises that there is data forthcoming from the Landsat satellite detailing the beams path. Reed and She-Hulk leave to go meet Wyatt, and Sue is not happy about being left behind... again

The second bit of hard science comes when Reed analyses some of the data he has been able to collect. Telemetry suggests that the beam originated 100 light years away. But the beam was traveling at the speed of light, so that means it must have been fired 100 years ago, taking into consideration where the Earth would be 100 years in the future, that there would be a land mass to hit, other obstructions (such as our own Sun), etc

While that's all sinking in, a huge spaceship crashes to Earth, but there don't appear to be any visible doors or hatches. Wyatt and She-Hulk meets for the first time. The data from the Landsat comes in and clearly indicate alien writing scrawled across the continental United States. Reed runs it through the universal translator which deciphers it as: "I Claim This World - Terminus." Just then, what they thought was a spaceship arises and is revealed to be Terminus itself! 

#270:

Alicia visits Johnny in his new loft. "There is a subliminal tension in the room for which he can find no logical reason." She speaks frankly of Ben and their recent relationship difficulties. she was only 19 when she first met him in issue #8, and she hadn't been out of her apartment for nearly three years prior to that. She was in the hospital for five months following Annihilus' attack, and her head had to be shaved as a result of her injuries. She suddenly realizes she is late for an appointment and kisses Johnny very close to the mouth. After she has gone, Johnny notices she left her cap. He moons over the scent of her perfume and thinks about flying after her with it, but decides not to because she may have left it as an excuse to return later. He realizes he is in love with her. 

Franklin find Sue sitting amongst the wreckage of the temper tantrum she threw last issue. She finally gets around to firing the signal flare to alert Johnny of Reed and She-Hulk's mission, but he doesn't see it. 

This month's "geography lesson" is Houston, TX, where the Landsat Project's receiving station is located. (Later, Terminus attacks the town of Hanover, NM.)

The story picks up from last issue's cliffhanger on page ten, another good example of Byrne's pacing and story structure. A new reader might not even realize this is the second part of a two-part story until ten pages in. 

ASIDE: I mentioned the other day how I heard Tim Russ' voice in my head when reading the Silver surfer's dialogue...? for Wyatt Wingfoot's I'm hearing Robert Beltran's. 

Terminus is little more than a scavenger, albeit a scavenger on a galactic scale. Something She-Hulk says about "throwing the whole planet at him" reminds Reed of the acceleration device he was working on last issue (this story's "gun on the mantle"). He quickly whips one up and attaches it to Terminus, instantly increasing his velocity to 20,000 m.p.h. against the direction of Earth through space, thereby driving him into the ground "like a tent pole" (as Wyatt put it). Reed didn't defeat him, though; he just delayed him. Terminus will eventually make his way back to the surface, but he'll be the Avengers' problem then.

Today was to have been Wyatt's investiture as chief of his tribe but, after this adventure, he decides he's not yet ready to settle down. There is definitely some chemistry between him and Jennifer, and he accompanies her and Reed back to New York.

TOMORROW: Sue's new hairstyle!

So that's where Terminus is from?  I've only ever seen his fight with the Justice League.


Jeff of Earth-J said:

#270:

Alicia visits Johnny in his new loft. "There is a subliminal tension in the room for which he can find no logical reason." She speaks frankly of Ben and their recent relationship difficulties. she was only 19 when she first met him in issue #8, and she hadn't been out of her apartment for nearly three years prior to that. She was in the hospital for five months following Annihilus' attack, and her head had to be shaved as a result of her injuries. She suddenly realizes she is late for an appointment and kisses Johnny very close to the mouth. After she has gone, Johnny notices she left her cap. He moons over the scent of her perfume and thinks about flying after her with it, but decides not to because she may have left it as an excuse to return later. He realizes he is in love with her. 

Franklin find Sue sitting amongst the wreckage of the temper tantrum she threw last issue. She finally gets around to firing the signal flare to alert Johnny of Reed and She-Hulk's mission, but he doesn't see it. 

This month's "geography lesson" is Houston, TX, where the Landsat Project's receiving station is located. (Later, Terminus attacks the town of Hanover, NM.)

The story picks up from last issue's cliffhanger on page ten, another good example of Byrne's pacing and story structure. A new reader might not even realize this is the second part of a two-part story until ten pages in. 

ASIDE: I mentioned the other day how I heard Tim Russ' voice in my head when reading the Silver surfer's dialogue...? for Wyatt Wingfoot's I'm hearing Robert Beltran's. 

Terminus is little more than a scavenger, albeit a scavenger on a galactic scale. Something She-Hulk says about "throwing the whole planet at him" reminds Reed of the acceleration device he was working on last issue (this story's "gun on the mantle"). He quickly whips one up and attaches it to Terminus, instantly increasing his velocity to 20,000 m.p.h. against the direction of Earth through space, thereby driving him into the ground "like a tent pole" (as Wyatt put it). Reed didn't defeat him, though; he just delayed him. Terminus will eventually make his way back to the surface, but he'll be the Avengers' problem then.

Today was to have been Wyatt's investiture as chief of his tribe but, after this adventure, he decides he's not yet ready to settle down. There is definitely some chemistry between him and Jennifer, and he accompanies her and Reed back to New York.

TOMORROW: Sue's new hairstyle!

The plot of #266 was recycled from a strip Byrne did in college.

Spidey fought Octopus's arms, summoned by Doc, in Amazing Spider-Man #88.

"Masque" in #268's title is a pun using the name of a type of short play with music and spectacle that flourished in the 17th century. (Ben Jonson wrote a number of these for James I and Charles I. Inigo Jones did designs.) I'm sure Jeff knows this but some reading this mightn't.

The title "Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger", from The Thing #11, is a play on a 1950s TV show's, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. Charlton did a comics version in Space Adventures.

The bit in #270 about the comparative size of the two aliens is Byrne at his best. The device Reed uses to stop Terminus is absurdly powerful. A device like that would revolutionise our civilisation.

Terminus returned early the next year in The Avengers #256-#257, where he destroyed Pangea/the Savage Land and was apparently killed. Supermegamonkey tells me a retcon declared that Terminus to be someone else

#271:

The title of this issue's story should be "Who is Reed Richards?" but I tend to remember it as "My Mother's Eyes," either or which would have been better than the "official" title taken from one of Sue's word balloons (see below). Let's start with Sue Richard's hairstyle (since I know that's what everyone reading this thread has been waiting for). It's a kind of "ear-to-war" cut, Short on top, long in back, with a "spit curl" in front.  (She will keep this hairstyle until #287.) Here's the one picture 1000 words are worth:

Before I move on, I'd like to say a few words about Byrne's inking. I opined earlier that I didn't think much of it, but it's improving. If you'd've asked me a week ago, I wouldn't have thought he was still inking his own work at this point, but he is. His style has subtle changed throughout this run, and it is no longer as "murky" as it appears early on. 

If you count the number of candles on the cake, you will see that Reed is now 40 years old. That seems a bit on the young side to me, but I'm not going to quibble with it. He participates in the festivities, but Sue realizes there's something wrong. Taking her aside he confides, "I can't remember my mother's eyes." In fact, he has been experiencing memory gaps ever since being connected to the Priest of Mantracora's mind-draining machine back in the Negative Zone. His missing memories are of the type that are important to him, but that he might not think of every day... such as his mother's eyes. He describes it as a record skipping a groove.

[He also confides to Sue the truth of Ben's condition, but that's not relevant to the story at hand; I'll cover it in more depth at a later time.]

When he tries to pinpoint where this loss begins, the earliest memory he can access is that of Gormuu, a monster he encountered shortly before their FF's fateful test flight, which was in some ways the reason for the flight in the first place. This gives Byrne the excuse he needs to draw a flashback sequence in his best imitation Kirby/Ayers late '50s style. the story, too, is plotted like one of Marvel's pre-super-hero monster years, hitting all the tropes and beats. 

The next day, the team takes a trip to the Richards family estate in Central City, CA. They are met by the family butler, Giles Peacock, still drawing a salary even though Reed's father disappeared three years before they became the Fantastic Four (nice work if you can get it). Both Peacock and his wife refer to Reed as "Master Reed," but I'm going to let that slide this time under the circumstances. The elder Richards left his son $2 billion, most of which he sunk into his star-drive rocket project. 

In case you're wondering how someone who owns such a vast estate of prime California real estate can go bankrupt... twice... Reed explains it's because his father set up a perpetuating fund to care for the estate in such a way that he cannot be declared legally dead, no matter how long he's gone. When asked how things have been going,Peacock replies that "everything is absolutely fine... except for the ghosts, of course." Starting shortly after Nathantial Richards' disappearance and continuing with increasing frequency to the present day, the Peacocks have witnessed 13 "manifestations."

Richards' lab is locked, but they manage to gain entry. Reed is shocked to discover a time-machine, nearly identical to Dr. Doom's (meaning Nathanial Richards invented it first) in his father's lab. The date on the machine is set for yesterday's date, meaning Dr. Richards attempted to travel from the past to the future, the FF's present (which explains his disappearance all those years ago). Because there was no one left behind to turn the machine off, it created a "ripple effect" which caused "ghost images" to appear with increasing frequency as the target date approached. 

But Reed knows from his own studies of Doom's time machine that any attempt to travel into the future would have, in fact, shunted the traveler sideways to a parallel universe. The title of next issue's story is one of the cleverest in the magazine's history: "Cowboys & Idioms".

Sacred fecal matter, that's an awful hairstyle on Sue!  

It's very "80s."

The Johhny/Alicia romance really came out of left field to me (and I'm not considering its ultimate outcome right now). Everyone knew that nothing good could come from it. Alicia was hurting from Ben's abandonment and Johnny realized that every woman around him has left him (without looking at himself in the mirror) but Alicia is always around! I can't believe that Johnny would have the maturity to date a person with special needs, given his self-centeredness and that Alicia would want to deal with that! 

Yes, Ben had the same problems but he was in a much different situation than Johnny!

Byrne also took this opportunity to de-age Alicia so she's not that much older than Johnny but it makes Ben look like he's robbing the cradle since he's still a WWII vet...for now.

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