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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Oh! Two thing I forgot to mention...

1) It is at this time Johnny gets a bad '80s haircut to match his sisters, and...

2) Jerry Ordway inks. Frankly, Jerry Ordway is my favorite Byrne inker... on Fantastic  Four, anyway.

Byrne also drew new pages in an early Silver Age style for Fantastic Four Special Edition #1, which reprinted Fantastic Four Annual #1. According to Supermegamonkey these were on Namor's history. DC Indexes says the issue came out at the time of Fantastic Four #266.

...and those pages are reprinted in the omnibus (v2) as well!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Oh! Two thing I forgot to mention...

1) It is at this time Johnny gets a bad '80s haircut to match his sisters, and...

2) Jerry Ordway inks. Frankly, Jerry Ordway is my favorite Byrne inker... on Fantastic  Four, anyway.

Jerry Ordway was the perfect match for John Byrne on Fantastic Four.

Terry Austin was the perfect match for John Byrne on The Uncanny X-Men.

Dick Giordano was the perfect match for John Byrne on Superman: The Man of Steel.

John Byrne is not his own best inker.

I absolutely agree with all four of those sentiments. With #277, Jerry Ordway has become the new regular inker in Fantastic Four

WARNING: I am going to get a little bit political in this post and I'm going to use "the N-word." Kelvin, I'm glad you're here, man. I have posted things on this board in the past that I cringe at the thought of you having read. I'll leave it to you to tell me if I've crossed a line.

THING #23:

The Thing #23 is not included in the omnibus, although it probably should be. It certainly has more to do with the FF than #19 did. In it, Mr. fantastic finally revealed that the only the reason the thing could never  previously revert to human form was his own subcinscious fear that he would lose Alicia's love. Enraged that reed had kept this secret from him, the Thing moved out of the Baxter building torn by feelings of betrayal.

#278:

It is with this issue that John Byrne begins using quotations on the splash page to reflect the issue's theme (or title or splash page or whatever). Is anyone interested in these? If so, I'll include them forward. This  first one [Cicero (106-43 B.C.)] is lengthier than most.

"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child.

"For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"

For me, the title, "True Lies," has more relevance in light of current events.

As the story opens, a Dr. Doom robot removes young Kristoff from his regular classroom and revels to him that Doom is dead and Kristoff is to be his heir. Many details of how Doom's robots work are revealed before Kristoff is hooked into the "Remembrancer," a device which feeds Doom's origin from Annual #2 into Kristoff's mind, enhanced with details added since then as well as embellishments of Byrne's own.

In the original Lee/Kirby version of dr. Doom's origin, Doom's face was hideously disfigured by the resultant explosion when Victor Von doom failed to heed Reed Richards' advice. Years later. Kirby stated that the injury to Doom's face was "just a scratch," and it was his vanity which caused him to wear the mask (perhaps forgetting that the extent of Doom's disfigurement had previously been revealed on more than one occasion). Byrne melds these two versions, establishing that the initial version did result in ja simple scar, but when the monks applied his mask, it was red hot (a detail from Annual #2). 

In true example of the arrogance of youth, Kristoff stops the playback of the Remembrancer at issue #6.

I loved that touch in 1985 and I love it today! 

Several sub-plots are introduce this issue (including a shadowy figure lurking in the background and She-Hulk making a pass at Wyatt Wingfoot), but let's get to the meat of the issue, shall we? 

I had forgotten, at this far remove, that the word "nigger" is actually used in this issue. (Posters promoting an upcoming meeting about racial equality are defaced with the banner "Nigger-Lover.") "Nigger" is not a word I use often, but I don't shy away from it, either. I think it is an ugly, hateful word, and when we use a euphemism in it's place ("the N-word"), we lessen the impact of its ugliness. I mean, if you hear that word and are offended, you f*cking should be! (Actually, I don't use either word except in discussions such as this.) The scene of Johnny and Alicia encountering these posters introduces the "Hate Monger" sub-plot which will move to the fore in #280.

In the meantime, Kristoff/Doom has reenacted his "father's" plot of levitating the Baxter Building into space, except this time...

CLIFFHANGER: ...he blows it up!

Some more comments:

  • I still couldn't wrap my head around Johnny and Alicia as a "legit" couple. Yes, Reed said they were a good match but Reed's not exactly the most romantic guy around!
  • Yes, Alicia stood up to Ben and said that she loves Johnny now! And I feel that she meant it, or at least believed that she does. (And again, this could be interpreted in different ways, Post-Byrne). But the point is is that Ben hurt her, made her feel unimportant and she picked the one guy that would hurt Ben the most as her paramour. (Well maybe Namor would have been or Doom or the Hulk, you know what I mean!)
  • The Kiddie Doctor Doom bothered me too as it was child abuse. Doom's origin made a lot more sense to me. Then again it always made more sense than the FF's!
  • I had forgotten the harsh language of the Hate-Monger story. Was it retained in the omnibus?

"Was it retained in the omnibus?"

Yes, as a banner a young kid is plastering over posters for the racial equality meeting. No one actually says it, but it's difficult to imagine such a thing making it into a comic book today (just as those live reenactments of All in the Family and The Jeffersons last year bleeped out the word which was broadcast on TV in the '70s). The kid was portrayed a a big fan of Johnny's. He didn't seem to think much about the job he was hired to do. (That's not an excuse, just an observation.) 

"No one actually says it..."

...yet.

#279:

By this time I've figured out who John Byrne is so I get the joke on the cover.

Amidst the shattered wreckage of the Baxter Building drift the dead bodies of Reed, Sue, Johnny, Jen, Wyatt and Franklin... until a robot camera departs the scene and they all spring to life. Once again Byrne has employed the trick of not drawing what can't be seen, namely Sue's forcefield, which not only saved them from the explosion but also trapped oxygen inside. They still floating 200 miles up in space, though.

Following Reed's instructions, Sue open a pinprick hole in the bubble on the opposite end of the direction they want to travel, propelling them toward Earth. Mr. Fantastic then shapes his body into a more aerodynamic shape and has Sue form her forcefield around him. As they break into the atmosphere, it is Johnny's job to absorb the heat. They are over Central Europe, so Reed instructs Sue how to guide the "ship" to Latveria. (He doesn't quite believe Dr. Doom is responsible, but that's where the signal did originate.) As they approach Doom's castle, Sue "softens" her field to absorb the shock of the impact while  Johnny flies off to release the heat he has absorbed and She-Hulk takes her place in the nose to act as battering ram. 

Once they have crashed the castle they fight their way to Doom. He is wearing an unusual suit of armor, which She-Hulk rips open to reveal a child inside. Reed recognizes him as Kristoff from #246 and realizes he must have been brainwashed as some sort of contingency plan. He is unsure whether or not Kristoff's own mind can be restored, but resolved to take him with them as the loss of their headquarters... their home... sinks in.

that leaves us just two pages to deal with the "B" plot, which will become the "A" plot next issue. A rabble-rouser named Unger, inciting a crown of followers, is interrupted by a Catholic priest, who tries to counter Unger's hate-speech with a message of peace and brotherhood. Unger leads the crowd chanting "nigger-lover" while they attack the priest. Backstage, Unger reports to the "shadowy figure" seen briefly last issue. He says that he has two more meeting to attend that night: Sons of Zion and Black Women's Defense League. Then the white male Unger morphs into a Black woman before heading to his next meeting.

#280:

At the site formerly occupied by the Baxter Building, a crowd forms. Reed Richards is trying to calm the displaced tenants who have come to see the damage, and the police are trying to hold back the curious onlookers. The crowd becaomes a mob and several scuffles break out, most of which seem to be racially motivated. We gat a closer look at the "shadowy figure" from the previous two issues, and longtime readers have probably figured out who he is. The shape changer takes on the form of Reed Richards. 

Johnny Storm has flown the real Reed Richards to Avengers Mansion, when the Fantastic Four are staying. An angry crowd is protesting in the street (against mutants), so the mobs are here, too. Jarvis shows Reed some hate literature Captain America collected and Reed takes it to the lab for a closer look. Franklin is in bed asleep, but he has been having prophetic dreams lately (for example, he dreamed about Mephisto a few issues back).

In another part of town, She-Hulk runs afoul of a scantily clad woman wearing a spikey headdress/mask who goes by the name of Malice, Mistress of Hate. She seems to be invulnerable to She-Hulk's punches and displays other powers which seems to be telekinetic in nature. She makes a few cryptic remarks, but Byrne doesn't keep us guessing as to her identity for just too long. Unger (who is also a doctor, apparently) appears on the scene, still wearing the face of Reed Richards, the man who Malice hates most. He quickly changes his form, she backs down and removes her mask, revealing herself to be (aw, you guessed it!) Sue Richards.

Back at Avengers Mansion, Reed richards has just determined that the pamphlets are alien in origin when Franklin rushes in from a bad (prophetic?) dream in which "Mommy killed you and Unca Johnny!" 

#281:

On the splash page, Dr. Unger, flanked by Malice and the "shadowy figure," refers to himself as the Hate Monger for the first time. (Both he and Malice refer to the shadowy figure as "Master.") A double-page spread depicts Manhattan in flames, and they revel in the destruction they caused for a few more pages. The "Master" mentions that he has allowed the FF "to remian immune to [his] machinations." Elsewhere in the city, we see that Daredevil is also immune. 

At Avengers Mansion, Jarvis tells Reed and Johnny, sequestered in the lab, about the rioting in the streets. Johnny flies out to see what he can do to help and finds Alicia on a rooftop. (I'm hitting the highlights here, but Byrne has told this story in a very nonlinear fashion; the last we saw of Alicia, Sue was taking her to safety. Now we'll find out the circumstances under which Sue became Malice.) Back at Avengers Mansion, Malice confronts Reed. Then Daredevil arrives, but his radar sense perceives Malice as an "amorphous  blob." 

Reed reveals that he knows from previous encounters that Daredevil uses some sense other than sight, and asks him to reveal what he "sees." Reed deduces who Malice is, and also who's behind her transformation (but he doesn't say who it is). He then begins to "push Sue's buttons" which causes an "overload" of hate that snaps her out of her other persona and returns her to normal. She remembers everything that happened and seeks revenge against the one who caused it. Unfortunately, the story is continued in Secret Wars II.

I don't say "unfortunately" because the six relevant pages of SWII #2are not included in the omnibus, because they are; I say it because I absolutely loathe Secret Wars II. [I was going to explain why at this point, but decided not to. You're welcome.] The first two pages of the crossover recap FF #280-281 in a linear fashion, then proceed. Basically, the FF track down the Hate Monger and his Master, but an assassin steps out of an alleyway, shoots the Hate Monger dead, and shouts, "Justice is served!" The Master disappears.

We'll follow the Master next issue, but the assassin has little to do with the Fantastic four per se. We haven't seen the last of him in this discussion, though, and I'll deal with him in more detail when he next appears. 

Was it an elf with a gun?

Jeff of Earth-J said:;

We'll follow the Master next issue, but the assassin has little to do with the Fantastic four per se.

Heh. No. No, it was not. Not this time.

#282:

"One trembles to think of that mysterious thing in the soul, which seems to acknowledge no human jurisdiction, but in spite of the individual's own innocent self, we still dream horrid dreams, and mutter unmentionable thoughts."

-Herman Melville (1819-1891) - Moby Dick

The story begins with a nine-page, mostly silent depiction of one of Franklin's dreams. The panels are borderless, and in the dream Franklin encounters the Power Pack kids. I had successfully ignored Power Pack up until this time, but when Franklin crossed over, I picked up a few. On page ten, Franklin pulls a "Little Nemo" (falls out of bed and wakes up), then goes wandering around Avengers Mansion. I used to think that John Byrne couldn't draw kids, but I see now that, if Byrne has "de-aged" any character, it's Franklin Richards. He looks about four years old here. 

Using the Avengers' lab and equipment, Reed Richards has rebuilt his "reducto-craft" from memory. It's left up to Sue to put a name to the threat (for any readers who may not have guessed by this point): the Psycho-Man. (Personally, I'm happy not to have to refer to him as the "Shadowy figure" or the "Master" anymore.) Reed and Sue have a heated exchange about whether to stay on Earth to deal with the threat of the Beyonder, or to pursue the Psycho-Man into the Microverse. Sue absolutely puts her foot down and Reed comes to realized that his wife has been violated. Byrne uses Sue's situation as a metaphor for all violence against women.

After a couple of pages of "shrinking" into the Microverse (Reed explains to She-Hulk that they have actually been shunted into extra-dimensional space, "achieved through our mass stabilized passage through the zero point"), they arrive only to find they are tiny in comparison to the Psycho-Man and are quickly captured.

Back on Earth, the "red skies" Secret Wars II crossover basically takes the form of a single panel of the Beyonder taking a business meeting in a restaurant. Jim Shooter makes a cameo appearance. 

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