6 Dec 2009

Mini Reviews: Pre-Yuletide Byrne FF Special

This weekend sees the Paradox Comics Group venture into the outside world for their annual ‘Christmas Night Out’ which, due to the anticipated flow of alcohol, means review writing gets put on hold for one week only. Have no fear, though: we’ll be back with a bumper stack of reviews next week.

In the meantime, rather than give our readers nothing, Matt C has gone through four issues of John Byrne’s run on the Fantastic Four for his Byrne FF Project, and he’s now entering the home strait….

Writer: John Byrne

Art: John Byrne & Jerry Ordway

Marvel $0.65

Matt C: The Psycho-Man infiltrates Susan Richards’ mind, latching onto all her biggest doubts and greatest fears to create the ultimate nightmare for the Invisible Girl to experience. This all results in one of my favourite sequences of Byrne’s entire run on Fantastic Four and features probably the most emotionally vivid character writing Sue had received up to that point in time. Reed’s genius saves the day in the end as he utilizes what I think was a new facet of his stretching power to dazzling effect. The writing and art are peerless, and this issue is a stone cold classic. 10/10

Writer: John Byrne

Art: John Byrne & Al Gordon

Marvel $0.65

Matt C
: Jerry Ordway’s absent this issue, but Al Gordon contributes some fine inking skills, particularly effective when he gives Byrne’s pencils a primeval, craggy look in the Mines of Nuvidia sequences. She-Hulk gets to flex her impressive muscles a fair bit as the focus stays on her for several pages but, as with the last few issues, the spotlight is on Susan Richards as her transformation from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman is finally completed. Yet again, it’s sterling character work from Byrne that ensures the FF remain believable and relatable even though the backdrop they’re placed against may be outlandish and far-fetched. 9/10

Writer: John Byrne

Art: John Byrne

Marvel $0.65

Matt C
: Byrne tackles the harsh realities of hero worship and when celebrity obsession is taken too far in one of the most emotionally bruising issues of his run on Fantastic Four. A neglected, bullied, introverted kid who’s only real joy in life is reading the adventures of Johnny Storm decides to become just like his idol by dousing himself in rocket fuel and lighting a match. The consequences are inevitably tragic, and Johnny has to come to terms with his role as a publicly admired hero and what that entails (with a little help from the Beyonder). Byrne handles a potentially inappropriate subject for a spandex-based comic book with skill and sensitivity, avoiding the kind of melodrama which would have derailed the entire story. The only weak spot is Al Gordon’s inking which is occasionally too light to properly bring out the nuances of Byrne’s pencils. That aside, it’s a powerful and moving comic book. 9/10

Writer: John Byrne

Art: John Byrne & Joe Sinnott

Marvel $1.25

Matt C: The legendary Joe Sinnott joins Byrne for inking duties on this “Double-Sized Annual” and he certainly brings a timeless, classic quality to the table that feels both familiar and reassuring. For the story, Byrne starts things off with another of those great extended opening scenes that he’d pretty much perfected by this stage, and seeing the FF mix it up with the Skrulls again is always a welcome sight. This annual crossed over with Avengers Annual #14 (released the same month in 1985) and the real beauty is seeing how the two stories dovetail into one, so it’s necessary to read both to get the complete experience. Avengers Annual #14 is the superior read, but the FF entry is a still a heck of a lot of fun. 8/10


Andrew Wahl said...


Just got done reviewing FF #283 for my site for tomorrow. Found it interesting that this is the issue our opinions seem furthest apart on: It was one of my least favorite issues of Byrne's run, and appears to be one of your favorites. Still a helluva run, though!


Matt Clark said...

I was sure nostalgia comes into play as it's one of the first issues of FF I remember buying (albeit as a reprint in the UK Secret Wars II weekly). Those books that introduce you to the medium always have a lasting impact.