Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Chronicler: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Tom DeFalco | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: On a planet within the Negative Zone, the arrival of the Fantastic Four is observed by a group of primitive natives. These beings attack the FF, poisoning Mister Fantastic and rendering him unconscious. The fight is stopped by the village elder, Mama Shonti. She explains that the FF’s arrival was foretold in prophecy and that they are destined to destroy the massive walled city of Ootah, which expelled the natives years ago, forcing their devolution to a primitive state.

On Earth, Annihilus searches the Baxter Building for Franklin Richards, finds him, and takes him prisoner.

The natives prepare to sacrifice a young woman named Taiya to Ootah, but the Human Torch and the Thing rescue her. When the Thing proves that Ootah will destroy anything which attempts to pass through its walls, not just a living woman as the natives have long believed, the FF decide the city is malevolent and raze its walls. Reed comes around and attempts to stop them, but is too late. Ootah’s brain is destroyed and the villagers go berserk within the city limits, rampaging throughout.

As Ootah falls, Reed reveals that it was actually a highly evolved artificial intelligence which one day might have become sentient if not for the superstitions of its former inhabitants leading to its destruction.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Annihilus recalls that he once harnessed Franklin’s mutant power to his own sinister ends, but he is no longer able to do so thanks to the psychic blocks Franklin put in place in issue 245.

Is It Clobberin' Time? Yes, the Thing lays some clobberin’ on Ootah’s brain.

My Thoughts: Byrne has, as noted previously, used some of his FANTASTIC FOUR installments as a sort of “TWILIGHT ZONE” anthology series, using the FF to explore unusual phenomena around the world. Here, he begins a storyline which will see the series turn into an analogue for STAR TREK as the FF spend a few issues seeking out new life and new civilizations in the Negative Zone. This first stop in particular has a very TREKish feel to it, with the team encountering a race of primitives and, without a “Prime Directive” to follow, inadvertently doing harm to their world’s development.

But of more interest to me is the fact that Byrne randomly draws this issue in landscape format. Every page, including the cover (save the “Marvel Comics Group” trade dress and the issue number and Comics Code seal) is orientated horizontally. The bizarre thing about this is it serves no purpose. I get that it’s a fun and different thing to do, and it’s cool to read a comic with an unusual layout, but one would expect the story to somehow facilitate such a concept. However, outside of a title which stretches to justify the experiment, there’s nothing about this issue that couldn’t have been done in standard portrait style orientation.

So the story’s not bad and the artistic experiment is kind of interesting; it just would've been nice if they could have been tied together somehow.


  1. Thing proves that Ootah will destroy anything which attempts to pass through its walls, not just a living woman as the natives have long believed

    One of the effectively most horrible scenes in comics. The realization that they have been sending numerous innocent people to be disintegrated by what is revealed to be a completely automated ray cannon isn't helped one bit by Ben choosing this moment to crack a joke about it.

    1. There are a handful of insensitive remarks like that in Byrne's run. For all he's ragged on Chris Claremont about doing bits that conflict with characterization, Byrne also has an issue with occasionally injecting wisecracks into inappropriate moments.

  2. I really can't stand entirely landscaped comics. Just one of those inexplicable pet peeves that I can't get past. Something about having to turn, then hold, the comic sideways the whole time, for such little gain.

    1. Try reading it in an Omnibus! I most frequently read lying down, holding the book above me or propping it up on my chest. For this one, I had to lay it flat and roll over onto my belly to read it.


  3. Even though you’ve made Twilight Zone references in previous posts, I visualized the show’s logo this time for some reason — which made me realize how much it resembles the lettering style of the Fantastic Four and Amazing Adult Fantasy logos. They share a general design sense with other stuff from that era, but I can’t help wondering if Stan was trying to create a visual/mental association with what he must’ve found to be one of television’s most interesting series.

    1. Hey, good eye! I never really thought about it, but the classic FF logo really does appear to be influenced by the TWILIGHT ZONE logo. That has to be intentional.