Monday, May 2, 2016


"R. & R."
Words and Pictures: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editing: Bob Budiansky | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Mister Fantastic heads from the new Richards home in Connecticut to Manhattan to check on the Baxter Building. Meanwhile, in California, Johnny participates in a charity race at the Wonderworld amusement park as Ben watches from the crowd. But Johnny’s car explodes after passing through a tunnel, apparently killing him.

Ben doesn’t believe Johnny is dead and suspects he may have somehow been swapped with someone else in the tunnel. He travels to the island home of Wonderworld’s owner, Alden Maas, where he learns that Maas is using Johnny in a scheme to reheat the Earth’s core. Ben attempts to free Johnny but instead falls down Maas’s tunnel, which doesn’t quite reach all the way to the center of the Earth, instead depositing Ben in the realm of the Mole Man.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Just a few issues ago I noted that the FF had not yet re-branded all their gear with the new black "4" in place of the old blue one. As of this issue, that change has taken place.

It’s declared that more than four months have passed since the previous issue, and Reed, Sue, and Franklin are now living in Connecticut under the assumed name of “Benjamin”.

Obviously Byrne has made this time jump to advance Sue’s pregnancy, but as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of huge chunks of time elapsing in serialized fiction this way. For one thing, it can lead to continuity conflicts with other titles. While in New York, Reed contacts Avengers Mansion to check on Vision’s recuperation, as he’s still injured following his encounter with Annihilus’s barrier in AVENGERS 233. Did Roger Stern also declare that months had passed in the pages of AVENGERS? If not, then Byrne’s timeline makes no sense (and -- though I have never read Stern's AVENGERS to verify this, as I noted several times in my SPIDER-MAN BY ROGER STERN series, at least, Stern was not typically one to have long swaths of downtime elapse between issues).

Also while in New York, something on the Baxter Building’s automatic scanners catches Reed’s attention, but narration informs us we’ll need to wait a while to learn what it is. The mystery is not revisited this issue.

Johnny bumps into Julie Angel, who recently moved to California with acting school classmate Grey Landers, at Wonderworld, where she’s shooting a motor oil commercial. She lays a kiss on him just before the race, confusing Johnny’s feelings for her once more.

Alden Maas is an anagram for Neal Adams, legendary Silver Age penciler and one of John Byrne’s idols. Maas lives on a “star shaped” island in the Pacific Ocean. He also declares himself “the messiah” when explaining his plan to Ben (more on that below).

Is It Clobberin' Time? Ben attempts some clobberin’ when he tries to free Johnny from Maas’s imprisonment, but is interrupted before he can throw the punch.

My Thoughts: There’s an episode of SOUTH PARK which deals with Scientology, and during one scene in which the tenets of the religion are explained, a flashing blurb at the bottom of the screen declares, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.” Well, here we have Byrne poking a little fun at his idol Adams, and as Maas’s holographic tour guide explains his philosophy to Ben, I can’t help feeling we’re missing a little blurb at the bottom of each of these panels stating “This is what Neal Adams actually believes.”

But to his credit, Byrne doesn’t go so far as to humiliate Adams here; in fact to the casual reader the character and his beliefs would simply come off as another fictional wacko rather than a caricature of a real person. I really believe this is intended as nothing more than a gentle ribbing. And kudos to Byrne for turning a fellow professional’s cockamamie idea into an idea for a comic book plot rather than simply laughing it off. I guess it goes to show that story concepts really can come from pretty much anywhere.


  1. I’m now officially reading along. The covers to this and the next issue caught 13-year-old Blam’s eye on the racks, side by side, making him wonder why he wasn’t getting John Byrne’s Fantastic Four. A big reason was that regular visits to a comics shop, and thus dependable monthly buys of any given title, were a fairly recent development as opposed to grabbing what one could when one could at a shop or a newsstand spinner rack or a local convention.

    I wouldn’t say the rebranding is complete just yet. While the long-range Fantasticar that Ben’s using has the new black 4, as does the Baxter Building’s roof entrance, the old “bathtub”-style Fantasticar that Reed’s commuting in still bears the old blue insignia with dropshadow. (Hmm… Reed’s using one with the new black 4 in #364, though.)

    I’m with you on the continuity conflicts of the time jump. Noting that some time has elapsed is one thing, and would be evident by Sue’s belly. Vision's state jumped out at me as a potentially bad sync with Avengers too, however, while having both the captions and Sue herself remark that things have been quiet for the team for months now just seems like an unnecessary limitation on future stories that might fit in that period.

    1. "I’m now officially reading along."

      Awesome; welcome aboard!

      I feel like Byrne does away with the old blue emblem atop the Baxter Building before long, but now I can't recall.

      The time thing is just annoying. I know he needs to advance Sue's pregnancy, but I'm not sure what's gaining by specifically calling out how much time has passed, or why he needs to insert months of downtime right after several consecutively serialized issues. Why not spread out those stories over the months instead?