Monday, July 4, 2016


Writer/Artist: John Byrne
Letterers: Janice Chiang & Michael Higgins | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Brand-New Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Sue, Johnny, She-Hulk, Wyatt, Alicia, and Franklin arrive in Reed’s lab to wish him a happy birthday. Later, Reed confides in Sue that he is slowly losing portions of his long-term memory, and he believes this condition to be an effect of the theft of his brainwaves in the Negative Zone months earlier. He tells Sue the first vivid memory he has is of the time he defeated an alien invader named Gormuu before the creation of the Fantastic Four.

Reed decides that his best shot of regaining his lost memories is with a trip to his family estate, unused since his father’s mysterious disappearance years earlier. The next day, the entire group, including Wyatt, Alicia, and Franklin, heads for Central City in California. There they meet the Richards' butler, Peacock, and his wife, who inform Reed that they’ve been seeing ghosts around the estate periodically for years.

Reed leads the FF into his father’s lab, where they locate a time machine, the cause of the spectral, time-displaced imagery. Reed deduces that his father attempted to jump to the future (the FF’s present), but instead moved along a parallel timeline to another universe. He determines to find that universe and rescue his father.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Though his age is not explicitly stated in this issue, there are forty candles visible on Reed’s cake, and Johnny refers to this birthday as “the big one.”

Reed’s brainwaves were stolen and eventually restored in FF #254 through 256.

The flashback sequence to the defeat of Gormuu features young Susan Storm and Ben Grimm. We also learn that the space rocket flight with created the Fantastic Four was completely financed by Reed himself, using two billion dollars left to him by his father. (If Reed paid for the whole thing, who did he “steal” the rocket from in FF #1, as I’ve always understood it to have happened? I figured it was a government sponsored program headed by Reed a civilian advisor.)

Reed and Sue discuss the Thing, still on the Beyonder’s Battleworld following SECRET WARS, and Reed makes cryptic comments about Ben’s ability to transform back to his human form on that planet.

According to Reed, though his father was obscenely wealthy, he kept most of his money in trust funds, untouchable by even Reed himself, and set up a situation wherein he could never be declared legally dead.

The time platform created by Reed’s father is compared to the similar device created by Doctor Doom, and confiscated by the FF, in FANTASTIC FOUR #5.

Is It Clobberin' Time? Bringing this category back, not because the Thing clobbers anyone this issue, but because normal human Reed clobbers normal human Ben in the flashback. Reverse Sneak-Attack Best Friend Clobberin' Time!

My Thoughts: Well, it’s here. I had hoped — prayed — that this time it might be different. That this time, somehow, history would change itself and John Byrne would not give Sue Richards that hideous mullet.

My prayers were in vain.

This issue debuts, without a doubt, the worst hairstyle Sue has sported in the entire fifty-plus year history of the Fantastic Four. As awful as we all know mullets look on men, they look a thousand times worse on women. But it’s the eighties, people. Mullets are the height of fashion. And a fashion plate like Sue isn’t going to sit this trend out. The mullet is here for the long haul.

In other news, while this issue is mostly set-up for the next couple installments featuring the search for Reed’s father, we do get a fun little flashback sequence starring pre-FF versions of Reed, Sue, and Ben. The creative team goes all out on this, too — Byrne pencils and inks it in a 1950s Silver Age pastiche, and even the letters are larger and bolder in the style of those old comics (and, in a nice touch, the narration by Reed is lettered in the modern style at the same time). And of course, Byrne creates an alien monster with a goofy name, Gormuu, in the vein of the other classic Marvel monster comics of the fifties.

Honestly, at first I thought perhaps this was some old Silver Age story Byrne had dusted off and possibly re-inked and repurposed for a flashback, as Roger Stern once did with a “Doctor Droom” story of the same era, until I did some research to verify it was all originally created for this issue. I like fun little homages like this, and that sequence really helps to let this issue stand on its own, as opposed to being simply “part one of three”.


  1. That this time, somehow, history would change itself and John Byrne would not give Sue Richards that hideous mullet.

    The other prominent fe-mullet will be worn by no other than Sue's possible future daughter-in-law Rachel Summers. Knowing what Byrne thinks of the DoFP timeline not been eradicated at the end of the story, it could be read like a big FU of "you can't possibly dislike her now, John; behold: the mullet!" kind.

    Honestly, at first I thought perhaps this was some old Silver Age story Byrne had dusted off and possibly re-inked and repurposed for a flashback

    I fell for it too, and for a long time had a misconception this was a clip-show-like re-usage from FF #1 or something, before they did the flight. Gormuu is so right there and mixable to the monster in FF #1 cover when working from memory.

    I liked the nifty flashback-y old-school panels in the Sin-Eater story when Spider-Man was rushing to save Betty Brand from him, too. We stopped having appreciative flashbacks of that kind when coming to the 90's, and instead started having newly-created nonsense characters retconned there.

    1. Huh, I forgot about those flashback panels in the Sin-Eater story! I'm going to have to look at those issues again.

      Interesting thoughts regarding the dueling mullets of Sue and Rachel. Another thread in the vast tapestry of the Byrne/Claremont feud?


  2. I do hate that mullet — even more than I adore the Atlas-era monster pastiche.

    // there are forty candles visible on Reed’s cake //

    Which makes more sense than the age of 42 listed on that reference sheet you linked to in the previous issue’s post, at least in terms of Ben’s age being given as 38, since the greater their age difference the less likely it is they’d be rooming together at college. It also makes Reed and Sue only about a decade apart, since a year has probably elapsed in-story from when that sheet was drawn up — although that year would eventually telescope down to a few months thanks to Marvel Time. Whatever the case, I recall being both shocked and impressed when this came out that Byrne would give the character’s age so explicitly on-panel.

    1. I think Byrne is okay naming characters' ages as long as those ages are then frozen forever and never changed. I believe he specifically declares She-Hulk to be 30 in his SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK run as well.