Monday, October 3, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #284

"REVOLUTION!"
Artist/Writer: John Byrne | Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And welcome back to Al Gordon, Inker

The Plot: She-Hulk toils as a slave in the mines of Nuvidia, her will sapped by Psycho-Man. She meets Pearla, former queen of Nuvidia, who explains how Psycho-Man came to rule her land. When a guard comes across the pair and wounds Pearla, She-Hulk snaps out of her fearful state and fights back.

Meanwhile, Psycho-Man escapes the Fantastic Four’s custody and the remaining trio splits up to find him. When Reed begins to doubt himself, Sue realizes Psycho-Man is nearby. Using her power of invisibility, she gets the drop on him and takes his emotion control box, which she then uses on him.

Johnny runs across She-Hulk and Pearla and the FF are reunited. With Psycho-Man defeated, Pearla reclaims her throne. In the aftermath of the conflict, Sue declares that the Invisible Girl is no more — she will now be known as the Invisible Woman.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: First and foremost, this issue marks a major (and long overdue) update to Susan Richards: she adopts the codename “Invisible Woman” to reflect the experience and maturity she’s gained since becoming an adventurer years earlier.

The FF have met Pearla before, bur rather than footnote that appearance, we instead receive a footnote telling us that the Baxter Building, where She-Hulk learned about Pearla in the group’s records, was destroyed in issue 278. (For the record, I looked Pearla up online and learned that she first appeared in FANTASTIC FOUR #16. She also had a much cooler outfit back then.)

Sue kindly explains to Psycho-Man everything he just did in issues 280 and 281. (Seriously, Byrne has had more than a few clumsy "As you already know..." recaps in this run.)

My Thoughts: As noted before, this arc, dating back to an epilogue in issue 279, is all about the Sue Richards’ evolution. For the past 280-plus issues, she’s been the Invisible Girl, the team member viewed by many of the FF’s enemies as the least of them. We’ve already seen Byrne put that second point to bed as a fallacy over the past couple installments. As of this issue, she no longer uses her old codename, either.

Personally I have no problem with a woman referring to herself as a girl if she wants to do so. Adult women do it all the time (“I’m getting lunch with the girls,” “girls’ night,” etc.). I like that DC’s Power Girl, definitely a full-grown woman, is confident enough to call herself a girl. But “Invisible Girl” just doesn’t fit Sue at this point anymore. She’s not only an adult, she is a mother and, thanks to Byrne, the de facto second-in-command of the team. Plus, as she notes in her monologue on the final page, she has, in a way, lost her innocence after what Psycho-Man did to her and she wants to to something to draw a line between her old life and her new.

To illustrate that loss of innocence, Byrne revisits one of his best-known works, the legendary "Dark Phoenix Saga". When Mastermind brainwashed Jean Grey into serving him and joining the Hellfire Club, Jean eventually had her revenge by frying Mastermind's brain. Here, Sue does... something... to Psycho-Man with his emotion control box. We don't know what it is as it occurs completely off-panel, but we're told that his scream "...sounded like somebody having their soul ripped out" and Sue soon elaborates that "The Psycho-Man is no longer a threat to us. He won't bother anyone. Ever again." Her teammates wisely press no further on the matter.

Byrne has gone on record many times as stating that he believes in the “illusion of change” and I’ve gone on record a few times here as agreeing with him. Changing Sue’s codename is certainly such an illusion — she’s still the same character with the same powers, after all — but it feels much more momentous and overdue than pretty much any other “fake” change he’s made on the series. And it’s stuck to this day.

Now if she’d just ditch that awful mullet, we’d finally have the definitive Sue Richards on our hands…

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