Monday, December 5, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #291

"THE TIMES THEY ARE A'CHANGING!"
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: P. Craig Russell
Colorist: Glynis Oliver | Letterer: John Workman
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Nick Fury, She-Hulk, the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman land in an alley in 1936 Manhattan. Cloaking Fury’s car to resemble a delivery truck, they head out into the city to investigate but police attempt to pull them over. Fury eludes the cops and the group suddenly finds New York returned to normal. Johnny departs in a hurry to check on Alicia, but while he's with her the time warp occurs once more.

Meanwhile, Fury has crashed his car in an attempt to enter SHIELD Central via a holographic wall which is actually just a wall in 1936. Sue leaves Fury with She-Hulk and heads out to look for help. Meanwhile, She-Hulk speaks to the SHIELD space platform via Fury’s communicator and learns the time warp is localized. She ends the call to save a clarinetist named “Licorice” Calhoun from a group of hoods.

Licorice babbles to She-Hulk about his dreams, which often come true, and how his boss tried to force him to dream a racehorse to victory. But while he speaks, Fury comes around and learns that the localized time warp has expanded across the world. He immediately takes off in his flying car to assassinate Hitler in Germany just as Sue returns.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Johhny declares that with Reed dead, Sue is now the leader of the Fantastic Four.


As Sue explores the city, her thoughts drift to her relationship with Reed (more on that below).

This issue’s cover is an homage to ACTION COMICS #1, and it's not just for show. Byrne actually builds a scene around this image inside the issue.


My Thoughts: So this is the apparently notorious issue Marvel ret-conned away a few years back due to its “creepiness.” I have to say, while I recognize the pattern in Byrne’s work pairing older men with younger women, I just don't get it here. We're told that Sue was twelve years old when college freshman Reedcame to board at her parents’ home, and that she was instantly smitten with him, while Reed — as can be gleaned from his posture in the artwork — was uncomfortable with her attention (as one would expect).

…And? What's the big deal? Sue’s own thoughts indicate that they went their separate ways for years before meeting up again and beginning their relationship. They were essentially different people by that point. It's not like eighteen year-old Reed was dating, or even attracted to, prepubescent Sue. And speaking of which, I've never seen any outrage over thirteen year-old Kitty Pryde coming onto eighteen year-old Colossus (also a development from Byrne) and eventually dating him in spite of that age gap. If anything, this FF situation is much more tenable than the one from X-MEN.

My point is, I'm all in favor of outrage and discomfort when something warrants it. And Byrne’s May-December fetish may warrant a bit of squirming now and then — but I honestly don't see what the big deal is with this particular scenario taken on its own.

6 comments:

  1. I think that it comes from confusion over the age difference, based on artwork.
    Reed looks like an adult man in that drawing, while Sure looks like a little girl.
    Meanwhile, Kitty and Colossus always looked much closer in age, in the drawings. As if a high school senior and a high school freshman were attracted to each other.
    Reed look nearly old enough to be Sue's father in that picture, to be quite honest. Looking at the drawings in X-Men, Kitty and Colossus both look like youths.
    In context, it isn't as bad, knowing that Reed was only 18, while Sue was 12. Once again, the picture looks more like a 10 year old and a 28 year old....especially with Sue having that little dolly by her feet.

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    1. Part of the reason Reed looks so much older there is his clothing, though -- at least to me. I think Byrne drew his face sufficiently young-looking, but the sweater and blazer make him look like a college professor rather than a student.

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  2. Jim Shooter was outraged by the Kitty/Colossus relationship, I guess.
    He wrote the scene in Secret Wars as a way to make sure that Claremont ended their relationship, because Shooter was opposed to the idea of a 19 year old dating a 14 year old.

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    1. I'm kind of opposed to that myself, to be honest.

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  3. I didn’t recall P. Craig Russell ever having inked an issue of Byrne’s FF. Unfortunately, as great an artist as he is in his own right, the result is disappointingly uneven.

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    1. I agree; some of this issue looks great, and other parts are not so wonderful.

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