Monday, February 1, 2016


Author: John Byrne | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Thing’s Aunt Petunia shows up at the Baxter Building and asks the Fantastic Four to come with her to Benson, Arizona, where seven people have been frightened to death. The FF and Frankie Raye travel with Penny and meet the Thing’s Uncle Jake, as well as a British historian and scholar of the occult named Dame Ruth Efford. Also present is Ruth’s friend, a young girl named Wendy.

As the FF investigate Dame Ruth’s excavation, which they believe may be related to Benson’s recent troubles, two more people are killed not far away. Later, Frankie brings Wendy home to find that her father is an abusive drunk. That night, Wendy runs away from home and into the desert. Soon, black creatures invade the town and the Fantastic Four fight to stop them.

Come morning, Benson is demolished and most of its citizens have departed. Wendy’s father shows up and declares he was tested by the black monsters and learned he could change, to become a better father. Declaring their mission in Benson complete, the FF depart. Later, Wendy heads back to the desert to sit with her friends, the black creatures.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue features the debut of the Fantastic Four’s lobby and their robot receptionist, Roberta.

It's been three days since Reed’s failed attempt to restore the Thing to normal last issue, and he has spent the time obsessing over what went wrong with the procedure. He is also troubled by the fact that Ben seems somehow relieved to still be the Thing.

For many years it was a running gag that the Thing would invoke the name of his “dear old Aunt Petunia”. We learn here that she's actually a relatively young woman, having married Ben’s Uncle Jake after she had been his student in medical school. This “younger woman with an older man” trope has become something for which Byrne is often mocked, though I don't believe I've seen it come up all that often in his work.

It's also notable that this is one of the few creative decisions in his long career for which Byrne has expressed some minor regret, stating just last year that "If I was starting up on the FF today, I most likely would not do that story. [...] Aunt Petunia was maybe one of those elements that should not have been seen."

In Benson, so as not to frighten the locals, Ben wears a full Fantastic Four uniform and brings his old helmet along as well, though we only see him wear it from the back in one panel. Both the uniform and the helmet debuted in FANTASTIC FOUR #3, and their use here seems a further nod by Byrne to those long past days, after he reverted the Thing to an earlier form last issue.

An interlude set in the Inhumans’ city of Attilan, hidden in the Himalayas, finds the Inhumans at war with some unknown foe as the youngest member of their royal family, Crystal, prepares to give birth. Crystal’s husband, the mutant Quicksilver, prepares to leave the city and seek help in the war effort.

Is It Clobberin' Time? For the third issue in a row, there is no clobberin’ to be done.

My Thoughts: I want to like this one. The FF attempting to solve a supernatural mystery in a small town seems like a good idea. But, as with most of Byrne’s other TWILIGHT ZONE style tales, this just doesn't do it for me. There's no sense of urgency to the plot; even when the monsters finally appear it seems like nobody is in any real danger. I like the atmosphere Byrne gives us here, but not the execution of the story.

I've noted the TWILIGHT ZONE feel before, and that really is how a lot of this early run feels. Aside from the Human Torch/Hammerhead story, Ego, and Liddleville, pretty much all of Byrne’s issues so far feel like installments in an anthology series, and while the FF are usually involved in the stories’ resolutions (though not in this particular installment), I ultimately kind of feel like their participation is unnecessary, like the problems could eventually be resolved some other way.

And I understand that the FF aren't really considered “superheroes” per se; they're explorers, investigators and adventurers rather than crimefighters. But perhaps that's why they've never really resonated with me like so many other heroes. The FF don't go out to actively fight supervillains and stop crimes. They're more like consultants and often, at least in these Byrne stories, “cases” are brought to their doorstep by clients in need. Which is a setup I love for a character like Sherlock Holmes, but which doesn't really grab me as the premise for a superhero comic.


  1. This has nothing to do with the comic on hand, but I finally got my 44 years of Fantastic Four dvd in the mail.
    Every issue from FF1 till FF 519 on 1 dvd.
    So I can finally read along.

    And I wil be catching up.
    Also there is this>> Which has nothing at all to do with this issue, as it is but it was part of Simonsons run, where its implied that a lot of Doom's previous appearances were Doombots, to smooth away any discrepancy in his portrayal.
    It's implied that Doom has been "away" ever since FF 39 and that all his appearances up untill 350, were Doombots.
    But that's just implied and left up to the reader
    I'm rather sure Doom in Secret Wars was Viccie himself

    1. It's implied that Doom has been "away" ever since FF 39 and that all his appearances up untill 350, were Doombots.

      Bull. In ~@260 Doom will use the Ovoid mind transfer trick after damaging his armor against Tyros, which will take some sorting out later on... specifically because of his appearance in Secret Wars, where the Beyonder dissects him good and proper. Ain't no bots there.

    2. Finish the quote plox:
      "But that's just implied and left up to the reader
      I'm rather sure Doom in Secret Wars was Viccie himself "

      And Simonson's explanation can be glossed over or ignored if you so choose.
      And DeFalco runs rougshod over it not long after.

    3. I've never read Simonson's FF run, though I've read about his Doombot thing. I don't mind stuff like this, leaving it up to the reader which appearances they want to count. Jim Starlin did something similar with Thanos, giving him an army of clones so readers could decided which awful Thanos material from other writers were actually defective clones. (Hint: it's every iteration of Thanos not written by Starlin.)

      Though I agree with Teemu that the Doom who pulls the mind transfer some twenty issues from now must be the real one, as must any Doom we see using sorcery.