Monday, February 22, 2016


Written and Directed by: John Byrne
Color Co-ordination by: Bob Sharen | Graphics Designed by: Jim Novak
Produced by: Jim Salicrup | Executive Producer: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Sue Richards is interviewed by Barbara Walker for a segment as one of “The Five Most Influential Women in America”. Walker attempts to discredit Sue as a subservient and useless member of the Fantastic Four, but Sue takes the criticism in stride. Later, when she returns to the Baxter Building, Sue finds the rest of the team defeated by a tall blond man. Sue runs from him and their chase leads down to the street, where Sue finally recognizes the mystery man as her son, Franklin, now grown up.

The rest of the FF emerge from the building but Sue convinces them not to fight. Franklin, with the mind of a child in an adult’s body, realizes he can restore himself to normal -- but first he transforms Ben back into the standard-issue Thing. Then, this task accomplished, Franklin becomes a child once more.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Barbara Walker appears to be a thinly veiled stand-in for Barbara Walters, though Byrne does not paint her in a particularly flattering light, presenting her as a petty shock journalist with an agenda against Sue.

Byrne takes the interview as an opportunity to recap the Fantastic Four’s origin, by way of exposition from Walker. As the interview continues, Sue recalls the team’s first encounter with Doctor Doom and her role in defeating the villain, as well as the time she took out the Hulk in a fight, and she discusses her relationship with Namor the Sub-Mariner.

When she returns to the Baxter Building, Sue notes that since Terrax demolished the structure’s top two floors in issue 242, Reed installed a number of additional alarm systems.

Sue states that she's been using her force fields to travel for “several weeks”, which is true—but in fact, she first did so in issue 232 and per Byrne’s own narration last issue, it's actually been several months since the Terrax/Galactus events, which were themselves any number of weeks after #232.

Franklin explains to Sue that his power manifested itself at precisely the same moment a television character talked about “growing up,” which triggered his unexpected transformation.

Franklin initially states that he will restore the Thing to his human form, but after reading Ben’s mind, he instead turns him back into the rocky Thing. He telepathically reveals to Reed that Ben has a deep-rooted fear of being abandoned by Alicia if he ever becomes fully human, and thus his mind has subconsciously shut down every attempt to do so.

Is It Clobberin' Time? Sort of—when Reed, Johnny, and Ben emerge from the Baxter Building, the Thing declares that “...we got some clobberin’ ta do!”

My Thoughts: I really have no interest in Franklin Richards or his mutant powers, but for some reason every writer to handle the Fantastic Four feels this strange need to visit that plotline. And, while it may have been a new occurrence at this point, just how many times do we have to suffer through Franklin becoming an adult, only to revert to childhood once more? Can't someone just permanently remove his abilities and be done with it? It never makes for an interesting story.

That said, I'll admit that I kind of like what Byrne does here as an idea, but it's just the use Franklin as a vehicle to explore that idea that bugs me.

Though even beyond my personal issues with this issue, I'm really not sure what Byrne’s intention was for Sue here, either. He sets up the story with Barbara Walker questioning her usefulness to the FF. Later, when Sue fights Franklin at the Baxter Building, Walker gets wind of this and heads over there with a news crew to get some firsthand footage of Sue’s uselessness. So naturally all of this leads to Sue dramatically stopping Franklin and proving herself to Walker, right?

...Nope. Franklin freezes everyone outside the building, including Walker, with his power, then Sue gets him to realize who he is and the story ends a few pages later with nary another sign of Walker. It's like Byrne set up a little arc at the issue’s beginning, then completely forgot about it by the time he reached the end. It's more than a little disappointing, and adds a second reason to consign this issue to the “don't bother” bin.

But hey, at least the Thing looks like the Thing again!


  1. The last thing Sue needs to do is to "prove herself" to Walker. She meets potent threat to FF , survives it better than the other members, gets it solved and saves the day and the family unity is returned and that's all that matters. Not dedicating one more panel to Walker who can go fuf herself is exactly the way it should go.

    Gotta love the Byrnesque "mental assault makes female character throw head WAY back" we've already seen Phoenix do in the Proteus saga.

    1. You know she doesn't need to prove anything and I know she doesn't need to prove anything, but the story doesn't know that. There's a clear arc set up which Byrne completely abandons partway through. It's just odd.

    2. Walker's not worth the story, that's the whole point!

      We'll just have to wait 1988 and Die Hard to see Annoying Journalist being disgracefully and off-handedly knocked down by the Capable Wife character. And 1990 and Die Hard 2 to see it again. But Sue doesn't need here that crappy cliche, she's the John McClane of this story.

  2. I believe this was all part of the set-up for Sue eventually changing her code name. Something long overdue.

    1. Acknowledging the matter, the very least. Though, her being quite okay with it here kind of gets betrayed when the change happens. I've read the issue poorly though because of publicational reasons, so can't remember the reasoning she has then. Oh well, we'll get there.

      Anyway, it's nice bit of zeitgeist that Byrne addresses the issue with Sue and actively pumps up her powers. If we really can and should say zeitgeist, because the prime example coming into mind is he and Claremont doing the same thing to Wasp in that one Marvel Team-Up issue.

    2. Yeah, Byrne plays a long game with Sue, subtly building her up over his run until he reaches the point where it's time for her name change. It's mostly pretty well done. I'm curious at what point he decided he wanted to change her codename. Was it this early, or did he decided on it later as a natural conclusion to the development he'd been building?

  3. Was there ultimately any point to the Thing transformation? Like, he went back to his old look for awhile, stuff happened, and now he's back to "normal". Was it just to establish the idea that he subconsciously wants to be Thing?

    1. In the comments to my post on issue 238, angmc43 said that Byrne intended the change to the proto-Thing to last longer, but found it too hard to draw, so he changed him back sooner than expected. I appreciate that Byrne made a story point out of this, though.