Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Jim Novak
Editor: Al Milgrom | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: At the dimensional interface between the Negative Zone and our world, the Fantastic Four begin work on a plan to return home without the use of their destroyed Negative Zone portal. Twelve days later, the plan is complete and the FF have created a spectral version of the Baxter Building within the Negative Zone. Reed activates a frequency modulator which should send the group home if someone in the real world has breached the barrier created by Annihilus.

And on Earth, Captain Marvel of the Avengers pierces the field and enters the Baxter Building. Annihilus is crippled by an explosion and hurled back into the Negative Zone as the Fantastic Four return home. The Thing finds Alicia Masters severely injured and rushes her to the hospital. The Avengers enter the Baxter Building and confer with Mister Fantastic and the Human Torch while the Invisible Girl scours the building for young Franklin. She finds him also injured, and the FF and Avengers depart immediately for the hospital as well.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This issue is half of a semi-crossover with AVENGERS. While FANTASTIC FOUR 256 tells the story of the FF working to escape from the Negative Zone, AVENGERS 233, by Roger Stern and co-plotter/penciler John Byrne, shows us the Avengers struggling to penetrate Annihilus’s barrier and ultimately succeeding thanks to Captain Marvel.

Julie Angel and Sharon Selleck are on their way to the Baxter Building to check in with Johnny when they spot Annihilus’s barrier. As they walk, they discuss Frankie Raye’s transformation into Nova, the herald of Galactus.

Speaking of whom, during a brief check-in with Galactus, Nova informs him that she intends to lead him to the Skrull throneworld for his next meal.

In a neat touch, Sue’s short hair has grown much longer during the time the FF were in the Negative Zone. Also, upon the group’s return through the dimensional interface, their uniforms have become “negative” versions of what they normally look like. (Though, as has been pointed out before, technically a negative FF outfit would be white and orange, not white and black.)

Is It Clobberin' Time? No, but in order to get Reed’s attention at one point, the Thing pulls off a nifty stunt which would do the X-Men’s Cyclops proud.

My Thoughts: Remember that helmet Reed was forced to wear last issue because his mind was trapped in the memory banks of an alien spaceship? Remember how it seemed likely this transferal would play some role in the resolution of the Annihilus story, because otherwise what would be the point of it? Yeah, nothing came of that. Reed’s mind simply reverts to his body when the FF pass through the dimensional interface.

Which is sort of a microcosm of this whole story. Byrne has been building the threat of Annihilus for the past four issues, ever since the FF left Earth. We spent four chapters of the Negative Zone saga waiting for that exciting final showdown between our heroes and the insectoid warlord. Surely it would be an epic finale to an uneven storyline, right?

Oh, never mind. They don’t even come face-to-face with Annihilus. He gets blown up by a computer and zapped back to the Negative Zone after four issues of ranting and raving. (The Avengers didn’t fight him in their issue, either.)

But something good comes from this issue too, and at last the truth can be told: I’ve never really cared for the classic blue and black Fantastic Four uniforms. For as long as I can remember, they've looked like pajamas to me, rather than the utilitarian jumpsuits they're supposed to be. The black and white numbers debuted by Byrne this issue are, as far as I’m concerned, the bar-none number one best look for this group. They would go on to wear these outfits for about another decade, up until just before the “Onslaught” event of 1996. These are what the FF wore when I first discovered them, and I have a hard time reading about them when they’re wearing anything else. I know the black-and-whites aren't for everyone, but to me they represent the team's definitive look.

P.S.: The reproduction of this issue in the FANTASTIC FOUR BY JOHN BYRNE OMINUS vol. 1 is hideous. The above images are, as always, from Marvel Unlimited, but they're a good representation of what it looks like in the Omnibus as well. I don't know why, But Marvel seems to have really bad masters/negatives for this issue. Or, perhaps, Byrne's original art looked this muddy and sloppy, too.


  1. Was this the first Avengers/FF pseudo-crossovers during the respective Stern/Byrne runs on those titles (I'm thinking also of the "return of Jean Grey" setup issues, but there's probably others, right?)?

    And FWIW, I much prefer the black FF uniforms as well.

  2. There was a cross-over as part of the annuals with the Skrulls also.
    Yes, this would be the first of the official cross-overs though.

    1. Plus, in addition to the pseudo-crossovers, Byrne generally uses the Avengers a lot during his run. Reed consults with them on the comatose Vision a few times following this story, and later the FF move into Avengers Mansion following the destruction of the Baxter Building (and I think they're there through to the end of Byrne's run, as he departs before construction on Four Freedoms Plaza is complete).

    2. And regarding what was said of MTIO #75 in your previous post, I think it's especially nice touch that Avengers were featured heavily on that issue too. It really warrants to use it for basis for a mini-crossover.

      Therefore it's sad that Casket of Ancient Winters went without mention on FF, despite members having a show of themselves on the THOR issues. Scourge of the Underworld pops up though, which is nice.

    3. Now that you mention it, it does seem particularly odd that Byrne didn't acknowledge the Casket in FF, considering he was friends with Walter Simonson. Even funnier is that Byrne used Scourge, as you mentioned, which I'm pretty sure was forced on him by Jim Shooter and Mark Gruenwald (note that Byrne's Scourge story doesn't even wrap in FF -- it's concluded in an issue of SECRET WARS II).

  3. I always liked the dark blue, ( they are dark blue to me ) suits better then the light blue ones as well.

    It is kind of weird to consider that the Fantastic Four have been walking around for 20 years and 256 issue,s in those light blue suits.

    It's actually even stranger, to consider they have been wearing the dark blue's for almost 30 years now though.

    1. Have they? I thought they switched back to the plain blue and black uniforms when they came back from "Heroes Reborn". They certainly have those outfits in Mike Wieringo's issues, at least.

  4. Having bought this issue off the stands when it was originally published, Byrne's art in this issue was quite muddy during this period. The scans you've posted actually look to these eyes like an improvement. Byrne as an inker over his own work during this time did himself no favors. Joe Sinnott inking him on the Avengers side of the story in Avengers #233 was a marked improvement and better for the eyes.

    1. Muddy it may be here, but to my eye A #233 is all wrong. It's too obviously Byrne for the Sinnott-brought non-Byrne elements to look nothing but disturbing on it. It looks like unholy union of Byrne and Sal Buscema, and I dislike Buscema like some other people do Al Milgrom.

    2. I tend to agree with Teemu that the Byrne/Sinnott team looks a little odd to my eyes, but it's not a knock against either of them individually. That said, I agree Byrne could've used an inker on this run, or at least maybe a background artist so he could put some better effort into the inked figures.

      Though when Jerry Ordway finally comes aboard as inker, I find myself almost missing Byrne's inks. Ordway's lines seem too light for Byrne's pencils.


  5. I do like these outfits a lot, but have a soft spot for the originals when the gloves, boots, and other accents were rendered close to true black. Nearly from the start the suits were drably colored a uniform (pun intended) blue save for the white of the insignia. As I mentioned in a comment last month, I considered the FF boring as a kid and that was a major reason why; Byrne got the contrast right, though, as did my beloved Mego figures.

    This change felt extremely significant at the time because not just the FF but all the A-list Marvel characters, really, had looked the same since their inception or very soon thereafter — with the notable exceptions of Hank and Jan Pym, whose outfits changed regularly. Doctor Strange wore that face mask briefly, Captain Marvel only got big(gish) after his costume and powers were revamped, and it was new characters (along with new creative hands, obviously) rather than various new costumes that led to the X-Men finally taking off. Like the FF, however, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Daredevil, and even Hulk were all preserved in the looks established within a year of their introductions at most, Iron Man taking the longest and having the most adjustments made thereafter.

    I don’t understood why the black accents turned white but the white circle never turned black (and nothing happened to the blue), but then again I don’t understand why the outfits changed to begin with. I also miss the dropshadow on the FF’s insignia on the new outfits; apart from being another change that makes no sense, its absence surprised me because I recall Byrne speaking fondly of it in an interview.

    1. Good point about the costume changes. I think Marvel even ran a house ad with "Silver Centurion" Iron Man, "The Captain", black costume Spider-Man, and battle armor Thor (and maybe gray Hulk?) all standing together to emphasize the point.

      (On a side note, Doug Moench has some odd conspiracy theory that all those changes were masterminded by Jim Shooter to sort of re-create the Marvel Universe in his own image.)

      I never really thought about the chest circle not changing; that's weird. The drop shadow vanishing from the "4" has always bugged me, though, both because A) where did it go, and B) I'm with you that it looked really cool. I don't think anyone has ever brought the drop shadow back even after the FF returned to the blue-and-blacks.