Monday, May 9, 2016


Story & Art: John Byrne | Lettering: Michael Higgins | Coloring: Julianna Ferriter
Editing: Bob Budiansky | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Beneath the ground off the coast of California, Mole Man prepares to execute the Thing, but Ben pleads with him to listen to reason. Meanwhile, in New York, Reed investigates an energy signature in Central Park.

Just as Johnny's nova flame is about to be used by Alden Maas to reignite the Earth's core, the Thing and Mole Man arrive and rescue him. Together, the trio, joined by Mole Man's Subterranean Moloids, make their way through an army of Maas’s robots only to find him dead in his control room before he could complete his life's work. The remaining robots take Maas’s corpse and walk away into the sea.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Mole Man was last seen in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #13, where he took in several outcasts from the surface world, turned over a new leaf, and lived in peace as their ruler… until Maas’s boring toward the Earth’s core let loose flowing magma in the Mole Man’s realm, killing his subjects.

(Byrne likes to talk about how often his stories get undone by other writers, but he’s not exactly above doing so himself, sometimes in extremely violent ways. As another example, much as people hate THE NEW TEEN TITANS' Terry Long, I'd argue, if only due to his prominence in the series' heyday, that he -- and his young daughter -- probably deserved a better fate than being killed off, off-panel, by Byrne during his WONDER WOMAN run.)

The Thing recaps last issue’s events for Mole Man:

This is what Neal Adams actually believes.
Later, Johnny explains how he was kidnapped during the race at Wonderworld:

In Manhattan, Reed combs Central Park’s Sheep Meadow for the energy signature he picked up last issue, but finds no sign of it. Just as when Spider-Man received a few urgent tingles of his spider-sense in contemporaneous AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issues, this is a portent of the upcoming SECRET WARS.

Sue suffers a painful spasm and wonders if it’s a side effect of her pregnancy, since the first time she carried a child was not a normal term and so she has nothing with which to compare it (having never read the Lee/Kirby FF, I have no idea what this means).

This issue’s cover is an homage to FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Byrne would revisit that cover many more times over his career. The monster seen on the cover appears within the issue as well, helping Ben, Johnny, and the Mole Man get to Maas’s control room.

Is It Clobberin' Time? Lots of clobbering occurs this issue, but there’s no clobberin’.

My Thoughts: Well, so much for the light-hearted jab at Neal Adams that we had in the first issue. This time his belief is clearly ridiculed and it’s explained that if anyone actually did find a way to superheat the Earth’s core, the planet’s crust would crack and billions would perish. Oh, and the Neal Adams “tribute” character dies, to boot. Though technically, in a bit of fun at the expense of the “Walt Disney cryogenically froze himself” crowd, we learn that Maas actually died over sixteen years ago and kept himself functional with the use of an “Extended Animation Chamber”.

Overall, between the anticlimactic ending (commented upon by the Thing himself on the final page) and the weirdly mean-spirited jabs at Neal Adams, this little two-parter is pretty forgettable and may well be the lowest point of Byrne’s run. Pretty much its only saving grace was Julie Angel’s bikini in part one.

Now, on to other things. A week after FANTASTIC FOUR 264’s release, THE THING #10 hit the stands, and in its final pages, Ben, Johnny, and Reed left Earth:

By John Byrne, Ron Wilson, Hilary Barta, Jim Novak, & Julianna Ferriter.

Next time, we’ll see two of them return with a big green membership shakeup for the FF!


  1. Those last pages fill me with love towards The Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars that is today as strong and as shameless as it was in 1987-88 when I was eight and our Spidey book ran it as the second story.

    1. I'm with you, Teemu. I loved -- and still love -- SECRET WARS. I missed it when it was first published, but one year for Christmas, I'm sure after hearing me talk about it incessantly, my mom gave me the full twelve-issue run of back issues. SW introduced me to characters from the broader Marvel Universe beyond just Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America, who were the main ones I was aware of a child.

      That said, thanks to SW, it took several years before I could get used to Ultron's and Klaw's proper characterizations since both are... less than their normal selves in the series.

  2. -The Mole Man's kingdom wasn't destroyed, as portrayed in FF#296 (which restored Ben back to the team since 265).
    -Donna and Terry's baby son also got killed off.
    -Sue's first pregnancy had her powers causing an overload of radiation that would kill both her and her unborn child. To save them, Reed, Ben, and Johnny head to the Negative Zone, steal Annhilus' cosmic rod, and use it to filter out the deadly radiation from Sue and baby.

    1. Thanks, angmc43! I always appreciate your notes to my notes. I'm fairly well read in certain parts of the Marvel Universe, but where there are holes in my knowledge, they're pretty big ones.

  3. Huh. I never knew we didn't see the FF get shipped off for SECRET WARS in their own title, only in THING.

    1. Yeah, I think this is the only instance of a team book where that happens. Obviously the X-Men leave Earth in UNCANNY, since none of the group had a solo title at this point. I know the Avengers' departure is shown in an issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA, but I believe it's also seen in AVENGERS.