Monday, August 8, 2016


Script & Pencils: John Byrne | Colors: Glynis Wein | Letters: John Workman
Editing: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
And introducing the inking wizardry of: Jerry Ordway!!!

The Plot: While the Human Torch reflects on his love life and She-Hulk works out under the watch of Wyatt Wingfoot, Reed and Sue Richards, in their secret identities of Reed and Sue Benjamin, host a housewarming party in Belle Porte, Connecticut. But the party is watched from across the street by nosey neighbor Alma Chalmers and an exorcist named Elspeth Cromwell.

After the party ends, Cromwell attacks the Richardses, who she and Alma believe to be demons in human form. She summons the undead Knights of Hades to battle Reed and Sue, causing Franklin to awaken and come downstairs in fear. When he arrives, Cromwell realizes he was injured falling out of bed, and with the spillage of innocent blood, the demons are joined by their master, Mephisto.

In Manhattan, in Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange senses the breach between dimensions and departs for Belle Porte to investigate.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Johnny reflects that he is in love with Alicia.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk tests her strength on the Thing’s workout gear and finds herself able to lift 75 tons, besting her previous record of 70. Wyatt says that Reed believes she could eventually reach the Hulk’s strength level, but She-Hulk is unsure she ever wants to get to that goal.

The Richardses' party is attended by their neighbors, a collection of famous comic strip characters including (but not limited to) Hi and Lois, Blondie and Dagwood, the Lockhorns, and more.

Sue recalls that she found Franklin alone and behaving strangely in one of Reed’s labs in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #260.

Reed’s arm is broken by one of the demons unleashed by Cromwell. (Remember, this story takes place prior to the final scene of issue 275, which depicted Reed with his arm in a sling.)

My Thoughts: It’s almost twenty issues now since Byrne decided to set up Reed and Sue with secret identities in Connecticut, but he really hasn’t done anything with that status quo since. Here, finally, we get a story involving the Richardses’ suburban life, and while part one isn’t great, it’s certainly decent. The question is, given the insanity that’s been unleashed just outside their home, will these events blow their secret and force them to move back to New York? If so, this seems a waste of a very long-running and otherwise pointless sub-plot, but I guess we’ll find out next time.

The main thing to discuss this issue is the artwork, as Jerry Ordway joins the creative team as Byrne’s inker, following a couple guest-inking jobs by Al Gordon. While I didn’t necessarily dislike Gordon’s work, as I noted last time he seemed to have too light a touch for Byrne’s pencils. Ordway complements Byrne a bit better, though I’m not certain he’s a perfect match just yet either. His lines aren’t as light as Gordon’s, but they are mostly not heavy enough for Byrne’s pencils, either. He has about twenty issues to get used to Byrne, though, so the jury is out on him for now.

Also on the artistic front, I need to address something which has been bugging me for a while, but which I haven’t really pointed out: for some time now, Byrne has been using photographs of Manhattan in the backgrounds of scenes set above the city. He doesn’t do it all the time, but it’s definitely too often not to notice, and it’s kind of jarring. This sort of thing is fine once in a while as an experiment, but in this case, one can’t help feeling Byrne is doing it simply to cut some corners and save time, and it just looks ugly.


  1. This was one of the first F4 covers that I remember. My brother had a subscription way back when and I have since commandeered that collection and replaced missing ones.

    1. I love this cover. Byrne liked to experiment with plain black & white like this; he did it on an issue of ALPHA FLIGHT with Aurora and a WEB OF SPIDER-MAN cover with the black costume. I seem to recall he said Jim Shooter did not like the technique.

  2. I kind of like the Manhattan photograph backgrounds in Byrne's FF. Manhattan certainly is a character of its own in Marvel comics to warrant be seen, occasionally, in its real splendor.

    Elspeth Cromwell just may be the best one-off character/villain/antagonist ever. Professional enough when telling off Alma Chalmers, powerful enough to just breach Sue's force field which very few ever have managed, stupid enough to go wield spells that with only the accidental ingredient of innocent blood will summon Mephisto. I love the cinematic entry by Elspeth to battle Reed and Sue.

    Knights of Hades are a great visual and concept. People were asking for their reappearance in our letter col after the story. I'be always wondered though where the strict science guy Reed suddenly has the esoteric know of what the Knights of Hades' deal is: did he just pull his impromptu lecture from his ass or has he maybe been looking in to the stuff more deeply because Dr. Doom certainly is well-versed with that stuff. And when you start thinking of that, you kind of get uncomfortable with how exactly Reed could not only recognize Victor von Doom's ESU necrophone project as one but actually spot a miscalculation in the functions with one quick peek.

    Gotta wonder if PAD owes a bit to the Knights of Hades for his quite similar-looking "Endless Knights" in the "Fall of Pantheon" storyline in HULK #425.

    1. I don't necessarily mind the photo backgrounds, because (as angmc43 says below), Jack Kirby did it sometimes -- as did Neal Adams, so Byrne is clearly emulating his idols here. I just think he takes it overboard. Plus he draws such great cityscapes that I feel a bit cheated by a photo instead of a drawing.

  3. Is this when Johnny gets the new do?

    I believe AMAZING SPIDER-MAN had the encased Alien Symbiote-costume try to put some mojo on Franklin. Next issue, a mysterious flying device flies around the place for the Symbiote to influence it to break it free. I believe the device might have something to do with what will happen in the next FF storyline.

    I see the photo-backgrounds as Byrne making a nod to how Jack Kirby filled FF issues with similar backgrounds.

    Reading this issue made me realize Hiram was gray in the temples. Byrne would later do an ink job for FUNKY WINKERBEAN.

    1. Johnny's new hair might show up here or next issue; I can't recall. In any case, I don't much like it. Byrne's attempts at keeping his characters trendy resulted in some unfortunately dates looks in the latter part of this run.

  4. I love that the neighbor, who lives in the Marvel Universe, jumps to "witchcraft" and not "superpowers" when spotting strange things.

    How does one break Reed's arm? I suppose it's not always flexible, and it happened before he was able to make it flexible in any way?

    1. "You seem to be well versed on the subject, Mrs. Chalmers."
      "Oh, I am. My late husband, Martin, he never put much stock in my reading."
      To a person who has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a person who has The Hammer of Witches... ;)

      That's again some very subtle and at the same time profound world-building. Step just a little away from NY, or the other bigger cities, and the people with superpowers don't seem to be anyone's primary consideration, barring some acute mutant agitation every now and then. Kind of close to Massachusetts, aren't they?

    2. "How does one break Reed's arm?"

      I think you need Mephisto involved, otherwise it's pretty much impossible!


  5. I’m a big fan of Ordway’s inking on Byrne, although I do think it takes some time for them to really mesh. Like you said on #274, Gordon’s inks were a nice change of pace if maybe a bit too light and feathery for Byrne’s style (and the spotlight on Thing in particular) — but now as then I was grateful for some added value to the art.

    Byrne uses virtually the same line for a thought balloon of Johnny’s as he did for one of Reed’s in #274, by the way: “Most of the world seems to think her full name is ‘Alicia Masters the Thing’s Girlfriend’” vs. “Most of the world seems to think of ‘Alicia Masters, the Thing’s Girlfriend,’ as if it were all one word.”

    The group of comic-strip characters was fun — and not just on its own terms. I couldn’t help but think of an issue of Mad I’d read as a kid (like 3rd, 4th grade) that showed the Flagstones, Bumsteads, etc. having a key party, which in fact was my introduction to the concept of a key party…

    1. I caught that near-identical thought balloon thing when I read these issues, but I forgot to make note of it in my posts. Thanks! Seems like perhaps Mike Carlin was asleep at the wheel there.