Monday, September 5, 2016


Story and Pencils: John Byrne | Inking: Jerry Ordway
Coloring: Glynis Oliver | Lettering: John Workman
Editing: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As the Fantastic Four and NYPD stand at the former site of the Baxter Building, a bout of bigotry and hatred breaks out among the populace, resulting in She-Hulk and Wyatt getting arrested. Johnny and Reed head for Avengers Mansion to mull over the incident while Sue escorts Alicia home, but all are observed by the new Hate Monger and his mysterious master.

Meanwhile, the paddy wagon carrying She-Hulk and Wyatt is bombed by a group of criminals mistakenly looking to spring one of their own. She-Hulk tells Wyatt to stay with the cops while she travels to the Baxter Building, but en route she is attacked by Malice, mistress of hate. Malice defeats She-Hulk and then reveals her true identity as Sue Richards as Hate Monger congratulates her on her performance.

At Avengers Mansion, Reed analyzes a hate pamphlet similar to the ones Johnny encountered previously, and determines that the paper was not manufactured on Earth. But before he can consider this further, Franklin enters the room and declares that he dreamed Sue had killed Reed and Johnny.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: As can be inferred from above, the Fantastic Four are temporarily staying at Avengers Mansion following the destruction of the Baxter Building.

Reed is berated over the Baxter Building’s loss by Abe Shoenstein, proprietor of a deli on the building’s ground floor. Reed also notes that no insurance company will cover the Fantastic Four’s tenants.

Hate Monger’s boss is drawn in more detail than before this time, and it’s clearer than ever that he is actually Psycho-Man. It’s worth noting that at this point, the FF had not encountered the villain in over 200 issues (at least in their regular series; I can't speak for guest appearances, annuals, or the like).

Jarvis greets Reed and Johnny at Avengers Mansion and tells them that Captain America has gathered up a number of Hate Monger’s pamphlets for study.

Malice defeats She-Hulk in the same way the Invisible Girl once beat her cousin — by cutting off her air supply with a force field.

As Franklin explains his nightmare, we’re reminded that the last time he had such a vivid dream, in issue 276 featuring Mephisto, it came true.

My Thoughts: Something about this issue has a very ominous feel to it. It’s hard to explain why, but from the opening page splash as we look at the mangled foundation of the Baxter Building, through the riots, protests, and graffiti Byrne uses to depict a New York on the edge of a hate-fueled explosion, all on top of the fact that the entire thing occurs at night, well — like I said, it’s ominous.

There’s also a very brief mystery here which I’d never thought about before. I’ve known for years -- decades, even -- that Sue once assumed the identity of Malice while under Psycho-Man’s control. I knew it coming into the issue the very first time I read it, some years back. As a result, it never really registered to me until now that the reveal of Malice’s true identity is meant to be a surprise following her attack on She-Hulk. Byrne executes this trick nicely, even if its impact was lost on me.

And speaking of Malice, let’s revisit the great Byrne/Claremont Feud of the 1980s, shall we? It could be complete coincidence, but here we see Byrne introduce a villainess by that name in a story cover dated July of 1985. Just about a year later, in the October ’86 issue of X-MEN, just on the heels of Byrne’s departure from FANTASTIC FOUR, Chris Claremont will also debut a villainaess named Malice. The characers have completely different backstories and powers, but it still seems a little weird, doesn’t it?

Anyway — with this issue, we’re off into what will turn out to be Byrne’s longest storyline during his time on FANTASTIC FOUR. The Hate Monger/Psycho-Man epic will run through issue 284, a whopping five chapters. Byrne has rarely dabbled in decompression, so it’ll be interesting to see if he puts all this space to good use, or if the arc could’ve been shorter.


  1. More than that, both FF and UXM will have their Malice-centered issue titled "With Malice Toward(s) All", which paraphrasing of a famous quote may go a long way in explaining why both creators have chosen to have a character by that name.

    Though, it's Claremont and here we got a prominent female character mind-controlled and in an SM outfit, so it's like Byrne is being the bully that he will in couple of issues have dangling the Johnny Storm article in Celebrity magazine in front of the Johnny Storm's greatest fan. No way in hell Claremont's opting to it is coincidental.

  2. I never knew the FF were incorporated or that they leased out space in the building to other tenants. You would think that even if the insurance wasn't an issue, there is an attack on the building every couple years at least...not the safest place to be spending your days as a sandwich maker.

    Makes me think about writing a story where Matt Murdock sues FF Inc for some kind of landlord tenant dispute....

    1. Reed explained the business with the building's tenants several issues back when he bought the Baxter Building -- the prior landlord gave everyone in the building a lifetime lease at low prices in order to keep their business, since the FF were such a magnet for weirdness.

      Technically, in your scenario, I think Murdock would be defending the FF against a tenant lawsuit -- he's usually been shown as the team's lawyer since the Kirby/Lee days.

    2. Also, I guess we should be lucky that nobody but the FF was *in* the Baxter Building when it launched into space and exploded.

  3. the Fantastic Four are temporarily staying at Avengers Mansion following the destruction of the Baxter Building.

    They end up there quite awhile, right? At least through #286 (the Phoenix issue).

    1. The FF are living at Avengers' Mansion all the way up through the end of Byrne's run in issue 296 -- nearly twenty issues! That's a long chunk of publication time to be without their headquarters. Now that I think about it, I'm actually not certain when they move into Four Freedoms Plaza.


  4. // Byrne executes this trick nicely, even if its impact was lost on me. //

    Agreed. I’d read this when it came out and surely at least once since then, but I didn’t recall that Malice’s true identity was revealed within the span of a single issue. The way Byrne drops clues is appreciated, particularly how you can make out She-Hulk’s hand (and some dirt on the bottom, too) suggesting the shape of the invisible sphere around her head if you’re clever or already know what’s up — yet not so obviously as to spoil the surprise if you don’t know or aren’t really looking at her identity as a mystery to solve. As for the dueling Malices, I’d probably lean towards coincidence. Would’ve been nice if it had been caught at the editorial level, at least, with some kind of connection being drawn.