Monday, September 26, 2016


Penciler-Scripter: John Byrne | Inker: Jerry Ordway
Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Edits: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: The Invisible Girl finds herself trapped in an alien world with slightly "off" versions of Mister Fantastic, the Thing, and the Human Torch. Sue fails to use her force field to protect Johnny from death, and then is paralyzed by inaction when the Thing dies as well. Reed berates her to the point that he fails to spot his own demise, then he, too, perishes.

These visions are the work of Psycho-Man, who has Reed, Sue, and Johnny prisoner at miniature size in his lab. He taunts the team as he manipulates Sue’s emotions. Meanwhile, She-Hulk is prisoner of Psycho-Man’s subjects in a dungeon, where she is told she will soon be sent to the Mines of Nuvidia.

Reed escapes from his cell and defeats Psycho-Man, who he has deduced is actually still at his normal size within a gigantic exo-skeleton. He then frees the others, but Sue begs the question: where is She-Hulk??

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: In Sue’s bizarre vision, the Thing has a human face and Reed has white hair. As the vision goes on, Reed becomes older and older while Sue grows years younger.

Sue recalls that Psycho-Man invaded her mind in issues 280 and 281.

According to Reed, the exo-skeleton employed by Psycho-Man here is similar to one he used in his very first appearance.

Is It Clobberin' Time? Not precisely, but an appearance by the phantom Thing brings with it a desire for some clobberin’, at least.

My Thoughts: I’m beginning to think Byrne is stretching this Psycho-Man story out for some unknown reason. Recall that, as I’ve noted, the entire epic, from Hate Monger’s debut through the trip to the Microverse, will wind up encompassing five total issues. I can’t see how this should’ve been more than three issues when you get down to it. Malice was essentially introduced twice, with two dramatic unmaskings. There was a filler issue in the middle featuring a random nine-page dream sequence for Franklin followed by the FF debating whether to go to the Microverse before they finally… go to the Microverse. Now here, in said Microverse, we open with a very long (eleven page!) hallucination for Sue before moving into the story proper.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s clear Byrne is making a point with the hallucination. Psycho-Man is preying upon her doubts, a diminished sense of self-worth instilled in her by Stan Lee two decades earlier when he marginalized her as the “hare-brained female” of the Fantastic Four (even -- I’m told, since I've never actually read those issues -- when Jack Kirby’s artwork showed otherwise). But Byrne has trod this ground before in the previous couple issues. Devoting nearly a dozen more pages to it is overkill.

And given how great Byrne was at the done-in-one stuff early in his run, I can’t help thinking Hate Monger should have been a single-issue story, followed by a two-part excursion to the Microverse, bringing an end to the whole thing. But for whatever reason, he’s drawn this thing out to an interminable length.

But, in other news, let’s take a brief moment to look at Byrne’s Psycho-Man. His interpretation of the character seems to owe nearly as much to Jack Kirby’s Darkseid as it does to Kirby’s original Psycho-Man. Or perhaps Kirby himself was influenced by his original Psycho-Man design when he created Darkseid. In particular, Byrne’s Psycho-Man reminds me a great deal of Bruce Timm’s Darkseid as seen in SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and JUSTICE LEAGUE — to the point that, as I read his dialogue here, I “hear” it in the voice of Darkseid’s actor, the great Michael Ironside.

I’ve got no real point to make with this observation though, other than that any time you can favorably compare a villain to Darkseid, said villain is probably pretty well-designed.


  1. I don't know, I kind of love the dark undercurrents of the Fantastic Four that Byrne does a lot with, and especially to a new reader (who got most of the Malice bit skipped) the hallucination sequence is pretty much the perfect introduction to it. Seeing Reed as total dick here is impossible to completely shake off when reading the character later on.

    The opening splash where Sue is falling towards flamy gorge eerily reminds of #277 and similar thing happening to her in Mephisto's realm. It's probably intentional, seeing how Byrne has built up to this storyline.

    The building in the hallucination is 100 % Kirby, it always feels like there is deeper meaning to it when it happens even if it happens a plenty with Byrne.

    1. True, certainly if you didn't have all the Malice stuff, then the opening sequence to this issue is necessary. Mainly, I just think it could've been shorter.


  2. // Reed escapes from his cell and defeats Psycho-Man, who he has deduced is actually still at his normal size within a gigantic exo-skeleton. //

    So last issue, Johnny remarked that the Microverse felt weird and Reed noted that the very texture of the ground seemed different — which fits right in with them being at a smaller size after entry to the Microverse than intended, but then the apparent size change turns out to be a ruse of Psycho-Man’s, and I don’t know what to make of the earlier bit.

    1. Good catch. Sounds like either Byrne changed his plans between issues, or his origins idea was nixed. I know he's said Jim Shooter was regularly messing with him around this time, apparently out of spite as it had become known he was taking the Superman assignment over at DC by this point.