Monday, November 28, 2016


Written and Penciled by John Byrne | Inked by Al Gordon
Colored by Glynis Oliver | Lettered by John Workman
Edited by Michael Carlin | Supervised by Jim Shooter

The Plot: Annihilus gloats over the defeated Fantastic Four, but is challenged by Blastaar. The two begin to fight as the FF come around. Soon, Blastaar’s fleet arrives, but Annihilus opens fire on them with the weaponry of Blastaar’s own flagship. She-Hulk and the Human Torch join the fight against Annihilus, and Blastaar’s men soon board the ship to do likewise — but Annihilus sends everyone into retreat and leaves the ship for the portal to Earth.

Reed follows Annihilus in his SHIELD spacesuit with plans to touch him, thus destroying them both and closing the Negative Zone portal in the process, since Annihilus is made of anti-matter while Reed is still composed of matter due to his means of entrance into the Negative Zone. The FF abandon ship and board Nick Fury’s SHIELD shuttle. They listen to a broadcast from Reed as he confronts Annihilus, then a massive explosion seals the portal just after the shuttle makes it through to the positive universe.

Aboard the SHIELD space platform, searches for Reed prove fruitless. Fury brings Sue, Johnny, and She-Hulk back to Earth, but they’re all surprised to find Manhattan has changed into a version of itself circa 1936.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Sue recalls how Annihilus was defeated last time he crossed paths with the FF. No footnote is provided.

We learn that Blastaar commands the “glorious legions of planet Baluur”, though his lead captain harbors some resentment toward him.

Fury’s ship has been continually referred to as a shuttle or a “SHIELD ship” or what-have-you throughout both of these issues, even though it’s very plainly drawn as a Quinjet. This would be understandable if we were dealing with a writer and artist not quite on the same page, but here the writer is the artist!

My Thoughts: Well, first off, Byrne’s climax to the story kind of hinges on the FF being willfully ignorant. As SHIELD scans for any trace of Reed after the Negative Zone portal has closed, a tech says they only monitored one thing headed toward Earth, though it was not shaped like a man. They believe it to be a weather balloon. Everyone, from Fury to Sue, immediately writes this off and begins composing Reed’s eulogy.

…Isn’t Mister Fantastic a shapeshifter? Hasn’t he, on more than one occasion, even assumed the form of a big rubber ball or balloon?? This scene is just plain dumb. I’d buy it if the SHIELD tech had some thought balloons in which he spotted the “weather balloon” but disregarded it without mentioning it to anyone. But when he tells Fury and the rest of the FF about it, they should all immediately go, “Terrific, that must be Reed! What a happy ending this turned out to be. Let’s track his trajectory and go pick him up right now.”

Byrne doesn’t typically do this sort of thing, dumbing characters down for story purposes, but here it’s painfully obvious that he wants Reed out of the picture for his next story arc, so he's opted to turn the rest of the team into a trio of dufuses (dufii?).

But on the other hand, Reed’s final battle with Annihilus is really cool as we merely get his “voiceover” and watch the whole thing play out on Sue’s face. This is the sort of experimental storytelling I like from Byrne. It could be called a cheat, along the lines of his infamous “Snowbind” story from ALPHA FLIGHT, but I think it really works here showing Sue’s reaction to the fight rather than the fight itself. (Plus, of course, Byrne must keep the actual battle off-panel in order to leave us wondering how Reed survived.)

That’s a wrap on Annihilus for Byrne’s run, but at least this time we get to see him engaged with the FF rather than simply ranting and raving for several issues before being defeated by an exploding instrument panel. Though I had my issues with the first chapter on its own, taken all together this isn't a bad little two-parter.


  1. I’m with you on pretty much everything: The general assumption of Reed’s death — most of all by Sue and especially given the “weather balloon” sighting — is at minimum frustrating, really just stupid. Reed’s voiceover, however, presented his part of the climax action from a neat and very emotional perspective. Also, Byrne & Gordon* did a beautiful job with that shot you shared of the SHIELD vessel (sorry) escaping the Zone just as the portal closed. [*You have Jerry Ordway listed as inker, but the issue credits say Al Gordon.]

    1. Oops, thanks for pointing out the inker snafu! I'll fix it right now.