Monday, December 19, 2016


Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Al Gordon
Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Mike Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Wyatt Wingfoot receives a call from She-Hulk informing him that Reed Richards’ hometown of Cental City, California has vanished into a giant black dome. Wyatt fetches the rest of the Fantastic Four and they depart for the city.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk and the West Coast Avengers investigate the dome. Iron Man assembles a device which allows him entrance, but when he emerges after less than a second, he claims that he was inside for three weeks. Wonder Man takes Iron Man back to WCA headquarters to recharge, leaving She-Hulk and Tigra behind to watch as the dome begins growing. It quickly swallows She-Hulk.

The FF and Wyatt arrives and Tigra informs them of the situation. Wasting no time, the team enters the dome to find Central City has been built upward into a futuristic metropolis apparently devoid of inhabitants. As they explore, the FF are startled to come across replicas of the Baxter Building and a large statue devoted to them.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: We’re told via dialogue and a footnote that She-Hulk is in California in search of the missing Thing.

The Fantastic Four are still residing in Avengers’ Mansion, where we catch up with them observing Doctor Doom’s ward, Kristoff, who now possesses Doom’s brain rather than his own. Kristoff’s plight and the FF’s sudden departure prompts Sue to consider that no one has been appointed to take care of Franklin if the entire group should perish at once.

She-Hulk offers to free Iron Man from his damaged armor, but the other Avengers are protective of his secret identity, which she doesn’t know. Because, once upon a time, superheroes — including Iron Man — actually had secret identities and they didn’t just share them with every other superhero out there (not to mention the general public) at the drop of a hat.

Johnny insinuates that Wyatt and She-Hulk have fallen in love, though Wyatt's not certain he'd put it that way.

After the group enters the dome, Tigra sees something which freaks her the heck out, but we don't find out what it is in this issue.

My Thoughts: Well, this is, essentially, John Byrne’s final issue of FANTASTIC FOUR. He’s credited with the next installment’s plot and receives special thanks for issue 295 (both of which we’ll cover together next week), but issue 293 is Byrne’s last as writer and penciler.

I wish I could say he went out with a bang, but departing after part one of a multi-chapter arc isn’t really the best way to pack it in. However Byrne maintains he had no real choice. Apparently, thanks to Byrne taking the assignment to reboot Superman over at DC, Jim Shooter quickly began to make his life a living heck, micromanaging and second-guessing every issue (Byrne says Shooter’s interference dates all the way back to FF #286, which was in production when he told Shooter of his Superman assignment).

I don’t know if it’s all true. Byrne certainly seems to have a bit of a persecution complex. But enough creators have tales about butting heads with a vindictive Jim Shooter that I tend to believe Byrne in this instance. Based on stories I’ve heard, Shooter seems just petty enough to behave this way. (Which isn’t to say Byrne isn’t also a petty guy; but Shooter’s pettiness seems to outweigh Byrne’s in this situation.)

At any rate, let’s bid a fond farewell to John Byrne as he leaves FANTASTIC FOUR effective today. At the very least, he goes out on a pretty strong artistic note. I feel like Al Gordon, who I found a bit too scratchy when he first came on board, must have taken some cues from Joe Sinnott's brief time inking Byrne, because suddenly over the past few issues, his work has become much thicker and bolder, and it's far more appealing to my eye.

As noted above, we’ll cover the subsequent two issues next week in order to get a look at the resolution of this set-up, and then a week later I’ve scheduled a brief retrospective on the entirety of Byrne’s run, so stand by for that.


  1. Gordon’s inks definitely got bolder and less scratchy but parts of this issue, specifically, look to have had other hands stepping in for whatever reason(s) — Romita faces jump out in one panel.

    1. I'll need to take a closer look at the issue! Sometimes I can notice sudden inking changes between pages/panels in a comic, but other times I pass right over them. It probably depends on how much attention I'm paying to the artwork versus just reading the story and skimming the pictures.


    2. First panel of Pg. 13 of the story itself, with Reed and Sue facing each other, has the Romita faces I’m talking about.

    3. Sure enough! Not sure how I missed that. I love John Romita, and those faces stick right out.

    4. Not only that panel. Same page, second panel (Johnny Storm). And we can see Romita inks again: next page, the last panel (the heads of Reed and Tigra).

      It's evident that this issue was made very quickly. From a certain moment, it is noticeable that John Byrne hardly sketches the drawing, just as the inking accuses this.

    5. He probably quit partway through the issue. One thing I'll say for Byrne is that he seems to have a healthy detachment from his work. He can leave at the drop of a hat if he perceives that he's having editorial difficulties. Other writers, such as Chris Claremont, harbor possibly too much sentimentality for what is ultimately work-for-hire on characters they don't own.


    6. I don’t have anything more to add on that front, but I just took another virtual flip through the issue and I almost laughed out loud again at Tigra’s determination to help She-Hulk get free of the black sphere by applying their “combined strength”. ’Cause when Hulk-level power isn’t enough you naturally think “if only we had the combined strength of the Hulk and Tigra at our disposal…”.

    7. I don't know how much stronger Tigra is than a normal human, but you're right -- I feel like Tigra adding her strength to She-Hulk's is akin to an ant adding its strength to a human's...