Monday, December 26, 2016

FANTASTIC FOUR #294 & #295

Plotter: John Byrne (#294) | Scripter: Roger Stern | Penciler: Jerry Ordway
Inker: Al Gordon | Letterer: John Workman | Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Michael Carlin | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Special Thanks to John Byrne (#295)

The Plot: (Issue 294) Inside the futuristic upper Central City within the black dome, the Fantastic Four and Wyatt are assaulted and soon defeated by misshapen mutants. The creatures’ priestess recognizes them, however, and brings them before the city’s Coordinator, Harvey Jessup. The FF learn that Jessup constructed the black barrier as a way to protect Central City from nuclear holocaust, but where his intention was to isolate the city while time passed much faster outside, the opposite occurred.

But Jessup, now an old man brought in and out of suspended animation for certain important situations, refuses to believe Reed and attacks the FF with his “ultimate adjudicator” helmet.

(Issue 295) Sue saves the FF from the ultimate adjudicator by using her power to slowly turn them invisible, making it appear they’ve been disintegrated. The group soon encounters a woman named Murna, once the city’s high priestess. She reveals She-Hulk is beneath the city in suspended animation. While Johnny, Wyatt, and Murna go to save She-Hulk, Reed and Sue go after Jessup.

She-Hulk is freed and the two groups reunite as Sue and Reed battle Jessup’s minions. Murna links Reed’s and Jessup’s minds and Jessup finally realizes the truth of his mistake. As he dies, he places Murna, his daughter, in command of the city. Reed then uses Jessup’s device to shunt the dome 10,000 years into the future, even as the FF rescue all the original citizens of Central City, hidden underground in suspended animation.

Once more in the real world, Reed realizes Jessup’s lying to his subjects were not all that different from Reed withholding the truth from Ben about the nature of his transformation. Now aware that the Thing is out there somewhere, injured, Reed makes plans to go find him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: In issue 294, Sue conveniently forgets everything that happened to the FF over the past, oh, ten minutes, and asks Wyatt to explain it all to her. The recap is much less painful in issue 295, where an omniscient narrator simply describes the past couple installments’ events on the first page before jumping into the action.

Jessup’s mutants are all genetically altered to be bizarre representations of the Fantastic Four, and his “Things” wear helmets of the type Ben used in early FF issues (and more recently in Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR #239).

The city’s priestess explains Jessup’s cockamamie scheme to the FF:

We’re told that She-Hulk was loose in the city for months before she was finally caught, meaning she put up a better showing that Iron Man (who was in there for three weeks) and the FF (who were beaten and captured within about five minutes).

Speaking of Iron Man, there’s no explanation as to how he escaped the dome, which seems an unlikely feat unless he somehow made it into Jessup’s sanctum and commandeered his equipment.

Central City is no more by the story’s end, leaving everyone who lived there homeless. Not exactly a happy ending! Does this mean the Richards Estate, which we saw in Central City circa issue 271, is gone as well? And were the Richards butler, Peacock, and his wife, found underground with all the other Central Citizens?

Is It Clobberin' Time? Well… sort of.

(I confess I’m happy I get to bring the category back for the final issue, even if it’s not the Thing who says it.)

My Thoughts: There’s obviously no way to know if this is how Byrne intended his story to end, but it’s probably close enough. His plot to issue 294 set things up, so even if Roger Stern was unaware of the exact conclusion Byrne had in mind, the path was laid out to get to something resembling that ending. Plus, Byrne and Stern were/are friends, so it’s entirely possible Stern asked Byrne what he intended (which could explain the “special thanks” credit in #295).

It’s kind of funny to note that a few years later, John Byrne would leave the Superman titles over at DC, and Jerry Ordway would take over for him as writer/artist on one series while Roger Stern would become writer on another.

Speaking of Ordway, I like most of his artwork here. It’s not as slick, I guess, as Byrne at his best, but he’s mostly pretty good with body language. And, while some of his faces seem over-rendered to me, he also manages to turn in this absolutely beautiful, clean and attractive image of Sue Richards in issue 295 (left).

Really, my only issue with Ordway is that he expands the white “collars” of the FF uniforms all the way out to cover the shoulders, making the outfits look a bit like NEXT GENERATION era Starfleet uniforms. I can't quite explain why, but this really bugs me. It just looks so wrong!

Thus ends John Byrne’s FANTASTIC FOUR, with a pair of issues neither scripted nor drawn by Byrne. But don’t forget that I’ll look back on the run as a whole one week from today, so join me then as we put a bow on this entire past year’s worth of posts.


  1. I’m not sure how Sue knew exactly what effect Jessup’s beam was supposed to have on them. Also, 99% or whatever of the original citizens still being in suspended animation underground was awfully convenient. Also also, I buy Jessup being able to slow time within the bubble but not being able, even if unintentionally, to speed it up relative to the outside instead.

    1. Yeah, some of the pseudo-science in this story is a bit iffy. I can't help wondering if Byrne might have handled it -- or at least explained it -- a bit better, since he's really into that sort of thing.

  2. In 295, Johnny and Wyatt rescue the She-Hulk who has been imprisoned in a suspended animation tube and preserved young and pretty.

    Jen is so happy to see Wyatt that she grabs him in a bear-hug, and her gamma-enhanced biceps cause poor (or lucky?) Wyatt a little discomfort!