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Fantastic Four Flashback #1

The new Fantastic Four movie opened this weekend and I imagine there are a lot of reviews of it that mention how unfantastic it is. I haven't read many reviews but the overwhelming consensus is that the movie is terrible. I hadn't planned on seeing it even before the reviews started appearing; the trailers did nothing but make me bored and annoyed that we had to reboot the origin yet again. I've had enough of super-hero movies that feel the need to do so. Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm? Absolutely, but give me something that excites me more than what I've seen. I may see this movie eventually, although I've still never seen Daredevil (the movie, that is) or Green Lantern or any number of reviled super-hero movies. I love comics but it's not a blind love.

I do like the Fantastic Four and I started to think how I could bring some positive experience with them into my life. It wasn't a comic I read growing up, which is a shame because I would have basically been able to start with John Byrne's run on the title in 1981. His first issue arrived around the time the comics bug bit me big. I have read some of his run, having discovred a bunch of those issues for cheap back at a Wizard World Chicago back in the 90s. I haven't had those issues for a decade at this point but thanks to my Marvel Unlimited subscription, I can go back and read the whole run. That's what I'm going to do, at a pace of one a day. Along the way, I'll jot down some thoughts on each issue...

Byrne's run as writer/artist begins with #232, an issue titled "Back to the Basics!" It starts with the villain Diablo monologuing about his plan to finally defeat the FF, which is humorously undercut by his landlady banging on his door and haranguing him about cooking in his room, which he is not supposed to do. Also? He uses the name Mr. Olbaid to disguise himself. At least anagram it, man!

We check in on each member of the team as Diablo's plot is put into motion - Sue is getting a new short haircut, Ben is out with Alicia and being moved by The Elephant Man, Johnny is trying to get a handle on his relationship with Frankie Raye, and Reed is doing science! They are attacked by elemental creatures and are momentarily flummoxed by them. Reed discovers the truth of them, thanks in part to the fire elemental not wanting to engage with The Human Torch. The idea that each of the FF corresponds to a different elemental is interesting - they all make sense as opposites, though Reed and water is the furthest reach.

Reed gets to show off his smarts. Johnny has his usual relationship issues and utters "Flame On!" Ben is shown as sensitive but also ready to rumble because "It's Clobberin' Time!" What's most interesting is that Sue is given a lot to do - she pushes herself past her usual limits and discovers she can use her powers to glide through the air ala Iceman's ice slides (it's specifically referenced). She's still Invisible Girl here but clearly on her way to becoming Invisible Woman.

Oh, I also want to mention a brief cameo by Doctor Strange, which shows off the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe circa 1981. Pretty sure this run will feature many more guest stars.

Byrne's art is not as stylized as it became later on in this run; by the time I knew who he was on the mid-80s Superman books it looks quite a bit different from this. He inks himself under the alias Bjorn Heyn. The colors and lettering are all standard for the early 80s, which all makes sense to me but someone who's started reading comics recently may find quaint.

This is a solid issue and a good introduction to Byrne's long run on the book. If I had plucked this issue off the drugstore shelves when it came out, I certainly would have wanted more. Actually, that's still true today. This issue does not make me want to abandon this project; it only makes me what to see what's ahead.


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