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Fantastic Four Flashback #2

John Byrne's second issue of his run on Fantastic Four (#233) begins with a man on death row in what's made out to be the harshest prison around (nobody's heard about Deeden because no one has ever escaped and lived to talk about it, because they were all killed. Cheery!). George David Munson is about to die but he laments to Father Vito that even though he's been a bad man, he's to be killed for a crime he didn't commit. He then last requests the priest to deliver a letter for him, a letter to...the Human Torch!

Cut to Father Vito pulling up in front of the Baxter Building two weeks later (2 weeks? Really? Why so long, Father?). These leads to a two page sequence that demonstrates the kind of security the FF has, as Father Vito happens to run into Sue in the lobby. When they reach the "visitor reception level," the two walk into an ongoing fight between the Human Torch and the Thing. Cue a two page fight/insult scene between the heroes until it's broken up by Reed and Sue. The Thing walks out upset and the others realize an eye must be kept on him. Finally, Father Vito delivers the letter and the story proper kicks in.

It turns out that Johnny and Munson were high school classmates in Johnny's pre-Torch days and that Munson used to pick on him. Johnny is willing to put that aside and investigate to try and clear Munson's name for that one crime, at least. He takes the old Fantasticar for two reasons - Reed wanted him to check on the servo-grids and he didn't want to deplete his power levels by flying. Well, sure.

Johnny's investigation takes him to the police station and then to the liquor store where the murder occurred, where his suspicions are aroused. Of course, his suspicions were correct and he goes to tussle with some goons in a warehouse where he makes some threats he wouldn't back up but those criminals don't know that. Eventually, he reaches a penthouse where the mastermind behind the whole thing stands revealed...Hammerhead! The two have a fight for several pages and Byrne does some nice work depicting that fight, with splintering wood and hard punches. I also like the way Byrne draws the Torch; he just looks cool. In the end, Hammerhead seemingly plunges to his death but in actuality has gotten away.

The epilog occurs one month later (again, why so long?) as Johnny goes to Munson's grave to talk with Munson's mother and explain that Munson was set up as a fall guy. Munson's mother knew all about his other crimes and thinks he got what he deserved (ouch!). She recognizes Johnny is a hero, the kind of man a mother could be proud of.

This is a solid issue but just that. The heights of this run are still (hopefully) to come...

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