Fantastic Four #239
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #239
She's a lot younger than everyone assumed... she's actually the second wife of Ben's uncle.
But she and her husband (the doctor from last issue) have a problem and she's sought out the Fantastic Four's help. It seems people in her town are dying of fright. It turns out that an archeological dig has awoken spirits that test the inhabitants of a town every ten thousand years.
It's another Strange Tales type of story like Byrne has been doing throughout his run on the FF so far. It's quite good, both art and story...
...and it has the added benefits of Reed and Ben dealing with the latest Thing cure setback, the introduction of Ben's Aunt and Uncle, the first mission with Frankie Raye on the team, and an oddly creepy yet heartwarming ending regarding an abused girl.
Meanwhile, there's a war going on in the Inhuman city of Attilan. And they're all afflicted with a sickness, except Quicksilver, who heads off for help.
This is also the first appearance of "Roberta", the FF's electric secretary.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAlicia Masters, Aunt Petunia, Crystal, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Jake Grimm, Lockjaw, Mr. Fantastic, Nova (Frankie Raye), Quicksilver, Roberta, Sergius O'Hoolihan, Thing
Wendy's friends look a bit like (small) N'Garai, but there's nothing said that would identify them as such.
You'll notice that we cross a cultural boundary as we get into the '80s: troubled kids are now abused kids, where before they'd just be poor or bullied by peers. Though it's good that comics are acknowledging a serious problem, it becomes a cliche almost immediately. What's most interesting from the perspective of an armchair cultural historian is how prevalent this idea suddenly becomes in '80s comics after being all but unknown earlier. (I can't think of any pre-1980 example, though there must be a few.)
It's partly a sign that comics are getting "grittier," but perhaps there's more to it: in the '70s conspiracies of presidents and corporate leaders were ubiquitous (Secret Empire, Roxxon, the Corporation), while by the '80s evil has found its way into the family.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 18, 2012 1:16 AM
John Byrne later expressed minor recrimination over the Aunt Petunia "reveal". It is the sort of thing his followers would foam at the mouth in anger over if another creator did it.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | July 29, 2013 6:44 PM
I think the Aunt Petunia reveal is hilarious. There's no reason not to show her and it makes for a great joke when we do see her - especially Johnny's reaction.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 3, 2015 9:01 AM
I love the Aunt Petunia reveal! I'm a fan of Byrne's work, but not sure of what the blanket insult of Jay's is about.
Posted by: Bill | May 3, 2015 10:37 PM
I think Ben didn't make as many references to his Aunt Petunia after this though.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | May 3, 2015 11:29 PM
It was pretty obvious what Stan Lee had intended references to Aunt Petunia to imply. She was never intended to be a cute twenty-something. Byrne got a one-time laugh out of intentionally subverting what Lee had intended. As I said, Byrne himself has admitted that it was a mistake.
Posted by: JP | May 15, 2015 5:29 AM
First appearance of Roberta too.
Posted by: AF | April 13, 2016 6:10 AM
I like the idea behind this, but despised it's execution. The ending just kind of happens, with no actual resolution. Worse, Reed is mad that Frankie would want to punish a man for beating his daughter. "We shouldn't judge a child abuser" is a very non-heroic stance. This one left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Posted by: Vancelot | January 17, 2017 12:19 AM
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