Jonathan, son of Kevin:
Fantastic Four #289-292
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #289, Fantastic Four #290, Fantastic Four #291, Fantastic Four #292
We are coming up on the end of John Byrne's high watermark run of the Fantastic Four, and issues #289-290 feature the last major villains that he'll use. Considering that one of them, Annihilus, is a repeat, i took a quick look at the villains that Byrne used throughout his run. Dr. Doom and Galactus/Terrax are the other repeats, but Byrne didn't use a number of classic Lee/Kirby villains, including the Mad Thinker, the Red Ghost, and the Frightful Four (aside from a Trapster solo outing in an unusual story where he didn't actually face the Fantastic Four). Of course Byrne's exit from the FF (and Marvel) wasn't planned, so i don't know what he might have done if he'd continued on the title or if his choice of villains reflected a personal hierarchy for him at the time, but personally i'd rank Annihilus up there with Doom and Galactus.
This Annihilus story, which is also a Blastaar story, is different than the longer Negative Zone romp from nearly 30 issues earlier in Byrne's run. It only encompass two of the four issues here and seems designed to restore Annihilus to his full glory after the Marvel Two-In-One story that transferred his Cosmic Control Rod to Blastaar.
It also looks at the implications of the destruction of the Baxter Building, reminding us that when it was launched into space, the team lost a lot of irreplaceable equipment. We'll later learn that the Watcher is keeping the majority of it safe, but the trigger point for the Blastaar/Annihilus story is that SHIELD discovers that the Baxter Building's portal to the Negative Zone got opened when the building blew up.
Before that, we get a look at progress on the FF's new building, and we see Basilisk killed by Scourge when he emerges in the basement.
No need to go flipping back to Basilisk's last appearance; he wasn't trapped under the site of the Baxter Building. It's said in this issue that while he was trapped under the Earth he sensed the disturbance caused by the new construction and burrowed his way here with his eye beams.
I've always liked the Basilisk's design and his Kree origin, so i'm sorry to see him get Scourged, although i'll grant that he wasn't used all that well. He'll get resurrected anyway.
While all this is happening in their new building, the FF are teleporting to SHIELD's space station to learn about the problem with the Negative Zone portal.
Note that She-Hulk isn't aware of the Negative Zone (not even after her participation in the Avengers' battle against Annihilus' forcefield in Avengers #233-234?) and Reed says that the existence of the portal isn't public knowledge, which is yet another nail in the coffin in finding any workable placement of the dumb 2005 Monsters on the Prowl comic.
Reed gets into a space ship and floats out to investigate the portal more closely, and we learn that Blastaar is lying in wait.
Blastaar also has Annihilus imprisoned.
Reed gets captured, and the fact that he's brought into the Negative Zone while still in his suit means that his body is positively charged and any touch with sufficient force will cause an explosion.
The Invisible Woman flies SHIELD's ship directly through the Negative Zone portal, however, bringing the rest of the FF and Nick Fury through the "distortion area", allowing them to come into direct contact with Blastaar. Which they do.
Seeing himself defeated, Blastaar employs an obvious Briar Patch trick...
...but the Human Torch falls for it, proving that while he's matured during John Byrne's run, he's still kinda dumb.
What Johnny actually does is release Annihilus.
Of course, that's not necessarily a reprieve for Blastaar, who didn't exactly build up good will with Annihilus while he was holding him prisoner.
Blastaar also hasn't built up good will among his people, who decide to take advantage of the obvious problems happening in Blastaar's ship.
Ultimately, though, the real problem is Annihilus. He blasts everyone...
...and then heads for the portal, intending to wreak havoc on Earth. Mr. Fantastic chases after him, taking advantage of his positive charge, and causing an explosion that seemingly kills them both.
SHIELD does report the appearance of what they think is a weather balloon floating to Earth, but no one thinks it's important enough to check. So Reed is assumed dead.
When Fury and the rest of the FF arrive on Earth, however, they find that they have been knocked back to the year 1936.
With Reed not around, Sue tells the others that it's very important that they remain inconspicuous and avoid interacting with anyone to avoid changing history. I guess Reed was deliberately taken out of the story for this issue because according to his theory of time travel, the FF and Fury needn't have worried; any changes should have resulted in divergent timestreams. Which i guess would have bothered Immortus, but wouldn't have affected the main Marvel universe. As we'll learn, this isn't actually a time travel story anyway so it doesn't matter.
The group arrived on Earth in Nick Fury's flying sports car. To make it fit in better, he uses holographic technology to disguise it as a USP truck, which apparently "always look about forty years out of date".
The technology isn't perfect. The license plate is still wrong, so the group get chased by the police. And later, when Johnny opens the door, you can see the red car door.
The group find that they are blinking back and forth between the past and the present, and poor Nick Fury gives himself a concussion driving into a wall that, in the present, is actually the secret entrance to SHIELD's New York base.
It's said that there are "no known superbeings" in 1936, it being before Captain America or the original Human Torch existed, and that "SHIELD's granddaddy organization" wouldn't know what to do about the timelost group. When Fury hits his head, Sue goes looking for a doctor. She considers going to her father but realizes that "he's only a child! My mother as well!". Reed Richards and Ben Grimm were originally supposed to have served in World War II, so Sue's father shouldn't be a child in 1936 except for the sliding timescale, and Byrne seems to have deliberately included that line just to make us aware of it.
Although, Byrne also shows us Sue's memories while she's thinking about Reed, and we see her falling in love with Reed at twelve years old while he is a college freshman.
So, maybe her father was a child in 1936!
While Sue is off looking for a doctor, a jazz clarinetist runs into the alley where She-Hulk is waiting with Fury. He's being chased by some racist mobsters. She-Hulk debates messing with history, but ultimately intervenes.
The clarinetist is "Licorice" Calhoun, and he claims to have reality altering dreams.
While She-Hulk is dealing with him, Nick Fury recovers and takes off in his flying car, with the intention of killing Hitler. The idea is that he's still disoriented from his encounter with the wall, but of course the moral and metaphysical question of going back in time to kill Hitler is a classic one.
The FF chase after Fury using a combination of Sue and Johnny's powers...
...and get to fight a giant Nazi battlemech.
Nick Fury had been captured by the Nazis, and the FF rescue him, at which point he kills Hitler.
That's right. Nick Fury doesn't just kill Hitler; he kills him in his underwear.
That has the surprising effect of waking everybody up. It turns out they weren't back in time after all; they were caught in a dream. And the dreamer was Joseph "Licorice" Calhoun, a mutant reality alterer.
In the non-dream version of his life, Licorice actually was run down by the mobsters that She-Hulk stopped, putting him in a coma that he's been in ever since. And it turns out that Reed is alive after all. He was indeed the weather balloon that SHIELD detected.
Definitely a fun arc. Annihilus and Blastaar were fun threats, and the "Licorice" story had the feel of the Strange Tales type stories that Byrne did at the beginning of his FF run. The extended concern over Reed's death was a bit overdone; his death wasn't dramatic or definitive enough to make the concern believable, so all of Sue's lamenting felt like wasted space, especially since the other characters are barely bothered by the seeming death. I do think Reed was taken out of the picture to leave the other characters without his super-intelligence while figuring out how they should be behaving during the time travel story. But it's still an enjoyable set of issues; i might be looking at it extra hard because it's Byrne's final full story on the title.
One thing that wasn't so great in Byrne's run was his hair designs. His latest haircut for Sue is especially weird; it's a little odd for a brother and sister to have the exact same haircut.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 264,760. Single issue closest to filing date = 264,726.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Scourge appearance takes place before Captain America #319. This arc is cited in Power Pack #22 as the reason why Franklin Richard's parents are away. This issue also has implications for the placement of the She-Hulk graphic novel. When the FF are teleported to SHIELD's space station, She-Hulk first thinks they are in the Helicarrier, which she knows was destroyed in her graphic novel.
And the graphic novel has to take place before Fantastic Four #285. There are some complications regarding the placement of that issue, but i've got it circa Secret Wars II #3. However, the helicarrier appears in Power Man & Iron Fist #121, which was a tie-in with Secret Wars II #6. I've ruled that the helicarrier appearing in that issue wasn't the main one; see the comments on Power Man & Iron Fist #121 for more.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Note that in this story, Sue is willing to endanger the planet by entering the Negative Zone to save Reed. An interesting contrast is Maddie's behavior in the X-Men/ Alpha Flight series, where Maddie, even though pregnant, refuses to allow the X-Men to leave the plane and sacrifice their lives for Scott. It's an interesting contrast between Byrne's and Claremont's ideas of a strong woman- Byrne saw Sue as strong because she was willing to endanger others to save her husband while Claremont saw Maddie as strong because she refused to endanger others to save her husband.
Posted by: Michael | December 14, 2013 5:45 PM
It looks to me like Byrne was involved in a few attempts to straighten out the FF's timeline. During the Wolfman/Byrne run the FF get age-accelerated and then restored to their peak age by alien tech (rather like Magneto after his encounter with Erik the Red), then near the start of Byrne's solo run we get the Mantracora episode that's confirmed a few years later to have wiped some of Reed's memories. Even turning Nathaniel Richards into a time traveler may have been part of a plan to fix the chronological difficulties. But I don't think Byrne got to see his solution through: the missing memories, for example, remain a dangler of sorts.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 14, 2013 7:20 PM
Was there an explanation in the story for Nick Fury being so seemingly stupid as to forget that there's no hologram in 1936. I hope so, otherwise Byrne just wanted to make Fury look like a fucking idiot.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | December 14, 2013 8:54 PM
Yeah, as i mentioned, they were shifting between the past and present and Fury was driving towards the wall when it shifted back to the past.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 14, 2013 10:01 PM
"It's said that there are "no known superbeings" in 1936, it being before Captain America or the original Human Torch existed, and that "SHIELD's granddaddy organization" wouldn't know what to do about the timelost group".
The US did indeed, in conventional history, lack a centralized intelligence agency prior to the 1940's. Whether or not recent revisions to SHIELD's history affect this statement for Earth-616 I will leave to later. For espionage fiction published in the 1930's and 1940's, Van Wyck Mason's Hugh North featured a G-2 agent.
Too bad they had lost the rights to Doc Savage, or else the FF could have thought of visiting him for help in 1936. Same with Sir Dennis Nayland-Smith or to a lesser degree Tarzan (Tarzan's adventure left untreated as part of Earth-616 till later). I will have to check Jess Nevins' pre-FF#1 sites for later suggestions.
Incidentally, why does Fury blame just one man? Does he not recall that Imperial Japan/Dai Nippon Teikoku moved into Manchuria as early as 1931? Does he remember Red Hargrove at Pearl Harbor?
Incidentally, has anyone ever done a time travel story about slaying Moses other than the Forever-Yesterday tale?
That the hoodlum think to call a green skinned woman a Martian makes me wonder if Calhoun or She-Hulk (since this tale turns out as it does) had read or heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom tales with the the green-skinned Tharks. Various other references do suggest that on Earth-616, Edgar Rice Burroughs did live and write about Barsoom and his other works.
Posted by: PB210 | December 15, 2013 6:39 AM
Fury says, "Fer Junior Juniper, an' Pam Hawley, an' thirty eight million other people!!". He doesn't mention Red. I've added references for Juniper and Hawley so thanks for pointing that out.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 15, 2013 10:01 AM
Dai Nippon Teikoku shares some of the blame for World War II, so Fury just blaming it on the European Axis seems odd. Later on, in the 1990's, we will find that Fury encountered Colonel Ishii, of Unit 731. In earlier published tales, Fury had encountered Dai Nippon Teikoku agents.
Posted by: PB210 | December 15, 2013 11:48 AM
Fury likely only blamed Hitler because both Japan and Italy lacked the power to conceivably conquer the world or overturn the international order. Germany was needed for its population, economic power, technology, and leadership.
Japan was certainly an expansive power, and its invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937 were critical in determining the Second World War's scope, but none of the Western powers felt truly threatened by Japan. They knew any war would be difficult, but thought it would clearly be within their ability to win.
Japan simply did not have the economy to compete with any of the major Western powers, and its army was not considered to be a major threat. They also didn't fear the navy and air force, although those services would turn out to be much more dangerous than they expected.
Posted by: Chris | December 20, 2013 1:10 AM
"Germany was needed for its population, economic power, technology, and leadership".
Alas for the Axis, when it came to practical and logistical military matters, the leadership for the European Axis' forces had a rather weak leader. Imitating Moses only drives one so far.
"Japan was certainly an expansive power, and its invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937 were critical"
A calmly written response, but I still figure that since the Pacific militarists started making their moves a tad bit prior to any prompting from Europe, developing Unit 731 for germ warfare (and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.#38 or so establishes that Fury met Colonel Ishii) fairly early on, and seemed to act of their own volition, I tend not to view them as just imitators of the European powers.
Posted by: PB210 | December 20, 2013 8:32 PM
Quick correction on last sentence above in my comment: the European *Axis* powers (or prospective/eventual Axis powers).
Posted by: PB210 | December 20, 2013 8:37 PM
Keep in mind; I do not despise the Japanese. In fact, I expect more trouble from Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Arabic influenced cultural organizations, the U.S. South, etc. in the future than Japan in the future.
Posted by: PB210 | December 20, 2013 8:43 PM
Scourge's intelligence (i.e. information gathering) is amazing in general. But here, even the Basilisk didn't know where or when he was going to come up.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | December 21, 2013 11:40 AM
It's worth noting that in Marvel Fanfare 29, which Byrne wrote, the Scourge clearly had access to advanced technology. Byrne seemed to think of the Scourge as more high-tech than Gruenwald- maybe he thought the Scourge had access to a Basilisk detector.
Posted by: Michael | December 21, 2013 11:51 AM
I agree with Erik Robbins. Scourge had good info, but this is just ridiculous, that he would be standing and ready, having infiltrated the Baxter Building of all places.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 18, 2015 7:07 AM
I don't think he was waiting for Basilisk specifically. I think he was thinking along the lines of, "Some supervillain is bound to attack the FF eventually, and when they do..."
Posted by: Thanos6 | June 18, 2015 8:56 AM
But that means, even though it's under construction, that Scourge did a better job against FF security than the Trapster did. That makes me sad.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 18, 2015 11:21 AM
I always thought that the Trapster was somewhat of an incompetent foe. IMO, he's ok when he's working with someone else, but by himself, he's not so good.
Posted by: CLYDE | June 18, 2015 12:38 PM
Yeah I always thought Trapster was pretty much king of the morts. I never hear anybody talking about him as anything other than the butt of jokes. I mean, he's Paste Pot Pete FFS. How can you take that seriously?
Posted by: Robert | June 18, 2015 12:58 PM
...I wonder if a concept central to the Scourge's campaign working -that most invulnerability would be in trouble faced with armor-piercing rounds- was inspired by the time Hawkeye shot Piledriver in the arm during Secret Wars?
Posted by: BU | June 18, 2015 4:12 PM
I think we would be remiss to let these issues pass without remarking on the creepiness of the Sue's memories panel. There's nothing wrong with them meeting when Sue is twelve, or with her falling in love with Reed at that age. The problem is that collar pull. Reed isn't just embarrassed by the attention, he's trying to compensate for rising blood pressure. I'm generally not in favor of retcons, but that's a scene that needed to be scrubbed from our brains.
Posted by: Andrew | March 18, 2016 9:48 PM
Posted by: Mortificator | March 19, 2016 5:04 AM
There are lots of reasons for rising blood pressure. Hence the existence of the polygraph for lie detecting. Sometimes a collar pull is just a collar pull.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 24, 2016 1:14 AM
If Byrne had left it here, I might give him the benefit of the doubt. But then he went and contrived the scene where a time-traveling Superman makes out with a fourteen-year-old Lana Lang. Sorry, I know he's a living legend and all, but the guy's a perv.
Posted by: Andrew | March 24, 2016 9:45 PM
I don't see any problem with the collar pull. It just means Reed realizes 12 year old Sue has a crush on him, and he's uncomfortable about it. It wouldn't even occur to me that it means anything else.
I think Byrne is just trying to explain the age discrepancy between Reed and Sue which have been there forever - Johnny is 16 or so, and Sue can't be more than six or eight years older, yet Reed and Ben are WWII veterans in 1961 (making them around 41 at the youngest). While I don't think it's needed to explain the age difference, establishing Reed was Sue's first crush isn't a bad way to do it.
Posted by: Chris | March 24, 2016 10:25 PM
The collar pull is just comedic shorthand for a guy who is uncomfortable in a given situation. Looking any more into that one panel is really getting oneself worked up over nothing.
Posted by: Bill | March 24, 2016 10:52 PM
A collar pull is, of course, more often shorthand for this is awkward and not I'm so freaking horny right now. I linked to The Simpsons for an example. Rodney Dangerfield would have worked too; I don't think he performed in a state of constant arousal.
Posted by: Mortificator | March 24, 2016 10:54 PM
@Chris- the problem really is Fantastic Four 11, which makes it sound like Sue has been in love with Reed for about two decades.
Posted by: Michael | March 24, 2016 11:27 PM
OK, one more and then I'll shut up. I just came across Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2, issue 14. Byrne is the guest writer, and in this issue, fourteen-year-old Mattie Franklin throws herself at Peter Parker, kissing him before he can object. It's not nearly as creepy as the grown Superman/fourteen-year-old Lana Lang make-out session, but I'm seeing a pattern here.
Posted by: Andrew | May 6, 2016 4:59 PM
The last part of this crazy-fun arc called to mind the classic "Star Trek" episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" (written by Harlan Ellison). Both involve time travel to pre-WWII Earth, a character who may change history because he's not in his right mind (Bones/Fury), and potential divergent realities involving the Nazis. Beyond that, the details are pretty different, but it doesn't seem improbable that that episode may have been an inspiration, as Byrne is clearly a huge "Star Trek" fan and went on to create quite a few "Star Trek" comics for IDW.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 13, 2016 3:56 PM
To be fair, Andrew, it should be pointed put that this reiteration of Sue and Reed's "love" has been retconned in recent(ish) years.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 11, 2016 1:50 PM
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