Fantastic Four #342
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #342
...and the rest of the issue is a fill-in taking place in the past. You can see it being set up by a "this reminds me of that time that..." from Sharon Ventura in the scan above, because that's how people talk.
Not that we wouldn't have assumed it anyway, but the lettercol in issue #344 confirms that deadline issues are the reason we have a fill-in here, and also why Al Milgrom and Bob Wiacek had to be brought in to help out with issue #341. The GCD says that the scan above was drawn and inked and even scripted by Walt Simonson, but he's not given a credit in the issue. The art looks more like someone trying to mimic his style to me, and Sharon's set-up dialogue, at least, doesn't feel like Simonson's (although it could have just been because it was rushed and needed to set up the flashback). Johnny's face and hair looks very Tom Morgan, and Morgan did a Simonson homage for the cover, so i am pretty sure it's his pencils.
The rest of the issue is written by one of Marvel's go-to fill-in guys for this period, Danny Fingeroth, and is drawn to someone credited as "Rex Valve". Based on the comments, that seems to be Kieron Dwyer. The art is pretty standard Marvel house style, a little old school compared to the trend being set at the time by the proto-Image guys. Not bad for early work from Dwyer.
The story has Johnny Storm working at his friend Chuck's auto shop when he hears on the radio that a teenager named Theodore Bannion has committed suicide by self-immolation, inspired by his hero, the Human Torch. Johnny freaks out over this, and winds up burning down his friend's garage.
If you're thinking to yourself, "Not this again!", the story does acknowledge that this is the second time something like this happened, the first being in Fantastic Four #285. The situation this time is actually different. That kid was actually trying to become a Human Torch. This kid is part of a group of teenage nihilists with a suicide pact.
Meeting those kids just causes Johnny Storm to become even more miserable, and he swears off ever becoming the Torch again (although he doesn't burn his powers out like he did last time).
It also turns out that the father of the guy that killed himself is part of the group of armored vigilantes that Danny Fingeroth introduced in another fill-in, Iron Man #214.
I'm not sure if he means it literally when he says that the other two are his brothers.
Johnny tells the FF that he's giving up his powers...
...and then goes for a walk where he runs into Rusty Collins, the X-Factor ward with the fire power.
The Seekers attack while they are talking, and since Johnny won't use his powers, Rusty secretly uses his. Johnny actually thinks he's using his own powers subconsciously at first, and the Seekers don't suspect that Rusty has powers.
I don't know what the Seekers are talking about. You're on grass, guys. There's no tar.
Rusty then uses his powers to intimidate a taxi driver into giving up his cab (nice!) so that he and Johnny can flee, and that's when Johnny learns for sure that Rusty has powers. And more to the point, Johnny understands that when Rusty said that he understands what Johnny is going through, it comes from personal experience. Then the Seekers attack again, and Rusty is blinded.
This is now a bit of a contrived situation. Johnny winds up getting coated in flame retardant, so he can't use his own powers even if he wanted to. But Rusty is blind. So Johnny has to guide Rusty into using his powers.
The way things work out, everyone assumes that the Human Torch defeated the Seekers, so Rusty's secret identity is preserved.
When it's over, Rusty goes back to Four Freedoms Plaza with Johnny and convinces him to use his own flame again.
A lot that is contrived about this, from the repeat of the self-immolation scenario to Johnny bumping into Rusty Collins, of all people, to the fact that Johnny has to wind up guiding Rusty. And yet, i find myself liking the idea of Rusty and Johnny bonding over this, and i wish that more had been done with it. Rusty now has a friend in the FF! A lot more should have come of that.
Something that i like without qualification is that after all of that, Spider-Man shows up at the FF's building, having heard about the suicide and knowing that his friend could use a pep talk.
As a reward, Spider-Man is allowed to have anything out of the fridge, which turns out to not be much.
Thanks to Spider-Man's visit, Johnny goes back to the high school with the nihilists and gives an anti-suicide speech that does seem to reach some of the kids.
Anyone picking this up expecting the next installment of Walt Simonson's run was going to be disappointed, but for a fill-in it's not terrible.
Quality Rating: C
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: The framing sequence takes place "moments" after the end of last issue. The flashback takes place after the Thing mutated into pineapple form but while Crystal was still a member of the Fantastic Four, so probably some time soon after Fall of the Mutants.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
It's not like I'm the guy's agent or anything, but that first page is definitely Tom Morgan doing his best Simonson impression.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 10, 2015 9:45 PM
That would make sense, Vin. The cover is also by Morgan doing a Simonson homage (he even signs his name in a mimic of Simonson's signature).
Posted by: fnord12 | May 10, 2015 10:01 PM
There doesn't seem to be much on Rex Valve. It seems to be clearly a pseudonym. One person online suggests that it's Kieron Dwyer.
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 17, 2015 9:04 AM
Continuing my re-reading of the Fantastic Four Visionaries collections of Simonson's run. I found it odd that this fill-in was reprinted in those TPBs, but the one from #351 was not. The only thing I can conclude is that Marvel really needed some material to pad out the second TPB, otherwise it would have only had four issues. And maybe someone also made the mistake of thinking that Simonson did the first page of this issue. I'm in agreement with Vin the Comics Guy and fnord that in fact it's almost certainly Tom Morgan.
So, anyway, who the #@$% is Rex Valve?!? Yeah, that has got to be a pseudonym. I went to this entry on fnord's site to see if he or someone else had figured it out. Erik Berk's guess of Kieron Dwyer is a possibility. This looks similar to the work Dwyer was doing in the late 1980s, which is when this inventory must have originally been commissioned.
An online search of "rex valve" reveals that it is a part often used in toilets. I wonder if choosing that particular alias was a comment upon the quality of this issue?
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 8, 2016 6:33 PM
This is strictly hearsay, but several years ago, I saw a page from this issue credited to Kieron Dwyer for sale on eBay. Considering the time frame of the fill-in, I can sort of see it looks like early Dwyer, with not so great inking. Considering his step father previously did this story much better, I can understand why he'd want his name off it, if, in fact, it is him.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | May 9, 2016 1:02 AM
This is why this project is so fantastic!
Whip out a copy of FF Annual #21 (or just go to that entry) and check out da Dings!
It's KD's first work. Looks earlier than Captain America #338. The Rex Valve pseudonym is indeed in line with Dwyer's sense of humor...all we need now is for him to confirm it.
Hey - Fingeroth knew talent when he saw it. Chris Ivy was very new and probably not the best choice, but not horrible.
Posted by: VtCG | May 12, 2016 8:43 AM
Google led me to Kieron Dwyer's old website from a number of years ago. On it is a tongue-in-cheek made-up quote praising Dwyer's utterly irreverent potty humor series LCD...
"LCD IS 'CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL'--
That's probably more or less a confirmation that the "Rex Valve" who penciled this FF issue was Dwyer.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 12, 2016 8:55 AM
Thanks, guys. I think this is enough for me to update the credits (but of course i still note that it's a best guess).
Posted by: fnord12 | May 12, 2016 12:01 PM
Now that I think about it, this probably wasn't Dwyer's first work. Captain America 338 came out 3 months before Peter ditched the black costume in ASM 300 and Peter is in the red-and-blues in this story. It might very well be his second work.
Posted by: Michael | May 29, 2016 8:03 PM
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