Fantastic Four #261-"The search for Reed Richards"
Cover Date: Dec. 1983 price $.60
Cover Tagline (New Feature!): "The Search for Reed Richards!"
Writer/ Artist: John Byrne
Story: This issue opens with a splash page of Namor, Marvel Comics's king of Atlantis, totally frenching the Invisible Woman. He is kissing Sue on the roof of the Baxter Building to remind her that he still thinks she's hot, and she actually tells him "you haven't lost your touch." For a story where Reed Richards is apparently missing (based on the title), this seems like a weird way to start an issue. Anyway, Namor and his wide-eyed, green bathing suit clad friend Marrina take leave of Sue and fly away.
Sue heads into the Baxter Building, thinking about how Doctor Doom has been destroyed, which apparently happened in the last issue. As the Baxter building is inexplicably empty, Sue calls out for Reed, Ben, and Johnny, but receives no answer. Sue gets worried and calls Avengers Mansion, because the last time Reed went out, he was on an adventure with the Avengers. Jarvis the Avengers' butler answers the phone, and tells Sue that the team has gone to S.H.I.E.L.D's space station to investigate a mystery beam. Sue thinks it 's weird that Reed left no words for her that he was off doing this type of stuff with other super teams.
Suddenly, Silver Surfer appears, and asks Sue what's up. Apparently he has been hanging around the Baxter Building after last issue. Silver Surfer was the one who killed Doctor Doom , and he calls his board to him from the scene of the crime so that he and Sue can fly off and talk to the Avengers about Reed. The two fly off to Avengers Mansion and talk to the Scarlet Witch, who tells Sue the terrible news that Reed was abducted by a mysterious intruder while examining the body of the android Vision. Apparently reed vanished without a trace, and Sue rightly freaks out. The Silver surfer uses his "Power Cosmic" to reconstruct what happened, and tells Sue that Reed is now far beyond Earth. Sue shoots the "4" flare into the sky and calls the team into action.
As Sue, Johnny, and Ben meet up together at the Baxter Building, they have a heated chat about how Sue shouldn't be charging into save Reed because she is indeed pregnant with her second child. But Sue lays the chain-of-command smack down on her two teammates and tells them that she is acting leader, and not some 1950's homemaker waif . She puts the two men (as well as every man reading the comic) in their place and makes no room for argument. So the 3 board a rocket for space, and there is yet another flashback to the origin of the team (seriously? was this a requirement for Byrne to show the team's origin in every other issue?)
The team flies to the moon, past the blue side where the Inhumans reside, to the home of Uatu, otherwise known as the Watcher. Johnny flies into the house half-cocked, looking for the Watcher, but only gets lost in the 4 dimensional space. The Watcher's schtick is that he is part of an alien race of guys with small bodies and big heads who "watch" all the events of the universe, cataloging the big things that happen with out intervening, unless the universe is in real danger. However, it always seems that Uatu is intervening, and this time he does as well, telling Sue that Reed being in trouble means that the universe is also in trouble. The Watcher uses his powers to make Johnny reappear, which is good, because the Torch probably would have been lost forever in the weirdness that is the Watcher's dimension. The Watcher then transports the Fantastic 3 to the place where Reed is kept, which is light years away.
The Watcher, Ben, Johnny, and Sue appear before a purple alien who identifies himself as Xxan Xxar. He greets them and tells them that he can lead them to Reed. He cordially leads them to a machine that is literally stretching Reed to the max. Xxan Xxar matter-of-factly tells Sue that the machine is in the process of executing Reed. Xxan Xxar is one cold mother...
Xxar recounts the story of how Reed struck a deal with Galactus that he would save Galactus' life in exchange for the big G not to eat Earth (which happened in FF#244). This meant that Galactus was free to live and go eat other planets such as the Skrull's homeworld( which had 7 billion inhabitants) so if effect, all that blood was on Reed's stretchy hands. Reed was abducted earlier in the issue by a council of aliens who want to preserve life in the galaxy and punish those who snuff it out (why don't they abduct Galactus then?) Ben goes to clobber Xxar, but he gets blasted by a beam of energy. This only further incites big Orange, and he breaks the machine that is stretching Reed. The place goes haywire until the Watcher steps in and calls a time out for everyone.
After everyone catches their breath, the alien council that decided Reed should be executed tells him that they may have acted too hastily in deciding his fate. Having been freed, Reed tells them that he saved Galactus out of a respect for life in general. As the council gets ready to reconsider their decisions against Richards, someone yells "NO!!", and it turns out it is Lilandra, from the Shi'ar empire (and from X-Men comics). She is standing with a Skrull and her mohawked friend the Gladiator, demanding that the Earthlings pay for their crimes. Lilandra declares that "Reed Richards must die!"... What a cliffhanger!
What I thought:
First of all, Johny Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four is considered legendary, and I am finding out why. This story has the Silver Surfer, Avengers, Namor, the Watcher, and the Shi'ar, and it's still good. The pacing is kind of weird, and I'm not sure why we need another origin flashback, but the story still reads well for being almost 3o years old.
As for the actual story, I don't know, it had some really funny moments. The whole Sue/ Namor make-out scene is one thing I'm still discovering about FF comics across generations. I know Sue and Namor have a history, but I thought they would stop kissing after she got married. It's kind of odd to see. It's almost like Sue is totally allowed to flirt with Namor, and Reed just understands it.
I'm going to make a blanket statement about the Watcher-he really sucks at just "watching" things. He is always intervening. I think the character is a great concept, especially for the story he was first used in (the coming of Galactus), but now he appears all the time. Events aren't even noteworthy when he shows up. "Hey let's have cake!"... and there's the Watcher.
I thought the trap that Reed was put into was rather creepy, and it's cool to see him stuck somewhere that he can't get out of (kind of like when he gets blasted into puddy in secret Invasion #1). I also thought it was great to see Sue take charge. I don't know what the official FF charter says, because I never knew she was second-in-command. I guess I always thought Ben would be. Until next time (trust me, I read ahead, and you won't want to miss what happens in the next review!), Vive le Fantastique!