Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fantastic Four #269

Fantastic Four #269-"SKYFALL"
Cover Date Aug 1984 Price $.60
Cover Tagline: "Who is Terminus?"
Writer/ Artist: John Byrne

Story- We open the issue with a thoughtful Wyatt Wingfoot, who is the FF's longtime racistly stereotyped Native American compatriot. He's standing and surveying the open desert, thinking how he is a day away from taking over as the Chief of his tribe. Wyatt slightly laments this fact, because he has shared so many globetrotting adventures "off the reservation." (couldn't resist)

All of a sudden, our pondering guest star is surprised by a giant beam coming down from the sky, blasting the desert ground around him. Think of Wyatt as an ant, and the beam like a focused light from a giant magnifying glass, and you have the picture. Knowing that this big beam means trouble for his tribe, Wingfoot runs off to alert the proper authorities--you guessed it-- the Fantastic Four! After all, if you could call them, wouldn't you?

We jump to a lunch date between Johnny and some dirty skan--I mean young, fashionable lady named Shar. the two are catching up, because at this point in comics history the Fantastic Four had just returned from fighting a "Secret War" in space. While they're conversing, Alicia Masters, Ben Grimm's ex-girlfriend and blind friend of the FF walks by looking a bit lost. Johnny totally ditches Shar and proceeds to help Alicia cross the street, because she was looking for the museum. That's the punchline to the old joke "Why did the blind girl cross the road?" Anyway, Johnny approaches the whole thing with trepidation because Alicia's former lover, the aforementioned Benjamin Grimm, decided to stay in space and continue fighting the aforementioned "Secret War."

We cut to the Baxter Building, the home base of the Fantastic Four, where we find a contemplative Susan Storm. Wow, there really was a lot of contemplating going on back in the 80's, at least in comics. Sue is thinking about recently losing her 2nd child (in issue 267) due to her cosmically irradiated cells, and how sad it is that the doctor told her not to have any more kids. As she wallows in guilt, her young son Franklin busts in and asks where the heck Ben is, and if the family can go to their home in Connecticut. At this point in the comics, Sue and Reed had set up secret identities in a suburban neighborhood to try and give Franklin some sense of normalcy. You think Reed would have calculated that would be a waste of time ,given the FF's propensity for epic adventures, but alas Sue walks Franklin down to see his pops.

Reed is busy looking like an old man and putting together some new machine with the surprisingly hot She-Hulk, who is now a member of the team in the Thing's absence. As sickened as this reviewer is by people who go gaga over drawings of women in comics, he will admit that John Byrne's She-Hulk is proportionately ideal. As Reed and Shulkie continue to build the machine, Sue asks what it is, and Reed blows up like 3 pages of pseudo-science that I'm sure John Byrne thought was very clever.

Essentially the machine Reed's building pulls the kinetic energy from the sun and transfers it for use in other places, thereby giving the world a free source of energy. The only problem is that it's so much power that it makes the things it is stored in implode. It's those little kinks that make scientific discovery so much fun! As the friends are reveling in Reed's accomplishment, Wyatt calls up to tell Reed about the giant beam cutting through the land. And as any distinguished super hero would cry, Reed lets out a mighty "great scott!"

As Reed is on the phone with Wyatt, the giant destructive beam crosses next to Manhattan, and the president calls Reed and tells him to get on the case. Reed takes She-Hulk to accompany him to the desert where Wyatt initially saw the beam, and tells Sue to stay home. Sue gets quite upset, and uses her powers to trash Reed's lab. Remember kids, she's the most powerful member of the FF. Coupled with the fact that she is a woman, you don't want to make her mad.

Reed and She-Hulk head to the desert, and along the way they discuss how in her secret identity as a lawyer the She-Hulk actually encounters as many complexities as Reed does as a scientist. It's a funny thing to see how naive and innocent She-Hulk was when she first came out in comics, because now she's written as one of comics' more notorious harlots. As she and Reed fly towards the beam, he realizes that it is a search beam from a hundred light years away, which means whoever sent it was smart enough to calculate where the Earth would be in a hundred years. All of a sudden, a giant vessel of some sort descends from the great beam. Reed once again cements his old man status as he yells "great scott!" ...Shouldn't Perry White be suing him by now or something?

The beam stops, leaving a smoldering vessel on the ground. Reed and Shulkie go to investigate, and Wyatt meets up with them there. He introduces himself to She-Hulk and the romantic foreshadowing almost punches you in the face. Maybe this was the seeds of she-hulk's descent into promiscuity...

As they flirt, Reed looks over his data from tracking the beam's path across the United States. He notices the pattern, and uses his "Universal Translator" (which rivals the "Bat shark repelent" from the 1960's Batman movie as the most convenient tool EVER) to decipher that the beam actually wrote a message. The message, which is printed on a ticker tape not unlike a fortune cookie, reads "I claim this world- Terminus". As Reed looks on the back of the tape for his lucky numbers (not really!), She-Hulk asks the logical question of just who is Terminus? Well, much to no ones surprise, the once smoldering vessel that arrived with the beam stands up and reveals itself to be "Terminus...master of this planet!" She just had to go and ask, didn't she?

What I Thought- As a set up issue I liked it. You can tell this issue was resetting a few things after the Secret War mini-series had shaken up a few Marvel titles, and it's also got a lot of story beats that branch off in different directions. I've read a few of John Byrne's more current (90's) work, and it's not as tight as the storytelling in these old books. For such a prolific career, his FF work stands out to me as his defining moment. I mean, it has to be a tie with his work on "Superman- Man of Steel" from the mid 80's, but this just encompasses so much character history without reinventing it.

Despite my making fun of it, I liked the science sounding stuff in this issue. It's not often when you have to read a comic a few times just to make sure you know which kind of science it's talking about. Usually they don't even make it sound half way plausible now, as Iron Man can wear an invisible Internet on his body that can go in space and blow up tanks.

And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention She-Hulk's appearance in this issue. I once described the She-Hulk to my friend as that hot girl you know from a distance who seems really cool and interesting, but once you get to know her personally, she is so off-putting and repulsive you want to run in terror. I still feel that way about her, given that she was most recently written as an Ally McBeal rip-off, but it's nice to see her humble beginnings. Her personality almost seems "cute" in these FF issues, which is more fitting for someone who inadvertently gained super powers from a blood transfusion.

So overall, I really liked this issue. It's not as classic as a few of the others from the box that I've read so far, but I liked seeing Reed and She-Hulk just chilling. It would be nice to know how the rest of the story turns out, but the next review jumps forward in time. Oh well, such is the fate of he pulls from the box. Until next time, vive le Fantastique!


  1. Great Scott, this review was FANTASTIC!!! Sorry, I had to go there... Seriously though, you had me laughing several times during this post, and don't worry, I was laughing with you, not at you. This review was hilarious... I have to say, you took a comic that I read years ago(and didn't particularly remember)and made it laugh out loud funny. Great stuff Kello!

  2. X-man-

    As always, thank you for reading and commenting. If all I'm doing with this blog is writing mildly funny posts for you and me to laugh at, then it's totally worth it.

    I just think with these kind of longwinded reviews there has to be some "easter eggs" for people who really commit to reading the whole thing.

  3. Your definitely selling yourself short here Kello. This review was more then "mildly entertaining". It was downright hilarious!

    Yeah, I agree with that line of thought completely. I know I like reading reviews that have some personality to them. Oftentimes it can be tough reading through a cut and dry, plain comic review.