1981 · The 80s

April 1981: Fantastic Four 232 – Or I’m not sure how close you’d want to be to Sue Storm

Fantastic Four 232 - 00Fantastic Four 232 - 01

Fantastic Four 232 was written and drawn by John Byrne, with inks by Bjorn Heyn and opens with Diablo monologuing about how the Fantastic Four will soon fall to his power, before his landlady comes to his door to complain about the smells from his apartment. He complains about having to use potions to disguise himself, but it’s just as impractical to conjure images of his victims, surely?

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Anyway, he conjures up four elemental creatures who seek and destroy the Fantastic Four. First an earth elemental finds Susan (Invisible Girl) Richards, who is getting a hair cut. When the hairdressing staff leg it, Sue makes her costume visible and ditches her usual clothes. Now lets think about that for a second, she’s wearing a full set of clothes, over a spandex (or unstable molecular fabric equivalent) jumpsuit. Imagine how hot that’d be. All I’m saying is, I’d not be down-wind. As this is happening, a water creature attacks Ben (The Thing) Grimm while he is on a date with long suffering girlfriend Alicia Masters. A wind creature attacks Johnny (The Human Torch) Storm while he is trying to profess his love for Frankie Raye, who is hoping he will get the hint and back off, we all know Johnny, that’s not too likely now is it. At the Baxter Building, Reed (Mr Fantastic) Richards is faced by a fire creature and starts to do the maths.

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He finds and helps the remaining three, using his scientific mind to work out to stop these creatures means to change their states of matter. Ben is nearly drowned, being saved by a shop assistant with a scuba tank, until Sue shows up with her monster, followed shortly by Reed and when they start switching opponents, we get an “Its Clobbering Time!” which is always highlight.

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The monsters are defeated, including the fire creature which is bested by Johnny, without help from the others and Reed deduces that the creatures are crude monsters of alchemy, crude rules out Dr Doom, but leaves them with Diablo to deal with. After getting some help from Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four catch Diablo and hand him over to the authorities for using stolen historical pieces to conjure his monstrous elementals. Doctor Strange has an odd and stilted internal monologue and we get the next issue box.

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Notes: This is the early part of one of the great runs of the Fantastic Four, certainly one of my top 3 and I imagine that to be true of most readers. Problem is, it’s the early part and Byrne hasn’t got it all nailed yet, his ongoing issue with using the last page to explain the plot and his tendency to draw Reed as a nerdy lab rat does take a little something from this issue.

That said, what he does right, is amazing. The art is dynamic, the characters look great. The scene with Mr Fantastic leaving the building and finding his family is a joy, full of bounces and ridiculous stretches and Byrne does a great Thing. You can see the beginning of this legendary era and I know that I’ll be reading more of these Fantastic Fours, as I suggest many do. Byrne had great runs on many  characters, but his Fantastic Four stuff raised the bar for him as  writer as well an artist and comics in general were better off as a result.

 

Next Time: Iron Man meets his Doom, well Doctor Doom at least.

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