Flashback Friday Friday Review: Fantastic Four #281
New York City is in flames due the hatred stoked by the Hate-Monger and his crew including the mysterious Malice (in bondage gear) and Psycho-Man, a concept and story you’d think was rather appropriate for this day and age. The issue is broken up with a few storylines including Daredevil leaping around attempting to stop a hate crime. Reed Richards and Johnny Storm are hold up at the Avengers Mansion attempting to figure out what’s going on and Johnny is more focused on a missing Alicia Masters.
All of that eventually leads to Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch and Daredevil battling Malice to eventually learn, it’s really Sue who has been brainwashed by the Hate-Monger who has brought out her anger towards her brother and Reed. A slap in the face later Sue is snapped out of it breaking down into tears.
Released in 1985 for a pocket breaking 65 cents, Fantastic Four #281 is a comic that can be read on its own but is best as part of the multi-issue story arc that’s going on at the time, which includes Secret Wars II.
Much of the issue is a set up for those final few pages featuring the confrontation with Malice. And lets focus on this incarnation of Sue Storm. There’s the skimpy bondage like out which you can catch some of on the cover. What’s missing is the leather mask featuring spikes an amazing top ten for questionable comic costumes of the time. There’s the motivation of Sue too which is chalked up to jealousy of everyone. And her being snapped out of it by a slap is icing on the cake of this particular issue as if Sue is “hysterical” and this will wake her. It just reeks of the trope of the hysterical woman and it’s almost comical if it weren’t so odd.
The oddity includes Daredevil’s segment which begins with his swinging around the city dealing with crime and protecting a woman who is being assaulted by two individuals. All of that leads to a rather infamous scene of the hero being punched by the woman who states:
Don’ touch me! I don’t want no jive honky touchin’ me!
This was 1985! Did anyone talk like that in 1985? I was all of six so don’t remember. Has anyone talked like that period!? It’s bad writing drawing upon a stereotype that today is humorous in how bad it is. And this was written by John Byrne who is considered a legend by many!
The art too is by Byrne with inks be the also legendary Jerry Ordway, colors by Glynis Oliver, and letters by John Workman. As I mentioned, Sue’s “Malice” personality is utterly hilarious in the design. Generally, everything is classic Byrne in its style and for those familiar with his work seeing the pages, it’s clear it’s him. None of it is absolutely amazing, but it’s classic for the time.
The issue is infamous for so many reasons, and what’s interesting is that the story and issue could easily be updated for today and be relevant in some ways. The idea of a person driving NYC to hate and tearing the city apart is a story that could easily fit in 2017 and with some tweaks, it’d be absolutely amazing. The parts that had me sighing are par for the time period with horrible costumes, moments that just don’t fly today, and a very different flow of the comic and dialogue compared to today.
It’s an interesting comic for the time showing off the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.
Story: John Byrne Art: John Byrne Inks: Jerry Ordway
Color: Glynis Oliver Letters: John Workman
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read