Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fantastic Four #232

It's no secret that artist John Byrne and writer Chris Claremont were often at odds with each other when it came to the stories and their contents during their historic run on The Uncanny X-Men.

Not long after they finished their stellar storylines of The Dark Phoenix Saga and Days Of Future Past both artist and writer came to a creative loggerhead.

Claremont's prima-donna attitude tended to rub Byrne the wrong way because he considered himself just as important as Claremont when it came to plots and character development.

When Claremont decided to take the characters in a completely different direction than Byrne agreed with, that was the final straw that broke the camel's back.

Byrne quit The Uncanny X-Men and requested to be both writer and artist on Marvel's flagship title: The Fantastic Four.

Byrne believed, and rightly so, that the FF no longer held the magic and wonder it did during the Lee/Kirby years.  The sense of wonder, adventure and especially its daring had been lost over the intervening years.

Considering that the FF was responsible for introducing so many important storylines and characters, the title had devolved into little more than a superhero soap opera.

Byrne changed that with his very first issue as writer/artist: issue #232.

Byrne brought back one of the FF's classic villains: Diablo.

With its stunning cover showing effigies of the FF lit aflame by Diablo, illuminated in light with heavy shadows, the book hits the ground running as Diablo lets loose his elementals, matching them against the FF's individual powers.

Only by switching elemental opponents does the FF win the day.

Often this issue is overlooked in its importance.  Having just come off the X-Men's ground-breaking run, Byrne's FF work tended to take a back burner.

And yet, if you examine each issue's storylines you'll discover how the glory of the FF is brought back to the forefront.

Many old and familiar characters are brought back, new ones introduced and galaxy-spanning storylines were hatched that still affect the Marvel Universe until this day.

In fact, Byrne's FF run rivaled the sales figures of the X-Men, at times almost matching it or overtaking it.

For a true re-igniting of the fantastic that is the Fantastic Four John Byrne's run is almost as impressive as the Lee/Kirby classic issues.