Sunday, April 21, 2019

Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus Volume 1 - Revisited

Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus, Vol. 1
Eight years after I initially reviewed this volume, I chewed my way through it again. I have many thoughts, some conflicting.

Byrne's back to basics approach to the Fantastic Four brought Marvel's first family back to prominence. The Skrulls seemed like a viable threat, Annihilus was a world-beater, and Byrne even got some serious mileage out of Terrax. Terror in a Tiny Town and Legacy are among my favorite Fantastic Four stories. The battle with Gladiator is high up on my list as well.

Galactus is given more depth by Byrne than a lot of his previous scribes. I think it was illogical for everyone to rally to save Galactus' life after he was defeated but business is business, as they say. While I think Byrne leaned on Galactus a little too much in this part of his run, the world-eater never looked better to me.

Doctor Doom was used sparingly by Byrne at this point, far from Lee and Kirby trotting him out every three or so issues back in the day. Like Galactus, Byrne showed Doom's complexity. Another thing I liked was that Byrne took some deep dives into the Fantastic Four's past, like Doctor Doom's mind-swapping power and the Skrull cows from issue #3.

Byrne's back to basics approach, while initially a great idea, was also the book's weakness in the long run. The book reads like a cover of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's greatest hits at some points. While Byrne injected some new ideas into the old concepts, he didn't really create anything new, in my opinion. I think the reason his run is so well received is that he modernized a lot of old Fantastic Four concepts, making them easier to read and better stories in general. His dialogue is still '80s comics dialogue, though.

I digested this omnibus a lot more slowly than the list time I took it on and I think I appreciated it a lot more. Byrne was on his A game in this volume and it shows. Unlike a lot of monthly comics for the time period, there weren't many filler stories. The Fantastic Four went from one world-threatening story to the next, as it should be.

Marvel is the house that the Fantastic Four built and John Byrne's run was a big reminder why. Four out of five stars.

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