FANTASTIC FOUR #236
(Cover by John Byrne and Terry Austin)
Published and © by Marvel, Nov. 1981
“Terror in a Tiny Town”
Synopsis: The Fantastic Four wake to find themselves living normal lives in a tiny town — at the mercy of Doctor Doom!
Writer: John Byrne
Review: Leave it to longtime Fantastic Four fan John Byrne to deliver a pitch perfect anniversary issue. Depowered and isolated from the world, Marvel’s first family still finds the moxie to rise up against Doom. Byrne’s storytelling is sure-footed from start to finish, and his art is excellent, as usual.
“The Challenge of Dr. Doom!”
Synopsis: Holding the Invisible Girl hostage, Doctor Doom sends the FF (minus the Torch, plus Herbie) to steal Blackbeard’s treasure.
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Jack Kirby
Inker: Chic Stone, Dick Ayers, Al Milgrom, Joe Sinnott, George Roussos (as George Bell), Sol Brodsky, Vince Colletta, Frank Giacoia, Pablo Marcos and John Byrne
Review: This “simplified version” of FF #5, cobbled from cartoon storyboards, is a mere shadow of Lee and Kirby’s past greatness.
Grade (for the whole issue): A+
Second opinion: “A triple-sized extravaganza … 8/10.” — Matt C, Paradox Comics Group.
Cool factor: The lead story is one of the best of Byrne’s five-year run. It’s also good fun playing who’s who with that wonderful cover.
Not-so-cool factor: Stan Lee is on the cover (upper right corner), but where the heck is Jack Kirby? According to Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed, he was there, but Jim Shooter ordered him removed. (Strained relations with Kirby might also explain why readers get a storyboard redo of FF #5 instead of an honest-to-goodness new story by the original Fantastic Four creative team.)
Notable: There is also a one-page text feature titled “In Case You Just Joined Us … .”
Character quotable: “Please, Reed! Must we go through this every time a dangerous task falls to me?” — The Invisible Girl, finally growing a set
A word from the writer/artist/editor/creator: “I had to do the definitive Fantastic Four story, such that if you’d never even heard of these guys before you could read this issue and come out of it knowing who they are and how they got that way. It also had to be worthy of being a twentieth anniversary issue … .” — John Byrne, in Comics Interview #25, 1985.