Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Byrne Out


Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Volume 0, written by Marv Wolfman, Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo and John Byrne; illustrated by John Byrne, Joe Sinnott, Pablo Marcos and Dave Hunt (1979-80; collected 2010): What do you do when you decide to collect stories preceding the stories in Volume 1 of a reprint series, but want to keep numbering in sequence without renumbering the other entries? Go with zero. Though if there are any other John Byrne Fantastic Four stories uncollected, further volumes will have to go with fractions, or maybe irrational numbers.

Before Byrne started his 50-issue run as the writer and (usually) artist of the Fantastic Four in the early 1980's, he drew and/or wrote the Fantastic Four in several other issues of their magazine and other Marvel comics. That's what's collected here. It's all pretty enjoyable, though I never thought longtime FF inker Joe Sinnott was a particularly good match for Byrne's pencils. Oh, well.

The two-parter at the end of this volume, written and illustrated by Byrne, marks the first time he did that double duty on the FF's own magazine. It certainly points ahead to Byrne's interests when he would take over the comic about a year later, or at least his science fictional interests. Those stories not written by Byrne do serve, when set beside Byrne's later efforts, to highlight the fact that Byrne was the second-best writer the Fantastic Four ever had, after Stan Lee. The other volumes in this series are far more essential, but nonetheless Recommended.

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