FANTASTIC FOUR #261-262 (1983-1984): Trial of Reed Richards

Reed is taken by aliens, tortured, and put on trial for saving Galactus’ life during G’s last attempt to eat Earth.

I read somewhere—can’t recall where—that Byrne created this storyline in response to Chris Claremont’s treatment of Phoenix in the Uncanny X-Men.

Byrne couldn’t believe that Jean Grey and the X-Men would never be held accountable by a galactic tribunal for all the damage and destruction she caused, so he had Galactus eat the Skrulls’ planet just weeks after Reed Richards spearheaded the fight to save Galactus’ life (in F4 #244).

So he and editor Mike Higgins have an argument about it. As part of the Assistant Editors’ Month, Byrne makes himself an essential part of the whole story (Byrne himself is the court stenographer). It makes the tale a bit sillier, but it still works well.

Reed loses his case and is sentenced to death. But Uatu (once again) breaks his oath of noninterference. And brings a witness…


The Watcher is Reed’s lawyer and it is his “noninterference” that brings Byrne into the adventure.


Galactus is called as a witness.

That is a stunning two-page spread.

The trial includes many witnesses and stories, including Odin repeating Galactus’ origin.

The story is a little too compressed for my liking—I think it could have gone on several issues longer—but I understand that, particularly in the pre-Warren Ellis/Grant Morrison era, people didn’t really read comic books for lectures on ethics.

Like so much of Byrne’s work, this book was ahead of its time.

Also, this was on the letters page:

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