FANTASTIC FOUR #297-298 (1986-1987): Johnny proposes to “Alicia”

Roger Stern begins his run with two legendary Marvel arists: The brothers Buscema!

It was widely accepted that John Byrne’s run on FF was the best since Stan and Jack’s first 100 issues (the best run in all of comic history), and rather than run from such a daunting precedent, Stern begins by accelerating the pace.  In these two issues, Johnny proposes to Alicia Masters—Thing’s old girlfriend—while Thing sulks in a full-body suit (so nobody can see how ugly he is).  We know now that this will be retconned so it’s a skrull and not Alicia, but it’s nice how Roger Stern builds quickly on what Byrne established, making his own creative space by rapidly moving along the plotlines.


These issues also use the interesting literary device of paralleling Ben’s conflict with two aliens, who are brothers, who were also mutated as a result of Reed Richards’ experiments and who come to Earth for revenge.

At one point, during a space battle, Thing decides to allow himself to drift off and die.  Thing’s always been on the mopey side about his appearance, but this extreme.  We’ve never seen this kind of behavior before.  Again, Stern is taking the threads from the last run and pouring gasoline on them. 

At the same time, the sequence reads more like a cry for attention than an actual suicide attempt.  He debates with Johnny Storm, complains about Alicia doesn’t love him (uh, Ben, YOU left HER to stay on the Secret Wars planet), etc. 

 It’s a good beginning to run that gets cut short due to fights with editorial—the same reason John Byrne left.

Meanwhile, Franklin still has dream powers.  And Jennifer and Wyatt are still very much a thing.

The team also fights a pinhead.


Jim Shooter’s term as Editor in Chief produced what I think are some of the best superhero books of all time, but he showed a remarkable inability to get along with the talent.

2 thoughts on “FANTASTIC FOUR #297-298 (1986-1987): Johnny proposes to “Alicia””

  1. I don’t believe there was anything phony about the Thing’s attempt to “let himself go” in this issue. I have often wondered about the Thing. For my own life, I have never understood what kept the Thing going. There would be no way I could live with his deal. I believe that he had a very strong support system with the FF, and, improbably, Alicia Masters. What are the actual odds that a monstrosity like the Thing could actually find a cutie-patootie like Alicia Master to fall in love with him-?? Pure funnybook hokum. To me, it seems like the Thing would have been wishing for death all along. How could the cosmic rays have been so kind to Reed, Sue, and Johnny, and so cruel to Ben Grimm?? We learned in the first “Secret Wars” miniseries that none of the Marvel characters who received their superpowers through radiation-cosmic or otherwise- actually did so arbitrarily. Most of the classic Marvel bunch were granted their superpowers by a cosmic space-god named Master Order. Radiation was simply the deux ex machina through which this being did his work. Seriously- how could human beings survive being blasted by cosmic radiation in space, let alone be granted incredible superpowers by them-?? Or given heightened senses by an isotope, or even survive the bite of a radioactive spider, let alone be gifted with awesome superpowers by them-?? No, no- the rise of the 1960’s Marvel bunch was nothing short of the Gods at work. That explanation, provided to Mr. Fantastic by Galactus during the first Secret War, makes much better sense to me than anything previously stated. But it sure was cruel to Ben Grimm. You have to have your humanity in order to exist in this world, and poor Ben lost his. So, I have no trouble believing that Ben would, from time to time, want to end his life. On other points, I believe that by this point in their careers, the Buscema Brothers were running out of gas. Their pencils are tired-looking, as if they’re bored with their work. I don’t believe they had much further to go, as John retired, and passed away in 2002. Sal is fully retired, and living the good life, from what I understand. I have always had a hard time understanding the She-Hulk’s affection for Wyatt Wingfoot. Wyatt is a stand-up guy, and all-educated, intelligent, and probably a sensational conversationalist, but Jennifer has been pounded on occasion by Hercules, so how could a mere mortal-even one as masculine as Wyatt Wingfoot-possibly follow that-??? ( maybe she’s settling, since Hercules is not quite “marriage material” ) Oh, well, I hope she and Wyatt are happy. When you think about it, there isn’t a great deal of marital happiness in the Marvel Universe. Maybe they’ve found it.

    • “Jennifer has been pounded on occasion by Hercules”. Good line,

      I still like the Buscemas’ work, but I take your point. They weren’t trying as hard to impress once they became legends.


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