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Fantastic Five: She-Hulk & Marvel’s First Family

Another day, another Hulk. As we journey through the past of the publishing history of everyone’s favorite angry, green superhero, we find ourselves – once again in 1985. This time, though, we’re focusing in on She-Hulk, who takes the lead role in Fantastic Four #275.

Fantastic Four #275 is written and drawn by John Byrne, inked by Al Gordon, colorted by Glynis Wein, and lettered by Jim Novak. I’m partial to Byrne’s work because, as I’ve said before, some of the first comics that I love were from IDW Publishing’s various Angel series. My first exposure to Byrne was his work on that title, from his emotional ode to Lorne in a short, musical Angel: Music of the Spheres, to his dark and brooding Angel vs. Frankenstein one-shots, to his pulpy and epic war story Angel: Blood & Trenches. I have fond memories of those stories, so when I dip back into the history of these superheroes that I have come to love in adulthood, I feel a little bit like I’m running unexpectedly into an old friend on a journey.

This issue of Fantastic Four is unlike anything I’ve read from Byrne before, but is also unlike anything I’ve read from a Marvel comic book, full stop. There’s no epic battles, no real superheroics, no alien warlords… nothing like that. The issue is about – get this – She-Hulk chasing down photographers who took nude pictures of her from a helicopter while she was sunbathing. It’s wacky, light-hearted, and full of fun while still showing She-Hulk’s strength, sense of humor, and cunning.

After reading this, I was talking to Blastoff owner Scott Tipton about Byrne’s writing, and he made a great point: “Byrne thinks like an artist, even though he’s a good writer, and trusts the visuals to tell the story.” Scott hits the nail on the head here, but it’s not just because Bryne isn’t heavy-handed with dialogue. In some places, he is – to the benefit of the comic. When some artists dip into writing, the story becomes machine that cranks out ideas that will lead to cool images, rather than a functional story that allows for an engaging narrative and dynamic imagery. Byrne thinks like an artist in that he knows when to pull back on dialogue, letting the art tell the story in the moments where that would be best, and then stepping in with more text when necessary. It’s an incredible feat that Byrne, one of the best artists to ever grace the medium, is as good of a writer as he is an artist, but beyond being such an incredible feat, it’s also just true.

There are a few scenes with the core Fantastic Four members, but those are just quick pages that either follow from a previous issue or allude to a story coming up. The focus is very much on She-Hulk, who is the star. And you know what? I like this take on her just as much as the incredible Hulk #1, which was probably my favorite superhero comic from last year. But that’s no surprise – Byrne is a legend, and for damn good reason. If he can take a story about a green lady chasing down a photographer in a helicopter this engaging, then you know he’s earned that legendary status.

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