What If? #36 (1982)

After enjoying John Byrne’s artwork so much in yesterday’s blog entry, I decided to pull out another Byrne comic from his golden era. This one’s from four years later than the one I discussed yesterday, and it was released in the midst of Byrne’s famous run on Fantastic Four, which is still being collected these days. The story is "What if the Fantastic Four had not gained their super-powers?" and it’s actually rather fun. Instead of stealing a rocket and going into space, Reed waits and is able to travel to another galaxy and become a hero. One day, New York is attacked by a giant monster, the very creature from the cover of Fantastic Four #1, and Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben try to find out what’s going on. Of course, the monster is sent to the surface by the Mole Man, and hilarity ensues.
It’s actually a very nice story. Byrne obviously loved the interplay between the characters and the way they integrated as a family, so he plays up the relationships between each of them. The story zips along, in some really pretty silly directions, but Byrne’s confidence and passion for the material helps it along.
He artwork also helps it along. This story is both pencilled and inked by Byrne, so we’re pretty much getting unfiltered John Byrne in this one. The art, on the whole, is pretty nice. He was an odd habit of doing sketchy drawings of undifferentiated blobs to take the place of backgrounds, but his illustrations of the main characters are just wonderful, and he uses some clever storytelling tricks. When Sue and Ben escape through an air shaft, the cross-section view of the shaft is really nice and clever.
I’m not a big fan of Byrne’s current work, but this older stuff is wonderful.

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