RETRO REVIEW: Fantastic Four #275 (February 1985)

by

Or – “What’s Big And Green And Has A Staple In Her Navel?”

Remember the time that a sleazy skin-mag tried to put one over on the cousin of the Incredible Hulk?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
80s Byrne art!
She-Hulk is wonderfully written.
Cons

A lot of setup for little payoff.
Racial slurs and sexual politics haven’t aged well.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)


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FF275CoverFANTASTIC FOUR #274
Writer: John Byrne
Artist: John Byrne
Inker(s): Al Gordon/Dan Adkins
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Diana Albers
Editor: Michael Carlin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 60 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00

Previously in Fantastic Four: Reed Richards and his best friend tested an experimental rocket-ship, accompanied by his tagalong girlfriend and her little brother, imbuing each of them with phenomenal cosmic powers.  When a nigh-all-powerful alien known as the Beyonder transported them (along with many of Earth’s other heroes) to an alien Battleworld, the team went through a week-long ordeal, at the end of which founding member The Thing decided to stay behind.  To fill the power gap, Reed recruited the Avengers emerald-hued powerhouse, the savage She-Hulk.  Since joining the team, She-Hulk (aka attorney Jennifer Walters) has moved to the FF’s Baxter building headquarters, even taking advantage of their rooftop to sunbathe, which is where our story picks up…

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First of all, I’m loving the old-school designer jean shorts.  Secondly, I’m uncertain why She-Hulk would be sunning herself, as generally I though that sunbathing was to tan the skin darker.  I suppose she COULD want to move from emerald to hunter green, but regardless, she didn’t expect to be peeped topless by an unscrupulous photographer…

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Miraculously, the sudden and off-balance addition of 700 pounds of muscle DOESN’T send the chopper crashing to the streets of Manhattan below, but the pilot does manage (after a few false starts) to scrape She-Hulk off his boat by slamming her through a building.  Luckily, Jen’s main squeeze Wyatt Wingfoot witnessed her hasty exit, and scoops up his lady-friend, having borrowed a sky-cycle from the FF’s fleet.  Unfortunately, the copter slips away in the confusion, leaving an angry and embarrassed She-Hulk…

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It’s lovely to see Jennifer falling back on her background as a lawyer to try to figure out the mystery before them, but I’m a little bit confused about some of the finer points of this issue (more on that later.)  She-Hulk tracks the bird to an airfield in New Jersey, and makes the scene in her inimitable style…

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She-Hulk’s term with the FF is an interesting run of issues, contrasting her fun-loving personality and enjoyment of her powers with The Thing’s general misery, made doubly-obvious by her taking his slot as team powerhouse.  Case in point: rather than resort to a flat-out confrontation with gamma-irradiated muscles, Jennifer Walters powers down and follows the leads to a sleazy boobie magazine called “The Naked Truth” using the power… of ATTORNEY!

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This is where things start to come off the rails for me, with the racial slurs aimed at Wyatt Wingfoot exacerbating the discomfort of the public nude-photos plotline, and the over-the-top skeeviness of The Naked Truth.  When Ms. Walters requests that they turn over all the negatives, she is told that she’s a public figure and thus they have the right to run the photos…

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With all legal recourse having failed her, Jen falls back on her secondary talent: Swift and blinding violence…

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Byrne really impresses me with the layouts this issue, especially in that sequence there, proving that the art, at least, has aged gracefully.  As for the story, I clearly remember reading this in my teens and finding the next part of the issue to be hilarious…

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But, for some reason, it’s not so much funny anymore, just kind of unsavory and a little bit dated.  Notwithstanding that she could have accidentally killed the helicopter pilot and photographer at the beginning of the issue, I’m a little disturbed at the idea that destructive actions by a 7-foot super-strong woman are really a karmic balance for the invasion of her privacy.  The last page of the issue gives us the punchline…

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…which only raises MORE questions.  This issue is designed to be a cute little story, which it sort of achieves, but the idea of someone taking pictures of a woman against her will and basically getting away with it isn’t as funny as it was to me in 1985.  Even so, Fantastic Four #275 has Byrne’s art going for it, and some lovely character work for our lead, which helps to smooth out some of the rough spots of the story vis-a-vis its utter creep-factor, earning it 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Still no real justification for the racial slurs, though…

Rating: ★★★½☆