Fantastic Four #249-250 (1982-1983)

IMG_0879One of my all-time favorite stories: The Fantastic Four versus Superman!

OK, not really, but the Shi’ar warrior is basically the Man of Steel, which is ironic because after John Byrne left the FF—due in part to battles with Marvel management—DC scooped him up to reboot Superman. 

Gladiator, as a soldier for the Shi’ar Empire, chases some rogue skrulls to Earth, who use their shapeshifting ability to trick him into fighting the FF.  Gladiator speaks no English, and rather than use a facile “universal translator,” Byrne allows the communication barrier to accentuate the misunderstanding and give us a giant-size issue featuring a battle across NYC, featuring Spider-Man and Captain America.

Byrne uses the Spidey appearance to pay tribute to the character’s very first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15!

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The X-Men appear, but it’s really skrulls. Still, it’s always nice to see Byrne drawing those characters again.
Ultimately, the FF and their friends are unable to defeat Gladiator with brute strength, so Reed Richards resorts to science. Nice touch.

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There’s also a nice tease where Franklin Richards threatens to bring the hammer down, but he’s recently dampened his own abilities when he became an adult and realized the extent of his vast power.

Creator: John Byrne
Grade: A+

For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.
And see my Ratings of Runs on comics here.
Spider-Man, Cap A, gladiator, FF, 1982, 1983

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