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Fantastic Four #286: Review

Jan 1986
John Byrne, John Byrne

Story Name:

Like a Phoenix

Review & Comments

5 stars

Fantastic Four #286 Review by (August 25, 2023)
Comments: Cover bannered: “It continues here! X-Factor” and “Collector’s Edition! 30 pages—no ads.” The Marvel Database entry for this issue has an incredibly long list of continuity and chronology notes; the curious (and obsessed) are referred there. The FF are returning from the space adventure in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #19. Jean Grey’s last memories are of the events of X-MEN #98-100; the Phoenix Force possesses Jean in issue #101. Issue contains a rare mention of the FF knowing there’s a comic book based on their adventures. Chris Claremont revised the writing for pages #24-29; Butch Guice redrew pages 24-26; this was the section with Jean’s memories of meeting the Phoenix.

Review: Well, here’s a surprise: one of the major X-Men developments of their long illustrious (and illustrated) career took place, not in an X-Men title but an issue of FANTASTIC FOUR. A special, extra-long issue with ties to the Avengers and X-Factor, true but still, it’s an issue of the non-mutant FANTASTIC FOUR. The big revelation? Jean Grey wasn’t Phoenix! Her sacrifice didn’t happen! She’s alive and well and under the sea! True, this development negates one of the most powerful Marvel moments by bringing her back but if you’re going to do that, this was a brilliant way to go. The Holempathic Crystal sequence is quite compelling and even Reed’s exposition-heavy follow-up goes down rather easily. Oh and if you’re curious, the person Reed calls on the last page is Warren “Angel” Worthington. Now you can get to sleep tonight.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Fantastic Four #286 Synopsis by T Vernon
Story continued from AVENGERS #263.

The Fantastic Four return from space and request clearance to land at JFK airport but are denied; Reed Richards offers to help but is told the Avengers are on the scene. The FF land at LaGuardia instead and go to Avengers Mansion where they are greeted by Captain America, Hercules, and Jarvis. Cap fills Reed in and shows him the capsule recovered. Reed touches it and is repelled, his muscles locking into rigidity; Invisible Woman throws up a force field to cushion his fall. Sue then uses her power to make the capsule transparent and slowly the image of a woman is revealed. When matters start to become serious, Human Torch and She-Hulk excuse themselves to head out to visit their significant others….

After hours of work, Reed has locked onto a faint brainwave pattern, indicating the woman is in suspended animation. He tries stimulating her conscious mind and suddenly gravity shuts off in the Mansion, the pod hatches, and Jean Grey emerges. She is startled to find she is not in the SHIELD satellite anymore but doesn’t trust any of the heroes, assuming they are robot duplicates created by Stephen Lang. She pins the heroes to the ceiling with her telekinetic powers—and then Sue arrives and uses a force field to punch Jean in the face. Jean refuses to submit so Sue encloses her in a field which her powers cannot penetrate and the guys fall to the floor. Here, Reed recognizes her as the long-missing Marvel Girl and asks Sue to drop her force field, showing Jean they trust her. She describes her last memories, the Sentinels’ attack on Christmas Eve years earlier. Jean asks to see the X-Men but Cap informs her that they are fugitives, associating with Magneto. Jean panics and pleads to be taken to her parents’ house. Reed thinks that’s a bad idea as her parents will have thought she was dead for several years but Sue persuades him, pointing out that Jean is on the verge of cracking up….

Reed, Sue, and Hercules accompany Jean to her family’s home, Captain America saying he’ll catch up with them later. Herc inadvertently breaks the door down and they find the house empty. They discover a Holempathic Matrix Crystal of Jean, a device of advanced technology that records the essence of a deceased person; Reed thinks that if Jean touches it, the crystal will restore her memory. Jean is afraid….

Back at the Mansion, Cap is looking up a file on Jean Grey/Marvel Girl made by the Beast when he was an Avenger. It details how Jean was transformed into Phoenix, turned evil, threatened to destroy the universe, and then killed herself. Beast tells of the Holempathic Crystal created by the Shi’ar and expresses deep fear should the Phoenix ever return….

Jean touches the crystal and everyone can see her memories, a NASA space shuttle crashing to Earth, Jean taking control of the craft, bringing it down safely while her telekinetic powers keep out the deadly radiation. Bombarded by cosmic rays, Jean holds on and the Phoenix Force appears to her and they merge, creating a new being because Jean wants the power to save her friends. Then in the present Jean regains her full memories and then collapses. Reed explains that the Phoenix was convinced it really was Jean while her body lay recuperating in the pod under the water. Captain America arrives and fills in the rest based on Beast’s file: it was Jean’s personality in the Phoenix that caused it to turn good at the last minute and destroy itself to save the universe….

Epilogue: Jean decides to stay at the Mansion until she can think of a good way to tell her family where she has been. Even though the X-Men are out of reach, Reed does know someone he can call….

Story continued in X-FACTOR #1.

John Byrne
Terry Austin
Glynis Oliver
John Byrne (Cover Penciler)
Terry Austin (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)
Letterer: John Workman.
Editor: Michael Carlin. Editor-in-chief: Jim Shooter.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
Human Torch
Human Torch

(Johnny Storm)
Invisible Woman
Invisible Woman

(Sue Storm)

(Edwin Jarvis)
Mr. Fantastic
Mr. Fantastic

(Reed Richards)

(Jennifer Walters)

> Fantastic Four: Book info and issue index

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