John Byrne’s Fantastic Four Artist’s Edition (IDW / Marvel)

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Rating: 5/5 – A Fascinating Look Into the Mind of an Artistic Master
Collecting Fantastic Four Issue #s 232, 238, 241, 243, 247, 261 and What If 36

The Artist’s Edition hardcovers from IDW are the ultimate fetish object for comic book collectors. They’re big, heavy, and then there’s that wonderful, intense smell of printer’s ink. Adding to that, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four is one of the most fan-requested Artist’s Editions to date. Byrne’s long seventy issue run as writer/artist on the Fantastic Four in the 1980’s is one the most storied amongst superhero fans. This hardcover is another amazing addition to the series of IDW’s Artist’s Editions.

John Byrne’s artwork is a sight to behold at the full size at which it was originally created. Byrne inked all these issues himself, once using Bjorn Heyn as a pseudonym. Terry Austin inked six of the thirteen covers shown in the back of this book.  Artist’s Editions are full-size reproductions of the original comic book artwork page. This is the penciled and inked artwork before it’s colored. Comic books are penciled and inked on an eleven by seventeen sheet of paper. Then it’s sized down for reproduction in the booklet form as seen on the racks at comic shops. The layout of the sequential art was designed for the intended smaller page. It’s nice to see the sharp line work in this book at their full original size.

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The first issue in the book, #232, titled “Back to Basics,” has the Fantastic Four battling the sorcerer called Diablo. Diablo has conjured up four elementals to fight specifically with each of the FF. Byrne has chosen to render each of the elementals in it’s own unique way. The earth elemental is rendered with a rough, dry ink brush to resemble rock and dirt. The wind elemental is drawn in a lot of thin swirly lines. The water one uses a dot pattern to blur the image, and large thick to thin outlines. The fire elemental has a ton of pointy thin lines, and less of a human form than Johnny, The Human Torch. Byrne uses these as a unique way to reintroduce us to the FF team. Sue Storm, The Invisible Girl, uses her powers in some cool ways and kicks some serious bad guy butt. It’s a treat to see all this in its full glory on the comic book page.

These special hardcovers came along at a great time in the original artwork market. Prices for original artwork are at an all time high. There are many avid art collectors out there and that is who these books are aimed at. Although these books are also best for the common man such as myself. Any one of these pages as original art would cost way more than the cost of this $120 hardcover. Albert Moy Comic Art lists a single page out of FF issue #235 on their website for $2,800. This book would also make a perfect teaching tool for promising artists, illustrators, and comic book creators. You can get a better sense of what the artist is thinking and doing on the page with this type of book. All art departments and art schools should have access to this and other Artist Editions.

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This is the twelfth Artist’s Edition to be released from IDW and the fifth time Marvel and IDW have partnered on one of these: there was Walter Simonson’s Thor, John Romita’s The Amazing Spider-Man, Gil Kane’s The Amazing Spider-Man, and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil Born Again. These hardcovers will not be kept in print by IDW, and are not easy to find on store shelves long after they come out. The best way to get one is to follow IDW solicitations, and pre-order it through your local comic book shop (if you have one) or through IDW Artist’s Editions website, or another on-line comic book and trade retailer. This and all of IDW’s Artist’s Editions are highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Ian Gowan – ian@comicspectrum.com
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One Response to John Byrne’s Fantastic Four Artist’s Edition (IDW / Marvel)

  1. Andrew says:

    I added this one to my collection as well. Now that IDW is kicking out so many of these, I am cutting back but had to grab this one.

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