"What If The Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Super-Powers?"
Writer/Artist - John Byrne
"A Stunning Saga of an Alternate Reality!"
Byrne kicks off the issue with a two-page retelling of Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four origin. Then as usual, Uatu steps in introduces the moment where this alternate reality formed. Instead of risking their lives against those unknown cosmic rays, the team takes the necessary time to properly prepare and not only push past the cosmic rays but make their way to another planet, Epsilon Eridani, 11 light-years away.
Their success gets them government funding and with the patent for their Star-Drive, they create a scientific institute and band together as adventures. The team, donning their Richards caps and blue/black jumpsuits, investigate the disappearance of a nuclear power plant and have their first encounter with the Mole Man and his underworld legion of monsters.
This issue has a lot of big panels and a strong Kirby vibe. Byrne pencils and inks this issue, but I wish they had been able to get Austin to ink the interiors as well as the cover. At this time, Byrne was hitting his full stride on the Fantastic Four as Writer/Penciller. Compared to his regular work, this issue just didn't have the quality. And that may simply be because he was trying to pay homage to Fantastic Four #1. Feels like there was a lot of padding to the story and that Byrne was having fun with the story's panels and layouts.
The Fantastic Four story runs 20 pages and there's a back-up featuring Nova, "What If Nova Had Not Given Up His Powers?".