Review by Frank Plowright
It should be noted up front for fans who might remember John Byrne’s Danger Unlimited series from the 1990s, that this collection only gathers the four comics printed then without effort made to complete the story. It’s even puzzling that the collection is titled Danger Unlmited when there are actually considerably more pages of a second feature, Babe. Furthermore, the back-up features included in the original comics are absent here.
Both titles were originally published under the creator-owned Legend imprint, about which Byrne has plenty to say in the introduction, not much of it complimentary. Yet if ‘Danger Unlimited’ was a story he really wanted to tell, and he was disappointed by retailer orders then, why not take the opportunity to wrap it up here? As it is, the cover showing a bunch of characters is the only time they’re seen together.
It’s a pity as what there is of the title story instantly engages and keeps the attention. Byrne’s starting point is a desire to revisit his version of the Fantastic Four, but as he notes in the introduction, the story rapidly moves away from its inspiration. The present day is a dystopian future ruled by aliens, 75 years after Danger Unlimited lost their final battle. That’s what greets the revived Thermal, bereft of memory, after which Byrne switches between his progress, the surrounding world, and incidents from the past. These include an interesting variation on the FF’s origin, and Byrne pastiching the tone of the approximate Fantastic Four eras the flashbacks correspond to. He supplies mysteries, and some great art. If only he’d finished it.
‘Babe’ also harkens back to Byrne’s Marvel days, being the most frequent word spoken by a statuesque redhead with super strength. She’s first found naked at the side of the road by an unscrupulous, yet unsuccessful theatrical agent, and what follows is like Byrne’s version of a 1960s sitcom, perhaps I Dream of Jeannie starring She-Hulk. Babe herself is a mystery, very occasionally provided with lucid dialogue, and over four frequently silly chapters Byrne throws in some incompetent aliens and supplies all the answers. It’s intended as frothy fun, and it is frothy fun. A two chapter sequel is as well drawn as the remainder, but a largely pointless exercise, although readers who need to collect Hellboy’s every appearance will find a cameo. There’s a bigger role for Abe Sapien, and right at the end Byrne begins the process of connecting Babe with Danger Unlimited.
Anyone who remembers the comics fondly may want a collection, but for most casual readers the frustration of unfinished business will outweigh the joy of what is here.