Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Time Out: Fantastic Four, One Will Fall...
I'm not much of a Fantastic Four fan. Over my nearly 30 years of reading comics, I think I've bought a total of 14 Fantastic Four comics, and the trade paperback of Grant Morrison-scribed miniseries. They've just never been my thing. Except the Thing. I've always loved that guy. Marvel-Two-In-One, yeah, now we're talking. I found the family dynamic and more notably Reed and Sue's deathly dull relationship to be what nullifies it for me (PUN!). That's why I was actually a big fan of Dwayne McDuffie's short run on the series where Reed and Sue were off on a second honeymoon or something and Black Panther and Storm took their place. That I could get behind.
I've been reading and highly enjoying Jonathan Hickman's bi-monthly S.H.I.E.L.D. series, which explores the history of the Marvel universe and their secret society of protectors through the ages, and I recently devoured Hickman's Secret Warriors, which pits Nick Fury and his cunning coordination and espionage skills against not one, but two potentially world-dominating nefarious groups. All this great mythology building is what Hickman specializes in and based on this strong output, last week I picked up the first two trades of his Fantastic Four run. In it, he's done the impossible. He's made Reed Richards seem cool. And I'm enjoying the hell out of it. He went big...nay, huge with the first storyline in which various Reed Richards' from different dimensions have coalesced into a super-think-tank to solve not just one worlds' problems but all of the problems on all of the worlds. Fix everything. Of course it goes horribly wrong, and there are Galacti and Celestials involved, and it's all cooler than Jesus. Hickman really gets into Reed's mind and seems intent on building him as a character.
Which leads me to today.
I've been hearing about the "death in the family" story for months now, but given my lack of general interest in FF, I've not cared so much. But with my newfound enthusiasm I have cause to speculate who it could be, and what happens afterward.
So here's what I think.
It's Reed... it seems that it's just being set up to be that way. Build him up, then break him down. Reed is the man and motivation behind the FF, so what happens when you take that away. That's some meaty storytelling right there.
I thought it might be Johnny/Human Torch, since that character has been stagnant in personality and character since the 1960s, but that's the obvious choice. Reed's death might force him to grow up.
I thought it might be Sue, the heart of the team, as what would happen to Reed if she were gone. Would he adopt the role as the heart of the team and single father or disappear into his own brain? But Sue is the feminine presence on the team and I don't see her being the one.
Ben? The Thing? Not going to happen. He's too popular, and an Avenger. Yes there would be shock value in it, but other than that, his death contributes nothing.
So Reed it must be, right? Plus it leads to the obvious question, who can replace him? Who has a big enough brain to take over the Fantastic Four and lead them on massive adventures through space, time and dimensions? Three answers:
1) Valeria Richards, Reed and Sue's impossibly super-genius 3-year-old daughter, who claims her intellect has already surpassed her fathers, although she definitely lacks experience and wisdom. Why she might not be? Sue wouldn't let her.
2) Nathanial Richards, Reed's father, whom Hickman has been writing in SHIELD and abandoned Reed for global-protector duty when he was a teenager. We're not sure Nathanial's fate, except that Reed hasn't seen him since that day so long ago. With Reed gone, and Hickman's obvious attraction to this character, he seems like a probable choice. Plus, he would have the imperative to try and find a way to bring Reed back.
3) Victor Von Doom. Wouldn't that be a kicker? The guy whose genius rivals Reed but has been used for his own nefarious end has a breakdown of sorts after Reed's death and then imposes himself as Reed's successor.
I'm going to try and keep myself willfully ignorant of who it actually is for the months/year to come until the trades hit and I know I'm not going to have much luck with that but I will try. It's fun to still have some surprises in life.
So within 40 minutes of writing this post I was out picking up lunch, thumbing through the local freebie daily newspaper looking for the Oscar nominations when my eyes paused on a comic book image and unconsciously read the headline which spoiled it all.
Sigh. Missed opportunities. So disappointing, all around.
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I had my money on Sue. She's the glue that holds that family together. Without her Ben would be more depressed, Reed forget all social niceties, and Johnny would finally be forced to take responsibility for his actions. It would have been great.
The only problem I have with the idea of Reed dying, is I've already seen it. There's almost three years of books in the 90s that dealt with a Reed-less Fantastic Four. Not that you should go back to check it out at all, because it was straight up terrible. All that mid-90s Defalco stuff is best left in the mists of time.
Regardless, I agree with your sentiment that they missed an opportunity with this death.
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