Sometimes you just have a feeling about certain characters and stories. You know that they will speak to you, that they will resonate, that they will matter. I had a hunch about the Fantastic Four. I’m not sure why, precisely. I’ve seen them pop up as a group or individually in many other comics but hadn’t read many stories concentrated on them as a unit. I think of them as a family in a way that’s not even close to how I perceive The Avengers or any other superhero team. I consider the F.F. Differently. That a group of people with superhuman powers can function together they way the F.F. do? It’s a powerful draw to me. Part of it is that the group includes the longest running couple in comic book history. Relationships like that aren’t given their due or written properly often enough in comics.
Anyways, I picked up F.F. with anticipation and expectations. I was not disappointed.
Their powers and the way they use them are awesome. For me though, the people are what dragged me into these stories head over heels. You’ve got the guilt-ridden, super smart and practical Reed Richards, the inventive and witty Sue Storm, the rambunctious and mildly immature Johnny Storm, and the ever loyal and hot-tempered Ben Grimm. Somehow those four personalities and the super powers that accompany them go together in a natural way. They have their over the top moments, but only a few. Just like real people, emphasis on the real part. Reading about these characters is like hanging out with your coolest friends.
Take Reed and Sue for example. I adore them. It’s so important to me that significant others of superheroes have purpose, that they’re not just being washed out by the shadow of glory. Reed and Sue stand on equal ground and as true partners. They work just as well together whether they’re Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Girl or their more normal selves. They fight villains like Doctor Doom but also take some time to go on a picnic with their son. Sue is patient with Reed, and he is loving with her. It’s enough to make you heart melt but not so sappy that it’s ridiculous. They both have a clear understanding of priorities and their responsibilities.
I also appreciate how Reed Richards is one of the smartest men in the world, but it doesn’t diminish the people around him. He doesn’t hold it over their heads or act arrogant (he’s no Tony Stark). In fact, I think the presence of the others strengthens his genius. Every superhero should be envious of the way the F.F. supports each other. Could you imagine how much less angst there would be if they were all in groups like this one?
As much as I enjoy seeing Reed and Sue play off each other, I might be more fascinated by Reed and Ben’s friendship. Though maintaining it seems to be a constant struggle, neither of them are willing to give up on it completely. And goodness, there’s plenty to be angry about it. Reed is to blame for Ben’s transformation to the Thing. Sure, it was an accident. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make Reed or Ben’s burdens any less. Reed is faced with his friend every day. The Thing has to look in the mirror every day. I’m amazed that friendship can conquer those feelings.
But they live with it. When Reed isn’t saving the world, he tries to undo the damage. The Thing mopes about his appearance, and he has every right to. He knows he’s gained strength and the power to help others, but he’s lost any chance at a normal life. Unlike the rest of the team, he can’t even blend in with a crowd. Watching his mood swings about his state throughout the pages, well, you can’t help but feel sorry for him and Reed.
Those kind of complex relationships? I’m into comics for those as much as I am super powers and villains and fights and amazing art. I can’t wait to read more Fantastic Four.