November 1986: X-Men vs Fantastic Four 1 Or, I think Reed might need some help.

 

Synopsis: ‘Are you sure’ was written by Chris Claremont with art by Jon Bogdanove and Terry Austin and opens with Franklin Richards dreaming about his father Reed ‘Mr Fantastic’ Richards killing the X-Men and the other members of the Fantastic Four before reading an old journal and finally becoming Doctor Doom.

When he awakes,  crying out, Reed is …… somewhat less than sympathetic asking for his wife Sue ‘Invisible Woman’ Richards to come and deal with the child. Later Sue is having a clear out. She comes across an old journal of Reed’s that Franklin recognises from his dream. Over the past year or so, Franklin has been able to predict the future with his dreams, so this leads him to believe that this journal will only cause pain to his family.

   

We then visit Muir Island off the coast of Scotland, where the X-Men have moved the injured survivors of the recent  Mutant Massacre, including the comatose Kurt ‘Nightcrawler’ Wagner, the paralysed Piotr ‘Colossus’ Rasputin and the rapidly discorporating Kitty ‘Shadowcast’ Pryde. At Dr Moira McTaggart’s Mutant Research Centre, the diagnosis is not good. The problem is that Kitty’s phasing power is out of control and soon she will start to suffer irrepairable brain damage and then she will phase beyond her ability to re-intergrate and she will fade into nothingness. During a call to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, where the headmaster Magneto brings up the idea of using machinery recently developed by Mr Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. He tells the rest of the X-Men (Storm, Psylocke, Rogue and Wolverine) that he will make contact with the Four. Speaking of, Sue  confronts Reed about the journal, which has created a great amount of upset.

Scotland again and on a speed boat, X-Men members Alison ‘Dazzler’ Blaire and Longshot find a man lost at sea and take him back to Muir Island, he’s smiling ominously,

Greenwhich Village and in a library above a coffee shop, Jennifer ‘She-Hulk’ Walters and Ben ‘The Thing’ Grimm bump into one another while Ben is sorting about paperwork to recertify as a pilot (It’s easy to forget he is a skilled pilot isn’t it?) and Jen is researching the trial of Magneto for an upcoming mock-trial she is doing and the two debate whether you can defend somone like Magneto. There is a nearby construction site fire and Jen and Ben help alongside Johnny ‘Human Torch’ Storm and a conveniently flying past Magneto and this foursome actually put the fire out and prevent the building site from being completely demolished.

 

Magneto uses this lack of initail fight trope to talk arrange a meeting with Reed to ask for his help to save Kitty. He agrees, but this only serves to increase the tension between him and Sue who bows out from the mission to Muir Island, her seat taken by Jen, who just sort of tagged along as a former FF member. On the flight over, Reed asks Ben if he is ruthless. Ben sees it more of a pragmatic certainty. Reed analyses and deduces until he is certain of what is right and then goes after it, certain that he has the right motives and is doing the right thing and is unwavering in that. That’s sort of ruthless. This conversation while explaining a lot of Reed’s character, leaves Reed more at sea than he already was, which isn’t good for anyone.

Arriving on Muir Island, Reed assesses Kitty’s condition and informs the X-Men that there’s nothing he can do to help Kitty. Wolverine being the calm and rational voice of reason decides to attack Reed and demands he saves her or he dies as well.

Notes:  I am a fan of both the Fantastic Four and also of Chris Claremont’s X-Men and this was supposed to be ideal for me, but it kind of left me a little cold. There’s little wrong art-wise Terry Austin is a light touch and allows Jon Bodganove to keep everyone on-model without sacrificing his own artistic style, so it all looks very good. There’s the usual Claremont-ey dialogue on the X-Men side and the use of the Mutant Massacre as a plot device is well done, retroactively adding stakes to that story and fully utilising the serial nature of comics to create new stories based on what has gone before.

So if all that is good, you could be forgiven for asking what my problem is. My problem is that the FF part of the plot and the ominous journal which has a  real Chekhov’s gun feel to it and it’s shaking of the cast iron confidence of Mr Fantastic ( you have to be damn confident to pull of having that name) feels more like it should be a Fantastic Four story on it’s own, because all it does it leave what could be really interesting character work in the hands of someone who doesn’t have the feel of that character. I am a huge admirer of the body of work of Chris Claremont, when that man was on form, there was no one who could match him and a plethora of writers learned from him. Problem was, this wasn’t a set of characters he either created or knew that well, so his Reed comes off as unlikeable, his Ben comes off as curmudgeonly, without all the other flavours that he usually shows and Sue and Jen just react, rather than have their own characters and agency. The only bit of FF characterisation that I liked was when Reed asked if he was ruthless. That’s a fantastic bit of character exploration, but it felt a bit out of place. This was a bit of a botched recipe of a comic. All the things in here were very good, but the mix wasn’t right and so the whole thing left a bit of an aftertaste. I wanted to like this comic and with the exception of a single scene, I didn’t.

Next time: New Mutants go awol.

 

 

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