Reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. We’ve already established running your own country can be complex, but in issue #506, we learn that running a country while lying to your family is even more complex.
After defeating Dr. Doom in a battle that permanently scarred Reed’s face, Reed and the FF have taken over as the new leaders of Latveria, to fully undo everything Doom once did. This has caused an international incident, however, drawing ire from neighboring countries, the U.N., and S.H.I.E.L.D. Then, when Ben and Johnny investigated the local Latverian resistance, they were knocked out Doombots that were operated… by Reed!
This issue begins with crime on the rise in Latveria, something we’re told didn’t happen in Doom’s reign. A shopkeeper stops a mugger and forces him to return a lady’s purse, saying that the people must not allow Latveria to become a lawless state. The shopkeeper argues in favor of becoming a more civilized, compassionate people. Then he’s alerted to the Hungarians and other neighboring countries amassing troops at Latveria’s border to take back land they believe is theirs. The U.S. military is also present, further complicating things.
Nick Fury meets with Reed inside Castle Doom. Reed refuses to back down, saying what he’s doing is an “independent operation” and that he will not hand over Dr. Doom’s technology to anyone. Reed says he’s making progress and that Latveria will soon have its own democratic election. Fury says Reed has a deadline, and then he teleports out of there. Sue arrives and asks about Ben and Johnny. Reed says they are being disciplined. We see Ben and Johnny unconscious in a cell. They wake and threaten Reed. Reed admits he’s been using the Doombots to make public examples of the resistance movement. He adds that only the FF know he’s the one controlling the Doombots.
Sue, Ben, and Johnny jump into action, protecting the people from the Doombots. Reed stays behind, saying to himself, “Take that, Victor.” The Latverians celebrate, cheering the FF as heroes. Alone, Reed admits that what he’s doing is still not enough, and that he’s run out of time. The other three return to the castle, and Reed admits the fight was a set-up, so that the people’s allegiance will now be with the FF against Doom, when/if Doom ever returns. Sue confronts Reed on his behavior, and he admits he’s more after revenge because Doom scarring his face. But then, Reed says that during the fight in issue #500, their children were endangered not because of Dr. Doom, but because of Sue’s inaction. He tells her “You were utterly useless. No… less than useless.”
Before the FF have to time to react to this horrific backstab, things get worse. Reed informs everyone that Nick Fury’s deadline is up, and that the U.N. are about to begin a mass invasion of Latveria. Sue, Ben, and Johnny leave Castle Doom in hopes of contacting Fury and putting a stop to the troops. Once he’s alone, Reed writes a letter to his teammates, stating that he had to drive them away, and that he hopes that somebody they can forgive him.
At the border, Fury tells the three FFers that Reed has given him no choice but to attack, thanks to his refusal to negotiate the U.N. Fury says he plans to apprehend Reed and him convicted on charges of treason against the United States. The scene then cuts back to Reed’s letter, and we see he started it with the words, “By the time you find this, I’ll be dead.”
To be continued!
Unstable molecule: Fury says Reed is not willing to negotiate, but isn’t that what they’re doing at the start of the issue? And why doesn’t Fury just apprehend Reed when they’re in the same room? Maybe Reed was considered too powerful, surrounded by all of Dr. Doom’s tech, for Fury to take the risk.
Fade out: We’re not that far away from Marvel’s controversial Civil War mega-event, in which Sue and Reed will split up for a time. I wonder if the early seeds for the break-up are being planted with their conflict in this issue.
Clobberin’ time: In celebration, a bunch of Latverians lift up Ben and carry him around parade-style. Reminder that our old friend The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Deluxe Edition states that Ben weighs approximately 500 pounds.
Flame on: Johnny tells the Latverians not to look directly at him while he’s flamed on so they don’t hurt their eyes. But previous comics have established that he had relatively low light output when flamed on. I suspect this is him trying to sound like an awesome action hero, and not a continuity note.
Four and a half/Our gal Val: Reed takes a moment to ponder a photo of Franklin and Valeria before writing his fateful letter.
Trivia time: I tried looking up Nick Fury’s teleporter, but aside from listing “teleporter” among S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment, the Marvel Wiki has no other info on it. Other items listed under S.H.I.E.L.D. paraphernalia include beta-cloth, jetpacks, psi-blockers, hover-discs, hover-fliers, neutro-mist, uni-lens, floaters, sky-skimmers, sky-destroyers, and “conventional automobiles.”
Fantastic or frightful? It’s frustrating because the whole time, the reader is wondering why Reed doesn’t just tell his teammates about his master plan. Previous Fantastic Four stories have shown that Reed is at his best when working alongside his family, rather than shutting them out. All I can say is, this is pretty much the mid-point of a much larger saga that writer Mark Waid is going for, so there are more twists and turns to come.
Next: Mo’ Moebius, mo’ problems.
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