Invisible Woman #1
For years, Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman, has had a “side gig” in international espionage, a field to which her talents are uniquely suited. Who, after all, is better at stealth and covert activities than a woman who can cloak herself or anything else and erect invisible barriers?
During a long-ago mission to smuggle a scientist out of a hostile country, Sue worked with a handsome agent, Aidan Tintreach, who saved her from a sniper (and asked her out in spite of her being engaged to Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic). Now, years later, the CIA calls on Sue again. There is a group of college students who are being held as political prisoners in Moravia. At the same time, spies of that same country have captured Aidan and are torturing him for intel. The CIA has brought Sue in because of her past working relationship with Aidan, thinking she might be able to tell them from his message for help where the Moravians might be holding him. Aidan’s one-word message—“Stormy”—was the nickname that Aidan called her. (Sue’s maiden name is Storm.)
Of course Sue wants to mount a rescue mission to get Aidan out. And of course the CIA forbids it; if the Moravians have any reason to believe the US is acting against them, the college kids’ lives are forfeit. And of course, Sue Richards, being one-quarter of The Fantastic Four, decides to go anyway. When someone is in trouble, that’s what The Fantastic Four do. Even Col. Nick Fury can’t stop her. This, by the way, is the current iteration of Nick Fury, who is the biracial son of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Nick Fury (who appears in the flashback in the early part of the issue) and looks like Samuel L. Jackson, because Marvel wants the content of the comic books to reflect the content of the movies these days. I shudder to think what’s going to happen to the look of The Fantastic Four themselves once they become a part of “the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” But don’t get me started.
So off our Invisible Woman goes to Madripoor, that island of charming criminals and cutthroats that is Wolverine’s favorite hangout, and after dropping some would-be assassins, whom should she run into but The Black Widow, who’s also looking a lot like the movie version of herself these days. To be continued…
Fantastic Four fans who go way back and have really good memories may recall that during that period when Reed and Sue Richards nearly divorced and then reconciled, Sue flirted with the idea of not rejoining The Fantastic Four and becoming a private detective instead. (Don’t believe me? Get thee to Fantastic Four #158, wherein this idea is mentioned in one scene, True Believer.) It is through the magic of retcons we learn that Sue has been engaging in activities outside of The FF since before she and Reed were married.
Looking back on the way Sue was written in those days, it’s hard to reconcile the image of Sue as an international spy with the early Invisible Girl. (Remember, she wasn’t called The Invisible Woman until John Byrne got hold of her and put her through some things that made her decide she didn’t want to be called “Girl” any more. She changed her call sign at the end of Fantastic Four #284.) It’s not that Sue was ever a “weak” character. They’re The Fantastic Four; they don’t have a “weak” member. But back then, Stan and Jack didn’t seem to know exactly how to make her the character they intended her to be. In that first decade of Marvel Comics, The Invisible Girl had her own powers and was a brave young lass, but she could also be a bit stereotypically “feminine” and diffident, even frivolous. Making her retroactively a spy when she wasn’t a super-heroine is in keeping with her basic characterization as an adventuress, but it strikes me as a bit of revisionist history. Then again, revisionism of classic material is all the rage in comics and comics-related media these days, isn’t it?
When I look back at the classic Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four and see the exploits of The Invisible Girl, I see someone who could have been a spy, but was more interested in following her fiancé/husband and sticking close to her family. It’s almost as if the Susan Storm depicted in the opening flashback of this story and the Susan Storm of Fantastic Four #1-43 (and the married Sue Richards of the rest of Stan and Jack’s work) are two different characters.
Mark Waid and Mattia De Luis, in this story, have taken Sue out of the epic, super-pulp-science-fiction milieu in which we are most accustomed to seeing her as one of The Fantastic Four and dropping her into a very different kind of situation in which she will have to rely on very different instincts and inner resources. She can’t operate in the world of espionage in quite the same way as she does when facing her usual super-scientific, super-cosmic foes. Her super-hero compunctions against deliberately taking lives have already become an issue in this first part of the story, and are bound to continue to be one of many complications as we go rolling through the rest of it. It should be interesting to see what else Waid comes up with to put Mrs. Richards at odds with the classical super-hero ethic. Spies may be called upon to work in very different ways than super-heroes do, as we should be reminded when we get into Sue’s team-up with The Black Widow.
This first issue is mostly set-up, laying out the conflicts that The Invisible Woman will have to navigate and negotiate in the rest of the miniseries. If I’d been commissioned to do a miniseries about Sue, I would have put her in some super-cosmic, Earth-shaking Fantastic Four-type situation which she would have to face with no Reed, Torch, and Thing to help her. What Waid is doing here is to take Sue completely out of her usual element. However, being the heroine she is, Sue will doubtless come through like a champion.
Invisible Woman #1: “Mrs. Richards, You’re Needed”
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 8/108/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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