Review: FF #2

Here's something really unthinkable:  Doom has joined the FF.  Can he trust his oldest enemies to restore him to his former glory?

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

FF #2

Reed Richards formed the Future Foundation out of displeasure with the scientific community's general lack of optimism for progress, and the results have been fairly snazzy.  He's got a house full of pacifist beatstick androids, brilliant Moloids, precocious children and really sharp new outfits.  He's also got his father back after long years of being absent and schlepping around in the timestream.  He's lost the Human Torch and has a belly full of guilt over it, but Spider-Man's joined up to pick up the wisecracking slack – and also bring a significant scientific intellect to bandy back and forth with.  Reed'd never admit it, but that's probably a trade up for him.  Now only TWO of his core foursome will roll their eyes and groan at him when he goes all egghead instead of three. 

Of course, things can't all be roses and lollypops for the former Mr. Fantastic or else it wouldn't be a comic book.  In FF#2, all that optimism gets put to the test with an unsettling moral quandary:  when your oldest and deadliest enemy is hobbled and comes to you for assistance, do you agree and restore him to his former self so he might more effectively continue his aggressive campaign to shame and murder you and your loved ones, do you go against the Hippocratic ideal and deny him aid in returning to his optimum health, or do you agree to help, but secretly put in some failsafes to steer him away from the insane vendetta?

It's a dilemma ripe for exploration, but Jonathan Hickman doesn't delve into it too deeply.  As expected, Ben Grimm wants to just tear Doom's head off and be done with it (and Doom, even with the brain damage he's suffered at the hands of the Leader and MODOK, is still a tremendous dick to the Thing and only provokes more of that reaction by raking him over the coals about Johnny Storm's death).  Super-genius Reed, his super-genius father and the young super-genius daughter Valeria are all on board, and Spidey has his reservations but knows his ethics, having had to save his own villains more times than he can count.  Sue, however, is on Ben's side, and the two of them feel more isolated than ever in this new FF era – compounded by the fact that Ben can't even go drinking with Dragon Man of all people (or pseudo-people, in this case) without getting a lecture about the uselessness of might over being bright.  That could wind up going somewhere intriguing – or maybe that means Sue and Ben will just go off and be Avengers for a while.

The genius cabal is the thrust of this issue, though.  There's a great moment with Valeria, Reed and Doom illustrating the damage done to the former dictator's mind when it takes him two pages to pick up on the hints Valeria is dropping about finding a backup of his mind and realize he has one in Kristoff Vernard, the current regent of Latveria.  That moral flux point gets its best due when Reed has to make the final call on either fixing Doom's mind or purging it, and he hesitates.  Sorely tempted to get rid of his family's life-long nightmare for good, and they're the best two pages in this issue.

Some comic fans deride the stalwart, gleaming hero types like Superman or Captain America or the Fantastic Four as boring, because "they'll always do the right thing" and they seem "too perfect."  It's moments like this that illustrate just how damn hard it is to make sure you're doing the right thing in the first place, and how hard it is to resist the temptation to ease your own life at the expense of another's.  That's why these symbolic heroes are so important – the constant striving to be the best you can be is something of a lost art in today's world.  Any chance we have to remind ourselves of it should be taken.  It takes stern looks from Spider-Man and the elder Richards to convince him, but Reed eventually does the specifically ethical thing and restores the most dangerous man in the world to full capacity.

And it looks like he might pay for it immediately – or, in a few weeks, when FF#3 hits the shelves.

Steve Epting draws a great Thing and a great Doom, and I must say I'm really liking the new FF outfits with their retro-future feel.  Judging by the teaser image at the end of the book, featuring a horde of surly alternate-reality Reeds, Hickman seems to be delving full-on into what makes Reed Richards the man he is, and that will hopefully prove fascinating, as too often this character is reduced to a caricature, and that's a job best left to Professor Impossible from The Venture Bros.

Come to think of it, if you've got this many cross-time Reeds, wouldn't some of them not be named Reed?  You've got to think that there's at least one reality where his parents' whims went to 'Ted' or 'Larry' or 'Moonbeam' instead, right?  Just a thought.