Welcome to 52 in 52, a look at the vast world of Marvel Unlimited. I will be reading and sharing my thoughts each week regarding a different single arc or event from somewhere within the world of Marvel Unlimited, trying to find things I haven’t read that are relevant to the current comic or cinematic landscape, or completely irrelevant and just fun to read.
One year. 52 tales. One per week. Marvel Unlimited.
Let’s do this.
On the docket this week: Fantastic Four: Unthinkable *Warning, there be spoilers ahead*
Doctor Doom, the greatest villain in the history of comic books (I’m good at being impartial and leaving my bias at the door) forsakes science to delve deeper into the worlds of magic to finally defeat Reed Richards in Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s Unthinkable arc. Considering what is happening right now in Avengers/New Avengers and all that has lead to this point in Hickman’s F4, it was interesting going back to the roots of Doom’s relationship with Valeria and, in some ways, the mystical angle the character now employs so often. Doom became a lot more dangerous because of events that occur in this arc, and while he does not vanquish the First Family, he gets some good shots in and you can see the roots of the Doom that is currently used in the Marvel Universe. The storyline has some nice twists and turns in it to keep things interesting, but the strongest part is definitely Waid’s character work. This isn’t about shocking events for the most part, this is about old relationships, old feuds, bitter rivalries and a lot of ego. So, with that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into how this arc interpreted some of the most established characters in comic book history:
Doom: I’m starting with Doom because he would have it no other way. Waid and Wieringo give readers a more “classic” take on Doom than current comics, with him playing the tyrannical despot role very well. His hubris is his ego, and at most points in this arc he can’t see the big picture. This is all about revenge on that despicable Richards and his infernal family, and that classic feel is spun in a very good way. Rather than relying solely on the classic take and rehashing a thousand old conflicts, Waid sends Doom down a new path – the path of sorcery and mysticism – instead of focusing on technology as the way to end the F4. While this may not be the first time the ruler of Latveria has used magic, it is the first I know of where magic is his primary focus, and this angle has changed Doom ever since, with him acting as a sorcerer with power to rival Dr. Strange at several points. All in all, this is a great classic take on the villain with an interesting twist, and the bond with Valeria (one of my favourite relationships in comics) begins here, which is cool.
Sue Storm: Sue was a bit of a mixed bag in this arc for me, as she possesses a little more attitude toward Reed than typical, but then also drops some pretty stereotypical “mom” lines in a couple issues. While being a mother is a principal component of her character, a few of the lines missed the mark felt like they diminished her strength as an individual and a powerhouse in the Marvel Universe. The barbs that she throws at Reed are great, though, and I’ll take a Sue that is Reed’s equal any day over a Sue that lives in his shadow.
The Thing: The big bruiser with a heart made of gold, Waid writes a great Ben Grimm. Some writers go too far with the “youse” and the dumbing Ben down, but Waid definitely doesn’t. He’s a bruiser and his solution to everything is Clobberin’ Time, but it isn’t because he’s an idiot, which I appreciated.
Human Torch: Johnny doesn’t play a huge role in this arc, and while he’s always there I didn’t really notice that he wasn’t a major player in the foreground of what is going on. Personally, I’m fine with that as he’s never been one of my favourites in the family.
Valeria: She’s just a baby in this arc, but her first word is brilliant and the seeds of her relationship with Doom are planted here. The origin of her name was interesting, as well and, having read Hickman’s F4/FF run, it was interesting going back to when she was just a baby and seeing that Doom has, quite literally, always been a part of her life.
Reed Richards: The big brain of the Marvel U is humbled a wee little bit in this one, having to utilize forces he doesn’t understand to protect his family. I’m not a huge Reed fan, so parts of this arc annoyed me, but not because of anything the creators did….just simply because Reed is Reed. His reckless abandon getting his family into trouble tires me at times, and since my allegiance is squarely with Doom, part of me hoped Reed would get some kind of blow to his ego. In the end, he didn’t get much of one and he lives to solve another problem and fight another day. He got punched a few times, which was nice.
Unthinkable was a lot of fun, in large part to the fantastic pencil work of Mike Wieringo. 2003 doesn’t seem like all that long ago to an old-timer like me, but when looking at other books you can see that styles have changed over the past 12 years, but this holds up. Wieringo’s talent was obvious and his style suited this story and this family very well as he captured the happy aspects of The Four, the times when the world isn’t ending, very well. His Doom was also menacing (see above cover, way up there at the top – the one with the fire and the eyes and the impending death) and there really wasn’t a poorly penciled page that I can remember. He was certainly taken too soon, but his work here is timeless.
I highly recommend this arc to fans of Hickman’s F4, as it acts as a buildling block, in a sense, to the themes he explores in his epic run. The family was in good hands with Waid and Wieringo.
Next week: TBD (insert scary, ominous music)
Special thanks to John Ernenputsch for helping to curate this adventure.