RSS Feed
Jul 26

X-Men / Fantastic Four #4 annotations

Posted on Sunday, July 26, 2020 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

This is the final issue of the miniseries. I’ll review the whole thing soon, but in the meantime let’s cover the last chapter. Like most final chapters, it doesn’t really call for much annotation…

COVER / PAGE 1. Dr Doom reaches out for Franklin; Kitty reaches through Doom to get to him first. All of the issues of X-Men / Fantastic Four have had similar group shots on the cover, but this is the first one to feature Doom and to have a black background instead of a white one.

PAGES 2-3. Everyone starts fighting Doom’s “Latviathan” Sentinels.

“they ignored my orders and murdered a Latverian mutant”. The X-Men did indeed ignore his orders, but they killed a mutant who had been sealed inside what appeared to be a Doombot. Pretty obviously, Doom was engineering this in order to have a pretext to set his Sentinels on them.

“Doom’s declared war on mutants” Doom would presumably say that he’s attacking Krakoa, and reject the suggestion that the two are interchangeable.

PAGES 4-5. Recap and credits. This is “Welcome to the New World” by Chip Zdarsky, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Ranson Getty.

PAGES 6-17. Franklin ultimately chooses to break away from Doom’s treatment in order to stop the Sentinels.

This all maintains the parallels with the original Fantastic Four vs X-Men miniseries, in which it was terribly important that Kitty’s treatment shouldn’t be interrupted. In the original, Franklin made sure that Kitty’s treatment was completed; in this one, Kitty – the only character who has treated Franklin’s autonomy as a prime concern – encourages him to leave. Anyone reading this series really should dig out Fantastic Four vs X-Men on Marvel Unlimited for the full picture.

Doom seems to be engineering Franklin’s dilemma himself, though it’s not entirely obvious what he gains from doing so. The idea seems to be that he wants to convince Franklin that neither his family nor the Krakoans have his interests at heart, so that Franklin will reject both teams, see the treatment through, and then run off with Doom instead. It’s a bit of a stretch. Needless to say, Doom has failed to anticipate that the teams will unite effectively against an immediate threat, like proper superheroes. You’d think he’d know how team-up stories worked by now. Or maybe he just doesn’t care what the outcome is, as long as he gets to run some tests on Franklin – see epilogue 2.

Predictably, this all winds up with everyone friends again, and Franklin agreeing to live with his family while visiting Krakoa through the gates. But we’re not quite finished yet.

Kitty Pryde can apparently resist whatever Doom did to interfere with her powers in earlier issues, but he responds by shifting her powers into reverse and making her “heavier than stone”. This isn’t really how Kitty’s powers are meant to work – the technobabble is usually something about passing her molecules between the molecules of other objects – but it is standard for the Vision, Marvel’s other intangibility-based hero. The Vision’s powers are usually explained (equally illogically) as being something to do with density manipulation.

“Charles and his ‘nation of betters’…” As in previous issues, Doom seems particularly irked by Krakoa’s incessant proclamations of mutant superiority – partly, no doubt, because he expects to be recognised as superior himself. But he undoubtedly has a point that the Krakoans won’t stop banging on about this dubious might-makes-right claim.

“Latviathans.” Doom insists that his Sentinel knock-offs are not anti-mutant robots, but general protectors of Latveria. That might be right, but they’re clearly intended to protect Latveria against Krakoa, if not necessarily against mutants in general. Doom seems surprisingly willing to let the Latverian mutants go with the X-Men after all – maybe he has no more use for them after his plan failed, but more likely Doom just knows that he’s outgunned by the X-Men and he’s putting on a show of indifference.

PAGE 18. Data page. Reed’s notes on Krakoan gates. Note that Reed seems to be aware of the Atlantic Krakoa as well as the Pacific one – I’m not sure whether that’s deliberate or whether it’s just been taken from one of Hickman’s maps.

There’s obviously a bit of a tension between the text, which says that Krakoan gates have emerged in most of the major cities on Earth, and the graphic, which shows eight in the whole of North America (but two in New Zealand!).

PAGE 19. Epilogue 1. The Beast runs tests on Franklin.

The X-Men can’t solve Franklin’s problem, but for some reason he seems to expend less energy when he uses his powers on Krakoa. There’s no apparent reason for this, and no reason to mention it unless it’s going to be a plot point down the line. (It surely can’t be that Beast is comparing with measures taken when Doom was siphoning Franklin’s power; there must be other baseline measurements from Reed.)

PAGE 20. Epilogue 2. Valeria Richards has a video call with Dr Doom.

Doom was trying to siphon off some of Franklin’s power, and also to send a probe into the dimension from which he draws his power (or ought to).

Doom rejects the idea that mutants are the next step in evolution; he refuses to accept that the next step in human development would be purely about physical power rather than mental development. Obviously, this is partly because Doom is unable to accept that he could be on the wrong side of history. But bear in mind that his theory here – mutants will spark intellectual development from humans, which will be the real future – is essentially what Moira MacTaggert saw in her previous timelines. The future isn’t mutants, but smarter humans making better machines. In those terms, Doom is basically right.

Valeria seems entirely relaxed about the prospect of humans being replaced by mutants.

PAGES 21-23. Epilogue 3. Xavier wipes Reed’s memory of how to make his device for cloaking the mutant gene.

This is the device that Reed used in issue #1 to stop Franklin from using the Krakoan gates. The scene is a sting in the tail to the otherwise happy resolution; not only does Xavier put a mental block on Reed (and makes sure he remembers it), he apparently expects a civilised dinner party immediately afterwards. So the X-Men close the series by reiterating that they’re in charge now. You can see why they don’t want this device running around, but by choosing to neither do it secretly nor try to get Reed’s consent, they ultimately come across as sinister.

Note that Xavier removes Cerebro before doing this. That’s something he very rarely does, and there’s presumably some significance to it (even in a satellite X-book like this one). Is there some reason that he doesn’t want a record of this? Does he need to remove Cerebro in order to fully use his psi-powers for more difficult psi-stunts?

PAGES 24-26. The issue ends with three data pages fading out, as Reed’s memory of how to build his Code-X device is removed. Evidently the X-Men do something to remove his other records of this device as well – perhaps that’s why Magneto’s there.

Bring on the comments

  1. Sol says:

    Found this issue very forgettable except for the 3rd epilogue. And that…

    1) As you say, it’s sinister, but that doesn’t really begin to cover it. It’s wrong, it’s obviously wrong, and they’re practically cackling over Reed while they’re doing it and leaving him with that memory.

    2) Maybe Magneto’s presence somehow justifies removing his local records of it (though I’m not sure how without completely destroying the Baxter Building’s computer systems) but this is Reed Richards, right? Surely he has best-in-the-world offsite backups of his records?

    3) Even if somehow all the records are destroyed, they left Reed with the knowledge he built the device. Aren’t both Valeria and Doom supposed to rival Reed’s intelligence? Given what they’ve just done to him, how is Reed’s first reaction not to set Valeria to re-designing the device? It’s got to seem more important now than it did before the series started…

  2. JD says:

    Well, that would require Valeria accepting to do it ; given her behaviour during the whole story (including her epilogue), I have heavy doubts about that.

    Doom is totally already working on replicating it, of course.

  3. Chris V says:

    This mini-series takes place earlier on the timeline of “Dawn of X”, since Kitty is still alive.
    I read an interview with Hickman where he stated that Xavier was wearing Cerebro all the time to hide the fact that he had Fantomex’ body.
    Then, he got killed and resurrected in X-Force, and now that he has his own body back, he doesn’t feel the need to wear Cerebro all the time.
    I think he didn’t want people to be confused and think that he was an imposter, because of being in another person’s body.
    So, this mini would take place before Xavier was shot.

  4. Luis Dantas says:

    Such an ending can only mean that we are not meant to root for the X-Men anymore.

  5. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Xavier is not ‘the X-Men’. Sure, nobody except Mystique is questioning or defying him so far, but he’s keeping the X-Men in the dark about most of his doings.

    Also, both Xavier and Richards are deeply compromised by their history. Apart from being members of the Illuminati (and it was Richards in the worlds-destroying incarnation of the group, not Xavier), Xavier was deleting memories right and left all throughout his history. This ending is sinister but it’s really nothing new for the good professor.

    Also Reed jumped on the chance to build an extra-dimensional prison for his friends and a clone cyborg Thor just to see if he could, so Xavier’s read of Reed – that he doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions – rings true.

  6. Scott Brewer says:

    If I remember Civil War correctly, Reed felt bad about the things he was doing but his calculations had shown that something even worse would happen if he didn’t do them.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    Indeed. IIRC, it was explicitly shown that, correctly or otherwise, Reed had predicted the likely consequences of each course of action and decided that for the less harmful scenario.

    Also, isn’t the Thor Clone much more of a Tony Stark idea than anything to do with Reed?

    As for Xavier, he may have acted in such arrogant ways previously, but every time there were serious consequences and plotlines revolving around that. He would not be much of a leader otherwise.

  8. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    Well then, Reed was part of the registration side brain trust with Stark and Skrull-Pym – he’s still culpable.

    As for consequences and plotlines – the deed has only just happened, time will tell whether there will be consequences and relevant plotlines.

    Though this mini is outside of the purview of the x-books editorial group, so it just might get completely ignored.

    Anyway, my main point was that Xavier being sinister doesn’t mean that the authorial intent is for the readers not to root for the X-Men, since Xavier and the X-Men are not one and the same. Starting back in the 90s and especially after around 2005 there were multiple arcs about the X-Men outgrowing Xavier and even showing him to be too compromised to be leading the ‘dream’.

    (Which is, honestly, one of the things I have against HoXPoXDoX – that we’re thrown into a situation where suddenly the X-Men are again Xavier’s little soldiers, since that was very much not the case for years before his death).

  9. Chris V says:

    I agree. Xavier’s actions are basically the same as Reed’s in Civil War.
    Moira has explored all these different options, and she sees that events are moving towards a future where there is no humanity and no mutants left. Everything will become part of a hive-mind with the Phalanx. All individuality will be lost.
    So, in that sense, you can say that Xavier is making the same choices as Reed was making in Civil War.

    This mini-series seemed to be written from the perspective of how outsiders would see Xavier and Krakoa. It doesn’t show the inner-motivations of Xavier.
    Even if Reed did feel really bad about what he was doing, what he was doing was still morally wrong,
    Maybe Xavier will feel bad later that night too.

  10. Luis Dantas says:

    Not to be too stubborn, but has it been demonstrated somewhere that Reed was morally wrong during Civil War? It seems to me that it is very much in the eye of the beholder.

  11. Chris V says:

    I guess it depends on if you supported George W. Bush and the neocons.
    The same just as easily applies to Xavier and Magneto’s actions.

    If I’m reading superhero comic books then I see actions like Tony Stark during Civil War, Tony Stark during Hickman’s Avengers, Carol Danvers during Civil War II, or Xavier in this mini-series to be morally wrong.
    However, superhero comics tend to write characters as amoral, Nietzschian ubermensch today, more than the idea that superheroes would be morally superior to the common man.

  12. Voord 99 says:

    Asking who’s right and who’s wrong in Civil War runs, for me, into the giant brick wall that is the fact that it’s a story trying to insert the way that we would respond to superpowers if they were real into a genre where the price of admission is handwaving that.

    It is just about possible that a sufficiently sensitive and thoughtful approach to the story could have finessed that problem. As it is, it was written by Mark Millar.

    That being said, the subsequent Initiative period did get some good stories out of the new status quo, which goes to show that you can always make lemonade.

  13. Col_Fury says:

    re: Reed’s Civil War actions
    It was a fairly big deal in the aftermath of Civil War that Reed’s morally questionable actions against his friends almost destroyed his marriage (Sue was on Cap’s side, Johnny was in a coma and Ben was Switzerland, basically). That’s why Black Panther and Storm joined the FF after Civil War; Reed and Sue left to go fix their marriage.

    Then the Millar/Hitch run ignored all of that, then the Hickman run started with Reed going down the same moral path he took during Civil War, got in contact with the Council of Reeds and saw that the ultimate outcome of trying to fix everything will inevitably cost him his family and friends, so he finally turned away from that direction, drawing a line under “Reed unilaterally making decisions for everyone else.”

    So yeah, it took several years to rehabilitate Reed after his morally vacant depiction during Civil War.

    And then in Time Runs Out/Secret Wars, Reed (reluctantly), with the Illuminati, is destroying entire universes. *sigh*

  14. Si says:

    (this shouldn’t be a spoiler, I hope, but be warned)

    The latest Fantastic Four to come out on Comixology has Reed doing the same kind of thing again, and getting called out for it. It’s definitely a character trait at this point that his mind is perfect at all science but not great for everything else.

  15. Col_Fury says:

    I can’t remember if it was brought up in a comic, or if it was a fan theory, but I recall seeing somewhere that Reed may be slightly on the spectrum. He’s super awesome at math, science, logic and problem solving, but not so great at interpersonal relationships and socialization.

  16. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    @Voord99 – I really like that view, that the ‘who was right’ discussion about Civil War (which was a thinly veiled Patriot Act allusion) can’t apply because of the realities of a ‘superpowers are common’ universe.

    In-story, however, I always thought that while during Civil War it was presented as… well, sort of ‘both sides have valid points’, sometimes ‘both sides are equally wrong’, the following couple of years firmly established that in the end Cap was right – since everything Stark built, Osborn used to cause harm. And, well, there’s even a party at the end of Siege and a celebration when the registration act is repealed. A pretty clear sign of who, in the end, was right about things and who was wrong.

    Also Stark being firmly opposed to Captain Marvel in the Civil War II and admitting he was wrong in the previous one.

    And by the way, oh god, what a mess that story was. Civil War I is terribly flawed but had some interesting ideas and the following status quo made for some good stories. Civil War II is ‘what if Minority Report, but stupid?’.

    They couldn’t – wouldn’t, didn’t want to, didn’t think to – link the ‘Miles killing Cap’ stuff with Secret Empire, which would at least retroactively made the whole mess make a miniscule amount of sense.

  17. Josie says:

    Civil War (2006) is what a 13-year-old fan of Venom and Red Hood and Rorschach would write if they listened to their parents yelling at the TV after watching the news every night.

  18. neutrino says:

    There’s a big plot hole here. Reed had studied the schematics for Doom’s machine, so why can’t he recreate it? Doom said Franklin would lose all progress if the process were stopped, but not that couldn’t be started again from scratch.
    Reed should be able to invent a device to undo mental blocks, like Tony Stark did in Avengers. At the very least he should be able to use his time machine to go back in time to when it existed.
    This implies Franklin will be spending a lot, if not most of his time on Krakoa, but that isn’t reflected in the FF or X-books. It seems to take place early in the Marauders, but Franklin hasn’t shown up in any of the subsequent books and isn’t mentioned through X of Swords into November. He and Valeria are in the FF’s Empyre crossover through October. If he is on Krakoa, does he know about the Resurrection Protocols, Crucible, and Kate turning into a drunken sadistic mess? If so, how did he react?

  19. Voord 99 says:

    @Krzysiek Ceran: Yes, I think you’re correct the subsequent period mostly established that Iron Man was supposed to be wrong in Civil War. It would be interesting to track the extent to which that was following the decline in popularity of the Bush Administration.

    As for Civil War II… The original Civil War is horribly hamhanded and at times awful (although not the true levels of awful that we know Mark Millar can achieve when he reaches deep inside himself and really, really tries). But I can believe that Millar and the other people responsible were at least somewhat interested in it as a way to use Marvel superheroes to explore where we were at the time when it appeared.

    Civil War II? All the people responsible for that were interested in is the fact that there was a movie coming out.

  20. Chris V says:

    I don’t think we were ever supposed to truly support Iron Man’s side during the original Civil War. Especially since Millar is something of a Socialist.
    I think that there was supposed to be some plausible deniability on Marvel’s part, since they didn’t want to actually portray any of their superheroes as villains. I don’t think Millar was very subtle about his own personal feelings, although there was some element of “both sides are doing wrong”.

    It’s hard to believe that they could actually mess up doing Minority Report.
    It would have been a really good redemption moment for Tony Stark (you know, before he got involved with genocide). They could have shown how Stark learned after his actions in Civil War.
    Instead, they gave him the stupidest motivation possible.

  21. Chris V says:

    That second section was supposed to be about Civil War II, by the way. I see I forgot to label that.

  22. Voord 99 says:

    If I’m remembering correctly, Millar said explicitly that he sided with Iron Man, for reasons that approximate those why someone would support gun control — if there really were people who could shoot lasers out of their hands, etc., you would want them registered and under some sort of regulation as to how and when they could use their powers.

    (Of course, it’s Mark Millar asserting something, and it’s not like I believe that he really thinks that Kick-Ass is the first comic ever to ask the question of what superheroes would be like in the real world…)

    As for his politics, I believe Millar calls himself a socialist, small “s.” In Scotland, there are an awful lot of people who think of themselves as socialist — it doesn’t commit you to all *that* radical a position. Mind you, Millar did like to bring it up c. 2000 to poke Americans…

  23. Voord 99 says:

    A bit of digging revealed that Millar seems to occupy a Corbynista left-wing-of-Labour position. Pro-Brexit old left. The sort of person who supports renationalizing the railways, which he apparently does.

  24. Voord 99 says:

    In case that sounded contemptuous: I am old enough, just, to remember travelling on trains in Britain in the late ‘70s, and they were indeed not all that efficient. But on the other hand, I find British trains (English ones, anyway – can’t speak for Scotland) nowadays to be far too expensive.* And I can claim no particular knowledge of the technical pros and cons surrounding renationalization,

    But I can absolutely see that there might be a case for it. So that was just meant to locate Millar on the political spectrum, not to attack him.

    *In America, you get two for the price of one! Amtrak is both expensive *and* inefficient, at least where I live.

  25. Chris V says:

    Yeah, there is the “what if these people with all these powers actually existed in our world, wouldn’t you want to regulate them for safety?”, which does make a fair amount of sense in our reality.
    However, it’s impossible to overlook the pretty blatant commentary on the W. Bush administration and the Patriot Act.

    While at first both sides did seem rational, it eventually developed to Iron Man’s side rounding up Atlanteans to stick them in Guantanamo Bay.
    At that point, I’d say that Millar left all subtlety behind.

  26. ASV says:

    As I recall, the base position (we can’t let living weapons run around engaging in vigilante justice with no responsibility or oversight) was tempered by the idea of not just registering superhumans, but conscripting them, in order to make the position untenable in a story setting where it couldn’t be the long-term status quo.

  27. Luis Dantas says:

    Civil War may or may not have been a good story to tell. It certainly had plenty of good and bad parts. But I don’t think that the parallels with real life are particularly clear, close or convincing.

    We could compare and contrast with Gun Control, but having Cap be the NRA spokesperson while Iron Man – who seems to just keep building incredibly destructive weapons – is presumably their opponent just doesn’t sound very convincing to me.

    GWB and the Patriot Act may be a better fit. But it was not the story that we were given, what with the flag wearer on one side and the people who represented the need for government control on the other.

  28. Chris V says:

    Captain America has usually been portrayed as representing the spirit of democracy and the American people rather than the government.
    He gave up being Captain America twice due to the actions of the US government…once, disillusionment with Nixon; then, Reagan’s government overreach saying that Captain America should work for the government.
    It was also about upending expectations. The guy wearing the flag was rebelling against “patriotism”, because a true patriot questions the government instead of blindly following.

    Sure, it was a character assassination of Tony Stark who had also stood up to the US government more than once.
    I think that was Millar’s commentary of the corporatism inherent in the W. Bush regime though.
    W. Bush was in bed with the oil industry, so a corporate CEO ends up as a stand-in for W. Bush.

  29. Col_Fury says:

    The Captain America tie-in issues did a MUCH better job at explaining Cap’s stance than the main Civil War book did.

    I’m paraphrasing, but basically Cap felt that he fought a war against putting people on lists because of who they were, and couldn’t bear seeing America go down anywhere near that same path in the current day.

    And of course there are the times Steve quit the Cap “job” as Chris V points out. Cap is pro-American Dream, not necessarily pro-American government. If the government doesn’t line up with the Dream, Steve’s against the government.

    Another bit of trivia: that’s why Steve declined to run for president in 1980. If Cap represented the government he couldn’t always represent the Dream (Cap #250 by Stern/Byrne; classic!).

  30. Paul says:

    “The sort of person who supports renationalizing the railways, which he apparently does.”

    Renationalising the railways is a fairly mainstream position in the UK, and probably the single most popular suggested nationalisation. There are various reasons for that, but among other things, it’s pretty straightforward to do as long as you’re willing to wait for the current service-operators’ licenses to expire.

  31. Josie says:

    Civil War (2006) went off the rails from the getgo. Maria Hill threatened Cap at gunpoint – IN THE FIRST ISSUE – to sign up with the government or else be arrested. If someone’s position is “join us at the threat of force or face the consequences,” they are the bad guys.

    Cap’s side isn’t equivalent to the NRA. They’re not pro-powers or pro-vigilantism. They’re anti-fascist. They’re against being forced to work for the government at gunpoint, or be thrown in interdimensional prison if they don’t.

    There is no ideological argument in the comic series. The entire story is “you’re with us or you’re against us and going to interdimensional prison.”

  32. Taibak says:

    BTW, there’s another plot hole in Civil War that nobody’s pointed out. If registration was about providing oversight to people whose powers made them living weapons, why would it apply to Captain America? Yes, he’s a vigilante and, yes, he’s been genetically engineered, but he’s not actually superhuman.

    Same goes for Iron Man, if you think about it. This is oversimplifying it a bit, but all the government really needed to do is take away his armor.

  33. neutrino says:

    The Kitty of the standard Marvel Universe (616) doesn’t change her density, but the Kitty of the Ultimates one (1610) does. That might be significant.

    It would be interesting if Valeria created the inverse of her father’s device, that let her disguise herself as a mutant and sneak onto Krakoa.

    @Chris V: If this story took place early when the Professor was still in Fantomex’s body, then he wouldn’t take Cerebro off and Reed would have recognized it was a different body.
    None of Moira’s lives had something like Reed’s machine, except for the cure that she tried to make.

    @Si: Do you mean FF #21? His decision seems justified.

  34. ShadZ says:

    @Taibak – Cap is superhuman — he is as strong, fast agile, etc. as a human can be, WITHOUT having to do all of the exercise and nutrition that most peak humans (like athletes) have to. This is rather low on the ladder of superpowers, and I can’t imagine he’d be in the first group to be rounded up, but it’s still a superpower.

    But you do point out a criticism of Civil War that was mentioned at the time — While the law was called the Superhuman Registration Act, many of Civil War stories seemed to be about going after superheros, whether powered or not.

  35. Paul says:

    I agree, technically Captain America is a (very low level) superhuman. His power is that he doesn’t need to train in order to remain in peak condition.

  36. Loz says:

    Ouch, that was rough. I liked this series more when it started but by the end it’s fallen apart. Of course, it doesn’t help that since the Fantastic Four returned Doctor Doom has been reverted to being quite dumb and villainous rather than the magnificent bastard of Hickman’s New Avengers era.

Leave a Reply