Strange Things are Afoot in Retcon City
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mattia de Iulis
First of all, it’s sad that it took 59 years for Susan Storm Richards to get her own solo series, especially considering she’s long been held as THE most powerful member of the Fantastic Four, possibly even one of the most dangerous. As she says in this, her FIRST solo story, Partners in Crime, “Think about what I can do! Give you an instant embolism from a hundred yards out. Crush your windpipe. Fill your lungs. Drive a force-field spike through your heart without blinking. I’m a living weapon. I’m ‘finally’ thinking about killing?! I have to think about it all the time! I never worry about being strong enough to take a life, Aiden. I worry about being strong enough not to.”
Yeah, that’s not something any of the other FFers can do.
Sue Richards (nee Storm) AKA The Invisible Woman, has just had a major retcon thanks to Mark Waid, a man who’s been writing comics longer than I’ve been reading them (his first professional work in issue #572 of Action Comics, published in October 1985, and the fact his first at bat was in ACTION COMICS??? says something about his skill) and the story a wonderful sight to see. I’m not sure about the retcon itself, given Sue’s character from years past it feels a little forced, considering she was introduced in 1961. I know that comics, over the decades, have had to update things for the sake of story and character, otherwise Peter Parker would be in his 70s today, but saying that Sue was a secret agent years ago … it either rings a bit false, or hints at a whole other side of this character that we’ve rarely been allowed to see (snippets of it came out in the AGE OF ULTRON event in 2013) where she gets to step out of that role of wife/mother/heart of the team and gets to be a real badass.
In Partners in Crime, we learn that Sue used to moonlight as a SHIELD agent long ago, and now her ex-partner, Aiden, has been captured, possibly turned, and Sue has to go rescue him. Along the way, she gets some help from Marvel’s current espionage superstar, Black Widow, along with ex-SHIELD head Maria Hill. But in the end, it’s up to Sue to save her ex-partner and friend from a life she turned her back on years ago.
As a whole, I can’t say enough good things about this book. Waid just can’t stop proving why he’s considered one of the best writers to ever script a comic book. Partners in Crime collects all five issues of the limited series run, but you’re going to want to read this in one collection, most likely in one sitting as it’s not only hard to put down, you’re just not going to want to.
And part of that, Waid’s writing aside, is thanks to the frickin’ stunning artwork of Mattia de Iulis. I haven’t seen lines this crisp in years, panels this clean or sharp. This art is what all comics pencilers should aspire to. If I were going to start trying to be a comic book artist, sure there’s Byrne, McFarlane, Lee, all the superstars, but this art is what I would be studying if I was just getting started today.
It doesn’t feel the need to be flashy or special, it just wants to tell the story in as clear and concise a visual way as possible. There are no fancy panel layouts, nothing that screams out, “Hey, look at how awesome this art is!” Instead, its only concern is with telling the story, which I very much appreciate, and being absolutely beautiful while doing so.
What Mark Waid has done in Partners in Crime, six decades after the fact, has taken a character you probably haven’t given a second thought to in years, and made her not only stand on her own in TOP fashion, he’s proven how stupid we’ve all been for dismissing Sue as “Reed’s wife, “Johnny’s sister”, “Franklin’s mother”, or “the woman in the Fantastic Four”. Waid has introduced us, finally, to Susan Storm Richards, the woman who will give you an embolism from a hundred yards out.