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The Fantastic Four Are Torn Apart by Reed Richards’ Biggest Failure

As the Human Torch’s powers rage out of control, Reed Richards’ greatest failure is returning to tear the Fantastic Four to pieces.

Warning: contains a preview for Fantastic Four #39!

In a preview for Fantastic Four #39, Reed Richards shows that, despite being the smartest person in the universe, he is still unable to focus on solving the problems of the people closest to him. His inability to find a cure for Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, has haunted the group since its beginnings, but now Reed is also failing his brother-in-law, Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch.

After a space voyage exposed scientist Reed Richards, his wife Sue Storm, her brother Johnny, and pilot Ben Grimm to a dangerous dose of cosmic rays, the quartet gained extraordinary powers that turned them into Marvel Comics’ first superhero group, the Fantastic Four. However, for Ben Grimm those powers came with a curse: his appearance changed to that of a monstrous creature with rock-like skin, a “thing.” Ben’s condition was part of Marvel’s trademark “superheroes with super-problems” approach to characters. Giving them issues that readers could relate with humanized these extraordinary people, making them more likable (and very successful.) It’s not a coincidence that the Thing is still one of the most beloved Marvel characters, and this is one of the reasons why his condition could never be fully cured, creating a huge paradox. If Reed is the smartest man in the universe, capable of creating almost anything thanks to his genius, why wasn’t he able to find a cure for the Thing after all these years?

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Related: Doctor Doom Punishes Human Torch By Giving Him The Thing’s Weakness

Fantastic Four answers that question by focusing on Reed’s priorities. The Human Torch, Johnny Storm, has recently lost control of his powers after Dr. Doom bombarded him with concentrated cosmic rays (due to his fiancee cheating on him with Johnny.) Now, the Human Torch is unable to turn off his flame, and is forced to live in a containment suit that can barely contain his power, essentially switching roles with the Thing as the outcast of the group. In Fantastic Four #39, the rest of the team is heading to court for a hearing in which their right to be legal guardians of their children is being questioned by the Wizard, who wishes to reclaim his young clone Bentley-23. When Johnny confronts Reed, reminding him that he has not delivered on his promise of finding a cure for his condition, Reed answers that he is too busy at the moment: “Right now, my children need me.” Enjoy the preview, below:


Johnny’s outburst is understandable. He points out that there is always something getting in the way, either a world-threatening crisis that needs Reed’s attention or something else relating to his family. This is a strong point, one that hurts the Fantastic Four at their very core. Johnny is implying that he is not, in fact, part of Reed’s family, or at least not considered so, because he is always focused on Sue and their children. The same could be applied to the Thing, however. How many times Ben must have looked at Reed playing with Franklin or Valeria, and thought that he could have used that time to find a cure so that he could live a normal life too. Johnny doesn’t have Ben’s patience, and he shouts that, “Nothing is more important than that!” before being slapped by his sister Sue in a humiliating moment.


It seems Fantastic Four is finally forcing Reed to truly confront his failure to help those closest to him by replacing Ben Grimm’s stoic suffering with Johnny Storm’s rage. Readers will have to wait to find out if Johnny’s crisis will risk the family unity that has always been the Fantastic Four’s greatest strength. What is certain is that the Human Torch calling out Reed Richard’s lack of dedication means that Mr. Fantastic‘s biggest failure is haunting the group once again as Fantastic Four #39 hits retailers on January 12.

Next: Fantastic Four’s Most Dangerous Weapon Is Back (And In The Wrong Hands)



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