Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Family That Battles Together...

Dissension In The Ranks

When resentments and disagreements boil over,
even allies can turn against each other in fierce battle that can bring the house down.

(And often does!)


The Fantastic Four

I'm not sure when a writer on Fantastic Four first called the team a "family"--but I do know that it was an observation that went unspoken for quite awhile. It's an observation about the FF that was hiding in plain sight. After all, dissension in families crops up often, though "dissension" can often be an understatement in describing family arguments. Add that kind of simmering powderkeg to a "family" with super-powers, and someone storming out the door can be acted out almost literally.

For instance, we've all had family disagreements where push comes to shove--but did you ever have one like this?

So the FF are what you might call a special case as far as family disagreements are concerned--a case that even Dr. Phil would probably steer well clear of. Because while these four are well known for their intra-team bickering at times, there are often instances when things reach the boiling point.

Take Johnny, who struggles sometimes to be seen as more than a hot-headed kid. Johnny is practically the poster boy for growing pains, depending on who's writing him. On the one hand, he likes indulging in his youth in being the spectacular and famous Human Torch; but on the other hand, he broods or acts out when it seems no one takes him seriously. For instance, there was the time when Johnny was ready to commit to Crystal, his first love, by joining her in the Inhumans' Great Refuge, half a world away. Unfortunately, Reed, who sometimes tends to overthink something when there's no need to do so, makes a tense situation worse:

It's clear that Ben isn't on board the rush to restrain Johnny. But after Sue uses her invisibility power to help her brother make his escape, we see that things aren't all that rosy with her and Reed:

Reed's heart has sometimes been the hardest nut to crack when it comes to personal matters within the team. We've seen throughout the publication of Fantastic Four that he indeed has one--but there have been times when his head gets in the way. One such instance was when he and Sue separated, because he couldn't reconcile that fact that the mother of his son, Franklin, was also a full-fledged member of the team. Things finally come to a head after a heated battle, where she'd opted to stay and fight after refusing Reed's order to take their son and flee:

And go she does. Nor is her return to the team of her own choosing. Annihilus kidnaps both her and Franklin in order to tap into Franklin's powers. But doing so sends Franklin into critical mass, and Reed is forced to shut down his mind in order to save the world. And it's the final straw, as far as the FF is concerned:

In both of these instances, Reed is caught between a rock and a hard place--the tactical vs. the human. I know which way the respective stories are tugging me--but I can't invalidate his point of view in either instance. I suppose that would disqualify me from FF membership if it were up to Sue, Johnny, or Ben.

Nor is Ben without his disagreements with his teammates, being the most blunt and the one who speaks his mind the most often. Much of the time, we've seen Ben's resentments and anger manifest as a result of experiments to return him to human form gone wrong, or being otherwise manipulated by outside forces. Take this case, when side effects from one of Reed's experiments begin to affect his personality, making him turn on his friends and even Alicia, his girlfriend:

Alicia is often Ben's Achilles' heel where his judgment is concerned, so there are those times when no experiment is needed to make him lose his temper. His epic battle with the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four #55 is one such example, where his jealousy gets the better of him. But there was also this instance, where his underlying anger at Reed's failure to make him human again causes him to lash out in frustration:

It's probably a good thing these four had the multi-floored Baxter Building as their headquarters--look at all that space they had to get away from each other when they needed to. But despite the portrayal here, the flare-ups between members of the FF have been the exception rather than the rule. Whatever arguments they've had have helped them to understand each other better and pull together more strongly. I remember an old segment in one of the FF annuals called "Questions and Answers About the Fantastic Four," where each team member had their own short Q&A list--and one of the questions about Johnny was, "Does he really hate the Thing?" And the answer, short and sweet, was "He'd risk his life for him without question!" That sentiment may not always hold true in our real-life families, but it's one of the qualities that made Fantastic Four one of the more memorable teams in comic books.


Terence Stewart said...

I love that issue of the FF when Reed shuts down his own son's brain, and was amazed when it got referenced in The Ice Storm.

Comicsfan said...

That looks like an intense film to get through. Let's hope the Richards family turns out better in the long run!

Terence Stewart said...

Yeah, not exactly a pop-corn flick, but when the son draws a parellel between his own dysfunctional family and that of the Richard's, specifically mentioning Reed turning his own son into a vegetable - yikes!

Nice blog by the way...I added it to my blog roll.

Comicsfan said...

Thank you!