Saturday, July 5, 2014

Welcome To Our Deadly Home

Now this looks like a discriminating home buyer, doesn't it?

Yet Sue and Reed Richards have struck out twice when attempting to establish a life away from the Baxter Building and become average homeowners living unremarkable lives in suburbia. Given their success rate--or, in the Richards' case, the complete lack thereof--we can reasonably put together a few rules for Reed and Sue to bear in mind when tackling their next home-buying excursion. So here they are:

Seven Simple Rules
for Buying Your Home Away From Home

First thing to take care of is an old-fashioned nod to common sense:

1. Know what you want going in.

We have to make some allowances for Sue at this point in her career. She's never pursued the idea of a home life with Reed--but with the birth of their first child, it's only natural for her to have such thoughts. But this is when you sit down with your spouse and discuss just what it is you want and how practical it would be for your lives at this point in time; and when you're members of the Fantastic Four and intend to remain active members, you're going to have a lot to discuss.

We know that the Richards' primary reason for moving is Franklin's safety:

Yet, here we find Sue, meeting with a realtor and actively going house-hunting, as if she were just any typical wife and mother who would blend in with any other on the block. Until the Sandman steamrolls up the street, that is. Once again, we have to give Sue a little leeway, this first time out; in her mind, she still very much wants to be more a homemaker than a heroine, and obviously she and Reed haven't discussed the practicalities of this kind of venture. It doesn't take long for those practicalities to sink in:

Fortunately, Sue's realtor is resourceful, and he feels there might be some middle ground available to her. Which brings us to Rule #2:

2. If you find that a house prompts more questions than satisfactory answers, it's not for you.

Right now, Sue's hopes for a home life have already had a stake put through them--but that's only true for a traditional home life. No nearby neighbors--no friends to make, or invite over--no babysitters--and no kids of neighbors for Franklin to play with. She and Reed could still find (or build) a home, such as a farm or a ranch, or something else that has a lot of acreage--but if Sue thought she felt isolated at the Baxter Building, wait until she gets out in the middle of nowhere. Reed will still be retreating to his lab--only its name will now translate to "man-cave."

Yet our realtor manages to find a house that's only a little out of the way; and if you're a member of the Fantastic Four, it's a plus if you're told your prospective house is located in an inaccessible area. But this house raises too many questions, even before it's entered:

It's never helpful when your realtor knows practically nothing about the house he's showing you. And how has this "abandoned" home become the property of a commercial realtor, unless they acquired title to it through county laws? Why exactly are people fearful of the area? But the question we also find ourselves asking is: why is Sue, who's looking for a typical home life, even considering moving into something that looks like an annex to the Baxter Building?


3. Always include the Fantastic Four in your evaluation of a new house.

There's nothing like the FF arriving in force to essentially look at bedrooms and closets. But almost right off the bat, it's clear that this house isn't exactly made of your typical shingles and plumbing:

Ordinarily, there would be little for the FF to do in a walk-through of a home except yawn, wouldn't you think? But you can cut all the apprehension here with a knife. And if it seems like you're going to be moving into some villain's lair, rather than something with a kitchen sink and a picket fence, it's time to take a hard look at Rule #4:

4. If your suspicions start piling up about a mere house, start listening to your gut.

Okay--even Sue is having second thoughts, and Reed feels like getting this team into their uniforms a.s.a.p. And that hum should do wonders for Reed's concentration while conducting critical experiments. It's time to consider this house a lost cause.

Instead, the Richards family writes a check for it. Obviously they're flipping off our rules, one by one.

Since the damage is done, we should leave Sue and Reed to set up house and enjoy their new lives as--well, as the part-time parents they were in the Baxter Building and still are now, only this time without a babysitter when they need to race back to deal with Doctor Doom. But they'd still find Rule #5 helpful:

5. If you choose to ignore a kazillion warning signs, make sure you at least pay attention to hidden, deadly traps.

Sue is obviously in homemaker heaven, contentedly bending Reed's ear about bric-a-brac and decor. Which, for any other couple moving into their new home, would make this the perfect time for your home's hidden weapons to come into play.

"Okay," I hear all of you cry out, "THAT'S IT." I'm right there with you. It's time for this couple to finally tank the notion that this house is completely suitable to live in and, by the way, raise their son in. This is NOT going to work. But, ludicrously, Reed doesn't want to alarm Sue. You know what, Reed? Seeing her husband attacked in her new home has probably alarmed her. Both of you should be alarmed at this point. Instead, look at what Reed is calling the whole thing:

Right. Your home is booby-trapped--and that darned humming won't stop. Think of how great it will be for your child to endure. And you'll probably have to go to bed with a force field wrapped around you.  You can't help but think of the times when Sue's "woman's intuition" has warned of impending danger (and been right, as it turned out)--but here? Not a peep from it. Despite all the evidence, all the unanswered questions, Sue plows full speed ahead.

And that makes our next rule somewhat prudent:

6. You're not going to be able to have company over if your home is a death trap.

It's finally time to learn the identity of this home's mysterious former owner. Unfortunately for the Richardses, he also still happens to consider himself its current owner, despite Reed forking over a check for it:

We also learn the reason for the annoying humming that would have normally been a deal-breaker for anyone buying a new home, but which Reed and Sue apparently only considered an inconvenience:

You have to feel a little for the Mole Man. He concocts a plan not to ensnare the FF, but to cause blindness to the entire world--and now he finds himself having to deal with the FF because Reed and Sue were house-hunting in the same area where his device is emitting its rays. It's a small world, my man. Maybe a blind one, if Reed and Sue don't get it in gear.

(Oh, and it's the Mole Man himself who possesses a radar sense--not his staff.)

So--since the FF have practically insisted on becoming the victims of something here in this house, the Mole Man happily accommodates their stupidity.

We'll have to leave the FF to their just deserts for now. (And it was probably time for dessert, anyway.) But our seventh and last rule is as important as the others, though it seems like Reed and Sue plan to ignore it:

7. Learn when to throw in the towel on hedges and garage sales.


Anonymous said...

You know, I've just realized that I have even less in common with Reed Richards than I previously thought.
I mean, I wouldn't have thought that would be even be possible.
But let's face it, the guy is a lunatic.

Murray said...

This is the most I've ever experienced of this story. Every time I dig thru some old comics and reach this issue, the sheer absurdity of it stops me cold. It's like a whacky nightmare. One expects the FF to wake up on the last page "Wow, no more anchovy pizzas before bed!". Maybe that'll still happen.

Very conscientious of Sue to be concerned about endangering her new neighbours...when there are more people on the same block as the Baxter Building than that entire suburban subdivision.

It's odd. Back in the Silver Age, the DC superheroes understood the basic strategy of a secret base-headquarters. Not so much in the Marvel universe...

Murray said...

Oh, I forgot to speculate on those three young admirers of Sue. I wonder who they are? I've been around enough comic artists in my life to smell a "Friends & Family" cameo shot when I get slapped in the face with one.

Anonymous said...

There's also a massive continuity error in the next issue as Ben Grimm is present in the house with the others when he was supposed to be back at the Baxter Building. When I first read this story I thought the house would be a really cool place to live apart from the death traps and the humming. I assume it has bathroom facilities, plumbing, electricity etc or Reed and Sue wouldn't have bought it but I don't know why it would need a bathroom when its' sole purpose seemed to be for housing the Mole Man's blindness machine.

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I'm going to speculate that the Mole Man gave this structure all appearances of being an abandoned house (complete with facilities) in order to avoid having local authorities investigate the structure more thoroughly and possibly alerting the Feds--which might have happened had he simply raised only the necessary technology to the surface. As we saw, he unfortunately wasn't quite able to give his "house" a more traditional interior to avoid questions from those who found it bizarre (including the Richardses, who bought it regardless).

As for the Thing's unexplained appearance in the next issue, alert reader Doug Thornton raised the very same point in the letters page, where the response basically admitted the goof and left it at that.

Murray, that's an excellent point about the number of civilians near the Baxter Building rendering Sue's observation somewhat moot. It's something of a trade-off, I suppose--depending on the time of day, each location is either populated or devoid of people; respectively, Manhattan during the day is crammed with the workforce which departs toward dusk, and the suburbs during the day see their residents off to work or school during the day and returning later. The difference is that the area of the Baxter Building isn't zoned as residential--though when innocents are endangered, perhaps that's a pointless distinction.