Thursday, September 24, 2015

For Humanity To Live--Reed Richards Must Die!


Name This Marvel Villain??

If you think our mystery villain bears a strong resemblance to our old friend, the Invincible Man, you're getting warm as far as discovering his identity. But there's far more to this villain's story than a mere guise; because while the circumstances of the Invincible Man's past appearances have always been complicated and deceptive, the story of our villain here raises the bar a few notches in those respects.

For instance, you've probably made the assumption that, like the Invincible Man, this fellow is also out to get the Fantastic Four. But did you imagine that his machinations would coincide with the FF inadvertently being confronted by the Fantastic Four of the past?

As you may have guessed, particularly if you've been reading the PPC this week, we're tapping into events that are related to the "Nobody Gets Out Alive!" story arc by writer Tom DeFalco, which took place in the issues leading up to FF #400. We've already seen Sue, Ben, and Johnny escape near-death after battling Galactus on an alternate Earth; now, we must return to when they begin their pursuit of the grown Franklin Richards (a/k/a Psi-Lord) through time. And upon arrival in, of all places, the Baxter Building circa 1962, it looks like Sue has initially mistaken the Reed Richards of the past for her husband in the present, who is missing and presumed dead.

And when our villain finally appears, we get the feeling that this earlier incarnation of Reed might soon face an obituary of his own.

Yes, the Dark Raider, who we'll soon learn did make it out alive from DeFalco's earlier story and has burst onto the scene in an apparent attack, with "Psi-Lord" seemingly out to stop him from accomplishing his deadly mission. But even Franklin doesn't understand why the Raider is obsessed with assassination, though it's clear why he wants to stop him at all costs.

Obviously the Raider has been busy eliminating Reed across many realities already, though his reasons are as yet unclear. He seems to regard Reed Richards as a "nemesis," in whatever reality he encounters him; so at this point, we can assume the Raider is either a madman, or is driven by some event that's set him on his path. Perhaps it's even a case of both being true.

In any event, the FF have a fight on their hands--and since Franklin had earlier distracted both past and present Things and Torches into battling each other to prevent himself being discovered, those who remain to confront the Raider find themselves challenged by his might and weaponry. To make matters worse, Franklin is partially possessed by Malice, who compels Franklin to resist any attempts by Sue or the others on the team to coerce him to return with them. That leaves only the "silver age" Sue and Reed to take the initiative in battling the Raider, as Psi-Lord flanks them.

Meanwhile, the Avengers have arrived on the scene to confront not only another Ant-Man (in the form of Scott Lang, who's currently with the present-day FF) but also the "Skrulls" that our Ben and Johnny appear as (thanks to Psi-Lord's mental trickery). But with the Raider poised to triumph, Psi-Lord rallies everyone outside to return and team up against the true foe. Unfortunately, the change in circumstances moves the Raider to act, with tragic results.

With the exception of Johnny's sobbing over the body of his dead sister, the chamber falls silent to mourn the loss of one-half of the Fantastic Four, as our own Sue, Scott, Johnny and Ben return to their own time. But with the Raider still at large, it's only a matter of *ahem* time before he arrives in their reality to seek out and murder their own Reed Richards, whom he doesn't realize is M.I.A.--and that time comes soon after the team returns from their battle with Galactus, when Johnny makes good on his decision to resign, and Sue and Ben are left to assess whether the FF can go on without Reed and the Human Torch.

Even with Psi-Lord again on the scene, Sue and Ben find the Raider's weaponry too much for them--though both of them are finally beginning to sense a familiarity to the Raider. (Having trouble, no doubt, due to colorist John Kalisz changing the Raider's costume colors, presumably to make his resemblance to the Invincible Man less obvious.)

In the middle of this melee, the Watcher materializes to force the Raider's hand in revealing his identity. The Watcher's reasons for his actions are as mysterious as his other appearances throughout this arc--and even more so when you consider, as was revealed last time, that one of the Watchers we've seen is not Uatu, but Aron the renegade. But when the Raider unmasks, the Watcher becomes the least of anyone's concern.

The Dark Raider, then, is one madman's answer to how to thwart any other Reed Richards from dooming the human race, due to his own mistake of not being able to keep his scientific curiosity in check as he undertook the mission to the space station of Galactus to retrieve a weapon which might have saved the Earth from destruction. Yet, in reading prior installments of this story, we've been given the impression that the Watcher doesn't hold himself blameless for the fate of humanity, or the fate of the Fantastic Four, as those alternate worlds fell to Galactus--and as Reed rants, perhaps to help absolve himself of blame, the questions he raises regarding the Watcher may be questions which have gone unanswered for far too long.

Yet the Raider didn't come to this reality to debate, but to strike--and in his possession is a foolproof device that assures his victory, even if his victim is not at hand.

As a last-ditch play to shatter the Raider's concentration, Psi-Lord and Sue make use of Malice to distract Reed sufficiently in order to gain possession of the Nullifier. The gambit works--but we have to presume that somewhere on writer Tom DeFalco's desk it looked good on paper to project a malicious psyche like Malice into a deadly foe who's already insane. Regardless, it's clear that the Raider has lost none of his resolve--and the result finally spurs the Watcher to take the definitive step in his march to shattering his oath of noninterference for good.

Sue doesn't get an answer, of course (if nothing else, the Watcher remains enigmatic)--and so she makes a resolution herself, to make an active effort to search for the whereabouts of her husband, whom she still believes to be alive. And so she takes a leave of absence from the team for the duration, leaving Ben to somehow continue on.

Have we really seen the last of the Dark Raider?
The wrap-up of this time-spanning, reality-hopping storyline! Sue and Reed, reunited!

(Sort of!)

1 comment:

karl said...

I still maintain and believe that, along with the Brute ( the Reed of Counter-Earth ) that the Dark Raider was a member of the Council of Reeds, introduced during the Jonathan Hickman run.

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