Current Reviews


Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #19

Posted: Saturday, December 16, 2006
By: Ray Tate

“Brain Buster”

Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Kano & Alvaro Lopez, Lee Louridge (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

I'm of two minds for this issue of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four. The story sledgehammers a blatant message to the entertainment. The message only applies in the second half of the tale, not the first half when it's first worded. In the other hemisphere, Zeb Wells crafts a malicious persona for Arcade that trumps the source.

Reed spends the day with his chosen family at Arcade's carnival. It should be noted that for once Arcade didn't intend to kill anybody. He's merely trying to be a showman. Murderworld though has already been erected behind the scenes. So it's safe to say that Arcade is in this story an assassin taking the day off.

Reed notices that Arcade's Clown-bots act abnormally. One jitters. The other stutters. Another bobbles. He quickly repairs each of the Clown-bots, and here the message doesn't work. Sue admonishes Reed for repairing Arcade's robots. She cites Arcade's pride in design and the children’s laughter. Reed "Killjoy" Richards seems to have taken away the fun:

"You can know everything about numbers and figures, but if you don't pay attention to people's feelings, you're only seeing half of the picture."

It's a nice message, but the thing is...Reed is absolutely right. He recognizes that the robots acted damaged. He reacts like the arch-engineer that he is. Sue is actually the one who only has half the story. Had she known the full details, she would have been handing Reed the sonic screwdriver.

Arcade's robots can think, feel and take independent action. This means that they are alive. Arcade's malevolence is symbolized by the robots' failings. He designed them with flaws. This is not the same as Doc Magnus forging the Metal Men. In that case, the Responsometers fashioned distinctive physical characteristics--such as Tin's speech impediment--and personalities--such as Platinum's libido. One set of variables could not have been had without the other set.

Arcade essentially fabricated crippled robots, to amuse himself and admittedly the kids. It's one of the sickest examples of his pathology that I've ever seen. Blowing up his parents pales in comparison. After Reed fixes the robots, they all feel better about themselves. Reed behaves like a doctor behaves toward a patient. The doctor's goal is to heal the patient. Reed's goal is to repair the robots. There's no difference, and that's why Sue's homily doesn't apply, until the end of the story. Reed did no wrong, but he takes Sue's words to heart. Upon recognizing the robots' lives, he reasons with them to further confound Arcade.

The art team of Kano, Lopez and Louridge illustrate this story with a greater visual depth than one expects from what is ostensibly a kids' book. The atmosphere reflects Reed's dejected mood while Arcade grows cartoonier as he grows angrier.

The intent of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four may have only been to convey a simple message, but in the end, the nature of the robots and Reed's actions toward them evolve a more thoughtful tale. I don't know if Zeb Wells meant for this to be, but regardless, serendipity should be recognized.

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