In the Marvel Universe, the people of Earth just accept the idea that the Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm who returned to Earth are the same people who originally went to space, only with fantastic powers. Why wouldn’t they be?
But what if they weren’t? What if who returned weren’t Reed and his friends at all, but something more sinister? That’s the question that writer Gerry Duggan, artist Laura Braga, and colorist Arif Prianto ask readers in “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?”—a short story appearing in this week’s Avengers Halloween Special. In “Richards,” after the quartet return to Earth after their maiden voyage, Victor Von Doom—who has a years-long rivalry with Reed—notices that something is “off” about the group when he sees them in their first TV appearance following their return. Victor travels to the United States to confront Reed and company and discovers that his fears were more than founded.
Duggan, Braga, and Prinato take the Fantastic Four and use the tropes we know about them to turn the FF’s story on its head and create an honest-to-God Invasion of the Body Snatchers mashup. And it works on all levels. While we’ve seen villainous versions of the foursome before, the idea of a power beyond Reed’s kin manipulating he and his family—mind and body—is chilling. Duggan, Braga, and Prianto do a wonderful job at turning expectations on their heads, with dialogue and rendering that screams “superhero derring-do.”
Which makes the big reveal to Victor about “Sue” and her comrades’ true machinations all the more chilling.
Any book that can make readers feel sympathy for Doctor Doom belongs in the pantheon of great Fantastic Four stories.
And thanks for scaring the bejeezus out of us, guys.
The Avengers Halloween Special, which includes “Whatever Happened to the Richards Family?”, is on sale now from Marvel Comics.
From the official issue description:
TRICK OR TREAT, TRUE BELIEVERS! Epic thrills and ghastly horror awaits in these all-new twisted tales! Spanning the breadth of the Marvel Universe, through the macabre lens of a murderer’s row of writers and artists assembled here, see your favorite heroes and villains as you’ve never seen them before! Also including the Marvel Comics writing debut of Jay Baruchel (This is the End; Goon)! PLUS! Spooky stories starring the X-Men & Doctor Doom!