Sue Storm, the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman, steps into the spotlight with the first issue of a new solo miniseries this week. Mark Waid, who wrote one of the most acclaimed Fantastic Four runs ever, writes the new series with artwork by Mattia De Iulis. Despite Sue being the Fantastic Four member most in need of the spotlight, the first issue of the new series doesn’t manage to break her out of her own force bubble.
The issue opens with a flashback to the early days of the Fantastic Four’s career, with Sue engaged but not yet married to Reed Richards. When she’s not adventuring with the Fantastic Four, she’s putting her superpowers to use as a spy for SHIELD. She works under Nick Fury Sr. and with a partner named Aidan Tintreach. It’s hard to follow what’s going on in this scene. Iulis's art isn’t great at guiding one's eye through the action and the unexplained disguises and invisible individuals don’t help.
Flash forward to today: Sue gets a call from the CIA. Aidan is the captive of an enemy government and is being tortured. The one coded message he managed to get out before going silent was the single word “Stormy,” his old nickname for Sue. Despite this, the CIA does not want the Invisible Woman involved in their rescue plans, so Sue—with a little help from Nick Fury Jr.—hatches a plan of her own.
Pages of the issue have Sue reflecting on her life and how she now finds herself with more free time on her hands than she once did. Reed, as always, spends most of his time in the lab. Her children are growing more independent. Johnny is off living it up and Ben is now a married man himself. The backdrop makes Sue seem a bit like the bored housewife trying to fill her day. It’s not quite the neglected housewife role that worse writers reduced her to in the past, but it still paints her as being less than her peers.
There’s also the flirtatious chemistry between. Again, it isn’t as overbearing as the sexual tension often written into scenes with Sue and Namor, but it still feels like familiar territory. Sue also encounters misogynist condescension while visiting the CIA, but by the end of the issue, this all feels like window dressing.
What Waid seems more interested in is a well-worn ethical superhero dilemma. During the opening flashback, Aidan encourages Sue to kill a soldier who has them at gunpoint. Sue finds another means of escape, but Fury Jr. warns her before she embarks on her rescue mission that there may not always be other options. It’s unclear how this question relates to the stage setting throughout the rest of the issue. The arrival of the less scrupulous Black Widow may put that into better focus as the series continues.
Iulis may not be the clearest visual storyteller, but his art gives the book a picturesque look. The colors are soft, the linework is graceful, and the characters are rendered with light realism. This works fine for this issue, dominated as it is by interior monologues and talking heads. It’ll be put to the test as Sue dives deep into the less picturesque Madripoor and gets her hands dirty (or not) alongside Natasha.
Invisible Woman #1 is inoffensive but leaves little to get excited about. The characterization of Sue is familiar, and Waid has tied her to a rote superhero narrative. It remains unclear if he has anything interesting to say about this hero. If he does, it isn’t present in this issue. Iulis’s artwork is serviceable, but not enough to cover up the pedestrian plot. If you have a special place in your heart for Sue Storm, this may work for you. A solo adventure crafted with reasonable competency like this one could be enough of a draw. For those less invested, the appeal is hard to see.
Published by Marvel Comics
On July 10, 2019
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mattia De Iulis
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Adam Hughes