Thursday, May 17, 2007

Susan Storm, Aldulteress OR How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Character to Mildly Boost Sales

Your time is extremely valuable, Sean, but try to read this thing. I think there are some good beats here.

The already solicited issues of FF display that, while Susan Storm loves her husband with all her heart, she cannot accept many of his actions. He has an unyielding belief in his own intelligence and character; not an arrogance in the traditional sense, but an inability to even consider the possibility that he's wrong about anything. He exists almost without any understanding of himself, of his own existence, and especially as he's worked with Tony Stark on the Initiative, he's conducting his life more like he's an instrument of science than a human being. And to be perfectly honest, Susan Storm isn't sure this is the man who she wants raising her children. She knows that Reed loves Franklin and Valeria with all his heart... but, again, love is not enough. What kind of a role model is a man such as this? What kind of a partner, what kind of a husband?

FF 546 and 647, while demonstrating these issues between Sue and Reed, also feature Namor quite prominently. Namor is concerned with the way the Illuminati sent the Hulk into space, the way the Initiative panned out, he's concerned about a lot of things. And Sue sees Namor's conduct as a stark contrast to Reed's; Namor is incredibly self-aware, and though he is rash and quick to judgment, he is capable of changing his mind, of accepting his own limitations. In light of things with Reed, she is attracted to him. And he sees it.

The Rise of the Defenders arc widens the gap between Reed and Sue, as well as between Reed and T'Challa. Reed is obsessed with attaining some scientific advancement, as well as exposing Doom as a fraud. T'Challa tries to express to Reed that Doom's data doesn't lie, but just as Reed cannot fathom the possibility that he is ever wrong, he cannot fathom the idea that Doom can ever be right. Doom is so self-centered, so megalomaniacal, that Reed sees all his scientific work as inherently tainted, beginning with that fateful experiment all those years ago when Reed and Doom first disagreed. Sue is fed up with Reed by this point, but she's a team player and she still feels that the FF is doing a lot of good. WE ALSO SEE IN THIS ARC THAT REED IGNORES DATA THAT WOULD PREDICT THE CATACLYSM BECAUSE IT'S TOO OUTSIDE OF REASONABLE EXPECTATION THAT REED CHALKS IT UP TO SOME KIND OF DATA ERROR. Doom, however, notices this data and anticipates it as he gathers together the Defenders.

The Rise of the Defenders arc also demonstrates the following change in Namor; he recognizes that Atlantis cannot exist in a vacuum, and as Earth's greatest civilization is obligated to extend its enlightenment to all corners of the Earth, and clearly Namor is the man to do it. However, Namor also anticipates positive reciprocity; he expects to be well respected by all, and in many ways to call the shots. It makes him a complicated choice for the man who leads a coalition to supplant the most unilaterally acting nation in the world. In short, Namor is effecting his legacy plan, his great achievement, and not only for the history books: he wants to be known as the man who saved the world, like Reed Richards, to win the respect and love of Sue.

Balance of Power. Sue is furious with Reed for ignoring these warning signs. Reed is too shocked that he was wrong. This shouldn't have happened, this doesn't make sense. Namor is concerned about Sue, he wishes to remove her and her children from harm's way, but Doom wants to send a message to America that if America doesn't start playing ball with the rest of the world, America will not reap the benefits of this benevolent new world over. So Namor waits, but sends word to Sue that she should at least send her children out of harm's way. Sue accepts this offer after rioters break into the Baxter Building and the children are almost collateral damage.

When Reed finds out that his children have been spirited away to the home of his greatest rivals (both in science and his wife's affections) he's furious with Susan. Susan tries to explain to him that there's a new balance of power in the world. This is the most different world that they have ever woken up in. The bad guys are good, the good guys are incompetent, human achievement is rendered irrelevant. It's back to basics in a lot of ways. And Sue leaves Reed to join the Defenders. Susan and Namor have a relationship. That's going to be the most controversial thing, more controversial than her taking the children and walking out, but it's important to the story. She'll actually think Namor is a better role model to the kids: he doesn't love them the way Reed does, but he'll be better for them. Namor, for a few brief moments, has everything he's ever wanted: the woman he loves, children to raise, and an entire planet that looks upon him with adoration.

I'm going to pause here and offer some thoughts that just now come to me writing out what's been in my head. One: if you'd prefer, Sean, I could put all the Reed-Sue-Namor stuff in the pages of BOP tie-in crossover FF and let the mini have a more global focus. I don't like this that much because it takes some of the more Shakespearean elements out of the miniseries, but if it makes you more comfortable I'll do it. The other thought I have is to end the miniseries here, with a real change in the balance of power, a development that will rock the foundation of this Marvel Universe that will never be. Is this too unresolved an ending?

The way I see this going is that Namor is tricked by Doom (they both despise Reed) into thinking that Reed is responsible for killing that Defenders patrol in disputed waters. In fact, Reed may be partially culpable: the actual killers will be overzealous Initiative idiots, but they may be acting under orders from Reed to "not let any of those so-and-so defenders any where near our country. They've kidnapped my children and brain-washed my wife." This leads to the fierce, reckless anger on the part of Namor, who oversteps his political influence, invades America and attempts to kill Reed Richards and whoever gets in his way. Namor's basically telling Reed "I have everything I want but you broken and dead" but he is stopped from delivering the fatal blow by Susan, who demonstrates that when it all comes down to it, love actually is enough. All she has at that point for Reed is love; she has no respect, no affection, no faith in his judgment, but she still loves him with all her heart and she won't see him die.

And that's when Namor realizes that without love from Susan nothing else matters. He leaps off the roof of the Baxter Building and plummets into the wreckage below. We don't see what happens to him.

What I like about Sue and Reed's arc here is that Reed is the intellect minded one who thinks love is all that matters and Sue, concerned that her children can't lead normal nothing from a man who's such a robot, is the one forsaking love as a factor.

This is a lot to digest. Let me know what you think.


Patrick Cook said...

Call me a prude.

As much as I love Namor as a character, and as much as I've soured on Reed's characterization of late (anybody catch his unforgivable behavior in the Marvel Zombies one-shot), I just can't embrace the thought of Sue Storm: Slut.

Now, I'm not opposed to Sue going all Hank Pym on Reed. And I use that reference painfully, since I DETEST the wife batterer that they've turned Hank into, all predicated on a one-issue characterization more than 20 years ago. Reed does deserve a pretty good ass-kicking, you ask me. I just don't want to see Sue compromise her core.

Philip Schaeffer said...

I don't think that anything about Sue's actions in this pitch make her a slut.

Michael Heide said...

No, but the pitch lets Reed Richards look like a moron. It's just not believable.

But on the plus side, here's the cover for Balance of Power #1:

Patrick Cook said...

Kidding (poorly, apparently) on the slut slur. I'm with you about 80% of the way on this one, don't get me wrong. I guess I'm just hoping for Sue to straighten out Reed's ass and pull his rubber band out of this funk he seems to have fallen into of late.

Philip Schaeffer said...

Well at the end of the series Reed is going to be a much better man.

In some ways this is the best thing that could happen to him.

Like Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo fumbling that pivotal snap in the last playoffs.

Allow me to explain. Tony Romo stepped in for Drew Bledsoe, a young guy, nobody knew who he was, and he absolutely turned his team around. Like Peyton Manning, at times it seemed he was carrying the entire Cowboys team on his back. He didn't screw up. He didn't give the ball up under pressure. He was almost never sacked. And the whole time he conducted himself with dignity and humility.

And when his team was eliminated from the playoffs it was all his fault. The whole game he played like he didn't even know what he was doing, and yet somehow Romo and the Cowboys managed to get within striking distance at the very end. There was no time left. They could tie it up with a 3-point kick. Romo, having started out as the backup QB, was still the guy to hold the ball for the kicker.

The snap was good, the wind was right, the kicker had a great record at that distance...

And Tony Romo fumbled the snap. Season over. Try again next year.

But he's going to be a much better QB for it in the long run. He'll never get too big headed. Not after that. He'll always stay focused, keep things in perspective. He's a star in the making.

Until recently, Reed Richards was the hotshot. Was always right, never made mistakes, but it hadn't quite gotten to the point yet where he was too big headed, too self-assured to be an effective leader.

Then in Civil War, he didn't do a great job of leading his team. Like Romo during that game, one mistake led to another, but things got close to working themselves out.

Balance of Power is that snap. Reed really should've had this under control; this one's easy, he should've done this and everything could've been okay. But he was riled. Mad. Thought he knew what he was doing and the whole thing went to hell.

But he's never going to make this mistake again. He's going to grow into something much greater than he ever would have if he'd continued along a path of endless victories and simple solutions.

Sean Kleefeld said...

Okay, I can get more on board with your extended explanation. Before I get into the specifics, though, I want to take a moment to reflect on something here...

I think you're coming up with some solid ideas, Phil, and you're putting some thought behind them. Organic storytelling -- love that! :) What I've had trouble with, personally, has been that some of your initial explanations here don't necessarily hit on some key points of your stories. You're hitting the beats, but I've missed -- at least on the first reads -- why those should be the beats we need to hit.

That could well be because I'm reading your stuff too quickly, I will fully admit. But my main concern is that Tom might be reading the same way! He's going to provide audience reaction based on his reading, and if he sees some kind of Reed-Sue-Namor triangle shorthand without a clear explanation, we're going to catch heck.

So maybe you could elaborate a bit more on those types of things when you're writing up story/plot points?

Okay, to your explanation...

Sean Kleefeld said...

I really like the Reed-misses-an-error-that-Doom-catches bit. Especially with BoP casting Doom in a more heroic light, I think that scene can mirror that old part of the Doom origin scene where Reed finds Doom's notes.

I can buy into your explanation for Sue leaving Reed. Though I might add a "this Reed has changed since we first got married" bit. I'm not wholly sold on the Namor-Sue relationship, though -- I think we established pretty decisively a while back that Sue doesn't have a romantic inclanations to Namor. I can see her going to him with the kids, and him treating her like royalty. But I think we should make a point of avoiding a romantic relationship between them. Not that Namor should just be a convenient port in a storm, but not Romeo-Juliette either.

Philip Schaeffer said...

I think it's a combination of you having to read things too fast and me trying to keep my explanations too short.

500 words is really not very much. As you can see I can blow 400 on Tony Romo without breaking a sweat.

I'd love to lay this whole series out, plotted down to the page but that's clearly not an option. I may tear through my adjustments from Tom tomorrow (depending on what he throws me) and offer a much more in depth summary to assuage the lack of clarity on my first pass.

I'll play up the Doom catches what Reed misses idea, indicate that this isn't the Reed Sue married, and tone back the romance. My intention was never to have her fall in love with Namor, but perhaps to engage in certain behaviors that she thought was required of her because of his generosity. For the sake and stability of her children's lives.

I'll work on concisely expressing these key factors.

Michael Heide said...

Without an actual Sue/Namor relationship, this sounds good. One thing, though: Could we find a different abbreviation than BoP? I always think of Birds of Prey first...