The X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover story comes to an emotional close in its fourth issue.
I have really enjoyed this run written by Chip Zdarsky. The characterization of Xavier, Magneto, Dr. Doom, Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde and Reed Richards is some of the best I have seen in a long time. He understands what makes these characters tick while beautifully sewing together these two superhero teams over Reed and Sue’s mutant son, Franklin.
What is really interesting in this story is that Franklin and Valeria have gone to Dr. Doom on their own accord to help maintain Franklin’s powers. They have a relationship and friendship with Doom in which he is clearly utilizing their strengths to achieve his own goals, and even though they are aware of his intentions, they keep going back to him. It is a toxic situation that is written very well, especially for two teenagers who would be impulsive and naïve enough to trust Doom.
The flip side of this is that Reed and Sue are very controlling of their children, especially Franklin. While the X-Men are offering Franklin a place to learn about his people and perhaps control his powers, Reed and Sue do not want to let him go because they are terrified of what will happen to him when he leaves his home. The metaphor here is very powerful, especially to me as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. We have to make the choice to learn more about our community and people like ourselves, and that can sometimes be scary to families who are supportive of their children because they have seen the hatred that has been displaying to the community.
Reed and Sue eventually let Franklin go in an incredibly touching moment where they accept that he is old enough to make choices for himself.
The other plot point I want to spend a moment with is Reed Richard’s Code-X machine, which has the ability to cloak the X-Gene and could potentially disable it. While Reed had no plans to use it on mutants in any kind of negative context, Xavier and Magneto are not willing to take the chance. They barge into Reed’s laboratory and destroy the machine. Xavier tells Reed that he has stepped over a line where it puts the survival of their species at risk, and in turn decides to erase Reed’s memories of the machine.
This is a problematic choice on Xavier’s part. I do agree that this machine could be wildly dangerous to the mutant population. Imagine if somebody created a machine that “turned off” the part of a person that makes them LGBTQ+. Would I want my life as a gay man to be shut off and essentially erased? Absolutely not. That thought terrifies me because then I wouldn’t be who I am; however, Xavier’s reaction to cross his own line where he freely erases Reed’s memories and then threatens to completely wipe his mind is aggressive, and an attack that could reflect extremely poorly on the mutant community. Where is the line between fighting for mutant rights and attacking somebody whose intention isn’t even to hurt the mutant community? This is a line Xavier wobbles on regularly as a character.
Chip Zdarsky does a very good job at introducing these deep politics. If you are looking for a good 4-part comic book story to read, I highly recommend picking this up.