Invisible Woman #1
Joe Caramagna (letterer), Adam Hughes (cover artist), Mattia de Iulis (artist), Mark Waid (writer)
July 10th, 2019
Mark Waid’s run on Fantastic Four with Mike Weiringo was the first I ever read, and it’s still my sentimental favorite. After making the First Family of Comics persona non grata for years, Marvel restarted the series with Dan Slott at the helm almost a year ago. Then they announced a new Future Foundation book with Jeremy Whitley, and this Invisible Woman miniseries, written by Waid—the first ever solo series Sue Storm has gotten in her sixty-plus years of superheroing.
With a male creative team and covers by Adam Hughes, I was wary from the start, because these decisions indicated that although it’s Sue Storm on the cover, this book isn’t in the same vein as some of the other solo titles Marvel has given women lately—it’s not a new Carol Corps with Carol Danvers becoming the feminist icon she was always meant to be, or even a Jessica Jones renaissance that (partly due to the Netflix series) cemented her female antihero status. This isn’t Jane Foster as Thor, Kate Bishop as Hawkeye, or Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. It’s not a book starring a women written for women (or even by them). And Hughes and Mattia de Iulis’s art, with its distinct male gazey, borderline pinup style, while pretty, distracts from what is setting itself up to be a character piece about Sue and her work as a spy for S.H.I.E.L.D.–an interesting focus that ties to the first time Waid wrote Sue as an agent in the S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries from 2014.
There have been criticisms about the first issue’s pacing, and with there being only five issues, that’s fair to some extent. But the pacing is paramount because it subverts the art by lingering in quiet moments. A few years ago I wrote about how Joelle Jones managed to subvert a bro-tastic Max Landis script through her art, and this is that, but in reverse. By forcing the artist to linger in long, quiet moments—like Sue with her coffee—it keeps those male gazey poses in check.
The focus of this series being on Sue’s spy past picks up older continuity, which pleases me (especially since it’s continuity that the writer has previously written). But Sue also does not interact with anyone from the Fantastic Four—not her husband, her brother, or her children, aside from sending Reed a text message before she leaves on her mission. Maybe she also messaged her brother, but while the narrative establishes that she is many things to many people (Sue describes herself as a kaleidoscope, which is an obvious play on the idea of fractured light), she’s also, significantly, not seen interacting with any of those people.
Invisible Woman #1 sets up what looks like will be a single mission; I enjoy a good slow narrative burn, but I do have to wonder how this one storyline is worth five issues, instead of a one-shot. As the series continues, there are two things I’m watching for. First, whether the writing continues to subvert the art in a positive way, and second, whether Sue and Aiden remain platonic partners. At least one review read their interactions as flirtatious, which, if you’re a person who sees every interaction between a man as a woman as sexually charged thanks to heteronormativity and patriarchy, sure. I mean the evidence is damning: They were partners, he had a nickname for her (“Stormy,” which clearly shows his intellectual prowess), and she decided to rescue him. Clearly that means they were harboring secret feelings for each other for a decade. I personally don’t read any chemistry between them that’s anything other than partnership—which I like. Not every partnership needs to have UST.
I have to admit I’d be more excited if Aiden was a woman, because to be frank, I want to see Sue interact with women other than Alicia, thanks. Invisible Woman #1 doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, which is incredibly disappointing, but more damning in my opinion is that until Black Widow appears at the end, Sue doesn’t interact with any women. I’m hoping that Natasha’s appearance signals a team-up where we will see Sue meaningfully interacting with another woman, but if it’s only in the context of rescuing a man, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I titled this review “the evidence of things not seen,” because what is not seen is always as significant as what is seen, and in this comic, that’s both visual and narrative significance. We don’t see any other women (other than Natasha at the end). We don’t see her family (aside from a text message). The Sue that we do see is a kaleidoscope who enjoys the three Cs: coffee, crime novels, and long walks in Central Park. She also apparently subscribes to the Batman school of morals and ethics and refuses to kill. And that’s… fine, I guess, to come out and say it like that. But since Sue is canonically the most powerful, ruthless, physically violent member of the Fantastic Four, whether that gets addressed or contextualized with this moral code remains to be seen.