“Invisible Woman” Makes Me Ask, Who is Sue Storm Richards?

Interior page cropped design from Invisible Woman #3, Marvel Comics, 2019

Invisible Woman #3

Joe Caramagna (letterer), Adam Hughes (cover artist), Mattia de Iulis (artist), Mark Waid (writer)
Marvel Comics
September 11th, 2019

I don’t like to think of myself as the type of person who will put off reviewing things I don’t like, but in this case that’s exactly what I did with Invisible Woman #3, which has been out since September.

invisible woman

My reviews of the first two issues weren’t great. And so, I thought maybe it’s not the comic, you know? Maybe it’s my expectation of the comic. And so for this review, I’ve gone back to square one, and I’ve tried to put aside my preconceived ideas of Sue Storm after reading her canon for the past fifteen years, including the formative run that I read first, with Waid and Mike Weiringo. When I read the comic with a new purpose, to try to understand the woman who is presented here, I was still disappointed in the woman I saw, but I was better able to understand why. And that’s the focus of this particular review: characterization, and canon.

Meet Sue Storm Richards

I started my reading from the beginning, and when reading the title page, something started to bother me.Title Page from Invisible Woman #3, Marvel Comics, by Mattia de Iulis and Mark Waid

It’s not just the description of who Sue is and what she can do, it’s also the name at the top: Sue Storm Richards.

There’s something strange about this that doesn’t quite sit well with me. This isn’t a situation like Kitty Pryde saying, in canon, that she wants to be called Kate (which, why wouldn’t she, it’s the best name). This also isn’t like when Sue decided to change her superhero moniker from Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman in the 80s. This is a man, a corporation, speaking for her. And it’s a contradictory message when she is literally Sue Storm in every google search.

But what’s more…the idea that Sue Storm is Sue Storm is something that has, for literal generations, normalized the idea that women do not have to change their name to include their spouse’s when they marry. Period. To announce on the first line of the title page that this story isn’t about Sue Storm is one, of many, thoughtless decisions, made by men, that have turned Invisible Woman into a less than enjoyable reading experience. And while the intention may have been to reassert the “Storm” in her name, but all it does is to serve as a reminder that despite the fact that Waid decided the best story he could tell about Sue Storm was to take her away from her family, disconnect her completely from everyone, and write a series where only one issue of the three passes the Bechdel Test, and issue #2 only barely squeaks by in that Nat and Sue have a brief conversation about Sue’s experience as a spy that, while technically passing the test, also manages to needlessly establish Sue and Nat’s relationship as adversarial.

Sue’s powers have many creative applications that haven’t been explored in the comics (or the movies)

This is something I’m conflicted about. I’m trying really hard not to reference the Waid/Weiringo run, but the issues in which Sue and Johnny switched powers was so amazing because of the empathy that Sue came to feel for Johnny. Reading Sue thinking about her conversation with Val about how her powers work, and the possibilities of those powers, was a nice scene. I like the idea of Sue’s supergenius daughter explaining to her mom how awesome she is in ways that Sue would never have seen. It expands the possibility of Sue being able to use her powers to be chameleon-like (and there’s one panel where the artist seems to imply just that, with Sue appearing to have changed her skin tone to something resembling stone or marble).

Panel from Invisible Woman #3, Marvel Comics, by Mattia de Iulis and Mark Waid

But how does Waid have her muse about the possibilities of this new, infinitely creative aspect of her powers? To talk about how she can “dye” her hair without chemicals.

Yep. It’s also worth noting that Sue’s skin seems suspiciously darker and warmer in tone than when she’s blonde, which makes it uncomfortably close to blackface. (And one last observation—Sue’s jet black eyebrows are driving me crazy. She just said that she doesn’t dye her hair. She’s blonde. Is there seriously no one on editorial that might suggest she doesn’t have black eyebrows?)

And that segues into my final observation.

Sue is just as shallow (and vain) as her brother Johnny

I’m not judging a Sue Storm that enjoys fancy events where she gets to dress up in Balenciaga and flirt and thinks she’s the shit. I actually find it delightful that Sue enjoys a lot of the same things that Johnny does, because it speaks to their less-than-ideal childhood that is rarely explored but is so vital to their identity. It’s a commonality that Sue has with Johnny, and I’m also a big fan of anything that shows how the Storm siblings aren’t so “opposite” as people think. I like a Sue who thinks that she’s the shit, although usually when Sue thinks highly of herself compared to others, like in Fantastic Four #1 (where Slott flashbacked to when someone had to sing their way home), her family coughs awkwardly and suggests Johnny do it.

Without Sue’s historical context to understand why she’d enjoy dressing up in designer clothing and going to fancy events, and without her family to keep her in check, what comes across is a vain, shallow woman, with questionable ethics concerning the men she’s flirting with and her ex-partner. What’s uncomfortable is how Waid is sure to let us know that Sue isn’t really flirting with these men—it’s all part of her cover. And just a few pages earlier, Waid makes a point to let us know that Sue’s “jealousy” upon discovering Aiden allegedly has a wife isn’t really jealousy, it’s her being hurt and angry that her partner didn’t confide in her. Uh huh.

I’m going to end this review on that note. There’s more to be said about the plot and pacing, but there are two more issues left to review, and I think I’m finally ready to face them.

Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.

One thought on ““Invisible Woman” Makes Me Ask, Who is Sue Storm Richards?

  1. Waid? You continue to disappoint me. For Robinson? His fall from grace was near-instant and dramatic. For you? This has been a depressing and sloooow decline. And now we’re finally plateauing at the bottom. Fret not; there’s precious little further for you to fall.

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