It always impresses me when a writer can find a novel concept in long-running series with decades of lore and a tried and true premise like “Fantastic Four” (1961–). I chuckle even harder when that novel idea is both literal and figurative. The secret behind that riddle is the subject of today’s story arc, “Solve Everything” (2009).
Picking up shortly after where the previous arc left off, the four superheroes are seen battling Bentley Wittman, alias “The Wizard,” who has seemingly gone mad and designed clone-piloted robots to attack them. After dispatching the assailants, Reed Richards goes to the newly insane Wittman and has him imprisoned. But before Reed can leave, Wittman utters the startling premonition, “We’ve both done the calculations — this world is going to tear itself apart and there’s nothing either of us can do to stop it.” In response, Reed writes his latest idea to “solve everything” and enters his lab.
Inside, he consults a familiar group of men via the multiversal viewing device he built in the “Dark Reign” (2008–09) arc, who are, as it turns out, a group of Reed Richards’ from other universes that have formed the “Interdimensional Council of Reeds.” Fans of “Rick and Morty” (2013–) will no doubt notice a similarity to the “Council of Ricks,” although here the council is formed around the same desire to “solve everything” that Reed has recently adopted, hence his admittance into the fold.
As Reed spends more and more time with the council, though, he begins to feel the strain on his personal life and his morals. Susan Richards, wife of Reed Richards, begins to question what he’s been up to, culminating in the verbal barb, “You spend all day in your lab and then act like you know every thought that’s running through my mind.” To which Reed responds, "I’m the foremost authority in countless areas of science and technology … I will not apologize for knowing the things I do." These quotes alone do not do the exchange justice and if possible, I’d recommend that you, the reader, see firsthand the tact and care that author Jonathan Hickman puts into each sentence. Summarily, it’s one of the most real depictions of two people who love each other being forced to confront their issues.
Reed finds that the Council’s methods are both grand and unilaterally decisive. On the one hand, they are able to terraform dead worlds to create entire parallel Earths full of wheat fields to feed people across the multiverse. On the other, they hunt down parallel-universe versions of Reed’s greatest nemesis, Dr. Victor von Doom, and lobotomize them into harmless creatures that are only capable of uttering the word “doom.”The Council presents Reed with the ultimately successful outcome, but the question remains, “What is the ultimate price to be paid?” Sorry to disappoint everyone, but this won’t be a one-and-done issue — I realized that I had so much to say about this arc halfway through writing.
Next week, I’ll be continuing my discussion about “Solve Everything” and the choice that will forever change Reed Richards for good or ill.