Invisible Woman #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mattia De Iulis
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
With the return of its flagship series as well as the upcoming Future Foundation spin-off book, Marvel has been doubling down lately on its Fantastic Four content — but much like its title character, Invisible Woman as a solo series seems to still be searching for a sense of purpose. Leaning into Susan Storm-Richards’s surprising side hustle as a spy for S.H.I.E.L.D., writer Mark Waid feels like he’s trying to shove a square peg through a round hole, with this debut issue’s exposition never really making a convincing argument for this twist in the status quo.
You might think of Sue Storm-Richards in a number of contexts: superhero, explorer, wife, mother, sister. Yet while it’s popped up here and there in certain books — most recently Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Captain America, Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers, or even Waid’s previous work on S.H.I.E.L.D. — propping an entire story on Sue’s past as an invisible infiltrator for S.H.I.E.L.D. feels like a discordant take, with all sorts of shadowy political undertones that can’t help but feel at odds with Marvel’s most feel-good family team.
But to his credit, it feels like Waid recognizes this — even Sue herself is staunchly against lethal violence, and it seems as though the writer is teeing up his heroine to tackle this theme of being both a squeaky-clean superhero and a clandestine spy operative. But it’s such a roundabout theme that Waid winds up eating most of his page count with exposition rather than action — beyond an opening flashback taking place in the snow, most of this book is either Sue explaining her history to us, or government figures explaining a new plot to her. Given that Sue as a character doesn’t lean as naturally towards black ops stuff as much as, say, his tenure on Black Widow, Waid’s already racing the clock to close the gap in suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, I can’t say he necessarily succeeds getting there.
Artist Mattia De Iulis made a big splash with his superlative (and underappreciated) work on Jessica Jones, but while I understand artists trying different things with their style, Iulis’s hazier shift in linework makes his characters look less elegant and less engaging. Given Adam Hughes is on cover duties, the styles feel almost intentionally synced up, but at his best, Iulis is channeling superstars like David Marquez when he’s able to really roll out with his inks — instead, he’s leaning heavy to let his colors do the talking, but I’m not sure there’s enough mood (or enough interesting sequences in the script) for him to pull it off just yet. I do think that Iulis has a bright future ahead, but given the talky nature of this debut issue, Invisible Woman doesn’t really give him the dynamic or dramatic launchpad he needs.
Given Mark Waid’s history with the Fantastic Four, it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t know the character of Sue Storm intimately — and on paper, I might even understand the impulse to try to throw a different sort of genre twist on the tried-and-true FF formula, similar to his spacefaring take on Doctor Strange. But Invisible Woman might be too much of a leap even for this seminal Fantastic Four writer — to be honest, there’s very little about this debut that feels like a job for Sue Storm, versus any other character in the Marvel Universe. If future installments can really show readers why Sue is a uniquely special character even amongst her teammates — to give readers a reason to read her solo adventures rather than as a team book — Invisible Woman might stick the landing, but as it stands, this slow-moving debut might prove to be way too easy to overlook.