In the first issue of House of X, an envoy of the X-Men made their way to New York City to apprehend the villain Sabretooth. They wanted to send a message to the Fantastic Four about how mutants’ positions in the world were changing following the founding of Krakoa. Not only were mutant criminals like Sabretooth the X-Men’s problem to deal with, all mutants—including Reed and Sue Richards’ son Franklin—were welcome to join them on the new island nation.
Franklin’s longstanding status as one of the most devastatingly powerful mutants to ever exist made him the ideal sort of person that Charles Xavier and his fellow X-Men would want to bring into the fold as part of their larger plan to ensure the survival and future flourishing of their species. But because Franklin was born into the Fantastic Four and his family has, at times, been at ideological odds with Xavier in particular, it was difficult to imagine that the boy’s family would react positively when the X-Men came offering him a place with them.
X-Men/Fantastic Four #1—from writer Chip Zdarsky, and artists Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, Dexter Vines, Karl Story, and Laura Martin—finally brings the two camps of classic Marvel heroes together in order to begin addressing the big, shared question that’s been looming over them ever since the X-Men began inviting mutants to Krakoa. The time’s come for Franklin to make his choice, and surprisingly, it ends up being a rather easy one for him to make.
Soon after arriving back on Krakoa with her fellow Marauders, Kate Pryde is surprised when two of the Stepford Cuckoos come to her—physically—with a message from Professor X. Under normal circumstances, the Cuckoos would simply reach out telepathically, which is what immediately alerts her to the gravity of the situation at hand.
Once Kate arrives at the Professor’s office, he explains that strictly speaking, the world isn’t in danger at the moment. In fact, it’s recently become marginally safer after Franklin Richards of the Fantastic Four singlehandedly thwarted a small, would-be alien invasion as his family members simply gawked in wonder. Even as the young omega-level mutant’s ability to bend reality to his will wanes (for some as-of-yet unexplained reason), his power levels remain off the charts. Xavier knows that, unlike so many regular human parents, Reed and Sue Richards genuinely love their mutant son and only want what’s best for him, but Xavier also understands that for all of Reed’s superhumanly vast intellect, he still hasn’t found a way to restore Franklin’s powers to their full strength.
While Xavier could attempt to explain all of this to Reed himself in an effort to get the Richards family agree to let the young boy live on Krakoa, he understandably reasons that the X-Men would have a much easier go of things if they appealed to Franklin himself, which is why Xavier needs Kate to be the one to make first contact.
X-Men/Fantastic Four uses the degradation of Franklin’s powers as a way of digging into a complicated element of the Fantastic Four’s dynamic that’s always been a part of the team’s identity. In his years working as a super-scientist superhero, Reed has thought and experimented his way through some of the most perilous threats the universe has ever faced. But Franklin can’t help but fixate on the fact that for all his father’s intellectual powers, he can’t figure out how to make his son better. Franklin voices these feelings to Ben Grimm and admits that while he loves his father, he can’t help but wonder whether, on some level, Reed’s purposefully left him and Ben to live lives where their superpowers have adverse effects on them.
The issue keeps in the rest of the Dawn of X’s style of introducing important information as text documents written by characters in the midst of research. But rather than including a Krakoan dossier, X-Men/Fantastic Four provides some of the work Reed’s been doing to better understand the nature and source of Frankin’s powers so he might find a way to heal him. The children of superheroes having ridiculously outsized powers compared to their parents is a tradition in Marvel’s comics that’s never made much sense, but Reed notes the work of Dr. Rachna Koul, a superpower researcher, who theorizes that many if not all superhumans are able to connect to wells of extradimensional energy.
Reed’s notes describe how, in his studies of the Fantastic Four’s power sets, he’s determined that the amount of energy they all put out vastly dwarfs the amount of energy they all consume as humanoids, meaning that all of that power has to be coming from somewhere. If Koul’s theory proves to be true in regards to the Fantastic Four’s powers, it could be expanded to include the idea that children like Franklin born to parents with one or two of their own connections to this “Godpower” would naturally have more or stronger connections to the energy, which might explain why the kid’s been able to do so many different things. The theory would also provide Reed a way to heal his son should he devise a way to restore his connection to the Godpower.
In time, it’s likely that Reed’s research would have led to some sort of breakthrough, but the X-Men wait for no human, cosmically irradiated or not. While Kate’s the one who’s meant to speak with Franklin, the entire X-Squad shows up on the Richards family’s doorstep in an obvious flex of power. Though Magneto and Professor X insist they only wish to speak peacefully and make their offer to Franklin, Sue isn’t a fool and wastes no time throwing up invisible force fields and demanding that the visitors leave. The moment Franklin sees Kate as she simply slides through Sue’s force field, though, he makes it clear that he’s happy to see her, and the adults in the room all agree to sit down and have a tense chat.
It isn’t long before Franklin’s parents and the X-Men are at one another’s throats and—because he’s a teenager with a good friend who can slip through walls—he and Kate decide to leave and have the calmer conversation the X-Men wanted in the first place. Kate’s loyal to the X-Men, but she’s got no interest in bullying Franklin into choosing either way because it’s something that he’s got to do for himself. Even though Franklin’s somewhat apprehensive, he thinks that going to Krakoa might be a good idea. Kitty explains that with a Krakoan gate right in Washington Square Park, Franklin would never be too far from his human family, but before he has a chance to take a look at it, the Human Torch shows up with the X-Men hot on his feels ready to keep brawling.
Rather than waiting around to watch his friends and family tear each other apart, Franklin makes the snap decision to race through the Krakoan gate knowing that he could always just decide to leave if he wanted to. But rather than being transported to the island as he crosses the threshold, he emerges on the other side still in New York. The reason, Reed explains, is because he implanted Franklin with a device that masks his X-gene, making it so that the Krakoan gates can’t recognize him as a mutant. Reed tries to explain that he only did what he did out of a desire to protect his son, but the bald-faced violation of Franklin’s trust and privacy is undeniable and devastating.
In that particular regard, Reed and Professor Xavier aren’t all that different. Xavier’s spent decades convincing children to do his bidding out of a sense that he knew what was best for them (even though many of them have died in the process). Though Ben was initially hesitant to go along with Franklin’s idea that Reed might be keeping things from the two of them out of his own selfish desires, it makes much more sense in the light of what he’s done, and even Reed has to admit that he’s royally screwed the entire affair up.
Clearly, Reed never really thought this plan all the way through because clever as he is, Franklin’s a genius in his own right, and it was only a matter of time before he realized his father had chipped him. If Reed couldn’t see that coming, he certainly couldn’t have predicted that Franklin would decide to run away and hide on Kate Pryde’s ship at the behest of his younger sister Valeria, as they do at the end of the issue. You can’t exactly fault Reed, though. Teenagers are difficult that way.
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