Superheroes battle deadly viruses and biochemical/mechanical menaces all the time. They often overcome these fictional perils to mankind’s health and welfare. When a superhero group takes on a real life killer though, like the all too powerful cancer, is the writer overstepping his bounds by portraying a such an easy, and free, triumph over a disease that more often than not is the winner?
Willie Lumpkin, a long term friend of the FF’s is dying. He has inoperable cancer that neither “radiation…chemo?” (as Reed asks) can stop from killing him. So Reed and the family shrink down and enter Willie’s body, find the cancer, kill it, and save Willie’s life. That’s great for Willie, but if the FF can do these things so easily, why can’t they equip the hospitals and cancer centers of the world with the technology and knowledge to do so for so many others that are suffering and dying? Would doing so be too expensive? Would the FF not get paid enough to share the knowledge? Would it be used for evil to often? Would medical insurance cover it? Would only the rich (much like in the real world) be the only benefactors of such a technology in the Marvel Universe?
Okay...okay…I know this is supposed to be a “feel good” story that is more or less throwaway since Hickman finished his major story arc a few issues ago, and is just floundering around while he completes what is (most likely) his contracted run on Fantastic Four. I love realism in comic books. I love Ron Garney’s art. (I really, really miss it on Wolverine.) I love heartwarming stories, but sometimes a story just hits a little too close to home. For anyone that’s lost a loved one to cancer, you know what I’m referring to. Fantastic Four #606 “Adventures in Red” trivializes such a powerful, painful, and debilitating disease (both emotionally and financially-because of our free enterprise and greed driven health care system). Reed and his family save Willie a little too easily, and the whole topic of cancer is treated with less respect than I care to see such an emotional and difficult subject dealt with.
Honestly, after you read this issue, I suggest that you be a real life superhero and make a contribution to the American Cancer Society. Who knows, maybe your contribution will be the one to finally fund a real cure, instead of a fictional one.