Owen Reece, the Molecule Man: a period by period history

Owen Reece, the Molecule Man:

A period by period history, with emphasis on his Son and his history of affecting organic molecules

I wrote a Character of the Week feature for the Daily Debater where I examined the history of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man. This blog post takes on the same basic subject but breaks it down differently. There, I looked at the many ways he has changed over his history, in terms of his personality, body, and powers, and discussed them by the kind of change. Here, I'll discuss them chronologically.

Owen Reece is almost defined by change. He has very different phases within his history. Sometimes on the battle boards, we act as if there were maybe four versions of Reece--classic inorganic-molecules-only Reece, pre-retcon Secret Wars II Reece, post-Cosmic Cube retcon Reece, and current post-Secret Wars 2015 Reece. However, there are several more distinct phases, and some of them are quite different from the general understanding--especially the idea that he couldn't affect organic molecules before Doom enlightened him at the end of Secret Wars I. I'll also get way more into the idea of the Molecule Man's "son," an obscure but key phase in his history.

To try to show exactly how complicated these changes are, I’ve made a chart that shows his most important historical moments, and ties it in to big evolutions in his powers, his various origin stories, and his personality.

No Caption Provided

I’ll go through all these changes and inconsistencies below. The summary: Throughout his career, Owen Reece has been one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. He has gone from loser who was mad at the world to someone who found peace and self-acceptance in love in what I believe was one of the great character-development stories in Marvel. Then he somehow lost all his self-worth and went totally bananas, until he was once again redeemed in the 2015 Secret Wars storyline, and once again found peace in his post-Secret Wars adventures with the Future Foundation.

You know I can’t hold back when I’m writing about the Molecule Man, so get ready for a long but hopefully very elucidating ride!

Reece's Original Origin, and the Beginning of His Career as a Villain

Fantastic Four 20

Noteworthy History

The original version of the source of his powers is straightforward. In Fantastic Four 20, he is a social misfit working at an atomic power plant. There is an accident, and he gets powers. Pretty straightforward, basically just like Peter Parker getting bitten by a spider, or Hulk getting hit by a gamma bomb.

Powers

His power level at this time is significant—the Watcher breaks his interference oath to ask the Fantastic Four to stop him, saying “he has the power to destroy worlds, galaxies, yes…even universes!” and that with his power, “an entire universe becomes imperiled.” Indeed when the FF manage to short-circuit his powers, it is the Watcher himself who banishes him to another dimension.

He can only affect inorganic molecules, and in fact when he tries to affect organic molecules, it creates a feedback loop that knocks him for a loop.

He also needs a wand to use his powers.

Buuuuuuuutttttt…this whole “inorganic molecules only” thing is inaccurate even from the start, because he is able to control electricity (calling them “electric molecules”), bend a wooden water tower, and create magnets that are attracted to organic molecules (which, depending on how you look it may be only affecting organics by second-hand, but still that's pretty significant; in any case the wood tower is a first-degree effect on organics). See "The Wand Period" below for more on this subject.

Origin of Powers

His powers are a complete accident.

Personality

He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him wrong.

The Son of the Molecule Man

Marvel Two-in-One 1

Noteworthy History

This is where it gets weird. In this other dimension, time moves at a different rate than ours, and Reece eventually dies of old age—but not before he creates a “son” who then replicates Reece’s accident using machinery he has built in that universe. This son then goes to the 616 universe, where little time has passed, and wreaks havoc before the Thing makes him drop his wand. The son of the Molecule Man’s body then ages at an extreme rate before the Thing’s eyes, and he disintegrates.

Powers

He can affect everything, organic and inorganic, as for instance when he gives a guy Mr. Fantastic-like powers, and stretches him until he breaks, and turns the Thing and Man-Thing into their human forms. He can also teleport between dimensions and from place to place within the 616 universe. He needs the wand.

Origin

The son gets his powers from a machine he and the original Owen Reece made to duplicate his original accident. It was also made to specifically allow him to affect organic molecules as well as inorganic.

Personality

He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and his father wrong.

The Wand Period

Iron Man annual 3, Fantastic Four 187-8, Micronauts 23, Avengers 215-16

Noteworthy History, and a bit of Theorizing

However, his spirit seemingly goes into the wand and then over a series of random issues (Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Micronauts), his spirit possesses the body of whoever picks up the wand. (I'll show examples below under Powers.)

But—an important point. Since the original Molecule Man died in the other dimension, and the “son” is the one whose spirit seemed to go into the wand, and eventually made it out as we’ll see, then arguably every single issue after his second appearance is NOT the Molecule Man, but the SON of the Molecule Man!

However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, based on various handbooks and editorial comments, who have basically wished-away the son. What actually happened is not clear, but probably it is one or a mix of these things:

1) The Son of the Molecule Man was not actually a separate, different being from the original, but was just Reece’s own spirit, split in half. So in effect, the Son was actually a twin, or a clone, of the original, and so the Molecule Man that continued to appear past his second appearance was still essentially the same as the original. Arguably he started off crazier due to the trauma of having his spirit split in two, and slowly returned to normal over time.

2) The Son WAS a different being, but it wasn’t his spirit that went into the wand when the son died. Actually, when the original Molecule Man died, his spirit went into the wand (off panel, and in contradiction to the on-panel description of the son's spirit going into the wand), and then traveled with the son back to our dimension. So the spirit that possessed people who picked up the wand was really the spirit of the original Molecule Man. This doesn't really explain why he looked so much like the son in the next couple appearances however.

3) The Son was a different being, and the original’s spirit went into the wand when he died, but the son's spirit went into the wand too. The original spirit didn’t possess people right away. The Son was the one who possessed people over his next few appearances—which makes sense because in this wand era, he sure looks and acts a lot like the Son. But then in Avengers 215-216, when he gets out of the wand forever, it is the original Molecule Man’s spirit that finally manages to become dominant. This would mean that it is the original Molecule Man who appears in Fantastic Four 20 and all appearances from Avengers 215-216 onwards, but it is the son who appeared from Marvel Two-in-One 1 through Micronauts 23. Or, perhaps, if both of their spirits were in the wand, the original's slowly became dominant over its creation until finally recreating his body.

In the original comics, it seems to imply version (1) is the true case. In Iron Man annual 3, it says “at the instance before his ‘death’ [he] funneled his essence into his wand.” This caption is placed next to a picture of the Son dying, implying that the “Son of” Molecule Man's spirit is what went into the wand, and was the same “spirit” as all the later incarnations of them.

However, the handbooks tend to retcon this and go with option (2). OHOTMU A-Z 7 says the original Reece channeled his spirit into the wand "wielded by his construct, Molecule Man II." (Note that this text then attributes all future appearances to the original Reece.)

His Avengers Most Wanted bio is along the same lines: "Reece created a son for himself in his dimension of exile, and upon his death, transferred his powers and the wand to him. [Note: as we have seen, he didn't actually 'transfer his powers', the Son got his own powers by recreating the original accident with a new machine. So this is inaccurate regardless of the question of spirit transfer.] The new Molecule Man eventually returned to Earth and fought the Thing and Man-Thing, but his life-force was bonded to the wand, and he died when he was separated from it. The wand went on to possess others, acting as a host for the Molecule Man's consciousness, until it finally recreated Reece's original body." This makes it sound like the wand is a host for the original's consciousness. I also like the use of the passive, where "the wand" possessed the people instead of having to explain which spirit did it.

His Secret Wars 2015 bio says, "Reece used his powers to fashion a humanoid construct to serve as his companion, naming it his 'son.' As Reece began to die, he transferred his consciousness into his wand [again, we never saw this happen on panel] and gave the wand to his 'son.'" It then describes how the Son died and the wand possessed people. "Finally the Molecule Man's consciousness within the wand refashioned Owen Reece's original body and permanently transferred his mind into it." Again, while this plays fast and loose with how his spirit got into the wand, it implies that when he finally recreated his body, that was the original spirit (and it probably was during the rest of the possession period).

The '86 OHOTMU is perhaps the most definitive: "Reece created a humanoid construct to serve as his companion, and through unknown means endowed it with consciousness. Reece let the construct to believe itself to be his son....Reece transferred his consciousness and powers into the wand his 'son' carried [again, not on panel he didn't!]. ...However the consciousness and powers of the original Molecule Man remained within the wand, and the Molecule Man could overpower the minds of whoever touched the wand."

In fact, the first edition of OHOTMU uses the same text with one difference: "The consciousness of the true Molecule Man, as well as his powers, had been preserved in the wand."

All these make it sound like the Iron Man annual 3 on-panel text about putting his spirit into the wand before he died referred to the original putting his spirit in before he died of old age, instead of the Son putting his spirit in before disintegrating after dropping the wand--despite the way that panel is actually drawn. My take is that the various writers of these early issues didn't all understand what had happened in the others. You can see here that Jim Shooter himself, who wrote the Avengers story, felt that important parts of his character had been lost; which is to say, he tried to write those problems out of existence by making the spirit in the wand belong to the original, not the son.

Anyway, despite the handbooks, based on a reading of the comics themselves, where his first few wand-era appearances tend to use his muscled, hyper-aggressive Son's body and personality, I tend to go with option 1 (he split his spirit and it eventually reverted to normal) or 3 (the spirits were both in the wand and eventually the original's became dominant) myself.

But wait, you say, how does any of this make sense? Sure, the Son got his powers from a machine that replicated the original accident and allowed him to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, but the original Owen Reece could still not affect inorganic molecules. How could he create a separate son’s body, let alone create a spirit? Well, that’s a damn good question, and I think the answer is, (a) when the Son story was originally written, he really was meant to be a son, but later on they changed that. And (b) as we’ll see next under Powers, Owen Reece has been able to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, and energy, throughout his pre-Secret Wars history, albeit in an inconsistent way.

Importantly, at the end of this phase, Tigra persuades him to see a therapist, and he decides to renounce evil.

Powers

He can ostensibly only affect inorganic molecules, but can really affect everything, and needs a wand.

Examples of affecting other kinds of molecules/energy: he keeps possessing people’s bodies (for instance, this girl, Iron Man, this boxer [it happens in the last panel], this homeless man, and Mr. Fantastic) thus using some kind of psychic/spirit powers, or at a minimum control of organic brains; he can transform those bodies (as he does when he turns a lizard into a lizard-man, and a young girl into a woman; he turns a woman into a doll; he makes a mirror out of water and wood; he animates some skeletons; he turns the Thing into glass; he turns hubcaps into flowers; he controls electricity again; he creates his own body from random molecules; he disintegrates and then recreates the Silver Surfer’s surfboard and Mjolnir, including the Power Cosmic and Asgardian magic inherent in them; he drains the SIlver Surfer's power in what is technically a manipulation of a condition of matter but comes down to manipulation of the energy in that matter. And, of course, he created his own Son as already seen.

Interestingly, he is unable to affect the Impossible Man’s molecules, because he has greater control over them, can't possess the mindless Man-thing or the energy-based Klaw, can't affect the Invisible Woman’s forcefield, because it is not made of molecules, and the Fantastic Four’s uniforms, because they are made of unstable molecules. He also can’t make complex machinery like plumbing or Iron Man’s armor because he doesn’t know how they work.

He needs the wand for most of this period, until Avengers, where he recreates his own body instead of possessing someone else’s. From then on, he no longer needs the wand.

Origin

Depending on whether he is himself, and/or his son (and if that son is really himself), he got his powers either by a complete accident, or by intentionally replicating that accident.

Personality

He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and/or his father wrong. By Avengers, he is pretty insane, with real obsessive and delusionary issues. But then, at the end, he decides to try to be a nice guy and see a therapist.

Secret Wars I

Secret Wars I, 1-12

Noteworthy History

At this point, Reece has his body and original spirit back, and he goes off to Secret Wars I. There, he mostly works with the villains, but not very enthusiastically, due to the effect of his therapist. He falls in love with Volcana, one of the most significant events in his life.

Eventually, Dr. Doom takes the powers of the Beyonder, and he provides enlightenment to Reece. He shows him that he has been subconsciously limiting his powers and that he is actually one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

Powers

Reece is now the second-most most powerful being in the multiverse, above all abstracts, and only below the Beyonder himself. He is explicitly able to affect all matter and energy.

Origin

He still got his powers completely by accident. But technically speaking, if his son was really a double of him all along, and it was that double’s spirit that continued to possess people and then eventually evolved itself to having the personality of the original, then that spirit got its powers on purpose by replicating the original’s accident. This is technically a possibility from here on out, but I’m not going to mention it again, partly because it is unlikely.

Personality

In part because of his enlightenment, and in part because he found love with Volcana, he turns into a geek who is at peace with himself and the universe.

Secret Wars II

Secret Wars II 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, Avengers 266

Noteworthy History

He befriends the Beyonder—one of the only friends Reece ever has—and then kills him. Then he saves the Earth from the fallout of the Beyonder’s destruction, in Reece’s most heroic act. This seems to leave him without his powers, so the heroes ignore him for a while, but really he still has his powers.

Powers

Still the second-most powerful being in the multiverse and able to do anything.

Origin

While it was still a complete accident that he got his powers, he now has a link with the Beyonder: when Reece got his powers, it was an event of such cosmic significance that it opened a pinhole into the Beyonder’s universe, and the Beyonder, looking in, saw it and started gaining his own self-awareness, having never been aware of anything but himself before.

Personality

Still a geek at peace with himself and the universe. Even heroic.

Cosmic Cube

Fantastic Four 318-19

Noteworthy History

Now things really change. Dr. Doom manipulates things so that Reece, the Beyonder (still alive in another dimension), Kubik, and the Shaper of Worlds all end up talking. Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds are Cosmic Cubes who became sentient. Cosmic Cubes each get their power from a pocket dimension of pure power controlled by a race called the Beyonders. These Beyonders release the energy from one of these pocket dimensions into the Cubes as part of their experiments with our universe; they are very interested in evolution and development. The Cubes start as pure objects, then gain personalities.

It turns out that when Reece had his accident, some of this Cube energy went into him, but more of the energy stayed in its own dimension and eventually developed sentience. This second part became the Beyonder. So, in this version, Reece has less than half the power of a Cosmic Cube, and the Beyonder has more than half—together they are equal to one Cosmic Cube.

(Also summarized here, noting the imbalance of power.)

At the end of this, Reece merges with the Beyonder and they go off with Kubik and Shaper to evolve.

Powers

Reece’s power is now redefined as being that of a portion of a Cosmic Cube. So, he can still do anything—and arguably now his power should no longer defined as matter/energy manipulation but reality warping, since that’s how Cubes work—but to a lesser degree than before. For instance, Kubik later notes that the Cubes are less powerful than the Celestials. Another appearance of Kubik notes that they are "minor omnipotents." He also says that the Cubes are "insignificant" compared to the main abstracts. Reece also notes how he is below Eternity and the Tribunal.

Kubik, as a whole cube, is much more powerful than the Beyonder alone, and thus more than Reece.

It’s also interesting because Dr. Doom is able to knock Reece out with some gauntlet blasts when taking him unawares, showing that he inhabits a normal human body when not actively using his powers (1, 2). On the other hand, his power did protect him automatically, and it has a rare example of him manipulating time.

Origin

Previously, when Reece got his powers, it was so significant that it made a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, and the Beyonder noticed it. But, the Molecule Man’s powers came from the machine itself.

Now, the accident opened a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, which allowed part of the power from the Beyonder’s universe to flow into Reece. Thus, his power and the Beyonder’s power are the same kind of thing (Cube energy).

Personality

Still a geek at peace with himself and the universe. Even heroic and capable of self-sacrifice.

Post-Cube

Fantastic Four annual 23 and 24, Fantastic Four 372-3, Fantastic Four Annual 27, Avengers Unplugged 4, Incredible Hulk 441-2

Noteworthy History

Reece’s personality soon splits off from the Beyonder’s spirit and the Cube, and he goes back to Earth, with no power, since it was all left in the Cube (it separated his "essence from [his] power"). Except, it turns out that he left a “bit” of his power in Volcana before he left.

He gets this "bit" back from Volcana, but she gets mad at him for lying, and their relationship is over. He spirals into a pit of self-hatred again, and occasionally toys with being a villain.

This whole period is just a series of minor, terrible, largely embarrassing appearances. Why they felt the need to destroy his relationship with Marsha I'll never understand. It would have been so easy to say he lost his powers and he lived happily ever after.

He spends time as a puppet of the Puppet Master, is beaten by a rogue Watcher, and yet somehow manages to defeat the Beyonder, now aka Kosmos the sentient Cube being.

Power

This period is one of the least consistent and logical periods when it comes to his powers. First, when he comes back, he gets back his “bit” of power from Volcana. This is, by definition, a very small portion of his own original power, which was in turn less than half of a Cosmic Cube’s power. And yet, he is eventually able to beat the Beyonder. How?

First, when he first regains the bit of power, he isn’t even able to control organic molecules again, they’re too complicated. (So not because of a mental block, which was usually the old explanation.) He’s able to be mind-controlled by the Puppet-master of all people, and then Aron, the rogue Watcher, beats him by taking away all the air molecules in his immediate vicinity, showing that Reece’s power level is less than the Watcher’s. But then, through “practice,” in his very next appearance (here and here), he is now not only able to affect organic molecules again, but also energy, and at such a level that he “transacts on levels unimaginable” to the Beyonder—even though the Beyonder always had more power than Reece, and especially after they merged, when the Beyonder/Kosmos had absorbed most of Reece’s power, leaving Reece with only a “bit.” This is a huge leap, and all apparently due to practice.

This is all explained in a super-vague way by Kubik, the sentient Cube, who says by that as a human, Reece has more potential than any abstract like a Cube being. Now, somehow, Kubik is less powerful than Reece, even though Kubik was more powerful than the Beyonder, and the Beyonder was more powerful than Reece, in Fantastic Four 318-19. My inference is that perhaps the concept is that Reece is partially drawing on his human psychic potential, which Marvel has said in the past all humans have a vast potential for, like Rick Jones? Anyway, this whole “humans vs abstracts” dynamic is largely ignored in future issues.

He also goes through a variety of pathetically unsuccessful attempts to get Marsha back (like making a sculpture garden of her or putting her on Mt. Rushmore.)

Origin

Still gained his powers from a Cube universe, but then lost most of it, but then regained it through “practice.” That regaining of powers may be supplemented by the innate psychic potential that all humans share.

Personality

So, so, so lame. Starts off as a self-hating pathetic geek, then eventually turns into an angry geek when he battles the Beyonder, then after the battle he super-super briefly becomes a geek at peace with himself and the universe again. This peace is gone by his next appearance, when he is immediately pathetic and self-hating again.

This phase is the start of the idea that he has multiple personalities and is truly insane. Until now, he was just a bad guy who eventually learned to be good in a natural progression. Starting with his battle with the Beyonder, and continuing on in his appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has a split personality with diametrically different good (but pathetic) and evil sides.

This is by far the most pathetic era of the Molecule Man’s life. He goes from being the hero of Secret Wars II to a complete joke, literally picking his nose on panel and appearing as a shriveled dwarf with an enormous nose. He also somehow becomes an extremely conservative and socially-unskilled person as if he had never had a girlfriend.

There is one interesting thing about his “dark side” self. This dark side, as seen in Fantastic Four Annual 27 (seen here) and Incredible Hulk 442 (seen here), looks an awful lot like the Son—muscled and bald. So it is arguably a way they tried to settle the original inconsistencies with the Son—maybe he wasn’t another person/spirit, but just the original Molecule Man’s dark side made in physical form. Then perhaps when the Son died, and his spirit went into the wand, it merged with remnants of the original’s spirit, which eventually took over. But the dark side Son-self was always waiting to come out, as it eventually did in Fantastic Four Annual 27. (This fits our original option 3, regarding the Son.)

Falling off the Map

New Avengers 1; maybe Spider-man: Breakout 1; Fantastic Four Foes 1, 5; Secret Invasion 1.

Noteworthy History

After his embarrassing appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has no 616 appearances for about 9 years. We learn from implication and handbooks that he was apparently somehow caught by SHIELD and kept in the Raft. Then he escapes with the rest of the criminals during the breakout. He shows up (off panel) to a meeting of villains organized by the Mad Thinker and Puppet Master. However, the Fantastic Four track down and capture all the villains at the meeting, including Reece. This time he and the others are put in a special prison in the Negative Zone. However, some of them escape. Either Reece escapes with them off-panel and is eventually recaptured and put back on the Raft, or the prison is eventually closed and he is just transferred to the Raft. In any case he is seen on the Raft during Secret Invasion, and once again presumably escapes with the rest.

Basically, he is imprisoned and escapes three times, almost all off panel.

Powers

Unknown, because he only shows up in super-brief one-panel appearances. But seemingly he must have been depowered to some extent, in order for them to be able to imprison him in the Raft and the Negative Zone prison. Consider that he was powerful enough to defeat the Beyonder immediately before this, but not powerful enough to break out of the Raft.

This brings up the question of his subconscious mental blocks. When he first started, his own self-doubt and self-hatred caused him to limit his powers so he couldn’t affect organic molecules (usually). Then Doom removed these blocks, and with the additional help of his therapist and his love with Volcana, he could do anything. But, after his break-up with Volcana, his old self-doubts and self-hatred returned, and he also started having severe psychological disorders such as split personalities. I would argue that it was this severe mental and emotional breakdown that caused him to be so weakened that he could be imprisoned.

Also interestingly, Reece uses a wand in Fantastic Four Foes. This is the only time he uses it since Avengers 215-16.

Origin

Still got his powers from the Cosmic Cube dimension, in conjunction with the Beyonder.

But, at this time, the Illuminati series comes out, and says that the Beyonder was actually a mutant Inhuman, and that’s where his powers came from. While this new origin for the Beyonder was never mentioned again, it would throw a huge loop into the origin of the Molecule Man—because if the Beyonder got his powers from being a mutant Inhuman and not from a Cosmic Cube universe, then where did Reece get his powers from?

Personality

Seemingly an angry, pathetic geek.

Dark Avengers

Dark Avengers 10-12

Notable History

A few years later, Reece eventually shows up again, seemingly at relatively full power. He has been living in seclusion in the small town of Dinosaur, Colorado, where he grew up. It is telling that this story treats him more respectfully than he has been in years, and he still gets beaten by the Sentry, and banished to an unknown location.

Powers

He can seemingly do anything, and with a fairly high level of achievement. However, the Sentry/Void is explicitly shown to have a higher level of molecular manipulation ability than Reece—presumably due to Reece’s mental instability.

Origin

Presumably still got his powers from a Cosmic Cube universe in conjunction with the Beyonder (who was last seen, at this point, having changed its name from Kosmos to the Maker and was seemingly depowered by a fair amount. She was also, ironically, imprisoned around this time period, and then defeated by Thanos and later killed by the destruction of the Kyln space prison).

Personality

Totally, bonkers insane geek. He wants to be left alone but acts out violently when found. He has new multiple personalities now, not just his good and evil sides. Now he imagines having conversations with alter egos Mephisto, the Beyonder, the Enchantress, and Zarathos. He has delusions about the nature of reality.

I will note that this is different from the “dark side” self in Fantastic Four Annual 27 and Incredible Hulk 442; while he does change from one body type to another a bit, there is no hugely muscled bald self that is reminiscent of the Son anymore. The Son is done.

Incursions

New Avengers 24, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33

Notable History

Finally, Jonathan Hickman picks him up again, and his story becomes respectable, and changed, once again.

First we see Reece helping out Doom in his search for solutions to the Incursions. Somehow he ended up here after his fight with Sentry. This makes some sense since Reece does have a long history with Doom in Secret Wars I and the Cosmic Cube storyline.

At some point Reece takes Doom on a tour, explaining Reece’s real role in the universe. The Molecule Man is now said to be empowered directly by the race of the Beyonders, and across all alternate universes. It is said that when he gets to a certain age, he will explode, and this explosion will destroy the whole universe. And since there is one of him in each universe, it will destroy all the universes. Thus Reece is a Beyonders-made time bomb. (Same idea reiterated here.)

This is all confusingly conflated with the concept of the Incursions. In the Incursions, universes crash into each other when their Earths literally physically touch, and their universes are destroyed. It is not really clear whether the Incursions, in the Earth-touching sense, are the result of a Molecule Man exploding, or are a totally separate thing.

Reece asks Doom to go around killing other-dimensional versions of himself. However, it is not clear whether those premature deaths also destroy their universes early, thus making them not available to crash into each other, or if they just don’t explode at all, meaning that when they touch, they don’t have the energy of the Molecule Man to explode. (My guess is that since the Mapmakers explored the worlds where Molecule Men had died, those universes are not destroyed by his death.)

This whole concept also doesn’t take into account the fact that many comics have featured alternate-timeline Molecule Men who are quite different from the 616 Molecule Man. In those comics, some alternate Reeces have died early, also without destroying their universe (Marvel Vision 22, What If: X-men: Age of Apocalypse, Fantastic Four 568, Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble 8), some have had no powers at all (Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four 11, Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble 8), and others have features that don't work with this concept (What if the Avengers Lost the Evolutionary War, where all of the heroes, including Reece, leave their original universe and evolve into a unified supreme being in another universe). But, I salute Hickman for making Reece relevant and non-pathetic again.

Powers

Able to affect anything, including metaphysical things like scanning the universe for its faults; however, he clearly has limits. He can't stop the Incursions by himself, for instance.

His power is enough that, if set off, would destroy the universe and presumably everything in it, including the abstracts.

Origin

Reece’s accident was not an accident, but part of a plan by the Beyonders to give him enough energy that he would become a living bomb. (In some other universes, he sometimes got his powers in other ways, or had no powers, however.)

While this whole “living bomb” concept does fit in somewhat with the Cosmic Cube origin, in that either way he ultimately gets his powers from the Beyonders, it fails to explain the Beyonder. Did the Beyonder get his powers at the same time as Reece anyway? Why bother making the Beyonder (singular) if the only real point of the accident was to give Reece enough power to destroy his universe? This may partly be explained by several references around this time to the Beyonder being a child member of the Beyonders. If that is the case, the Beyonder was just an infant member of the Beyonders, and his power was not connected to Reece’s power, except that they are both Beyonders-derived. Potentially, it could be argued that all the Beyonders gained their sentience when the energy in these pocket universes become sentient, and some of those happened to become Cosmic Cubes instead of remaining in their own realm. Perhaps other, non-sentience-gaining realms were utilized to empower the multi-dimensional Reeces.

Personality

Fairly insane geek, in the sense that he is babbling and wacky. However, he also seems wise, in that he knows what’s going on with the Beyonders. See the next entry for a discussion of multiple different explanations for his insanity here and in other periods.

He does NOT have multiple personalities any more, however.

Secret Wars 2015

Secret Wars 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9

Notable History

Working with Doom and Dr. Strange, Reece gets all the remaining alternate Molecule Men together, and they destroy the Beyonders with their bomb capacity. (Thus implying that there is more total power in a fraction of the original total number of Reeces than there are in the whole race of Beyonders. This implies that killing his other-dimensional selves was actually counterproductive.) He takes the former-Beyonders’ powers into himself.

He then acts as a battery and conduit, channeling power to Doom in his GodDoom state. Eventually Reece revolts against Doom and takes the power away from him. He then joins up with Franklin and Reed Richards to recreate the entire multiverse. Essentially, Reece is still the battery, and he gives Franklin the power; Franklin filters the power through his own dreams to create the universes (even though Franklin has been shown to be powerful enough to create universes on his own before).

Powers

It is unclear whether Reece’s power now, with all the Beyonders’ power, is more powerful than previous version of himself. He is certainly more powerful than his Cosmic Cube version, since that was a clearly limited form of omnipotence, but is he as powerful as the Secret Wars II version of himself, that was for instance capable of destroying several billion dimensions? He is clearly capable of, at a minimum, creating many new universes.

Origin

It is unclear whether he retains any of his original powers. Does he now only have the power of the Beyonders—did that wipe his power-slate clean, and provide new and different powers? Or does he have the combined power of all the remaining Molecule Men, including himself, plus the Beyonders? This is implied when one of his selves peels off in each new universe.

Personality

A warbling, gibbering insane geek, who has a clear moral center. At the end, when one of his selves peels off and goes into each new universe, that is supposed to be bringing him back to sanity.

It's worth summarizing the explanations for his mental and emotional instability here. (I'm just copying this part from my Daily Debater Character of the Week piece.)

First, let's recall that his early psychosis around the wand period was due to simple anger, and potentially the merger of his Son's spirit with his own. Then much later he started having multiple personalities, such as an "evil side," usually with physical manifestations of new bodies to go with those selves, which harkened back to his old Son-era persona. By Dark Avengers he was full-time delusional.

During the Incursion storyline and afterwards, it was explained that he got more mentally unstable the closer he got to the “time bomb explosion” point in his life; I take this to mean that as he becomes metaphysically unstable, like a bomb is chemically unstable, he also becomes mentally unstable. Then it was explained that he was going crazy because Doom was killing all his extra-dimensional selves (also explained here: each death makes him lose a memory). When he comes to talk to Doom, he says he has been "returned here. All of us"--that is, this version of the Molecule Man is mentally complete, from a future era with no dead Molecule Men. The implication is, he has a shared consciousness with all his selves, and he is only completely sane when all of his selves are alive and together. But then later it was explained that as he made more universes with Franklin, he split off the many versions of himself that he had absorbed in the fight with the Beyonders, one for each new universe; when they slowly started splitting off, it made him more sane. In this argument, too many Reeces make him insane, the opposite of the previous explanation. In any case,

Post-2015 Secret Wars (below), when Reece talked with Galactus in Ultimates, he was crazy. But, the version that was simultaneously voyaging with the Future Foundation was fine. One possible explanation for this difference may be that the Ultimates version could have been one of the split-off selves, which were possibly not as sane as the core self; or maybe the Ultimates version was him in a not-yet-sane era, where he had not yet split off enough other selves. Whereas the version in Fantastic Four 2 was him five years later, after he had split off many of those selves and had become more sane.

Post-Secret Wars 2015

Ultimates 5, 6, New Avengers 17, Ultimates2 7-9, Fantastic Four 2

Notable History

Most of Reece’s appearances or mentions came about in stories that seemed to take place separately from his mission with the Fantastic Four to recreate the universes.

He—or at least a splinter of himself, since it seemed from the end of Secret Wars that there would be splinters of himself in each universe he created, which would presumably include 616—seems more interested in getting involved with the universes, in making sure they come out right. He chats with Galactus about a problem that’s coming. We discover that he puts variants of the Maker in each universe, and also that he is backing the efforts of one of them to stop the First Firmament, the original iteration of Eternity, and his horde of Death Celestials, who plan to destroy the current universe. (Also see here.)

In Fantastic Four 2, we find that he has been traveling with Reed, Sue, and the Future Foundation for five years (although time has moved at different rates for them) to create new universes, and see some examples of them doing this. Reece gives Franklin power, then he creates the universe.

Then Reece is quickly killed in a battle with the Griever, an abstract who represents entropy. However, Dragon Man and the Future Foundation go on a mission to see if they can find any remnant of him, and bring him back. Also, what does it mean to kill him, if there is a different version in each universe that they’ve made? And also, consider that the Griever destroyed most but not all of the universes that those splinter selves were in, so she actually killed many versions of him.

Powers

Again, it is unclear exactly how powerful he is, but he is obviously extremely powerful. Galactus considers Reece to be on a different level above him. On the other hand he schemed against the First Firmament through catspaws, instead of directly, but we don’t really know if that was due to need or entertainment. He is capable of creating numerous universes with the aid of Franklin. One question is, if he is the one who was providing the power to create these universes, why is it that Franklin is the one whose power burned out in the process of doing so?

Origin

The same as in Secret Wars 2015: he got his current power by defeating the Beyonders and absorbing their power, and potentially also the power of all the Molecule Men across the multiverse—who in turn all got their power from the Beyonders in the first place. Again, his power may not be related to the original Beyonder any more.

Personality

In the Ultimates issues, he’s a totally bonkers geek. But in the Fantastic Four, he’s a completely calm, at peace with himself and the world geek, who has been a beloved friend and companion of the entire Future Foundation, kids and adults, to the degree that they painfully feel the effects of his death and go on a quest to see if they can bring him back.

This was a good way to end Reece's life and career--but based on comments in the letters pages, and the Future Foundation's quest, it seems likely he'll be back. I only hope that he'll have some peace of mind when he returns.

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