It’s not surprising the daughter of Reed Richards and Sue Storm isn’t lacking in the IQ department but is it more than just genetics? According to Fantastic Four: Road Trip, written by Christopher Cantwell, illustrated by Filipe Andrade and Chris O’Halloran, Valeria’s intelligence might be more than just a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.
Valeria Richards is a relatively recent addition to the Fantastic Four mythos, having first appeared in Fantastic Four #15 (1999). As the daughter of Reed and Susan, Valeria is often overshadowed by her immensely-powerful older brother, Franklin Richards. To date, Valeria has been seen as a “normal” progeny, displaying no actual powers despite a very advanced intellect. The latter isn’t really surprising, considering not only her parents, but that she’s the actual goddaughter of the Fantastic Four’s arch-nemesis, Victor Von Doom.
In Fantastic Four: Road Trip, the Fantastic Four take a much-needed vacation into the desert. However, Reed has never been one who leaves work at work and takes the opportunity to experiment on newly-discovered meteors from Spyre. Unfortunately, the meteors have been tampered with by the Mad Thinker. As a result, the radiation affects the team in horrifying ways, and soon every member is experiencing some manner of gruesome body horror in some fashion. The Thing’s rocky hide is falling off in bloody chunks. The Invisible Woman’s skin disappears. Mr. Fantastic’s body begins to lose all traces of stability.
One might expect Valeria to not be affected by this radiation, but instead, she begins mentally regressing from a tween, displaying child-like intelligence before becoming little more than a toddler and soiling herself. Even worse, Franklin tries to “put their heads” together, only for this to happen literally, merging both of the Richards children into a fleshy monstrosity. However, this terrifying amalgamation provides the key to undoing the Mad Thinker’s plan, as the entire family merging allows all of them to link up with Franklin, who is able to “reset” their molecular structure. The Mad Thinker is defeated shortly thereafter by the reverted team, who agrees this is by far the worst vacation ever.
The nature of Valeria’s powers are unknown, but Susan theorizes her powers might be more “nuanced”, hence why they have remained hidden for so long. The fact that she mentally reverts to a toddler might mean her powers are somehow linked to her age, with Valeria gaining a grasp of advanced intelligence far beyond someone of her age. Powers or not, Valeria’s intelligence has always been impressive – in one possible future, she takes on the mantle of Doctor Doom. In Marvel Zombies: Resurrection, a teenage Valeria is among the survivors, and is seen using the remains of mutants like Cyclops and Gambit to explosive results.
The revelation of Valeria’s abilities does carry possible ramifications throughout the Marvel universe. Recently, it was revealed Franklin was, controversially, not a mutant, though the story is ongoing. If this is the case, does this mean Valeria is not a mutant either? This seems a bit unlikely, given the extraordinary circumstances of Franklin’s powers. Then again, because of Franklin’s extreme powers, Professor Xavier’s interest in Franklin has not been seen as completely altruistic, which gives all the more reason why Valeria’s subtle abilities might be overlooked. Still, the question remains, what exactly are Valeria’s powers, and how do they relate to her intelligence? It’s possible the Fantastic Four might have yet another powerful progeny on their hands, hiding in the background this whole time.