Owen Reece was a weak, shy man by nature. He was (as even Uatu said) a momma's boy and fearful and resentful of the world. Then, one day, he was transformed into the Molecule Man by a lab accident. While working at an atomic power plant Owen mistakenly activated an experiment device that opened a portal to another dimension. This portal caused him to be exposed to a powerful explosion of a strange energy. (This energy later turned out to be part of the energy of a Cosmic Cube, see below.) The explosion horribly disfigured his face with scars in the shape of lightning bolts, but it also granted him immense power, which he used to take out his pent-up frustrations on the world.
Molecule Man was created by Stan Lee.
Reece was never the popular kid in school. Having struggled for so long, forced to follow the whims of others, Reece decided now was his time. Using his incredible powers (which at that time he focused through a short metal wand) Reece easily defeated the Fantastic Four and gained control over the Baxter Building. The Fantastic Four allied themselves with Uatu the Watcher and tried to stop Owen Reece from taking over a city. The Fantastic Four were met with defeat again and were forced to leave the city in order to take down Reece. Mr Fantastic researched and studied Reece and discovered his weakness: he could manipulate molecules but he was unable to affect organic matter. The Fantastic Four wrapped themselves in plaster and were sent as statues by Alicia Masters. Reece believed that he could control all matter and used his powers to crush the plastered Fantastic Four. The feedback from the organic molecules caused Reece great pain and Uatu the Watcher was able to banish the Molecule Man to a dimension where time is accelerated, and where his powers were lost to him.
A Series of Possessions
The "Son of" Molecule Man
Reece became very lonely and he created a "son" to comfort him. He was working all the time, however, to build a machine that would give him his powers back (this shows a level of technological sophistication that he has never shown at other times). Reece grew old and infirm due to the speed of the passage of time, and was unable to use the machine himself. He died, but his son used it and gained his "father's" powers. (This "son" was really just a manifestation of the original Reece; he essentially unknowingly duplicated himself, and so he never really died.)
Taking his father's wand, Reece's creation sought revenge on the Fantastic Four and made his way back to Earth. He accidentally found himself in the Nexus of All Realities in the Everglades swamp, and battled the Man-Thing and the Thing. He soon realized that he needed the wand, for without it he was susceptible to the increased time stream of his original dimension. Unlike his father, he was able to affect organic molecules, and changed the Thing and Man-Thing back to their human forms of Ben Grimm and Ted Sallis, then left them. They ran into him back in the nearby town, however, where he was torturing the local citizens, even changing one into a look-alike of Mr. Fantastic, then stretching him so far his body tore apart. Then he decided to torture Grimm and Sallis more by turning them back into their hated monstrous forms. The Thing then managed to knock his wand out of his hand, and without it, he started to age rapidly, just as before. Grimm stood by and watched, letting him die and turn to dust. The Thing picked up the wand, but couldn't make it work, and gave it to a nearby kid.
More Trouble in Citrusville
However, Reece's energies and persona were in fact stored in the wand. The boy and his friends used it as a prop when they played super heroes. One of his friends, Cynthia, picked it up, but she was startled by an alligator and the Man-Thing. She ran, but fell into a pool of radioactive quicksand (which had, coincidentally, created a monster called the Glob in an earlier comic). Everyone in town assumed she was dead. However, she survived, with the Molecule Man possessing her body. As his mind slowly took over, he caused strange and baleful phenomena in town: clouds turned to spiked balls of iron, and a geyser of asphalt blasted Iron Man (who was in town for one of Tony Stark's projects) and a citizen of the town into the air. The man fell to the ground and died, but Iron Man survived. These seem to have been subconscious effects of his mind's unbalance, and not intentional.
Finally Cynthia/Reece rose out of the quicksand. He was furious to see that he now had the body of a young girl, and tried to change it, but was only able to age her to adulthood; he could not make her male, due to the resistance of Cynthia's psyche. It should be noted that he no longer seemed to think of himself as his "son" any more. The "Molecule Person" went to Cynthia's house and turned it into a copy of the palace of the Emerald City, and turned her mother into a living doll in revenge for her years of neglect of Cynthia. Reece was still having difficulty fully taking over Cynthia's body, however. Iron Man broke in, and while Reece wanted to kill him, Cynthia tried to save him--Iron Man was her favorite super hero. Sensing that he couldn't fully control Cynthia yet, Reece convinced Cynthia to leave rather than fight.
Weeks later, Tony Stark was dedicating a new energy project in the town. Reece animated the skeleton of a former denizen, Yagzan, and used it to attack everyone there. Iron Man defeated it. Then Cynthia, in her original kid form, walked out of the swamp. Everyone was stunned. But then she turned to her adult form, and attacked. Reece had finally gained full control. "She" turned Iron Man to iron, but the Man-Thing grabbed "her" and the pain made "her" drop the wand. As she did, Cynthia, her mother, and Iron Man turned back to normal. However, a snake grabbed the wand in its mouth, and the Molecule Man gained control of its body, turning it into a humanoid reptile. Iron Man grabbed the wand, but now Reece tried to take him over. While Stark was mentally resisting Reece's psyche, the Man-Thing took the wand out of his hand. Stark was safe. The Molecule Man tried to take over the Man-Thing, but as it had no mind to take over, he was trapped once more in his wand, powerless. The Man-Thing wandered off into the swamp with the wand.
Revenge on the Fantastic Four
Klaw later found the wand. The Molecule Man was unable to possess him due to his form as a body of living sound. Instead, the two agreed to work together. They found a boxer in New York for him to possess, then attacked the Fantastic Four, as well as the Impossible Man, who was living with them at the time. He turned the Thing into glass, then incapacitated the others. His goal was to use one of Reed Richards' machines, a psi-amplifier, to permanently transfer his mind from the wand into the boxer's body (currently the Molecule Man could only control him while he touched the wand). However, the Impossible Man managed to free the FF, who destroyed the machine and defeated Klaw. It looked like the game was up for Reece, but luckily Reed Richards, not knowing about the powers of the wand, picked it up. Reece was then able to possess his body. He went out into the streets. Richards was trying to fight against his possession, so the Molecule Man animated a building, threatening to kill its inhabitants unless Richards gave up, which he reluctantly did. The Fantastic Four battled him again. Richards managed to use his mental influence to keep the Molecule Man from affecting the heroes directly, but he couldn't stop him from using the environment to fight them. Richards' personality was accidentally knocked out, and Reece was able to affect them directly again. It looked like the Molecule Man was going to win, but when he tried to disintegrate them, his powers weren't able to deal with the unstable molecules that the FF wore, and the resulting feedback knocked him out. Richards was able to regain control of his body, and accidentally dropped the wand down a smokestack, where it was lost.
Defeating the Avengers
Eventually the Silver Surfer discovered the wand. The Surfer's touch stimulated him somehow, and he was able to recreate a new body for himself, once again showing at least a latent ability to control organic molecules. He and the Surfer introduced themselves to each other, and Reece explained his pattern of being his own worst enemy, and that the only way he loses is that he keeps shooting himself in the foot. He then became fixated on the idea of Galactus, as described by the Surfer. He decided that the best way to get back at everyone, and to make sure no one ever beats him, is to just eat the Earth himself! The Silver Surfer tried to argue with him, but Reece trapped him in pile of rock with frozen molecules that absorb all nearby energy, including that of the Surfer. Leaving him stuck and leached of almost all his power, the Molecule Man went off to make plans. The Surfer sent his board to warn the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers intercepted it, then freed him. They looked for Reece, and found him inside a newly made headquarters covered by a force field "over half of western Jersey."
After extensive work, the Surfer, Iron Man, and Thor managed to break a small hole in the field, although in fact Reece was aware of it and could fix it any time. Tigra got in, and started to talk to him about his life and past. Reece related that his parents hated him, and that his mother was 44 when she had him, and didn't want a new baby. While they were talking, and he was seemingly focused on the conversation, he was still able to attack the Avengers from afar with a barrage of rocks through the air. He was, however, aware of her delaying tactics, and was angered when she says he was a nerd--a word that triggered a powerful reaction from him later on on Battleworld. When the Avengers arrived, he vaporized Iron Man's armor, Cap's shield, the Silver Surfer's surfboard and even Thor's mighty hammer, noting the unusual and difficult qualities of the molecules and forces in the board and hammer. Captain America managed to get his wand away, but it had no effect; Reece had evolved past needing the wand, and was just using it for sentimental reasons. He then made a giant boot machine to crush the Avengers. It stamped down, and Tigra thought they were dead. She pathetically agreed to serve him if he let her live.
She had a hard time living with what she saw as her cowardice, and kept trying to bring herself to kill him, but couldn't do it, either out of fear or out of conscience. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four had arrived and tried to break in. He pulled a couple billion tons of water from the nearby Delaware river and nearly drowned them. Inside, it turned out that the Avengers had survived: the Surfer melted a hole in the ground before the giant boot squished them, and they fell into the floor below. However, since Thor was without his hammer, he had turned back into Donald Blake, and Tony Stark was naked without his armor. This was the first time Captain America (and Tigra) learned Stark and Blake's identities. Even though they were all without their weapons, they were determined to fight on. They soon found Tigra, and convinced her that it was smart for her to make a deal to survive, not cowardly. Unfortunately, the Molecule Man found them all together. He attacked Stark by crushing him with dust form the air, and Cap and Surfer tried to save him. Tigra got his attention by calling him a nerd, which made him mad, because it reminded him of how his mother talked to him. Then Donald Blake, of all people, punched him in the nose, causing Reece to run away in pain.
The others gave chase, and he fought back again. This time Captain America managed to punch him in the face, this time knocking him out. The heroes tried to decide what to do with him, given his incredible power. Cap felt that he should be put on trial, but Stark thought the only way to stop him was to kill him. Blake was on the fence, but the Surfer thought Cap might be right. Tigra, however, was busy yelling at him, berating him for his bad attitude, getting her anger off her chest. "She said that "Power...magnifies what's already there, whether it's good and noble or evil and petty! You were a nerd before...now you're a powerful nerd! ...With your power, you can contribute!...Why can't you see that killing a planetful of people doesn't make you even--it just makes you lonlier than ever!" Tony and Cap continued to argue when all of a sudden, Reece walked up and said he would give up, and was ready to see a therapist! Tigra's words had struck a chord. He realized he was acting out of spite and loneliness, and not out of truly evil intentions.
The authorities quickly found him a therapist, Miss Hanrahan, who he would refer to many times in future issues, as he began a gradual change from villain to peaceful, everyday citizen, a path that would eventually help him find love and happiness--at least for a time. Meanwhile, he recreated Mjolnir, the Surfer's board, and Captain America's shield. However, he couldn't recreate the complex gadgets in Iron Man's armor, so he just made him an "Iron Man leisure suit" instead!
Secret Wars I
Unfortunately, he didn't get to stay in therapy very long before his life changed forever, in the story arc Secret Wars I. It turned out that Reece's original accident, which opened the portal his power, also released an even greater amount of that power into another dimension. That power eventually became self-aware, and started observing our multiverse, starting with Reece himself. Unfamiliar with the emotional traits such as greed, good, and evil, this being, calling itself the Beyonder, wanted to find out more. The Beyonder transported several heroes and villains to Battleworld, a planet created by pieces of other planets, and offered a prize. Whomever could win this " Secret War" could have whatever they wished for. Reece wanted nothing more than to meet a nice girl, and surprisingly, that actually happened without him even having to defeat his enemies: he met and fell in love with Marsha Rosenberg, or Volcana. Rosenberg was a normal woman who lived in a section of Denver that the Beyonder had transported to Battleworld. Doom gave her, and her friend Titania (nee Skeeter) powers, and she joined the villains. Like the now therapy-obsessed Molecule Man, Volcana did not share the brutal lifestyle and desires of the other villains.
When they were first transported to space stations orbiting Battleworld, Ultron decided that his first mission was still to kill all humans, and proceeded to attack the other villains. Only Doom kept his wits about him. According to Doom, only Reece or Galactus could defeat Ultron. Although Reece no longer wanted to partake in violence due to his ongoing therapy, Doom convinced him to throw Ultron against Galactus, who promptly de-energized Ultron.
After the villains land on Battleworld, the Molecule Man takes part in their attack on the heroes, although unnotably. Later, after the villains retreat, he returns to their base along with Dr. Octopus, Absrobing Man, and Wrecker. Doom doesn't let them in, despite the Molecule Man's whining entreaties, and makes them all cower before him by threatening them with Ultron. They succumb to his will and agree that he will be their leader. Inside, Doom starts playing up to Reece, offering him the best room in the place, knowing that despite his weak personality, he is the most powerful of them all.
The Molecule Man thus ended up serving Doom after all, even though his heart was no longer in the life of a super-villain, since he was impressed by Doom's confidence and leadership. Under him, he used his power to assist the villains in various ways. Often he was indecisive in terms of strategy; he would wait for others to prompt him to action. When the heroes attacked their base, he asked Doom what to do; Doom told him to stay near, like a body guard. In this role, he staved off the Hulk with a barrage of boulders. In another battle, wanting to impress Marsha, he effortlessly dropped a mountain range "which would dwarf the Andes" on the heroes. These feats impressed the other villains; they didn't care much for him personally, but they respected his power.
Marsha was impressed by his power too, but also appreciated his sensitivity. It turned out that she had always wanted to meet him! The two hit it off, often discussing his therapy ("I've been seeing a therapist ever since the Avengers talked me out of destroying the earth," he told her); she began taking on a role somewhat akin to a mother bear protecting a cub. He had the power, but she had the forceful personality and willpower. At one point, the two lovebirds were walking past the Wrecking Crew and the Absorbing Man, when Piledriver made fun of them. Reece wanted to just avoid them, but Volcana wanted to fight. Reece was pulling her away when Piledriver called them the dreaded word, "nerds." With that, the couple turned around; Marsha slapped him, but Piledriver wasn't done. When he turned to egg on the rest of his crew to help him, however, he found them conspicuously looking in the other direction and discussing the weather--they weren't going to take on the Molecule Man! Unfortunately for him, it was too late for Piledriver. Reece turned his costume to metal, freezing him in position, then knocked him face-first in the dirt. Turning to the others and gaining in confidence, he then asked, "Do any of you have anything to say?" They replied no, to which he said, "That's 'No, sir, Mr. Molecule Man!'" He had turned a corner in his life: finding value in another person, instead of his previous dreams of power, he now began to overcome his previous insecurities and started (slowly) to get some self-respect.
However, Doom soon ordered him to go awaken a chain of volcanoes along with a retinue of other villains as guards. They were interrupted by the X-Men, and Reece was seriously slashed by Wolverine, leaving him in a coma. Hearing about his condition, Volcana made a deal with the Enchantress, in which she promised her anything if she would send her to Owen's side. The Enchantress agreed, and she teleported her to the villains' ship. The ship was attacked by the X-Men again, and Volcana protected her "poor, poor Owie" against them. Eventually they managed to escape the battle and returned to their base, with Reece stable but unconscious. The heroes now attacked their base. Reece woke up, and romantically vowed "you and me, Marsha, darling--we'll annihilate them...together!" Volcana attacked the heroes with her plasma, and he made them a shield, but Captain Marvel flew in as a beam of light and grabbed Reece. His wounds reopened and he passed out. Volcana surrendered, and Mr. Fantastic put Reece and some of the others in some alien healing chambers.
Meanwhile, Doom had acquired the power of both Galactus and the Beyonder. When Doom first appeared to the heroes, Reece became enraged and thought Doom was turning his back on the other villains; he felt betrayed. Reece attacked in a fury, ripping up billions of tons of the planet's crust to separate them. However, instead of fighting back, Doom took away Reece's old mental blocks, which he had subconsciously put in place due to his self-doubt and self-loathing. Now he realized that he could affect all matter--not just inorganic molecules--and energy. He was, as Doom and later Uatu said, the most powerful being in the multiverse after Doom himself.
This power also brought him greater peace. He collected the other villains, and became their self-appointed leader, something he would never have had the moxie to do in the past. ( Doctor Octopus was not happy with the decision.) Reece brought them all back to Marsha's apartment, which was still in the suburb of Denver that the Beyonder had brought to Battleworld. He announced his intention to bring them all home, a sentiment which even hard-boiled figures like the Absorbing Man seconded. Reece made a shield around the city and flew it, and them, up into space, leaving the Secret War behind them. After about a week, the villains, especially Octopus, were going stir-crazy. Octopus confronted him with the enormous distance they would have to travel, saying that even at light speed it would take forever, but Reece tried to calm him. He showed off his new power levels by pointing out at the stars, saying that he had recreated the galaxy that the Beyonder had destroyed at the beginning of the storyline, and that he could now just spacewarp them all back home. Octopus went insane at the display of power, and attacked. Reece stuck him in some asphalt, then noticed Marsha was missing. The Enchantress had taken Marsha in order to make good on her promise to "pay anything." The Enchantress was going to take the energy of her soul, which she would use to teleport herself home. The Lizard led Owen to the Enchantress before she could cast her spell, and Amora teleported herself the much shorter distance back to Battleworld to escape his wrath. Reece and the other villains in Denver were not seen on-panel in Secret Wars after this, and presumably he warped them all back home, as he had planned to do.
Secret Wars II
Once at home, he now lived in peace with Volcana. He worked at a nuclear power plant in the same suburb of Denver, and she worked in a day care. This was to be the happiest time of his life, and the time when he was to be at the peak of his power. Once again, however, fate intervened. The Beyonder came to Earth. He first appeared at Reece's apartment, apparently feeling some affinity to him. Reece and Rosenberg had settled into a cozy stay-at-home life, watching Hogan's Heroes, eating Doritos, and calling each other "sweetums" and "snookums." A sudden explosion in the nearby mountains shot rocks and debris through the air, forcing Owen to use his powers to save the town. Then he summoned the source over to hom, and was stunned to see that it was the Beyonder. Showing his newly-found maturity, Reece's fear quickly turned to acceptance, and they went inside to talk. The Beyonder took on a form that was a composite of the many heroes on Battleworld, and said that he desired to understand. Reece tried to give him a crash course on philosophy (while Marsha turned back to watching TV), discussing the difference between knowledge and experience, and explaining how his apotheosis into his new level of power had also brought him to a new level of acceptance of his place in the world. Experience, he said, was the best teacher; Marsha chimed in, saying that the Beyonder should go to L.A., because you can experience anything there. They then sent him on his way, surprisingly confident that he wouldn't get into any trouble! This began Reece's role as a sort of confidant and mentor to the Beyonder, as the one other person who was near his level of power. The Beyonder even took on Reece's physical appearance for a while, as he engaged in confrontations with the X-Men, New Mutants, and others. Reece's advice that experience is the best teacher was one of the Beyonder's main guides during his time on Earth, as he continued to try to "understand."
Reece's next encounter with the Beyonder was tangential. The Beyonder decided to take over the world, and made all molecules subservient to him, with the exception of Reece. He described Owen as a "special case," but that he wasn't a problem and could deal with him later if he wished--showing that while the Beyonder was clearly more powerful than Reece, he was powerful enough to cause the Beyonder some effort. Reece noticed that Marsha's molecules were under the Beyonder's control, however, and freed her from his control, again showing that he was able to affect the Beyonder's wishes, at least if he was not actively enforcing them.
The Beyonder later had love problems, and came to Reece for more advice. The Molecule Man, who was hardly a ladies' man, had a hard time talking about it, but said that the most important thing in his relationship with Marsha was how it wasn't a "business deal." He meant that they didn't love each other for what they could provide for each other. It was truly mutual, where the free gift of love from one to the other only allowed the other to love them back more. Love is limitless, and dangerous even to guys like them, he said, and can't have a cost or obligation. The Beyonder seemed to understand, but he then went off to have a disastrous attempted relationship with the Dazzler. This was the beginning of a pattern in which Reece innocently tried to give him advice, only to have it backfire. The Beyonder started to see more and more how Reece seemed to have everything that he himself lacked, and he started to switch from being naive to being depressed, jealous, and angry, then alternating that with fits of inappropriate manic activity.
The Beyonder's next foray was to become a defender of life, and he went on regular "superhero" missions. This worried Owen, who felt that he just needed to relax and find happiness in small things. Reece felt the invisible presence of the Watcher, who had come to talk to him; he wanted them to go to the astral place, but Reece refused. The Watcher instead talked to Marsha, filling her in on the situation. He described how, over eons of watching the universe, watching Reece come to his power stood out above all else. He said "the entire history of the multiverse was but the prelude to his rebirth [as the Molecule Man]," and that Owen was "the most powerful being in the multiverse." He continued, "within each of you lies the potential for power on a cosmic scale! Owen Reece possessed the greatest potential of all--and by chance achieved it! And now that he is, and knows he is, mightier than all other beings of the Multiverse [here was shown pictures of Mephisto, the In-Betweener, Death, a Celestial, Eternity, and the Living Tribunal], he has sought only peace within himself, joy in simple things, and the utter happiness of love." This was in contrast to the Beyonder's goals and actions, however, and so, breaking their eternal vow, the entire race of Watcher voted unanimously to try to stop the Beyonder, by asking the Molecule Man for help. Reece, however, partly motivated by fear and partly by his love of isolation, didn't want to get involved, and refused.
The Beyonder, meanwhile, destroyed Death, causing an enormous change in reality. Sensing the change, Reece became angry, and appeared at a gathering of the Beyonder and the other main cosmic entities, who treated him with respect, standing aside so he could come through. He spoke to the colloquially, saying "Hello, everyone," indicating that he now had a relationship with them. Showing how seriously he took this situation, he was dressed in his old green and purple Molecule Man costume; previously in this series he just wore normal clothes. He angrily spoke to the Beyonder, explaining how, with Death gone, life was now pointless. Then he left in frustration. The Beyonder, however, was convinced by Owen's passion, and brought Death back to "life."
This episode, however, convinced the rest of the cosmic entities that the Beyonder had to be dealt with, so Mephisto built an enormous weapon, Beyondersbane, to kill him. It used the energy the Beyonder expended in killing Death, plus the combined might of many of the cosmic entities, as well as all the power of the whole universe, in the person of Eternity, who would control the machine. Meanwhile, Owen was playing Trivial Pursuit with some neighbors when he heard about the Beyonder's new plan, to be a south seas guru. Spurred to find out more, he went in a spare room and felt around the universe. In doing so, he discovered Mephisto and the others' plan, even though they were trying to hide it. In fact, he realized that they were being sneaky enough that the Beyonder would never know, unless he told him. Now Reece was conflicted--should he tell the Beyonder, or not? On the one hand, they had become friends of a sort, but on the other, the Beyonder's actions were now scaring him. This was new territory, because ever since gaining his new power, he had had no reaosn to be scared of anything. He was now being driven back to his old territory of self-doubt and fear. Eventually, Mephisto's plan failed of its own accord, and the Molecule Man didn't have to make a decision, but it became more and more clear to him that eventually he was going to have to take a side. Caving in to his old timid ways, he wanted it to "all just go away."
The Beyonder came back to his apartment, however, to talk things over again, just like old times. The Beyonder was incensed, and let out an energy bolt that caused "multiverse-wide destruction." While talking him down, Reece fixed all the destruction with a wave of his finger. Having had great personal success with therapy, Reece offered to take on the role of therapist for the Beyonder, who threatened several times to destroy the multiverse, so he could be alone again. Since therapy normally starts by talking about one's childhood, they went back to the Beyonder's earliest stage of development in his Beyond-realm, an empty white universe. The Beyonder said that he had no memory of his own existence until he became aware of our existence, through a pinhole to our universe. Looking in, they saw that this pinhole showed Reece's original atomic accident--Reece's accident is what made the Beyonder self-aware! (Later, the meaning of this event would be retconned, see below). They then reviewed the Beyonder's existence on our plane, which in retrospect seemed to consist of one failure after another. The Beyonder just more got more and more angry at Reece's relative happiness, and they argued, getting very personal. Reece wanted the Beyonder to act more mortal, like him, while the Beyonder just wanted erase everything. Reece convinced him to wait 24 hours until he did, and the Beyonder left. The Molecule Man tried to make the most of this time. First he tried to make a force-dome to protect Denver, but the Beyonder found out and effortlessly broke it. Then he tried to collect all the ambient energy in the universe to help him, but it wasn't enough. Finally he decided to make a small dome just for him and Marsha, which he would hide in the Beyond-realm. Volcana, however, was tired of Reece acting out of fear, and wanted him to fight rather than run; if he didn't, she resolved to take action herself.
The Beyonder came back, having decided to spare the universe after all, but Reece didn't give him a chance to explain, and (at Volcana's urging) attacked him immediately upon entering the apartment. The Beyonder said his blast could have "slagged several billion entire dimensions," but he wasn't hurt. He was now angered once again, but Rosenberg intervened, begging for her own life, no matter what he did to Owen. Reece was shattered, and collapsed, believing that everything he had depended on had ended. Marsha, however, was just pretending, knowing that the Beyonder's anger stemmed from jealousy, and now that Reece no longer had a better personal life than him, the Beyonder would cool down. The Beyonder (realizing all this), left laughing.
Some time later, Marsha returned to their apartment, only to find it completely trashed--even Owen's teddy was torn to shreds! She saw him sitting in a chair, seemingly lifeless, and feared the worst...but he was only sleeping. He explained that at first, he was utterly distraught at her leaving, because "for the first time since we met, you couldn't make it all better for me...because you were the one who caused it!" Then he began to dig inside himself, and wondered why she cared about him in the first place--but couldn't find anything! Then he had to "find the strength within [himself] that [he] had when [they] were together," and eventually learned that "two people who aren't okay by themselves aren't any good together." He was able to truly love her for the first time because he didn't need her anymore. This completed a period of growth in him, starting when they met, and she was able to take him outside of himself and care for others. Then Dr. Doom erased many of his subconscious blocks and fears, and he became even more self-confident. Finally when Marsha left, he learned to care about himself now matter what, and in so doing was able to cement their relationship in an even more mature way, finally truly overcoming all those bouts of self-doubt and loathing that had been hounding him since he was a child. The two reconciled and went off to find the Beyonder.
Meanwhile, the Beyonder had once again changed his mind, and decided to take Owen's advice after all. He made a machine to make himself truly mortal (although still with his powers). He tried it a few times with mixed success, then found a final solution. However, Reece (once again dressed in his Molecule Man suit) and an army of superheroes arrived before he could go through the machine again. The Beyonder blasted all the heroes (including Rachel Summers with the Phoenix) away with one shot, leaving only the Molecule Man standing. The Beyonder was now the one arguing for talking, rather than fighting, and tried to explain his plans, but Owen wouldn't listen. He was no longer meek and merely reacting, he was going to do what he set out to do. The "two mightiest beings in all existence" clashed, and their battle was felt throughout the multiverse. The battle lasted long enough for the heroes to awaken and they attacked again, but Reece slowly started to lose ground and power. The Beyonder managed to toss him over with the heroes, and shot another enormous volley of power to destroy them all, blasting a groove in the earth's crust miles long.
The Beyonder now got back in his machine to recreate himself as a mortal. However, the heroes were not dead; Reece had saved them, and all other living things in the path of the blast (he put them in sub-space), using some of the last dregs of his power, and injuring himself badly in the process. They all returned to the Beyonder's machine, and saw that he was now in the form of a fetus gestating inside. Some of the heroes were still willing to kill it, but others stopped them. The Molecule Man circumvented their defenses, however, and killed the baby Beyonder with a blast of energy. As he died, his nearly-infinite energy began to escape and would have destroyed everything. But Reece opened a portal to the Beyond-realm, and let the energy seep harmlessly inside. While no one was happy with the killing of a baby, even Captain America told Reece that he understood it had to be done. Reece cryptically replied to him that the ending was happier than Cap knew. It turned out that the Beyonder's energy, as it exploded into the empty Beyond-realm, eventually cooled and created a new universe, complete with planets and stars and even evolving intelligent life, completing the Beyonder's original desire to bring about meaning within life.
Later on, Volcana watched over Reece as he lay unconscious from all the strain in an Army field hospital. When he woke up, he turned the tent into a balloon and they floated up and away. Meanwhile, the Beyonder's massive blast had destabilized the entire Earth, and it would fall apart quickly unless something was done. Captain America remembered what the Molecule Man had done, and sent Captain Marvel to look for him. When she found them, Volcana reacted like a mother bear protecting her cub, and attacked her. With no other recourse, the Silver Surfer created gale winds to blow the two towards the Avengers. Volcana was once again protective of her honey-bunny, remembering how they attacked the two of them during Secret Wars I, but Owen stopped her. He explained that he was already doing everything he could to hold the planet together, and couldn't help any more in his injured condition. He was just going to make a small survival capsule for him and Marsha to live in. However, the Avengers made him realize that if the world was destroyed, everything else he loved--like his favorite TV reruns--would be gone too, so he agreed to help, even though it might burn out all his power. The Surfer aided him by giving him access to his Power Cosmic, which put Reece in a vulnerable position--the Surfer could theoretically push him too far. Between the two of them, they fixed the problem with the Earth's crust, apparently leaving Owen powerless and in his old form, with no scars on his face. He then explained that he also returned all the living things from sub-space. The Avengers thanked him for his help, but also felt better knowing that he had lost his power. However, once the Surfer flew them back to their apartment, Owen changed his face back to its scarred form, and explained that he hadn't lost his powers after all. In fact, he had also been able to fix all the damage the Beyonder had caused over the past weeks, plus he fixed their apartment. The Surfer had been so generous with his powers that it had all been much easier than he had thought. The Surfer was impressed that Owen had left himself open to him, which was an act of courage, so he felt that Reece must be innately good after all, and thus did not tell the Avengers that Reese still had his powers. And so this storyline ended with Reece retaining his powers and his love, while getting respect from the Avengers and the Surfer for his heroic acts and character.
Cosmic Cube Retcon
Some time later, Reece and Rosenberg took a trip to New York City, where Dr. Doom ambushed him and tried to kill him, leaving him in a coma in an alley. Doom had a plan to usurp the Beyonder's power, and knew that Reece would interfere unless he was taken out of the picture. He was taken to the hospital and later took a taxi back with Marsha. It seems that his power saved him automatically. Meanwhile, Doom traveled to the Beyond-realm with the Fantastic Four. There he confronted the Beyonder (who was now something akin to a sentient god to his newly-evolved universe, somewhat different from what happened at the end of Secret Wars II) and tried to get him to return some of his memories that had been lost in a time-travel incident. The Beyonder was going to give him the memories back when Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds (both sentient Cosmic Cubes) showed up. They battled the Beyonder, who was surprised to find that he could not defeat them. Then the Molecule Man and Volcana appeared.
After more fighting and arguing amongst them all, the Shaper and Kubik finally explained that the Molecule Man and the Beyonder got their powers from the energy of a Cosmic Cube, just like they themselves did. The Molecule Man's original atomic accident sparked the influx of Cosmic Cube energy from the realm of the Beyonders (not related to the Beyonder, see their entry for a detailed explanation of the difference). Some of the energy from the accident went into Reece, and some went into the Beyond-ream and became the Beyonder. Because of this, the power of the Molecule Man and the Beyonder together was only equal to the power of either the Shaper or Kubik on their own. Reece and the Beyonder were both still powerful, but nowhere near as powerful as before (Reece says here, after the revelation about their origin as Cosmic Cubes, that on his own he is "not quite up there with Eternity or the Tribunal"). Kubik was actually able to hold the entire Beyond-realm in his hand. The Beyonder's continual need to understand desire was really just the same as a Cosmic Cube's desire to fulfill the wishes of the person who controlled it. In another sense, the Beyonder's (singular) evolution from pure energy to a sentient being mimicked the Beyonders' (plural) desire to experiment with evolution throughout our universe.
It is unclear whether Reece knew all this in advance, or whether he learned it only after trying to figure out Doom's plan, or whether he learned it all at the same time as the Beyonder. Based on the conversation, it seems that he somehow knew at least some of it ahead of time, and certainly adapted to this new truth much more easily than the Beyonder, who didn't like to have to reconceive his understanding of himself as the most powerful being in existence. (Doom somehow knew all of it, and if he had gotten his memories back from the Beyonder he could have used it to control the Beyonder's power.) Ultimately, Reece and the Beyonder were convinced to merge together and form a new, unified Cosmic Cube, leaving a tearful Marsha behind without her Owie.
It later transpired that Owen had left a small portion of his power with Marsha, to help protect her and perhaps to act as a remembrance. She wasn't aware she had this power, but it eventually arose in response to her needs during a battle, and allowed her to take on new volcanically-themed forms, including a rock form and an ash cloud form.
Meanwhile, the Reece/Beyonder Cosmic Cube eventually developed to its full potential, and their two essences separated, with Reece's essence being sent back to Earth, and the Beyonder's essence being transformed into a female being named Kosmos. Kubik took Kosmos under his wing and began educating her about the universe. They fell in love of a sort, and she no longer bothered with the troubles of Earth for a time.
Later on, the A.I.M. organization noticed the tremendous increase of power Volcana had and wanted to get ahold of it. A.I.M sent in their agent, Klaw, to capture her in the hopes of exploiting her. Volcana, however, had other things to deal with--when she arrived home, she found a bedraggled Owen in the apartment. He had been there for three weeks, but hadn't contacted her. He now felt somewhat estranged from her, saying he didn't want to intrude on her new life. He no longer had his powers, and seemed to feel that without them, he didn't deserve her. This was a very different approach to their relationship from the previous stories. especially considering how the climax of his story in Secret Wars II was precisely that he learned to understand how they could live as mutually-respecting equals.
Klaw attacked, and knocked Owen out temporarily, leaving Volcana to fight on her own, using her new powers. She did well, but Klaw was too powerful. Then, suddenly, the power that Owen had left with her transferred back to him. He now wore a variant on his old costume as well. He used his new power to fight Klaw. However, there was now tension between him and Marsha. He explained that she had just unconsciously wished the power back to him. She felt that he was being secretive and distant, both because he hadn't contacted her when he returned (understandable), but also because he hadn't told her about the power until he regained it from her. This last bit is somewhat confusing, because he never had a chance to do so--they only just met when Klaw attacked, and then he was unconscious pretty much until he regained the power. However, Reese then goes on to explain that he did seem to do this somewhat on purpose, because he felt unworthy of her, and because it was only with the power that he could provide for her. Again, this is in the face of everything he learned in Secret Wars II. However, as can be seen later, it may be a portent of the "evil" side of his personality coming through. At the end, Marsha left him, feeling that what they had together was now gone for good--a fairly dramatic reversal. Reece, however, was still dedicated to proving his love for her.
After this, he lost all the peace of mind he had developed and once again became a sad, pathetic man. This led to a few situations in which he began to travel down his previous path. There were significant alterations in the way he was visually portrayed at time as well. During his early appearances, Reece was often drawn as a scrawny man with an obviously ugly or nerdy face. During Secret Wars I, this portrayal changed to a fairly typical, non-muscled man. In Secret Wars II, he was drawn as a fairly svelte, good-looking man with nice clothes. In other words, as he gained in his heroism, he became better looking. However, after he began to slide back to being evil, or at best misguided, he was drawn more and more often as a short, scrawny, large-nosed nerd again. His taste in costumes became more and more fantastic, a lavish overcompensation for his diminished self-image. He built an enormous and grandiose shrine to Marsha in the Rockies. His ability to do anything with even a degree of competency also decreased dramatically. For instance, since he was temporarily unable to control organic molecules again, he was able to be controlled by the Puppet Master and used as a tool against the Aron, the rogue Watcher. He battled Aron while under the Puppet Master's control, and Aron defeated him by placing him in a vacuum bubble, in which Reece could not get ahold of any molecules to control; he passed out from lack of oxygen. However, Dr. Doom showed up and stole Aron's power. Reece woke up, free of the Puppet Master's control and unsure of what was going on. He decided to simply fly away.
Reese continued to practice with his power, and could now control organic molecules again. Eventually, his dark side, which now functioned as an independent personality, took over completely due to his despondancy over Marsha; this was signified by a change to being bald and wearing a grandiose costume. Previously, he had been protrayed as a weak man who eventually learned to be good. Now, his evil side (the "Molecule Man" side, as opposed to the "Owen Reece" personality) was almost a second spirit living in his body, waiting to get control. Living for revenge for his past humiliations, he pulled the Beyonder's personality out of Kosmos and they battled. It turned out that he now far surpassed his previous power levels through practice, and was now more powerful than the Beyonder. Much about this was confusing, because of anything had ever been constant in their relationship, the Beyonder was always said to have the majority of the power between them. Also, Reece had been far weaker just a few appearances before. Also, his power was theoretically only what he took back from Marsha, which was just a small portion of his old power. The Beyonder in this issue also seems unaware of the Cosmic Cube retcon, as he seems to believe he is still the most powerful being in the universe. It must be surmised that his power was through his human potential, as described by the Watcher earlier on, and that he never lost that potential, and that the power from Volcana just jumpstarted his potential again.
This battle was enormous, and Reece was winning. It affected distant galaxies, time periods, and dimensions, showing that even though they no longer had the degree of power they had during Secret War II, they were still extremely powerful. Eventually Kubik, who had fallen in love with Kosmos, intervened and was able to coax the good side of Reece to once again take over, saving Kosmos. Kubik explained that Reece was more deeply tied into his existence, since he would still live even if he lost his power, while they would be nothing without their power. This meant that "though our power is theoretically equal, your [Reese's] potential dwarfs our own." Reece had "vast advantages no mere elemental omnipotent such as [Kubik] could hope to defeat." Kubik also seemed to lump Reece's evil side into this category: "The Molecule Man is barely more than myself, Kosmos, or the Beyonder, where you are...far, far more." Reece thus now seemed to be even more powerful than the other sentient Cubes. Reece parted with them on good terms, wishing Kubik and Kosmos well in their future "life" together. He was lonely and sad, but seemed somewhat buoyed by his discussion with Kubik, and was perhaps heading in the right direction.
However, in his next appearance, the dark side took over again. This time, he kidnapped Doc Samson, who he thought was chasing him (Samson was actually looking for Bruce Banner). Reece was once again bald. Once he ascertained that Samson was after Banner, and was a therapist, he started asking him questions about how he could get over Marsha. She-Hulk soon broke in, and Reece mistook her silhouette for Marsha's. When he did so, his evil side disappeared, and he physically changed from the taller, bald man with a chiseled face to a short, dweebish man with hair. Surprisingly, She-Hulk said she knew the Molecule Man, and this wasn't him, indicating that perhaps neither the bald form nor the dweebish form seen here were the real faces of Owen Reece. The evil side came out again, however, and was going to attack, when once more Owen's nice side took over after looking at She-Hulk. He returned to his short nerdy form. After talking with Samson and Walters briefly (and misunderstanding everything they said, with a quite different level of comprehension than the philosophical Reece of Secret Wars II), he seemed to feel better, telling Samson that he might call on him again for his therapy services, and telling She-Hulk that he now knew that he had to win Marsha back to be happy again. He then left, and fixed a number of world-wide problems caused by a terrorist organization, presumably as a gesture of good will. He also added a new face to Mt. Rushmore--Marsha Rosenberg's!
A short time later, Onslaught perverted some of Franklin Richards' dream forms to make it seem like many of the Fantastic Four's old foes were attacking the Baxter Building. The Molecule Man was one of these many illusory forms. The illusions were dissipated by one of Reed Richards' inventions.
After this, he did not make any appearances for a long time. For some reason, however, he was apparently incarcerated on the Raft at some point. Exactly how they manged to keep a being of his power in jail is unknown. He escaped during the mass break out of many other villains, and eventually ended up in the town of Dinosaur, Colorado.
Many people from the town of Dinosaur mysteriously went missing. After a politician's daughter disappeared, Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers were called in to investigate. Sentry scouted the area and didn't find anything. He landed and saw someone walking towards him and began to ask him a question. However, he immediately began to turn into pure energy, and eventually exploded in a huge blast. The person--Reece--stood there and watched. The other Dark Avengers immediately scambled to the town. When they arrived, Osborne suddenly found himself transported to another hell-like dimension, where the Molecule Man sat on a pile of bones, surrounded by the Beyonder, Enchantress, Mephisto, and Zarathos. (It should be noted that Reece is physically portrayed here in a manner closer to Secret Wars II, being taller and with a normal, semi-handsome face, rather than having a beaked nose, etc. His Molecule Man costume was also in his classic design, rather than being outfitted with extravagant armor and helmets, like in some other recent appearances.)
Reece introduced himself to Osborne, explaining his situation and powers. This description seemed to possibly indicate a new lowering of his power levels: he said, "I have the ability to break the rules of physical science. I control the very molecules of the world. Well, the ones around me." Never before had his powers been described as only affecting the molecules around him.
It also turned out that the Beyonder, Enchantress, Mephisto, and Zarathos were only illusions, created to provide Reece with conversation. Reece told Osborn he only wants to be left alone; apparently he grew up in Dinosaur. But Osborn won't do it, so the Molecule Man started to torment him telepathically, making him relive past situations and digging up fears about the present.
Simultaneously, he went around and tormented each of the Dark Avengers. The Sentry picked himself up in a basketball court. He was in pain. Reece seemed particularly interested in him, partly because of his similar mental state--he said, "We could have been friends"--but also because Reynolds seems to be made of something different than everything else. Reece said, "I've tasted every molecule in the world. But I've never tasted anything like you." Then he ripped his body in two and disintegrated him (again).
He quickly ran through the other Dark Avengers. He had the Venom symbiote attack Gargan, then de-animated the symbiote. He disintegrated Karla Sofen ("Ms. Marvel"), he had vegetation grown inside Daken, infesting his body, he turned Ares to a statue, and turned Bullseye to water. Throughout all this, his imaginary friends kept talking to him, egging him on, giving him advice. Even though he was dealing with them all effortlessly, he was worried about the long term ramifications--what would happen when Reed Richards inevitably finds out? Clearly he was obsessed. Finally Victoria Hand showed up, and said that their attack force surrenders. She asked what he wants, and he reiterated that he just wanted to be left alone, with Dinosaur as his town. She was completely fine with this, but wanted the missing people returned. In fact, not only were 44 passers-through missing, but so was the entire population of the town. Owen seemed stunned by this news, as if he didn't even know about this.
While this was happening, the Sentry's molecules were spontaneously reforming in the basketball court, and now he was mad. Reece was just returning Osborn to Hand when he suddenly felt a tremor run through him, and a huge bolt of energy blasted out of his chest. The Sentry--taken over by the Void--arrived. Reece rammed him into the air, however, and once again exploded the Sentry's body. The H.A.M.M.E.R. helicarrier attacked Reece, and he realized it was a false surrender. However, he was too occupied with Sentry, who reformed again and started to manipulate Reece's body. Reynolds told him that if he fixed everything, he would spare him, because "you have the experience with this that I do not." Reece replied, "How are you doing this to me?!?! I control the molecules! I do!" But somehow the Sentry outpowered Reece, and he successfully forced him to put everything back. Then Reynolds says, "Then go away," and Reece disappears in an enormous conflagration of energy.
Reynolds, no longer in Void form, then explained to Osborn that the situation made him learn something about himself: "I can control the molecules of my world. That's how I do what I do." So apparently Sentry's matter manipulation powers (which he exhibited irregularly in the past to differing degrees of power) somehow surged past Reece's in extent, if not finesse (thus he had to ask Reece for help in bringing the people back, but was able to control Reece's own molecules more effectively than Reece himself). Reynolds' powers, however, never previously seemed to work on the scale of Reece's (affecting distant galaxies, dimensions, time periods), so this was an extraordinarily poor showing for Reece. Ultimately, it was a battle between two characters whose power levels are both among the most inconsistent in comics.
He has not been seen since, but since he has managed to resurrect himself a number of times in the past, it is unlikely that he is truly dead. It is possible, given that Sentry said "go away," that he simply teleported him away rather than killing him.
Creating The Hole
The Clown from the Circus of Crime recently revealed that The Hole, a giant base underneath the anarchic country of Bagalia, was created during a fight between the Molecule Man and Atom-Smasher. It is unknown when this happened, and which of the three Atom-Smashers he was fighting. It stands to reason that this fight took place during his post-Cosmic Cube era, however, since during his original evil days, he tended to go from possession to possession, and we saw all his possible actions at that time. During Secret Wars I and II, he couldn't or wouldn't have gotten in such a fight. Only in his post-cube phase has he been just hanging out and with an unbalanced mindset.
Early Period: Needing His Wand, and (Usually) Being Unable to Control Organic Molecules
Reece's powers have changed on a regular basis. He was originally able to control all matter at a subatomic level (it is frequently misstated that he could control matter at the molecular level, since he is called the Molecule Man; however, he has always been able to transmute matter from one element to another, which would take place at the subatomic level). His one weakness was that he was unable to control organic matter, due to a mental block he had placed upon himself. He also needed a wand to focus his powers.
After he was exiled to another dimension by the Watcher, died, and resurrected himself through his self-made son, he was able to control organic and inorganic matter. After this "son" died and he later possessed the body of several individuals, from a young girl to Reed Richards, he was still able to control both organic and inorganic matter, although apparently not energy. For instance, he was able to change turn the girl's body into an adult female body, turn her mother into a doll, turn Iron Man into iron, turn the Thing to glass, and turn the Impossible Man into a block. He also stated several times that he could affect the bodies of the Fantastic Four directly (although various plot elements kept him from actually doing so). He was also able to animate a building, providing it with a sort of life. However he was at this time unable to directly affect the Invisible Woman's forcefield, stating that it was because it had no molecular structure (thus implying that he could not control energy). Also, strangely, in this period his transmutations are shown to be temporary: when he is rendered unconscious, the things he altered revert to their original form. This is not normally the case, but its occurance is an example of the vicissitudes of his powers. Another curious limitation on his powers at this time was that he was unable to fully control the Impossible Man's molecules; at first he was able to turn him into a block, but then the Impossible Man regained control of himself and said the Molecule Man could not control the Impossible Man's molecules. Soon after the Molecule Man was completely unable to affect the Impossible Man.
However, the next time he appeared, when he was awoken by the Silver Surfer, he was once again only able to control inorganic matter. However, this power extended to things beyond "normal" matter, including the Silver Surfer's board, Thor's hammer Mjolnir, and Captain America's shield.
Later, he was unable to recreate Iron Man's armor because he did not understand the technology and was thus unable to visualize how it should be reformed. He was also unable to make a working toilet because he didn't understand plumbing. However, earlier in that same story, he surprised himself by being able to recreate his own body from scratch, which is a much more complex object than technology (not to mention being made of organic molecules, which he supposedly couldn't control at that time). For whatever reason, the things he made with his powers no longer turn back to normal when he is knocked out any more. It was at this point that he no longer needed the wand to focus his powers.
All throughout this time, he was often described as a threat of incalculable level, worthy of intervention by the Watcher, but he never extended his plans or the reach of his power past the Earth.
Secret Wars I and II
When he was brought to Battleworld during Secret Wars I, he was under his classic limitation of being unable to control organic matter. His power was shown to be extensive, levitating a mountain and ripping up billions of tons of the planet's crust, but again never really extended past the planetary scale. However, after Doctor Doom lifted his subconscious mental blocks, created by his own self-doubt, self-hate, and fear, he realized that he could not only affect organic matter, but also energy as well. And since matter and energy are all that there is, he could do pretty much anything. He was now described by Doom, who at that point had the combined power of Galactus and the Beyonder, as the second most powerful being in the universe after Doom himself.
The Molecule Man quickly became accustomed to his new power levels, recreating the galaxy that the Beyonder had destroyed, creating space warps, and so on. In the continuity of the time, he was now more powerful than any other being in the Marvel Universe, including such entities as the Living Tribunal. The Watcher later seconded this assertion, calling Reece the most powerful being in the multiverse (not counting the Beyonder).
During Secret Wars II, he was able to be omniscient when he desired, could teleport, battle the Beyonder (who was millions of times more powerful than the entire multiverse combined) for a short amount of time (a battle felt by "every being on every planet in every dimension"), create power blasts that according to the Beyonder could destroy several billion dimensions, and remove all the beings in the way of one of the Beyonder's blasts (hundreds of miles long) out of the way and into subspace. The Beyonder, when battling the Celestials, who at that time were considered to be far below the Beyonder and Reece in power, described how that fight included billions of attacks and parries per second. Clearly, since Reece was capable of fighting the Beyonder for longer than the Celestials, he must have been capable of the same thing, and thus was able to think and act on a time scale much faster than ordinary human thought.
Early Cosmic Cube Period
However, later on his and the Beyonder's powers were retconned and their power was now--together--the power of just one Cosmic Cube, significantly less than before. Many of the Beyonder's (and assumedly Reece's) feats were now considered to have been illusions created by more powerful cosmic entities. According to Reece, he was now below the Living Tribunal and Eternity. Kubik, another sentient Cube, later said that his own power is significantly less than that of the Celestials, so presumably this was also true of Reece. This retcon also focused on his mortality; at the beginning of the storyline, he was rendered unconscious by a sneak attack by Doctor Doom, something that would seemingly be impossible for an omniscient and omnipotent being capable of reacting in time measured in the billionths of a second.
When he and the Beyonder merged into an actual Cosmic Cube, Reece left a portion of his power with Marsha. After his essence returned to Earth, he eventually regained this portion of his former power. This would imply that not only did he have the lesser part of the power of a Cosmic Cube, but that he now had only a small portion of even that power, leaving him significantly depowered from his previous level. He also found that he was now only able to control inorganic molecules again. He seemed to be clearly less powerful than before, and was even defeated by a rogue Watcher.
However, his no-organics limitation disappeared once again, and he continued to practice using his power, eventually seeming to regain not only to regain his normal Cosmic Cube level of power, but even to exceed it. His battle with the Kosmos-Beyonder some time after the retcon was powerful enough to affect galaxies across the universe, multiple other dimensions, and distant timestreams. After this battle, Kubik told him that, instead of being less powerful than the Beyonder (as had always been the case in the past), Reece was in fact more powerful than the Beyonder or Kubik because of his human potential. So even after the retcon that changed the origin of his powers to a Cosmic Cube, his power level changed dramatically several times.
His powers, from Secret Wars II onward, also became less like simple matter/energy manipulation and conversion and became more like plain wish fulfillment. For instance, he pulled the Beyonder's essence out of Kosmos, and had the ability to travel to the astral plane. All throughout this time, he was clearly in the top couple tiers of powerful entities in the Marvel Universe (although no longer at the very top), able to affect things across space, time, and dimensions.
Later Cosmic Cube Period and Dark Reign
His most recent appearances, however, showed him much reduced in his use of power. He once again seemed to limit himself to "parlor tricks" of power, turning one element into another, increasing something's scale, levitating things, etc., instead of battling in multiple dimensions. This seems to be less because his power was actually reduced so much as that he was just not used to his full potential. He fought with people like Klaw and Doc Samson. He was most recently defeated by the Sentry, who while capable of matter manipulation had not previously been shown to use it at the Molecule Man's level. There is some controversy about whether this was because the Sentry had "different kinds" of molecules which Reece was unable to manipulate, or whether it was because Reece's mind had become so unstable that he was unable to effectively defend himself, or whether it was just poor writing.
In short, his powers have fluctuated wildly in kind and degree depending on his mental state, the origin of his powers, and the writer's knowledge of and intent for his character at the time.
Caveat about the Beyonder's Second Retcon
The Beyonder was recently retconned a second time. In this story, he gained his power not from a Cosmic Cube, but because he is in fact a mutant Inhuman. This retcon throws the entire storyline about the relationship between the Molecule Man and the Beyonder into chaos: how did the Molecule Man gain his powers? What about the time they spent together as a Cosmic Cube? What about Kosmos? However, this story has not been referenced since it was written, and it is possible that it will not become canon. It is also possible, since Brian Bendis wrote both stories, that the Molecule Man's lower power level in the Dark Avengers arc is meant to reflect his de-coupling from the Beyonder, as would be the case under the mutant Inhuman explanation.
In an alternate future, the Molecule Man and several other very powerful villains were trying to get access to Clyde Wyncham. Wyncham was a mutant with extraordinary reality-warping powers from yet another alternate dimension. He was in a coma, and Reed Richards was keeping him in a state of happy stasis using a machine in a special room. It is unclear exactly why the villains were there: it seems like they were attacking him, but perhaps they were trying to wake him. In any case, Wyncham was awoken, and he instantly killed all of the villains, including Reece, Over-Mind, Aron, Terminus, Blastaar, Klaw, Terrax, and the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android, showing off his incredible power. That version of Wyncham then went on to become the Marquis of Death.
In the Marvel Adventures universe, Owen Reece had a very different story. He was a technological genius and worked in a lab. He had no powers of his own. He and another scientist, Aaron Alexander, developed technology that could manipulate the atomic structure of reality. Reece became angry at Alexander because Alexander started dating Reece's ex-girlfriend, Dr. Meyers. Reece took the helmet they used to control the machine and used it to cause havoc. He was able to use the helmet to possess Alexander and many others in succession, and to manipulate matter in a sophisticated way. When he possessed someone, his classic lightning bolt scars appeared on their faces. However, they were not on his own real face, they were just a decoration on the helmet he wore. The Fantastic Four confronted him and eventually beat him by taking his helmet away.