Last year’s “Secret Wars” was the ultimate Fantastic Four story in more ways than one: it centered on the epic battle between the FF’s Reed Richards and classic nemesis Victor von Doom, but it also has the sad distinction of being Marvel’s last Fantastic Four story, at least for the time being.
Since the end of “Secret Wars,” the Fantastic Four have been missing from the Marvel Universe. True, there’s an in-universe story to explain their absence — Reed and the family are off exploring the newly-reconstructed multiverse, while Ben and Johnny have signed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Inhumans, respectively. But their absence hasn’t gone unnoticed, and as the Marvel Universe grows and changes, its First Family remains MIA.
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One year after the All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch seems the perfect time to bring the Fantastic Four back, just in time for Marvel NOW! and the changes it brings. With that in mind, CBR brings you 10 reasons why Marvel NOW! needs the Fantastic Four.
10. The Future Foundation
Jonathan Hickman’s instant-classic “Fantastic Four” run shook up the franchise in a number of ways, but few were as dramatic as Reed Richards’ creation of the Future Foundation. After realizing Earth’s most brilliant scientists were all too old and too set in their ways to do anything truly dramatic, Reed opened a school/research institute for the world’s smartest kids. The Future Foundation almost immediately proved its worth by doing something Reed himself had never been able to do: partially cure the Thing, so that he could live as a normal human for one week a year.
The disappearance of the Fantastic Four after “Secret Wars” has also meant a universe without the Future Foundation, which has been a genuine loss. They were delightfully weird, unrepentantly geeky and — at least in the cases of Valeria and Bentley — just a smidgeon evil. They were also the only genuinely kid-focused team since Power Pack. A new Future Foundation book could tap into the lucrative middle-grade market that Marvel is now reaching through Scholastic book fairs.
But the Future Foundation doesn’t need to just reopen, it needs to take in some new members! Lunella Lafayette from “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” is an obvious recruit. She previously applied, but was rejected. The school could also take in the young Hank McCoy from “All-New X-Men,” former Young Avenger Cassie Lang, or even Viv from “Vision,” who presumably could pull double duty while rocking her Champions gig.
9. Take Back The Baxter Building
From the Fantastic Four’s earliest days, their headquarters in Manhattan, the Baxter Building, has been practically a character in its own right. The building even got two different schematic drawings in the first six issues. Over the years, the Baxter Building has been attacked by supervillains, launched into space, blown up and rebuilt so many times, it became impossible to insure, creating many a headache for building manager Walter Collins (at least until Reed Richards finally bought the building outright).
That’s not the greatest indignity, though. With the breakup of the Fantastic Four and the disappearance into the multiverse of the Richards clan, the Baxter Building was sold to none other than Parker Industries. This made Johnny Storm none-too-happy, and it was only after an epic confrontation/conflagration between the Human Torch and Spider-Man that Johnny accepted Peter’s explanation: he was saving the building for when the Fantastic Four got back together.
There’s only one problem: if there’s a superhero who has had worse luck with his homes/places of business than the Fantastic Four, it’s Spider-Man. Parker Industries’ first headquarters, Horizon Labs’ original headquarters, and even Peter’s boyhood home in Forest Hills have all been reduced to rubble while he was on watch. Unless they want the Baxter Building to meet the same fate (yet again), the Fantastic Four had better reunite stat.
8. Valeria & The Infamous Iron Man: The Team-Up
Valeria Richards has had a special connection with Victor von Doom since her birth, at which Doom acted as something of a mystical midwife. Valeria now views him as a part of the family, and even went to live with “Uncle Doom” when she had a falling-out with her parents. Doom, meanwhile, treats Valeria like an adoptive daughter (a bond made explicit during “Secret Wars”). The two also constantly strive to make each other better (at least as they see it), with Valeria pushing Doom to be just a little less evil, while Doom encourages Valeria’s powerful ambition.
With Doom taking up a heroic role in “Infamous Iron Man,” he absolutely needs to have at least one team-up with Valeria. Because of their bond, Valeria is probably the only person Doom would go to when he couldn’t solve a problem himself. Just seeing that moment of inspiration, where Doom and Valeria figure it all out, would be worth it. Extra credit if it ends with Valeria in her own Iron Val armor (and how could it not?).
7. Ben & Johnny: Better Together
The Fantastic Four have not been entirely MIA in the post-“Secret Wars” Marvel universe: Ben Grimm has enlisted with the Guardians of the Galaxy, while Johnny Storm has been flaming on alongside the Inhumans. And while it has been great to see them in all-new, all-different circumstances, the pair work best when they are riffing on each other.
From the very beginning, Ben and Johnny have had a friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) antagonism that has driven some of their best stories. In one of their earliest stories, Johnny quit the team after an argument with Ben, leading directly to him meeting an amnesiac homeless man who turned out to be Namor. But the best moments are when the two are just pranking each other, whether it’s the time Johnny glued straws to Ben’s face to make him think he was growing a beard, or the time a genuinely-bearded Ben travelled back in time to tell Johnny he had to save the world. The Marvel Universe is just a little less fun without these two relentlessly mocking and punking each other.
6. For Once, Sue Storm Should Be Visible
The past five years have been a veritable renaissance for Marvel’s female superheroes. This month, Marvel will publish 15 female-led solo books, with more on the way, including the Jennifer Walters-starring “Hulk” and “The Unstoppable Wasp.” Unfortunately, Sue, who has never had her own solo series, has so far missed out on all the fun, despite being one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, female or otherwise.
The options for an Invisible Woman solo series are practically endless, though one strong contender is a “Sue Richards: Agent of SHIELD” series that builds on the pre-“Secret Wars” status quo. Sue has the perfect power set for espionage: just imagine her using force fields to get through the inevitable hallway filled with laser tripwires, gracefully reenact the “Mission: Impossible” cable drop (without the cable), unlock safes from across the room, or stop Latverian agents from making use of their hidden cyanide pills. Plus, we’ve already seen a proof of concept in last year’s SHIELD #4. If Dick Grayson can be reimagined as a super-spy, so can Sue Richards.
5. The FF & The New Galactus
“The Coming of Galactus” was quite possibly the biggest Fantastic Four story of all time. The earth — and the Fantastic Four — had faced interstellar threats before, but easily-tricked Skrulls are nothing compared to a world-devouring cosmic god. As Reed Richards later discovered, Galactus is literally a force of nature; his testing of planets and civilizations somehow critical to the proper functioning of the universe. Over the years, Reed has built a grudging friendship with Galactus, and saved his life on at least one occasion. But that’s nothing compared to Franklin Richards’ relationship with him. In case you missed it: Franklin gets so powerful in the future that Galactus becomes his herald.
So, of course the Richards clan needs to meet up with the new lifebringer Galactus from “The Ultimates.” Reed would of course insist on numerous tests to make sure the Ultimates have not doomed the universe by “fixing” Galactus, Franklin and Galactus would have a bonding moment over both creating life, and Valeria would not-so-silently mourn for the loss of such a powerful destructive force. It’s yet another great story that we’re missing without the Fantastic Four.
4. The Fantastic Family Dynamic
There are a lot of superhero teams in the Marvel Universe, including multiple squads of Avengers and X-Men. But the Fantastic Four is different. Reed and Sue are married with kids, Johnny is Sue’s brother and Ben is the kind of guy Franklin and Valeria would have called Uncle Ben regardless of any misadventures with cosmic rays. The Fantastic Four may be a superhero team, but they are a family first.
That family dynamic is extraordinarily rare in superhero comics, which are littered with the corpses of dead uncles, parents, love interests and even a few kids here and there. In an industry where editors regularly nix superhero marriages, Reed and Sue have been married an amazing 51 years, and have two kids who are an integral part of the team.
With the Fantastic Four MIA, we are missing that family dynamic and the stories it makes possible. The family connection can minimize squabbles, but it can also heighten the consequences when things boil over (as happened in “Original Sin,” when Ben learned Johnny ruined his best chance to be cured). It provides story hooks, like when Valeria ran away to Uncle Doom’s castle in Latveria. Though we wouldn’t want every story to be about superhero parenting or sibling rivalry, there should at least be some in that vein. The Marvel Universe is poorer without them.
3. The Monsters Are Coming
Monsters are in the Fantastic Four’s DNA. Before Galactus, before Doom, before Namor, before they’d even moved to New York City, there were monsters. The team’s very first outing was to stop the Mole Man’s invasion of the surface world. Even when the supervillains did start showing up, they often brought monsters with them. In his first appearance, for example, Namor was a threat not so much because of his own powers, but because he summoned a Giganto to destroy New York City.
But, the Fantastic Four don’t just fight monsters; they are monsters! All four have abilities that make them monstrous, but they choose to be heroes. As the one member of the team that can’t shut off his abilities, though, Ben bears a special burden, always standing apart from human society.
With monsters being such an integral part of their heritage, the Fantastic Four would be a shoo-in for the upcoming “Monsters Unleashed” crossover. We need to see the FF facing off against some of their classic foes, and to see how the team reacts when one (or more) of their own have their monstrous sides unleashed.
2. A Fantastic Voyage (In The Marvel Multiverse)
The Fantastic Four have been about exploration from the moment they gained their powers. Technically, they’ve been exploring since before their powers — that is how they got them in the first place, after all! They’ve explored the farthest reaches of the earth, deepest space and even other dimensions, like the Negative Zone. Their next stop: Marvel’s new multiverse.
“Secret Wars” ended with an almost perfect hook for a “Fantastic Four” series: Franklin Richards recreated the multiverse with the help of his father and the Molecule Man, but all those alternate universes still needed to be explored and catalogued. Or, as Sue put it, “We’re like Lewis and Clark, but for all of existence.” That is an absolutely stellar setup for a book; basically “Fantastic Four” meets “Exiles.” Along the way, the Fantastic Four can answer some of the questions remaining from “Secret Wars,” such as: Was the multiverse largely recreated as it had been? Does the Prime/616 universe have a special place in the multiverse or was it just the first to be rebuilt? And does it all tie in to the Web of Life and Destiny from “Spider-Verse?”
1. Reed vs. The Infamous Iron Man
One of the most shocking status quo changes of Marvel NOW! was the announcement that Victor von Doom would be putting on the Iron Man armor. Doom, who has been a villain for almost the entirety of his 50+ year history, was becoming a hero. (Okay, an antihero.) It’s a dramatic shakeup that genuinely feels both all-new and all-different.
However, being realistic for a moment, there is no chance this ends well. Doom, like the Superior Spider-Man before him, is going to screw things up. His hubris will get in his way, just like it did when he had an entire universe of his own or that time he saved the multiverse in “Secret Wars”. Each time, Reed Richards and his family were there to save Doom from himself.
We need the Fantastic Four in the Marvel Universe to be there when Doom fails. Other heroes can beat Doom from time to time, but none have been able to clean up Doom’s messes like the FF. There’s a simple reason for that: Reed genuinely “gets” Doom. He knows what motivates him and where he’s likely to have made mistakes. Why? Because Reed and Doom are mirror images of each other. They are what each could have been under different circumstances (though both would deny it). And that, fundamentally, is why they are always enemies: they are too alike to be friends.
“Infamous Iron Man” #1 will arrive in comic shops on October 19, 2016.
Why do you think the Fantastic Four should come home for the new Marvel NOW!? Let us know in the comments!
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