The Fantastic Four are a staple of the Marvel Universe and as Marvel's first family, they were responsible for establishing the kind of storytelling that still flourishes at Marvel today. From Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, Walt Simonson and Grant Morrison, some of the most legendary creators in comics have worked on the team and its iconic heroes, villains and supporting characters over a publishing history that stretches across a half-century.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of the best stories featuring Marvel's first family. While this list is hardly comprehensive, these are all must-read Fantastic Four stories for any Marvel fan.
THIS MAN, THIS MONSTER
In 1966's Fantastic Four #51, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created one of the most legendary Marvel stories of all time by examining the notions of humanity and friendship within the larger than life scope of superheroes. In "This Man, This Monster," a rival scientist of Reed's manages to steal the Thing's powers and impersonates Ben Grimm. After putting Reed in danger, he faces the ultimate test and realizes how heroic he truly is.
Meanwhile, the real Ben grapples with what it truly means to be human, seeking to propose to his girlfriend Alicia Masters. However, his unexpected transformations send him in some surprising directions that show how much pathos can be wrought from the FF's resident ever-lovin blue-eyed Thing.
Combining Johnathan Hickman's larger than life storytelling with Steve Epting's dynamic art style, "Three," which ran from 2010's Fantastic Four #583-588, is arguably the high point in Hickman's Fantastic Four run. As the team faces an assortment of crises, the depowered Thing and the Human Torch find themselves facing an impending invasion from the Negative Zone all alone.
As the duo fight valiantly against the forces of the classic villain Annihilus, Ben finds himself questioning what his return to humanity has cost him. The story ends in tragedy but cements why the Fantastic Four are Marvel's First Family. "Three" is also responsible for Spider-Man's official inclusion into the Fantastic Four and set the stage for the eventual creation of the Future Foundation.
Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's early 2000s stint on Fantastic Four is a fan-favorite era, and "Unthinkable," which ran for five issues from 2005's Fantastic Four #67 to Fantastic Four #500, often being cited as a highlight of that run. After receiving dark arcane power, Doctor Doom kidnaps Franklin and Valeria, declaring that he can finally best Reed Richards through magic.
Waid excels at character-driven arcs and this is no exception as he pushes Reed to new limits, pitting his science against Doom's magic, and the story's dark subject matter contrasts with Wieringo's classic cartoony style. The tussle between these two long-time adversaries ended with the disfigurement of Richards' face, directly setting him on a path that would lead to the death of one of the Fantastic Four's core members.
The idea of family is integral to the Fantastic Four mythos, and one of the follow-ups to "Unthinkable" is one of the Four's best family-centric tales. Waid, Wieringo and Howard Porter's "Hereafter." Originally published in 2004's Fantastic Four #509-513, the story sees the team shaken to its core after Doctor Doom takes control of one of its members.
Not only is "Hereafter" a great character study about what it means to be a family, but it also serves as a tribute to Jack Kirby and the history of Marvel Comics as a whole. It follows the team as it moves heaven and Earth to bring back their friend in a story telling a story that's all about the family, hope, and friendship that defines the team.
THE GALACTUS TRILOGY
In one of the first and finest Marvel epics ever published, "The Galactus Trilogy" arguably marks the high point of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four run. From 1966's Fantastic Four #48-50, Lee and Kirby put the FF against a threat unlike anything they had ever faced before.
This cosmic tale is full of iconic moments, like the arrival of the Silver Surfer and the introduction of his master, the towering Galactus. Lee and Kirby's creativity and ingenuity is on full display here, offering one of the first family's most memorable tales in a three-issue epic that set a standard for massive Marvel moments.