WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel 2-In-One #11 by Chip Zdarsky, Ramón K. Pérez, Federico Blee and Joe Caramagna, in stores now.
For the past three years, the Fantastic Four were broken following the conclusion of Secret Wars. Reed Richards, Susan Storm, their children Franklin and Valeria and the rest of the Future Foundation had left Earth behind to travel throughout the infinite cosmos, rebuilding and exploring the multiverse. But while they were away, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm had remained behind on Earth. Worse still, they believed that the other half of their super-team -- their family -- had died during the events of Secret Wars. The Thing and the Human Torch kept fighting the good fight for three years, believing that they were the only survivors of the Fantastic Four.
But readers have always known that Reed, Sue, Franklin and Val were still alive -- and we wondered why they had left Ben and Johnny behind. We wondered what could compel Reed and Sue to allow Ben and Johnny to painfully believe they were dead. Now, following the release of this past September's Fantastic Four #2, Marvel's first family of superheroes is finally reunited. And in Marvel 2-In-One #11, we finally learn why the Fantastic Four broke up three years ago.
At first, the preview pages of Marvel 2-In-One #11 hinted that Reed had broken up the super-family because he wanted to bring the Fantastic Four back to what they were originally supposed to be: Explorers, not superheroes. Reed thought that Ben and Johnny would be bored with a life of science, and so that is why he left them behind while he brought his wife and children on a cosmic adventure of discovery. However, we now know that is only part of the reason Reed wanted Ben and Johnny to believe they were dead.
Further in the issue, Reed takes Ben to an alternate universe where they find a parallel version of Victor von Doom who is not the villainous character the Thing knows him to be. This Doom may still be scarred, and he might be still be wearing a suit of armor, but he is a rather good man and brilliant scientist. This is when Reed explains that, in this universe, the Fantastic Four do not exist and his alternate self is dead. Therefore, Doom never had his rivalry with Reed Richards, one of the basic foundations of his villainy. On this alternate Earth, Reed instead found a friend and fellow scientist whom he visits frequently.
This discovery led Reed to try a new sort of experiment. If Ben and Johnny truly believed that Reed was dead, beyond a doubt, then perhaps this would be enough to convince the real Doctor Doom that his ultimate enemy was dead also. Reed hoped that, in turn, this would allow Doom to let go of his villainy and instead become a force for good, like the alternate Victor he befriended.
However, while Reed's intentions were quite noble, as we know, his plan didn't exactly work out... but it did start off promising when Doctor Doom tried a different approach in 2015's Invincible Iron Man #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez. He became a proper superhero when he assumed the mantle of the Infamous Iron Man following the presumed death of Tony Stark upon the conclusion of Bendis and Marquez' Civil War II in 2016.
Doom even joined Ben and Johnny in their travels through the multiverse at the start of Marvel 2-In-One as an unofficial member of the team. But all of that ended with this year's Invincible Iron Man #600, an issue that saw Doom scarred once again, taking refuge in his old castle.
It was a good attempt by Reed, but one that was ultimately futile. Mr. Fantastic has always been one to attempt to fix everything, but perhaps he should come to accept that Doom simply can' be fixed, no matter how hard he tries.