Warning: The following article contains minor spoilers for History of the Marvel Universe #1, by Mark Waid, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, Carlos Lao and Joe Caramagna on sale now.
Every story has an ending. As difficult as it is to imagine, the story of the Marvel Universe will eventually end, too. Although it has been going on for 80 years and featured thousands of characters in tales told by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and hundreds of other creators, the Marvel Universe will cease to exist, and heroes, villains, planets and galaxies will die without hope of resurrection.
Although History of the Marvel Universe #1 is ultimately about streamlining the long, disjointed narrative, the framing story around the ultimate retelling of Marvel history takes place at the end of the universe.
In the issue, two of Marvel's most powerful cosmic beings, Franklin Richards, the now-adult son of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman, and the planet-devouring Galactus, sit and talk while the last two living particles in the Andromeda Galaxy begin to fade out of existence, billions of years in the future.
In the final moments of the Marvel Universe, Franklin asks Galactus to help him remember everything that happened, from the start of time onward, seemingly so he can carry those memories with him into the next universe.
While that might seem counter-intuitive, it's part of a continual cycle of destruction and creation on a multiversal scale. A universe existed before the Marvel Universe, and another will replace it.
As he recalls in this issue, Galactus was the last survivor of the universe that existed before this one. Although he began as a humanoid explorer named Galan, he absorbed the cosmic energies of his dying universe to survive the Big Bang that created the Marvel Universe in its present form. That process also transformed Galan into Galactus and established him as one of Marvel's strongest characters.
From this conversation, Franklin seems destined to fill a similar role as the lone survivor of the Marvel Universe in the one that replaces it. While there's certainly no guarantee Franklin will become the new Devourer of Worlds, that suggests he will also probably be one of the most powerful beings in the next universe too.
This sequence of events mirrors a similar situation in one of Marvel's most infamous unfinished tales, John Byrne's The Last Galactus Story. Although the Epic Illustrated anthology it was serialized in was canceled before it could be finished, that story would've seen Galactus consuming the last bit of energy in a dead universe before releasing it to create a new universe. In this unfinished tale, Galactus' herald Nova, the Fantastic Four ally Frankie Raye, would've survived into the new universe to take on Galactus' role.
Although Galactus famously has heralds like Nova and the Silver Surfer who do his bidding, they've been replaced at his side in History of the Marvel Universe #1 by Franklin, to whom he speaks as an equal after billions of years of friendship.
This version of an adult Franklin also bears a striking resemblance to another reality's future version of the character, who was first glimpsed in Fantastic Four #574, by Jonathan Hickman and Neil Edwards.
After his universe was destroyed by a group of Mad Celestials, Franklin traveled to the main Marvel Universe and helped Marvel's main Franklin, Galactus and the Future Foundation defeat them.
While that Franklin could theoretically be the character in History of the Marvel Universe, it seems like the version in this book is an older version of Marvel's main Franklin, considering his immense fondness for this universe.
While Franklin is just entering his teenage years in the pages of Fantastic Four, he seems fated to play a major role on a universal scale. If that's the case, his deeds could very well be chronicled in History of the Marvel Universe as it creeps toward the modern age.