SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel Two-In-One #1, in stores now.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a comic book that's had as many cinematic adaptations as the Fantastic Four. Marvel's First Family headlined three films for 20th Century Fox: 2005's Fantastic Four, 2007's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and a 2015 reboot of the franchise. While the first two films did well enough for the period of cinema they premiered in, the most recent Fantastic Four underperformed at the box office and suffered from poor critic reviews.
What often goes overlooked in the franchise's movie history is producer Roger Corman's long-forgotten The Fantastic Four in 1994. It can be excused if many people never knew the film existed, as it was never released to the general public after being completed.
What Happened To The Fantastic Four In The Marvel Universe?
One could say the Fantastic Four have been forgotten in the comics as well. The long-running series was canceled ahead of Marvel's universe-altering crossover event Secret Wars in 2015, which Fantastic Four members Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Sue Storm (Invisible Woman), Johnny Storm (Human Torch) and Ben Grimm (Thing) played an integral part. Secret Wars concluded with Reed, Sue, Franklin, Valeria and the kids of the Future Foundation putting themselves in charge of repopulating the multiverse, which left Johnny and Ben back in the Marvel Prime Universe believing their family was dead.
In the meantime, Johnny kept himself busy hanging with the Inhumans (and dating their queen, Medusa) and fighting alongside the Avengers Unity Squad in Uncanny Avengers. Ben went back to his space-faring roots by joining the Guardians of the Galaxy, before coming back to Earth as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to investigate the Fantastic Four nemesis Doctor Doom in Infamous Iron Man.
Fate Of The Four
After being teased in Marvel Legacy #1, it seems the Fantastic Four are on the verge of making a comeback. The first leg of their return began in this week's Marvel Two-In-One #1, featuring the Human Torch and Thing teaming up for Part One of the story arc "Fate of the Four." The issue kicked off with Johnny Storm heading into the final four laps, with three racers named Jordan, Evans and Underwood leading the pack. If those three names ring any bells, it's because they are the last names of the actors who portrayed the Human Torch in a Fantastic Four movie: Michael B. Jordan (2015), Chris Evans (2005 and 2007, and now starring as another Marvel hero, Captain America) and Jay Underwood (unreleased 1994 film).
What's even more interesting is writer Chip Zdarsky's homage lists each actor in the order to which they would have last appeared on film. "Jordan's in the lead, followed by Evans, with Underwood pulling up third," before the original Johnny Storm comes racing in to take second place. Alas, first place evades Johnny as he goes crashing into the side barricade in a fiery crash. Being that he's named the "Human Torch" and his superpower is fire-based, Johnny walks away unscathed.
The movie homage is a small easter egg for fans of the Fantastic Four, and is a nice way to open Marvel Two-In-One with a tale that will hopefully result in Johnny and Ben reuniting with their lost family members and teammates. If this reunion takes place in 2018, a new volume of Fantastic Four shouldn't be far behind.