A cunning mind in his own right, Norman Osborn knows there are other more intelligent people in the Marvel Universe, and that those geniuses are a threat to his Dark Reign. This March, Osborn's going to take action against the Marvel U's biggest brain, Reed Richards, in the five-issue "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four" miniseries by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Sean Chen. CBR News spoke with Hickman about the series.

When "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four" begins, Norman Osborn is using the many powers at his disposal as director of H.A.M.M.E.R. and head of the U.S. Government's Initiative program to attack the Fantastic Four. "For dramatic purposes, H.A.M.M.E.R. is assaulting the Baxter Building, but what Osborn is really doing is trying to shut down the Fantastic Four via the Initiative program," Hickman told CBR News. "He's putting them up for review. All of the H.A.M.M.E.R. stuff and things with Osborn dovetails into a story about the kids. It's Franklin and Valeria vs. H.A.M.M.E.R. ,which is fun and entertaining."

Hickman continued, "It's a good chance to write the kids, who are so important and so interesting. I love what [current "Fantastic Four" writer Mark] Millar is doing with them, and I'm a big 'X-Men' fan, so all of the stuff with Franklin as an adult that was mentioned in that book over the years has been playing around in the back of my head. I saw an opportunity to do a cool kids story."

Osborn's attempt at neutralizing the FF launches Reed Richards into a reflective mood. "When I got the ongoing 'Fantastic Four' gig, I went back read everything I could and I thought that with the big events going on like Secret Invasion and the stuff with the Illuminati, you never saw the fallout of Reed's actions in Civil War in a real interesting way," Hickman said. "He's never really had a moment where he's said, 'I was involved in all of these things and it's all gotten messed up. What does that say about me? What does that say about my place in the Marvel Universe and how I protect my family?' So the other piece of 'Dark Reign: FF' is really Reed's journey to figure out everything that's gone wrong in the last couple of years. And it's obvious things have gotten worse with Dark Reign.

Hickman sees Richards as the most important person in the Marvel Universe. "If you look at him in that manner, he not only has all those responsibilities, but he's also a father," the writer said. "That's the most important thing to him. So there's always this interesting push and pull with the character about the more important role he has to play. If you've got kids and you're a guy, it's kind of a natural conflict. You need to earn money for your family and take care of them, but you also want to be a good father, and those two things kind of push and pull against each other. Looking at him that way, I think it's easy to write Reed."

In "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four," Reed begins the process of examining his past mistakes by doing what comes naturally to him: building a big machine. "Things go wrong with the machine and Sue, Ben, and Johnny get thrown into this world that is reflective of what Reed is currently thinking about, be it Civil War/Illuminati related or whatever," Hickman explained. "It's this screwed up parallel universe and you've got this cool alternate history going on there. So we'll see three of the Fantastic Four in some interesting interactions. This story pulls them all apart and brings them back together."

Norman Osborn does show up in "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four," but Hickman feels Reed Richards's biggest adversary in the series is Richards himself. "Reed has been his own worst arch-enemy for it seems like a couple of years now," Hickman remarked. "He's made conscious decisions that have torn his family apart and split the Marvel Universe in half. He also made conscious decisions to go behind everybody's back and those resulted in Secret Invasion. So Reed's problem is Reed, and he's got to figure that out."

Though Richards will be sorting through his mistakes in "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four," readers shouldn't expect the tone the series to be oppressively bleak. "I think it's fair to say that whenever you sit down and do a lot of self examination and you're honest, there is going to be plenty of stuff you don't like," Hickman stated. "But the kind of person you are will determine what tone your introspection takes. And I think Reed feels he's got something to still give as opposed to him having no hope. So I wouldn't say this is a dark series, but it is honest."

Jonathan Hickman has admired artist Sean Chen's work for awhile, and is excited to be collaborating with him on "Dark Reign: Fantastic Four." "When my editor, Tom Brevoort, said, 'We're thinking about Sean Chen for art.' I was like, 'Hell yes! He's fantastic!'" Hickman said. "He's very good at technical things and at environments, and that's very important for this story. I'm giving him lots of hard stuff to draw and he's really tearing it up. It's a really pretty-looking book."

"Dark Reign: Fantastic Four" will give readers an early glimpse of how Hickman plans to handle Marvel's first family when he and artist Dale Eaglesham take over the main "Fantastic Four" title this summer. The writer made sure he crafted a story that could be appreciated by old school FF fans as well as readers who've never had any experience with the team. "It was a fun opportunity to do the characters and I think I had a cool story to tell that's fun for anybody to read," Hickman said. "And I'm very appreciative of Marvel for throwing more stuff my way. I'm really enjoying working there. I really like working with Tom Brevoort and editor Jeanine Schaefer. They're very good."

"Dark Reign: Fantastic Four" #1 goes on sale March 4 from Marvel Comics.

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