While Marvel is currently deep into its Secret Empire event, eyes of both fans and the media look to the future. After the recent announcement of Marvel Legacy and a focus on the storied past of Marvel publishing going all the way back to its beginnings — something that is also highlighted thanks to a series of homage covers that mix the old and the new for every re-launch series that will come later this year — readers are excited to see a more familiar Marvel universe return, but they are also curious as to some missing elements. Paramount among these is, of course, the Fantastic Four.
Ever since the end of the Secret Wars event series, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, and their children have been missing, taking the “Fantastic Four” moniker with them. Sure, Ben Grimm’s The Thing and Johnny Storm’s Human Torch are part of other titles, but the Fantastic Four, united as a team and family, are sadly missing from the relaunch. Without them, Marvel isn’t fully whole and for that reason, we here at CBR believe that the Fantastic Four should absolutely make a return to Marvel Comics. Today, we will list 10 ways that their return could save Marvel, but also five ways it could potentially destroy it.
15. SAVE: MR. FANTASTIC COULD FIX HYDRA CAP
We have now reached the halfway point of the massive, character-altering Secret Empire event, an event that sees Captain America, Steve Rogers, altered by a Cosmic Cube to be an agent of Hydra and taking over control of the county, where he rules with an iron fist and hunts down his fellow heroes. While most readers expect the event to end with Steve Rogers returning to normal, we still have no idea how this could happen.
Sure, the easy answer would be to have the now shattered Cosmic Cube reassembled to fix Steve Rogers, but what if instead the world’s most intelligent superhero, Mr. Fantastic, came back to find his world completely broken and proceeded to find another way to fix Hydra Cap. That way, the Fantastic Four’s return would not only be celebrated and cemented, Mr. Fantastic would instantly become the Marvel Universe’s greatest hero.
14. DESTROY: LOST FOCUS ON LESSER KNOWN CHARACTERS
One of the current successes of Marvel’s initiative is that, with its bigger-name characters in a state of flux, change or absence, it has given some creators the chance to explore and shine a light on some lesser known and newer characters. Characters like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Squirrel Girl, the new Ms. Marvel, X-23 and Riri Williams have all stepped up to fill the void left by established characters.
While the absence of classic characters has angered some, there are also many fans new and old who have developed an attachment to these new, younger heroes. If the Fantastic Four were to return in a big way, this could very well mean a departure from those smaller, quieter series focusing on these lesser-known characters. There would simply be significantly less room for these new heroes to shine.
13. SAVE: AN IMPORTANT PART OF MARVEL’S LEGACY
The Fantastic Four were first published in 1961, appearing as Marvel’s First Family of superheroes, a year before Spider-Man would even make his first appearance. They are ingrained in Marvel’s history and legacy and a big part of the reason why Marvel is what it is today. Of course, we now know that Marvel will be re-launching its entire line of titles as part of the Marvel Legacy initiative.
What better way to highlight Marvel’s legacy than by bringing back its First Family of superheroes? If the idea behind this relaunch is to honor the past of Marvel and look to the future, than the Fantastic Four are a very big part of that past. Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben should all rightfully be featured prominently as the characters to spearhead this massive relaunch.
12. SAVE: A PRIME EXAMPLE OF “GENERATIONS”
Before the Marvel Legacy relaunch goes into full effect, a series called Marvel Generations, released in August 2017, will explore different team-ups of established superheroes and their younger counterparts like, for example, Wolverine and X-23. This anthology series is an interesting way to explore both the past and the future of Marvel comics before going into Legacy.
And yet, while there is not an issue that will explore the Fantastic Four, there really should be. After all, the Fantastic Four, with Reed and Sue’s children Franklin and Valeria — both very young and bright superheroes themselves — are the absolute definition of “Generations.” They are literally the children of superheroes, the next generation of their family — a family that could inspire the “Generations” idea behind Marvel Legacy.
11. DESTROY: A CHANGE IN STATUS QUO
The All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch took over the entirety of the Marvel Comics line after the conclusion of the Secret Wars event. Part of that relaunch saw Doctor Doom attempt to become a better version of himself, a version some might even call a hero. And after the events of Civil War II and Tony Stark’s death, Doctor Doom took his quest even further and became the Infamous Iron Man.
This title by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev is doing very well for itself, financially, critically, as well as creatively, with an interesting new take on Doctor Doom that sees him put on an entirely different set of armor. But if the Fantastic Four were to return, it would surely mean that this popular title starring their prime villain would be canceled, and fans of the Infamous Iron Man would be left wanting.
10. SAVE: THE FUTURE FOUNDATION
Over the years, the Marvel comics have seen a surge in new and younger heroes. New Inhumans pop-up daily, Ms Marvel is at the height of her popularity, Amadeus Cho is still getting used to his Hulk powers, and that is just the start. While the younger generation of heroes will surely look to the older for guidance, they might still need someone, or a group of someones, to lead them.
Enter the Future Foundation. Created by writer Jonathan Hickman, the Future Foundation is a quirky organization of brilliant minds that Mr. Fantastic put together to create a brighter future for mankind. Along with Valeria and Franklin Richards, the Future Foundation could be the ones to assemble the young generation of heroes and train them to work together for the betterment of the world.
9. SAVE: GRIMM AND STORM
While Reed, Sue, Franklin, Valeria and the Future Foundation are off somewhere in Marvel’s multiverse, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm have stayed on Earth. However, both are separated and members of different teams. After a stint with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Thing is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the Human Torch joined the Avengers Unity Division — the Uncanny Avengers — as a human representative of the Inhumans.
While both are still regularly seen in their team’s respective titles, neither have even come close to having a starring role. Both characters deserve so much more than to be used as extras and mere firepower in a team that they don’t really belong in. They deserve to be the stars they are supposed to be, and not just in their upcoming Two-In-One book. A Fantastic Four return could finally put The Thing and the Human Torch back where they rightfully belong: on a team with the rest of their family.
8. DESTROY: THE BRILLIANT END TO SECRET WARS
It’s rare that a comic book event series lives up to its own hype and potential, but 2015’s Secret Wars managed to do just that. But writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic’s series didn’t just re-shape the landscape of the Marvel Universe, it also served as a fitting conclusion to Hickman’s Fantastic Four saga that he had started all the way back in 2009.
In fact, the final chapter of Secret Wars served as a final confrontation of sorts between Mr. Fantastic and Doctor (“God” at the time) Doom, a confrontation that highlighted their fundamental differences and their intricate relationship. The series ended with hope and a smile, and it fixed everything, including the two characters’ rivalry. It was a brilliant end to a brilliant story, and somehow a return of the Fantastic Four would potentially undo or even retcon that ending to pit Doom against Reed once again.
7. SAVE: THE REED AND DOOM DYNAMIC
Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom have one of the oldest feuds in Marvel comics history. Bitter rivals, reluctant allies, and arch-enemies, theirs is a long and storied past that has seen them at each other’s throats for a very long time. It’s a relationship that reached a very poetic conclusion in the Secret Wars event, a conclusion that propelled Doom on a different type of journey.
The Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Doom relationship is as much a part of Marvel’s legacy as the Fantastic Four themselves. If the First Family were to return, instead of undoing the Secret Wars ending, Marvel could instead choose to see where Richards and Doom go from there. This could be an entire new chapter in the long history of these two rivals, one that could even see them become true partners.
6. SAVE: THE FEMALE HEROES NEED SUE STORM
For the past several years, there have been an increased focus on Marvel’s female characters. In fact, characters like Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Medusa, the new Thor and X-23 have all seen the spotlight shine on them. But while they are great characters all on their own, none of them have come to the clear forefront as Marvel’s leading lady. Constant changes and events keep them tied down.
For example, while Captain Marvel is currently the prime candidate, her ever-changing status and personality makes it hard for her to be a stable fixture. For that reason, Sue Storm could be positioned as the head Marvel’s female heroes, a recognizable, stable mother figure that is both strong and inspiring, a powerful character all her own that has a lot of wisdom to share with the other ladies of the Marvel Universe.
5. DESTROY: MOVIE AND COMIC SYNERGY
It’s been a longstanding rumor now that the Fantastic Four have been taken out of the comic book spotlight because Marvel Studios doesn’t own the cinematic rights to the characters, meaning that we could never see the team trade quips and blows with the likes of the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen.
With the massive success of the Marvel Studios franchise, more and more elements from the movies are creeping into the comic books, and vice versa, to the point that there is a very clear synergy between the movie and comic book divisions of the company. But since the Fantastic Four can’t appear on-screen under the Marvel Studios banner, the team’s return to comics could drastically alter these plans of synergy and take away story potential for future movies.
4. SAVE: MARVEL MULTIVERSAL
The last we saw of the Fantastic Four, at least of Reed and Sue and their children, they were leaving for worlds unknown, off somewhere in the multiverse, creating, exploring and cataloging. With the Guardians of the Galaxy exploring the far reaches of space, we could have a brand new title exploring the Fantastic Four’s journey through all of these universes.
Similar to the U.S.S. Enterprise crew’s mission in Star Trek, we could see the Fantastic Four travel to these worlds, both new and old, unheard of or classic universe’s from Marvel’ legacy, as they record their findings, only getting involved when absolutely necessary (which, let’s be honest, would be all the time). This could be a series that sets the Fantastic Four apart from the rest of Marvel’s titles; a series that could be titled, for example, “Marvel Multiversal.”
3. SAVE: LOVE IN COMICS ISN’T DEAD
As any fan of Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson’s relationship will tell you, sometimes it can truly appear like love is dead in Marvel’s comic books. Captain Marvel and War Machine shared a brief romance before Rhodey was killed, and even Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter are now separated by age and allegiances. No matter who the characters are, a happy ending always seems out of reach.
But Marvel still has one couple that has endured, a married couple that loves each other, supports each other, and moves heaven and Earth for each other: Reed Richards and Sue Storm. The Fantastic Four’s return could show readers that a strong, enduring love has a place in Marvel comics, and reader support could inspire Marvel to explore love and marriage in their titles once more. And that, in turn, could open the door for more character progression.
2. DESTROY: LOW SALES COULD LEAD TO CANCELLATION
While there are many vocal fans of the Fantastic Four who wish to see the team return to their former greatness, these numbers don’t always translate well into sales. In fact, history has shown that, while a staple of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four titles have seen dwindling sales numbers, something that could not have helped their title’s cancellation and disappearance.
While a strong creative team can lead to prosperity for the title, a loss of interest by the fan base could lead to low sales of the title, and that could only once again lead to a cancellation of the series. If fans wish for the Fantastic Four to stay, they have to stay with them too. And Marvel would need to give them a series worthy of the title’s long history and legacy.
1. SAVE: FF IS FOR FAMILY
After the devastating events of Civil War II that saw the superheroes divided and fighting each other once again, and the traitorous events of Secret Empire that saw heroes fighting for liberty in an underground movement, on the hunt from Hydra and the man they all trusted, there is going to be a massive lack of trust among the characters of the Marvel Universe.
With fractured relationships all around, now is the time, more than ever, for unity; a need for trust and family. And that is exactly what the Fantastic Four’s return could bring to the entirety of the Marvel Universe: hope and brightness and joy. Fantastic Four was always a title that highlighted the best of Marvel, and it’s time they come back so they can share that hope with the rest of the universe once more.
Do you want to see the Fantastic Four return? Let us know in the comments!