Farewell, Four Now
The climax of Marvel’s “Secret Wars” series delivers the final fate (for now) of the Fantastic Four.
I’ve grumbled over the last few months about Marvel putting its first superheroes on the shelf, whether because of poor sales or some real or imagined conspiracy to undercut Fox and the “Fantastic Four” movies. (Side note: the most recent film isn’t great, but it’s not the crime-against-humanity debacle I’d heard it was.)
But here’s the thing: Knowing the FF was on their way out, I didn’t buy a single issue to try to convince Marvel to change its plans. I guess, like many people, I like the idea of the Fantastic Four at times more than the actual adventures.
I have plenty of Fantastic Four comics in my collection, and I particularly love Mark Waid’s run on the book. But it largely depends on the writer and the context; I’m not such a huge fan of them I’ll read anything featuring the team.
While “Secret Wars” seemed to have begun when writer Jonathan Hickman took over “Avengers” and “New Avengers” three years ago, seeds were actually being sown during the writer’s three-year run on “Fantastic Four” before that. And despite nice moments for everyone from Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales to Black Panther and a Guardian of the Galaxy or two, the finale came down to the long-running rivalry between Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom.
Doom was responsible, behind the scenes, for a good deal of the chaos that led to the destruction of the multiverse that ended with “Secret Wars” #1, and for pulling together the patchwork planet of “Battleworld” that served as the series’ setting. It may have been his biggest ultimate power grab among many, but his choice to surround himself with every aspect of the Fantastic Four except Reed Richards displayed the two greatest aspects of his character – his supreme confidence and vast insecurity.
Of course, Richards winds up surviving the destruction of everything because nothing ever goes Victor von Doom’s way, even when everything is going his way.
While James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s most recent run on the FF provided a nice, “greatest-hits”-style swan song for the team, “Secret Wars” offers a true ending – even if it is a little more symbolic than practical.
I’m glad to see the Thing still kicking around the new Marvel Universe, now a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Human Torch is back too, though I’ve always been ambivalent about the character.
It will be strange to have a Marvel U without Mr. Fantastic as the go-to science guy, although we’ve still got Iron Man. And the Invisible Woman, once an afterthought, has grown into a formidable character over the years.
But perhaps the one I’ll miss the most is Valeria Richards, the genius daughter of the couple and god-daughter of Dr. Doom. She challenged her father because she was so much like him yet also had her mother’s courage and spirit. A truncated storyline I’d like to have seen more of had her trying to convince her godfather to walk the hero’s path.
Plus, with Hickman and his FF successor, Matt Fraction, Valeria usually had the best lines.
But she’ll be back. And so will Reed and Sue and all the rest. The way they left things makes it a little difficult to see how, but how (and sometimes why) is never an impossible question to answer in comics.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”