It seems fitting that Marvel’s first family has spent the last year having adventures in space. The Fantastic Four were born among the stars and, for the past 14 books, they have been dying among them. When Reed Richards discovered that he and his family were breaking down on a molecular level, he quickly ushered his team and children into a spaceship and set about to find a cure. As is always the way in comics, things have not gone exactly as planned, even for the smartest man on the planet.
What has always appealed to me about the Fantastic Four is that, at its heart, this book is about family. In this book, those family bonds are tested as the man they thought was John Storm from the future isn’t exactly who he claimed to be. Yes, he’s from the future but not a future that the fantastic family could have expected. He knows how to cure the Fantastic Four’s ailment because he caused it. And if they want his help, they need to journey across time and space into an entirely different dimension, where their alternate selves are battling an all too familiar foe.
Doctor Doom has teamed up with Kang the Conqueror and Annihilus in this alternate dimension in an effort to (what else?) take over the world and defeat the Fantastic Four once and for all. John Storm has been savagely tortured and mutilated, which finally explains old John’s gnarly injuries, but the team is more determined than ever to save the world from its would-be tyrants. They make a hasty retreat to regroup, only to stumble upon our Fantastic Four’s crashed ship, with young Johnny’s life in peril from severe injuries from the crash combined with the fact that, due to the molecular breakdown, he can no longer flame off.
Fantastic Four is heading towards a pretty epic climax, with two teams of Fantastic Four facing off against some of their most vicious enemies. What’s been really nice about this series is that rather than try to change the status quo with the team somehow (though, I suppose introducing alternate versions of the characters is changing the status quo), Matt Fraction has been telling a classic Fantastic Four story in the most obvious sense. Mr. Fantastic is trying to solve a bigger-than-life problem with cold science while his wife, the Invisible Woman, maintains the warmth and compassion needed. The Human Torch provides the heat and the passion while the Thing is literally the rock they lean on in times of crisis. This has been the meat and potatoes of The Fantastic Four since their debut and this relaunch brought this family back to their roots. I like the added element of having the alternate family there as an obvious comparison and I can’t wait to see how this resolves.