The Fantastic Four have long been seen as Marvel royalty. They're strong, well-coordinated, and above all, together. They're not just a team, they're a family. This story is about how they fall apart. [Spoilers below.]
Last month's FF #1 began with an ominous flash-forward: Reed is alone in his lab, consumed by his work. The Thing is in prison. Johnny carouses with fans, described as a lost soul. Sue is "heartbroken". How did they get to that point?
If issue 1 was the prelude, this month's installment shows us the opening movement. A swarm of thousands of alien monsters floods New York (again) and the FF are there to beat them back (again). While there's little here that is new, it's hard to criticize an approach that works: what city-level threats can't be solved with fire, forcefields, brute strength, and stretchy genius?
The chapter ends on a bittersweet note: Reed's latest invention, paired with Johnny's hottest flame, 'neutralizes' the bad guys. (By which I mean, it kills them all. There's a reason the FF changed their uniform's color to red.) The cost? Johnny falls out of the sky, caught by his sister's forcefields. Once safe on the ground, Johnny reveals he's powerless.
Heroes losing their powers is nothing new. The Human Torch has died before, he'll be getting his powers back before too long. Regardless, in this moment, I can see how this drives a wedge between the Fantastic Four: The Thing will be bitter and jealous that Johnny was able to lose his powers in an accident that took all of five seconds, while Reed's deliberate efforts to cure Ben of his condition have failed countless times.
Johnny will throw himself into his music. Reed will get lost in his work, consumed with guilt over failing to restore Johnny's powers, and failing to eliminate Ben's. This is a good inciting incident. I look forward to reading chapter 3.
The other thing I want to talk about, though, is Marvel's problems with continuity. For some time now, their mission statement has been 'Marvel Now!' And it's worked. They've successfully given many of their titles a re-vamp without rebooting. (Yes, I understand the psychology involved in restarting old titles over at #1. Readers picking up their first comic ever don't want to start on issue #587, they want #1. If it came out last week, that's the one they'll buy.)
But what about the longterm? Imagine a few years down the road when a collector is looking for Issue #1 of Fantastic Four? Or Secret Avengers? The shopkeep will say, "Which one? The revamp in 2013, the other revamp they had in 2014…" How many times are they going to restart these comics?
Then there's the question of in-universe continuity. Is there any overlap in continuity, between titles? Wasp and Rogue show up to help out in FF#2, happening 'Now!' The readers of Uncanny Avengers know there are problems with this scenario– the least of which being that right 'Now!', neither Rogue nor Wasp are on planet Earth. Neither is Captain Marvel. She just left.
True, one of Wolverine's mutant powers is the ability to be in several titles– places! I meant places!– at once. He's been doing it for decades. At least he's alive right now in all of those comics. That's all I'm going to say, there.
So, what does this mean for the future of the Fantastic Four? What about the rosters of the other super teams? Should Reed build them Wolverine timeshare watches so they can occupy multiple spaces at once, too? What do you think?
(For more on superheroes losing their powers, click here.)