Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching The Fantastic Four For A While

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

In a way, nothing matters in the comics Marvel is publishing right now. The future of the company's superhero universe just got officially revealed today, via teasers that leaked out earlier this week. And the Fantastic Four -- as a team and as a family -- is nowhere to be seen. Secret Wars might hold the reason why.

Secret Wars is an extension of the character explorations that writer Jonathan Hickman has done with members of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. It's focused on Richards' family nemesis Doctor Doom, after all. Here, he's a villain who's already won the big apocalyptic battle and subsequently remixed the Marvel Universe in weird, cool ways. The series also prominently features Black Panther, Dr. Strange and other characters from Hickman's New Avengers run.

(Mild spoilers for Secret Wars #4 follow. Hover over the top left of each image and click on the magnifying glass icon to expand it.)

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

Marvel's teasers this week didn't just reveal the publisher's comic book line-up for the fall, but also showed off who will be in each series. Deadpool's in the Avengers. Galactus is going to be in the Ultimates (what?!?). The X-Men have a new line-up. Hell, so does Squadron Supreme. But there is no new line-up for the Fantastic Four, because Marvel is straight-up not publishing a Fantastic Four comic. Johnny Storm, you know, the FF's Human Torch, looks like he'll be hanging out with the Inhumans. The Thing looks to be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Who can tell where the Invisible Woman is standing, and Reed Richards? No sign of him.

This all fits into the ongoing Marvel meta-drama, a mess of egos and movie licensing deals that has seen the comics publisher de-emphasise the X-Men at the expense of the similar and long-neglected Inhumans characters and that has seen a similar fade from relevance of the Fantastic Four. While it's unfathomable that Marvel would ever cut its X-Men line to zero, the lukewarm-selling Fantastic Four, despite its heritage as Marvel's first great modern super-hero comic, may have just gone the way of the West Coast Avengers.

Marvel's strange new FF-less line-ups arrive this fall. In the interim, we've got Secret Wars and Doom's strange new universe -- the only thing that has survived Marvel's own crisis on infinite earths -- to get us there. Now that we've seen who's going to show up in series coming after the current drama in Secret Wars is over, we can already intuit that this Doom-built reality won't be the universe where Marvel's All-New, All-Different initiative will be happening. Battleworld, an all-powerful Doom, the law enforcement army of Thors, the spin-off comics that show the surviving fractured-mirror realities... very little of it appears carrying over to the news series launching this fall.

For now, it seems like most of the intrigue happening in Secret Wars will be self-contained. That makes the proceedings powerful. A lot of Marvel's past superhero events have found their dramatic tension in highlighting the philosophical differences between factions of heroes and/or villains. Civil War had Captain America and Iron Man on the opposite sides of a metahuman registration act. And the catalyst for Avengers vs. X-Men was, essentially, a disagreement about the means and methods that mutantkind could use to shape its future.

Secret Wars is different in that it's primarily concerned with investigating the psyche of Victor Von Doom. The considerations at the heart of Secret Wars have to do with victory.

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

It's about what one does with ultimate power and how that reveals aspects of your inner self. Stephen Strange has said that he could've been the god that Doom wound up becoming, but admits balking at the possibility. As for Doom -- despite being the master of the universe that he always thought he should be -- he's not be a deity at peace with himself. When he learns about that his native universe's version of Reed Richards is still alive in today's issue #4, he doesn't seem like he's transcended the petty concerns of humanity at all.

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

Omnipotence doesn't free you from your obsessions. It may, in fact, only amplify them.

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

The Richards/Doom moment gets a lot more weight with the conspicuous absence of Mr. Fantastic from the teasers that Marvel's put out so far. It makes you wonder if both Reed and Doom might be missing in action when Secret Wars is all done.

Speaking of the future, there's one sequence that teases a very important shift for one of the characters in Secret Wars. While all hell is busting out in a battle between Doom and the survivors of two pre-existing Earths, this moment happens between Dr. Strange and the Black Panther:

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

The Panther's been revealed to be part of a new Ultimates title. A team like the one in the image below seems engineered to take on cosmic-level adventures. T'Challa already remembers the now-dead past of the multiverse so maybe Strange's spell will empower him to remember the patchwork reality of Secret Wars and follow up on whatever echoes it leaves behind.

Sure Seems Like Marvel Comics Is Ditching the Fantastic Four for a While

One of the most subtle pleasures Secret Wars offers is the ability to read it as a metaphor for Hickman's relationship with the superhero-centric work he's turned out over a long tenure at Marvel. All the work he's done culminates into something ephemeral and fleeting. He's a high-profile writer at the company but will be taking a break from Marvel-related projects once this tale is done.

The business reality Hickman has worked under has seen Marvel de-prioritise Fantastic Four -- the title that helped launch its present-day empire, remember -- because the company doesn't control those characters in Hollywood. Hickman earned his superstar status while working on the Fantastic Four, so it's ironic that his last Marvel work (for the time being) might be the device that puts the Fantastic Four in deep freeze.

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Comments

    Kind of sick of hearing this, if this was purely about the movie rights stuff, then why do we still have so much X-men stuff? Surely they'd want to kill those titles off too.

      X-Men have always been one of Marvel's strongest franchises in comic sales, right up there with Spider-Man. Until the Avenger's movies started coming out I'd go as far as to say X-men had the larger fan-base. The FF however never had much of an impact on the over-arching story within MU or all that much of a fan-base. Monetarily in the comic world this means the FF are replace-able especially considering any comics being released are effectively free advertising for a competing entertainment giant. X-Men on the other hand still makes enough money to be useful, however their story has become increasingly far-fetched with over the top X-Men and stories now taking the front stage.

      So while Marvel still have the X-men as one of their biggest comics their recent stories (since Marvel NOW!) have been larger than life, effectively becoming story material that fox can't use in their movies. It's a war of attrition on the X-Men front where Marvel are trying to devalue the movie capital of the franchise enough that FOX will surrender/sell rights to it, with FF the franchise didn't mean as much financially meaning it's more economical to just outright cancel it. From a corporate perspective it makes perfect sense, you don't alienate your fanbase but start eating away at your competition's warchest.

      Edit: Obviously this is all just speculation; however I'd like to think it's not very far-fetched speculation. However I personally think it isn't too far fetched as specualtion goes.

      By tying the Thing to GotG and the Torch to the Inhumans (effectively the 2 most popular FF) they've linked their stories to create commercial value for their upcoming movie franchises.

      Last edited 02/07/15 2:08 pm

        That's what I mean, I feel like even if no one was making a FF film, FF would still be in the same boat it's in. I just wish people would realise it's more likely a combination of things instead of this one specific thing.

          Doesn't really help that Reed/Sue are just the most boring bloody characters. Not really sure why those idiots at Fox aren't letting go of this franchise tbh, it could do so much more if tied in properly with Spider-Man or the Avengers.

          Yeah - if F4 was Marvel's hottest-selling title, they'd have a half-dozen Fantastic Four books on the stands. And, yes, maybe if they owned the movie rights, they'd be pushing a little harder to make an F4 book a success. But no-one at Marvel would drop a successful comic just to spite Fox - it's just not worth it in the long run.

      It seems X-Men is too popular to kill outright, but they do seem to have instituted policies to limit their impact. I can't remember who it was exactly but in one interview with writer, he said that he had been directed not to create any new characters in his book because Fox would automatically get film rights to that character. If he wanted a new character, it would either need to be introduced in a non-X-Men book, or introduced in some kind of cross over event book where it couldn't clearly be identified as an X-Men related character.

      They also seem to have been doing their best to contain the X-Men in the wider Marvel Universe. For instance, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are no longer the children of Magneto, and their powers are now apparently not due to being mutants.

        I feel like the recent rise of the Inhumans is a good indicator of all that. Also feels like the recent Uncanny Avengers arc was made soley for the purpose of unmaking Pietro and Wanda as mutants, the High Evolutionary is a boring bad guy and that whole arc wasn't all that enjoyable.

    wake me when they revert to the original universe in a few months.

    So was it intentional that the Dr Doom pic up top is almost a euphemistic dig at marvel for benching F4? calling them richards (or dicks)

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