Back in 2015, comic book fans were left reeling when Marvel canceled the Fantastic Four book. Marvel's First Family was taken off the table in the aftermath of Jonathan Hickman's "Secret Wars" event, with Reed, Sue, and their children disappearing from the normal Marvel Universe. Although Hickman presented his whole event as a beautiful tribute to the Fantastic Four, it still left fans heartbroken.
Marvel's just begun their latest relaunch, a back-to-basics approach that kicks off with Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic's Marvel Legacy #1. As part of this, we've been promised a healthy diet of deaths and resurrections, including the likes of Professor X and the original Jean Grey — although the future looks dark for Jane Foster's Thor.
What's more, the one-shot also gives us our first hint that the Fantastic Four may be about to return!
'Marvel Two-In-One' Is Preparing The Way
Back in June, Marvel announced that they were relaunching Marvel Two-In-One, a teamup book that ran from 1974 to 1983. It tended to focus on characters who teamed up with the Thing, and appropriately enough this new run will star the Thing and the Human Torch.
Writer Chip Zdarsky has told Newsarama that the first arc is called 'The Fate of the Four.' Zdarsky explained:
"It’s Ben and Johnny diving headfirst into the mystery of what happened to [Reed and Sue]. The world presumes that Reed, Sue, and the kids are dead, but Johnny especially can’t accept that fact. So we’re heading on a road trip to find out what happened."
The Marvel Legacy one-shot sets this plot up, but comes to a close with a surprising new twist. The issue ends with a glimpse of a massive hand in the heavens, and we gradually realize that it belongs to Valeria Richards, daughter of Reed and Sue. 2015's Secret Wars ended with the Richards family heading off to explore the multiverse, with Franklin using his reality-warping powers to rebuild entire timelines. It's the first time we've seen the kids since 2015, and it's sure to delight fans.
Where do we go from here? Zdarsky promises that Marvel One-Shot will be heavy on cameos from the FF corner of the universe, perhaps including even the homesick Valeria. At the very least we can expect a major role from Doctor Doom, the villain of "Secret Wars" and the only man to know the truth behind Reed and Sue's disappearance. He's actually trying to become a superhero in his own right, and Brian Bendis's ongoing Infamous Iron Man has already seen him relentlessly pursued by Ben Grimm.
It's Got To Happen Sooner Or Later
According to Tom Brevoort, Fantastic Four was canceled because the publisher had struggled to find an "idea that connects with a massive audience" in recent years. As little as fans like to admit it, the Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing had a point. After all, the book had continued to attract top talent, but it failed to perform well in sales. Pointing to the example of Thor, Brevoort suggested that it was time to take the team off the shelf for a few years, and make their return something special in the Marvel Universe.
It's an approach that recently came in for serious criticism from Jonathan Hickman, who moved on completely from Marvel in the aftermath of 2015's "Secret Wars."
"That kind of thinking runs contrary to everything I believe in as a professional storyteller. It comes from a place of manipulation where an attempt is made to make the reader desire something through denial. It's hacky. It's suboptimal. It's the central tenet of all sh---y dating advice. If you want someone to care about a book, write a story they care about."
Marvel Two-In-One is clearly preparing the way for that return. It's the same approach #Marvel is currently taking with the imminent resurrection of Jean Grey through an ongoing Jean Grey series that will build towards the return of the classic character. If it pays off, it should ensure that these returns and resurrections feel natural and organic, and will hopefully help fans get on board with the story.
#MarvelLegacy promises a whole host of returns, and it's now possible that the Fantastic Four will number among them. As exciting as that may be, we'll still look to the future with caution. In spite of a succession of top talent, the sad truth is that the book consistently failed to find an audience. Approaching this relaunch in the right way will be crucial, but the pay-off could be huge. If the Fantastic Four do return, it will probably be the biggest gamble of "Marvel Legacy."