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 headed for their latest relaunch now, a back-to-basics approach that they've dubbed "Marvel Legacy." 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. That said, fans have been disappointed to see no hint of a Fantastic Four book, that is, until now.
'Marvel Two-In-One' Is Preparing The Way
Back in June, Marvel announced that they were relaunching Marvel Two-In-One. The classic series ran from 1974 to 1983, and focused on team-ups between characters from different corners of the wider Marvel Universe. Appropriately enough, the series featured the Thing in a different team-up each issue, and he's clearly central to this relaunched series. Our first impression was that Marvel Two-In-One would see the Thing and the Human Torch reunite, and many fans hoped that this would lead to the return of the Fantastic Four.
Interestingly enough, 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."
A clear fan of the Fantastic Four, Zdarsky promises a series heavy on cameos from that corner of the Marvel Universe. 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."
It sounds as though Marvel Two-In-One is 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."