With 2021 being the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, it’s a great time for fans to revisit the many iconic arcs from comic book history featuring the team. These stories provide a number of roadmaps for the inevitable future of the MCU team screen, making them even more compelling for die-hard and casual fans alike.
The Fantastic Four kicked off the Marvel Universe in 1961 and have provided many of its major architectural elements over the past six decades in terms of characters and concepts. There are many landmark stories that have contributed to modern Marvel Comics and certainly to the MCU, where their influence will now be even more direct.
ten The beginning
The early Fantastic Four stories by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby are absolutely essential reading for fans. The first five issues aren’t necessarily an arc, but some of the best FF comics for all the major elements they introduce.
The first three issues guide the team through their origin, exploring their powers and the beginnings of their iconic costumes. Number four sees the introduction of Namor’s Silver Age, the Submarine, and number five is the start of their biggest villain, Doctor Doom.
Three is the key arc of writer Jonathan Hickman’s race The Fantastic Four, who is among the best in the team’s history for how they modernize FF for the 21st century. Science and exploration has always been a key part of the team, but during its 2009-2011 run, many modern concepts and ideas are introduced or developed.
One of those concepts is the multiverse, which has become an important part of the MCU. This storyline also features the heroic and tragic death of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, as he saves the world from interdimensional aliens.
8 Power and peril
Comic book fans know Doctor Doom is one of Marvel Comics’ most ambitious villains, and “The Power And The Peril” is a great story to show early on how ambitious he was. Going through issues 57-60 in the series, Doctor Doom steals cosmic power from the Silver Surfer in this arc.
For a brief period, Doctor Doom has real power but true to his character, he loses the power almost as soon as he gains it. He fails to anticipate all of the outcomes and power is taken away from him as he attempts to break through the barrier Galactus has imposed around Earth to trap the Silver Surfer.
7 The new fantastic four
The Fantastic Four core team is iconic, but there have been plenty of great line-ups with other characters. One of the best is the “new” Fantastic Four, which features Black Panther and Storm on the team. Written by Dwayne McDuffie, it was a fun story that unfolded in the history of the team even as the rest of the Marvel Universe fell apart.
This era comes out of the Civil war comic book crossover that pitted many superheroes against each other over the superhero registration law. Black Panther and Storm help keep the FF together and reconnect with the larger world of comics, all while having fun doing it.
Doctor Doom is an extremely convincing villain, but he’s also capable of great evil. “Unthinkable” is a fantastic comic book story arc from writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Weringo that shows just how heinous Doctor Doom really is.
In the story, Doom seeks the ultimate magical power to finally defeat the Fantastic Four. To do this, he harnesses his unwavering love for his childhood sweetheart Valeria. When she professes her love for him, she dies, with her living energy releasing the power he needs to be successful.
5 The trial of Reed Richards
Over the years, the Fantastic Four have featured a number of complex villains like Doom and Namor. In “The Trial Of Reed Richards”, this gives fans Mr. Fantastic. The founder of the FF is a villain in the eyes of the Shi’Ar Empire for his life sparing Galactus. After that, Galactus destroyed the Skrull homeworld.
In issues 261 and 262 of the series, writer-artist John Byrne explores the consequences of allowing Galactus to live and what “evil” really is. Ultimately, Richards is spared when Eternity, one of Marvel’s most powerful cosmic beings, reveals that Galactus is a function of the natural order of the universe.
4 In the flow of time
Writer and artist Walt Simonson also had a great run on Fantastic Four, and his best story could have “Into The Time Stream,” which covered issues 334-346. The story is excellent for how Simonson pushes the boundaries of the form itself, stretching out the panels as Mr. Fantastic stretches his arms.
Plus, the style is subversive, as Simonson whitens entire pages as the Ultimate Nullifier is ultimately used with incredible effect. MCU fans will also find the story fascinating as it involves the comic book version of Ravonna Renslayer, disguised here as a Nebula.
3 This man, this monster
Issue 51 of the series contains the story “This Man … This Monster”, often considered one of the best Fantastic Four stories. The story delves deep into the pathos of Ben Grimm’s life as the Thing, when he is allowed to swap places with a normal man for a brief period.
His human future is shattered when the other man dies and Ben Grimm returns to the Thing, but he discovers how much he is loved and appreciated by his friends and colleagues. The FF believe Ben is dead and are more than relieved to find out that is not the case.
2 Secret Wars (2015)
The 2015 version of Secret wars is one of Marvel Comics’ greatest stories, drawing a multitude of characters from across the multiverse. At its heart, it’s a Fantastic Four story and it’s a beautiful story because of how it rests on the dichotomy between Doctor Doom and Reed Richards.
Doom seeks power but hates himself. Reed Richards seeks knowledge and perhaps believes too much in its abilities. Between them lies the answer to the restoration of the multiverse. Doom finally acknowledges his longing for Richards and his failures, leading to new potential for both men.
1 The Galactus trilogy
“The Galactus trilogy” of numbers 48-50 remains the culmination of the The Fantastic Four series and maybe all Marvel Comics for some fans. History is essential for several reasons. It features a number of major characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer and also throws in some of the biggest stakes in comics at this point.
The whole world is in danger and the epic comic book canvas has never been greater. The trilogy would reverberate through Marvel Comics for decades to come, and in some ways still does.
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