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History of the Fantastic Four

History of the Fantastic Four Part Six

Catching up to the present day with Mark Waid, Dwayne McDuffie, Mark Millar, Jonathan Hickman and more

By Jim Beard

On November 23, the World’s Greatest Comics Magazine reaches an historic milestone as FANTASTIC FOUR #600 arrives in stores. In anticipation of this giant-sized issue written by Jonathan Hickman and featuring the artistic talents of Steve Epting, Leinil Yu, Farel Dalrymple and more, we’ll be recapping the full saga of Marvel’s First Family in a special six-part retrospective series.

From their first encounter with Doctor Doom to the heroic sacrifice of The Human Torch as well as all points before, after and in between, we present the History of the Fantastic Four!

Read part five of the History of the Fantastic Four

With FANTASTIC FOUR #500, the inaugural title of the Marvel Universe reclaimed its original numbering and headed onward and upward into the new millennium. For the next 100 issues, the book would enjoy the services of superstar creative teams and some of the most dynamic and thought-provoking storylines of its long history. This era would also bring new looks at old villains, a fresh line-up and the heroic demise of a founding member.

Writer Mark Waid steered the title through 2003 with the help of amazing artist Mike Wieringo, cementing the duo’s place in the heart of Fantastic Four fans forever. In FANTASTIC FOUR #503, Waid and guest artist Howard Porter kicked off an ambitious six-part story, “Authoritative Action,” which involved Doctor Doom and Nick Fury. This culminated in the “Hereafter” arc, in FANTASTIC FOUR #509-511, which allowed the team to “meet their maker.” Waid, Wieringo and co-conspirator Karl Kesel lost no time after that with a Spider-Man visit and then a look at the Wizard’s heretofore unknown daughter in FANTASTIC FOUR #514-516. After dealing with the larger ramifications of “Avengers Disassembled,” they wrapped up their incredible run with a multi-part Galactus arc guest-starring Quasar in FANTASTIC FOUR #518-523, and then a touching tale of lost powers in FANTASTIC FOUR #524.

The book did not languish long without a prominent voice to guide it again, as the prolific J. Michael Straczynski and illustrator Mike McKone took the reins with 2005’s FANTASTIC FOUR #527, Together, the two told stories of a cosmic storm in FANTASTIC FOUR #528-532, a rampaging Hulk in FANTASTIC FOUR #523-535 and then led us down the “Road to Civil War” beginning in FANTASTIC FOUR #536. By Straczynski’s last issue, 2007’s FANTASTIC FOUR #541, Civil War had torn the team right down the middle and Reed and Sue’s life together would never be the same.

What to do after such a far-reaching story, one that pitted Marvel hero against Marvel hero across the planet? Bring in writer Dwayne McDuffie, of course. With the new scribe came a new line-up, as Reed and Sue sped off into the stars for a second honeymoon while Johnny and Ben welcomed two replacement heroes to the Baxter Building: The Black Panther and his bride, Storm of the X-Men. It all happened in the legendary FANTASTIC FOUR #544 and lasted until FANTASTIC FOUR #550.

McDuffie ended his own significant tenure with a look at future versions of Doctor Doom and The Invisible Woman in FANTASTIC FOUR #551-553, a theme that the incoming writer/artist team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch continued into their own run, starting in 2008’s FANTASTIC FOUR #554. Millar first brought back Reed’s old flame Alyssa Moy to reveal a project her and her husband had been tinkering with: Nu-World, a full-size replica of Earth that resided in a parallel dimension.

The Fantastic Four barely had time to digest such a massive concept when a group of super-powered individuals from the future, the New Defenders, made life just a bit more interesting for them beginning in FANTASTIC FOUR #558. Then Doctor Doom killed a future version of Sue in FANTASTIC FOUR #561, Ben proposed to his new sweetheart Debbie in FANTASTIC FOUR #562 and the world shuddered under the onslaught of Doom’s original master The Marquis throughout FANTASTIC FOUR #566-569.

Current writer Jonathan Hickman took over the title with FANTASTIC FOUR #570 and drove Mister Fantastic to “Solve Everything”—or at least try. 2010 began with a visit to Nu-World in FANTASTIC FOUR #573 and then the first strains of Hickman’s grand symphony for the book, “The War of the Four Cities.” The team discovered the High Evolutionary’s lost city in FANTASTIC FOUR #575, the Lost Tribes of Atlantis in FANTASTIC FOUR #576 and the Universal Inhumans in FANTASTIC FOUR #577. Reed Richards then conceived of his “Future Foundation” concept, but behind his back his daughter Valeria sought out Reed’s old nemesis Doctor Doom for help in FANTASTIC FOUR #583.

2011 brought with it a stunning storyline that could only be called “Three.” As FANTASTIC FOUR #583-587 ticked by, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben each dealt with their own personal problems, little suspecting that death would arrive to claim one of them. FANTASTIC FOUR #588 told the funeral of Johnny Storm, The Human Torch, felled in battle while preventing a new incursion from the Negative Zone by the evil Annihilus. With that issue, the original run of FANTASTIC FOUR ended.

FF #1 told of the remaining members of the team picking up the pieces and re-inventing themselves as the Future Foundation. Spider-Man, the Torch’s long-time friend, came onboard to take the place of the fallen Johnny, just in time to aid Reed, Sue and Ben as alternate Reeds from other dimensions tried to kickstart the War of the Four Cities in FF #4. Full-blown hostilities opened in FF #7, thanks to the Reeds, and Doom fell before his assembled team of brainy villains in FF #9.

What does the future hold? What will be the outcome of the War? FF #11, out this week, tells that tale…and then? Prepare yourself for FANTASTIC FOUR #600 and the next 100 issues of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!

That wraps up our look at the History of the FF, but be sure to get the historic FANTASTIC FOUR FOUR #600 on November 23, and check out more of Marvel’s First Family on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!

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