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FF: The Replacements

Can the new team live up to the standards of the Fantastic Four?



By Jim Beard

In a series of in-depth articles, the Daily Bugle attempts to peel back the layers of a most intriguing event: the Fantastic Four’s new replacements. Who stands in for the legendary Fantastic Four? How will they hope to fill such famous roles? The Bugle searches for answers…

FF #1 preview art by Mike Allred

You may not be aware of it, but the Fantastic Four’s going away—and being replaced.

Inside sources say the famous family of adventurers lead by Dr. Reed Richards will be leaving on an extended “family vacation” and has chosen a team of substitutes to protect the Earth in their stead. Numerous inquiries by this newspaper to the Baxter Building for information have gone unanswered, but the question’s out there:

Who are these replacements and do they have what it takes to stand in for the Fantastic Four?

“It’s not so much ‘replacing’ as it is upholding a standard,” says Luke Cage, former Hero for Hire and Avenger. “Not like being a substitute mail carrier or dog catcher; it’s a gig that you give your all to. The FF’s a benchmark that’s not easy to match.”

He should know; Cage pinch-hit for Ben Grimm, the Thing, during a personal crisis several years ago, one of the first of many replacements to try and fill those mighty shoes. The inaugural Fantastic Four replacement came in the form of the elemental known as Crystal, one of the so-called “Inhumans.” She took on the role after Susan Richards’ first pregnancy; her “sister” Medusa, later replaced Crystal herself for a time while the family worked their way through private squabbles.

FF #1 preview art by Mike Allred

“I can’t comment on anything but my own brief association with the Fantastic Four,” insists Crystal in passing. “Suffice to say, I was very young then and learned a lot. My heart goes out to any incoming members—they’ll need it.”

Today, an entirely new team will be substituting for the Four, not just a member or two. Breaking news reveals the membership as Ant-Man, She-Hulk, the aforementioned Medusa, and a heretofore-unknown female sporting bright purple hair and a Thing-suit.

Rumors abound over a full-team replacement at least once before, and featuring not recognized and respected crusaders, but such questionable choices as the Hulk, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and the mutant called Wolverine. The new replacements speak to a higher degree of quality than that line-up, but whether or not the public at large will accept it remains a prickly issue.

FF #1 preview art by Mike Allred

Three of the “New Four” have already put in time as FFers. Ant-Man—a scientist and former criminal named Scott Lang—once worked as a technical consultant during a mysterious absence by Mr. Fantastic and also assembled a temporary team with Johnny Storm, She-Hulk, and the Atlantean Namorita. She-Hulk herself has served dutifully as an official member before, as well as Medusa.

Only “Miss Thing” stands as a wild card, though she’s not the first female to mime the patented image Ben Grimm’s made famous; Sharon Ventura, a former Ms. Marvel, transformed into a grotesque She-Thing a few years ago and served as a member alongside then-lover Grimm. No word has come down yet on “Miss Thing’s” connection with any of the original Fantastic Four or any prior experience in adventuring.

Well-known, self-styled “Fantastic Four expert” Dr. Thomas Brevoort has a few thoughts on the Four’s newest replacement:

“The hardest [adapting]—and consequently the most interesting—will likely be that of Miss Thing, who’s going to be entering a world that works very differently from the one she’s used to moving in,” he says, standing on the sidewalk in front of the Baxter Building. “So she’s very much a fish out of water.

“I don’t think anybody will have an easy time of it. The easiest is probably She-Hulk, both because she’s lived in this world before, and because of her particular personality and familiarity with modern society.”

FF #1 preview art by Mike Allred

Brevoort pauses, strokes his beard, peers back up at the famous headquarters of NYC’s most famous family, then reveals a heretofore hush-hush bit of information about the upcoming switchover.

“The new FF only committed to being on-station for four minutes, so absolutely none of them are prepared to have to step into the role for a much longer period of time, or what it might do to their regular lives,” he informs us. “On top of that, what the Fantastic Four typically does is so specialized and so bizarre when viewed from the outside that there’s an immediate sense of culture shock—this is not what these people had signed on for.

“Atop that, every villain with an eye on stealing Reed Richards’ technology has their eye on the Baxter Building, so there’s a bull’s-eye on their back. And there are the various kid geniuses of the Future Foundation to wrangle as well.

“None of it is going to prove easy.”

Easy or difficult, challenging or a cakewalk, only time will tell if the new team will rise to the occasion or struggle with their new roles. As Luke Cage says, it’s a high standard, a raised bar that only the best may achieve.

Regardless, New York City and the wider world will be watching every step of the way.

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