After nearly 24 hours of fans being convinced that Marvel was writing a Fallout comic or Bethesda Game Studios was making an X-Men game, the teaser the publisher had posted was ultimately about the return of the Fantastic Four. For several years, Marvel hasn't published a single book regarding the First Family. This has been attributed to numerous reasonings: from rumors that the company was having difficulties with the owners of the FF's film rights, 20th Century Fox, to more mundane rationales like low sales numbers.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between, but it probably doesn't hurt that Marvel's parent company has made a bid to acquire said film rights back. The loss and now return of the Fantastic Four is a huge deal for the publisher, as the team predates the X-Men, Avengers, and even Spider-Man. Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny and Susan Storm, and their nemesis Doctor Doom saved Marvel from the edge of bankruptcy back in the '60s. Without them, we most likely wouldn't even have a Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But what happened to the team? Where have they been all these years? And how are they coming back? It all starts in 2015 with Jonathan Hickman's epic, Secret Wars.
One of Marvel's few brilliant crossovers, Secret Wars was an event years in the making. The Marvel Universes' Illuminati, which Reed Richards was a member of alongside Tony Stark, T'Challa, and other genius-intellect supers, had discovered that the multiverse was collapsing in on itself. The point of impact between the two dimensions were the Earths of each respective universe. The team labeled these events "incursions."
Reed and the others did everything they could to stop the incursions, even utilizing the Infinity Gauntlet, but nothing could have prevented the inevitable. After literally countless incursions, the multiverse was left with only two dimensions: the regular Marvel Universe 616 and Universe 1610, also known as the Ultimate Universe. The two Earths collided, with Reed and a handful of heroes boarding a lifeboat to survive the event and discover what came after.
What came after was Doom.
Doctor Doom had uncovered that the incursions were the work of the Beyonders, an ancient alien race that had a hand in creating the multiverse. They were purposefully causing the incursions so they could start over from scratch. Our boy Victor Von Doom was having none of that and devised a plan to steal the Beyonders' powers from them. He used his new godlike abilities to save scraps of each universe, patching them together to make a planet commonly known as Battleworld, the only planet left in existence.
And in true Doom fashion, he ruled it as its God Emperor, even stealing Sue Storm as his wife and her children with Reed as his own. The citizens of Battleworld had no memory of the incursions and believed their bizarre planet to be the be-all and end-all of existence.
Battleworld came to an end, however, when the lifeboat Reed created was found under the planet's surface. The event climaxes with a showdown between Mister Fantastic and Doctor Doom, the latter of which understanding that although he was the one to claim the Beyonders' powers, Reed would have done something better with them.
The last time we saw Reed and Sue Storm, along with their wunderkind children Franklin and Valeria, they were using the Beyonders' powers to put the multiverse back together, as well as explore their new creation.
So, whatever the reasons behind the scenes were for ending the Fantastic Four, they couldn't have had a better sendoff. But while the team and their comic haven't been on store shelves, the characters have very much been active in the new Marvel universe.
For the most part, Reed attempted to put the world back together the way it was before the incursions even began, but with a few tweaks. Doom was returned as the leader of his home country Latveria, but was instilled with a sense of morals and ethics that he was lacking before, essentially turning him into one of the good guys. And as a gift for saving what he could of the multiverse, Victor's disfigured face, which he hid behind an iron mask, was fixed.
With a new face and new outlook on life, Doom set out to become one of the heroes. After Tony Stark showed up in Latveria on a mission, Victor attempted to assist him. Unaware of the rebuilding of the multiverse, Tony at first believed it to be a trap, and that Doom was setting him up for his own nefarious plots. But over time, the pair came to an uneasy trust.
That trust was tested with Civil War II, an event that once again forced Marvel's heroes to pick sides. Instead of fighting over superhero registration, though, the supers were trying to determine whether they should utilize the powers of Ulysses, an Inhuman with the ability to predict possible futures. While Tony believed the future needed "protecting" and that acting on premonitions was a dangerous way to try and save the world, Captain Marvel saw things differently. The showdown between Iron Man and Captain Marvel resulted in Tony falling comatose.
Doom took this opportunity to prove himself even further. Although comatose, Tony had built an A.I. version of himself in case anything were to happen to him. Victor asked the A.I. for permission to take up the Iron Man mantle while the real Tony was out of commission. Doom's adventures as the Infamous Iron Man played out in the comic of the same name.
But what about Johnny and Ben? The two temporarily parted ways and served as members of other teams. Ben joined the Guardians of the Galaxy, missing the spacefaring life, but his tenure on the team was short-lived. Captain Marvel recruited the Guardians in her fight against Tony in Civil War II, and their ship the Milano was destroyed during the conflict, stranding the team on Earth. During their literal downtime, the Guardians' patience with each other was tested, and they ultimately broke up. The Thing was then enlisted by S.H.I.E.L.D., putting him back in Doom's life by tasking him with trying to get to the bottom of Victor's newfound heroism.
Johnny had just as tumultuous a time after losing Reed and Sue. He initially joined the Inhumans, briefly engaging in a romance with their Queen Medusa. Johnny then actually joined the Avengers and their unity division, a group consisting of Avengers, X-Men, and Inhumans. He remained an Avenger but severed ties with the Inhumans, however, after Medusa tried to rebuild her relationship with her estranged husband Black Bolt. Johnny, not one to waste any time, started getting close to the leader of the unity division, Rogue.
However, new developments prevented their relationship from going anywhere. Johnny started losing his powers, with an inability to "Flame on!" for extended periods of time and his fire powers not nearly as robust as they once were. During this time, he is given Reed's inheritance as the only heir to the Richards/Storm fortune, including all of Reed's technology.
While going through the inheritance, Ben uncovered a recording of Reed talking about the Multisect, a device that would allow Ben and Johnny to travel the multiverse again as they did back in the day. Wishing to reconnect with Johnny, who was depressed by his diminishing powers, Ben lied to his old friend and said that Reed's technology would help them bring back the rest of the family. Ben and Johnny began an adventure to find Sue, Reed, and their children, at which point they discovered why Johnny's powers were fading.
The cosmic rays that gifted the Fantastic Four their abilities linked the team together. With an extended separation from the other half of the team, Johnny and Ben would both eventually lose their powers. On their quest, they came across Doom, who wished to also locate Reed for his own selfish reasons.
And that's where we've left off the Fantastic Four. Their absence from the comics has certainly been felt, but we won't have to wait much longer for them to be reunited with Fantastic Four Issue 1 releasing this August.