The Fantastic Four are some of the most prolific characters in Marvel comics, setting the tone for the entire Marvel universe back in the 1960s, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a landmark series of their original comics. But despite their important place in superhero history, the members of the first Marvel family have been largely eclipsed by other characters in recent decades, in no small part due to their less-than-stellar film adaptations.
The original Fantastic Four movie and its 2007 sequel may seem accurate to comics at first glance — and, of course, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis were perfect for the role of Human Torch and Creature – but they largely lacked the soul and nuances that made FF into icons. The much-criticized 2015 reboot took a different approach with a younger cast and a darker tone, but the end result was virtually unrecognizable from the source material. However, all signs point to the MCU fixing things up with a much more comical adaptation that looks like it could be taken from one of the greatest Fantastic Four stories ever told.
For decades, the Fantastic Four comics have struggled to bring back the magic of the original Lee-Kirby era. But in 2009, everything changed when Jonathan Hickman became the screenwriter. If this name sounds familiar, fans can recognize it as the author of the 2015 Secret Wars crossover, which, according to widespread theory, will become the basis for the next epic MCU saga in the spirit of Infinity War and the Finale. Nevertheless, it took years to create Hickman’s Secret Wars, and the long road leading to them began with FF.
The first arc of Hickman’s Fantastic Four, titled “Solve Everything,” is dedicated to Mr. Fantastic, also known as Reed Richards, when he encounters a multiverse organization consisting solely of his own variants. This Council of Reeds is designed to use their combined intelligence and resources to make the entire multiverse a better place. They have saved countless worlds from starvation and disease, and the Reed from Earth-616 is strongly tempted to join them, even if it means spending less time with his family. However, it was eventually revealed that the Reed Council has a dark side, and its arrogance could potentially lead to disaster for the multiverse.
But, in the end, what makes Mr. Fantastic sever ties with the Cane Council is the realization that all of his options have preferred the Council to their families. None of them even have children of their own, because they all abandoned Susan before they had the opportunity to start a family. Once he realizes this, Mr. Fantastic no longer wants anything to do with the Council. Because although he may be a hero, a scientist and a researcher, he is also a husband and father, and these roles are most important to him.
Hickman’s “Fantastic Four” eventually turns into an extensive space epic, including time travel, interstellar war, Atlantis, Galactus and the Celestials — and, of course, Doctor Doom. But more than anything else, it’s a family story, as it should be in all great FF stories. “Solve Everything” perfectly sets the stage for this by painting a portrait of Mr. Fantastic as a man who is torn between his lofty ambitions and the people who rely on him, and ultimately chooses the latter. Despite all his strength and intelligence, it is his family that gives Reed strength.
Kind, gentle FF
The family dynamic that the team shares is the heart and soul of the Fantastic Four series, and it’s an aspect that was very poorly developed in their previous films. The original films were simple, perhaps even ordinary superhero films, with a few strong performances hindered by a weak script. Meanwhile, the 2015 reboot attempted to turn the story into a grounded sci-fi thriller with elements of body horror — which, to put it mildly, is far from comics. The Fantastic Four MCU should portray the team as a family of adventurers exploring space in the name of science and discovery. And apart from Lee and Kirby themselves, no writer has captured this aspect better than Jonathan Hickman. In fact, it looks like Marvel Studios is already laying the groundwork for a Hickman-inspired adaptation of the Fantastic Four.
Although viewers don’t see much of Reed Richards from Earth-838 in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he seems to be a much more empathetic character than in previous versions. Previous cinematic depictions of Reed have highlighted his awkward intellectual side, portraying him as an emotionally detached bookworm—a trap that many writers of the past have fallen into. Nevertheless, Reed Krasinski feels noticeably warmer from the brief glimpses that viewers still get. When Strange makes a mocking remark about him, he giggles, showing that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. And more importantly, he is the only member of the Illuminati other than Professor X who is trying to reason with Wanda.