Marvel’s First Family — The Best Of The Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four will return to Marvel in their own ongoing starting August 8th. And frankly, I’m excited to welcome them back. The Fantastic Four built the Marvel Universe. There are stories about how, if their book didn’t take off, Stan Lee was going to go off to write for Hollywood, and the entirety of Marvel as we know it would not exist. Their original stories, as illustrated by Kirby, introduced Namor, Doctor Doom, the Skrulls, and countless other iconic Marvel tent poles.
There’s plenty of recommendations about where to start with this famous family (Hickman’s run is very good), so instead of lining up the usual suspects, today I’d like to talk about each member of the team and give them their own chance to shine. Without further ado:
The Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm
In the age-old tradition of youngest goes first, may I present Johnny Storm. Johnny Storm is a character with a whole lot of heart. His charming and forthright mannerism made him an easy character to write for a long time. After all, he’s a pretty boy who catches fire, simple right?
While there’s a lot of good stories, there’s nothing like diving into the deep end, and so I give you the Death and Return of Johnny Storm. Fantastic Four 600-604 are the necessary reading, but FF 587 & 588 are well worth it. This isn’t fun Johnny Storm, but it is good Johnny Storm.
It dumps you into an ongoing conflict and the culmination of Hickman’s run, and so can be a confusing starting place, but if you know anything about comics it should be simple enough to pick up as you go along. The surrounding story also gives Sue and Franklin some good moments. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you like Johnny as a character this will certainly help you decide.
Ben Grimm, Heart of the Fantastic Four
Ben Grimm is a stable presence, both in the Marvel universe at large and the Fantastic Four family. His stability means he never quite leaves behind the classic story of a man who believes himself to be a monster, but his reliability also makes for a character who plays well with others.
Some of his best stories are inseparable from the greater Fantastic Four stories, but in the interest of giving him some well-deserved spotlight, check out Marvel Two-In-One. The series is a charming, well written, mostly Ben Grimm team-up book.
After the wild ride of the Johnny Storm story above, specifically look at Marvel Two-In-On #86 in which Sandman and the Thing walk into a bar…
Sue Storm, the Scary Mom Friend
I love Sue. She’s exceptionally powerful and horribly underused. As a result, it can be hard to find singular storylines where she really stands out. Many of her most famous stories are also ones in which she is infamously written terribly. Poor costume decisions, being held hostage, the usual for a lady born in the superhero sixties.
In general, 1234 by Grant Morrison has some good moments, as does Hickman’s run. But for a singular awesome moment for Sue, I tentatively recommend Fantastic Four #547-549. And would like to also remind readers Sue Storm is the woman who once blew a hole through the Baxter Building to make a point, threatened to give Dr. Doom an aneurysm via forcefield, and withstood a head-on blast from a Celestial.
Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic
Reed Richards is a tough character. Like a lot of comic book geniuses, when writers don’t know what to do with him, they tend to make him an asshole. Reed, however, at his best, is actually a good if flawed man, who will choose his family over pride any day. There have been a lot of great introspective pieces done on Reed, but for now, Hickman’s Fantastic Four #570-572 is probably one of the best places to get a feel for what his character can be.
And if you really want to cry, try Marvel Knights 4 #4 and #28. Superhero talks to suicidal person is kind of an overdone trope, but it keeps popping up and is still worth reading. Possibly there’s a paper to be written here on why we keep putting these scenes into our superhero books but for now, enjoy Reed at his best.
Where to Find Them:
Hickman’s Fantastic Four-Run: Fantastic Four: (#570–588, 600–611), FF (#1-23). Hickman’s run has been collected into trades. Grant Morrison’s Fantastic Four: 1234is also a shortstop away on Amazon or Comixology. The Death and Return of Johnny Storm: Fantastic Four (#600-604) will be in Volume 5 of the Hickman trades. Marvel Two-In-One (specifically #86) can be a bit trickier to find though at least some select issues are on Marvel Unlimited.