A Guide to Hickman's Fantastic Four (and FF

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This is intended to be a helpful guide to Hickman's run for someone completely unfamiliar with the Fantastic Four, though it should also be helpful to people with any level of knowledge about the team. One of the best parts of Hickman's writing is that it draws in details from the many years of continuity and from some of his other works in Marvel canon, but as a result it can be frustrating for even voracious comic readers. Hickman's run starts just before issue #570, but I'm skipping his issues from the Dark Reign crossover event for simplicity's sake. I recommend reading an issue and then checking this guide to understand things you may be confused about. In my opinion, too much back-andforth between the story and the guide may ruin the flow of the comics. This guide will cover Fantastic Four issues #570 – 604 and FF issues #1 – 15 (which is somewhat misleading, since FF issues #1 – 11 are also Fantastic Four issues #589 – 599). These issues are collected in the following trade paperbacks: http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Four-Jonathan-Hickman-Vol/dp/0785136886/ http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Four-Jonathan-Hickman-Vol/dp/0785145419/ http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Four-Jonathan-Hickman-Vol/dp/0785147187/ http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Four-Jonathan-Hickman-Vol/dp/0785151435/ http://www.amazon.com/FF-Vol-1-Jonathan-Hickman/dp/0785151451/ http://www.amazon.com/FF-Vol-2-Jonathan-Hickman/dp/0785157700/ http://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Four-Jonathan-Hickman-Volume/dp/0785161538/ http://www.amazon.com/FF-Vol-3-Jonathan-Hickman/dp/0785163123/

The Fantastic Four consists of: • Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) – a super genius with an elastic body. • Sue Storm Richards (Invisible Woman) – invisibility and force-field generation ◦ Their children: ▪ Franklin (former reality-bending mutant) ▪ Valeria (super genius) • Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) – Sue's brother, fire powers • Ben Grimm (The Thing) – Reed's best friend, rocky body and super-strength

Before you read... previously in Fantastic Four: Reed's old college girlfriend Alyssa Moy and her new husband Ted Castle (billionaire genius) created a new planet on the other side of the universe for humanity to use once we were done trashing this one. They called it Nu-World, but Reed stopped their plans when it came to light that Ted and Alyssa only wanted the rich, famous, and smart to be relocated. Reed chose to try and fix our Earth's problems instead of abandoning it. Around the same time heroes from a ruined Earth 500 years in our future transported to the current day and tried to transport all 8 billion starving people from their time into our time. The Fantastic Four interrupted their plans and instead transported these people onto Nu-World. Reed built a machine he called The Bridge (during Dark Reign). It was an “observation device to see how problems like [theirs] were solved on other Earths”. It allowed Reed to see alternate realities as he was trying to figure out where his universe had gone wrong (see: Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign Marvel crossover events). Reed found out that 141 other Bridges across the multiverse (other alternate universes) had been built.

Fantastic Four Volume 1: Solve Everything Issue #570 (Is it playing God if you're truly serious about creation?) The first few pages show a young Reed with his dad, Nathaniel Richards. Nathaniel was a scientist and often away from his family, leading to a somewhat strained relationship with Reed. A few years before the event that gave the Fantastic Four their powers, Nathaniel disappeared completely. The Wizard (Bentley Wittman) aka is a classic Fantastic Four villain. His “power”, like many FF villains, is mainly being a genius and inventing things. The Thing had a brief engagement to a schoolteacher that ended a few issues past, hence Johnny attempting to cheer him up. Earth-# (like Earth-6590 and Earth-12 mentioned) designations are how Marvel labels alternate universes. The standard Marvel comic universe is Earth-616. Galactus is one of the most famous Fantastic Four villains. He's a cosmic entity older than our universe, having survived the death of the universe before ours and the Big Bang that created our universe. He eats planets. This is the first appearance of this Council of Reeds. The last page shows three Reeds with Infinity Gauntlets on. Infinity Gauntlets allow the wearer to “do anything they want”. They're essentially allpowerful and only one was known to exist (until now).

Issue #571 (You stood beside me larger than life and did the impossible) People mentioned as coming to Franklin's birthday party: Artie and Leech (mutants), Katie and Jack Power (two of four superpowered siblings called the Power Pack). “The Gauntlet only functions in the universe it came from” - an important point mentioned by the Reed with the farming planets (Universe 8901). This means that despite seeing three Reeds with three Infinity Gauntlets last issue, they can only use each in the universe they're from. This is also an interesting point to note if you decide to read Hickman's later New Avengers run. Universe 45 (Day Three) – Victor Von Doom (Dr. Doom) is the Fantastic Four's biggest villain. Doom is as smart as Reed, an expert in science and magic, and rules over his own country (Latveria, a made-up country in eastern Europe). The Celestials are a race of super-powerful cosmic beings. The Celestials of universe 4280 that show up here have gone mad and think that they're gods.

Issue #572 (We are men... we have no masters) I would like to note that one of the Reeds who tries to fight the Celestials wields the Star Brand, a concept that plays into Hickman's later Fantastic Four run. He's the one with the blue and gold suit. “The Gauntlet only functions in the universe it came from.” - This is why one Reed had to use the interdimensional portal in another Reed's chest to use his Infinity Gauntlet.

Issue #573 (These are the end times) The man and brain-on-legs in the beginning are Ted Castle and Alyssa Moy, the creators of Nu-World. Ultron was a robot once built by hero Hank Pym (Ant-Man). It went crazy and evil and tried to kill everyone. There have been many versions of Ultron and iterations on this theme. Ted Castle mentions the “armies of Lightwave and Ultron”. Lightwave and Alex Altron were two of the heroes from 500 years in the future that relocated to Nu-World. This issue also mentions Lightwave's daughter, Psionics (the blue-haired woman), Natalie X (the telepath that Lightwave and Ultron use to subdue the popoulation), and Banner Jr. (the Hulk's kid).

Issue #574 (All hope lies with Doom) People at Franklin Richards' birthday party: • Artie and Leech (the purple guy and the green guy), both mutants • Katie, Jack, and Alex Power, from the Power Pack • Dragon Man, a giant purple dragon-looking reformed villain, created by F4 villain Diablo • Bentley (aka “Thirty-Two”) a child clone of The Wizard, seen in Issue #570, which is also when Franklin asked what would happen to him. The Fantastic Four seem to have custody over him now. • Alicia Masters, a blind friend of the family and old fling of Ben The old man in the cheap Spider-Man outfit is family friend (and postal worker) Willie Lumpkins. As for some of the gifts: • Leech is now living at the Baxter Building. His power is suppression of other mutant powers. • Artie is also living there. His powers used to be image projection, but he lost those abilities in the House of M Marvel event. The powers were pretty important to him because he's mute. Franklin Richards is a mutant, one of the most powerful in the entire Marvel universe, with powers that are usually described as “reality-bending”. He can do things like create pocket universes. Franklin lost his powers years ago and has been a normal boy since then.

Fantastic Four Volume 2: Prime Elements Issue #575 (This city... it changes you) The creatures crawling out of the sewers in the beginning are Moloids, created by a race called the Deviants and ruled by the Fantastic Four's first villain: the Mole Man. Herbert Wyndham (the High Evolutionary) created a serum that allowed for genetic alteration and used it to perform genetic experiments. His work was unsurprisingly controversial and got him expelled from Oxford University. The “New Men” he fled the city with were his creations, created by evolving animals into humanoid forms. The buried Galactus is from 500 years in the future, brought into our timeline as a power source for the teleporter of the heroes trying to find a place for the billions of humans from their timeline. Those were the people who ended up on Nu-World. The Galactus died powering the teleportation of the billions of people to Nu-World.

Issue #576 (Where there is water and life lived in it, there are giants) Lake Vostok is a real place, but it's unlikely that there's any secret Atlantean kingdom underneath it. Of course, without the “next-generation scanning equipment” from the Fantastic Four, we may never know. A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) is an evil organization of scientists and their hirelings dedicated to the acquistion of power, and to overthrowing all governments by technological means. “And you know why it has to be me,” is Susan's explanation of why she chose to speak for mankind to the old Atlantean races. The reason is basically that Namor, the king of Atlantis, has a thing for her.

Issue #577 (But the Supremor, you see... he had other plans) The people shown on the first page of this issue are the Inhumans. They're a race created from humans by the Kree (an alien race) and then abandoned. The Inhumans gain extraordinary abilities after exposed to Terrigen Mist, which comes from Terrigen crystals. The Inhumans reside in the city of Attilan, which is frequently relocated, but often on the Blue Area of the moon (an area with its own atmosphere). Of those shown on the first page, the most important are the two in the middle: Black Bolt and Medusa. Black Bolt is the king of the Inhumans and his voice can literally level a city (so he doesn't talk). Medusa is his wife and she has prehensile, super-durable hair. Sometime ago, the Skrulls (an alien race of shapeshifters) sent one of their own to impersonate Black Bolt and take over the Inhumans, but failed. The Inhumans got help from the Kree (longtime enemy of the Skrulls) to rescue Black Bolt.

Issue #578 (Our most valiant, our sons and daughters) The Negative Zone is a universe discovered by Reed and often visited by the Fantastic Four. Time there passes at a rate faster than ours. The robot talking to Johnny is H.E.R.B.I.E. (Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics ), a creation of Reed's. It's just a cute robot side-kick. Annihilus is probably the most famous villain to come from the Negative Zone, and he almost took over the entire universe with his Annihilation Wave (giant armada) once. Annihilus also created the cosmic control rod, which can manipulate matter and energy and kept Annihilus alive. The general shown in the Negative Zone is Blastaar, another villain from the Negative Zone. The Level 42 Negative Zone prison was built by Reed during Marvel's Civil War event, to hold any prisoners who fought against the Superhero Registration Act. The Light Brigade sent to the Negative Zone at the end of the issue is mentioned in the recap at the end of the last issue, as part of an Inhuman ritual. The four cities, to recap, are: The Forever City of the High-Evolutionary, The Old Kingdom of Atlantis, The Inhuman city-ship, and the Negative Zone city that was formerly the Level 42 prison.

Fantastic Four Volume 3: The Future Foundation Issue #579 (I teach one class and it's pass or fail) Jennifer Walters (metioned by Reed on the second page) is a lawyer also known as She-Hulk, cousin of Bruce Banner (the Hulk). She has similar powers due to a blood transfusion, but not the Hulk rage that her cousin does. Friday is the Power Pack's sentient starship. Alex Powers, of course, is the oldest member of the Power Pack. He has gravity-manipulating powers and is also pretty smart. This issue also hints at Artie being pretty smart, despite being mute, when he's able to show the inner workings of Dragon Man's head. The Future Foundation's roster: • Turg – Moloid head in a jar, decapitated in Issue #575 • Korr, Mik, and Tong – young Moloids • Dragon Man • Bentley – clone of the Wizard • Wu and Vii – heirs to the Ul-Uhari throne at the Peak (Old Atlantis). Wards of Sue. • Artie Maddicks – mutant • Valeria Richards • Alex Power

Issue #580 (I'll take it) The Impossible Man is an alien from a race that can alter their bodies to temporarily assume any shape imaginable. He was a Fantastic Four villain, but more because he was bored than out of any malice. Arcade is a Marvel villain that attempted to kill heroes by trapping them in “Murderworld”, a sophisticated robotic and holographic amusement park of his own making. Leech's power is to suppress other mutant powers. After he was knocked out, Franklin was able to use his now-reactivated mutant powers to create the dinosaur. The young Moloids seem to worship Ben, because he saved them from death in Issue #575. Over the years, Reed has attempted to reverse Ben's transformation into the rocky Thing multiple times, with varying levels of success.

Issue #581 (From here we go onward, and boldly) For reference , the flashbacks shown here of older Franklin with the kids are from Issue #574. When Nathaniel Richards appears in his son's room, he's likely been gone for years (given his spotty attendance record as a parent). The scene showing Nathaniel and the exploding man who he was trying to stop is from another Hickman series, S.H.I.E.L.D. Immortus is a future/alternate version of Kang the Conqueror, an Avenger villain. His name is also Nathaniel Richards, but he's of no relation to Reed Richards. Fun fact: the “Beast” (evil Nathaniel) is the father of one of the Reeds that Reed-616 met in the Council of Reeds (one of the three with the Infinity Gauntlets at the end of #570). Chronopolis is Immortus/Kang's main city base, far in the future.

Issue #582 (Every boy deserves a father) The Anachronauts are Kang's handpicked commandos, great warriors from different times who have only been defeated by Kang. And the Fantastic Four and Avengers, of course. It might not be completely clear, but Franklin is actually trying to save his grandfather's life by pushing him into that hole. The “revision wave” is going to kill anyone left there (including Val and Franklin, as Val says).

Fantastic Four vol. 4: Three Issue #583 (So we have a deal) Doom's brain was damaged in an Incredible Hulk storyline by an evil organization that wanted to lobotomize the smartest people on Earth. Reed Richards and Bruce Banner (the others hooked up to the machine in the flashback) were unharmed. “All hope lies in Doom”. Valeria was told this by the future version of Franklin in Issue #570. “So we have a deal?” Valeria says this to Doom. This scene was seen previously in the beginning of Issue #581 as older Franklin was falling up through time. The Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd) is a herald of Galactus. His heralds are tasked with finding worlds for Galactus to eat and granted significant cosmic power in order to do so. The dead Galactus he found was from the Nu-World storyline previous to Hickman's run on the book. It was shown that Reed buried it here in Issue #575.

Issue #584 (Admit it, Mr. Grimm... You've seen better days) “Early dinner with old friends”: In this panel Ben and Johnny are having dinner with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the creators of the Fantastic Four. “Super hero poker game”: Going clockwise around the table we have: Captain America, Hawkeye, Johnny, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Wolverine, Nick Fury, and Ben. The Yancy Street gang is traditionally a bunch of kids from Yancy Street, where Ben grew up. They have a love-hate relationship with the Thing, often pranking him (though some of that may have been Johnny) and insulting him, but they seem to like him under all of that. This Yancy Street Gang is just a joke. Utopia is where a bunch of X-Men and other mutants live for somewhat complicated reasons. It's an island off the coast of San Francisco. Namor's New Atlantis is underwater there. The two mutants who greet Susan are Emma Frost and Cyclops (Scott Summers). If it hasn't come up before, yes, the Fantastic Four's airplane is called “The Fantasticar”. The woman Ben goes to see is Alicia Masters, a blind sculptor and friend of the family. Her and Ben have been romantically involved in the past.

Issue #585 (We can all live forever) The world Surfer is referencing is Nu-World, on the other side of the galaxy. Taa II is Galactus's worldship, named after his home planet Taa. It's so huge that several planets and a star are held in by its gravitational pull. The Mad Thinker is a Fantastic Four villain who uses extreme intelligence to predict the probable courses of events down to precise detail. The story Ben and Johnny are telling is the Thinker's first clash with the Fantastic Four. “Imperius Rex” is Namor's battlecry. It's not really Latin, so there's no translation, but it's probably something like “Supreme king”.

Issue #586 (Too late for pause-- Too late for peace) The two the Surfer brought at Ted Castle and (robotic) Alyssa Moy from Nu-World. The planet full of sentient A.I.s is from Issue #579 and #580, the Nu-World Interludes. Vibranium (which the shield on the portal to the Negative Zone is made from) is a fictional element in the Marvel universe. It's also what Captain America's shield is comprised of. It can absorb all vibrations and kinetic energy directed at it.

Issue #587 (Tell him this is where I made my stand) If you'll remember, Leech's power is to suppress any mutant powers around him. This is why Reed invited him to stay at the Baxter building, to suppress Franklin's powers. “You don't wish it any more than I do.” Johnny says this to Ben, but we also saw this scene previously in Issue #581, when older Franklin was falling up through time.

Issue #588 (I'm home) The Avengers who come (too late) to help: Thor, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Captain America, Iron Man. The device Reed pulls out of the wall and threatens Annihilus with is the Ultimate Nullifier. It's “the universe's most devastating weapon” and will completely eliminate any target the wielder chooses, but may also kill the person using it. Kristoff Vernard is the adopted son of Doom and his heir. After Doom apparently died long ago, his memories were implanted in a young Kristoff's head as part of Doom's failsafe plan. Kristoff was described by Doom in Issue #583 as living in exile.

Note: After issue #588, the book “Fantastic Four” ends for a time. The story continues in FF Issue #1.

FF vol. 1: Tomorrow Issue #1 (So this is tomorrow) The guys in the yellow suits in the beginning of this issue are from A.I.M.. We last saw them attempting to invade Old Atlantis in F4 Issue #576. P.A.V.L.O.V. is a metahuman psychiatric facility where the Wizard was committed after the events of World War Hulks (a Marvel event).

Issue #2 (Doom is reborn) Spider-Man doesn't often get credit for it, being in a world with Reed Richards and Hank Pym, but he's actually fairly intellectually gifted, if not a genius.

Issue #3 (Find me something I can use) The Watcher (Uatu) is from a highly advanced race of aliens that watches other races, but has a policy of non-interference. His appearance is usually a signal that something of importance is happening. The scenes that Valeria recounts were first seen in F4 Issue #583, when Valeria was telling the story to Doom. There was no dialogue then, so this is the first time we hear what the other Reeds said.

Issue #4 (The beating of drums) -

Issue #5 (The sound of war) The Inhumans that appear at the end have been absent from Earth and our solar system for a while, due to their fighting and subsequently taking control of the Kree homeworld (See my notes for Issue #577)

FF vol. 2: The Supremor Seed Issue #6 (This will require a witness) The first two issues of this volume deal with the events that lead to the Inhumans leaving Earth to fight the Kree, winning, and returning in the end of Issue #5. Those events were called the War of Kings, and they happened just after Marvel's Secret Invasion. If you're interested in reading more about it, check out Marvel's cosmic titles. The Inhuman's bulldog is named Lockjaw and is capable of teleporting himself and others. The Supremor (Supreme Intelligence) is a computer-being comprised of the brains of the greatest Kree minds, all assimilated after their deaths into the computer. At some point it gained sentience and ended up replacing the Kree government. Many Kree are fanatically devoted to it. Issue #7 (I am awake) The event on the Moon (“months ago”) when they found out the alternate Reeds' plans happened in FF Issue #3. Issue #8 (Take the city) Issue #9 Issue #10 The fight against the father of the alternate Reed in this issue happened in F4 Issue #581 and #582). Ben took a break from the team in FF #4. Ben's friends are, of course, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hawkeye. Issue #11 The assembled superheroes are, left-to-right and top-to-bottom: Top row: Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Dr. Strange, Namor Second: Protector/Noh-Varr, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Red Hulk, Spider-Woman, Tigra Third: Iceman, Sue, Thing, Spider-Man, Firestar, Spider-Girl (Anya) Gravity Bottom: Black Panther, Kitty Pryde, Beast. Daredevil, Giant-Man So now we have the players in our war: The Inhumans and the Kree. Note: After FF#11, the original Fantastic Four title returned with #600 and from here on the two run simultaneously, alternating the story between issues. Sorry for any confusion, but it's definitely best to read this story in order.

Fantastic Four vol. 5: Forever / FF vol. 3: All Hope Lies in Doom Fantastic Four Issue #600 The exchange between Reed and Annihilus was last seen in Issue #588, but it was wordless then, so this it the first we know of what they said. The girl Johnny dreams of is from F4 Issue #578. The Light Brigade was also last seen in Issue #578. The Galactus Seed mentioned by Galactus was introduced in The Mighty Thor. FF #12 Fantastic Four #601 FF #13 The Celestials mention that Franklin is “beyond Omega classification”. Omega is referring to the system of ranking mutant powers, Omega being the most powerful (along with people like Jean Grey as the Phoenix). Reed mentions “The Anvil”. He's referring to the machine the alternate Reeds were building: “Sol's Anvil”. (In another interesting side note: A “Sol's Hammer” has shown up in Hickman's New Avengers). Fantastic Four #602 FF #14 Fantastic Four #603 Older Franklin and Valeria were last seen in F4 #582 as the revision wave hit them. FF #15 The kids that showed up in Friday, the ship, are Alex's siblings, the rest of the Power Pack: Julie, Jack, and Katie. So now we know the identity of Franklin's mysterious blank friend (it's Franklin!) Fantastic Four #604 The last scene in this issue is a call back to the very first scene in the first issue of this run, Fantastic Four #570, with Reed and Nathaniel.

And that's where I end! Hickman continues for a few great issues, but the bulk of his story is wrapped up in the issues above. I hope this helped! Stay tuned for my guide to Hickman's Avengers/New Avengers!

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