This is the start of Jonathan Hickman’s run on the Fantastic Four. So first let me set the stage to where Hickman came in:
Reed was tricked in to helping build Nu-Earth, an artificial planet across the galaxy. It was supposed to be a refuge for humanity but it was really going to a haven for only the very rich and very powerful.
Reed had created a “Bridge” to let him study other worlds/dimensions/universes in his quest to solve the world’s problems. There were “issues” with it and Sue convinces him to break the Bridge down and leave it alone.
A group of super-powered people in the future needed to evacuate everyone from the Earth. They did this by capturing Galactus and draining his energy to jump back through time, and killing him in the process. They blamed the people of the present time for the problems of the future and planned on taking over. The FF ended up giving them Nu-Earth.
And lastly a creature named Annihilus launched an invasion of marvel universe from the Negative Zone. It was repelled but Annihilus retreated to the Zone and started rebuilding his swarm.
So that’s where the FF was as Hickman came in. Hickman started doing small arcs but they all were part of an over-arching story. Reed has built a room the only he can access (or so he thinks) were he can work on the 100 ideas that would chance the world. And then he adds number 101 – Solve Everything. To do this he reactivates the Bridge and contacts The Council Reeds, a group made up of Reeds from countless dimensions. They show the 616 (regular Marvel Universe) Reed all they can accomplish together. But they also show the evil Reed could also do in the name of what is “right.” They also give Reed insight into himself on a personal level, all the other Reeds have abandoned or driven their family and friends away to concentrate on their “great works.” And one of them managed to piss off the Celestials of his world and they decide to invade the pocket dimension of the Council to attack all the other universes. Thanks to the 616 Reed the attack is stopped but at great cost to the other Reeds. This causes 616 Reed to again shut down the Bridge.
Next arc starts with Franklin Richards’ birthday and the appearance of a large ultra-powerful blond man who holds off the FF while going for their kids. He says something to Franklin and “knocks him out” then goes to Valeria to give her a warning about a war that is coming. As he goes to leave she wishes him a happy birthday, having figured out that he is her brother from the future. Besides the warning to Val what he did was re-awaken young Franklin’s powers. Franklin is probably the most powerful mutant in the Marvel 616 to the level that while he tries to hide the return of his powers Galactus detects them right off and when meeting with Reed he leaves ASAP to avoid any kind of confrontation with the child.
I’m not going to spoil any more of this arc besides saying adult Val and Frank are trying to fix something in the past because only they can see the problem and the solution.
Reed has been funding a think tank to help come up with solutions for the world’s problems for years, but he points out that they have become too small in their thinking. So he sets up the Future Foundation a think tank filled with brilliant children because they haven’t learned to say “that can’t be done” yet. Several of the kids have been found over the course of these issues. And one of the first things they do I come up with a way for The Thing to become human for about one week out of each year.
So now we get to the really good part. The thing uses the short term cure and spends a week as a human, as the forces of Annihilus that are on Earth launch an assault on the Fantastic Four’s HQ to rip open the portal to the Negative Zone. They hit when the only people there are all the kids, the Thing in his human form and the Human Torch. They stop the attack but the portal is damaged and the legions on the other side will break through before the Avengers and the FF can get there, so the Torch goes through to seal the portal from the other side and hold off the invaders. As the portal gets totally locked out and the forces of Annihilus hit the, the Thing’s cure wears off. So spoiler here (but it was on the news and in the papers) the Human Torch gets killed.
The last issue in this group is The Month of Mourning; it’s broken into 2 parts the first is all dialog free, high lights are when Thor and the Hulk drag the Thing out to the desert and keep him there until they throw down. They go toe to toe until the Thing finally breaks down over the loss of Torch. Reed opens the shield to confront Annihilus with the Ultimate Nullifier. The UN is a weapon so powerful it drove off Galactus. Annihilus responds be holding up the 4 insignia from the Torches uniform. The last silent moment is with Val and kids from the Future Foundation and what they are planning and give a little insight into just how dangerous she could turn out to be.
The second part of the issue is Spider-Man coming to talk with Franklin about his uncle being killed. It is one of the best Spidey stories around. They talk about the loss, and what it’s like. Franklin says “I think I could have saved my Uncle” and Spider-Man responds with “I KNOW I could have saved mine” and tells him the story of Uncle Ben. Hickman captures Spider-Man perfectly.
Ok so I have left out SO much, how they gather all the kids, all the stuff with Nu-Earth, a rather unhappy Galactus, and everything with the warning from the future about the war. You also get to see how amazing, fearless and to be honest stupid and immature Valeria is. She figures out so much and starts preparing what is coming by recruiting Doctor Doom, by teleporting into his throne room.
I know this is probably coming across as really dis-jointed but to go into depth would make this 3-4 times as long and this is just a chunk of the overall Hickman Fantastic Four epic story, from here it goes to FF and then 12 months later back to the Fantastic Four. Hickman gets the Four so well, he takes them back to the huge universe spanning adventurers they should be. The FF don’t fight crime and random bad guys, they explore the multiverse and save galaxies. Hickman’s run while made up of small story arcs is in fact one massive saga, things that seemed like a little throw away will pay off a dozen issues later. There was some complaining as the issues came out that it was too slow but now that the run is complete that isn’t a problem.
If you want a grand epic story that never forgets that it’s about a family, even if they do have super powers, go get Hickman’s Fantastic Four and FF runs. It has been collected in hardcovers and trade paperbacks and will probably be coming out in at least one massive omnibus.