There are numerous things about Marvel’s newly minted FF series that have made me skeptical, all of which have nothing to do with the actual writing and artwork in the comic book. For one, the premise of the FF, the Future Foundation, came after the death of the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch. With Torch’s death, the group decided they could no longer call themselves the Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation was born. However, keep in mind that death is hardly ever permanent in comic books, especially deaths of popular superheroes. Considering the last issue of Fantastic Four was #588, I figured this new FF series would make it 12 issues before the torch was somehow revived in time for what would end up being Fantastic Four #600 (those double-zero issues are always a big deal in comic book land).
The other element of the series that has made me skeptical? Spider-Man’s inclusion as Torch’s replacement in the newly-formed FF. I’ve already made my opinions on this matter perfectly clear on two occasions. While Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four have long had a unique and special relationship going back to the first-ever issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey has been horribly underutilized in this new series. Sure, there were a few mediocre issues of ASM that featured FF storylines, but Spidey rarely shows up in the actual FF comic, which has led me to the conclusion that Marvel only made a big to-do about adding him to the group to generate some buzz and interest in one of their flagship comics which has been waning in popularity for years now. And considering the jump in sales when Spidey first came on board, Marvel’s sinister plan worked.
But now, my cynical comic book senses have been sent into overdrive. Marvel has released a preview cover for a Fantastic Four #600 featuring the Spider-Man, the surviving three members of the FF and the Human Torch himself. Of course, that’s not technically a spoiler, because the storyline could either be a flashback or some kind of origin tale which would feature Torch. However, the next day, Marvel announced that the Fantastic Four and FF will actually co-exist. So there’s going to be two comic books that feature the Fantastic Four universe.
Since I’m a Spider-Man guy first, and an everyone else in the Marvel universe second, I don’t know what to make of all of this. But my impulse is to guard my wallet at all costs. I was super quick to jump on the FF bandwagon after Marvel announced that Spidey would be joining up and subscribed for a year. While I’ve enjoyed the series as a reader, as a collector who focuses specifically on Spider-Man, I’ve been disappointed by his minor role and had been thinking once my subscription ends, I’ll probably pass on re-upping and just catch up on the FF in trade paperback or digital format. With this new announcement, I somehow envision a scenario where even if the Torch is brought back, Spider-Man is going to stay on with the FF, just to keep interest in that title going. And since he’ll still be a part of the FF, that means he’ll also be featured in the resurrected Fantastic Four series. Which means if you’re a psycho completist Spider-Man fan, you better check out BOTH issues to get your fix (not to mention the Avengers, New Avengers and the new Avenging Spider-Man series that’s set to launch in November).
Obviously, as the consumer I have the power of choice when it comes to which comic books I buy, and if I think that Marvel is just doing something here with the Fantastic Four that’s a bit gimmicky and/or a cash-grab, I don’t have to give them my money. However, I also feel like what’s unfolding here with this series has justified my initial skepticism. A new era of the Fantastic Four with Spider-Man as a key part of the team was likely never really the long-term plan here. It was sheerly a move by Marvel to sell more comic books to people who wouldn’t buy them otherwise. And since sales have already started to dip on the new FF series, it sounds like Marvel needs to invent another new status quo and I just hate it when the publishers get a case of A.D.D.