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Fantastic Four makes long-awaited return in ‘Marvel Two-in-One’

Matt Withers, Arts Editor

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The Fantastic Four have been missing from Marvel comics since 2015’s huge event, “Secret Wars.” That’s true for both the real world and the universe the characters inhabit. Marvel has stated that the reason they haven’t been publishing Fantastic Four books or having their characters appear in other books is solely because Fox owns the movie rights to them.

This is a problem because the Four have always been a staple of the universe and without them, the world just doesn’t feel complete. There is still hope, though, with Disney’s possible acquisition of Fox on the horizon, the creative teams at Marvel have finally started to acknowledge its first family again.

“Marvel Two-in-One,” written by Chip Zdarsky and drawn by Valerio Schiti focuses on half of the Fantastic Four, (Ben Grimm aka The Thing, as well as Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch) as they head of to explore the multiverse in hopes of finding the rest of their team.

The two use a device that allows them to travel the multiverse and with the help of their new friend, Dr. Rachina, they also make a device that lets them track Reed and Sue Richards unique energy. The machine gets a reading and they are whisked off to a new universe. Once they land in this new world they are immediately attacked by fellow heroes and told that they should be dead. Obviously confused the two ask to see Reed, and what they find is a shadow of the man they knew.

Reed reveals that at some point in the past, a cosmic power left every other planet in the universe destroyed. Having done the whole “mulitversal travel” thing before, Ben and Johnny quickly put together that this isn’t “their” Reed but this world’s version of him and they are left with the decision to just leave and try again, or to stay and help save this dying world.

While the premise may seem extremely weird and “comic book-ey,” what makes this story thrive is its grounded character interactions. The Fantastic Four is more than a team, it’s a family. Johnny feels hurt and betrayed that his family is out there, but he was left behind. Put that on top of his powers starting to fail him and leaves him in an extremely fragile mental state. When he figures out that the Reed they found isn’t the one they’re looking for he loses himself in a fit of rage and heartbreak.

Ben, true to his rocky exterior, is doing his best not to show his hurt and disappointment but the sadness shines through in a truly heartbreaking moment.

The real mystery of the book are Rachina’s intentions, while she seems genuine in wanting to help Ben and Johnny, she comes off extremely cold.

“Marvel Two-In-One” starts its second story arc off with a bang. Zdarsky is a master at capturing the fun light-hearted adventures of the Fantastic Four that have been missing for quite some time. Along with some expert character writing, Schiti’s art is fantastic (pun intended). It’s cartoony and stylized so that the characters are allowed to express in ways that a realistic art style just can’t do.

At its core, this book is about a separated family just trying to find each other again and the pain that, that can cause. Zdarsky and Schiti craft a story that is one of the best things coming out of Marvel this year.

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Fantastic Four makes long-awaited return in ‘Marvel Two-in-One’