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Comic Book / Fantastic Four: Life Story

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"So many times we thought we had it all, but we had to follow the stars and their call"
Because we evolved to live our Earth, our lives give us the illusion of order. The illusion of meaning. The illusion convinces us that someone is looking out for us. But one we leave the safety of our home, the place where we evolved to belong, we learn the truth. That the true nature of the universe isn't order or meaning...but chaos and apathy. In an apathetic universe, all we have is the hope that a coin flip will go our way once in a while...the hope we can get lucky.

Fantastic Four: Life Story is a 2021 Marvel Comics miniseries by Mark Russell, Sean Izaakse and Nolan Woodard. Released on the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Fantastic Four, it reimagines the history of the team in a setting without Comic-Book Time, as it had been done in Spider-Man: Life Story.

The first issue is set in the 1960s, and explains how the team got their powers during The Space Race. Desperate to send Americans to space ASAP, before falling too much behind the Soviets that already did so, Reed launches his experimental ship before the higher ops dismantle it. But he did not work on the cosmic radiation, and they were all mutated by it. And while America wonders if there is alien life out there in the universe, Reed knows, and fears, that there is a being of incredible power out there somewhere: Galactus.


Tropes in Fantastic Four: Life Story:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Reed and Sue's marriage in the main continuity had its ups and downs, but for the most part stayed wholesome and functional. In this version, Reed's paranoia about Galactus and increasing focus on work above all else leaves Sue bereft and hurt, and she leaves him for Namor.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: In the comics, Ricardo Jones was just a guy who hated Reed for how lauded he was. In this version, Jones is actually the head of the NASA space program that Reed takes over and all his work is overshadowed by Reed's flight and eventual celebrity status.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Reed and Ben do not seem to know each other from before the flight, and they are not best friends. This makes Ben's reaction towards becoming the Thing much more aggressive.
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  • Adaptational Early Appearance: By the time Galactus was introduced, the Fantastic Four had met several aliens and alien species: the Skrulls, Planet X, the Ovoids, the Impossible Man, the Watcher, the Enfant Terrible, etc. And that without counting the many aliens seen in other comics of Marvel, and the countless "monster from outer space!" published before the FF. Here, however, the first alien lifeform ever seen is Galactus, allowing to discuss the Fermi Paradox in a way that would make sense in context.
  • Adaptational Explanation:
    • The team sneaked into the ship in Fantastic Four #1, but there was little explanation on why it had to be that way and not a proper and authorized flight. This comic changes it: the ship that Reed was building was experimental, and the project was canceled because it couldn't be properly tested. So Reed called his friends and infiltrated into the place in order to launch the ship, because they had barely enough time to do that before it was dismantled.
    • It also explains why they took Johnny Storm in there, who would fail any tests for becoming an astronaut: they simply had no time to select a proper crew.
    • Although the cosmic rays give the FF their powers, it does not become a source of superpowers just waiting for anyone: here, it is the interaction between the cosmic rays and Reed's experimental fuel.
    • The origin also explains the suits: initially, they were the suits of the "Cassandra 4" testing crew, and they wore them to pass security undetected.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Even for someone who eats worlds, Galactus seems a lot worse in this comic. "I see you. The terror in your soul. And I am coming for it! I am coming for you all."
  • Adapted Out: The scene where Ben Grimm approaches the door to his former girlfriend's apartment with flowers, only to realize he's changed back into the Thing and leaves comes straight from Fantastic Four #51, but the girlfriend is Alicia Masters and not Sally.
  • Alternate History: Reed Richards, Benjamin Grimm, Susan Storm, and Jonathan Storm became the first Americans in space, displacing Alan B. Shepard from that honor. Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong, however, retain their milestones as the first man in space and the first man on the Moon.
  • Arc Words: "Every good idea is the product of inspiration, and every bad idea the product of desperation".
  • As You Know...: Reed being Reed, there's just no way he wouldn't know about the feat of Yuri Gagarin. JFK showing him a newspaper with it is more for the benefit of the reader, to establish the context.
  • The Cameo:
    • John F. Kennedy shows up in the first few pages to ask Reed for help with the space program.
    • The Beatles show up during one scene as another foursome of guests on a talk show.
    • Richard Nixon shows up in the middle of the book to hear Reed's concerns but rejects them due to his own concerns for the Vietnam War.
  • Canon Character All Along: The character of "Dr. Jones" at first seems to just be there as the reason why Reed and the others have to rush the launch, but later it's revealed that he's actually Ricardo Jones, the man who switched places with the Thing in Fantastic Four #51, "This Man, This Monster." The latter half of the first issue is actually an adaptation of "This Man, This Monster," with some things changed.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Much like Spider-Man: Life Story before it, this story explores dealing with more "realistic" outcomes to the events the Fantastic Four experience while still ultimately showing them as heroes in the end of day. In the first issue it becomes apparent that they really aren't a "family unit" as they are known by most readers, but putting on the appearance of one for the sake of the public presentation.
  • Drowning My Sorrows:
    • Ben Grimm had just lost his job and his girl, when the other three found him.
    • Reed finds himself on the receiving end of this at the end of issue #2, after Sue divorces him and starts up a relationship with Namor.
  • Historical Domain Character: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and the Beatles appear in the first issue of the series.
  • Hollywood History: As with Spider-Man: Life Story, the miniseries starts off in The '60s when Reed and his colleagues created an experimental rocket to beat the Soviets in the Space Race only to get superpowers from cosmic radiation. The '70s covers the Fantastic Four's confrontation with the Thinker as well as Sue's divorce.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Sue and Johnny will help Reed to launch the ship, but it's not enough, they need a pilot. Fortunately, Johnny knows someone...
  • Mythology Gag: Galactus states that he is "coming" for all of them. The storyline in which he first appears is called, of course, "The Coming of Galactus."
  • Opaque Lenses: Ricardo Jones, the guy that was in charge of the NASA space program and that Reed replaced, wears these.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: The Soviets sent the first man to space, Yuri Gagarin. JFK did not like to lose, and asked Reed to boost the space program.

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