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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 2021-2022 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 (although she returns after seeing Namor's disregard for Franklin when Doom nearly triggered a nuclear war).
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: While Victor Von Doom is still fairly intelligent, he relies on Reed to build his armor, something he'd always forged himself in other continuities.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • Reed and Ben do not 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.
    • Reed and Victor Von Doom's rivalry is gone, as the two never met before the events of issue two.
  • 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 Late Appearance
    • Dr. Doom was one of the Fantastic Four's earliest villains making his first appearance in issue 5, here he doesn't show up until over a decade after the FF's debut.
    • Alicia Masters appears during the 1990s, after Ben had another girlfriend (Sally) and several computer dates that ended badly.
  • 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.
    • The Silver Surfer's reason why he cannot lead Galactus to feed on uninhabited planets is because Galactus truly feeds on planets that possessed the Power Cosmic, namely the "power of consciousness" of every living being on a planet.
  • 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." It is then reveal in Issue #5 that Galactus doesn't specifically feed on planets but their entire living inhabitants, as they innately possessed parts of the Power Cosmic.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Doctor Doom never displays any of his arcane abilities, relying on solely on his Powered Armor.
  • Adapted Out: Due to the nature of the story with the characters aging in real time, Valeria Richards is never born. Valeria was not born and introduced into the comics until the late 90s. By this point, both Reed and Sue would be pushing their 60s, so while it would be possible for Valeria to be born, it would be improbable.
  • The Ageless: The Thing still looks the same age even as his teammates and the other heroes and villains get older.
  • Age Lift: The Silver Surfer's age is several thousand years old, and by 2002 he reveals to the Four that he is dying of old age. Furthermore, this is the true reason Galactus is coming to Earth: not to feed on it, but to seek a new herald.
  • Altar the Speed: The Silver Surfer warns humanity: Galactus is coming, the end of the world will be in 10 years, and there's nothing you can do about it. Ben decides he does not have a second to lose, and proposes marriage to Alicia.
  • 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.
    • The 9/11 attacks never happened as the looming threat of Galactus is far more Earth's major concern instead.
  • Alternate Universe Reed Richards Is Awesome: In the 1990s, with the Cold War over and the need for military tech diminished, superheroes and supergeniuses other than Reed start to contribute their works to the world. Tony Stark is building a hydrogen engine to make power cheap, clean and plentiful, and curbing global warming. Wakanda, which had been improving Africa to form the African Alliance for the past three decades, invented an vaccine for the AIDS virus and giving it to the world for free.
  • 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.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the final confrontation with Galactus, Reed pretends to surrender himself to Galactus when in reality it's Franklin, who uses his psychic powers to attack Galactus, linked to his father to boost his own mental powers.
  • Batman Gambit: In issue 3, Victor von Doom and the Mad Thinker hijack "Star Wars" to start a nuclear war between the US and Russia in an attempt to damage the Earth enough to make Galactus decide against gobbling up the Earth. The plan is foiled thanks to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.
  • Berserk Button: Namor accidentally hits for Susan this when he suggests abandoning Franklin to the nuclear missiles.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Reed successfully stops Galactus by frying his mind, but becomes a vegetative invalid who needs on-the-clock-care as a result.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Reed spends years preparing Earth for the coming of Galactus, developing an advanced satellite weapons network to fight him off... and said network is destroyed in seconds after the Silver Surfer comes to Earth, making it clear that he only possesses a thousandth of the power of his master.
  • Dating Service Disaster: The 1990s and the advent of personal computers encouraged Ben to try online dating. It was a disaster after another, sometimes his fault (he uploads a photo from when he was human, and the girl finds her date is a huge man made of rocks!), and sometimes the other's (a Loony Fan more interested in presuming that she dated the Thing than in him). It may be said that Alicia was a dating disaster as well (Ben was not expecting a blind woman), but they turned out to be soulmates anyway, so he can't complain.
  • 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.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Johnny Storm sacrifices himself in the '80s to save New York from a nuclear missile, while his mainstream counterpart died closing the gate to the Negative Zone before returning to life.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the 1980s, the Human Torch dies saving New York from a nuclear missile.
  • Historical Domain Character: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and the Beatles appear in the first issue of the series. Ronald Regan dominates issue three.
  • 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. The '80s features Sue returning to the team and Johnny dying in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Industrialized Evil: Doctor Doom proposed to the Silver Surfer of his way of saving his Earth from Galactus: he would rule the planet on Galactus's behalf, and under Doom's rule, he would have establish an aggressive breeding program and allowing Galactus to consume five hundred million people every year, thereby satisfying Galactus's hunger far more than if he had consume Earth on arrival. The Surfer describes Doom’s horrific plan “refreshing” because no other race he had encountered ever thought of this before other than futilely begging Galactus to spare their worlds. Fortunately the Surfer doesn’t accept Doom as Galactus’s new herald to carry this out.
  • 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...
  • The Meddling Kids Are Useless: All the old heroes come out of retirement to aid the young ones against the Doombots. And yet, victory comes from the Mad Thinker, who helps Reed to retrieve the turnoff codes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: While serving in the Korean War, Ben Grimm was horrified and guilt-ridden to learn that his bombing runs had destroyed villages and rendering Korean children orphaned. He then get himself court-martialed by assaulting a commanding officer and taking the military's food rations to give them to the orphans.
  • 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."
  • Never Mess with Granny: In the final issue, Sue Storm is an old woman and still kicks ass.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Issue 3 in spades. Doom and the Mad Thinker's act of attempting to destroy the Earth via nuclear war causes both the US and Russia to freak out at how close they came to the end and discuss nuclear disarmament. As well, Namor's callous dismissal of Franklin's fate causes Sue to abandon him and return to the Fantastic Four.
  • Not His Sled: 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 here his girlfriend is Sally, not Alicia Masters, who would be introduced at a much later point.
  • Opaque Lenses: Ricardo Jones, the guy that was in charge of the NASA space program and that Reed replaced, wears these.
  • Posthumous Narration: In Issue 3, Johnny Storm narrates after his death when he sacrifices himself to stop a nuclear threat from blowing up New York City, and the issue ends with his family visiting his grave.
    Johnny Storm: If I have to die someday, which I imagine I will, I hope people won't think that I stayed too long. That I left while I was still too interesting. While people were still asking, who was that guy? But even if you left the party unnoticed, that's okay. Because the party carries on without us.
  • 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.
  • Skewed Priorities: Ronald Reagan and his advisors are deeply skeptical with Reed Richards' warnings about Galactus and they wanted the SDI to be use against the Soviets, whom they see them as the biggest security threat to the United States.
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: In the final issue, Doom gives up on conquering the world and decides to destroy it, with his Doombot army ravaging cities wantonly and then self-destructing just to cause more damage.