The big news from the world of comics is the imminent return of the Fantastic Four. Less so is the Marvel Comics publishing initiative of which it is part.
The triumphant homecoming of the Fantastic Four truly is important. More than any other character or concept, the Fantastic Four are the beating heart of the Marvel Universe. Sure, Spider-Man is more popular, and the Avengers are big time at the movies. But Marvel Comics — and all the innovations it brought to the superhero genre — all started with the Fantastic Four in 1961.
In 2015, Marvel canceled "Fantastic Four" outright. Not for the usual reason, though — "Fantastic Four" wasn't setting sales charts on fire, but it was doing well enough. Rumor sites such as Bleedingcool.com ran speculative stories about Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter not wanting to give free publicity to characters whose movie rights were owned by 20th Century Fox, a rival to Marvel Films. So it may just be coincidence that "Fantastic Four" is returning to print just as Disney is in the process of acquiring the Fantastic Four film rights from Fox. Or not.
At any rate, the First Family of Marvel will return from where they were left at the end of the mega-event "Secret Wars" in 2015. At that time, the Marvel Universe had launched anew from the wreckage of the multiverse, which had collapsed. (Long story.) At the heart of that relaunch were Reed and Sue Richards and their two children. And that's where they have been ever since, believed dead in the reconstituted Marvel Earth, even by their teammates, the Thing and the Human Torch.
That will change in August, when for reasons not yet known, the team will re-form and "Fantastic Four" will reboot with a new No. 1. It will be written by Dan Slott, a fan favorite coming off a long, successful run on "Amazing Spider-Man," and Sara Pichelli, an Italian artist known for "Runaways" and "Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man."
But "Fantastic Four" isn't the only Marvel title getting a relaunch. In a publishing initiative known as "Fresh Start," most Marvel titles will hit the restart button, beginning in May. Which would be a lot more interesting if Marvel hadn't done the exact thing four other times in the past six years. The publisher pitched "Marvel NOW!" in 2012, "All-New, All-Different Marvel" in 2015, "Marvel NOW! 2.0" in 2016 and "Marvel Legacy" in 2017. While 17 first issues have been announced for May and June, late summer should bring more. The X-Men titles are relatively untouched by "Fresh Start" so far, which will surely change.
But most fans will probably forgive Marvel if many of those relaunches don't live up to the hype. Bringing "Fantastic Four" home is good news enough.