Summary: from 570 to the present
The final chapters of the Great American Novel (see FF323) refer to a time bubble between 2005 and 2020:
The next year this bubble moved back to 2010-2025, where it stuck.
This was probably the last slippage of Marvel Time before it broke that
year. this is from FF340 in 1990:
The 1990 story gives the full details: novody could see into those years because the entire universe being rebooted. This is the Great Reboot, a reflection of Marvel Comics rebooting in the real world.
It is the biggest story in all Marvel history. The covers proclaim it
as such: they declare it to be, progressively, "THE BIG ONE", "THE
BIGGER ONE" AND "THE BIGGEST ONE". This is Walt Simonson at his cosmic
best, a story of the Avengers and Fantastic Four discovering that the
future ends in the year 2010 (that is, "20 years" after publication).
Until the year 2025 (that is, 15 years) all is a mystery: time and space
then reboot, and nothing from the previous universe can travel into the
new one. It is, in short, a complete reboot of Marvel. What makes this
especially interesting is that when 2010 came, the same story was
repeated in different ways in different books, and the event really
happened: what was left of the Marvel Universe began a fifteen year
Here is a summary of the different stories. The apparent differences are probably an illusion: the different cosmic beings are probably different aspects of the same being.
The real world
Days of Future Past
Sales decline to pitiful
proportions: a "hit" comic might sell only a single issue
in each of America's 30,000 towns.
In 2009, Marvel is sold to
Disney. Comics are now just a minor footnote to the Marvel
Cinematic Universe (e.g. Nick Fury in the MCU then appeared in the
It is likely that paper comics will shrink in favor of
digital comics, a result of the rise of the Internet, tablets and smart
Endless variant universes
(movie, ultimate, manga, adventure, etc.), little or no
attempt to reconcile 616 titles with each other; trades
are sold out of order so there is no pressure for
continuity: each writer's run (now typically just two years or four
stories) is effectively its own universe.
20 years after 1990
The Black Celestial tires of this universe so plans a
new Big Bang.
Higher powers:Driven by the Dreaming Celestial. Involves Galactus, Thor, etc. The Time Variance Authority knew of this and possibly planned it (FF353).
Lots of multiple dimensions.
Note that the images imply that parallel versions of the
FF have the same adventure but in slightly different ways.
Reboot:More of an end than a reboot, but important because it focuses on Franklin: he cannot cope, and finally dies, along with all his friends. No matter what their power, they can't stop it.
Franklin can do anything, warp reality, jump through time and space, ignore Sentinel attacks, etc., yet he can't stop Ahab's lance. Implies he gives up due to despair at being powerless?
Dimension hoping throughout.
Athena believes the current
universe is too corrupt, so plans a new Big Bang.
Most of those involved have god-level power or higher. Athena is essentially omniscient and linked to the Dreaming Celestial.
Dimensions:Involves a pocket dimension and a general plan to annihilate everything.
Nathaniel is unable to find any way past a
major problem in every time line. Eventually future
Franklin comes back and creates a new universe to get
past this point.
Features many Celestials, and
Franklin uses Galactus as his herald. That's how big this
is! The scale of this event cannot be over stated:
Many, many dimensions.
The Great Reboot is not just a random story: it is a key part of Marvel's grand vision of everything. For details see the 2010 Avengers time line (in Avengers 5 of that year). This is the pencil and dialog version:
This is the finished art version:
Fifteen years is too long for a
Since 1989 Marvel Time has been in chaos. Characters de-age, come back from the dead, and live simultaneously in multiple realities. It's entropy, like the heat death of the universe: everything takes longer and longer. Stories that once took a single issue are now stretched into six issue decompressed arcs. Large stories routinely take 20-40 issues in a summer "event." Good stories (such as the Phoenix saga or Days of Future Past) are told and retold in different forms. As time stretched and distorts further and further we should expect the final reboot to be stretched and twisted into infinite time and infinite chaos.
With that summary in mind, let's have another look at the story called "the biggest one" (on the cover to FF341)
This is basically the biggest story of all time: an attempt by one of the the most powerful beings in the universe to reboot the Big Bang: to return the universe to nothingness and start it again.
This involves time and dimensions becoming chaotic: multiple versions of each character and time speeding up, stopping, or becoming uncrossable. It could be described as a chaos war.
In 2010 we have the Chaos War. The Chaos War describes the attempted big bang reboot from a different point of view, with more detail: it involves a rebooting of realities, lots of being unconscious, lots of death and resurrection - basically it has Franklin's fingerprints all over it.
will finish in 2025
The really interesting part is that FF337 says this reboot takes fifteen years, i.e. until 2025. Come back in 2025 and we might see that 2010-2025 represents a complete reboot of Marvel into something very, very different. We may have seen the first real-world inklings:
In 1990 we saw the great reboot foretold the death of the old universe and the beginning of a new one in 2025. Jonathan Hickman's wrote the Fantastic Four from 2009 to 2012 and shows the beginning of the great reboot, the climax of Franklin's life.
For previous times when Franklin summoned Galactus, see the discussion by FF74.
The Franklinverse was always in chaos, and now we see its final stages. Two of the crossovers from this period illustrate the two continuing themes: danger to mutants (such as Franklin) and general chaos. In "Age of X" (2011) this reality is replaced with one where mutant-kind has been hunted to extinction, there are no X-Men, and the few remaining mutants band together to make their last stand. "Spider-Island" (2011) we see the Jackal has given to every New Yorker spider-like powers. Compare this with the merging of New York with a demonic limbo, the event that started it all:
As with Heroes Reborn, the Fantastic Four comic comes to an end
and is reborn. But this time, instead of simply making one more
reality, Franklin is trying to bring all his previous efforts
together. Will it work? Only time will tell.
Reboot 1 (i.e. "volume 2") was the 1996 Heroes Reborn series, a
result of the death of the Marvel Universe. The series then limped along
looking for a sense of purpose. But the Great Reboot was inevitable,
and in 2012 it began with reboot 2 ("volume 3").
In 2012 the Fantastic Four (and other titles) ended and were
relaunched. So were many other titles. The Fantastic Four actually
had its two soft reboots: it previously ended with FF587, replaced
by "FF" issue 1. "Fantastic Four" came back with issue 600, and
the soft reboot worked so well (or the whole market is so shallow
and chaotic) that they did it again a year later, this time for
other titles as well.
Marvel is keen to say this is not a reboot and not a copy of DC's successful "New 52" reboot, but both are symptoms of the long term lack of creativity and resulting sales slump.
"Marvel NOW!, the publisher's
latest initiative, is arguably its biggest sea change ever, with
a relaunch or launch of more than 20 books, new costumes, new
identities... There's never been an instant with such critical
mass and everything happening at once..." -
Matt Fraction's 16 issue run (12 if you don't count Kesel working
from Fraction's plots) covered the signature elements of the Great
Reboot: Franklin's importance, a universe beginning and ending,
and so on.
In #4-8: they visit the Big Bank and the Big Crunch, (and ancient Rome).
In #7: Is the Big Crunch the end of "the" universe or just another manifestation of the Great Reboot? They seem very familiar with Franklin and Valeria.
In the final issues, scripted by Karl Kesel over Fraction's plot, is a very big deal:
Q: So in terms of scope and scale, these issues of "Fantastic Four" you're working on [13-16] are pretty colossal?
Kesel: Yeah, basically all of time and reality are in jeopardy. So: pretty high stakes.
We see Kang, the master of time, merge with Annihilus (from Franklin's power source, the negative zone), and all subsumed into Doom. Major events result, as you might expect. It's all happening according to plan.
Each reboot is bigger than the one before. 2012 was a soft reboot,
with stories that continued from before, and did not consciously shriek
"we are new". But the 2014 reboot ("volume 4") was consciously
different: a major story called "The Fall of the Fantastic
Four", packed with references to the past.
Could the Great Reboot be any clearer? In 2014 the FF rebooted to issue 1 yet again - that's twice in just over two years! I must remind the reader that I began this "Great Reboot" concept back in 2008 or so, so you are looking at my smug "I told you so" face. The latest reboot begins with a story about Franklin's pocket universe colliding with this one, producing dimensional effects that do not show up on any of Reed's normal instruments. At time of writing it's March 2014, I just read issue 2, and will keep you updated every few months.
The Great Reboot still has eleven years to go, but it's happening
both in the real world and in comics exactly as foretold. As for
America regaining its sense of direction, Bush, Obama and the
changes in the nature of America seem pretty dramatic (massive
debt, massive scale spying on citizens, socialized health care,
etc.) Meanwhile China continues it inexorable rise, and just this
month Russia invaded the Ukraine. Er. I mean, sorry, the
Ukrainians invited Russia in. Of course.
I think we can confidently predict that, come 2025 the Great American Novel will have a clear and obvious direction once again. Will comic sales decline enough for management to give writers real freedom? We shall see. Time will tell.
As more fans get their information from the Internet, the sliding
timescale makes less and
less sense. Everyone knows that these characters are from the 1960s,
only make sense in the 1960s, and often travel in time, so why are we
all pretending otherwise? Sometimes the writers don't even try to
pretend. For example, in "X-Men Schism" in 1963, the original X-Men were
placed back into 1963.
Though in the finally published version they covered the date.
But the next year, in X-Men annual 2014, Galactus was clearly placed in 1966.
The same timeline supports the Great Reboot theory: pretty soon things go crazy.
It has been noted that one of the best superhero movies of recent years was Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past", where the team go back to the 1960s. Fans like that. The sliding time scale is becoming irrelevant.
Volume 4 is still new, and it's already being canceled to make way
eventually for another try, volume 5. The story was rumored and denied
in mid 20014, and in October 2014 it was finally confirmed:
announced at NY Comic-Con that it has canceled (or apparently put on a
looong hiatus) any further Fantastic Four comic books. This comes just
ahead of 20th Century Fox’s launch of another film property based on the
comic book next year. Why? We had heard that Marvel wanted to use the
Fantastic Four characters in future Avengers films, so it could be a way
for Marvel to put pressure on the studio. Or maybe it doesn’t want the
competition at the box office as 2015 is gearing up to be one helluva
crowded market (see below) and Marvel will be vying against Fox and
others on a number of tent pole films. Marvel spokespeople could not be
reached for comment." - Deadline.com
The Fox movie is the short term reason, but the bigger picture is
that the Fantastic Four lost direction in the late 1980s. After all, Fox
also owns the X-Men movie franchise, and Marvel would like that one
back even more. But it won't happen because the X-Men are popular. The
Fantastic Four aren't. Since continuity ended on the late 1980s there
just hasn't been a compelling reason for anyone to buy the FF, other
than nostalgia. Sales have been in the doldrums and nothing Marvel has
tried has changed it. Since the late 1980s Marvel has tried everything
except the one thing the story needs: restarting continuity.
Nothing works, because the FF is about progress. It has to move forwards. It has doesn't move forwards it doesn't work.
321 issues of continuity, 321 issues of the Franklinverse
Note the numbering: the book will be canceled some time in the 640s.
So we have 321 issues of continuity, then around 321 issues of the
Franklinverse. (The exact numbers depend on whether you count annuals,
reprint issues, etc: maybe 322 was the final issue.) They tried 28 years of continuity and it was
created the Great American Novel. Then they tried 28 years of no
continuity and nobody cared. According to the 2010-2025 reboot prophecy,
they will then have another 9 years or so of trying new things, trying
to get it right. This will be around 100 issues, recalling the 100
issues of Kirby, but failing to walk in his shoes. And after that? Then
it will become interesting again.
The symbolism of the final cover
This is art for the final issue (645), still looking backwards to Kirby:
Remind you of anything? Yes, one of the last Kirby issues, FF95. The flying car is targeted, about to be shot out of the sky. The symbolism is important.
FF95 is the poster child for "Kirby was not trying any more". People
say "after Kirby stopped giving new ideas we got no new Doctor Doom, no
new Galactus, just lame characters like The
Monocle." FF645, the final issue, is a reminder of the end of the Kirby
era, and it just copies Kirby. The team were symbolically shot from the
sky. it was the end of an era.
What will the next era bring?
The search for children
This is the official blurb for the final story. (I write this in October 2014, this is the only description I have)
"THE END IS FOUREVER! Witness the closing act on the First Family of the Marvel Universe! THE INVADERS meet the FANTASTIC FOUR as the hunt for REED RICHARDS and the missing kids of the FUTURE FOUNDATION continues. Meanwhile the mastermind behind everything unveils his ultimate plan. But how does FRANKLIN RICHARDS factor in? And how does this all lead to...The END?! Collecting FANTASTIC FOUR #642-644 and the Triple Sized Final Issue 645!"
Note the unintentional symbolism: it's all about children. Children are the symbol of continuity: Will they stay children forever? or will they grow up?
As we get toward the breaking point of continuity we see more and
more children. Hickman, with his intuitive feel for the big picture,
filled the Baxter Building with children, and called them The Future
Foundation. Because children are about "the Future." By filling the
story with children we are being forced to make the choice: continuity
or not continuity? That is the question.
Will the FF find continuity? Will they ever find the kids? We shall wait and see.
The great Reboot covers more than just the Fantastic Four. The clearest sign so far (to 2015) is Secret Wars, as in this publicity image:
This is not the Great Reboot in itself. The Great Reboot still has ten years to go - but it shows how Marvel is thinking. Ending the universe is no longer unthinkable.
The Franklinverse began with Inferno: when Franklin's realm and our world merged. So it is notable that the new Secret Wars returns to Inferno:
"The story will pick up five years after later, where Manhattan is
still a literal Hell on Earth, and Colossus is leading a small band of
X-Men to rescue his sister, Magik." (source)
To be continued!
"...they've devolved into utter predictability."
(From Mark Waid's Fantastic Four Manifesto, the document that got
him the writing gig. Reprinted in "Comics Creators on Fantastic
Four" p 202)
Waid's solution, his way to get back to the early creativity of the Fantastic Four, was to enforce newness: "EVERY ISSUE of this series should revolve around concepts or notions or scenes or characters you've NEVER SEEN BEFORE in a comic."
A noble aim. But it has two problems:
You cannot ban change forever. Eventually people get tired of the same old thing. Eventually the profit from banning change will be less than the profit from moving the stories forwards. At that point the big Fantastic Four story will begin again.