- Ahh... Gotta be somethin' in the air I'm allergic ta! Feels like my eyes'll start waterin an' I'll be all sniffly any second now! Not ta mention my knees're weak as a... newborn...
Appearing in "In the Best of Families"
Earth-616 Supporting Characters:
Earth-98 Supporting Characters:
- Invisible Woman (Only appearance)
- Mister Fantastic (Only appearance)
- Princess Zawadi (Only appearance)
- Spike (Only appearance)
- N'Yami Susan Richards (Only appearance)
- The Avengers (Only appearance)
- Dragon Man (Mentioned)
- The Dragon Man's Hatchlings (Mentioned)
- Loki (Mentioned)
- Bruce Banner (Hulk) (Mentioned) (Dies)
- Mayor Murdock (Daredevil) (Mentioned)
- Captain America (Mentioned)
- Alicia Masters (Mentioned)
- Spider-Man (Cameo)
- Green Goblin (Mentioned) (Dead)
- Gwen Stacy (Mentioned) (Dead)
- Onslaught (Mentioned)
- Galactus (Mentioned)
- Iron Man (Mentioned)
- Latveria (Mentioned)
- Ben's Special Sandwich
- Reed's Particle Accelerator
Synopsis for "In the Best of Families"
Stumbling through the Fantastic Four's Pier Four headquarters is the Thing, half asleep and ravenous with food, he makes his way to the kitchen but stumbles to the floor trying to open it. His stumbling around wakes up little Franklin who learns that his Uncle Ben is preparing a late night snack. After making a massive sandwich he then pulls a Limburger cheese that Sue stores in the Tesseract Box to keep it from stinking up the kitchen. Franklin interrupts Ben's first bite by telling the Thing that he accidentally stepped on his rollerblades. Ben tells Franklin that he will buy him a new pair in the morning. This leads to Franklin asking a question: If he and his parents have "Richards" as a last name, how come his uncles have different last names. Ben explains that "Storm" used to be Sue's last name until she married Franklin's father and Ben has a different last name because he has been around so long he is a part of the family. He then sends Franklin back off to bed and instantly begins getting down on himself for being the "Thing that sticks around". Ben's mood turns from morose to sour when he goes back to the kitchen and discovers that Johnny at his sandwich. As Ben loses his temper it turns out that Johnny is only playing a prank and hid the massive meal behind the gammawave.
Ben chases after the Torch as he streaks away and finds himself following a fake flame trail into Reed's lab. Interested in what Reed might be up to he learns that Reed woke up after coming up with a new theory on Particle Power-Transference and had to test it right away. As Reed begins to lose himself in his work, Sue pops invisibly and tells Ben that Johnny went down the hall. Ben lingers around to watch Sue surprise Reed by bringing him a tool he asked Ben for. Ben muses about how happy he is for his best friend and then quickly loses his way as he is still unfamiliar with the layout of their new headquarters. When Ben goes to open a door he thinks will take him to Johnny he is suddenly jolted by a bolt of energy.
When Ben wakes up he finds himself on the pier but their Pier Four headquarters is nowhere to be found. Shocked by this discovery Ben is also surprised by another thing: the Four Freedoms Plaza -- completely repaired -- standing in the New York City skyline. Unsure if this is some kind of trick, Ben is suddenly swept off his feet by the Human Torch and flown directly at the building. As they fly on a collision course into the office building window, Ben is surprised when the window suddenly pulls open and Johnny tosses him safely into a couch. When Ben recovers he is about to lose his temper but is surprised when Johnny flames off and Ben sees that he is much older and sporting a mustache. As Ben tries to make sense of his situation they suddenly get a call from Sue who is calling in from Mars where she and Reed are investigating Martian gravitational anomalies. When Reed is called to the phone he asks what Ben is doing back from Arizona and inquires if it is time. Ben skirts around the question, coming to realize what might be going on. Reed then tells Ben that they are on their way back to Earth and Sue tells them not to have the baby without them before terminating the transmission.
Before Ben can inquire earlier Johnny gets upset that his wife Crystal is up and on her feet. Happy to see that Johnny and Crystal are back together Ben asks if she is pregnant. Crystal says she is not and "reminds" him that she sprained her ankle recently battling the Dragon Man's hatchings. Just then an adult Franklin (now calling himself Zero Man) enters the room in a Fantastic Four uniform and a strange headband. With him is a Wakandan woman named Princess Zawadi who is clearly very pregnant, just as Crystal explains that it is Zawadi who they are waiting to have her baby. Seeing how things have changed Ben needs to sit down and parks himself in a chair that suddenly springs to life. Annoyed, Ben picks it up and throws it into a wall and is surprise when it changes shape into a young man who resembles Johnny. As it turns out this is Cosmic Ray, Johnny and Crystal's son. The hole put in the wall by Ray reveals that Crystal's daughter, Luna -- now calling herself Spike due to her ability to control her hair -- is trying to sneak out. When she blames the Thing for her getting caught she tells him she wishes he would grow old and die and she is sent back to her room.
Later, the Thing tries to fix himself a sandwich when Cosmic Ray shows him the food processor that prepares his favorite sandwiches automatically. When Ben remarks how things have changed a lot since the Fantastic Four, Cosmic Ray surprises him when he remarks that a lot must have changed since the Fantastic Four first came into existence in the year 1961. Ben doesn't quite catch that and Ray explains further that the in 1961 Reed and the original members of the Fantastic Four flew into space to beat the Russians in the space race when they were bombarded by cosmic rays. Ben figures that's what the boy said and decides he needs to get out and get some fresh air. As Ray reminds Ben that he has his regular poker game at Avengers Mansion, Ben decides to go and check that out instead. Meanwhile on a rooftop not far from the Four Freedoms Plaza, Spike has managed to sneak out and join her boyfriend Ozzie. As the two drink beer in relative seclusion she complains about how the Thing almost ruined her chances of sneaking out to see Ozzie. Ozzie suggests that they do something to teach the Thing a lesson, Spike is intrigued and asks Ozzie to tell her more.
Meanwhile, Ben is mulling over the massive time change and suspects that on this world he and Reed could have fought during World War II. The Thing arrives at Avengers Mansion and is greeted by Jarvis. On his way in, Ben asks Jarvis to remind him what year it is. Jarvis tells him that it is the year 1998, which does little to settle Ben's uneasy mind. He then joins the poker game which includes Doctor Strange, Wolverine and Thor. Ben settles in with the three Avengers and begins playing a game of poker. He begins listening to them talking shop and learns that Bruce Banner has passed away the night before. When they get to talking about how they have begun to age and slow down, Thor remarks how Daredevil retired and how helps Mayor Matt Murdock establish schools for the handicapped. Thor also mentions how Captain America sacrificed his life saving the lives of people in Oklahoma City. Hearing all this, Ben decides to ask what happened to Alicia Masters. Thor finds this question puzzling as he recalls that Alicia retired with him to Arizona after arthritis set into her hands. Realizing what might be going on, Doctor Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto on the Thing to learn that he is not from this reality, one where the modern age of heroes has not existed for more than ten years. This leads to Wolverine asking what happened to Spider-Man on Ben's world. Ben wants to know why and learns that the Spider-Man of this world disappeared suddenly in 1973 after the Green Goblin murdered a woman known as Gwen Stacy.
By that evening the Thing returns to the Four Freedoms Plaza completely dumbfounded by what he has learned. Even though this world recently faced the threat of Onslaught in the last few years, on top of the Fantastic Four being born in 1961, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Daredevil also appeared in the early 60s as well. As Ben still tries to mull over these revelations he is suddenly ambushed by Ozzie who tosses a strange device at Ben. It turns out to be an anti-gravity disk that suspens Ben in the air. Spike then lets loose her temper on the Thing, explaining that she hates him because everyone treats him like family while they treat her like an outsider. Ben points out that they are her family and will stick by her no matter what. He also sees through "Ozzie's" disguise pointing out that it is really the Fantastic Four's old foe the Wizard in disguise. Swatting Spike aside he then summons the rest of the Frightful Four and in enters Blastaar, Quicksand and the Hooded Haunt. While the Wizard goes over his plan to defeat his hated foes, Spike uses her powers to deactivate the anti-gravity disk to free Ben. The fight between Ben and his foes draw in the Torch, Cosmic Ray and Zero Man who join the battle.
As the team battles it out, Crystal tries to get Zawadi to safety. Seeing his wife in trouble causes Franklin's powers to flare out of control. With his head band removed Franklin turns into a massive portal that sucks the members of the Frightful Four into the Negative Zone. With their foes gone, Franklin puts his headband back on and regains control of his powers. Suddenly Zawadi's water breaks and they begin preparing for the baby. While Zawadi is giving birth, Ben educates Spike on the importance of family. Reed and Sue soon arrive back from Mars just in time to witness their granddaughter -- N'Yami Susan Richards -- be born. After witnessing this happy sight Ben suddenly passes out and when he wakes up he finds himself on the hallway floor of Pier Four with his teammates and Franklin standing over him asking if he is okay. Ben learns that what he thought was a door was Reed's particle accelerator, which is what jolted him. When Ben asks if it could have sent him somewhere, Reed theorizes that it could have discorprorated Ben somewhere else momentarily. Thankful to be back in his home reality, Ben endures Johnny's jokes and realizes that he still has his sandwich to eat. Going into the kitchen Ben is happy to see it there waiting for him, but agrees to have Franklin have a bite when he comes in and asks to try it.
- Unlike Earth-616, Earth-98 does not operate on a Sliding Timescale that slows the passage of time. In that reality the modern age of heroes began in the year 1961 and moved at a much slower rate of time. The intention of this story was that Earth-98 operated in "real time", however since this story's publications it's "present day" (identified as 1998 in this story) being a match the "present day" on Earth-616 should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Ben's surprise at the year can be considered the fact that he is in a year that has now passed based on the relative point of the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616 as opposed to the SAME year as the story. (For example, per the Sliding Timescale the modern age of Earth-616 was in "Year Nine". As of 2016 the Modern Age is now on "Year Fourteen". If the real world calendar year is 2016, this year on Earth-616 for this story would be 2011 and the year on Earth-98 would still be 1998. When the Sliding Timescale inches into "Year Fifteen" in 2018, this story will have taken place in the year 2012 and the year on Earth-98 would still be 1998).
- Ben is surprised to see that the Four Freedoms Plaza is back to "normal". On Earth-616 after the Fantastic Four were seemingly killed battling Onslaught in Onslaught Marvel Universe #1, the Thunderbolts took over the Four Freedoms in Thunderbolts #3. When the Thunderbolts were outed as member of the Masters of Evil they trashed the Four Freedoms, as seen in Thunderbolts #10.
- Ben's surprise that Johnny and Crystal are in a relationship is because on his world Johnny and Crystal's relationship (beginning in Fantastic Four #66 ended when she was forced to return to Attilan due to Earth's pollution back in Fantastic Four #105. She later met Quicksilver in Fantastic Four #131 and married him in Fantastic Four #150. At the time of this story, Crystal was still married to Quicksilver on Earth-616.
- Cosmic Ray mentions how the Fantastic Four were created in the year 1961. This is a reference to the fact that Fantastic Four #1 was published in November 1961. The origin story that Cosmic Ray mentions here is as it was original told in that story: That Reed built a rocket to beat the Soviets in the Space Race. On Earth-616 this has become a Topical Reference per the Sliding Timescale and has undergone a number of updates over the years:
- Fantastic Four #197 states that it was a combination of cosmic rays, the Van Allen raditaion belts, and unusual sunspot activity combined that caused the Fantastic Four's mutations.
- Fantastic Four #236 retold an origin that excised all Cold War references and stated that Reed was testing a new star drive to reach the edge of the solar system. He still needed a rocket to reach space.
- Fantastic Four #358 stated that Reed's Star Drive was to reach another solar system via hyper-space.
- Fantastic Four Vol 3 #11 excises all technological explanations and the distance they are attempting travel on this space flight. Simplifying the origin story to an experimental spacecraft test.
- The super-heroes of this world also have a regular poker night a tradition that Ben started back in Marvel Two-In-One #51.
- Ben theorizes that his double and Reed on Earth-98 could have fought in World War II. Incidentally enough old Marvel comic books published in the 1960s and early 70s had multiple references. On Earth-616 all of these references would be considered topical references. The most notable references would be:
- Fantastic Four #11 in which Reed tells a fan who wrote a letter to the Fantastic Four that he and Ben served in the military during World War II.
- Fantastic Four #21 that states and Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos #3 which depicts Reed Richards as a member of the OSS during World War II fighting alongside Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos.
- Capt. Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders #7 which showed Ben Grimm being captured by the Imperial Japanese and was rescued by Leatherneck Raiders.
- Fantastic Four Annual #11 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 where Ben and Reed make multiple references to having fought in World War II during a trip back in time to the 1940s.
- Marvel Two-In-One #77 where Ben recounts a tale where he fought alongside the Howling Commandos against the Nazis.
- Doctor Strange learns that Ben comes from a world where the modern age has existed for only ten years on Earth-616. Per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616 this is an accurate measurement of time.
- Thor mentions how the Spider-Man of this world disappeared in 1973 after the death of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin. This is a reference to Amazing Spider-Man #121 which was published in the year 1973.
- Ben mentions how on Earth-98 the heroes of Earth battled Onslaught a "couple of years back" this is a reference to the fact that the Onslaught event was published in 1996, which was published two years prior to this story.
- It's heavily implied that the Captain America of Earth-98 died saving lives during the Oklahoma City Bombing which occurred in April of 1995 in the real world.
- Ben is surprised to hear that the Hulk, Iron Man and Daredevil all first appeared in the 1960s in this world. This is another reference to the original publications of all these characters who appeared in Incredible Hulk #1 (1962), Tales to Astonish #39 (1963) and Daredevil #1 (1964) respectively.
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