Appearing in "To a Future Darkly!"
- Franklin Richards
- Agatha Harkness
- Nathaniel Richards
- Alicia Masters
- Ms. Marvel
- Matt Murdock
- Makio Yakaki
- Peter Parker
- Psi-Lord (First appearance)
- Wolverine (Only in flashback)
- Rachel Summers (Only in flashback)
- Storm (Only in flashback)
- Franklin Richards (Earth-811) (Only in flashback)
- Sentinels (Only in flashback)
- Kaufman (Doom's lackey) (Death)
- New York State
- Earth-811 (Only in flashback)
Synopsis for "To a Future Darkly!"
Nathaniel Richards has traveled back in time to warn the Fantastic Four of the danger posed to the future. He tells them of one future timeline where mutant hunting Sentinels rule North America. In this future, the now adult Franklin Richards and a band of former X-Men managed to free themselves from a mutant internment camp to prevent the start of a nuclear war. In that future, those X-Men were found by Sentinels while trying to escape through the sewers. It was here that the adult Franklin was slain by the mutant hunting robots. Nathaniel warns Reed and the others that this future is destined to come to pass and it is why he has come back in time to warn them. As the group discusses things, Sharon Ventura notes how cold Ben has become since having his face scarred by Wolverine and began wearing a metal helmet. While Lyja ponders this apocalyptic future leading to the end of her once husband and the father of her child. Suddenly, Agatha Harkness speaks up warning Reed that she suspects that his father Nathaniel is not telling the entire truth. Caught by the elderly witch, Nathaniel quickly explains that the reason the future becomes the way it is is due to the Sentinels being constructed using technology that Reed invented. Reed refuses to believe that his technology could be used in such heinous ways, but before they can discuss things further Roberta interrupts to advise the group that their lawyer Matt Murdock and accountant Makio Yakaki have returned from their council with Empire State University.
With the Fantastic Four out of the room, Nathaniel calls out Agatha for starting to reveal his deception and questions why she didn't expose him completely. Agatha tells him that she saw the alternative and realized that she had to follow along, even though it will lead to Reed and Sue hating them for what must be done.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Reed and the others meet with Murdock and Yakaki to discuss the settlement with ESU. Murdock tells them that while ESU is willing to drop all charges against the Torch if they are properly compensated, but the New York Police insist that Johnny still turn himself in for running from the law. With the District Attorney pushing to dismiss all charges, Johnny agrees to turn himself over to the authorities, despite protests from his sister. Ben agrees to tag along as moral support, as does Lyja, much to Johnny's surprise. When Ben goes back to his room to get ready to go out, he takes a moment to remove his mask and assess the horrible cuts put there by Wolverine. When Sharon suddenly enters the room, Ben quickly covers up his face. Sharon wants to know why he is upset with her, and Ben spells it out: she sold them out to Doctor Doom for a cure of her She-Thing form.
At that moment in Latveria, Doctor Doom has recovered from his battle with the Fantastic Four and is still experimenting with the remaining power stolen from Aron the Rogue Watcher. He explains to one of his technicians that it is but a fraction of the power he once wielded but it will suffice. He then has this technician throw a switch to channel the energy for use, incinerating the technician in the process. Thinking about how Sharon Ventura betrayed him, Doom decides to make her pay for betraying him.
While back at the Four Freedoms Plaza, Reed learns what the settlement with Empire State University involved: turning over his patents to the school. He is angry because of severe financial burden this will cause on their operations. But Yakaki explains that it was the only alternative other than the multi-million dollar lawsuit with the university. When Reed can only focus on the financial ramifications, Sue gets upset and reminds him how they were hounding Johnny the whole time. When Reed tells her its not time to argue, she tells him that it's quite the contrary. In the other room, Franklin hears his parents fighting once more and gets upset. Watching the boy, both Agatha and Nathaniel decide that they must act soon before it is too late. While at a nearby police station, Ben and Lyja watch as Johnny is being processed by the NYPD. First he is fingerprinted then mug shot photos are taken before Johnny is led away by police.
Meanwhile, back at the Four Freedoms Plaza, Reed meets with his father to tell him about his patents getting into the hands of ESU, and theorizes this might be how his technology leads to the creation of the mutant hunting Sentinels in the nightmare future that Franklin has come to warn them about. While Reed's back is turned, Nathaniel decides it is time to strike and blasts him with a weapon built into his armor, incapacitating Reed. Nathaniel then meets up with Agatha and the two prepare to complete their mission when they are suddenly confronted by Sue. She refuses to let them take her son, and attacks. While Agatha holds Sue off with her mystical powers, Nathaniel tries to grab Franklin. However Franklin refuses to cooperate and is upset enough that he unleashes the full fury of his power upon his grandfather, forcing Nathaniel on the defensive. At that moment at Alicia Masters studio apartment, Ben Grimm pays a visit to his one-time girlfriend with a visitor: Lyja, the woman who co-opted Alicia's life for a number of years.
Back at the Four Freedoms Plaza, the battle between Sue and Agatha rages on. Agatha uses her powers to create images of Malice, in an attempt to reveal to Sue what is wrong with her. Agatha is shocked when Sue reveals that she is aware of Malice and how both her and the Malice persona merged into a new personality. She then uses her powers to place an invisible force field around Agatha's head, cutting off her air supply. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Richards is able to use a device in his armor to incapacitate Franklin. But before he can grab the boy he is ambushed by Ms. Marvel. Although she has the advantage of surprise, she is no match for the advanced weapons of Nathaniel's armor. As Sharon is being blasted out of the room, Reed arrives and tries to stop his father personally. However both he and Sue are quickly incapacitated by Nathaniel who then grabs Franklin. While the two parents are distracted by one of Nathaniel's weapons, the old man disappears into the future via a time platform, taking young Franklin with him.
Reed and Sue are devastated by the disappearance of their son and they immediately being arguing with each other. Recovering from the battle, Agatha tells the couple that she was integral to betraying them as it was important that Nathaniel take the boy. Reed refuses to understand, determined to travel all time and space in order to find his son. Suddenly another time platform appears and what appears to be Nathaniel Richards appears before them once more. As Reed demands the newcomer in the room to tell him what happened to his son, the mysterious armored individual removes his helmet. Underneath is a teenaged boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, who tells Reed and Sue that he is their son.
- The apocalyptic future that Nathaniel warns the Fantastic Four about is Earth-811 also known as Days of Future Past. The events recounted were first told in X-Men #141–142.
- The Thing's face was horribly scarred by Wolverine in Fantastic Four #374, and Ben began wearing the helmet on his head during last issue. Ben continues to wear the helmet until Fantastic Four #385 and his face is fully healed in Fantastic Four #409.
- Lyja mentions that Johnny is her former husband and that she is carrying his child. Some facts:
- As revealed in Fantastic Four #358, Lyja took the place of Alicia Masters in order to spy on the Fantastic Four circa Fantastic Four #265. Due to the fact that the Thing was no longer part of the group, Lyja pursued a relationship with Johnny in order to maintain ties to the group.
- Johnny eventually married "Alicia" in Fantastic Four #300.
- Lyja was eventually exposed in Fantastic Four #357 and was seemingly slain the following issue during a mission to rescue the real Alicia Masters from the Skrulls.
- Lyja and her commander Paibok survived and have been trying to ruin Johnny from Fantastic Four #371–374.
- As revealed in Fantastic Four #390 and 393, Lyja and Johnny's "child" is not their offspring but a Gha'Barri implanted in her by Paibok.
- What Nathaniel is hiding from the Fantastic Four is the threat of Hyperstorm a super-powerful mutant son of Franklin Richards of Earth-967. The culmination of Nathnaiel's machinations reach their conclusion in Fantastic Four #414.
- Johnny accidentally set Empire State University on fire in Fantastic Four #371.
- Sharon betrayed the Fantastic Four after Dr. Doom cured her in Fantastic Four #350 She had been spying on the group since Fantastic Four #365 until they found out last issue.
- Sue merged with her Malice persona in Fantastic Four #369.
- Peter Parker's cameo here happens after the events of Web of Spider-Man #100.
- Following his departure here, Nathaniel Richards is not seen again until Fantastic Four #382.
- The teenage Franklin Richards, aka Psi-Lord, seen at the end of this story is not the Earth-616 Franklin Richards but a divergent version of Franklin raised in the future of Earth-6311. Teen Franklin is replaced by his Earth-616 counterpart following the events of Fantastic Four #414. Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #14 confirms that Franklin-616 and Psi-Lord are two separate beings.