The #4 Reboot And Why The Illuminati And Civil War Make Sense

by Jeff

You’ve read, and probably made, the same criticisms of the current Marvel Superhero universe I have. It ignores continuity. How can members of the Illuminati say and do things together than contradict past comics? Heroes are acting out of character. How can Reed Richards go along with the registration? How can Captain America make deals with people like the Kingpin?

Ah, what seems wrong is actually oh so right. Let me take you back to two classic Marvel comics, namely Fantastic Four #4 and Avengers #4. While both are important in my thinking, the latter is the most important.

In FF #4, the Human Torch finds Namor in a flop house, with no memory of his past life. Shaving his beard and dropping him in the ocean revives his memory, and Namor goes on yet another invasion of the surface world. While being in the condition he was in didn’t directly contradict any previous comics (the Sub-Mariner had not been seen in a comic since 1955 and could have lost his memory anytime between then and 1962), the Torch was shown reading a comic about Namor, thus implying the new Marvel universe considered any previous comic stories to be fictional tales and not history.

Later, in Avengers #4, Namor inadvertently starts the process of releasing Captain America from his frozen suspended animation. When Steve Rogers wakes up, he verifies that he disappeared towards the end of World War II. However, he had appeared in comic books from 1942 to 1950, and then again from 1953 to 1954. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby implicitly had stated those stories never took place. Given the turnover of readership at that time, there were few to no complaints about the apparent contradiction.

Currently, however, the Marvel audience has a long memory and the Marvel Universe is well documented. So when the Illuminati series contradicts Marvel history, we all cry foul. When Reed Richards in Civil War doesn’t act like the Mr. Fantastic we know and love, we say it’s poor writing. But what if we have the wrong perspective? What if Brubaker, Ellis, Bendis and the rest of the current Marvel bullpen, took a cue from Lee and Kirby, and wrote off Marvel history as nothing more than comic book fantasies trumped by an iceberg? This would explain all the oddities we have recently seen. A character can’t act out of character if their past actions didn’t necessarily happen. Continuity can’t be violated if past events didn’t necessarily occur.

My last question to you is, if this is what happened, if at some point a line was drawn between the current Marvel “reality” and the past Marvel “fantasy,” where was the line drawn? Was it the first appearance of the Illuminati? Was it somewhere else? Help me answer the question. When did our equivalent of finding Steve Rogers in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean take place? When did the #4 Reboot occur?

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