The Fantastic Four Almost Went to War with The Shi’Ar Empire

The Fantastic Four are usually a fairly happy group of heroes, with the family unit surviving thick and thin while maintaining a sense of adventure. But when the team embraces a darker path, it’s very easy for entire worlds to crumble in their wake.

The Fantastic Four’s confrontation with the Shi’Ar Empire and the reality glimpsed in What If …? that saw them actually go to war serves as a good reminder of how dangerous The Fantastic Four really are.

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After returning to Earth and facing off with The Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and Doctor Strange at once, Galactus was on the verge of death in Fantastic Four #244 by John Byrne. But Reed’s morality convinced him and the other heroes to save the cosmic entity. This earned Reed a stern warning from Empress Lilandra of the Shi’Ar, laying the blame for Galactus’ future actions on Reed’s head. This came to a head in Fantastic Four #262 by Bryne, which saw the Shi’Ar hold Reed on trial after Galactus consumed the Skrull homeworld and killed seven billion Skrulls. Ultimately, Reed’s acquittal and survival depended on the testimony of Odin and Galactus himself, who explained the great deed Reed had done by sparing the cosmic fixture’s life.

But that last-minute save didn’t occur in the world of What If …? #15 by by Roy Thomas, RJM Lofficier, and Greg Caputo, and the team went to war over it. In this world, Galactus did not come to Reed’s defense, and the trial ended in Reed’s swift execution. The rest of The Fantastic Four, enraged at Reed’s sudden death, quickly gathered the most dangerous weapons they could find in the Baxter Building and ventured deep into Shi’Ar space seeking revenge. But in their overzealous attack, the Cosmic Control Rod was improperly utilized and the Shi’Ar homeworld of Chandilar was destroyed in a single blast. As the guilt-stricken family returned to Earth, the only survivor of the attack, the incredibly powerful Gladiator, rallied the rest of the universe to destroy the Earth. The three went to confront the armada but discovered a plot by the Skrulls to wipe out all their rivals in one fell swoop with a powerful weapon. The three ultimately sacrificed themselves to destroy the bomb, and the galaxy spared Earth, even offering them a place in the collected alliance of planets.

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While peace may have eventually been settled in the latter timeline, it came at an extreme cost. It also served as a reminder of how dangerous The Fantastic Four can really be. When they embrace the full potential of the weaponry and skills they’ve discovered and developed over the years or apply these cosmic upgrades to themselves, as Reed has in Empyre – The Fantastic Four can become world destroyers. In other universes, Reed Richards has proven to be the most dangerous man alive (such as the Maker, who originated in the Ultimate Universe). But even without him, the rest of the team can simply use the weaponry they’ve gained over the years and wipe out an entire galactic empire in a single attack.

It’s especially important to remember considering how dangerous things have become in the Marvel Universe recently. The Eternals, Avengers, and X-Men are set to go to war in Judgment Daythe collective heroes of New York just survived Kingpin’s attempt to take over New York completely in Devil’s Reign, and the Reckoning War is still going strong. The Shi’Ar are even somewhat involved in all this, with their alliance with the X-Men threatening to break over secrets hidden away from the mutant race. But if The Fantastic Four were to realize their full destructive potential, they could probably handle any of these threats.

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