A national epic is a work of mythology, a collective work spanning many years without breaks, featuring larger than life characters representing national hopes and dreams. What modern work comes close to the Fantastic Four in these regards? 27 years, six thousand pages, god-like heroes representing the great themes of the American nation.And what made the Fantastic Four into a great epic were "incredible exploits and down-to earth realism" set in real time. It was this that made Marvel more popular than DC.
Act 1: danger:At the end of the fifth act a new story should've begun, but instead continuity ends. In the real world, the powers that be at Marvel opted for stasis rather than continued change; in-universe, Franklin Richards, super powered son of Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman revolts, creating the Franklinverse. The child wants to see his parents safe and therefore keeps the whole universe in a state of paralysis.
The story begins with the crucible that forces the heroes together: the space flight. The grand quest is then laid out: Reed wants to save the world, and Sue wants them to be a family. The four major themes are introduced (reluctant heroes, personal confidence, the American Dream, and equality), along with the principle opponents (Doom, Namor, Skrulls) and motifs (would-be monarchs, hidden races, dangerous frontiers, health, mind control, doppelgangers and home).
Act 2: rising action:
Here the themes and motifs are expanded and threats multiply. At the start of this act, threats appeared only at intervals. By the end of the act, each drama merges with the next.
Act 3: the ball:
All the characters get together (the wedding), and everything looks bright. This act crystallizes the major themes in the person of Franklin and hence the need to put family first.
Act 4: crisis:
Everything goes wrong. Reed can no longer cope. There is a false triumph and false dawn half way through (FF200) then things get even worse.
Act 5: triumph:
The crises are finally solved through family values: Reed accepts what Sue was telling him all along and all their problems are neatly resolved, leaving to the start of the next epic.
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