When we saw the teaser images for All-New, All-Different Marvel, one that immediately stood out was Ben Grimm, the Thing, wearing a Guardians of the Galaxy uniform. The big questions were why was he on that team and how come he wasn't with the Fantastic Four anymore? With this month's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 and Ben's past, we have some answers.
Even though the Thing hasn't spent his entire superhero career on the Fantastic Four, he's always been a mainstay of the team. With his numerous adventures with the FF, he's been out in space time and time again. Even back in the very first issue, we saw his skills as an astronaut shown.
When Reed Richards made his plan to take his experimental ship to the stars, Ben was his only choice to pilot it. Of course, this trip lead to the transformation of the quartet and whatever career goals Ben may have had were turned upside down.
In a page from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1, we hear Ben's thoughts on being out in space.
As Ben and writer Brian Michael Bendis put it, this is what he wanted. He wanted to be out among the stars. As part of the Fantastic Four, he spent a bit of time traveling out to space and even places like the Negative Zone. It's likely he just never really had a chance to enjoy the time since each time he was out there, it was usually during a big and dangerous mission with a lot at stake. As part of the Guardians, he'll pretty much be living in space. There'll definitely be downtime, as seen in that image above.
When Ben discovered he was able to control his transformation from the Thing back to his human guise, he decided to stay behind. She-Hulk took his place on the team and he spent some time exploring the planet and other things. It did turn out the change was a bit more psychological rather than dependent on the planet but that's another story. Ben spent time, basically exploring alien worlds (that had been pieced together to form Battleworld).
With the Guardians, he'll get to explore different places while not being on the rushed schedule the FF had. There won't be an immediate need to zip back home to check on Reed and Sue's kid, Franklin. Ben will have some expertise to offer the team. In this manner, Ben actually makes more sense than having Flash Thompson on the team. Flash may have served in the Army but that wouldn't quite prepare him for space adventures. His only connection to space is the fact he's bonded with the alien Venom symbiote. If he really wanted to, he could probably find a way to get back home pretty easily since we've seen the Guardians and Star-Lord journey back with little effort.
What about the actual Fantastic Four? Don't they need Ben?
In this month's UNCANNY AVENGERS #1, we saw Johnny Storm make a little mention about the team and Reed and Sue.
There is no more Fantastic Four.
What we know is eight months have passed since the current SECRET WARS started (or perhaps ended). We don't know what happened to everyone or how the heroes, Earth, and universe were brought back. It seems something happened to Reed and Sue. Either they sacrificed themselves or they were killed as a result in the final battle against Doctor Doom. With half the team missing, Ben and Johnny could have continued "serving in their memory." The two did continue on the team when Reed and Sue took time off and were temporarily replaced by Black Panther and Storm.
This isn't simply a second honeymoon for the Richards. The FF have always been more than just a team--they're family. It could've been too hard or painful to try to continue without them. This could be why Ben decided to retreat to the stars. Johnny will be keeping himself busy in the pages of UNCANNY AVENGERS and UNCANNY INHUMANS.
Ben may have tried to escape the situation but he's not one to just sit around and feel sorry for himself. Joining up with the Guardians allows him to get out into space and still fight the good fight. We'll just assume he wasn't totally serious about his time with the Fantastic Four being just a detour.
Because this is comic books, this current status quo won't be forever. We'll eventually find out what happened to Reed and Sue. (Does anyone really believe they're dead?) We can be sure we'll see a return of the Fantastic Four as well. For now, we're getting some stories that aren't just a rehash of over fifty years of stories. Ben back out in space in a bigger capacity will be interesting to see. He won't have to worry about Johhny's practical jokes either. Let's just hope he survives long enough to make it back to Earth whenever it's time for the FF to return.