Marvel Comics has just revealed that Fantastic Four: Reckoning War – coming January 2022 – will be one of its biggest conflicts ever, affecting every living being in all of reality. Coming from the creative team of Dan Slott, Carlos Pacheco and Rachael Stott, fans are especially hyped for the Reckoning War because they’ve known about it for sixteen years, ever since She-Hulk vol. 2 #3 saw Jennifer Walters travel into the future and learn she was responsible for the devastating event.
More than a decade later, Marvel is picking up the plot thread left dangling by this story, fulfilling the promise of the more recent Fantastic Four: Empyre Fallout #1, which saw Uatu – the all-seeing Watcher of Earth’s solar system – return to life after his murder in 2014’s Original Sin with the promise that, “There shall be… a reckoning!” That reckoning is nearly here, but as with any story that’s been bubbling for sixteen years, there are things fans need to know.
The Reckoning War is a battle against a mysterious foe carried out by a coalition of Marvel’s heroes – including Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and She-Hulk – and the alien race known as the Watchers. Generally in Marvel lore, the Watchers are sworn to observe but never to act, having adopted a vow of non-interference after their early efforts to help other species only resulted in destruction. Usually, Uatu’s wordless presence is an undeniable sign that an event is truly historic in scope, so for the entire race to break their vow and enter into combat suggests a villain the likes of which fans have seldom seen before. Marvel‘s announcement of the series says, “The original secret war of the Marvel Universe has been reignited and every living being in reality is in danger, for we are finally at… Our Day Of Reckoning.”
The Reckoning War is going to have huge stakes, and if what fans have seen so far holds true, it’s going to go very, very badly. She-Hulk was shown the Reckoning War by the Time Variance Authority, who were attempting to have her erased from history and wanted to demonstrate the future consequences of her actions. Seeing the devastation and meeting her older self, She-Hulk returned to her trial in full agreement with the TVA that it would be better if she had never existed, though thankfully she was ultimately spared thanks to her heroism and legal genius. Of course, it’s She-Hulk’s legal career that causes the Reckoning War in the first place.
Due to her talent for the law, She-Hulk is recruited by the near-omnipotent Living Tribunal to sit on matters of cosmic significance as a Magistrati. One case she hears (in Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo’s She-Hulk vol. 1 #7) involves a race of aliens known as the Recluses, who are incredibly uncomfortable knowing they are always being observed by the Watchers. In a Solomon-like burst of wisdom, She-Hulk strikes a bargain where the Watcher Qyre will still observe this area of space, but will no longer communicate what he witnesses back to the other Watchers.
While this is agreeable to both parties, She-Hulk vol. 2 #20 (from Slott and Ty Templeton) reveals that the Recluses are quickly slaughtered by a mysterious being who plans to use the now-hidden patch of space as “the perfect beach-head for my war on creation!” Gloating, the being implies it knows Qyre of old, and begins planning to prepare an army, safe in the knowledge that no-one will know what’s happening until it’s too late. Since then, this story hasn’t yielded many real consequences in the Marvel Universe, but Fantastic Four: Reckoning War seems set to change that.
For such a large-scale conflict, it’s likely most of Marvel’s heroes will be involved. She-Hulk #3 implies a lengthy battle with some serious consequences, and Fantastic Four: Empyre Fallout #1 connected the mysterious energy weapons of the Cotati to the “First Race” (aka the Watchers), suggesting that whatever the hidden villain is up to, their influence has already spread to the wider galaxy and they’re actively stirring up trouble.
She-Hulk #3 shows She-Hulk, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Gauntlet, and Southpaw (Jennifer Walters’ rebellious ward) involved in the fighting, as the Watchers kill one of their own to stop a misguided plan to win the war. This may change in the upcoming series, since Marvel’s future is always in flux, but the Fantastic Four and She-Hulk are almost certain to be involved, and it’s unlikely Slott won’t bring back characters like Southpaw from his original narrative. One person who should hope things turn out differently than foretold by the Time Variance Authority is Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, who is shown missing an eye at this apparently late stage in the fighting.
Writer Dan Slott has made it clear that while hunting down past references will help set the scene, it won’t be necessary to understand the series. While the Reckoning War has existed as a concept since 2005, 2020’s Fantastic Four: Empyre Fallout #1 was the real cue for its return, and the Watcher hasn’t been seen since. This is bigger news than it seems, as not only did Uatu skip King in Black despite having previously tried to travel through time to help fight Knull when he first learned of the threat, but Tony Stark was recently asked to face the villain Korvac by the Living Tribunal – cosmic intervention that would usually be Uatu’s purview. Wherever the Watcher is, he’s skipped several reality-threatening events to look into the mysterious First Race weapons he detected at the end of Marvel’s Empyre, which is likely to be revealed as the first salvo of Reckoning War‘s hidden enemy. Missing an eye and accompanied by the Unseen – a version of Nick Fury cursed by the Watchers – Uatu is as far from his non-interventionist role than he’s ever been, and that means fans may finally see his godlike powers used offensively.
It’s also worth knowing that in a recent adventure, the Fantastic Four learned that in the near future, Reed Richards is likely to do something so bad that his best friend Ben Grimm resolves to kill him. Like any version of the future, this isn’t certain, but if Mister Fantastic is going to do something terrible enough to turn the Thing against him, it will likely be in Reckoning War, as his morality is set against the highest possible stakes.
Finally, whoever the mysterious enemy of all creation is, they know at least some of the Watchers personally, calling Qyre “old friend.” It’s possible the villain is the last survivor of the race the Watchers originally attempted to help and accidentally destroyed, but it’s also possible fans don’t yet know the whole truth, given the Reckoning War seems to be the continuation of a secret conflict not yet seen in the comics. Hopefully, Fantastic Four: Reckoning War will be worth the sixteen-year wait when it arrives in January 2022, offering Marvel’s First Family an epic event and putting She-Hulk center stage as a hero of cosmic importance.