Warning: SPOILERS for Fantastic Four #14
The latest issue of Fantastic Four accidentally reveals exactly how superhumans get made--and to be honest, it's not even that complicated. Every comic book reader knows the origin story of the Fantastic Four; that Reed Richards launched an experimental rocket ship, exposing his team to cosmic rays, and transforming them into Marvel's First Family.
After 58 years, this week's Fantastic Four #14 finally revealed what the Fantastic Four space mission was all about. It turns out that Reed was in something of a space race to crack the secret of faster-than-light travel, with his rocket intended to make history by taking his team to explore an Eaethlike world light-years away. The cosmic ray bombardment? That was simply a precursor to making the jump.
There's just one problem with this idea: writer Dan Slott has underestimated its implications for the wider Marvel Comics universe. While not the intention, this explanation has just revealed a surefire way to create superhumans: send up a rocket, use the basic FTL technology so said rocket is bombarded by cosmic rays, then halt the jump before it leaves the solar system. Bring the rocket back down to Earth, load a new group of test subjects, rinse and repeat. Any country with a space program can create a superhuman army in no time!
In the comics, the various nations of the world have been in something of a superhuman arms race ever since the Fantastic Four launched into space. Japan has Big Hero 6, Russia has the Red Guardian as a Captain America equivalent and the Winter Guard, the Philippines have Triumph Division, and South Korea has the White Fox. Given this context, it's impossible to imagine a scenario where various nations hadn't invested in a space program as a short-cut to creating superhumans. Especially not given the publicity of the Fantastic Four's disaster.
There's only really one possible solution: in Marvel Comics, there are multiple ways of going faster than light, so it's possible Reed Richards's method was the only one that involved exposure to cosmic rays. That would make sense, since he's easily the greatest scientific genius in the Marvel Universe, and it wouldn't be a surprise for him to have come up with a method nobody else had ever thought of. The Fantastic Four comics have hinted that Reed takes an aggressive approach to ensuring nobody else acquires his technology without his approval, so it's possible he then kept the schematics for the Marvel-1 under wraps.
Unfortunately, as of Fantastic Four #14 he's now handed the Marvel-1 over to the Smithsonian Institution, which presumably means anybody can get a look at it and start to figure it out. Hopefully he's taken out anything that would allow anyone to figure it out and start creating a super-soldier army.
Fantastic Four #14 is available now at your local comic book shop, and direct from Marvel Comics.