In the new Thing series, Ben Grimm makes a historical mixup by calling Russia the USSR, which adds another headache to Marvel’s tricky timeline.
There is an indicator of time in the new Thing series that adds more confusion to Marvel Comics‘ already muddled and shifting timeline. This reference comes in the first issue of the new miniseries The Thing. It’s written by Walter Mosley and illustrated by Tom Reilly.
The series begins with Ben Grimm, better known as The Thing, returning from a much needed fishing vacation. He didn’t bring his phone so he wouldn’t be bothered, but Ben finds the Fantastic Four’s Baxter Building empty. All the other members are away. Eventually, Ben finds himself in some legal trouble and Reed returns from a conference in Russia to bail him out. When Reed and Ben meet, Ben actually makes reference to Russia as the USSR, forcing Reed to correct him.
This USSR reference is a great way to pinpoint when in the Marvel timeline this story takes place. The initial caption in issue #1 signals this tale happened “years ago,” without many specifics. But if Ben, who is a smart guy with multiple master’s degrees, calls Russia the USSR then it has to be relatively close to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, which was more than 30 years ago. Ben also enlists the help of a dating service during the series, citing his preferred age for a woman as “over 30.” This means Ben is probably around 30 himself during the story, maybe even older. This comes after he and longtime girlfriend Alicia Masters take a break in their relationship, which began well after the FF’s infamous accident where he was turned into the Thing.
If all this is to be taken at face value that would mean Ben Grimm is at least 60 years old in the current Marvel timeline. That’s pretty old for a superhero who goes toe-to-toe with some of the Marvel universe’s strongest. Of course, there is always the chance that Ben’s stone body has some effect on his aging, but that doesn’t take into account Reed’s appearance. Neither Sue nor Johnny have appeared in the series yet, but Reed does with his trademark white hair. Reed also looks like a distinguished man of at least 40, putting his age in current Marvel continuity at 70. Yikes.
Ironically, the Fantastic Four have recently been given the Life Story treatment that Spider-Man first undertook. Fantastic Four: Life Story sees Marvel’s First Family aging in real time from their accident in the 1960s all the way up to today. That series is a great way to put the Fantastic Four’s career against the backdrop of historical events. With its real-time format, references to things like the Soviet Union are a natural fit. But the Thing name-dropping the USSR as if it’s a current reference only makes his solo series muddy the Marvel Comics timeline.
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