Dan Slott has pulled back the curtain on the 2022 Marvel Comics event The Reckoning War, and one of the biggest surprises in the cosmic Fantastic Four-focused storyline is the inclusion of Jack of Hearts.
You know, the guy with the "great, overcomplicated costume" as former Avengers writer Kurt Busiek has said.
But in a way, that's what Jack of Hearts' inclusion is about: pressure. The pressure of the power kept inside him - a mysterious, little-talked-about piece of Marvel lore called Zero energy.
Jack of Hearts' impressive but highly unstable powers is because of two very important things. The first: as a teenager, he was doused with an experimental substance his father, a scientist, created called 'Zero Fluid' that in turn gave Jack Zero energy. The second was that while his father was human, his mother was an alien sent to Earth to learn about his father's Zero Fluid experiments, and the two ended up falling in love, got married, and had a child - Jack.
But how does that connect with a major upcoming Marvel Comics event nearly two decades in development?
Zeroing in on The Reckoning War connection
Jack of Hearts' involvement is seemingly connected to the Zero Force - an immensely powerful energy first mentioned in October's Fantastic Four #25. In the Dan Slott-written issue, the writer reveals Reed Richards discovered a "spark" of Zero Force in the early days of the Fantastic Four and, realizing its danger, put it in a box - 'Container Zero' - hiding it away deep underneath the Baxter Building. He kept it so secret not even his fellow Fantastic Four family knew, and as it's a retroactive addition to FF mythology it wasn't mentioned in the original '60s comics.
The revelations came about when an alien invader calling himself Cormorant arrives on Earth looking for something - possibly the Zero Force spark - and ends up destroying the Baxter Building and cracking open Container Zero. It's there we get a modern-day accounting of what the Zero Force is.
"The source of pre-primordial power," Doctor Doom says as the Zero Force is exposed. "An energy that predates our very existence. And you discovered it... before me."
Cormorant says he wasn't searching for the Zero Force, however, and leaves Earth - with the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom left to deal with the dangerous energy. Valeria Richards manages to contain the Zero Force inside a device she had been building, which now works as a doorway to any point in space and time. No, it's not a StarGate… It's 'The Forever Gate.'
Jack of Hearts' previous run-ins over his Zero energy powers
Fantastic Four #25 (and subsequent issues) hasn't included Jack of Hearts, but the seeming connection between the 'Zero Force' and the 'Zero Fluid' seems elementary. Jack of Hearts has had his share of curiosity from cosmic forces about his power before; in a 1991 arc of the Quasar series (collected in the appropriately titled Quasar: Cosmos in Collision), the Stranger kidnapped Jack of Hearts for study, and in a later struggle the Zero energy-powers the hero almost died when his armor - which works to contain the Zero energy - was breached.
Jack of Hearts' Zero energy powers eventually became completely unmanageable - even with the armor repaired, leading him to locking himself away in a 'Zero Room.' That helped the problem for a time, but eventually, it got so bad he was set to explode - and as a hero, he flew out into open space before his deadly explosion killed any innocent people.
He was briefly resurrected in an undead form during 'Avengers Dissassembled' by the Scarlet Witch, but died again just as soon as he returned.
He was eventually resurrected more permanently in 2011's Marvel Zombies Supreme using Zeta rays (apparently unrelated to Zero energy, Zero Force, or Zero fluid) that the secret scientists at Project PEGASUS used to try to reanimate people.
What this could mean for The Reckoning War
If Jack of Hearts' Zero energy is the same as the Fantastic Four's Zero Force, then the secret energy that Reed Richards has been hiding for decades has been coursing through the veins of a hero walking around Earth for decades - and now, people like the mysterious antagonist Cormorant have a smell for it, possibly along with the new (old?) villains Dan Slott tells us are at the center of The Reckoning War.
These villains are all somehow connected to the first Reckoning War - what Slott is calling Marvel Comics' "first war," eons before iconic Marvel cosmic-level events like Secret Wars, The Kree/Skrull War, and more.
Could this Zero Force/Zero energy (and, by extension Jack of Hearts) be the big MacGuffin fueling this unheard-of "first war" and the upcoming The Reckoning War?
We'll have answers to that soon.
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