Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Fantastic Four Annual #4. The New Human Torch vs the Original Human Torch.

Fantastic Four Annual #4, the Human Torch vs the Original Human Torch
With the news that the Fantastic Four's Human Torch has died, or is dead or is going to die (no one can accuse me of not knowing exactly what the score is when it comes these fancy modern comics), it seems as good a time as ever to dry our tears by reminding ourselves of another Human Torch who died...

...and then came back...

... and then died...

...and then came back.

Yes! It's the Original Human Torch, created in 1939 by Carl Burgos and later resurrected - or not as the case may be - as the Avengers' Vision.

But it's easy to forget that, before his density-changing reappearance, the Original Human Torch made a fleeting comeback in the pages of the Fantastic Four Annual #4, to bother and bewilder the teen inheritor of his title, in a plan conceived by the Mad Thinker.

The Thinker's brought the android back from the dead in order to kill the new Human Torch who's looking for a way to be reunited with his beloved Crystal. She's still trapped, along with the other Inhumans, in the Great Refuge, so the new Torch flies into the desert in order to try something with his nova power that he thinks might bring a solution.

But, as John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans," and our hero's promptly intercepted by the Original Torch.

Unfortunately for the Thinker, despite having amnesia and therefore not remembering he's a good guy, the Original Torch doesn't have it in him to try and kill his namesake and, when the rest of the Fantastic Four show up, thanks to Lockjaw they all find themselves in the Thinker's den where the Thinker kills the Original Torch and flees, leaving behind his super-computer Quasimodo to act in a pitiful manner at his abandonment.

It has to be said it's a somewhat undignified appearance for the Original Torch too, brought back to be a slave, blunder around not quite knowing what's going on and then die again, and he does come across as depressingly subservient and weak-spined. It's a major let-down when you compare it to the much more whole-hearted Silver Age resurrections of Captain America and the Sub-Mariner. I assume Stan Lee felt there was no place for the Original Torch in a comic book universe that had a new Torch and therefore he wasn't a permanently revivable character but you can't help feeling that one of the company's Golden Age trinity of classic heroes should have been treated with more respect on his return.

It's also a mystery as to what Quasimodo's doing in the tale. Leaving aside the fact he's a terrible character - a computer based on the Hunchback of Notre Dame - in this his first-ever appearance he serves no purpose at all. He just spends all his time whingeing and whining in a style reminiscent of the X-Men's Toad but worse.

But what matters most of all is that it involves a Human Torch coming back from the dead. How times change. With modern comics' much greater sense of reality, I'm afraid there's no way the current Human Torch is going to be coming back. I mean, there's no way any comic book company would ever dare kill a major hero and milk the sales from it before rendering that "collector's item" comic worth less than you paid for it by bringing him back six months later. Damn you, Marvel. In killing the Human Torch forever, you've robbed us eternally of a small part of our childhood.

4 comments:

cerebus660 said...

You're right, Steve. There's no chance Marvel will ever bring Johnny back, especially not in the form of, oh I don't know, a mini-series about life without him, or a mini-series about his latest girlfriend's adventures, or a company-wide crossover about his totally unexpected return. No, it'll never happen.

What a load of bollocks...
Make Mine Marvel! ( Up until about 1980, that is... )

Steve said...

I'm sticking to reading Captain America from now on. At least I know they'll never kill Cap.

hobbyfan said...

Count me as one not on board with Marvel's latest flight of foolishness. The Fantastic Four turns 50 this year. Can't have the party without Johnny lighting the candles, y'know?

Steve said...

I like to think they'll try to cremate him and it'll bring him back to life. Sadly, I suspect they're going to drag it out a whole lot more than that.

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