Deaths in the comic book medium have more or less been utilized to generate more sales. It is a mere marketing ploy these days; since with most of them, it seems like the ‘dead’ character seems to always come back after a year or two. Ok, there are those who actually stay ‘dead’ such as “Captain Mar-vell”, and sometimes, there are heroes who did not need resurrecting (example: Barry Allen aka.The Flash) and some deaths have been used to ‘reboot’ the comic. Well, looking into the recent “death” of Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm a.k.a. “The Human Torch”, you know for sure that the death would be a gimmick (since there was never a dead body recovered). There was no way, Marvel’s first family would be missing “ol’matchstick”. So Fantastic Four’s 50th anniversary issue (# 600) marks the return of Johnny Storm from the Negative Zone as well reverting to its original numbering.
The issue is divided into several stories inside 100 pages. Earth is under attack and the Fantastic Four and the Avengers mobilize to meet the Kree assault. Another assault is about to be unveiled by the followers of the Negative Zone, and the heroes are stretched thin to protect their loved ones and the secrets of the FF HQ. This story ends with the return of Johnny Storm. The second story reveals what happened to Johnny, and where he has been all this time. Certain qualities of the Negative Zone are revealed as well as the spies that have infiltrated humanity. The other three short stories are more or less signs of things to come. The Inhumans, a story that connects with the recent events in the issues of The Mighty Thor and a secret is also revealed about the powers of Franklin Richards (long-time readers of comics would be real interested since they are connected to past continuity, comic book ‘speculators and investors’ would be lost).
The issue is written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Steve Epting (one of my favorite artists), Carmine DiGiandomenico, Ming Doyle, Francis Yu and Farel Dalrymple. Parts one and two are closely related, and reveal details from the Torch’s disappearance to the present time. I liked how the art reflected the tone of the stories. Admittedly, “Whatever Happened to Johnny Storm?”’s art had influences of Michael Turner’s style all around it, it looks similar to anime on some levels. The issue’s main focus falls on parts one and two, and so I will focus my review on them.
Epting’s art is superb as always, and the man truly knows how to express tension through his action scenes. Part one may feel like there is so much going on, but readers of the comic will be able to relate to everything. It was also a nice touch as to how Spider-Man (Johnny’s ‘odd’ replacement) played into the story. I do have some issues with Part two. I felt like it was a little too influenced by “Planet Hulk” and some other stories. It wasn’t so much as it wasn’t interesting, but its core was too familiar. But I did like the way Hickman salvaged the two stories by making them closely related; and the details revealed about Annihilus’ state of mind and how the “Future Foundation” came into play were pretty clever. I’ve always had respect for Johnny’s capabilities, and part two was a demonstration of how he has matured both in power, character and responsibility. (the 60’s showed the Torch as something that can be beat by a fire extinguisher which was just silly). I did enjoy the two stories as they further went into the FF’s current continuity, even though I have to admit, they weren’t anything that special.
“The Inhumans” tale (“Black Queen”) was a short that will be a sign of things to come and I was left wondering how the short with Galactus would be related to it. After a “future version” of Galactus was found dead and serving as a power source; fans would know that the world eater would return much sooner than later. For some reason, I had to give kudos to the art by Dalrymple; as it seemed to reflect the personality of a child, and seeing as the story is told from Franklin’s point of view, it was a fitting style and kudos to the editing.
It is too tempting to fully go into the details of FF # 600, but I should stop since I am very close to spoiling the issue for potential readers. For an anniversary issue, it was good, but a little lacking compared to the ground-breaking ‘anniversary issues’ of the past, since we all knew Johnny was set to return by this issue. While I like the issue as a whole, and it is always nice to see the Kree, Annihilus, The Inhumans and Galactus, I hoped for a more compelling story. I may sound to be a little disappointed, but really I am not. But hey, FF has always been a part of my monthly ‘pull list’. I am ready for more….
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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In November 2011, as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four (as well as Marvel Comics), the 100-page special Fantastic Four #600 was published, which featured the return of the Human Torch.
It revealed the fate of the character of Johnny Storm after issue #587, showing that while he did in fact die, he was resurrected to fight as a gladiator for the entertainment of Annihilus. Storm later formed a resistance force called Light Brigade and defeated Annihilus.