Thursday, January 27, 2011

Okay, the Human Torch is Dead...Now What?

Yes, for the two of you who follow mainstream comics and somehow still haven't heard by now, even though every media outlet already spoiled Fantastic Four #587 two days ago, the Human Torch is dead.  Or at the very least in Princess Bride terms, he's mostly dead.

As part of the Fantastic Four's 50th anniversary year, Marvel has decided that the best way to celebrate such a momentous occasion for the characters was to kill one of them off.  Oh, and do it in a very special format by not revealing the final cover and releasing the issue in a mysterious polybag.  You know, the way DC Comics did it back in 1992 with the death of Superman in Superman (vol.2) #75.

Even then in the grungy nineties, comics fans knew Superman's death wasn't going to last.  DC Comics, kill off their flagship hero (No...Not you, Batman) and then leave him dead?  Forever?  Not hardly, especially with the TV series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman waiting in the wings.  But to their credit, DC played the premise out in the "Funeral for a Friend" storyline before finally bringing the Man of Steel back in the "Reign of the Supermen."  These were some truly entertaining comics that are still fondly remembered to this day.

So here we are, almost twenty years later, and it's the Human Torch's turn.  Next month sees the release of Fantastic Four #588, which is being hyped as the series' "final issue."  From the teaser provided by Marvel Comics earlier today, we see that the Torch's second-best friend (after the Thing, presumably) Spider-Man will show up to console nephew Franklin Richards, while niece Valeria will be working on finding a replacement, there are at least four things on the FF's ThreatDown list, and someone who is very probably Mr. Fantastic is in dire need of some 5-Hour Energy drinks and cucumber slices for his eyes.

After that, Fantastic Four will be relaunched in March as the more vaguely-titled FF, which either refers to the recently-created Future Foundation or (Galactus help us) the return of the Fantastic Force.  The current creative team of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Steve Epting will continue on FF for the foreseeable future.  (Hmmm...Maybe that's what FF stands for...)  But considering Marvel's love affair of renumbering books for anniversary issues, you certainly can smell another potential retitling and renumbering in a year's time when Fantastic Four #600 is due.

Will the Human Torch return for issue #600, then?  Maybekindasortapossiblyprobably.  It's hard to not be cynical about this sort of thing, especially where Marvel and DC Comics are concerned, but it would be nice if we could be spared a "Human Torch: Reborn" storyline for at least five to ten years.  However, there was talk back in August of Fox studios planning a Fantastic Four movie reboot, including some casting rumors, so you can't see Marvel leaving Johnny Storm in the ground if that actually happens.

Until it comes time for the Torch's resurrection, though, it's Flame Off.  Here's hoping that Marvel makes the most of this latest game-changer...

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