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The Human Torch has been dead for a few months now, but due
to the monthly nature of comics we’re still dealing with his death in the pages
of Fantastic Four / Future Foundation and Amazing Spider-Man. Most of the time
in comics when a character dies we keep moving forward and there’s little to no
time spent dealing with the characters death. When Batman “died” I can barely
recall a tear shed for him even from his closest friends. With Johnny’s death
it’s been different as there has been not one, but two issues dealing with
grief and mourning.
The first of the books came in the last issue of Fantastic Four # 588 which are essentially two stories in one. The first story has no dialog with the exception of a recording from Johnny and yet it is very powerful. If you do not feel the emotions on the page and understand the love and care for this property and character then you will never understand the writing of Jonathan Hickman. I don’t think there’s been a characters death that’s had more meaning nor been handled in such a way. Hickman shows the reader through the actions of the main characters what this persons death actually means for them. There is a powerful scene with Reed confronting Annihilus via a negative zone viewer. Reed is screaming his heart out at him and the villain just holds up the remains of Johnny’s suit and smiles. It’s so chilling and so damn evil that it made Annihilus scary for the first time in long while. The second story is a heartfelt story between Spider-Man and Franklin as they both talk about their Uncle’s death which was equally good and full of the same amount of emotions.
The second book is Amazing Spider-Man # 657 written by Dan Slott. This story is more light hearted than the other, but still full of touching moments. At first glance it’s just a three story flashback in which each person takes a turn going around and remembering an adventure with Johnny that included Spider-Man. Each story is funny and light-hearted and just classic Human Torch and Spider-Man shenanigans. The heart of the story is when Johnny’s recording is played in full for the first time. Johnny basically asks them to give Spider-Man his spot on the team since it was the best thing he had to leave anyone. Then he sticks his hand out for everyone to put there’s on top of his; after they’ve all put a hand in Johnny simply says, “Gotcha.” Boy did he.
A lot of deaths in comics are just marketing ploys in order to sell more issues and get the mainstream to visit a comic store and really you can’t fault the business for trying to stay in business. But there’s something very different about this death. The lead up to it, the way it happened. Sure it’s a big deal to stop an Annihilus wave from entering the dimension, but it was the only storyline that hadn’t been developed up until that point. It was a surprise and one that Marvel tried to ruin; yet even they couldn’t stop Johnny’s death from having meaning.
So was Johnny’s death worth it? Did it have any really meaning or was it all marketing? Is he even dead forever or destined to return like so many others? Some of the answers to those questions are up to the readers to decide. Personally for me, it had meaning and value. I also chose to believe that he’s dead and gone for as long as Hickman is steering the ship. Future Foundation seems to be a step in the right direction for the Marvel first family and gives them a new dynamic and setting to tell future stories for the once stagnant franchise. In the end the only thing to say is… R.I.P. Johnny.