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Human Torch #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics Ė Karl Kesel (w); Skottie Young (p); Joe Seung, Pierre-Andre Dery (i)
Last week, I thought Marvelís fledgling Tsunami imprint hit a home run with the debut of Sean McKeeverís big robot book, Sentinel. So despite the fairly awful Wolverine: X-Isle issue, I felt that the line was off to a pretty solid start. After all, Tsunami is supposed to find new, successful ongoing series, so why begrudge them yet another sub-par Marvel mini-series? But maybe I spoke too soon, as the new line struck out this week, debuting Karl Keselís Human Torch, a book that I think the world could have lived without.
High school student Johnny Storm, already less than Principal Glickís favorite student at Glenville High, returns from summer vacation with another of his trademark outlandish stories: this time, he claims that during a test run of an experimental space shuttle with his sisterís super-intelligent boyfriend, he gained superpowers and is, in fact, the Human Torch. Of course, no one believes him, least of all Olympic wrestling hopeful (and more importantly, Johnnyís rival for the attention of the lovely, but disinterested, Hannah) Mike Snow. Their rivalry culminates one night during a snowstorm (and I kid you not, the Snow/Storm gag was made in the book), when Johnnyís legendary temper gets the best of him.
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The problem here is that, as an ongoing series, I just donít see Human Torch having any legs to stand on. For one thing, the question that book asks (ďWhat would the Human Torch have been like in high school?Ē) is a fairly simple one to answer: pretty much the same as he is out of high school. For another, youíve got Mark Waid doing a fairly bang-up job over on the regular Fantastic Four book, where one of the key plot points has been that power does not necessarily equate to handling responsibility well, at least in the case of Johnny Storm.
So what, exactly, is the role here for this book? The high concept is ground that the regular series has already covered more than enough times and the manner in which it fits back into regular Marvel continuity is shaky at best. This doesnít even take into account the fact that the book never explicitly states that it takes place in the Fantastic Fourís past (though clearly it must, since Johnny has only just gained his powers) and presupposes at least a cursory knowledge of the Fantastic Four concept, which makes it less than optimal for new readers.
As a mini-series, I would have been willing to let these sorts of problems slide. Give us four fun issues about how Johnny was the same brash, immature, but ultimately likeable, screw-up in high school that he is now and call it a day. That would have worked just fine. But as a regular, ongoing series, I just donít see the purpose. Itís the book that no one asked for and represents everything thatís wrong with the Tsunami line: launching new titles for no reason other than to launch new titles. And I thought that side of Marvel was supposed to have died with an editorial regime change thatís worked wonders for the House of Ideas overall.