Writer: Karl Kesel
Artists: Scottie Young (p), Joe Seung (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Johnny Storm preparing to shatter the land speed world in a specially designed rocket-powered car that he has built (with no help from Reed). However, while it looks like he's more than ready to enter the record books, he's forced to break off his run, when a news helicopter is knocked out to the air by the car's sonic boom, and Johnny has to race to their rescue. We then see a dejected Johnny has decided to abandon his latest attempt to make a name for himself outside the confines of the Fantastic Four, and as he makes his way back to the Baxter Building he finds someone waiting for him. It is here that we're reintroduced to Mike Snow the rival that Johnny accidentally set on fire back in high school, and we see the burns that he suffered from this encounter were quite extensive, as the entire right side of his face is covered with severe scarring. We also learn that Mike Snow never told anyone that Johnny was responsible for his injuries, and that his close brush with death steered him toward a career as a firefighter. We then see Mike Snow has come to seek Johnny's help, as one of his fellow firefighters spontaneously burst into flames, and he believes the situation is bizarre enough that it warrants the involvement of a member of the Fantastic Four, who make a career of investigating the unexplainable.
Of the four characters who normally make up the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm has always been my least favorite. It's not that I dislike the character, as the Fantastic Four are far and away my favorite team, and I've spent my entire comic reading life following their adventures. However, Johnny has the personality that I found contributes the least to the team dynamic. I mean Ben can be grumpy & surly at the drop of a hat because all he needs to spoil his day is someone, or something to remind him he's a monster, but he also brings an element of comedy to the book with his common man view on a decidedly fantastic worlds. Then we have Reed and his absent-minded genius, but he also brings a nice sense that no matter what the problem Reed will be able to come up with a solution. Next up is Sue the mother-hen, who since John Byrne's run has really come into her own as not only the most formidable members of the team, but in my mind easily one of the most powerful characters in the entire Marvel Universe. Then we have Johnny who's a bottle rocket waiting to explode, and in the end I'm guessing he's supposed to act as the spark that jump starts the team into action, but the Fantastic Four have never really needed someone to urge them forward, as they're one of the few proactive teams, who actively seek out the dangers they face.
On the other side of the equation though Johnny also becomes the ideal candidate for his own title, as when he's removed from the group dynamic, his personality type acts as a quick & easy motivation for inserting the character into all manner of exciting adventures. I mean if any character is going to leap without thinking into a dimensional void, or jump at the chance to do battle with the latest threat to rampage its way through Times Square, Johnny Storm is an ideal candidate. Now this opening arc has inserted a moment into Johnny's past in which Johnny was directly responsible for a decidedly horrific injury to another person. In turn when the book shifts to the present day we see Johnny now has a rather unique relationship with this man, as here is a person who could make Johnny's life a living hell, but in essence this horribly scarred man decided to walk away, while Johnny moved his way up the dizzy heights of fame & fortune. In fact given this man has held back from cashing in on the hand that he's held over Johnny for so long, actually casts Johnny into the role of the villain in this duo. I mean having Johnny actually become hostile when he learn this man has come to ask for his help served to cast him into a rather unlikeable light, and it's certainly an unusual position for the hero of a title to be playing.
I'll give Skottie Young full marks for his work on the action shots, as the sequence where he makes his exit from the speeding rocket car, to rescue the crew of the downed helicopter made for a wonderful display of action. The art also does some nice work with it's big reveal moment, when we get our first good look at the damage that was done to Mike Snow, and the final page where the man bursts into flames had a nice nightmarish quality to it that really sold the idea that this is a problem that the Human Torch should look into. I also loved the cover to this issue, as Skottie Young's flowing style does lend itself extremely well to the fire effect, and I rather enjoy the Ghost Rider hair style that he's adopted for the character. However, the art is far from perfect, as there are moments when the art goes a little too far off the beaten path, as characters look downright bizarre and have adopted poses that would make Gumby green with envy. The art also has a panel design scheme where there tends to be an awful lot of unused space on the page, as while Skottie Young does employ a fairly high panels per page count, he also seems to prefer the smaller panels, so the action is crammed into a small little box, which is a bit annoying when we get moments in the book that seem to scream out for a more impressive visual punch.
A pretty entertaining issue that nicely plays up the potential that this book has, as while the jury is still out as to whether he can carry a monthly series, these early issue have shown that Johnny does work outside the confines of the Fantastic Four. This issue nicely ties the events we were shown in the opening issue to the present day, and in a refreshing change we see Mike Snow didn't follow the path I had expected him to, as here's a character with a tailor made reason for wanting vengeance upon our hero, and while we get the sense there is some animosity, Mike Snow doesn't look like he's harboring enough hatred support a journey the path of villainy. The mystery that is introduced in the final pages of this issue also looks quite promising, and the uneasy partnership should make for an engaging reading experience. Plus, the simple fact of the matter is that I'm delighted to see Karl "I'd write it for $1" Kesel, finally getting his kick at the Fantastic Four, even if his focus is centered upon my least favorite member of the team.
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