Writer: Karl Kesel
Artists: Skottie Young (p), Joe Seung (i)
When a group of scientists involved on something called the "Locust Project" mysteriously vanish, Johnny Storm and his personal assistant travel to the Eastern European castle where the project had been based. However, with the local villagers claiming the castle is haunted, we see Johnny is quick to rush up to the castle, where he discovers the villagers my have been right about this creepy old castle.
It's the beginning of a new arc, and I have to say that this new story-line looks somewhat promising, as if nothing else it's got a downright surreal quality to it that makes it far from your typical Johnny Storm adventure. Basically the story has Johnny traveling halfway around the world to one of those ever-famous castles that hover above a village full of people who swear up and down that the place is haunted. Of course being a famous adventurer, Johnny first reaction to this news is to race up to the castle for a first hand experience, and needless to say he encounters all the proof one would need to label this a honest to goodness haunted castle. There's also a secondary plot involving a group of missing scientists, that acted as the reason why Johnny traveled to this haunted castle, and this adds a sense of doubt to the fact that this castle is truly haunted as all the weirdness could easily be explained by a experiment gone awry. Whatever the case may be (and I'm personally hoping it involves Mysterio), the simple fact of the matter is that I found the issue quite entertaining, and I look forward to seeing the mystery of this castle revealed. I do have to wonder why this story seems to be wildly different from the one that was advertised, as I had been under the impression that the second arc would involve Johnny being erroneously outed as a gay super-hero, and I had been rather looking forward to see how Karl Kesel was going to convince Joe and Jane Public of this fact, as if there one thing Johnny's never been quiet about it's his love of racing cars and the fairer sex.
As for the art, Skottie Young's work has a nice sense of energy to it but the simple fact of the matter is that there are times where his melted wax versions of the human body prove to be more distracting than visually engaging. Now the look of the art is well suited to the scenes where Johnny is flamed on because the fluid nature of his flames works exceptionally well, but when the material is called upon to deliver a talking heads sequence, or convey the emotions of it's cast, I find the art simply isn't quite up to the task. Still there are some solid visuals, as Johnny's flying car is a cute little visual and the bombed out village is a great introductory moment. The design of the armor that Johnny encounters in the castle is also pretty cool, and the giant spider makes for a creepy visual, with the scene where it's hovering over Johnny being particularly effective.
I've been given the impression that the Human Torch is currently Marvel's lowest selling title, and as such the fact that this second arc seems to be quite different from the one advertised, leaves me wondering if this title is not going to be with us much longer. If this is the case than this is a bit of a shame, as I rather enjoyed the prospect of a solo title involving a member of the Fantastic Four, even if it involved my least favorite member of the foursome. In any event this is a fairly entertaining story that takes Johnny to a haunted castle, where he encounters a couple rather unusual threats. The inclusion of Johnny's personal assistant was also a smart move as she acts as the voice of reason to Johnny's impulsive nature, and the interaction between the two characters is quite engaging. Plus any story that involves a giant spider is sure to score some points in my book as one of my all time favorite sci-fi films is "The Incredible Shrinking Man". In fact I just watched it with my nephews about a month back, and I have to say that final giant spider sequence still works exceptionally well
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