“Torch Song”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Marcos Martin, Ty Templeton, Nuno Plati, and Stefano Caselli

Inker: Marcos Martin, Ty Templeton, Nuno Plati, and Stefano Caselli

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente, Javier Rodriguez, Nuno Plati, and Marte Garcia

Cover Art: Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

I was strongly considering posting this tomorrow in order to screw with your minds.  You see, I wanted to create doubt that the contents of this review are in fact real, because to many of you this will seem like a strange departure from the norm.  What do I mean, you ask?  Well, it’s simple …

I LOVE this issue.

The Plot

Spider-Man visits the remaining members of the Fantastic Four, and they reminisce about memories with Johnny and Spidey.

The Good

Slott has many inadequacies as a writer, but his biggest strength may be his ability to write light, friendly moments between familiar characters.  This issue is a prime showcase of his innate talent for writing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four (minus one, of course) together.  He showed it in his Spider-Man / Human Torch miniseries, he showed it in the FF’s guest spot during Brand New Day, and he shows it here.  There are several moments between these characters that genuinely demonstrate their friendly rapport, and as a reader I greatly enjoyed seeing it.  This is especially true in the first two of the three flashback segments, in which the characters bond naturally in rather amusing circumstances.

Speaking of the flashbacks, I greatly enjoyed the structure and content of the story.  The frame story takes place in the Baxter Building, with Spidey and the remaining FF members reminiscing, and the rest is told in flashbacks to illustrate the stories that they are telling.  The frame story is drawn by Marcos Martin, and each of the flashbacks is drawn by a different artist: the first by Ty Templeton (the artist on Slott’s aforementioned Spider-Man / Human Torch), the second by Nuno Plati, and the third by Stefano Caselli.  This is standard procedure for such stories nowadays, but it works especially well here because the artists are perfectly paired to the material.  This is even true of the middle flashback – while I don’t care for Nuno Plati’s art, I will concede that it matches perfectly with such an offbeat and downright odd story.

The Fantastic Four have always been some of my favorite characters in comics, but they have a tendency to be written to “type” in guest appearances.  Reed is always the smart but detached guy, Sue is always the index-finger-wagging wet blanket, Johnny is always the jerkass, and Ben is always … well, Ben.  Here, however, Slott manages to veer them away from type as much as possible, once again owing to the fact that he really seems to GET these characters.  Through the three flashbacks, we see Ben being complex, Sue showing a mischievous side, and Johnny even demonstrates some good thinking and mechanical know-how with regards to a faster-than-light warp engine (?!).  This allows Slott to throw in some infectiously smile-inducing moments like … well, I won’t spoil it for you.

In short, this issue was great for the precise reason that The Amazing Spider-Man #655 WASN’T – because the characters (and, by extension, the readers) actually have individual histories with the deceased, and thus they (and we) have a reason to pay respect to his memory.  Marla Jameson barely had any impact on the book or any of its characters at all (outside of Jonah, obviously), but EVERYBODY knew Johnny.  Spider-Man and the Human Torch go all the way back to The Amazing Spider-Man #1, and the Torch was practically a regular supporting cast member in the early Lee / Ditko issues.  In this case, then, the long goodbye is actually justified, and it comes across as completely natural.

The Bad

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t really care for Nuno Plati’s art.  That’s a minor quibble, all things considered.

The Ugly

The production department absolutely BUTCHERED that cover art.  I mean, look at it.  The title is haphazardly placed 2/3rds of the way up the page, and the box with the bar codes, price, and rating information is randomly slapped to the lower right of it.  It’s baffling to me that they even felt the need to put it on the front, considering that there is precedent for putting the box on the back cover.

That’s too bad, because it would be an emotionally effective cover if it wasn’t mangled like that.

The Bottom Line

Simply fantastic.  5 out of 5 webheads.


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