The Human Torch is dead (I know, it’s been weeks) and the Amazing Spider-Man commemorates Peter Parker’s longstanding friendship with Johnny Storm by giving us three light-hearted untold tales centred on the pair. The memories are relayed by Ben Grimm, Sue Richards and Reed Richards as Peter drops by the Baxter Building to offer his condolences.
There’s the FF and Spidey having fun on a camping trip necessitated by a monster’s demise; Sue, Johnny and Peter tackling – and I mean, tackling – the Frightful Four; and Reed, Johnny and Peter dealing with car trouble in space. It’s sprightly, amusing fare from writer Dan Slott, typically clever and endearing, and drawn by three talented artists – Ty Templeton, Nunu Plati and Stefano Caselli. My favourite sees Sue Storm take a leaf out of Spider-Man’s book, with, as they say, hilarious consequences.
All three shorts are character pieces, showing how Spidey and the FF relax around one another, why Peter really can be considered a member of the family. This is even more evident in the framing sequence, drawn by the magnificent Marcos Martin, and it’s here that Slott brings out the emotional big gun. It’s not like I couldn’t see exactly where we were heading, but the final page had the fanboy tears welling up; it’s perfect.
From the first page, with a cute homage to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #1, to the tearjerker finale, this is a splendid comic book. It not only demonstrates why Johnny and Peter would be friends, it shows us why Spidey would be welcomed into the Fantastic Four in the Human Torch’s stead – he’s a prankster like Johnny, loves family like Sue, is a genius like Reed and an everyman like Ben.
The only off-note is the revelation that Peter never attended Johnny’s funeral; supposedly he just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t accept that assertion before reading the three stories here. Afterwards, even less so.
Still, Spidey and FF fans alike will find lots to enjoy in Torch Song (wot, no ‘Trilogy’?). There’s a sparkling story, eye-popping art, cathartic sadness and a beautifully conceived and executed cover by Martin. If this doesn’t get a good showing on the end-of-year lists for Best Single Issue, I’ll be amazed.