As Marvel Comics‘ period piece anthology Fantastic Four: Life Story nears its end, the series sees the tragic passing of a key member of the first family; the Human Torch. This Fantastic Four staple may have begun his journey as an often juvenile character but eventually came around to embrace his inner-hero and sacrificed his life for the greater good.
Earth’s premier team of extraterrestrial adventurers find themselves preparing for the arrival of cosmic devourer Galactus in writer Mark Russell and Sean Izaakse Fantastic Four: Life Story #3, while picking up the pieces following their defeat of Reed Richard’s science rival Doctor Doom. The team’s own heart and soul Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Human Torch is celebrating his 40th birthday amidst a set of new developments to not only the superhero unit but for the Earth itself. Fantastic Four leader Reed and Johnny’s older sister Sue Storm remain estranged, only to come together along with Johnny and Ben Grimm / The Thing in a climactic world-saving moment. Unfortunately, the team reunion turns out to be a rather ill-fated event when the foursome faces their most harrowing moment yet.
In order to prevent the cosmic Galactus from coming across Earth, deranged scientist The Mad Thinker and a resurfaced Doctor Doom devise an ingenious plot to ignite a nuclear cold war between the U.S. and Russia’s Soviet Union. Doom and The Thinker’s plot naturally unfolds until the intervention of the Fantastic Four. The foursome and their heroic allies capture all but one missile set for the Metropolitan area. However, the Human Torch allows himself to absorb the full impact of the incoming missile; thus saving New York City and the incoming blast radius from severe destruction. While the day is saved yet again, the Human Torch ultimately succumbs to his wounds and dies surrounded by his loving family in Reed, Sue, and Ben. Following his sacrifice, Johnny is appropriately labeled as a hero by the media of the world before receiving a proper funeral with his closest family members and teammates all in attendance.
With Johnny gone, it’s both tragic and fascinating that this version of the Fantastic Four will be without a key member when faced with the imminent threat of Galactus and his herald the Silver Surfer in the coming finale. The team was already at quite a rough spot when Johnny was around and now they will be without him as a moral center to turn to. As the world’s most famous heroes head into the 1990s, it will be interesting to see exactly how the fragmented Fantastic Four will fare with the Human Torch as their greatest opponent yet looms in the cosmic tradewinds.