99. The Torch Goes Wild

Fantastic Four Issue Ninety-Nine 99 cover

Issue Ninety-Nine, June 1970

 “I thought we loved each other. I thought it was Crys and me — no matter what! .. But the last laugh’s going to be on me! I’ll make them wish they never heard of the Human Torch!”

SUMMARY
The Human Torch has left a note to Reed explaining that he’s going off to search for Crystal, who was apparently abducted in issue 95. He travels to the other side of the globe and takes shelter in a mountain cave. The rest of the Fantastic Four set out after him. Johnny is awoken by a yeti-like creature who lets slip that he is an Inhuman, and Johnny realizes that he has stumbled into one of the entrances to the Inhuman’s kingdom. He blasts through, rampaging into the throne room where he is attacked by the Inhuman royal family, as well as Crystal. The rest of the FF arrive and intervene and gradually it comes out that Crystal was summoned to help Black Bolt after he contracted radiation poisoning. But now that Gorgon is back with a special serum, Crystal is free to leave. She and Johnny are lovingly reunited.

COMMENTARY
Fantastic Four Issue Ninety-Nine 99 human torchAfter a spate of disappointing single issues, the emotive force of this one is quite surprising. Johnny cycles quickly and believably through a whole spectrum of emotions — frustration, disappointment, loneliness, loss, anger, surprise, rage, forgiveness, and, ultimately, love. For all the times that we are told that Johnny is a ‘hot-headed teenager’, we rarely see him cut loose, but in this issue he holds absolutely nothing back and at the plot’s highest dramatic point, we see Johnny creating an enormous fireball, planning to engulf the hidden Inhuman realm. The tension in this issue is created not by whether some villain(s) will fulfill their vague machinations, but whether Johnny, one of the heroes, will stop himself or be stopped before he can cause seriously irreparable damage.

The nagging downside of the plot, however, is the strained implausibility of the situation. If Crystal was needed to aid her brother Black Bolt, why was she simply not told when Medusa came to find her, instead of being bodily dragged through a portal? And being there, why did Crystal not send some sort of message to Johnny in the intervening three issues where the FF apparently took two vacations? Come to that, why did Johnny wait, and not leave to find her immediately? And once before Black Bolt and demanding answers, why doesn’t anyone just tell him what he wants to know?

This aside, it’s a very decent issue and were it not for this mesh of plot holes, the issue would have scored even higher. Johnny is occasionally referred to as the most dangerous member of the FF and it’s thrilling to see him so out of control, his emotions overriding his will in the use of his power.

EVALUATION: 8/10

A delightful interlude where the Fantastic Four take a pit stop in the Himalayan foothills. The detail and calmness of the interlude creates a dramatic counterpoint to the main storyline which completely justifies a scene that otherwise has no plot significance.

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