Sometimes Fantastic Four comics give me a headache. They can be too large in scope, too ambitious and generally too loud. At the very beginning of John Byrne’s tenure with the Baxter Bunch, we are treated to a very subdued, very human story. In a nutshell, this is a Human Torch solo story that kicks off with a priest delivery a dead man’s last wish to Johnny. Johnny plays detective and ultimately winds up taking on Hammerhead.
While the plot and the pacing are quite strong, it’s the characterization of Johnny Storm that really impressed. Far too often, Johnny has been pigeonholed as the ‘hothead’ of the Marvel Universe, but Byrne pulls off a neat little trick here, allowing us to getting inside Johnny’s head as he gets in over it. At times, it has the look and feel of an early Spider-Man issue, especially when Johnny becomes aware of his overconfidence. It’s also a good primer for new readers as some of the aspects of the Torch’s powers are highlighted. In a single issue, John Byrne turned Johnny Storm him into a character I care about by focusing more on the ‘Human’ and less on the ‘Torch’.