For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Alex Ross’ current obsession is to dredge up long-forgotten bits of the past that everyone else has seem fit to forget, and try to drag them into modern continuity. The results are hit-or-miss projects that would barely survive without Ross’ name to them. Avengers/Invaders was the most recent of these for Marvel, and it’s fair to say that it at least did sell well. The Torch is its apparent sequel.
And, as predisposed as I am to dislike this sort of project, it’s actually quite entertaining. Perhaps that’s the work of scripter and fellow continuity-enthusiast Mike Carey. Perhaps it’s simply the unique nature of the premise. But for whatever reason, I ended up enjoying this comic far more than I expected to.
The Torch sees Toro, the original Human Torch’s one-time sidekick, adjusting to life after a cosmic cube-fuelled resurrection at the hands of Bucky Barnes. I assume this happened in the Avengers/Invaders miniseries which, despite being in-continuity, doesn’t seem to have been referenced anywhere else (which is odd in itself, given how well it sold). Toro is now a man out of time, made living but without a life, since his resurrection failed to alter the fact that his wife re-married, nor did it reverse his legal status (though that does beg the question – in the Marvel Universe, wouldn’t there be lawyers who could deal with this sort of thing?)
With nothing else left to focus on, the Torch decides to go after The Thinker, the man who killed him. And hi-jinks ensue. Appearances from the Golden Age Vision and Jim Hammond (apparently he’s dead again, though with him, who can keep up?) keep it rooted firmly in Avengers/Invaders territory but with enough passing reference that they don’t alienate new readers. It’s actually all quite intriguing, and very similar territory to Brubaker’s Captain America.
Patrick Berkenkotter provides the art, and although providing the art on a title with Alex Ross’ name on the cover can’t help cast you in a bad light, Berkenkotter’s half-sketch, half-painted style recalls Ross’ just enough that it feels fitting. The storytelling in particular is very strong. With his good art, a compelling mystery and a strong character at the centre of the book, all the ingredients for a decent read are in place, and even though I’m not really interested in the idea of a new Human Torch, well… as a story, it might actually have won me over.