Ever wanted your superhero stories layered with deeply meaningful character work and a stark sense of reality? If the answer is a definitive “yes,” then you’re likely a fan of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ Marvels. It’s a big reason why Marvels Snapshots is so good, as Busiek is curating the series. Last week Namor got the first stab at showing us what this series of one-shot stories are about, and this week Human Torch is next up. Armed with writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer with art by Benjamin Dewey, how will we look at the Human Torch differently after reading the book?
Like the Namor issue, this book focuses on a very human character — in this case, Human Torch’s ex-flame — as they prepare to interact with the superhero for the day. In this case, we learn there’s a ten-year high school reunion and a local news program is doing an expose to show how much the Fantastic Four and Human Torch have helped the community.
The book opens with a radio program detailing the latest events which helps show that this story takes place firmly in 2003 (when the X-Statix El Guapo was first introduced). We get to meet Dorrie as she prepares for her day. It’s in these little moments — later, a character reveals a side of himself vicariously through a tour — that humanize the characters and make it all feel real. There are many beats like these that have nothing to do with the Human Torch save for his interpretation by others or how they think they know him. When you think about the comic in this way you realize how it all builds to a revealing moment for Johnny later in the issue that’s quite refreshing.
The art by Dewey, with colors by Jordie Bellaire, suits the nature of the series so far with a steeped-in-realism sort of feel. Attention to backgrounds is well done, placing characters effectively in a believable world. Dewey delivers an excellent double page layout to remind us of the Fantastic Four origin story and there’s a good use of texturing to make the scene look older and thus a flashback. We see it again in a key moment with Dorrie too as she contemplates how things could have gone for her as they did for Gwen Stacy.
This issue leans a little more heavily on the average Joe (some of which have stories that aren’t all that interesting), making it a tad too mundane. The overall message is well placed, but I found myself hoping for some action or more intrigue from the Human Torch. That is entirely the point though, which creates a problem that partly comes down to taste. That said, it’s a little too slow to make me love the book, but I appreciate what it does and how it pulls things off in the end.