Marvel’s original hothead had his own series 40 years before his
Tsunami run. This is all of it.

General Information

Title: Essential Human Torch Vol. 1

Credited to: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and friends

Original Publication Date: August 13, 2003 reprint of material
first
published from 1962-1965

ISBN: 0-7851-1309-6

Cover Price: $14.99 US, $24.00 Can

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Premise

The youngest member of the Fantastic Four had some
adventures without
his teammates, and others with just one or two of them.

This collects the Human Torch portions of Strange Tales
101-134, and
Strange Tales annual #2.

High Point

The first story, at the amusement park. This one showed some
good
thought and planning when it was being originally written, but that
trend does not continue.

Low Point

The Torch seems to have various fire-related powers that appear
when
they’re needed by the story, as well as some fluctuating
limitations
about his old powers (such as the amount of time before his
flame
dies, the amount of time before his flame returns, whether or not
he
can fall through a trap door, etc.) I got the distinct impression
that Marvel wanted to cash in on the success of Spider-Man as a
teen
hero title, and did so by haphazardly grabbing another teenage
character and giving him his own title rather than developing a
new
hero.

The Scores

While I have to admit that villains like Paste-Pot Pete don’t
appear
anywhere else but Silver Age Marvel, that doesn’t go far enough
in the
originality. This reads like any other Marvel title from
the
era. I give it 3 out of 6.

The artwork is usually pretty good. Strange Tales
Annual #2
wasn’t well reproduced, but otherwise I have no real complaints.
I
give it 4 out of 6.

The stories told were often contrived and simplistic. I
don’t understand why so many villains felt they could prove they
were
unbeatable by tackling one member of a team instead of the
entire
team; if they were really that confident, why didn’t they just go
after the entire Fantastic Four? Even if they’d tried to go after
the
FF and just run into the Human Torch, it would have been easier
to
swallow. The plots could have worked, but the scripts just feel
rushed. I give it 3 out of 6.



The characterization of the Torch was fairly well
done, if
lacking depth. The villains had only two personalities; Paste-Pot
Pete felt inadequate, and was always trying to prove himself to
everyone, while all the other villains felt remarkably superior, and
were always trying to prove themselves to everyone. (Yes, it’s
the
same outcome, but at least Paste-Pot Pete had his own set of
motivations.) I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced was often in
groans.
There is some fun to be had with these stories, but if you’re
expecting the kind of quality we saw in the other Essential
volumes,
you’ll be disappointed. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow was well done within each story, although
there
often was little connection to the previous stories (apart from
flashbacks, where the hero conveniently reminds himself of the
last
time he fought a villain just before that villain resurfaces.) I give
it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s still got some fun points, but I’d put a
higher
priority on picking up the other Essentials if you haven’t already. I
give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Human Torch Vol. 1 receives 25
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

This was solicited as the last of the silver age Marvel superhero
lines to be collected as an Essential. The next Essential volume
due
out is Essential Tomb of Dracula on October 29.
Marvel has
announced plans to release Essential Spider-Man Vol.
6
,
Essential Punisher Vol. 1, and Essential
X-Men
Vol. 5
next year. The next time I pick up a copy of an old
Essential to review, it’ll be Essential Howard the Duck
Vol. 1
, by
request
.