Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: R.B. Silva & Javier Rodriguez
Colorist: Jesus Aburtov
Cover Artist: Nick Bradshaw & Mark Brooks
Chess Consultant: Zach Rivkin
The Fantastic Four have survived an alien invasion and are trying to get things back to normal, or what’s normal for this team of superheroes. But before they can get to any heroics, will Johnny Storm survive the night? Fantastic Four #32 delves into the complicated love life of the Human Torch.
If there was one word to sum up this comic issue it’s “uncomfortable”. This comic book is all about Johnny Storm and his complicated love life with a Dr. Doom story in the background. But the first story’s not as fun as you’d think it would be. There’s plenty of drama to be found here, but it’s arguable if it’s any good when it comes to this rushed love triangle. Johnny and Sky are going on a double date with Ben, Alicia and their alien kids, and he calls a certain someone for some genuine dating advice.
From there, the couples head to a Latverian exhibition of the country’s cultural artifacts and sculptures, some of which are sculptures of Dr. Doom made by Alicia. We see Ben complaining, Victorious being in charge of security, and some “playful banter” between Johnny and Victorious. However, things go south big time, there’s fighting, drama, and a round of heart ache all around for this batch of lovers.
The problem is Dan Slott stakes everything on this love triangle yet neglects to provide succinct build up for it. He doesn’t provide any solid context for what Johnny’s complex history with Lyja, Crystal, or anyone else other than Sky was like, aside from some throwaway dialogue and trivia. Without it, most readers will be just as confused and mystified as Sky is about Lyja or Johnn’y love life. It also doesn’t help that Lyja is written as a poor caricature by Slott to prop up Sky as a love interest. Ultimately, this love drama feels shallow and very much like a gimmick.
Thankfully, there is an interesting second short story about Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom that cheered me up a bit. Essentially, Doom has invited Reed to finish one of their old chess games from their days in University. Both men arrive on the scene, and Dr. Doom challenges Reed to a sword fencing duel and whoever wins can ask anything of the loser. It’s too good to pass up, so Reed accepts.
The duel is on, and it’s kind of fun as they both duel each other while continuing their game of chess. I won’t lie and say I followed every exact chess move they were saying, apparently the book was consulted by a Chess master called Zach Rivkin. However, I was able to follow the duel between Reed and Dr. Doom pretty well thanks to Javier Rodríguez’s art. There are some close calls, and by the end you won’t believe what the winner asks for.
The thing is, Lyja is one of many characters most Marvel writers don’t know what to do with, and it’s not the character’s fault. The last time Johnny and Lyja saw each other was almost 10 years ago in the Negative Zone during a Secret Invasion tie-in. Lyja decided to stay behind to “find herself” and Johnny said he was going to go back for her but never did. Why? Probably because most Marvel writers and editorial forgot about her until the last few years when she showed up to help the Future Foundation. And now Slott’s wasting the character for a cheap story gimmick.
By the end, after the fighting’s done and everyone leaves sad and miserable, the comic doesn’t stop with the reveals. Apparently, Lyja was being controlled by Alicia. I don’t know if she was controlling her the whole time or just after the fighting. It even shows a post-coital affair between Johnny and Victorious of all people. Worse, Sky knows about it because she’s “soulbound” to him through their arm bands. Dan Slott is trying to write some juicy drama for Johnny but in the process he made almost everyone an unlikable character.
Aside from the affair, I believe the biggest takeaway is how Slott’s building up Alicia to follow a dark path. He’s either setting her up to be a super-villainess like her farther the Puppet Master, or for something worse. Perhaps she’ll go too far, get caught by Ben, and they get a divorce or something. Who knows. Marvel Comics keeps promoting that Dr. Doom’s wedding will CHANGE EVERYTHING! So, unfortunately, anything can happen.
Fantastic Four #32 is an uncomfortable comic book to read, and Dan Slott’s love triangle between Johnny Storm, Lyja, and Sky feels very rushed. Almost everyone comes out looking bad as Slott essentially uses the comic to prop up Sky as the better love interest. However, the backup story with Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom was pretty good. At least, it feels like the only Fantastic Four story in this entire comic.