It’s on everyone’s mind this time of year. Back from the grave, back to save humanity. In a long-overdue return of Four Color Top 5’s, here’s a TPB reading list of my favorite Superhero Resurrection stories.
A tale as old as time. Superhero dies valiantly; a world mourns. And, after the requisite grieving process has run its course, superhero comes back, typically in dramatic fashion. Sometimes the death story is more interesting than the actual return (sorry, Flash). Sometimes neither the death nor the resurrection seems particularly profound (looking at you, Psylocke), and the time spent on the Other Side amounts to little more than an extended sabbatical. But in certain special cases, we get epic yarns like the following.
Jonathan Hickman loves The End of Times. His parting shot to Marvel was to culminate a three-year “Everything Dies” Avengers storyline with the Secret Wars event, opening the doors for the All New All Different universe. Before he destroyed realities and made Dr. Doom a god, however, he was wrapping up a memorable run on Marvel’s First Family, The Fantastic Four.
In the “Three” storyline, Johnny Storm, who has long had a reputation as a self-centered, narcissistic attention whore, sacrifices himself to fend off a Negative Zone invasion from Annihilus and his scary-ass Annihilation Wave. Spider-Man joins the team, and they operate as “FF” for several months until The Human Torch makes his dramatic return.
All of Hickman’s Fantastic Four stories are worth checking out. His science-forward plots always seemed more appropriate to this title than The Avengers but, hell, he did some good stuff there too. But what really makes this particular pair of trades stand out is the way Hickman brings Johnny back to life. And this isn’t a thought-he-was-dead-but-he-really wasn’t scenario (we’ll see some of those below). The Torch was dead. Really dead. And not to spoil anything, but his resurrection tale involves bugs, Galactus, and Annihilus on a leash. It’s legitimately fantastic and might just wash away the bad taste left by yet another failed movie attempt.
|5. The Human Torch|
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Vol. 4 (2013)
For weeks leading up to his demise, we knew someone on the FF was going to bite it. The arc was called “Three,” after all. And the Internet was wild with speculation as to which one it was going to be (my money had been on Reed). Props to Hickman for making one-in-four odds so engaging and surprising.
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Vol. 5 (2013)
Just because this is “Volume 5” doesn’t mean Johnny was dead for only a few months. There’s a gap in between the two books, but the volumes read fluidly regardless. It’s the best run on Fantastic Four in – no kidding – about thirty years.