When is a Death a Non-Event? Thoughts on Fantastic Four #587

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Fantastic Four #587 CoverOne thing Marvel has going for it is how to work the press and events to whip up interest and sales of comic books.  Fantastic Four #587 which saw it’s release last week and saw the “death” of the Human Torch Johnny Storm was the perfect case of how to pull it all off.  But there’s a lot I’ve been thinking about when it comes to it all and not all of it sits well with me.

First, there was the spoiler as to who died.  Marvel released the comic to the public early on Tuesday and in their wisdom also sent out a press release with the revelation as to who was the unfortunate member to die.  I know I was going to do my best to hold out until I got a copy of the comic in my hands to find out who the victim was and experience the excitement of such a story.  But, I was infinitely disappointed to find a press release which identified The Human Torch as the person with the target on his back.  No spoiler warning, nothing.  Disappointment #1.

The second was the story itself.  I’ll assume folks have read the issue, but if you haven’t, you might want to stop reading here if you want to find out the how yourself.

Still reading?  Ok, we’ll continue.

The story found the The Human Torch defending a portal from the Negative Zone to Earth from Annihilus’s forces.  And in a very emotional scene we see Johnny dragged down by the Annihilation Wave, but the problem is, we DON’T SEE HIM DIE!  It’s all an assumption, and we’re left to imagine his fate in our mind.  Disappointment #2.

This is a cop out that leaves it all open (and who wants to be me he comes back?).  For all we know he goes nova and burns them all up and survives and is now fighting to come back.

So, should we even consider this a death?  I vote no.  It’s crap, and an overselling of events.  And here’s the issue with that.  “Events” like this might sell comics in the short term, but those you bring in will get irritated by false statements like “he died” when he’s brought back.

Now, I will say Marvel was brilliant with this.  I walked out of my shop with a thick stack of books this week, dominated by Marvel.  Their hope was apparent and smart.  Drum up excitement, get people buzzing and get them to the comic shop.  Their hope, to sell some comics and hope folks pick up some other issues.  It’s smart and I don’t blame them at all.  But how about we build buzz with good story telling instead of cheap theatrics and empty non-events?