Why One of Marvel's Most Powerful Superheroes Dies in the Worst Ways

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Dark Ages #3, available now from Marvel.

Of all the versions of the Marvel Universe, few have been as bleak as that of the Dark Ages. In spite of losing most every technological advancement of the past 200 years, the heroes of this world have managed to carve out a place for themselves. Unfortunately, keeping their home safe often means losing lives in the fray, and Johnny Storm has just become the latest casualty of the Dark Ages. Even worse, the Human Torch's death is hardly as impactful as it could have been, all because it keeps happening in pretty horrific ways.

It's been years since The Unmaker fell, and with his end so came the end of all electricity on the planet. In that time, Earth's remaining heroes have created astounding supercities and seen the survivors of this world flourish with a little super-powered help. Of course, there are still nefarious forces at work outside their walls -- namely the mutant tyrant Apocalypse, who has made nearly the whole of Europe his personal stronghold.

In his most recent strike, Apocalypse kidnapped Tony Stark right out from under the other heroes' noses. No sooner had they realized what happened than Quicksilver was sent to scout out the situation, only to fall to the power of Zebediah Killgrave aka the Purple Man.

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Rather than enslave the intruder, Apocalypse chose to send Quicksilver back with a new mission. Under Killgrave's influence, Quicksilver's return home ends in bloodshed as he snaps Okoye's neck before thrusting her spear straight through the Human Torch's back. Thankfully, Quicksilver is violently wrenched free of Killgrave's control before he is able to do any more damage, but things are already too late for Johnny Storm, whose powers begin blazing out of control while Sue Storm hold him close. Jonny's final moments are heartbreaking to be sure, yet they are far from a deeply moving moment for longtime Fantastic Four fans, especially since they've seen something eerily similar play out more than once in the past.

Dark Ages #3 by Tom Taylor, Iban Coello, Brian Reber, and VC's Joe Sabino is certainly shocking, though perhaps Johnny Storm's most epic death back in 2011's Fantastic Four #587 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting. In a bid to stave off the Annihilation Wave, Johnny went supernova in the face of the full might of Annihilus' forces, dooming himself to a gut wrenching death in the Negative Zone.

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Luckily enough, this wasn't the end for the Human Torch, but it did set the precedent for the character's final moments going forward. In fact, almost the exact same scenario played out in the pages of 2020's King in Black #2 when Johnny allowed himself to be swarmed by the other heroes who had fallen under Knull's control before going supernova, all while fully aware that there was no way he would make it out of the fray.

Even as recently as Mark Russell and Sean Izaakse's Fantastic Four: Life Story #3 just a few months ago, Johnny Storm once again sacrificed himself in a blaze of glory to prevent a rogue nuclear warhead from setting off World War III. Each of these instances absolutely speak to the heart of Johnny Storm as a hero above all else, one whose dedication to protecting others is seemingly destined to be his demise.

RELATED: How Marvel’s Dark Ages Introduced a Post-Apocalyptic New Spider-Girl

As moving as that always is, the frequency at which the Human Torch burns away in his final moments has begun to tread dangerously close to trope territory. There is certainly something to be said for the iconography behind Johnny Storm igniting, going supernova, and eventually being snuffed out, though the artistic merits of those concepts aren't safe from eroding due to overuse. If nothing else, fans can rest assured that the Human Torch they know best is safe and sound, albeit constantly burning in his Flamed-On form, thanks to the machinations of Doctor Doom. Still, he's doing a lot better than everyone who is still alive in Marvel's Dark Ages.

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John Dodge (1152 Articles Published)

John Dodge has been an avid consumer of comic books and nerd culture for as long as he can remember. An expert on competitive gaming and obscure kids shows from the 80's and 90's, John has far too many opinions about Beetleborgs for someone in their thirties. You can find him occasionally discussing them over on Twitter at @JohnJDodge.

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