The Torch #1


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The Torch #1


  • Words: Alex Ross & Mike Carey
  • Art: Patrick Berkenkotter
  • Colors: Carlos Lopez
  • Story Title: The Soul of an Old Machine
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Aug 27, 2009

The idea of artificial intelligence retains a powerful place in the annals of science fiction because it places people in the role of the Creator, a compulsion dating back to the hapless builders of the Tower of Babel. Life remains mysterious because we are unable to create it from whole cloth. As one of the first superheroes, the Torch was unique in that he was an android, an artificial life form.

Full disclosure to the reader, I am blissfully ignorant about the Golden Age Marvel heroes, having read neither the originals nor much of the updated stories of the Invaders or anything else. So in many ways, this Torch mini is my first true exposure to the Torch and Toro. To their credit, though writers Alex Ross and Mike Carey plant the tale in a continuity I have no idea about, there is no head scrambling complexity and the story is easy to follow. This first issue is helmed by Tom Raymond (Toro), now an adult, brought back from the dead into a world where he doesn't belong. His wife has remarried, he has no prospects, and wonders why he has returned at all. With the aid of the Golden Age Vision, he confronts the Thinker, the man responsible for his death. The Thinker has been hired by AIM for a weapons project, and he is more than happy to confront Toro, as he proves invaluable to his experimentation.

The characterization of the Thinker is very strong here. Though in many ways the stereotypical mad scientist, Carey does an excellent job portraying the hyper-arrogant, dismissive modern day Dr. Frankenstein. Given the funding and equipment he needs, the Thinker embarks on the scientific quest to answer the mysteries of artificial life. He makes for a delicious villain in the series.

The Torch, for his part, barely makes an appearance, but figures largely in the narrative. No doubt he will claim the starring role in future issues, and if this issue is any indication, the series figures to be an exploration of the nature of being a robot and its philosophical implications.

The artwork throughout the book is of good quality. In an emotional script, Berkenkotter is more than up to the challenge of creating the proper mood and has a good handle on facial expressions and character interaction. The coloring has a painted quality inspired by the innovative Marvels, though this painting is done over pencils. The exceptional flame effects were my favorite visuals, and we should be treated to much more of this given that this is a Human Torch comic after all!

A highly accessible story with a straightforward plot, this first issue nonetheless sparks great interest in both the characters and in one of science's great questions. Not relying on obscene language or violence, the creators have spun a tale with a maturity and intelligence sometimes lacking in the superhero genre.

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