Marvel Mystery Comics #2
“The Human Torch.” Grade: D.
This starts out real nice, with a collage splash page of art from the last issue with five diary entries from the Torch's creator interspersed. Then the story starts in earnest with more busy pages averaging 10 panels per page. The Torch is now acting just like an ordinary human, wearing a suit and hanging out at a race track to watch the races. We also learn for the first time that Prof. Horton was killed when the Torch left him at the end of last issue, as the Torch burned through the roof and caused it to collapse on top of him. Showing little regret (he “didn't approve” of Horton), the Torch jumps right into the case of a bizarre racing racket where, instead of subtly sabotaging the other cars in a race, someone is causing the other cars to burst into flames and kill the drivers. Since this has been going on for awhile, it's unclear how this hasn't caused all races to be canceled until the killers are found. It's also unclear how everyone but the Torch could be so stupid as to not see the suspiciousness of a low flying plane passing over each car before it bursts into flame.
As if this would be a hard mystery to solve, the Torch is arrested for Horton's murder and thrown in jail so the Torch can pick up a clue from an inmate before breaking back out again. Back at the tracks (they're ALREADY racing again!), the Torch sees the same plane and attacks it, forcing it to land. He catches the pilot, but then the plane explodes and the pilot claims the Torch can't do anything to him because the evidence was just destroyed. At this point most superheroes would have scared a confession out of this punk or simply handed him over to the police, but the Torch naively lets him go and has to wait for the next clues to fall in his lap! And they do too, because the bad guys, led by Blackie, send a woman to lure the Torch into a trap involving a false door and a vat of water on the other side for him to fall into. And then they dump him into a boiling lime pit. But, of course, the Torch is virtually indestructible and just walks out later.
The next day, there's a race AGAIN! The Torch attacks the men who had attacked him at the track, but he accidentally sets the stands on fire and has to let them escape to put out the flames. Here the Torch demonstrates his control of flame – but unlike the latter Johnny Storm who just thinks about controlling flame and it happens, this Torch has to let out a “long, weird yell” ala Tarzan and the flames obey him. Then the Torch chases the crooks into ANOTHER deathtrap, this time involving water hoses and molten steel. He gets out of this even faster than the lime trap and attacks Blackie's men, but they're protected by asbestos suits and escape him because their car can make a smokescreen. The inmate from the jail shows up, revealing that he's an undercover cop (he'll also become the Torch's first reoccurring supporting cast member) and helps the Torch chase Blackie to an airport. Blackie's men are on a plane that's taking off, but the Torch grounds the plane and burns the pilot's jaw with a flaming punch. But Blackie isn't with his gang, he's trying to escape by car. So the Torch sets the car on fire and offers to get Blackie out if he signs a confession. Blackie, terrified, agrees, having forgot he was still wearing his asbestos suit.
The undercover cop returns and we learn his name is Johnson. Once the police have the confession, the Torch vanishes, leaving only flaming footprints behind (which is supposed to be like a calling card for him, as he had left them earlier at the lime pit too).
So, yeah, this review was basically one long vent.