WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Annihilation: Scourge - Fantastic Four #1 by Christos Gage, Diego Olortegui, Juan Vlasco, Cam Smith, Scott Hanna, Erick Arciniega and VC's Travis Lanham, on sale Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Veteran comic book readers understand that when a popular superhero is killed, it is only a matter of time until they make a triumphant return. Even with this being an open secret in the industry, publishers aren't afraid to use death as a ploy to increase the number of issues a comic sells. Some of the most prominent names at Marvel Comics and DC have fallen in the line of battle, including Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America.
When it came time for Marvel to tease the death of a member of the Fantastic Four in 2011, fans merely had to look at which of the four hadn't been killed previously. The process of elimination left Johnny Storm's Human Torch as the most likely selection, and Fantastic Four #587 revealed those theories to be correct when the Human Torch appeared to die fighting an army of invading aliens from the Negative Zone.
Of course, Johnny Storm would eventually return, but in his absence the Fantastic Four comic was canceled and relaunched as FF, with Spider-Man taking his best friend's place on the team. Since death is a common factor as a superhero, one would think they wouldn't put much thought into how they died or how they were brought back to life. However, a preview of Annihilation: Scourge - Fantastic Four #1 reveals the Human Torch still has nightmares from his time trapped in the Negative Zone.
The preview features Johnny waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming of being overrun by the alien horde. From there, we get a look at how the Human Torch was forced to endure an endless cycle of life and death in the Negative Zone, as he was revived by having his flesh knitted back together by a pack of worms. By Reed Richards' calculations, Johnny spent two years in the Negative Zone fighting and dying over and over again.
Human Torch gained his freedom by stealing the cosmic control rod from the villain Annihilus and taking command of the Annihilation Wave. And since the issue is a tie-in for the Annihilation Scourge mini-event series, that means Johnny Storm is going to have to face his worst fears yet again.
The Cancerverse realm has invaded the Negative Zone, forcing rivals Annihilus and Blastaar to work together against the Revengers, the twisted Avengers of the Cancerverse. Annihilus escapes to the Postive Zone, aka our Earth, to seek help, which leads to the Fantastic Four getting involved. Once the Fantastic Four answers a distress call, they're shocked to find Kestorans begging for the one man who can unite the tribes and stave off the invaders: Johnny Storm.
So, not only must the Human Torch face his greatest nightmare, but he has to do it as the one true savior of an entire dimension. Not too much pressure, right?