WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Avengers #678, by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Pepe Larraz, David Curiel and Cory Petit, on sale now.
The early promotion for Avengers: No Surrender -- Marvel Comics' weekly event series -- included promises of character deaths and resurrections. We got our first glimpse of this in the very first installment, with loyal Avengers butler Jarvis on the brink of death after suffering life-threatening injuries. A similar fate was teased for Quicksilver, but Issue #678 came and went with the speedster still among the living. However, that's not the case for the Human Torch, as the last page shows Johnny Storm screaming out in agony as he grabs the Pyramoid, which is the alien artifact both the Black Order and Lethal Legion are fighting over.
While it's understandable to believe the next issue will show Johnny to still be alive (similar to Quicksilver in this issue), writer Jim Zub has actually gone on the record to state that isn't the case. "That’s one reason why we wanted to pull the rug out from under everyone by having the Human Torch take the fall here and keep everyone off balance," Zub told Newsarama. Doubling-down on the heroic sacrifice, Zub described Johnny as being "vaporized," which leaves Earth's Mightiest Heroes down one team member.
Hot-Headed Human Torch
With the Black Order and Lethal Legion choosing Rome and Peru for their battlegrounds, the Avengers split up into teams to investigate. At the Peru site, Johnny Storm lived up to his reputation as one of the more hot-tempered heroes of the Marvel Universe by ignoring Falcon's orders and flying head-first into battle.
The Human Torch doesn't get too far, however, as Falcon's plan to let the villains beat themselves up for a change provides some valuable information; namely, the identities of the Lethal Legion members (Captain Glory, Drall and Ferene), along with what they're seeking, which is the Pyramoid. Wonder Man even shouts out a battle cry for this passive tactic: "Avengers Observe!"
Over in Rome, we discover what happens when someone touches a Pyramoid after the Black Dwarf gets his hands on one. The Lethal Legion and Black Order appear to be playing a violent game of "Capture the Flag," where the flag is the Pyramoid, and whichever side gets in possession of it first wins. The Black Dwarf is fully aware that winning equals sacrificing himself for his team, but he doesn't let it stop him from completing his task as the object leaves him disintegrated in a purple-hazed explosion.
Rogue immediately recognizes the danger this puts the Avengers Peru team in. If one of them tries to grab the Pyramoid, they'll be vaporized just like the Black Dwarf. Before she can give a command, Lightning races off to alert his teammates.
I've Got It
Back in Peru, the Avengers finally engage the two villainous groups when Ferene is on the verge of being killed by Corvus Glaive. Of course, the Avengers' number one rule is to save lives, even when its one of the bad guys. During the skirmish, the Human Torch and Red Hulk realize the fight is over when someone grabs the floating pyramid-shaped device, and simultaneously go after it. Lightning is fast (after all, he made it from Rome to Peru in a matter of seconds), but not fast enough to warn the two heroes before its too late. The winner, sadly, is Johnny Storm, as he suffers a similar fate to Black Dwarf upon touching the Pyramoid.
Avengers #679 will more than likely provide more answers regarding the Human Torch's demise, but according to Zub, the former member of the Fantastic Four is no more. We're a little skeptical about this death sticking permanently, especially with Johnny starring alongside Ben Grimm in Marvel 2-In-One. Then there's the fact that this is awfully similar to the last time the Torch died... before being resurrected a year later.
Since we know Bruce Banner will be revived in No Surrender, this probably means anyone who dies in the series will get resurrected by its end, potentially undercutting the story. Another possible angle is a double-twist that brings the Human Torch back to life, while leaving someone else dead for real. This would give that later death more shock value and play into the whole "unfreezing one person freezes another" plot point the series has been playing up.
If we have to put our money down on an Avenger dying by the time No Surrender concludes, it's still be Quicksilver. He's come close to death once already, and after he sees the grief he's caused his Unity Squad teammates, Quicksilver will be looking to make amends. Plus, he's lower on the importance scale when it comes to other Avengers, so his absence won't affect other books. For now, we'll have to wait less than seven days to discover what becomes of Quicksilver, and the Human Torch.