"Torch" is, like most of Alex Ross's post-"Kingdom Come" work, a strange throwback of a project. Ross has spent the past decade, and more specifically the past few years, paying tribute to the comic book characters of bygone days. Whether it's the Justice League of the "Super Friends" era in "Justice," the "Avengers/Invaders" miniseries, or the "Project: Superpowers" comics at Dynamite, Ross has dabbled in characters less than popular in the contemporary mainstream -- forgotten characters, or characters who represent a more innocent era.
Like "Avengers/Invaders," "Torch" is one of those Marvel/Dynamite co-productions, with Alex Ross providing guidance and covers, while other writers and artists do the heavy lifting of scripting and drawing the pages.
This issue isn't as good as any of the issues of "Avengers/Invaders."
It's certainly a readable comic, if overly simplistic. It's a story about the Mad Thinker and the Golden Age Human Torch and Toro. And the Fantastic Four plays a prominent role. And Namor.
So we get a grand total of three "Torches" in this issue (if we count Toro as a Human Torch, Jr., which is what he is), and a set piece that looks a lot like the final bunker showdown from "Superman III." Missiles shoot above the skies, and our heroes must dodge them, and even the Mad Thinker has an Annie Ross look about him in that sequence.
It's not played for laughs -- all of this Alex Ross-guided stuff is as serious as a heart attack, circa 1976 -- and yet its arch-seriousness just adds to its campy flavor. Even the final revelation, that the original Torch only has three days to live (dun dun dunnnn), seems like an overcooked soap opera moment.
Like the Alex Ross Dynamite projects, this uses the coloring-over-the-pencil-art technique, and on some pages its effective and on others its not. Penciler Patrick Berkenkotter has a style that sometimes looks like a restrained Gene Ha, and other times looks like a leaner Jerry Ordway, but Carlos Lopez makes some strange color choices. His characters are pink, mostly. Not comic book skin tone pink. But Porky Pig pink, with lemon highlights.
It looks odd more often than not.
If the tone of the Alex Ross "Project: Superpower" spin-offs strikes your fancy, this comic might be something you'd like. But for the rest of us, its camp is only entertaining for so long. Not long enough for a 22 page comic. And certainly not enough for an eight issue series.