Warning: Spoilers for Fantastic Four Annual (2023) #1 ahead!Johnny Storm may be The Fantastic Four‘s resident “class clown,” but his goofball antics disguise a dangerously sharp mind. Case in point, when pitted against the hellfire-imbued Ghost Rider, the Human Torch turns their contest into a hilarious display of lateral thinking, rather than mindless competition over who can make the biggest fireball.
Zac Gorman, Alan Robinson, and Guru-eFX’s Fantastic Four Annual (2023) #1 is the third chapter of Marvel’s Contest of Chaos event, in which Agatha Harkness pits Marvel’s heroes against each other in a series of duels in order to select her champions. When the Human Torch is summoned, he finds himself matched against Johnny Blaze in a hellish landscape.
The Latest Contestants Of Chaos: Johnny Storm vs. Johnny Blaze
The beauty of the duel in Fantastic Four Annual #1 is it turns the trope of the classic “who would win?” question upside down. When considering duels between heroes, the argument tends to devolve into whose powers are greater; a contest between Ghost Rider and the Human Torch might ordinarily be an explosive affair of heat and flame, the combatant attempting to create the largest eruption, or biggest fireball, with which to overwhelm their opponent. Instead, Johnny Storm’s glibness wins the day, as he refuses to engage Ghost Rider on the Spirit of Vengeance’s terms, using his powers to turn the environment to his favor rather than to directly clash with his rival.
Hothead vs. Hot Headed, Who Comes Out On Top?
As Marvel’s most prominent fire-based heroes, the Human Torch and Ghost Rider are natural opponents for this duel. The two share a number of similarities: both are named “Johnny,” both are scruffy blonds, both have prominent daredevil streaks. Ghost Rider has even stood in for Johnny Storm on The Fantastic Four, during Walter Simonson and Arthur Adam’s Fantastic Four #348, when the team temporarily consisted of Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man, and Hulk. This iteration was subsequently revisited in Peter David, Alan Robinson, and Mike Spicer’s New Fantastic Four, from 2022. Ghost Rider’s innate hellfire might normally make this competition one-sided, but the Human Torch triumphs in Fantastic Four Annual (2023) #1.
Johnny Storm emerges victorious over Johnny Blaze by outwitting Ghost Rider at every turn, avoiding his foe by melting through surfaces and trapping him with his own chains. Johnny Storm may have a reputation as The Fantastic Four’s resident “himbo”, but his cleverness and joie de vivre allow him to excel at lateral thinking. While he may not be as intelligent as Reed, his powers as a living dynamo arguably give Johnny the most potential of the entire team. By ignoring stale “hero vs. hero” tropes and doing his own thing, The Fantastic Four‘s Human Torch has won one of his greatest battles, giving Ghost Rider a humiliating drubbing he won’t soon forget.
Fantastic Four Annual (2023) #1 is now available from Marvel Comics.