November 8, 1962
- As you can see from the cover - the Wizard's back! And he's out for revenge. Actually, his motive is about as absent as it was before. The first time he faced off against the Torch because he couldn't accept that there was anyone better at something than he was. (And somehow he singled out Johnny?) So, having been defeated, he's back to try to prove it again. Though it is notable that the Torch's fifth adventure already features the villain from his second. Was this Lee's attempt to quickly build up a nemesis for the kid? Or were they already starting to run out of ideas?
- As further evidence, the Invisible Girl appears in a much larger role than the brief deus ex machina she provided the first time they defeated the Wizard. Reed and Ben make a short appearance too, making this the first time the entire foursome appeared in Johnny's Strange Tales solo stories - and the Fantastic Four are also mentioned on the cover, for the first time since his first story. Taken altogether, it's hard to avoid wondering if the Torch wasn't catching on all by himself. At least half the stories from this point on would be team-up tales (with some or all of the FF, or others), or feature big guest-stars. Perhaps Lee and co. began to suspect that the Torch just wasn't meaty enough a character to hold a book all his own?
- Last time, I noted how ridiculously powerful they were letting the Torch's flame become; creating a flaming decoy is one thing, but having that duplicate chase the villain across the country is something else. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that being addressed just one issue later! Trying to give his sister the slip, Johnny creates another fire double before heading off after the bad guy; this ruse is quickly discovered, however, when Sue comes in and finds the decoy just standing there - not answering her questions and remaining completely immobile. And the jig is up! I was briefly impressed: Was this Marvel's way of reining in the Torch's power set to plausible levels once again? Sadly, no, as Johnny disposes of a bomb in the climax by whipping up a catapult of flame, which - despite the lack of any physical parts - is able to hurl the bomb far away into the air.
Johnny as impetuous youth; Sue as nagging mother.
Not the subtlest of characterizations.