This issue demonstrates Lee’s habit of forgetting events from the previous issues. In this case, in the last issue Lee spent the issue trying to show that the Human Torch wasn’t a hot-head and didn’t relish the spotlight. However in this issue we see the Human Torch basically throwing a tantrum and whining about how Spider-Man is getting too much media coverage and is stealing his spotlight. Really, the Human Torch just comes off as bratty. Also, it’s a shame that the Invisible Girl has basically just been turned into the Human Torch’s mother in this series.
Soon after Human Torch’s temper tantrum, the issue turns to an art museum that is displaying a previously unknown Da Vinci work of art and it is here that we are introduced to the story’s villain, the Fox, an art thief. The Fox eventually hatches a plan, which is suitable enough, and steals the not only the painting, but also frames Spider-Man in the process. The rational of doing that just to keep the police off his trail makes sense and is a welcome change of pace in the typical motivations of villains up to this point.
The scene then shifts to a well drawn distant shot of Spider-Man standing on top of a skyscraper overlooking the city. It is here that the story breaks down a little bit, as Spider-Man’s rational for wanting to team-up with the Human Torch basically boils down to him also being a teenager, which is just silly. Anyways, upon seeking out the Human Torch, naturally they end up having to fight each other at first because Lee loves to lean on that very, very tired trope of an encounter between superheroes must always lead to a misunderstanding a fight. Yawn.
Eventually the heroes workout their differences and decide to team up to track down the Fox. Unfortunately the Fox, while a perfectly serviceable, if not generic villain, also represents Lee’s tendency to have his villains really reflect their namesake. Thus the Fox is naturally tricky and has his secret hideouts all underground, basically like a borrow. Although, I did enjoy the exchange between him, as an old lady, and Spider-Man. That was just funny.
In the end, Strange Tales Annual #2 is a perfectly serviceable, well-paced issue that features some nice art and an ultimately forgettable story and villain.
- Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
- Writers: Stan Lee
- Pencilers: Jack Kirby
- Inkers: Steve Ditko
- Letterers: Artie Simek