The devious Cult of the Negative Zone, led by the ruthless tyrant Annihilus, take advantage of The Human Torch’s one true weakness… women.
Johnny Storm a.k.a. the Fantastic Four‘s Human Torch has dated a variety of characters throughout the Marvel Universe but none quite like the follower of the Negative Zone’s bug warlord Annihilus. Johnny lets this illustrious female lackey get the better of him, a vital decision that ends up costing the hero his life.
Though the feared Annihilus remains in his antimatter realm of the Negative Zone, it does not prevent the alien insectoid from having loyal representatives on Earth performing his dirty work for him. Introduced in Fantastic Four #578 by writer Jonathan Hickman (The Avengers, House of X) and artist Dale Eaglesham (The Punisher, Guardians of the Galaxy), the Cult of the Negative Zone is just that; an obscure group of “humans” worshiping Annihilus and his destructive ideas from a New York City nightclub, led by the eloquent Anti Priest. In an effort to activate the portal to the Negative Zone, located in the Fantastic Four’s highly fortified Baxter Building headquarters, the Cult deploy one of their loyal human members Natasha to seduce the Human Torch. Not suspecting a double-cross from his newest one-night sweetheart, Natasha manages to immobilize Johnny before activating the portal. No longer having a need for her human exterior, Natasha sheds her skin, revealing her true insectoid form to the Torch.
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It wouldn’t be the last time that the Baxter Building would come under attack by the cult. In an attempt to make up for their previous failure, the Cult of the Negative Zone respond with a continuous horde of bug warriors. Attacking the Fantastic Four and their ever-progressive science division the Future Foundation at their base, the subsequent attempt at releasing the creatures of the Negative Zone onto Earth is ultimately thwarted once again. But the cult’s attack is not all in vain; as Johnny is seemingly killed saving the lives of his fellow teammates and family, holding off the army of bugs from entry into the planet.
It was the Cult of the Negative Zone’s attack, set into motion by Natasha, that removed Johnny from the Fantastic Four roster for quite a bit; leading the team to turn to another famous New York hero to help fill in for the Torch, who was presumed dead. In the aftermath of Storm’s disappearance, Peter Parker a.k.a. the Amazing Spider-Man quickly takes the place of his late friend.
Unlike the other seasoned heroes of the Fantastic Four, attractive women (whether they originate from Earth or space) have always been the Human Torch’s true Achilles heel. Luckily for Annihilus, the cult was well aware of Storm’s weakness, which the crafty bugs were able to exploit to their full advantage.
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