A Strange, Deadly Beauty

The title of this blog comes from a description of a scene from C.S. Lewis’ last book in his Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle. (So if you haven’t read the book yet, skip to the next paragraph.) In one of the last chapters of the book, Aslan summons the giant Time, who blows his horn which signals the stars (which are people, unlike stars in our universe) to come home. The sound that his horn makes is said to be a strange, deadly beauty. It is beautiful and deadly at the same time because while it signals the beginning of the end of the old Narnia, it marks the beginning of the stars’ entry into the new, eternal Narnia. Thus while Aslan’s followers experience a thrill and terror on seeing the stars empty the night sky, all turns out well in the end.

I use this phrase to describe the scene of Johnny Storm’s ultimate sacrifice in Fantastic Four #587. Two panels are shown below:

For the last time, Johnny shouts “FLAME ON!” and confronts the wave all alone in an alien universe. The strange and deathly quality of the moment is apparent: Johnny knows he has infinetisimal chances of surviving the confrontation, that his body will likely be ravaged. Physically, it is terrifying to behold; and Ben Grimm, who can only watch in agony from the other side as the shielding slowly obstructs his view, feels this terror and horror as his other teammates never will when they return form their respetive missions and receive the shocking news.

But beyond the physical, in the realm of the spiritual, the scene is beautiful. Johnny made the noble, heroic choice to throw aside his then powerless friend Ben, stays behind, and gives his life so that his family, and the Earth might live. The greatest act of love, of giving one’s life, to save another’s. So while the devasted Fantastic Four will mourn the physical death of Johnny Storm, they should also celebrate the beauty that his soul attained in making his sacrifice. If Ben was on the verge of entering heaven before he was called back to earth, then Johnny must have entered it already.

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