Peter Parker's Amazing Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm - the Human Torch - have been friends for decades but every good friendship has its occasional setback. Following the monumental events of Jonathan Hickman's (X-Men, East of West) crossover Fantastic Four/FF (Future Foundation) run, The Roommate Experiment arc helped to cap the series off by exploring the latent friction between Spidey and Torch, initiated in part by the presence of a mainstay Fantastic Four villain.
Rather than go grander, The Roommate Experiment was adept at confining the story line to Spider-Man and the Human Torch's domestic drama. Peter inviting Johnny into his living space allows for plenty of unearthly hi-jinks for the two heroes to endure. Following his past defeat at the hands of Johnny Storm, Lord Annihilus, feared ruler of the Negative Zone dimension, has now been reduced to a prisoner in Peter and Johnny's apartment bathroom, chained to a toilet seat. Though Annihilus is no longer ruler of the Negative Zone, the heroes' apartment closet, much to Peter's dismay, has become a portal to the former domain of the bug overlord.
Leading up to the discovery of the bug-based villain, Peter and Johnny's shared apartment incorporates everything expected from a superhero living space and more. Several obscure Marvel alien races are invited for parties, Peter is sent to run unnecessary errands for Johnny during a thunderstorm, Johnny flirts with Peter's main squeeze Mary Jane Watson, and a shot of non-alcoholic milk from outer space sends Peter Parker on a night on the town he won't ever forget. Spider-Man's discovery of Annihilus being held in the bathroom ultimately becomes the final nail in the coffin for the web-slinger to demand Johnny pack his bags and depart for greener pastures.
Since the establishment of the Marvel Universe in the early 1960s, Spider-Man and the Human Torch have had a relationship other heroes only dream of. The two adolescents have gone from bitter teenage rivals to close friends. The starting point of Hickman's Fantastic Four run even saw Peter pay his respects to his fallen comrade by joining the Fantastic Four team in place of his old friend, before the Human Torch's eventual return from death. FF#17 certainly puts a strain on the Spider-Man/Human Torch relationship, but it isn't a total termination of the friendship. Having to share living quarters with anyone is going to put a significant amount of stress on the relationship.
The Roommate Experiment acts as a palette cleanser to the high stakes adventure of the previous Jonathan Hickman Fantastic Four/FF issues, giving readers a chance to catch up with old friends who haven't had much time to share the page throughout the run. Aside from Johnny unknowingly making Peter's life a living hell, there is no villain and the world isn't in imminent danger, the only thing at stake is Peter's mental state which will determine whether or not to strangle Johnny and evict his dead body. Though Spider-Man may deal with deranged criminals daily, the arachnid hero can only take so much before he loses complete patience.
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