Now, this was a weird one. Give writer/editor Marv Wolfman credit for trying something different. And by a fluke it featured two Marvel characters whose series i was actively following so it made it a no-brainer to pick up at the 7-11 on the day it came out. Like MARVEL TEAM-UP, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE during this timeframe was hardly essential reading. But it did routinely give you a nice story focusing on the Thing and some other Marvel cohort.
The art on this issue is by Ron Wilson, who would become over time a regular contributor to the series. Wilson wasn’t the flashiest artist there was, but he always drew a good Thing, which made him a natural for the TWO-In-ONE assignment. Here, he crams a wealth of details into this splash page that both give the scene a lived-in flavor and also provide some insight into wo Ben Grimm is.
At this point, TWO-IN-ONE has finally caught up in its production cycle to where FANTASTIC FOUR is, so the story opens with the Thing lamenting the break-up of his family and team, an event which had played out in FF over the last couple of months. As he tries to relax and figure out his next move, Ben is targeted by a mysterious marksman from afar–and each time he’s shot by one of these pellets, he spasms and reacts uncontrollably. In so doing, he causes a bunch of damage to the city streets and totals a bus, leading to his arrest for wanton destruction.
Wolfman and Wilson spend a couple of pages on the Thing being booked, playing them for comedy. So the big guy is fingerprinted, identified out of a line-up, and eventually put in a lock-up with a drunk and a kid street hustler. These scenes are fun, as they give Ben’s personality something to bounce off of. Just as Ben wraps the drunk and the hustler up in their cell’s cot so he can get some peace and quiet, Matt Murdock shows up. Matt was the Fantastic Four’s lawyer, and he still considers himself on retainer, so he intends to take the Thing’s case and defend him in court.
And so we skip ahead to the hearing, where Matt Murdock brings in character witnesses to attest to the Thing’s heroism. But the prosecutor argues that Ben’s past is not what is at issue–it’s what he did on the streets days before. The same shop owner who fingered Ben in te line-up is called to the stand, and describes a litany of the Thing’s past destructive behavior, much of it sourced from older issues (though Marv references the wrong Thing/Hulk fight in the editor’s note–the instances depicted come from FF #112, not #25-26.) Ben’s pretty down all through this sequence, and he’s happy for the law to throw the book at him at this point. Without his team and his family, he’s got noting particular to live for.
After a bunch of back-and-forth, the judge retires to his chambers to consider whether Ben should be remanded over for Grand Jury trial. Ben, of course, is still feeling sorry for himself, and the bailiffs won’t even let Alicia masters into the courtroom to be with him. Finally, the judge comes back and says that he is recommending the case over for trial. At that moment, the mysterious shooter zaps Ben again, causing him to go berserk in the middle of the courtroom, seemingly in response to the outcome of the hearing. The Thing can’t stop himself from busting up the courtroom and tossing the bailiffs around like rag dolls.
Eventually, Ben is able to regain control of himself again,. But the damage has been done. It’s a tidy little frame-up, and one that the shop owner’s thoughts tell us that he’s a part of. But the string-puller behind these events is still a mystery. Matt Murdock thinks that something smells fishy here as well, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of things as Daredevil. And he will–in the next issue. But for now, the story is To Be Continued!