This was another older issue that turned up in the drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly-Older Should-Have-Been-Pulped Comics. New books would show up there on a routine and rolling basis, and so any time my family had an occasion to be in there, that’s where you’d find me, rummaging through those books for whatever new treasures there might be.
It must be said that MARVEL TWO-IN ONE (and its functional sister title, MARVEL TEAM-UP) came up with some wild and ridiculous pairings for its contents on a relatively regular basis. This is in part due to teh fact that Marvel, like all of the outfits publishing comics at the time, was desperately casting about for the next hot genre, while still trying to maintain the approach that had made the Marvel Universe successful. Certainly, on the face of it, a series like SON OF SATAN, derived from the pop culture fad of interest in the occult spawned by such productions as The Omen, shouldn’t really exist in the same continuum as the Fantastic Four–the super heroes change the parameters of the supernatural world, and the satanism cuts towards the scientific underpinnings of the FF. But somehow, all of these uneasy marriages were made to work (forced to work in a lot of cases), and now after so many decades nobody gives a second thought to Ben Grimm and Daimon Hellstrom sharing a stage together.
It’s also pretty apparent that at this time, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE wasn’t a huge priority as a series. It was a book that made the company some money, but nothing that anybody was especially invested in. So rotating creative teams and fill-ins were common. This meant that many issues worked as simple stand-alone stories, which was fine for what MTIO was selling–a team-up between the Thing and some other crazy character. Here, it’s a young Bill Mantlo who’s behind pairing up Ben and Daimon–I have no idea if this was his idea to do as a story or a coupling that he was handed as an assignment. The art was by Marvel mainstay Herb Trimpe, who’s looking a bit rush and chunkily inked here. Herb was a journeyman who would have a long career, but he was one of those artists whose style wasn’t polished enough for him to become a true fan favorite–and so, like Sal Buscema, he was so ubiquitous that he was often taken for granted.
The story is entertaining nonsense, a trifle. It opens with Ben investigating the western-style ghost town of Lawless, Arizona. Ben’s come in response to a strange occurrence at the Baxter Building: Reed picked up a strange anomaly in Lawless, and when blind Alicia Masters reached towards its image on the map Reed was projecting, she got zapped by an unknown energy source. This made Reed gravely concerned (though not so concerned that he bothered to come out to Arizona as well) and so he dispatched the Thing to investigate the strange energy reading. How Ben is supposed to do that without any particular scientific training or equipment, I don’t know. I guess Reed was hoping he’d just stumble over something–and he does!
Ben comes across a painting of a creepy dude on horseback, one which gives him the creeps–and then Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, shows up. Turns out Ben recognizes Daimon from what the Human Torch told him about his own unlikely team-up with Hellstrom over in MARVEL TEAM-UP earlier. Daimon tells him that the two of them have been drawn to this place by the spirit of the man in the picture, Jedediah Ravenstorm. Ravenstorm had built Lawless a century ago on the blood of his enemies, an unholy place. He was hung within the town for his misdeeds, but that didn’t stop the place from becoming cursed. And now Ravenstorm’s spirit is back for revenge or malice or to take back his town or something. It’s a little bit muddled what he wants and why he might have been interested in Daimon and the Thing. Either way, the demonic presence makes itself know and attacks the two heroes.
There’s a whole bunch of action, action, action, which was very much Marvel’s stock-in-trade in the 1970s, as the Thing and the Son of Satan duke it out with Ravenstorm. At one point, Ravenstorm takes over the Thing’s body to attack Daimon, at another he grows to colossal size and attempts to hang the two heroes in turn. Ultimately, though, Daimon works out that Ravenstorm isn’t who he says he is. He’s actually Kthara, Mother of Demons, an enemy that Hellstrom had battled before whose power came from the belief of her victims. With her ruse exposed, Kthara stops messing around and more directly tires to wipe out our heroes, but Daimon is able to drive her out of Ravenstorm’s form.
And in doing so, Daimon has broken the curse placed on the town a century ago, and the souls of Ravenstorm’s victims rise up to swarm Kthara, tearing her limb from limb in as bloodless and unexciting a manner as it’s possible to imagine. In the aftermath, Daimon and Ben go their separate ways–and back in New York, Ben tells Reed that he wasn’t able to find anything out of sorts in Lawless, Arizona. And that’s a wrap. It was an entertaining enough story, but not one that was going to be remembered all that specifically. Just another ten-to-twenty minutes of momentary entertainment for your quarter.
The letters page in this issue includes a short letter from future comics writer Kurt Busiek. For a time, Kurt was writing a letter to every comic book that he read, and wound up getting a decent percentage of them printed–though they were often edited for length (and even occasionally for content, turning a negative letter into a positive one.) The short note that is run here is nothing more than a quick gag, which would seem to indicate that he didn’t have anything especially noteworthy to say about MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12–but he was still compelled to send in a letter about it.