Here’s another book I got out of a 3-Bag. This was likely the reason I bought the 3-Bag in the first place, as FANTASTIC FOUR had become my favorite comic book series and the Thing was on his way to becoming my favorite Marvel character (though at this moment, I was still more partial to the Torch.) MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE wasn’t really a great series for the first half of its existence. It was fine, an excuse to do quickie stories in which the popular Thing teamed up with other characters from across the Marvel U in the manner of Spider-Man and MARVEL TEAM-UP. But most of those stories were of a throw-away variety, and one often got the impression that the creators involved were simply filling pages without having any greater attachment to what they were doing. They were always competent tales, for the most part, but nothing that you’d really remember five minutes after you finished with the book.
This particular story was masterminded by Bill Mantlo and Jim Shooter. Looking at those credits, my assumption would be that Mantlo plotted this story and then Shooter came in to dialogue it. As a stand-alone, it may have been commissioned as prospective fill-in issue, though that sort of thing is tougher to detect on books like TWO-IN-ONE whose regular issues were often very fill-in-like. Artwork was by the ubiquitous Sal Buscema, and given the credits, I expect that Sal just did storytelling breakdowns for this job and let Pablo Marcos take care of the look of the final artwork in the finishes. It was Marvel Comics 101 ,part of what we’d think of as the house style of the period.
So what was the Thing up to this month? Well, he’d been loaned out to Stark International to help test their new equipment for landing on the surface of Venus, a project being overseen by Bill Foster, secretly Black Goliath. Ben’s inside a sealed chamber that’s simulating the atmosphere and pressure of the planet–and everything is going well until an old villain called the Hijacker smashes into the room. The Hijacker was a bit of a nobody, a one-off villain from a very early Ant-Man story who had been running a small-time racket. He’s an odd selection to bring back for a tale like this, but his return does point to Mantlo being the plotter of this story, as he had a real love for the obscure characters of Marvel’s early days. In any event, the Thing can’t smash his way out of the chamber he’s in to help the stricken scientists without exposing them all to the fatal Venus-based gasses. He’s stymied for the moment.
The Hijacker has come to steal an experimental module designed to function on the surface of Venus, and so he leaves the Thing trapped and continues on his way. But before he passes out, Bill Foster is able to cycle the chamber’s airlock, allowing Ben to emerge from it in short order. The Thing helps Foster back to consciousness and then heads out after the Hijacker. but behind him, Foster makes a quick change into his fighting duds and grows to colossal size–now there are two heroes in pursuit of the Hijacker. And this guy couldn’t even take out Ant-Man on his own.
What the Hijacker does have, though, is all of the weapons in Stark Industries’ research lab, and so he’s got missiles he can fire at the Thing. Ben is blown back, and the newly-arrived Black Goliath doesn’t fare much better. A word about Black Goliath’s costume: that weird raised collar that blocks off his peripheral vision for no good reason is one of the dumbest bits of super hero design of the era. Anyway, it’s a lousy showing for the big guy and the rocky monster–you’d think they could mop the floor with one dummy with no super-powers of his own in a few seconds flat. Ah, but there are still pages to fill, and so even when the Thing manages to get his hands on the Hijacker, the villain is able to melt a part of the ceiling into molten steel to rain down on the Thing, and thus escape his grasp.
You’ll notice that there isn’t even the pretense of a plot at this point. It’s all action all the time as our two heroes fight and smash their way through automated obstacle after obstacle. But then, his back to the wall, the Hijacker returns inside his colossal Crime-Tank. Which raises a few questions automatically. If he had such a tank, why didn’t he use it from the start? Heck, if he has such a tank, what does he need with a Venus landing module? Anyway, it’s one more big techno-thingie for the Thing and Black Goliath to have to contend with.
And contend they do, with the Crime-Tank threatening to run the Thing over, pulverizing him, but this gives him access to its under-armored underbelly. With the tank out of commission, it’s a simple matter for Black Goliath to tear open the cockpit, and then the Thing dispatches the Hijacker with the flick of one finger. And that’s the ballgame. There are some fun lines of dialogue along the way, but this really could have been a team-up between any two Marvel characters, and it’s about as plotless an adventure as was done at the time. Still, it was breezy and fun and undemanding, and thus enjoyable. But nobody was going to be winning any awards for this sort of work.