BHOC: MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #41

As usual, I bought the new issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE when it showed up at my 7-11’s spinner rack. In this case, I did so despite having little interest in Brother Voodoo–the Marvel mystical and monster/horror characters really didn’t interest me, and I somehow lumped Brother Voodoo into that grouping, for as little as I knew about him. I do remember being fascinated by the fact that a stat was used to make Daniel Drumm’s spirit emerge from Joshua on this cover–I stared at it a bit trying to figure out how it had been done, given how close the two images are.

Marvel comic books of this era only contained 17 pages of story, and so especially in a Team-Up comic like MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, it was necessary to get right into the story. There simply wasn’t any space for a slow build. This was the second part of the adventure that Ben Grimm had begun the prior month with the Black Panther. MTIO was going through a bit of a rocky patch in terms of its creative team during this time, and here David A. Kraft has been brought in to dialogue this second half of this story that had been plotted by Roger Slifer. These sorts of last minute substitutions tended to reduce a lot of these stories to just being “product”, stories that most of the folks working on had no great investment in.

Last time out, the Black Panther and the Thing had been investigating the disappearances of prominent black citizens–and while the Thing was out of the room, the Panther himself fell prey to the abductors even though he was in his own apartment. Returning the next morning, the Thing is surprised to find not his longtime pal T’Challa but rather Brother Voodoo sitting in his living room, the mystic also drawn to investigate these crimes for his own reasons. There’s still one person on the list that the Daily Bugle had printed who is unaccounted for, so Ben and Voodoo race to try to get to them before they can disappear as well. But it’s too late, the tenth victim has similarly been captured, and now the kidnappers have bought all ten of their captives to a private air field, intending to transport them out of the country.

Following the trail, the Thing and Brother Voodoo are close behind as the bad guys’ plane starts to take off. Ben rips up a fence into a huge metal ball, intending to hurl it at the escaping plane, but Brother Voodoo stops him, rightly pointing out that smashing it will endanger the passengers within. So our heroes are momentarily stymied. The plane makes a several hour flight to a tiny emerging nation on the border of Uganda, and the person behind these abductions is revealed to be Dr. Obatu, the man who had once been Doctor Spectrum of the Squadron Sinister. He’s aided in his efforts by W’Sulli, a voodoo practitioner who had appeared in one of Marvel’s black and white magazines. Obatu was sentenced to death by his old patron, Idi Amin, and he intends to make an offering of the ten prominent figures to get back in his good graces. Given that Idi Amin was a real person (and one of the most brutal dictators of the era) it’s a little bit surprising that he’s used so directly in this story. But that was the 1970s for you.

Meanwhile, Ben and Jericho have set off in their own plane, following the path of the other jet to Uganda through mystical means. They are able to easily penetrate enemy air space, but Idi Amin orders them to be shot down, and their craft is swiftly crippled by missiles. This leads to an absolutely absurd moment where, as the wing of the plane begins to separate from the fuselage, Ben smashes through the bulkhead and grabs it, holding it in place while he pilots with the other hand. The whole moment is ridiculous in a way that is beyond the typical physics-defying feats of super heroes. But Ben and Jericho make it to the ground safely, so that’s likely all that matter.

Seeing the Thing start to walk away from the explosion of his plane and towards their position causes Idi Amin to run for his life. He leaves it up to Obatu and W’Sulli and their zuvembie creature as well as his own soldiers to combat the enraged powerhouse. Good luck with that! Having no physical power that can halt the Thing’s rampage, Obatu attempts to appeal to his humanity by threatening the life of T’Challa if he does not relent. But Brother Voodoo has divined where and how the spirits of the captured people are being trapped and ensorcelled, and he directs the Thing to shatter the container, bringing everyone but particularly the Black Panther back to his senses.

From here, the wrap-up is quick and perfunctory. With the container shattered, not only does the Panther regain his senses but so does W’Sulli’s zuvembie–and he’s not happy about his enslavement. So much so that he takes the life of both W’Sulli and Obatu in turn in the space of a few panels, then transforms into a bat and flies away. Ben’s content to let him go, as he and the Panther have the bigger problem of getting all of the captives out of Uganda and back to the United States safely. T’Challa is able to help with that by summoning a transport craft from Wakanda–and that’s pretty much the end of the adventure. This was sort of a mess of a story, one that seemed as though it wanted to comment on some current events, but didn’t actually wind up doing so very much–likely the switch-over from Slifer to Kraft is why this element fell by the wayside. Kraft may not have known or not have agreed with whatever point Slifer was trying to make. Ah, well, it only cost 35 cents…

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