This issue of MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE was another that I got in a 3-Bag, and quite likely the reason that I picked up that particular 3-Bag in the first place. As I’ve said before, during this time, FANTASTIC FOUR was my favorite comic book, and so anything featuring a member of the FF drew me like a moth to a flame. That said, I didn’t have any awareness for Modred the Mystic, and after reading this story, no particular fondness for the character either. He was simply there. He had starred in the few issues of MARVEL CHILLERS that didn’t do much business, and thereafter bopped around the Marvel Universe, turning up here or there from time to time. He also followed the pattern of DC’s Sargon the Sorcerer by switching sides and becoming a bad guy for a while.
This issue was the coda to a multi-part story that saw Alicia Masters transformed into a spiderlike creature. Writer/editor Wolfman was attempting to treat the series as an ongoing concern, with running subplots and multi-part adventures, despite the fact that the Thing was also pulling full-time duty in FANTASTIC FOUR. But this largely worked in terms of making the adventures feel more substantive than they might otherwise have been. He was backed up by artist Ron Wilson, who would draw an awful lot of issues of MTIO. Wilson’s version of the Thing became something of a signature look for the character, synthesizing the best aspects of the Kirby and Buscea interpretations. All that said, I can’t imagine that kissing the Thing really works, given that he doesn’t really have lips, and his skin must be cold and craggy.
Wolfman also used this sequence to begin to build out the Spider-Woman character, who had been introduced in an issue of MARVEL SPOTLIGHT in order to protect the trademark on the name, and whom Wolfman was now slated to launch a series with. The action takes place in England once again, where Ben and Alicia had brought the stricken Deathlok in order that his condition could be examined by a prominent scientist. Along the way, there were a bunch of fights, but now, with all of the violence behind them for a moment, Alicia convinces Ben Grimm to take her on a tourist expedition to Stonehenge. Of course, once they get there, they’re surprised to find themselves confronted by four mystic elemental creatures–and also by the fact that Spider-Woman has been following them ever since their last adventure.
One of the elements of Spider-Woman’s conception that Wolfman realized that he needed to change was her origin. When she was hastily conceived as a one-off character, the revelation of that story was that Spider-Woman was an actual spider evolved into a human being by the High Evolutionary. A nice kicker to a single story, but a poor basis for an ongoing character. So Wolfman would revise that once the SPIDER-WOMAN series began. And here, in MTIO, he lays some groundwork for it, as Spider-Woman (not yet named Jessica Drew) is plagued by the notion that she is nothing more than an arachnid given human form.
Finally, about halfway through the issue, the story’s other co-star shows up. The Thing and Spider-Woman have been fighting an overmatched delaying action against the Elementals, who are attempting to locate and retrieve Modred at the mystic command of Merlin. See, Modred was to have been an apprentice of Merlin’s, but he turned his back on the old wizard and instead fell under the sway of the Darkhold, the repository of black magic. The book granted him awesome magical powers but also put him into a state of deathlike slumber for a thousand years. Anyway, this is the point where he shows up, drawn by the disturbance, and the tide against the Elementals begins to turn.
Still, it’s fight, fight, fight along the way–an extended battle without much in the way of plot that was very much the style of the time at Marvel. Action was the watchword of the day, even if that action was in the service of the sketchiest set of circumstances. It doesn’t help here that the four Elementals are just generic bad guy monsters without a whole lot of individuality or personality to them. Modred, too, speaks in the sort of faux-Olde English popularized by Thor and company, which made him less appealing to me. And once Modred is on the scene, the need for the Thing and Spider-Woman seems to evaporate–this is now a Modred story.
And the good guys win, to no one’s surprise. In the aftermath, Modred tells Spider-Woman that, her fears aside, she is as human as anyone, and that he can cause her hidden memories of herself to resurface–thus setting her up for events in her soon-to-be-launched title. And Alicia Masters and the Thing take off back for home. For no really good reason (although the cause is said to be Alicia’s trauma from her transformation the last few issues, and Ben’s guilt over her going through that experience) , Modred decides to erase their memories of all the pains they experienced during this trip, including meeting Spider-Woman. Not really sure why Marv felt it necessary to do that, but whatever. This extended sequence, which had begun back in MTIO #26, had now run its course.