MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE was a title in a serious deadline crunch at the time this issue was put together, which is why new editor Roger Stern asked staff member Ralph Macchio for ideas for stories to fill it. This two-parter was Macchio’s first writing credit, though he’d work for Marvel for over 35 years as an editor and writer, often in collaboration with the late Mark Gruenwald. For this two-parter, Ralph came up with a new and lasting contribution to the Marvel Universe in the form of Project: P.E.G.A.S.U.S., a think-tank looking into alternative energy sources. The Project would provide the backdrop to a number of Marvel sagas over the years.
Also because this issue was so under the gun, Stern prevailed upon his good friend speed-demon artist John Byrne to do breakdowns for it, then brought in a gang of unidentified inkers to finish it, a sure sign that the material was running behind. Still, Byrne’s star was rapidly rising in fan circles at this time, so even an issue where he provided only open breakdowns was of note to the fans and garnered some attention. Much of Byrne’s power lay in his storytelling skills, which were maintained with breakdowns even if all of his typical slick finish was not. The art on the issue is a bit shaky, but it’s also in many ways one of the better looking issues in this run.
Macchio’s story brought back a number of elements from previous Marvel stories of which he’d been a fan as well, including main villain Victorius from a KA-ZAR adventure and the Cult of Entropy who had been seen in earlier MAN-THING stories. Oh, and the ever-popular Cosmic Cube as well. Along with the Cult, Macchio brought in the Man-Thing himself as this issue’s co-headliner, even though it’s still Captain America, last issue’s guest, who carries most of the team-up action. That’s no doubt due to the fact that he could think and speak and react to things.
We left off last time with the Thing and Captain America having pursued the theft of the Cosmic Cube from Project PEGASUS to the Florida swamplands, where they confronted the reformed Cult of Entropy and their ringleader, who revealed himself as Victorius. The villain has now used the Cube to reconstitute the Cult’s earlier leader Yagzan, transforming him in the process into Jude the Entropic Man, who is the personification of the Cult’s teachings. Backed up by the Cube’s power, Victoruis puts a zap on the Thing, but is baited into tackling Captain America hand-to-hand. Victorius had gained his powers in an attempt to duplicate the Super-Soldier Formula that had made Cap back in the 1940s, so the chance to test himself against the real thing proves irresistible to him.
Meanwhile, all of the brouhaha in his swamp draws the attention of the empathetic Man-Thing, and he shuffles onto the scene. He’s drawn somehow to the discarded Cosmic Cube, Jude steps in on Victorius and Cap’s battle, breaking the pair up by mesmerizing Cap and attracting him towards the deadly void within the stuff of his body. The revived Thing comes to Cap’s aid, tossing the star-spangled hero to safety, but is himself engulfed in Jude’s emptiness. But rather than being killed by this embrace, Ben Grimm instead finds himself unexpectedly transformed back into his human form. Unfortunately, Victorius is able to take human Ben Grimm out with a single shot.
But all of this conflict is having a impact on the almost-childlike Jude. Having absorbed what both Captain America and the Thing conveyed to him about the sanctity of life, he’s not longer certain that the nihilistic path of entropy that has been his cause up till now is the correct one, or is necessary at this moment. But Jude setting aside his quest doesn’t fit within Victorius’ schemes, and so he intends to use the Cosmic Cube to sway Jude to his side once more. Unfortunately, the Man-Thing has the Cube now, and try as he might, Victorius cannot dislodge it from the sludge-creature’s grasp. What’s more, as an angered Jude approaches the pair, Victorius becomes momentarily fearful of his fate–and when that happens, of course, he immolates, because whosoever knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing.
Man-Thing’s burning touch is conveyed daisy-chain style through Victorius to Jude, who promptly blows up. When the dust settles, Ben has discovered that with Jude gone, he’s become the Thing once more. Captain America is fine, and the Cosmic Cube appears to be inert–but the trio of Man-Thing, Victorius and Jude have been transformed into a radiant crystal structure at the center of the swamp. The Thing and Cap take the depowered Cosmic Cube and skedaddle, moments before they would have seen the Man-Thing reform himself from the stuff of the swamp. As the bog-beast approaches the giant crystal, it begins to transform him back into his human Ted Sallis self, much in the way that Jude cured the Thing. But the mindless Man-Thing wanders away, the strong emotions that drew him to this spot now having dissipated, and in so doing, his chance to be restored is lost.
4 thoughts on “BHOC: MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #43”
Marvel Two-in-One and Marvel Team-Up could be iffy affairs at times, with some poor stories and bad art, but also some great stories and art and this certainly qualified as among the latter, with some excellent work by Macchio & Byrne & friends. Even if it was Macchio’s first, he very proved he was up to the job, IMO. Of course, it always helps to have highly talented artists as collaborators.
I remember buying this and #42 off the same spinner rack at the beach in Ocean City MD….a week I bought a lot of Marvel comics that included Spectacular Spider-man 21, 22, Avengers 174. It always seemed like the spinner racks in beach towns kept multiple months worth of books. I’d buy a book I never tried … get hooked and go back and buy 2 or three more issues in order. Good times.
Most of the good stuff in 2 In One had Mcchio’s name on it and this was the start. In fact, the only Gru-Mac creative decision I ever disliked was turning Wundarr into the incredibly lame Aquarian. It wasn’t that I was very attached to Wundarr. It was that the Aquarian was such a dud in personity and powers. Just curious though if Wundarr was doomed because he was a a Superman satire.
Given how much I dislike Mike Friedrich’s work, I was surprised to read Victorius’ debut and love it — a middle-aged scientist who wakes up to realize he has no life, goes into mid-life crisis and becomes a super-villain (though I’m not sure it would have worked for me in my teens). After failing at that, there’s a certain logic to him turning to religion for comfort.
The combination of elements here made for a really weird issue, but in the best way.