As we’ve talked about before, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE was a series adrift. Following the departure of writer/editor Marv Wolfman, the title limped along for close to a year, running assorted one-off and two-part stories that all had the feeling of being a fill-in about them. There wasn’t any permanent creative team, and you never quite knew what you were going to get when you cracked open its pages. At the same time, it probably worked just fine as a book that more casual readers could pick up and get some action and entertainment from without needing to make sure they also read the following issue, so in the Newsstand sales market that may have been seen as a benefit to this approach. Point being that, while I was still dutifully buying it every month thanks to my attachment to the Fantastic Four, I wasn’t especially enamored of it. It was just another comic book.
The story in this issue had the advantage for me of following up on a much earlier FANTASTIC FOUR adventure that I had read in the pages of MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS. So i was more prepared with the backstory coming into the issue, and more poised to be prepared to like it. This is despite the fact that I never warmed to the artwork of Alan Kupperberg. His rubbery figures and strange panel framing and distortions did nothing for me. I frankly thought he was on the low end of Marvel’s art pool. Being inked here by Mike Esposito didn’t give him much of a boost. I also wasn’t a fan of Captain Mar-Vell, the one or two issues of his series that I’d sampled having put me off of it, so his presence was hardly a plus.
The issue opens up with a trenchcoat-attired figure on the hunt for the Thing in order to get his revenge. The odd thing is, once we see him in good light, he appears to be a double for the Thing. Elsewhere, Captain Mar-Vell is just chilling when he gets a flash through his Cosmic Awareness of bad stuff about to go down. He races out into the night to locate Ben Grimm. And where is the subject of all of this attention? Why, he’s having dinner with his longtime girlfriend Alicia in a swanky Manhattan restaurant. But their meal is interrupted by a would-be drive-by hit on the Thing by a 1920s-style sedan. Ben immediately gives chase, but he’s surprised once he catches up to the retreating car that it takes to the air.
As the Thing fights back, the car suddenly vanishes out from under him, dropping him into the river below. It’s at this point that Captain Marvel finally turns up just in time to fish Ben out of the river. The two heroes compare notes–Mar-Vell tells Ben that there’s a cosmic significance to the attempts on his life–and the two heroes hole up to await another attack. Going a bit stir-crazy, the Thing goes out for a walk, and while he’s away, his doppelganger pursuer turns up at the room he’s been hiding out in and puts the zap on Mar-Vell.
A bit later, out on the street, Ben is confronted by the mysterious figure who has been pursuing him–who reveals himself to be Boss Barker, a Skrull from a world that had emulated 1920s gangland who had once been responsible for abducting the Thing in order to use him as a gladiator in the Great Games against his mob rivals. At the end of that story, Ben and his opponent Torgo broke free of the Skrull control, and Torgo was last seen leading a rebellion against the Skrulls–a rebellion that we know worked out well, since we encountered Torgo again a number of years later in FANTASTIC FOUR. Here, though, Boss Barker is out to revenge himself against everyone responsible for his loss of power, and he starts off by presenting the Thing with Torgo’s dismembered head, Godfather-style.
Barker’s vehicle is actually a concealed Skrull spacecraft, and he’s able to bombard Ben with Brain-Blast Rays that knock him unconscious. When the Thing revives, he finds himself chained to a wall and facing a rub-out from Barker’s androids, all of whom are dressed as gangsters. Captain Marvel arrives at this point, having shrugged off the earlier attack and ready to assist Ben. And the Thing is able to use the momentary distraction of his arrival to rip himself free of his restraints. So the battle is on. At a crucial moment, his side being knocked down, Barker summons his spaceship, intending to use its onboard weaponry to finish off the human monster and the Kree soldier.
But this proves to be Barker’s last move, as suddenly the head of Torgo comes to life without any explanation, and zaps him down fatally with beams from his eyes, ending the conflict. Ben is saddened by the demise of his one-time gladiatorial buddy, but Mar-Vell reckons that if they return his head to his home planet of Mekka, the inhabitants there may be able to restore him. And they would, as Torgo went on to appear infrequently again after this. For me, having experienced Torgo’s earlier stories, I found that I was more affected by his seeming death than I might otherwise have been–even though he was a robot and even with Mar-Vell’s assurances. So on that level, this story worked for me.
It was in the Marvel books of this week that the new Bullpen Bulletins page began to run, this being the page that touted the impending arrival of the epoch-making issue that was FANTASTIC FOUR #200. I was on pins and needles awaiting that issue–and as I’ve related earlier, we never got it in my area. (I hadn’t taken notice, but my 7-11 had seemingly stopped carrying any oversized titles, so no Annuals or the like. This is almost certainly why this issue never materialized.) It was absolutely traumatic for me when issue #201 showed up–it felt like I had an itch that I simply could not scratch for months and months. I would eventually get my hands on a copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #200, but that is another story for another time.
3 thoughts on “BHOC: MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #45”
I’d argue that this series was hardly ever not adrift and always of lesser quality. Project Pegasus and the rest of the Gru-Mac stories were very much an exception.
Pink pants on page 26!
I bought 2-in-1 infrequently until the Project Pegasus issues hit and then I was hooked and bought it pretty regularly until it’s run ended. The issues towards the end were likewise spotty, but not as rough as this particular issue. I think it’s a missed opportunity for the story to not leave Ben with a talking Torgo head to pal around with for a few issues. Even Cap and Thing taking his head back themselves would make more story sense than chucking it on a preprogrammed enemy saucer and hoping he makes it home.