Marvel Two-in-One v.2 #1
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: John Dell & Walden Wong
Colors: Frank Martin
Editor: Tom Brevoort
FF origin backup
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Pencils: Greg Land
Inks: Jay Leisten
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Editor: Darren Shan
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover artists: Jim Cheung (regular)/Alex Ross, Arthur Adams, Mike McKone, John Byrne, Jon Malin, Jack Kirby & John Tyler Christopher (variants)
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
One of the first trade-paperback collections of comics I ever acquired was Marvel Two-in-One: Project Pegasus book; this would have been back in the very early days of book-sized reprints of comics in the 1980s. I still have that trade paperback; it’s worn to hell, but I absolutely love it. I got on board with the team-up title trend with DC Comics Presents in late 1979 or early 1980. I was mesmerized by the logos for two heroes on the cover of each issue. I quickly gravitated to The Brave and the Bold, and after taking the plunge into the Marvel Universe in the mid-1980s, I eagerly sought out issues of Marvel Team-Up and, of course, Marvel Two-In-One. The 1980s were the heyday of those team-up titles. Attempts at revivals never had the same staying power as those original books.
I’m hoping the same can’t be said of this relaunch, which offers strong traditional super-hero storytelling tempered with a more modern sensibility toward characterization. And should the publisher keep top-tier talent such as Jim Cheung on the book, I’d say there’s a strong chance it could make a nice, long go of it.
Reed and Susan Richards, along with their children, disappeared in the wake of cataclysmic alteration of reality, thanks to the machinations of Dr. Doom, and that’s left Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm lost in the world, unsure of their place or purpose. The former teammates have drifted apart, but an old friends urges the Thing to seek out the Human Torch, because something seems wrong with him. But before Grimm can set out to find him, he encounters another familiar face from the Fantastic Four’s past, with a message of his own to deliver.
Jim Cheung’s rendition of the Thing is as detailed and memorable as those offered in the past by such iconic artists as John Byrne and George Perez. And despite the challenges inherent in the character design, Cheung is able to make Ben Grimm a thoroughly emotive figure – which is important, given the emotional core of this story. I love Cheung’s crisp take on Spidey, and he makes the Torch’s non-FF costume look pretty cool as well. I also loved the flashback sequence depicting the Fantastic Four over the years. The more muted colors conveyed the nature of the sequence, and I was impressed with how Cheung distinguished each era through the different costumes and hairstyles.
The only aspect of the art on the main story that seemed a little off was Cheung’s take on Doom’s benevolent Iron Man look. We’re used to seeing Alex Maleev’s grim, non-shiny look for this incarnation of the character, so the shinier presentation here, while logical, I think takes something away from the “Infamous Iron Man’s” cachet. It’s a minor quibble, I admit, about a comic that overall looks, ahem, fantastic.
I haven’t read a lot of the Marvel Legacy titles thus far, but of those I have, this might be the first one for which the three-page origin recap backup story works. Still, it doesn’t necessarily work at the end like this, and it would have been incredibly easy for Zdarsky and Cheung to incorporate this material fully into the main story. These backup features remind me of the two-page character profiles we saw in the back of issues of DC’s weekly 52 series years ago, but those didn’t come off feeling redundant like Marvel’s approach with these Legacy origin summaries.
Greg Land’s linework for the origin backup serves as a fairly typical representation of his softer, realistic style. I honestly prefer his earlier work when he was DC when his art didn’t have the sae polish as it does here. His figures are attractive, and I like what he does with some of the stronger Kirby elements, notably the Skrulls. Land’s take on the Thing isn’t quite right, but that’s not surprising, since realism doesn’t suit the impossibility of an orange, rocky monster-man. Furthermore, Frank D’Armata’s muted colors literally pale in comparison to the popping colors that Frank Martin delivers in the main story.
Given Marvel’s focus on returning to classic numbering with its Legacy branding, I’m surprised to find this comic book labelled as a first issue. Given that the first volume of the series ended with #100, starting off again at #101 would have still made a nice impression, I thought.
On the surface, it seems as though one needs to be well versed in recent Marvel lore to appreciate the main story. Knowledge of Secret Wars and Infamous Iron Man certainly would make things easier on the reader, but it occurred to me all one really needs to know is the basic origin of the Fantastic Four (available in a three-page recap at the end of the issue), and acceptance of the basic tenets that the Richards family is lost and Doom is endeavoring to be a hero.
With that foundation, the real appeal of this story reveals itself. This is about role reversals. Instead of the Thing lamenting the curse of his powers, Johnny is the morose one over the challenge he now faces over his powers. Ben is thrust into the role of the positive force. Really, he’s forced to adopt Reed’s and Sue’s roles as well, suggesting exploration as Reed did and offering comfort as Sue did. Ben and Grimm have lost family members, but they can still be family to one another; they’ve taken on the other functions of those they’ve lost.
Contrary the title of this first chapter of “The Fate of the Four,” it appears this story is going to be a bit of a slow burn. The introduction of a new female figure into Ben’s life is offered as a fleeting moment, though I’m confident Zdarsky is going to be following up on who she is and what role she’ll play in the Thing’s life before long. I kind of like the notion that this inaugural story will be drawn out a bit. Restoring the legacy of the Fantastic Four — the founding property of the modern Marvel Universe — merits an approach that’s more of a saga. 7/10