REVIEW: Marvel 2-in-One #4 (Across the Universes)

In a story that would have been right at home in Marvel’s What If? title, the Thing and the Human Torch’s quest to find Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman leads them into an alternate reality where one of the most important stories in the history of the Marvel Universe led to one of the most shocking outcomes ever seen!

Writer:  Chip Zdarsky
Penciler:  Valerio Schiti
Inker:  Valerio Schiti
Colorist:  Frank Martin
Publisher:  Marvel Comics

What You Need to Know: 

When we left off last time, the bitter super-genius Rachna Koul revealed to the Human Torch and the Thing that because of a strange entanglement at work in the powers of the Fantastic Four, Ben’s strength is going the way of Johnny’s fading flame.  Fearing for their own powers as well as those of Reed and Sue only strengthened the resolve of the Thing and the Torch to find their loved ones somewhere in the vast Multiverse before the FF is completely powerless.  Thus, with Rachna along for the ride, half of Earth’s greatest team of adventurers sets off in search of the other half. 

What You’ll Find Out: 

Who is the mysterious woman sitting in a darkened room with another, apparently comatose woman whom she calls “Dee”?  And what importance do these women hold for the very lives of Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm?  We hardly have a chance to ponder this mystery, because now it’s time to journey across the universes with the aforementioned Torch and Thing!

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First, however, we pause for a note on what the Ben and Johnny are wearing for this journey.  Really?  Johnny looks like a NASCAR driver from the waist up, which is appropriate enough for him, but that get-up on the Thing makes him look almost like someone’s grandfather headed for a day at the beach.  After some concerned razzing from Spider-Man and just some concern from Alicia, the surly and condescending Rachna joins our cosmically impaired comrades in activating Reed’s “Multisect” device and nipping off to another reality.  They land in Manhattan on an Earth where the supercilious scientist marches away to check on some peculiar energy readings, leaving the Torch and the Thing to confront the welcoming committee:  would you believe She-Hulk and Wolverine, Agents of SHIELD?  Yes, it’s a short-haired She-Hulk in the company of old Edward Talon Hands, who’s just as urbane and refined on this Earth as he is on the main Marvel world.  (Yes, I’m being ironic.)  In the ensuing, inevitable super street brawl (this is a Marvel Earth, all right), the vulgar little homicidal maniac runs through the Torch with his claws, and the Thing knocks Wolverine’s feral fanny through the side of a building.  The misunderstanding this time, you see, was that She-Hulk and old Insubordinate Claws thought the Thing and the Torch were Skrull imposters.  The Torch’s very human red blood (Johnny having been pierced only through the shoulder) convinces them of their mistake.  It also persuades them to take our heroes to see this world’s Reed Richards.

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Page 17You see, in this world all super-heroes consolidated their activities under SHIELD after a Skrull invasion similar to the one that occurred on regular Marvel Earth several marketing-driven events ago.  The Reed of this world is a severely depressed, isolated man, estranged from a Susan who now heads the superhuman division of SHIELD.  How did all this happen?  Here’s the part that’s enough to knock your socks off and crash you flat on your tush!  When Galactus came to this Earth in what was the original “Galactus Trilogy” in the main universe, he immediately blasted the Thing to orange pebbles.  The remaining three of the Fantastic Four fell into shock and grief, but especially Reed.  In this state of mind, Reed was in no condition to handle Galactus—but someone else was!  That’s when the Doctor Doom of this reality took a hand, using the Ovoid trick that he learned in Fantastic Four #10.  In this world, Doom—are you ready for this?—SWITCHED BODIES WITH GALACTUS!  So Doom became the Devourer of Worlds and promised never to prey upon the planet of his birth—but that didn’t stop him from CONSUMING THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE instead!  The Earth that our Thing and Torch are now visiting spins alone in a limitless black void, with the Sun as its only company!  We are thus left in a cliffhanger with almost no cliff to hang from!

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What Just Happened?This is one of the most “lower-jaw-dropping-into-your-lap” stories I’ve seen in years.  Writer Chip Zdarsky has impressed me more this issue than he did in the last one.  The last time I saw the history of the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom used in such a startlingly inventive—and inventively startling—way was in the Mark Waid story of “Hereafter.”  In that saga, you may remember, Waid had Reed reconstruct Victor Von Doom’s “Afterlife Probe”—the device that blew up in Doom’s face when they were in college—to take himself, Sue, and the Torch to the Afterlife to rescue Ben after he was killed in battle with Doom.  The idea of having Doom use the Ovoid body-switcheroo, which we’ve previously seen him do in the stories of Lee and Kirby and John Byrne, on Galactus was a stunning development.  But it begs some questions.  What happened to the Silver Surfer in this universe?  Where is Galactus in Doom’s body, and where is the Torch?  And are we going to like the answers when we find out?

Rating:  10/10

Final Thought:  In the review of last issue, I supposed that Valerio Schiti’s art would start to progress from its auspicious beginnings and get better and better.  The art in this issue bears out this supposition.  He’s turned in a very nice job, notwithstanding that outfit on the Thing, better than last issue, and I look forward to seeing the continued improvement.  The Fantastic Four has a way of bringing out the best in some artists, and it’s good to see it happening with Schiti.  As for the story…I’ve looked at the cover for two issues out and I can see it heading into some territory that recalls the very greatest stories of the original FF series.  When you’re working with The Fantastic Four, you’re working with the best material ever created for any comic book.  Marvel 2-in-One continues to show itself worthy of the Fantastic Four heritage.  May that continue as well.

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