Marvel 2-in-One #10
One of the central issues of this whole saga of the Thing and the Human Torch seeking Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman in different worlds across the Multiverse has been the attrition of Ben and Johnny’s powers. The cause of this—something we never previously knew about the Fantastic Four—is that they must all be in the same universe to retain their powers because of a strange quantum-entanglement-like phenomenon between them. What has made Ben and Johnny’s situation most dire in the present world where they’ve found themselves is that their powers have faded completely, just in time for the attack of the Mad Thinker and his all-new, evil FF.
Now, the situation has changed. The sudden appearance of Sue Richards—who turns out to be really “our” Sue—in this universe has jump-started Ben and Johnny’s powers. This is bad news for the psychotic Spider—who was Spider-Man before the post-Civil War apocalypse and has now become a psycho tyrant—when he comes after our boys, because he’s now facing a Thing and Torch with their powers back in full force. Johnny and Ben make short work of the Spider and turn their attention next to the Thinker—who has presumed to re-dub himself “Mister Fantastic”—and his lot of super-miscreants. The ensuing battle is practically a joke. These guys aren’t even a match for half of the real Fantastic Four, and Johnny’s takedown of the Thinker is almost pitiful. Remember Reed Richards’s “auto-extensors” from Fantastic Four #185 and 186, which were a partial simulation of his powers when Reed’s real powers had mysteriously faded? It seems the Thinker’s “powers” were really just a pair of similar auto-extensors. Johnny roasts them, burns the “4” symbol that the Thinker has no business wearing right off his shirt, confiscates the Multisect that the Thinker stole from Rachna, and returns to Ben, ready to go home. After a touching scene that reaffirms their surrogate big brother/little brother relationship, Ben and Johnny take their leave of this world and their cross-universe road trip, ready for what awaits them in Fantastic Four #1 (which we all read back in August).
You see, Reed and Sue have been doing some interdimensional jaunting of their own, during which they also figured out what was happening to their powers (while battling hostile aliens called the Zaklons, who are mentioned but not seen). Reed, with the acumen we should expect of him, tracked down Johnny and Ben, and Sue took a little side trip to restore everyone’s powers. After giving the Spider an invisible trouncing, Sue asks an off-panel Reed if it’s time to bring the family back together now. Not quite: that tableau has been saved for Fantastic Four #2 and 3, now in progress!
After reading Fantastic Four #1, I was rather critical of the continuity between the main FF book and this one in terms of Johnny’s quarrel with Ben over the fate of Reed and Sue, and how the story in Marvel 2-in-One lines up with the story in The Fantastic Four. A reading of this issue and a re-reading of FF #1 makes clear the way the stories and the lines of characterization flow together. The seeming disconnect between the stories in the two books was the result of the publishing schedules not being in sync. If you read FF #1 again after reading Marvel 2-in-One #10, it works.
Writer Chip Zdarsky is once again to be commended for his knowledge and use of Fantastic Four history. Having the Mad Thinker’s simulated powers turn out to be really a reuse of Reed’s auto-extensors is a clever callback to past FF stories. As for the Thinker’s followers: These guys are a sorry bunch. I always thought it was bad, the way the Frightful Four tried to be a force for evil in direct proportion to the FF’s good, but were mostly a lot of super-criminals with delusions of grandeur who couldn’t even stop their own members from defecting. Oh, they were murderous and dangerous enough, and with the genius of the Wizard behind them, they posed a serious threat, as when they tried to nuke the FF and wound up irradiating their powers away instead (see Fantastic Four #38-40), and when they later changed the Thing into a villain with the Id Machine (Fantastic Four #41-43). These characters, however, are perhaps the most ineffectual excuse for a pack of villains I’ve ever seen. Their place in the Bad Guys’ Hall of Shame is assured.
What I really want to talk to you about in this issue is the artwork. Somewhere in the work of Ramon Perez, I think, is the style of a great comic book artist trying to emerge. He’s really trying, and his work seems as though it could be something really beautiful and dramatic that can deliver a comic book with attractively rendered characters and terrific storytelling. What I think we’ve been seeing in the brief time we’ve had Perez on board is unrealized possibilities and yet-to-be-fulfilled promise. And what I really want to bring up is something I’ve also discussed with the work of Sara Pichelli over in The Fantastic Four: Perez and the current crop of Marvel artists need to learn how to draw the Human Torch when he has his powers on! Seriously.
When I look at Perez’s panels with the flamed-on Torch, what I see sums up my problem with his work so far: a sketchy, incomplete, unfinished quality, needing more in the way of detail, as if he knows what the power is but not how to render it in a visually satisfying manner. It’s too rough; it lacks definition and polish. It all looks more like the inking of rough sketches than of finished comic book art, and the effect of it is most pronounced in the way the Torch looks when flamed-on, and in the look of the power itself. The whole thing is just “not quite all there yet.” I think Ramon Perez is probably a very good artist. He’s just not showing us how good he can really be, at least not yet. I hope he continues to refine his style, and I hope be begins to show us that refinement. We’re just not seeing it now.
It’s been a long, strange trip with Ben and Johnny since Ben decided to take Johnny "on the road" across universes to buck up his morale after the apparent loss of Sue and Reed. Marvel 2-in-One has so far shown us some really good comic books in the Fantastic Four tradition, especially in the opening story that concluded with the showdown with the Galactus-powered Dr. Doom. I hope this series goes on after next issue’s reunion of Ben and Reed and continues to show us different angles and perspectives on the FF’s incredible world. But I also hope to see better things in the visual quality of the series than we’ve been getting since Jim Cheung moved on.
Marvel 2-in-One #10: Showdown with the Fantastic Faux!
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8/108/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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