Friday, November 12, 2010

Project Pegasus: The Age of Aquarian!

Marvel Two In One #58 (Dec 1979)
"To the Nth Power!"
Writers: Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio
Artists: George Perez/Gene Day

Karen: This is it, the conclusion of the Project: Pegasus saga! We start with an unconscious Ben being threatened by Klaw, who knocked our heroes out at the end of the previous issue. Suddenly Klaw is overcome and his body begins vibrating madly, and is sucked back into the metal blaster of his hand. As Ben regains consciousness, we pull back and see that Klaw's undoing is the work of Wundarr, who is now dressed in a white and sky blue outfit. It kind of reminds me of Dove over at DC.

Doug: Yeah, the new outfit does have that same color scheme. Hey, art question right off the bat -- who do you think did the roll call headshots on the side of the splash page? I
t sort of looks like Kerry Gammill, or maybe Ron Frenz... no one is credited, and I could not find any more information on the various databases I consult. Readers might notice, too, that this issue has Perez providing breakdowns and Gene Day the finished art. There are times throughout the story when some of the faces seem a bit off. While the art is certainly solid throughout, it's not holding a candle to last issue's Perez-masterpiece.

Karen: For the most part I really liked the art, but I know what you mean when you say a few things were off. As for the headshots -you got me! It certainly doesn't look like the rest of the art.

Karen: Ben is startled and happy to see Wundarr up and around -and qu
ickly realizes that he is changed -not just in appearance, but in intelligence. This is not the man-child he once knew but a far more eloquent man. Wundarr explains that his encounter with the Cosmic Cube has expanded his energy-nullifying powers to a phenomenal degree. The Cube is also responsible for his mental transformation. He declares that he is Wundarr no longer, but shall now be known as the Aquarian. He says he will bring peace to the world.
Doug: You just know you had these lines going through your head while you were writing all of this:

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

Karen: Oh yeah, hence my title to this post! There's definitely some Christ-like symbology here, but it's so wrapped up in this action-packed story, it doesn't come across too heavy-handed.

Doug: You're right. In fact, it's almost like it's 10 years too late to have any real relevance. I wonder what the influence was that spurred Macchio and Gruenwald to this idea?

Karen: After Ben and the Aquarian take Giant-Man and Quasar
to the infirmary, they head off to find the "spatial distortion" that Aquarian senses inside the project. We then get a nice full-page display of what has become of Dr. Lightner: he's used the Nth device to turn himself into a living space warp! And he's sucking the entire project into the void of his body. Ben tries to stop him, thinking he can throw enough objects into him that he will "block him up", but the matter only makes Lightner grow larger.

Doug: Loved the scene where Aquarian hoists Giant-Man with one hand.
I've always wondered why our giant friends don't automatically revert to their normal heights when passed out? I'm thinking of Hank Pym in Avengers #140 here...

Karen: Maybe it has to be a conscious effort? The Aquarian then tries to use his energy-nullifying abilities to shut Lightner down; he has some mild success, but also turns off the power in the compound, freeing some of the prisoners, including Thundra. Ultimately, Aquarian fails.

Doug: This was an interesting sequence of events, that like most of this story seemed pretty well-thought out. I think with two writers on the book, or in other cases
when there is very close collaboration between the writer and the artist, some of the rough edges get smoothed out, and some of what we might normally find to be plot holes are closed before they become a problem/see the light of day.

Karen: Both Quasar and Giant-Man recover and head for the site of the distortion, to be joined by Thundra as well. Quasar attempts to destroy Lightner -or the Nth Man, as he calls himself -but his energy only feeds him. Giant-Man offers himself up -he says he can try to grow from within Lightner's void and fill him. Quasar
objects, saying it might kill Giant-Man. And we finally learn why Giant-Man has been so driven: he's dying of radiation poisoning. He had hoped to find a cure at Pegasus, but that never materialized. So he launches himself at the Nth Man -only to disappear. It didn't work.
Doug: I can't decide if the revelation of Foster's illness makes me like him more or not. Pity him, perhaps. But now his motivation is just to make a legacy for himself -- it just doesn't seem like anything he does is out of altruism. I don't know... sort of just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe he isn't noble at all?
Karen: Well, I think he has a big chip on his shoulder, if nothing else. Aquarian tells the others that he might be able to save Giant-Man, and others, by entering the Nth Man. But they will need to form a living chain in order for him to do so. Despite losing their strength so close to Aquarian, the heroes hold on as the young man plunges into the void that was Lightner. Inside, Aquarian encounters a nightmare realm -actually it reminded me of a Ditko landscape from an old Dr. Strange. He recovers Giant-Man, who is losing his mind there. The Aquarian fires up his null field as much as he can, hoping that it will have a greater effect from inside the villain than it did from outside. Eventually he succeeds, and the Nth Man is dispersed, in some more spectacular art by Perez.

Doug: Very nice scen
e, evoking all of the great let's-band-all-our-energies-together moments. Ben's devotion to Aquarian, and vice versa, was very touching in this scene. The authors did a nice job with that story element throughout. You mentioned Ditko -- certainly. However, I couldn't get past it seeming like the stupid Sentry vs. the Void from some issue of New Avengers. Then I pulled the fork out of my eye.

Karen: As our story wraps up, Ben and Aquarian say their goodbyes. Aquarian plans to spread his message of peace -yeah, good luck with that! Thundra is cleared of all charges for helping to destroy Lightner. And Giant-Man continues to look for a cure, with encouraging words from Ben. The last three panels of the story tell us who was behind the whole Nth projector scheme: that evil oil company, Roxxon. Seems they want an energy monopoly. Now that's a villain that's not so hard to believe in.


J.A. Morris said...

Re:Role call headshots on the splash page,I'm at work & don't have the issues in front of me,so I can't say it's Gammill.
But It's probably not Ron Frenz,he was 19 when this issue was published and I don't recall him working in comics before the 80s.

Edo Bosnar said...

Thanks for a great set of reviews to a great set of comics - like Karen said in the comments to the last installment, the Project Pegasus story is above all fun, but as your reviews show, it's also a really coherently written story. And I love the "Roxxon" ending - still fresh and relevant to this day.

Garett said...

Nice reviews of these issues! Great story and art. Entertaining comics!

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