Monday, July 18, 2011
Giant-Size July: Marvel Two-In-One #20
Marvel Two-In-One #20 (October 1976)
"Showdown At Sea"
Roy Thomas-Sal Buscema/Sam Grainger
Doug: Yeah, we know this is a "regular sized" issue, but it's also the conclusion to the 3-part opus Roy Thomas began to weave in Fantastic Four Annual #11, tying the FF into a story involving Marvel's World War II-era heroes: the Invaders and the Liberty Legion. We'll have more oversized goodness for you next Monday. And seriously, can you deny the Kirby-coolness of a white cover with floating heads? On to our final chapter...
Doug: When we left Bashful Benjy at the conclusion of Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1, he had vaulted into the sky from a bent flagpole. His target? Why, only a giant flying swastika, put together with Nazi know-how as well as technology stolen by a bunch of super-powered Ratzis: Sky Shark, Master Man, and Merrano the U-Man! These do-badders had lately been opposed by Marvel's "newest" WWII sensations, the Liberty Legion. Ben now entered the fray after a lot of sideline-standing, and once he lands he's going to meet our newest refugee from Thomas' Invaders mag.
Karen: I wonder what the story is behind this odd three-parter? I can't help but think that maybe it was originally intended to be told in just the two annuals, but somehow stretched out into this regular-sized issue. It's certainly an odd situation.
Doug: It is an odd bit of continuity. I thought a comment from frequent BAB reader Edo Bosnar about Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 violating that unwritten Annual rule of being a nice done-in-one story was interesting. I'd not given that a thought. But yes, this tale's long enough to be in a graphic novel or treasury edition!
Doug: Once on the airship, Ben discovered that its pilot was the Nazi mastermind (is that correct, because it's pretty punny) Brain Drain. Ben's of course shocked at the look of this... thing, and who wouldn't be? We then get the obligatory ~2-page recap before Ben begins to tear the flying swastika apart. As he's ripping into it, though, it obviously begins to spin out of control, clipping several buildings along the New York skyline. Finally diverted out to sea, the airship returns to its base, the same base where Sky Shark had found refuge in the previous chapter. But once down, Ben is greeted by Brain Drain's allies -- the aforementioned super-powered Nazis! Ben puts up a fight, feigns unconsciousness, and then rips through all of them once he's lured them in close. Sky Shark offers just enough resistance through the use of his pistol to allow Master Man and Merrano the ins they need to keep pummeling the Thing. And then the cavalry arrives!
Karen: Oh my. Der Brain Drain. Look, I like 50s sci fi movies with disembodied brains, but this guy, with his little eyes bobbing around, was just goofy. In light of all our discussion previously about Ben being Jewish, I thought his fight with Master Man, and the dialogue there, was pretty interesting. Master Man: "I suspect you are not...Aryan!" Ben: "That's the kinda bull we're fightin' this war to get rid of! Me, I'm just a pure-bred human bein'..." Again, it's just a simple comment that any hero might make, but if you interpret it in the light of Ben being Jewish, it adds another layer to it.
Doug: Yep. I can't recall if, after writing the synopsis for this issue, I went back to the MTIO Annual #1 post and inserted the line of questioning about Ben's heritage. Perhaps I thought of it at the time -- but you're certainly right in that there have been plenty of signs of Roy's perhaps-cloaked intentions throughout this entire story.
Doug: Sal Buscema has a couple of really nice larger panels in this story. At the beginning of this scene the appearance of the Nazi muscle is well-rendered; straightforward, but exciting. Here we see the Liberty Legion descending from the Thin Man's airplane to join the fray. It's good stuff! Once on the base, the LL begins to kick some major butt. This is a different sort of battle than the Invaders would fight -- this group doesn't have Namor's power or the advantage of the Torches flying and heat manipulating. We get a pretty good brouhaha, with the Legion displaying their powers (don't you think Roy was pushing hard for an ongoing series with these guys? It's too bad the mini-series hadn't been invented yet).
Karen: Yeah, the Liberty Legion is to the Invaders what Cap's Kooky Quartet was to the founding Avengers team: under-powered! Blue Diamond is tough, but I don't think he was super-strong; the Patriot's just an average guy; two members, Red Raven and Miss America, are mainly fliers; the Whizzer definitely could fit in with the Invaders though. Not so sure about Jack Frost or especially the Thin Man.
Doug: Ben continues to pound away at the swastika airship, until Brain Drain blasts off and away. He's followed shortly by Sky Shark in his plane, and the battle basically ends. When the Watcher reappears, Ben's pretty certain that the danger's over... as that dope Sky Shark had been flaunting the second half of the vibranium cylinder that started this whole mess, it was a pretty easy grab for Ben during the fracas. So with what he'd come back in time for, good-byes are said, the time platform's set for 1976, and it's off to the future (or present). Once back, Ben has some final words with the Watcher. Once he fades out, the rest of the FF finally burst into the laboratory. Ben nonchalantly tosses the reunited cylinder to Reed and heads off to find Alicia, for what we hope was a happy ending!
Karen: This issue was a fast read, especially compared to the other two. All in all, not a bad story, although I think the FF Annual was heads and shoulders above the second and third parts. I just looked at this issue (and the MTIO Annual) and kept thinking, "This is just ridiculous."
Doug: I liked this story, despite the silly parts and Roy's sometimes over-wordiness. It was fun to see the WWII heroes, and Ben's just a great team-up guy. Marvel really mined gold with their two leads, as opposed to DC's choices of Batman and Superman. While they are without a doubt the Distinguished Competition's biggest stars, neither of their personalities are even close to Spidey's or the Thing's. I think that's why Marvel could pair those guys with just about any B- or C-lister in their stable. Those two guys are just people people!
Karen: I've always kind of thought of Ben's role in the Marvel Universe as 'everybody's favorite uncle'. He's the kind of guy that is easy to get along with, doesn't have any airs or pretensions, and is a big softy at heart. You could team him up with anyone from Cap to Thor to Man-Thing -Ben got along with 'em all!