Marvel Two In One # 42 (August 1978)
Writer: Ralph Macchio
Artist: Sal Buscema
Inkers: Alfredo Alcala, Sam Grainger
Karen: This post kicks off a two part review of a story in Marvel Two-In-One that deals with the both the super soldier serum and the Cosmic Cube. Originally I had intended this to be a longer series of posts, as the story actually started in Astonishing Tales, featuring Ka-Zar, back in 1973. But after having read those issues, I decided to spare you the pain and just go with the condensed version. Honestly, those Ka-Zar stories are pretty dreadful. All you really need to know from them is that both AIM and SHIELD were working hard to rediscover the super-soldier formula of Dr. Erskine -the formula that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. A scientist, Victor Conrad, at AIM got ahold of the original formula and used it on himself. He went on to fight Ka-Zar and lost, and presumably died in a great fall into a moat. Got it?
Karen: Present-time: Bashful Benjy tears through a six-inch thick titanium steel door at the new Project Pegasus research center. He's surrounded by men knocks them around like children. Leaping from the other side of the room is none other than Captain America. He orders the men back and lands just in time to block a huge orange fist with his shield. Ben is raging, beyond reason. it turns out he's upset about Wundarr, the alien super-teen with the mind of a child who was once Ben's ward. Project Pegasus has taken him and Ben wants to know why. Cap tries to calm him but it does no good. Finally, the Captain triggers a device that puts Ben into a force field. Unable to do much more than float, Ben finally settles down.
Karen: Cap gives Ben a quick tour of the facility run by "the new Department of Energy" (started by Jimmy Carter, remember?) but all Ben cares about is Wundarr. The two men take an elevator down to a lower level, in the cosmic radiation section where Wundarr is being held. The scientists want to use Wundarr's abilities to see if he can stimulate the Cosmic Cube back into functioning. Just like in the Avengers film, the technos theorize that the cube could be a tremendous energy source. It's interesting to note here that when Ben complains about Wundarr being held captive, Cap says that Wundarr is an illegal alien after all! Where's that Englehart Cap when you need him? But he also assures Ben that the scientists are trying to help improve his intelligence, which has been badly stunted. Wundarr is brought out in a fancy shackle, which he promptly bursts, and goes running off. Ben jumps in to intercede and protect him. The youth sees him and cries out "Unca Benjy!" and runs to the one person he trusts. Ben wraps him in a protective bear hug.
Karen: Ben tells Wundarr that he's going to be OK, he won't let anything happen to him. But he feels badly about taking him back to the lab. Wundarr is strapped into a chair with a big colander over his head and the dormant Cube hangs before him. The helmet gizmo apparently activates Wundarr's power, and the Cube begins to pulsate with power once again. Wundarr begins to get panicky, and Ben, watching from another room, is in agony. Suddenly, one of the scientists throws a switch and Wundarr is bombarded with energy. He screams in pain, and that's enough for Ben. He once again tears a wall down to get to his young friend. Cap immediately suspects sabotage and spots a figure on a catwalk. He jumps up and the scientist there says "Blast! I- of all people -should have known you could reach me up here!" This perplexes Cap enough that he's caught off guard, and the mysterious saboteur backhands him hard, sending him flying. The man jumps down into the cell with Wundarr and grabs the Cube and teleports away.
Karen: Our scene switches to a swamp and a group of red-robed cultists chanting in an unearthly tongue. They seem to be praying around a human skeleton. Suddenly, the man with the Cube appears before them. He tears off a mask (here we go with the masks again! A running theme for comments here at BAB) and reveals himself as Victor Conrad, aka Victorius, the AIM scientist who took the Super Soldier serum. It appears he's become the leader of these 'Entropists'.
Karen: Back at Project Pegasus, things are not looking good for Wundarr. The energy he absorbed from the Cube has rendered him comatose. Ben is crushed and Cap does a sort of poor job consoling him, almost as if he's preparing Ben to lose Wundarr. Since he can't help Wundarr, Ben wants to go after the man who hurt him and took the Cube. Cap points the way to a jet equipped with devices from Stark Industries designed to detect energy signatures. Ben jumps in the cockpit despite the protests of the technicians, and he and Cap are off.
Karen: They trace the Cube to the Florida everglades. Landing the VTOL craft in the swamp, Ben questions whether the equipment is working properly. Who would take an object as powerful as the Cube and go here? Moments later, they get their answer, as they are faced by Victorius and his followers, included a cloaked dark being called the Entropic Man. Victorius declares that he is going to usher in a new order for the universe. Just like everyone else who has ever had the Cube! But as Ben says, "Wotta revoltin' development."
Karen: I enjoyed this story, although it really is mostly set-up for part two. The art is all right, although I think another inker on Sal might have worked better. It sometimes looks rushed. This was our introduction to Project Pegasus, which would have its own saga in MTIO #53-58 . I have to say I think George Perez did a great job in getting the size and scope of the lab across in those issues. But I thought it was interesting how some of the ideas from the Avengers film appear to have originated here. I had not remembered that the Cube had been taken to Project Pegasus after Thanos' defeat. The base at the beginning of the film is shown to be Project Pegasus on a sign briefly seen. I also did not recall the idea that the Cube could be an energy source- I thought that originated in the Captain America and Avengers films alone, but obviously that is not the case. Now if they'd only call the thing the Cosmic Cube, I'd really be happy!