Friday, September 14, 2012

Man-Child and Mortoid: Marvel Two-In-One 2

Marvel Two-In-One #2 (March 1974)
"Manhunters From the Stars!"
Steve Gerber-Gil Kane/Joe Sinnott

Doug:  We could have called this "random-reads Friday", but we'll just go with it.  From time to time Karen and I see books in our collections and just toss out to the other "got this one?"  Today's one of those days when we could each say "Yes!"  So, here are our thoughts on a very early issue of one of our favorite Bronze Age titles, Marvel Two-In-One.  And it's a great start with that nifty Johnny Romita cover; but how shall the lanky-looking Gil Kane fare under the pen of Joltin' Joe Sinnott?  No time like the present...

Karen: I don't think we've reviewed many books written by Steve Gerber -Defenders I guess, but other than that, it's got to be very few. But he was a prolific writer for Marvel in the 70s, and he certainly had his own style.

Doug:  Nothing like a body plummeting from the sky to let a reader know that this one's going to be action-packed!  And when the body belongs to none other than future MTIO regular Wundarr, we're definitely in for some entertainment.  Oh, and did we mention Namorita on the splash page?  Nita's just sunning herself on the craggy shores of Hydrobase, where Namor and a group of amphibians have taken up residence (as per Subby's own title, in the late # 60's).  Nita soon realizes that Wundarr can't swim, so enters the drink and tows him to shore.  He's taken in some water, so our young heroine must give him CPR -- and she's not complaining.  Wundarr comes round, but then we go into an awkward "Me Tarzan, you Jane" sort of dialogue.  Nita quickly figures out that this dude's a couple fries short of a Happy Meal.  When the Avenging Son then bursts onto the scene, Wundarr take a Hulk-like powder, leaping away.

Karen: I was amazed by Wundarr's leaping ability. As Subby says, only the Hulk has exhibited that talent. Yet I recall Wundarr falling into the 15 ton weight category some years later.

Doug:  Nita chastises Namor for his brusqueness, and then tearfully says they have to pursue -- Wundarr is not as big of brain as he is of brawn.  We then cut to a starship in orbit above Earth.  Inside our some humanoids from the planet Dakkam.  In a very Krypton-like story, these guys relate how one of Dakkam's greatest scientists was convinced that the planet would be destroyed.  He crafted a rocket capable of delivering himself and his wife and their infant son to safety.  But his detractors didn't want him to cause a worldwide panic, and in their efforts to stop him the rocket was launched with only the baby.  And, much like the version we more commonly know, that rocket made it to Earth where the child grew to maturity and became super-strong.  However, unlike the legend of Superman, Dakkam never did die out -- the scientist had been completely wrong.  These emissaries of Dakkam had been sent with a killer robot (I love the name!  A "mortoid") to slay Wundarr, lest he ever come back to Dakkam to avenge his father.

Karen: Dakkam = Daxam?? Obviously Wundarr's dad was no Jor-El, but he has a lot in common with a certain man of steel.

Doug:  We then get a one-page recap of the events of Fear #17, Wundarr's 1st appearance where he met, of all people, the Man-Thing.  That didn't go so well.  Our next scene-shift takes us to a movie house just off Times Square, where the Thing and the Human Torch have just taken in "The Five Fingers of Doom" (because everybody was, after all, kung fu fighting in 1974) and are arguing the artistic value of such flicks.  Ben grabs a lamp post and mangles it, just to show the doom in his own fingers.  Johnny decides to take off, but Ben says he'll just mope around the Square.  He's feeling blue, having just battled the previously-mentioned Man-Thing in the inaugural issue of MTIO.  That big ugly has him feeling self-conscious.  Just then, who should come plummeting earthside, but Wundarr!  He lands right in front of a cabbie who can't avoid hitting him.  Angered and confused, Wundarr picks up the cab and throws it wildly.  But the Bashful One quickly gets out of his trenchcoat, catches the cab, and then it's of course Clobberin' Time!

Karen: I gotta say, I'm enjoying this Kane/Sinnott combo! You can practically feel the impact as WUndarr falls and is then struck by the cab. Great stuff!

Doug:  Yeah, this definitely predates the ol' "Unca Benjy!" Wundarr that we reviewed in our "Project Pegasus" reviews.  Ben takes it to Wundarr hard, and their battle is monitored by the Dakkamites up in space.  Ben begins to question what Wundarr's deal is, why he doesn't talk, etc.  He even muses if Wundarr might be related to Black Bolt!  Just then, Namor and Namorita arrive on Manhattan's seafront.  Questioning a moored sea captain as to Wundarr's whereabouts, the old mariner tells of the big battle going down in Times Square.  As the two Atlanteans take wing, Ben delivers the ending blow, nearly knocking Wundarr unconscious.  Feeling just a bit guilty and wondering if maybe Wundarr is mentally-impaired, Ben's knocked off balance by Namor's arrival.  Two things are great about that splash page -- first, Namor calls Ben a "craven brute", and second, Gil Kane's use of foreshortening is perfect.

Karen: I really love how the citizens of the Marvel universe are so cavalier about super-beings. The sailor Namor questions is sitting on the deck of his boat, having a beer and a smoke as he watches Ben and Wundarr beat the crap out of each other! I also liked the way Ben begins to suspect that Wundarr "ain't playin' with a full deck!" Despite his appearance and rough demeanor, Ben has always been a sensitive and perceptive guy, just another reason to like him. And I agree, that full-page art is fantastic.

Doug:  Nita tends to Wundarr while Subby squares off against Ben.  Of course Ben is really confused now, but hey -- whenever pointy-ears wants to scrap, Ben's game.  Back in space, the Dakkamites worry that the entrance of the Atlanteans will turn the tide of battle in Wundarr's favor and that the Thing now will not kill him.  So they decide the must get involved.  Steering their ship toward Earth, they descend until they are hovering above Times Square.  At that point our two conversationalists, along with the Mortoid, float down to the ground.  Wundarr is neutralized by a beam of some sort.  Namor and Ben decide to put aside whatever differences they had and fight the giant robot.  It takes all of six panels for them to destroy it.  The Dakkamites decide that they can't tangle with all of the super-types, so they beat it back up into their ship.  On the ground, Ben breaks the grip that Wundarr had on Nita's wrist.  But before he can even ask what the heck has just gone down, Namor tells Ben that Wundarr is a baby trapped in a man's body and needs care; Nita echoes and encourages Ben to be someone Wundarr can love.  Then they take off, and leave the Thing alone holding the super-child.

Karen: The "Mortoid" really doesn't stand a chance, does he? It's fun reading the exchanges between Ben and Namor -old foes who know each other very well. The last panel, with a shocked Ben holding Wundarr, really makes you feel for both of them!

Doug:  I thought this was a pretty good story, but needed to be either a two-parter or at least the lead story in a Giant-Size.  The ending seemed very rushed.  Gil Kane is such a good storyteller with his varying perspectives and the aforementioned foreshortening.  Sinnott helps him out a bit, but I'll be honest -- while I appreciate Kane's style I've never completely warmed to his faces and sometimes-stressed hands and fingers.  There's no doubt he knows how to tell a story -- for my money, though, he's just not as polished as one of the Buscemas.  But it's a pretty good-looking book, and the sacrifice of two pages for Wundarr's backstory was necessary, as I don't know how many folks back in the day would have read Fear #17.

Karen: I enjoyed this, even if it did seem somewhat brief. Gerber shows a real understanding of the characters and I thought they were all pitch-perfect. A nice little one-off story.


Matthew Bradley said...

Great to see you getting back into some reviews! I've had a real soft spot for this issue ever since it came out when I was 11; for some strange reason, I seemed to acquire far fewer comics in 1974 than in '73.

Kane and Sinnott certainly seem like an odd combo, and although I wouldn't put the results at the top of my list, they are satisfying and--just as important--different in that wonderful Bronze-Age way. I've been on a steady diet of Silver-Age stuff lately, and it's bracing to get a glimpse of some Bronze in your panel grabs. The whole storytelling style is different, in ways that I can't even quantify.

There were a ton of good writers working for Marvel at that time, but Gerber was one who always stood out from the rest of the pack for me (ditto Englehart), and I think his MTIO and DEFENDERS issues show him in his prime. The Guardians of the Galaxy stuff that soon followed in both books is a prime example. When Wundarr made his reappearance in later years, I remember feeling a sense of pride that I had known him way back when...although I'd forgotten about that issue of FEAR, which I only acquired years later and don't remember well at all.

The whole "frenemies" aspect between Ben and Namor is well handled here, too. They are, as you point out, always ready to go head-to-head, but here they do so with a modicum of respect that seems much more mature than in some of their earlier clashes, and you get the sense of them knowing that once the misunderstanding has been worked out, they can part as something other than bitter foes.

A fun write-up of a fun issue. Nice cover, too. Thanks!

Edo Bosnar said...

These first dozen or so issues of MTIO written by Gerber are generally pretty good as I recall. I definitely agree with Matthew, Gerber was really a shining light at Marvel during the '70s, always ready to throw in some interesting concepts into his stories, or make subtle (or not so subtle) jabs at the genre itself. The whole concept of Wundarr is a great case in point - I just love the idea of the Jor-El counterpart being wrong about his home planet blowing up.
As for the art, Kane and Sinnott are two artists I never associate with each other, but they really worked well together.

Doug said...

Matthew --

Thanks for the kind words.

As to "getting back to the reviews", those are certainly our favorite posts to run, and the backbone (we believe) of the blog. However, both Karen and I wish we were able to do them more often than we do! We've always prided ourselves on providing actual reviews with plot synopses, art samples, and our commentaries -- other sites merely scan entire issues with no thoughts at all, or publish such sketchy reviews that the reader may be left wondering "so what?"

If I really had it "my way", we'd do three reviews each week. But, with the quality we hope to maintain, a single review in which we both participate can require as much as 3 1/2 hours of labor. Sadly, with "real life" always lurking at the door it's just not possible for either of us to write like we'd like to.

So hang in there for the reviews that do happen, and please -- keep the comments coming. Your kind words are very gratifying to both of us.

Have a great weekend,


Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks, Doug. As a fellow blogger, I can empathize as well as sympathize with the "not enough hours in the day" dilemma. The outstanding reviews are certainly what drew me to BAB in the first place, and believe me, if I have to choose between quantity and quality, I'll take quality every time! Wish we had room to offer anywhere near as complete coverage of a given issue on our site, but obviously the difference in format won't allow it. Keep up the good work.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I read this one in the first volume of Essential Marvel Two-In-One. It's nice to be able to see the panels in color.

As a huge Gil Kane fan, I relish any opportunity to see his art. This particular case is a real treat. I agree that the combination of his pencils and Sinnott's inks are really effective. It is a pity they did not work together more often...

david_b said...

Another GREAT Bronze memory here..

Having just collected MF ish 11 and 12, I actually missed MTIO's premiere issue with Man-Thing, so this to me seemed like the premiere nevertheless.

A great story, and forgive me for not waxing as much insight as y'all, but it was just a wonderful story with plenty to enjoy and enjoy again.

I wasn't familiar with Namorita, but she was definitely a pleasing sight. Loved her lighter-side compared to Namor, but was curious as to her 'normal strength', shown when she was being pulled into the beam with Wundarr, why as another submariner, wouldn't she have comparable strength to Namor..?

I always enjoyed the idea of team-up books having their own set of supporting characters, to further hone a distinctive flavor away from the main titles. Much like Willie the longshoreman in MTU, here you have Wundarr, literally popping out of nowhere. Perhaps overused at times, Wundarr was great in bringing out Uncle Benjy's lighter side, a much needed complementary style diversion to really make this new solo venture work.

Layering on that, I really liked how Gerber could either do great done-in-one stories as shown here, then throw in 'separate chapter' stories, such as DD and Ben in the next MTIO issue.

As others have said here, I agree the first dozen MTIO's were definitely the best.

Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on Gil Kane, Doug. I'll admit up front like Inkstained Wretch I'm a huge fan of Mr Kane's artwork. Of course, not everyone is a fan of his unique angular style. To each his own, I guess.

Kane and Sinnott's styles are different but they really do mesh well together here. Whoever decided Subby should have arm wings back in the 70s should be sent on a one way plane ride to Latveria!

This is Marvel, so you KNOW the Thing & Subby were going to duke it out for a while before they turned their attention to the real villains.

- Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

I must admit that initially I wasn't too keen on Gil Kane's artwork but gradually I came to really enjoy it and by the time this mag came out I was already becoming a fan of Steve Gerber's writing. It did just occur to me that Wundarr's leaping ability was a riff on the original incarnation of the Distinguished Competition's "Man of Steel" -- after all, before he was shown flying regularly, he was famed for "leaping over tall buildings in a single bound." I already had Wundarr's intro from Fear #17 and I found it amusing how he was essentially dropped on Ben in this mag. The continuity and humor Gerber brought to the mag made it fun. MTIO got pretty stale when it became a typical meet-up mag and it wasn't really until the Project Pegasus storyline that it really became interesting again.

david_b said...


Great comment on Subby and Benjy.. Love how their natural inclination upon meeting was not a gentlemanly 'cup of tea', but with the slightest provocation, to just come out SLUGGIN'.

("Slug now, talk later..")

Another GREAT hallmark of the Bronze Age.

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