Friday, October 8, 2010

Project Pegasus: Gettin' Settled... and Surprised!

Marvel Two-in-One 53 (July 1979)
"The Inner War!"
Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio-John Byrne/Joe Sinnott

Doug: As the Bronze Age Babies approach 18 months of spreading comics love to the masses, we are still discussing/prioritizing/anticipating several key 1970's-'80's storylines. One such tale that has come up several times in our board meetings is Project Pegasus, a lengthy arc that was foreshadowed in Marvel Two-in-One 42-43 and then got rolling (big time) from #53 through #58. And what a creative team -- you have only to look at and admire the roll call at the top, and then later factor in a fella named George Perez... Wow. I'll be reading from the recently-released Marvel Premier Hardcover, The Thing: Project Pegasus.

Karen: I'm also using that hardcover for these reviews, even though I have the original issues. However, I loved this story and read it so many times, those old comics are pretty worn out. It was nice to be able to get this collection so I don't have to mangle my back issues any more!

Doug: MTIO 53 teams Ben with Quasar, aka Wendell Vaughn. But as the story begins, the Thing is flying a Pogo Plane to Project Pegasus where he will begin a short tour as a member of the security team. Upon landing, he's scanned, fumigated, and scanned some more. And just when he's about to be introduced to the Security Chief... who shows up but the Crusader, who the FF had fought in their own mag (issues 164-165). A major tussle ensues, with Ben coming out on the short end against... Quasar? Young Wendell Vaughn officially introduces himself, and then relates a short synopsis of the origin of Bob Grayson, the former Marvel Boy, and how Vaughn came into possession of the quantum bands.

Karen: The Thing is one of my favorite Marvel characters. In the hands of good writers, writers who understand him, he is able to project not only humor but also considerable warmth and depth of emotion. I felt like the characterization of Ben in these issues was spot-on. Ben's mission to Pegasus also has a very personal aspect, which we'll get to shortly.

Doug: I agree with you about the Thing. He's a character, along with Spider-Man and maybe Captain America, who when (as you said) handled correctly can always provide an entertaining story.

Doug: As Quasar shows Ben around, they come across a scientist named Lightner, whom Ben had met in an earlier issue. Lightner gives a cold shoulder, and then steals away and uses a communication device to contact his boss -- who gives off a quite sinister air.
Perhaps it's the fact that he says to initiate Project Berserker when he learns that Ben is present at Pegasus.

Doug: We next get an interlude where Thundra, of all people, is shown striding along the streets of Manhattan's seedier side. Of course she gets into a scrap, but what comes out of it is interesting -- she gets offered a contract to wrestle professionally. An African-American "little person" named Herkimer J. Ogelthorpe tells her that she will make them both a small fortune.

Karen: Thundra always made Ben's life so much more interesting. Her 'act first, think later' personality led to many an adventure. Of course her odd romantic impulses towards Ben were fun too.

Doug: Back to Pegasus, Quasar continues the tour, past some super-baddies who are imprisoned. Of note is the cell holding Nuklo, who we've covered on the blog a couple of times in the past. But the destination that most interests Ben is the cell of Wundarr, his former sidekick. Wundarr, after being used to tap the energies of the cosmic cube has fallen into a coma. His incredible powers insulate him from the outside world by dampening all energy within close proximity -- even Ben's strength.

Karen: There's the heart of our story: poor Wundarr, Ben's 'little' buddy, lying comatose on a slab (it didn't look very comfortable did it?). Ben feels terrible about it. Pegasus security was so tight he never could find out how Wundarr was doing, so he managed to get a stint on the security team so he could check up on him.

Doug: Your "little" buddy comment made me think of the Skipper and Gilligan! And I guess in a way that's not far from the relationship Ben had with Wundarr!

Karen: Wundarr was a Steve Gerber parody of Superman: he did the whole "strange visitor from another world" routine with him. Even though Wundarr looked like a young man, mentally, he had not developed past about 8 years of age or so, which made for some odd situations. I do like the arc he takes in this story; I just wish he'd continued to have more of a presence in the Marvel Universe.

Doug: Ben is shown his quarters, where he decides to settle in after a long day. But, we see Lightner apparently up to no good, ambushing a couple of guards while a shadowy figure infiltrates the compound. As Ben decides to get up and go for a walk, who waits around the next corner, ready for action -- but Deathlok!!


Chris said...

These are great comics. I'm looking forward to you reviewing the rest (I might just have to re-read them again first though).

Although I've read #53-58 many times and rate them as some of my favourites I also recall that the rest of the Gruenwald/Macchio run was solid as well.

Andrew Wahl said...


That's really odd. The post I just made over at Seduction of the Indifferent just showed up here. I have no clue how that happened, and where my comment to BBB just went. Yikes! Please kill my previous comment, if you would, and I'll try this again.

I haven't read the Pegasus Project storyline in years but recall enjoying it quite a bit. Beyond the Pérez and Byrne art, it scored with me for bringing a sense of continuity to Marvel Two-in-One. I like a good done-in-one every now and then, but I'm a continuity buff at heart.


J.A. Morris said...

The Marvel I knew,loved & grew up with died when collectors' speculation and multiple covers drove plots. But I knew it was never coming back when Gruenwald died. This was one of his best stories.

Edo Bosnar said...

Yes, this is definitely one of Gruenwald's best stories, and definitely the 6 best issues of MTIO. Following up on Andrew's comment, I used to love both MTIO and Marvel Team-up precisely because mostly they featured good, fun done-in-one stories, but nothing beats the Project Pegasus saga (just as some of my favorite issues of MTU are 82-85 - the 4-issue Black Widow with amnesia story).

Fred W. Hill said...

Yep, this era hearkened back to Gerber's run on the series, both in bringing back Wundarr, but also with connected stories and some genuine character development rather than the repetitious one-shots. Now some of those one-shot could be fun, but a steady diet of them got horribly boring, especially when the stories were pretty pointless slugfests. That applied to Marvel Team Up as well as Two-in-One.

Edmund Lau said...

I picked up the book yesterday for the great Sal Buscema/John Byrne/George Perez artwork. Very surprised to find that it was a pretty cool story as well - in the hokum 1970s manner, that is.

Gru and Macchio were just starting out in their writing careers and this was a crap book that nobody cared about anyway - I remember old issues that you can find just lying around on the bench in the local barber shop. So the Gru-Macchio writing duo put their collective heads together and came up with an "epic" (by "epic", it meant any story that dragged on for more than an issue in the non-decompressed 1970s).

The two will forever be remembered for introducing an all-important BUILDING to the Marvel-U (i.e. the Project Pegasus HQ) and ... uh... professional female wrestling to the Marvel-U as well (i.e. Thundra and the Grapplers!!!).

I finished the book and found myself shouting - "Make Mine Marvel"!!!

~ Edmund

Dallan said...

My "Golden Age" of comics started in 1975 (Hulk #191) and lasted through the mid to late '80s. From that period, all the way up to me getting back into comics (BIG TIME) in the early 2000s, the be all, end all, gold standard, pinnacle of my (mostly Marvel) comic book reading experience was always Project Pegasus. And with that being said, until recently... wait for it... I had only read HALF THE ISSUES! That's how much of an impact that goddamn story had on me! I only had 3 of the issues for the majority of my life and it was still my favorite arc of all time. LOL!
Now, of course, I have all the singles and the hardcover. As it should be. :)
Thanks for the article, BAB.

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