Friday, October 22, 2010

Project Pegasus: Just Because You're a Regular-Sized Genius Doesn't Mean You Aren't a Big Dope

Marvel Two-In-One #55 (September 1979)
"Giants In the Earth!"
Mark Gruenwald/Ralph Macchio-John Byrne/Joe Sinnott

Doug: Hey, hey -- Project Pegasus, part three lands today! So far we've seen Ben established as a security honcho at PP, a budding friendship between he and Quasar, Wundarr in a coma-like state, Thundra rasslin', a strange version of Deathlok, and a mole named Lightner who is trying to throw a big monkey wrench into our heroes' lives. So let's hit the ground running with this one, as we open with a super-hero poker game!

Karen: Ben and poker games would become synonymous after this. There were a number of times in later stories where he and his super-hero friends would play cards together.

Doug: As fate would have it, the cards are interrupted by a security alert. At the conclusion of issue #54, bad boy Lightner had unleashed Nuklo, the radioactive mutant son of the Whizzer and Miss America. Nuklo is a glowing giant but with an infant's mind. Now he's on the loose, wandering about like any confused child lost in a department store would.
As Ben, Quasar, and the other operatives make their move, Ben falls in with resident big brain Bill Foster.

Karen: What is it with Ben and super-nerds? Just as an aside, I really liked the map of Project Pegasus in issue 53, and we get another look at it, on a monitor, in this story. It was just a little something extra that was fun.

Doug: I recall Foster from his days in the pages of the Avengers, working alongside Hank Pym. I enjoyed the brief time Foster had his own mag as Black Goliath, and felt his guest-appearance in the Champions was all too short. But I have to tell you -- in this book he is anything but a hero. Here's why: Foster and the Thing are on an elevator, when (unbeknownst to them) Nuklo stops it from moving, and then begins to drive the car upward to the ceiling. Ben tries to stop it, but with a wounded wing (from Deathlok in the last ish) he proves ineffective. To his shock, Foster suddenly bursts out of his civvies and emerges from the rags a Black Goliath!

Karen: You think it was unheroic because Foster didn't grow immediately? I don't know, I never thought of it that way. I just assumed it took him a few moments to do it. That's funny how we interpreted this scene so differently!

Doug: Oh, no -- I'm sorry. My "hero" comment is really directed at Foster's overall activity in this story. I'm going to be a little hard on him here in a couple of minutes. And as to Bill's delay in dealing with the elevator problem -- I'd just write that off to being a neophyte in the super-hero business. But if he'd really wanted to make an impression on Ben...

Karen: I see. I agree with you regarding his Champions appearances -I'd have liked to see him become a regular. Of course the title itself didn't last very long. Now his claim to fame is being killed by that odious Thor-clone in Civil War.
The guy really got a raw deal pretty much his entire career!

Doug: Nuklo tires of the game and wanders away, as Foster recounts his origin to Ben. Ben suggests that Foster, who's expressed a lack of confidence in the hero game, make a clean break with the Black Goliath identity and rechristen himself Giant-Man. He does, and off they go. Meanwhile, Quasar has figured that it's Nuklo on the loose and attempts to channel the radioactivity through his wristbands and out of the facility. Then we cut to Thundra, wrestling at Madison Square Garden. Only this time she loses, by dishonorable means.

Karen: Foster's new costume has a little more pizazz than the previous one. I liked Ben's suggestion to Foster to rename himself Giant-Man, because we finally moved away from that silly Black Whatever that all African American heroes from this time period seemed stuck with. As Ben said, "It's pretty obvious you're black."

Doug: Ben also remarked on the "bare belly" aspect of that former suit... Remember when they tried that with Ms. Marvel as well? It was, after all, the Swingin' '70's!!

Karen: The fight between Thundra and the cheating Titania was well-drawn but seemed a little long. I'm surprised a needle could easily penetrate Thundra's skin, but then, I don't know if she was ever considered to be all that invulnerable, despite her strength.

Doug: As Ben and Giant-Man round a corner, they see one of the Project's doctors seemingly being menaced by Nuklo. Foster wants to charge headlong into a fight, but Ben stops him. Ripping open a lead door, Ben molds the metal into "gloves" and affixes them to Giant-Man's hands. Now the battle is joined. And it's really sort of sickening. Authors Gruenwald and Macchio had played up Nuklo's mental level, and Foster's brutal onslaught (all the while rationalizing to himself that he's just gotta make an impression as a hero) just gave me a sense of child abuse.

Karen: I understand what you're saying. Seen from that angle, it does look pretty ugly. However, I was never sure if either Ben or Giant-Man really knew that Nuklo was mentally handicapped. I liked the fact that Ben was canny enough to make the lead gloves for Foster. He's an old vet and should know stuff like that. Foster's eagerness to make his mark seems excessive, but makes more sense by next issue. I actually felt a little sorry for him when Ben sends Nuklo flying. Compared to the power Ben possesses, Giant-Man is strictly minor leagues.

Doug: Yep, it's actually Ben who ends the fight, with one punch. And it's a lucky one, as Nuklo ends up in a sort of anti-grav stasis ring. Giant-Man gets introspective in a self-pity-party, and then the boys get their butts chewed by Nuklo's scientist-guardian. Lastly, we get a recap of Wundarr's origin and backstory, and then the mystery really deepens as Wundarr suddenly snaps awake to the sound of voices in his head, telling him that when he awakens for good -- nothing will stop him!

1 comment:

Edo Bosnar said...

Great review as usual - I definitely agree with Doug about Giant Man acting like a jerk in this one. However, I have to say, back when I first read it, this issue inspired me to track down and buy the complete run of the Black Goliath series (all whopping 5 issues). I think I paid about $1.25 for the whole lot.
By the way, Karen, I think the whole "Ben playing poker with other heroes" tradition started with Marvel 2-in-1 #51 - one of the best single issues of the entire series...

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