Marvel Two In One #54 (Aug 1979)
"Blood and Bionics!"
Writers: Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio
Artists: John Byrne and Joe Sinnott
Karen: Welcome to part two of our "Project Pegasus" review. The plot starts to thicken here as our cast expands to include Deathlok -or a version of him, any way. One of the best things about this story was how new characters were brought in with each issue, but all of them worked. There were good reasons for all of them to be there and nothing felt forced.
Doug: In this particular issue, it is indeed a two-in-one, and not necessarily a team-up. I thought the other longer arc we looked at over in the pages of Marvel Team-Up's 40-43 was pretty organic as well. And as we look down the road in this arc you are exactly right -- they all have a reason to be here. There's none of that oft-senseless cross-marketing that team-up books so often fall victim to.
Karen: As Ben wanders around Pegasus, hoping to turn up a poker game, he's suddenly attacked by the cyborg from the future, Deathlok. With his maser pistol set at full power, he manages to actually wound Ben in the arm. Ben grabs Deathlok and soon realizes that he's no longer the same cyborg he met before; as Deathlok says, "This unit no longer contain a single cell of living matter." He talks like a machine, not a man. He gets in a lucky kick which stuns Ben. Fortunately, Quasar and his men arrive and Deathlok beats a hasty retreat.
Doug: I was shocked that Ben was bleeding. I immediately thought back to the FF's we did (166-167) where he teamed with the Hulk. I recalled Reed saying that Ben's hide was not as impervious as the Hulk's, and if he continued to take bullets from the military, it would begin to chip away at his rocky exterior. So, this must have been some gun that Deathlok used...
Karen: I don't think I ever recall seeing Ben bleed before this issue either. It was pretty shocking!The cyborg travels deep into the bowels of the project -appropriately named The Pit -where he begins setting up something called the Nth Projector. Quasar tracks him there and they fight, with Deathlok getting the upper hand. Ben arrives just in time to save Quasar this time. He grabs Deathlok and heaves him across the room. Now outnumbered, Deathlok activates a self-destruct device.
Doug: You know, for the day this saw the spinner racks, it was a pretty violent tussle. Ben gave no thought whatsoever to mangling Deathlok's hands. I think how shocking it was when Byrne was handling the West Coast Avengers and we saw the inner workings of the Vision -- Karen, you and I were involved in quite a debate on just how human the Vision was. I guess some of those themes would apply here as well. Hey, being a Deathlok devotee, what was your take on this "mechanical" version of the character? I don't really have much reference other than what you've written in your reviews of Astonishing Tales previously.
Karen: Honestly, this was Deathlok in name only -and OK, he looked almost the same. But what always made Deathlok interesting was the inner struggle between man and machine. There was none of that here. The Luther Manning personality was gone. This guy wasn't any more interesting to read about than a Doombot.
Karen: Next we pay a visit to that fabulous femizon, Thundra! It turns out the man she rescued last issue is a wrestling promoter. He's trying to help her understand the idea of choreographing a fight. She winds up facing four colorful lady wrestlers and trashes them all with ease. I think these were 'inspired' by Kirby's Female Fury Battalion over in his DC Fourth World books.
Doug: Yeah, those girls definitely weren't getting any fake wrestling moves from our femizon!
Karen: Back at Pegasus, we discover that Dr. Lightner is hoping that Deathlok completed the Nth Projector. Unfortunately for him, he finds the device still unfinished. His mysterious superiors order him to begin "Operation Expurgate" which shocks Lightner. Whatever this Operation is, it can't be good!
Doug: Ah, the shadowy figure. Gotta love it!
Karen: Ben and Quasar are both recovered (Ben has his arm in a sling) and have joined Dr. Bill Foster in transporting the body of the deceased villain Atom Smasher. Long time Marvel fans would recall Foster from his time working with Hank Pym in the pages of The Avengers - or also from his short-lived solo book, Black Goliath! I love Ben's thoughts as he and Foster talk: "Sheesh. It's bad enough listenin' to Reed--but now I gotta put up with this Bill Foster egghead!" Classic.
Doug: A comment on Thing-artists in the Bronze Age: For the most part, Buckler, John Buscema, Perez, Byrne, and Sal Buscema all stuck to the basic Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe guideline that Ben was six feet tall. I like that -- it gives him that underdog image when fighting super-duper baddies. Guys nowadays who draw him at 7 and even 8 (!) feet tall are missing out on a major character trait.
Karen: Our issue ends with Dr. Lightner releasing one of the most dangerous of all the prisoners in Pegasus: the atomic mutant known as Nuklo!
Doug: And isn't Nuklo creepy when drawn with those beady little eyeballs! Yikes!