Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Greatest Comics You've Never Read 002: Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7

Sorry about not posting this yesterday. Real life interferred a bit, but things are fine now. To make it up to you all, I've actually scanned stuff this time.

Today's comic, Marvel Two-in-One annual #7 came out before I was born, but my dad had a copy of it and I must have read it dozens of time. Actually, I flipped through it many, many more times than I read it. Marvel Two-in-One was basically the same as Marvel Team-Up, but starred the Thing instead of Spider-Man. It's also the opposite of Team-Up as that title existed so Spider-Man could star in yet another book, while Two-in-One seemed to exist because, well, the Thing couldn't bring in a large enough audience by himself. I could be wrong there, but that's the impression I always got.

Now, the appeal of this issue (as the cover above indicates) is that the Thing doesn't share the book with one hero--no, he shares it with all of the other powerhouses of the Marvel universe (Doc Samson also shows up inside, but didn't make the cover). The plot is very simple: an alien boxing promoter shows up, kidnaps the eight most powerful heroes in the MU and has them train to fight the Champion, an intergalactic boxer who goes around challenging the strongest fighters on various worlds to boxing matches--just for the sheer thrill of it. So, they all train and then they fight.

One of my favourite parts of the issue is the various little alien trainers the heroes each get:

I used to spend so much time just studying those little guys and matching them up with the heroes. I was an easily amused child, apparently.

Now, the training was fun as a couple of heroes are eliminated. Namor refuses to train and fight, because he's a pussy, so they kick him to the curb. Doc Samson is so bad at fighting that his exercise machine beats him up and his alien trainer deems him too incompetent to actually fight.

Thor acts like a jerk and uses his hammer, while the others all train following the rules--even the Hulk. Of course, in a line-up of Marvel's biggest and brightest, it's interesting that because it's Two-in-One, the Thing is automatically seen as the best of the bunch:

Now, is this simply because it's his book or because the people of the Marvel universe trust him the most? Look at the other heroes: Colossus is a mutant; Sasquatch is Canadian; Wonder Man is an actor; Thor is a viking; the Hulk is a monster; Doc Samson is a therapist; and Namor is an invading asshole. While you may argue over who is the strongest of the bunch, there's no doubt that Earth would look to the Thing as the best bet as he is a member of the Fantastic Four and best friend of Mr. Fantastic. While he may look like a giant rock-guy, he's proven himself not only a hero, but also an average guy. This guy was a fucking astronaut basically. In fact, this issue has a strange subtext that suggests that the Thing should be an American hero and celebrated as such. By this point in his life, no one would see him as a monster, they would just see a guy just like them who suffered a terrible accident and now does what he can to do the right thing.

The fights take place in Madison Square Garden in a ring surrounded by some sort of alien forcefield.

The first hero: Thor. He's disqualified for using his hammer, which he would put down, but if he's separated from it for more than a minute, he'll revert to Donald Blake. But, he just looks like an asshole.

The second hero: the Hulk. And, he, uh . . .

The third hero: Sasquatch. He tries his best, but is knocked out quickly.

The fourth hero: Colossus. He also tries his best, but is beaten so badly the ref stops the fight.

The fifth hero: Wonder Man. He tries to fight, but gets his ass whooped, so he freaks out and tears up the ring. He's one of the Avengers now, you know.

That just leaves . . .

And he does is best. Up until this point, no one has EVER lasted a single round--on any world. The Thing last three complete rounds. He gives it as good as he gets and the only reason the fight doesn't continue is because the ref is concerned for his safety. The Thing, though, just won't quit . . .

The Champion then admits that he could never truly defeat the Thing as his spirit and will can never be crushed. He leaves, praising the Thing's courage and then the Thing falls over. The final panel is all of the heroes (not just the fighters) in in the ring, embracing him as the sold-out crowd goes nuts.

Okay, so maybe it rips off Rocky a bit, but it's still a great read. It's also the issue that made me love the Thing, because this sums him up: he may never be stronger than the Hulk or Thor, but he'll fight them with everything he's got and never give up. The Thing's real strength lies inside with his determination and motherfucking grit.

No idea what comic I'll do next or when I'll do it. A lot of the books I want to discuss are back at my parents' house in London, so maybe when I'm back for a visit, I'll grab what I can. In the meantime, I'll look through what I've got here.