I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
I had a very tight budget for comic book purchases when I started devouring superhero stories. Although the periodicals still had a price point that could met after a lucky discovery of spare change while snooping under the cushions of a coach, I measured every purchase carefully. Any comic bought meant a different coveted issue that would remain in the spinner rack. So, much as I was susceptible to the allure of an double-sized comic commemorating a title reaching a milestone issue number, I agonized over every extra shiny disc of U.S. currency I would have to part with. There were times, though, when my hesitancy was quickly felled by the promise of what the extra pages might hold. That was absolutely the case with Marvel Two-in-One #75, written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.
I was already fond of the series that regular teamed Benjamin J. Grimm, otherwise known as the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing, with other costumed champions in the Marvel Universe. It was exciting enough that he was going to be cast into an adventure of such epic proportions that he would require assistance from the whole roster of the Avengers. That the cover promised the mighty melee would take place in the Negative Zone with no less than three monstrous super-villains made the mag a must-have. As a happy bonus, the heroes initially convene for one of my favorite reasons: so they can all play poker together.
There are truly few happenstances in Marvel stories published in my youth that I enjoy more than when the good guys hangout socially in full uniform. Tony Stark is planning to spend an evening playing cards while adorned in head-to-toe armor. Maintaining a secret identity is an unending burden.
As is often the case, the plan for rest and recreation is thwarted by an alarm. There are troublesome doings happening in the Negative Zone, a place that, as true believers know, is accessed from one of the labs in the same Baxter Building complex where the Thing is hosting game night. Since his Fantastic Four teammates have set their out-of-office messages, and the Avengers are right there, the Thing enlists the Earth’s mightiest heroes to help him investigate.
Those crazy sights do get a whole lots worse, just like Ben suggests. And there are a slew of bad guys swarming around. The plot involves an alliance between two denizens of the Negative Zone: the gaping-mawed and bewinged Annihilus and the fuzzy-faced, power-fisted Blastaar. Both are seeking to build their power: Blastaar wants to reclaim a royal perch stripped from him on his home world, and Annihulus wants to rule the whole dang Negative Zone. The villains agree to team up and secretly plot to betray the other once their respectively goals are achieved. It’s castle intrigue amongst crags of rock drifting through a starscape. In other words, it’s exactly what comics are supposed to be.
And comics are also supposed to have lots of mayhem and furious fisticuffs. That’s helped along by Annihilus getting his gauntleted hands on the Super-Adaptoid, a big, clanking android with a talent for mimicking the abilities of every hero he’s scrapped with, a phalanx of former foes that comprised most of the Avengers by that point. Clearly, he was just the powerful pugilist needed to edge the inner clock of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew ever closer to a certain time.
As they used to say, this one had it all: action, pathos, tragedy, scheming, and it all wrapped up with superheroes being offered cookies and cocoa. I couldn’t have been happier with my seventy-five-cent investment.
Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.