Essential Warlock Vol. 1

First Published: August 2012

Contents: Marvel Premiere #1 (April 1972) and #2 (May 1972); Warlock #1 (August 1972) to #8 (October 1973); Incredible Hulk #176 (June 1974) to #178 (August 1974); Strange Tales #178 (February 1975) to #181 (August 1975); Warlock #9 (October 1975) to #15 (November 1976); Marvel Team-Up #55 (March 1977); Avengers Annual #7 (1977); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Bob Brown, Gerry Conway, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, Steve Leialoha, and others

Key First Appearances: David Carter, Jason Grey, Ellie Roberts, Eddie Roberts, Brute, Magus, Matriarch, Autolycus, Pip the Troll, Gamora, In-Betweener, Gardener

Overview: Do you remember Him? That’s Him with an uppercase H, as in a proper name. He first appeared many moons ago in Fantastic Four #67, then was brought back for four issues in Thor. He’s an interesting guy but he needs a better name. How does Warlock sound? Even better, let’s make it Adam Warlock. This is Essential Warlock Vol. 1!

Warlock has been found by the High Evolutionary, who takes in Warlock as a new project. Embedding the Soul Gem in his forehead, Warlock is sent to Alternate-Earth (which is located on the far side of the sun from Earth in the same orbit) to become a hero for a heroless world. Warlock befriends a group of teenagers trying to find their way in the world, and that way eventually leads the group to the White House. There we find that the President is actually the Man-Beast in disguise, who is looking to take over the world.

Warlock tries to stop the Man-Beast but it can’t be done before the cancellation bug brings his book to an end. So the final battle takes place over in the pages of the Incredible Hulk. The green giant finds himself on the Alternate-Earth and encounters Warlock being held prisoner by the Man-Beast. Warlock makes the ultimate sacrifice – his own life – to stop the Man-Beast but is resurrected a few days later in a new, more powerful form.

When Warlock returns to his own title, after a quick run in Strange Tales, he starts to find a new set of friends, as well as new enemies. Now traveling the galaxy, he meets Gamora and Pip the Troll, who end up tagging along on his adventures. He also meets Magus, a would-be god in the future who just happens to be Warlock. Our hero must destroy his future self in order to save the universe of today.

Now, this collection would not be complete without mentioning Thanos, the big bad heavy of the Marvel Universe. Warlock and Thanos have been linked together for a long time, and it starts with the issues in this collection. Thanos finds that he must work with Warlock to defeat Magus’ army, but once that battle is done, they go their separate ways. Thanos hatches a new plan to rule the universe, and it takes the combined efforts of Warlock and his crew, along with Spider-Man, the Thing, Captain Mar-Vel, and the Avengers to stop Thanos for good — for now at least.

What makes this Essential?: This collection makes for an interesting look at religion. With the initial arc from Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the writer was inspired by the then-current Jesus Christ Superstar musical. Sharing a name with the first man in the Bible, Adam Warlock is sent to Earth (albeit Alternate-Earth) to help save the people from a false prophet. During the Jim Starlin arc, Warlock must battle a future version of himself who has been set up as a god across the universe. Given the teases for Warlock in both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I anticipate the demand for this book to increase as he joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Footnotes: Incredible Hulk #176 to #178 were also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 5.

Marvel Team-Up #55 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Avengers Vol. 8.

If you like this volume, try: The Infinity Gauntlet mini-series from 1991. Written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim, Thanos has acquired all six infinity gems and mounted them onto his glove. Seeking to win the affection of Death, Thanos kills half of the galaxy, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. The remaining heroes are given a chance to stop Thanos, but they are unable to prevail. Transcending into a god-like being, Thanos leaves his body unprotected, and his reported granddaughter Nebula steals the glove and restores the universe to how it was before. When things have settled, the recently returned Warlock takes possession of the glove, which led into a new ongoing series titled Warlock and the Infinity Watch.

Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 2

supermanteamup2First Published: July 2013

Contents: DC Comics Presents #27 (November 1980) to #50 (October 1982); and DC Comics Presents Annual #1 (1982)

Key Creator Credits: Martin Pasko, Len Wein, Jim Starlin, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Irv Novick, Paul Kupperberg, and others

Key First Appearances: Mongul, Waldo Flynn, Alexander Luthor, Lois Lane-Luthor

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents: The Superman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Overview: Superman can be a tricky character to write. As silly as that may sound, give it some thought. In the Bronze Age, Superman was an all-powerful character. Outside of magic or kryptonite, what threats are there to stop or slow down a guy like Superman? Quite honestly, given his powers and abilities, why would Superman ever need to team up with any other hero? That’s a good question, one which was answered each and every month in the pages of DC Comics Presents.

The stories in this volume are a mix of different stories, with one-and-done issues with offbeat co-stars (the Joker, the Masters of the Universe, Dial H for Hero) to multi-part stories (Shazam Family).

The highlight in this volume is the multi-issue arc that starts this collection. Superman is introduced to a new villain in the universe, Mongul, and it takes the combined help of the Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, and the Spectre to stop him. Mongul would become a mainstay in the DC Universe in the years to come and plays a key role in one of the greatest Superman stories ever, “For the Man Who Has Everything…” (Superman Annual #11).

 

One of the final issues in this collection is the first DC Comics Presents Annual, which involved the Superman of Earth-1 teaming up with the Superman of Earth-2. The two heroes must travel to Earth-3, where roles are reversed and the heroes are actually villains. So the two Supermen find themselves teaming up with the one hero of Earth-3, Alexander Luthor. This Luthor would play a key role many years later during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: Rather than have me write up some kind of reason why you should own this book, I want to throw the challenge your way, dear reader. Tell me why these stories should not be showcased? Send me a note at essentialshowcase@gmail.com. I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong, and maybe I am overlooking something here. Maybe I am blinded by my love for the team-up concept. I could read this title, along with The Brave and the Bold, Marvel Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up, all day long. As a cheap black & white reprint collection, this seems like a no-brainer to have on your shelf. Loan it to your friends or your kids or your friends’ kids. These books are awesome, and I stand by my opinion!

Footnotes: DC Comics Presents #46 features Superman teaming up with the Global Guardians, which were made up of heroes from other countries around the world. These heroes all made their appearance in the Super Friends comic book, which was released to support the Saturday morning cartoon. There was some debate as to whether or not that comic was part of the DC Universe proper. While it made reference to ongoing storylines in other DC books, it really wasn’t until this issue of DCCP that it was firmly considered to be part of the DC Universe. The members would go on to varying degrees of success – Green Fury would be renamed Fire and Ice Maiden would become Ice before joining Justice League International.

Who’s Who:
#27 – Superman & Martian Manhunter
#28 – Superman & Supergirl
#29 – Superman & Spectre / Showcase Presents The Spectre Vol. 1
#30 – Superman & Black Canary
#31 – Superman & Robin
#32 – Superman & Wonder Woman
#33 – Superman & Shazam
#34 – Superman & the Shazam Family
#35 – Superman & Man-Bat
#36 – Superman & Starman
#37 – Superman & Hawkgirl
#38 – Superman & the Flash
#39 – Superman & Plastic Man
#40 – Superman & Metamorpho
#41 – Superman & the Joker
#42 – Superman & the Unknown Soldier
#43 – Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes
#44 – Superman & Dial H for Hero
#45 – Superman & Firestorm
#46 – Superman & the Global Guardians
#47 – Superman & the Masters of the Universe
#48 – Superman & Aquaman
#49 – Superman & Shazam
Annual #1 – Superman & Superman
#50 – Superman & Clark Kent

If you like this volume, try: the Superman animated series from the late 1990s. Running for 54 episodes over three seasons, Superman tied in perfectly with Batman: The Animated Series, as the two shows were set in the same universe. Many characters crossed over between the two series, and the success of both would lead to the Justice League animated series. In Superman, we were given a Man of Steel that closely resembled the John Byrne Superman post-Crisis. But the designs of the backgrounds were firmly set in the world of the Max Fleisher cartoons. There is not a better representation of Superman anywhere. DVDs of this series are readily available, so even if you missed it the first time, you can still track it down.

Essential Avengers Vol. 8

avengers8First Published: April 2012

Contents: Avengers #164 (October 1977) to #184 (June 1979); Avengers Annual #7 (1977) and #8 (1978); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Jim Shooter, John Byrne, Jim Starlin, Joe Rubinstein, George Pérez, Sal Buscema, David Michelinie, Tom DeFalco, Jim Mooney, and others

Key First Appearances: Henry Peter Gyrich, Django Maximoff, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 9

Overview: Get comfortable, loyal readers! It doesn’t get much more essential than Essential Avengers Vol. 8!

The book starts out with a bang with the return of Count Nefaria, last seen taking on the “All-New All-Different” X-Men, which led to the death of Warpath. Nefaria has hired a team of scientists to increase his powers to a level where he can go toe-to-toe with Thor. However, he finds out that the increase in his powers comes at a price, as he starts to age at an aggressive rate. The team is stretched to the limits to defeat Nefaria but the battle ends with the Avengers facing a new threat – government agent Henry Peter Gyrich. We’ll get back to him soon enough.

Next up is an epic battle that crosses over between two annuals, where the combined forces of the Avengers, Captain Mar-Vel, Warlock, the Thing, and Spider-Man must take on Thanos. This famous story by Jim Starline and Joe Rubinstein has been reprinted many times, including multiple Essential volumes as noted below.

We then find ourselves slowly building up to the next great Avengers epic. The Guardians of the Galaxy have traveled to Earth in search of Korvac, their foe with god-like powers. While this is going on, members of the Avengers start disappearing. Are the two stories linked? This is a great story that builds up over 10 issues to an explosive conclusion.

Now I mentioned Gyrich earlier. Seems he has a problem with the Avengers. Lack of security to get into the mansion. Too many people coming in and out of the line-up. Gyrich lays down the law with the team, placing new guidelines on the team in order to keep their government clearance. Gyrich not only imposes a limit of seven active members on the team, he also takes it upon himself to name the new line-up: Iron Man, Vision, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Wasp, and the Falcon. Wait, the Falcon? We remember Captain America’s former partner, but he’s never been an Avenger before. But the government demands equal opportunities for minorities. The Falcon begrudgingly joins the team, and when the Scarlet Witch is forced to take a medical leave, she is replaced by Ms. Marvel. This gives us the new line-up for the team heading into Essential Avengers Vol. 9 and the epic Avengers #200 in the near-future.

What makes this Essential?: I just love this era of the Avengers! This has to be a must-own book for numerous reasons – the stories, the artwork, the character development, and more. The introduction of Henry Peter Gyrich opens the door for the concept that the government has some control over the Avengers. The Korvac Saga storyline may be one of the best multi-issue arcs since the Kree-Skrull War. The artwork of George Pérez and John Byrne looks spectacular in black & white. Please do yourself a favor and track down this collection!

Footnotes: Avengers Annual #7 was also reprinted in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 were also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2 and Essential Warlock Vol. 1.

Even though he is announced as a new member of the team in issue #181, the Falcon does not actually join the team until Avengers #183.

If you like this volume, try: the 1990s Guardians of the Galaxy series, with the first half of the series done by Jim Valentino. For many years, the Guardians had been those interesting backup group of characters, who never got the chance to really shine in their own feature. The Korvac storyline in this Essential is one of the longest appearances of the team until the launch of their own series in 1990. Along with The New Warriors, the new GotG title kicked off a new wave of youthful superheroes at Marvel. Valentino left after issue #29 to become one of the founders of Image Comics, but the Guardians title ran until issue #62. The Valentino issues were recently reprinted in three trade paperbacks, so they should be readily available to track down.

Essential Hulk Vol. 6

Hulk6First Published: September 2010

Contents: Incredible Hulk #201 (July 1976) to #225 (July 1978); and Incredible Hulk Annual #6 (1977)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Sal Buscema, David Anthony Kraft, Roger Stern, Herb Trimpe, George Tuska, Jim Starlin, and others

Key First Appearances: Constrictor, Quintronic Man

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 7

Overview: He’s back! He’s mad! And he’s green! Do we need much more than that for an introduction to the sixth volume of Essential Hulk

There are two main names to know about this book – Len Wein and Sal Buscema. Both joined the series in the last volume, helping to provide the definitive take on the Hulk in the 1970s. At the end of this volume, Wein transitions the writing duties over to Roger Stern, who will begin a long run with our title hero.

The basic points of the story remain the same. Bruce Banner changes to the Hulk when he is angered. The US Army led by General Ross is on the hunt for the Hulk. Banner still has feelings for Ross’ daughter Betty, who married the general’s second-in-command. The Hulk still has feelings for Jarella, the green queen of a microscopic world. Finally, the Hulk once had friends, such as Rick Jones and Jim Wilson. But at the end of the day, the Hulk is a loner. That’s everything you need to know to get started with a Hulk story.

Now I mentioned Jarella earlier, the queen of her world. She reappears in the Hulk’s life, but this time by coming to his world. In the heat of a battle, Jarella is killed saving the life of a child. The Hulk does his best to save his love, going from one Doc (Samson) to another Doctor (Strange) but nothing can overcome death. Not even the Hulk.

You could make the argument that Jack of Hearts makes his first comic book appearance (Incredible Hulk #213) in this collection. He had been a character featured in the Marvel black & white magazines up to this point. I guess I could promote this as Jack of Hearts first appearance in color, but we all know the Essentials are black & white collections. Maybe we should just be excited for the inclusion of Jack of Hearts for a few issues and go with that, OK?

One of my favorite B-grade villains is introduced in this collection with the Constrictor. He wears a costumed suit with electrified adamantium alloy cables that shoot out of his wrists, creating a heavy-duty whip that he can use as an offensive weapon. He never sticks around for vey long, but I always loved the design of his costume.

As we get to the end of this collection, we find that the status quo remains much how we found it at the beginning. Bruce Banner changes to the Hulk when he is angered. General Ross and the Army still hunts for the Hulk. Banner still has feelings for Ross’ daughter Betty. The Hulk still has feelings for Jarella. And the Hulk has a few friends, such as Rick Jones and Jim Wilson. But at the end of the day, the Hulk is alone. (Well, not entirely correct there. At the end of THIS collection, we see the Hulk and Doc Samson in battle against the Leader. The book leaves us in the middle of a story arc! Stupid Marvel, I need to go read Essential Hulk Vol. 7 now!)

What makes this Essential?: I am unsure how to sum up this volume. The stories are interesting, and there are some memorable moments (particularly with Jarella) that stand out in this volume. Sal Buscema has become THE Hulk artist in this era, and visually defined who the Hulk is at a time when there were more eyes on the book as a result of the CBS TV show. But I find myself wanting just a little bit more from these comics. I get the feeling that monthly publishing schedule was more important than developing and pushing the characters forward. It’s OK to have books that meet the publishing schedule month after month, but for a book that has been around for more than 10 years (at this point), I just don’t know if we see the growth in the Hulk character compared to the growth seen in other characters in this time-period. This is a good volume, but I really want some more at this point with the Hulk.

Footnotes: The Incredible Hulk TV series debuted on CBS as a pilot movie on November 4, 1977, during the era of the books in this collection. This volume ends with issue #225 so we won’t see this until the next Essential volume, but beginning with issue #227, each cover will have a banner reading “Marvel’s TV Sensation.”

If you like this volume, try: reading up on Jack of Hearts. Visually he is so interesting to look at, although he probably induces nervous twitches in artists or colorists when his name comes up in the script. His appearance here in the Incredible Hulk is his first outside of his initial story arc in the Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu magazine. Born from a human father and an alien mother, Jack Hart discovers as he grows up that his body is developing deadly energy. His father designs a special containment suit, which just happens to maybe look like a Jack from a deck of cards. (This was the 1970s – inspiration could be found EVERYWHERE!) Over the years, Jack of Hearts would pop up in a variety of Marvel titles, sometimes embracing his cosmic heritage, other times just to provide a visually interesting character. He did land his own mini-series in the mid-1980s, but that has not been completely reprinted. He did eventually join up with the Avengers, during the Busiek and Johns eras in the late 1990s. Sadly, Jack of Hearts did not survive the roster upheaval with Avengers: Disassembled, and has been used very sparingly ever since.

Essential Iron Man Vol. 4

Essential Iron Man Vol. 4

First Published: April 2010

Contents: Iron Man #39 (July 1971) to #61 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Mike Friedrich, Steve Gerber, Jim Starlin, and George Tuska

Key First Appearances: Guardsman, Moondragon (as Madame MacEvil), Blood Brothers, Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Chronos, ISAAC, Mentor, Eros/Starfox

Story Continues From: Essential Iron Man Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Iron Man Vol. 5

Overview: You would think that Tony Stark would have things easy by now. His company, Stark Industries, is doing well; Tony’s heart is getting stronger thanks to a pacemaker; his love interest Marianne Rodgers, really digs his thoughts; and his Iron Man armor has never been better. Life’s good, right? Um, not so much….

Tony Stark/Iron Man faces a variety of challenges – at home, in the corporate boardroom, and on the battlefield. Stark finds that with his heart healing, he can commit to a long-term relationship with Marianne, and proposes to her. However, Marianne has E.S.P. powers that constantly foretell of dangers that Iron Man will face. She can’t bear the thought of Tony dying, and stumbles down the path to insanity. Tony breaks off the engagement, as he finds that his role as Iron Man once again gets in the way of living a normal life.

At Stark Industries, Tony is facing a takeover battle by Simon Gilbert, the chairman of the board. Gilbert uses his sway to have Kevin O’Brien don the Guardsman armor, which corrupts his thinking. The Guardsman becomes a pawn for Gilbert to use against Stark. When the takeover bid fails, Gilbert takes matters into his own hands by planting a bomb in one of Stark’s construction plants. His hubris gets in the way, and Gilbert is killed in the explosion.

While in the armor, Iron Man faces a variety of foes, some familiar and some new. No book would be complete without an appearance by the Mandarin. He sneaks into the picture as Gene Kahn (think about it!), a labor organizer trying to create unions at Stark’s facilities. Firebrand returns and the revelation of his parentage explodes across the pages. And in the midst of everything, a new villain is introduced that would have far-reaching effects on the Marvel Universe as Iron Man is caught up in a fight between Drax the Destroyer and Thanos!

What makes this Essential?: Issue #55 (first appearance of Thanos) is what makes this volume of stories Essential. However, the stories preceding and following this issue seem small in comparison. You could get this volume as a cheap way to read this issue. There are other reprint collections which feature issue #55, in color, for close to the same price. Pick up one of those volumes. Get this only if you are a die-hard Iron Man fan. Even that might be a waste of money, but not as much a waste as Iron Man installing roller skates in his boots — see issue #56.

Footnotes:  While Iron Man #55 is considered to be the first appearance of Thanos, he does not truly appear in this issue. The Thanos we see is a robot, and other appearances are in flashback. The first full appearance of Thanos is Captain Marvel #27.

Iron Man #55 was also reprinted in Essential Captain Marvel Vol. #2.

If you like this volume, try: the Thanos Rising story by Jason Aaron and Simone Bianchi. I realize that I am quickly making this review into Essential Thanos Vol. 1, but bear with me. Thanos has become a major player in the Marvel Universe, and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the interest in the character, Aaron and Bianchi visit the origins of the demigod, explaining his childhood and how he came to power. Both creators are at their artistic peaks with this storyline, making the reader feel compassion for what is one of the most-evil villains in the Marvel library.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Doctor Strange #1 (June 1974) to #29 (June 1978); Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976); and The Tomb of Dracula #44 (May 1976) and #45 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Silver Dagger, Gaea, Domini

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Overview: As a part of the Marvel Universe for over 10 years, Doctor Strange served as the co-star of Strange Tales, which was later renamed (but not renumbered) as Doctor Strange; he was the focus of attention in Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere; and he helped found a non-team in the Defenders. But it took until 1974 for Doctor Strange to finally get what every hero craves – a #1 issue!

Having finished his run in Marvel Premiere, Doctor Strange once again got his own bi-monthly title with the same creative team of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. But the title really picks up when Gene Colon returns to the title with issue #6.

There are some interesting stories in this volume. Doctor Strange becomes the last man alive, as the Earth is destroyed and then replaced with an exact duplicate. Doctor Strange travels to Boston where he encounters Dracula to save Wong from becoming a vampire. And who else could defeat Doctor Strange but a Doctor Stranger. Thankfully, Doctor Strange still has friends like Clea, the Ancient One, and Nighthawk to stand by his side as he faces down these new challenges.

What makes this Essential?: I do try to be original for each one of these reviews. But I run the risk of repeating myself with this review. So, I’m still not a big fan of Doctor Strange. But the art of this volume, in particular that of Gene Colan, is simply spectacular. I think that the black & white format actually enhances the art. This volume could serve as a primer for aspiring artists looking to understand page layouts and characters forms. The stories seem rather average against the artwork – for all of the talk about current writers stretching out stories for the trades, they should read some of these stories.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #3 contains reprints of Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126 and #127, framed with new pages. These Strange Tales stories were previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

Doctor Strange #14 and The Tomb of Dracula #44 and #45 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange #21 is a reprint of Doctor Strange #169, which retells the origin of Doctor Strange. This story was previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: exploring the works of P. Craig Russell. Serving as the artist of Doctor Strange Annual #1 in this volume was one of Russell’s earliest jobs in comics. Over the years, he has been a modern master of the art, which a very distinct look and creative layouts. Russell is known for incorporating operatic themes into his work across multiple publishers and decades. He had a memorable run with Killraven, which can be found in Essential Killraven Vol. 1. Russell’s most recent work includes a two-volume graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Marvel Two-In-One #26 (April 1977) to #52 (June 1979); and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1977) and #3 (1978)

Key Creator Credits: Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, Bill Mantlo, Jim Starlin, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Machinesmith, Crossfire, Lord Chaos, Master Order

Story Continues From: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, Ben Grimm, known better to the world as the Thing.

As with any team-up book, this is a very mixed collection of stories. Some stories are one-and-done, while others run across multiple issues. Sometimes editorial would step in and insert a filler issue into the run, as it had already been paid for yet not published. As a member of the Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm seems to be a nexus of events that happen in the Marvel Universe, which works to our benefit as readers!

There are some stand-out stories in this collection worth noting:

  • From issues #29 to #33, Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters travels to England, where they get caught up in the early adventures of the Jessica Drew Spider-Woman.
  • Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 is a continuation of a story started in Avengers Annual #7, with the Avengers battling Thanos. Regrettably, Marvel did not reprint the Avengers Annual in this collection, but it can be found in Essential Avengers Vol. 8 and in Essential Warlock Vol. 1.
  • Issue #47 has the Thing “teaming up” with the Yancy Street Gang, the gang which Ben was once a member of many years ago. Over the years, the gang has gone out of their way to play pranks and other tricks on Ben. But when the Thing is attacked, the Yancy Street Gang comes out of the shadows to protect one of their own.
  • Issue #50 was a fun meeting between the Thing and the Thing. Ben Grimm uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to travel back to the early days of the Fantastic Four. There he encounters himself during his lumpy clay phase. Of course, clobberin’ time ensues. This issue is written and penciled by John Byrne, marking one of his earliest encounters with a member of Marvel’s First Family of heroes. (Byrne also did the pencils on issue #43.)

What makes this Essential?: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Team-Up Books are MUST OWN! This volume is unique with Marv Wolfman’s long run on the title. He had the chance to develop stories running across multiple issues, helping to invest the reader to return each month regardless of the guest star. There are some memorable moments that impacted the Marvel Universe – Spider-Woman’s beginnings, battle with Thanos – not normally seen in the typical team-up book. Please give this a read to understand while Ben Grimm is the idol of millions!,

Footnotes: As noted in the review for Volume 1, the Fantastic Four and Alicia Masters make numerous appearances in these issues, and could be read side by side with the Fantastic Four title during this era – keep Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8 and Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9 handy while reading this book.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Two-In-One #26 – The Thing & Nick Fury
Marvel Two-In-One #27 – The Thing & Deathlok
Marvel Two-In-One #28 – The Thing & the Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #29 – The Thing & Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #30 – The Thing & Spider-Woman / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #31 – The Thing & Mystery Menace (Alicia Masters) / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #32 – The Thing & Invisible Girl / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #33 – The Thing & Modred the Mystic / Essential Spider-Woman Vol. 1Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #34 – The Thing & Nighthawk
Marvel Two-In-One #35 – The Thing & Skull the Slayer
Marvel Two-In-One #36 – The Thing & Mr. Fantastic
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 – The Thing & Spider-Man (with the Avengers) / Essential Avengers Vol. 8 / Essential Warlock Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #37 – The Thing & Matt Murdock
Marvel Two-In-One #38 – The Thing & Daredevil
Marvel Two-In-One #39 – The Thing & the Vision
Marvel Two-In-One #40 – The Thing & Black Panther
Marvel Two-In-One #41 – The Thing & Brother Voodoo
Marvel Two-In-One #42 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #43 – The Thing & Man-Thing / Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #3 – The Thing & Nova / Essential Nova Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #44 – The Thing & Hercules
Marvel Two-In-One #45 – The Thing & Captain Marvel
Marvel Two-In-One #46 – The Thing & the Incredible Hulk
Marvel Two-In-One #47 – The Thing & the Yancy Street Gang
Marvel Two-In-One #48 – The Thing & jack of Hearts
Marvel Two-In-One #49 – The Thing & Dr. Strange
Marvel Two-In-One #50 – The Thing & the Thing
Marvel Two-In-One #51 – The Thing & the Beast, Ms. Marvel, Nick Fury, and Wonder Man
Marvel Two-In-One #52 – The Thing & Moon Knight / Essential Moon Knight Vol. 1

If you like this volume, try: tracking down a copy of Fantastic Four (vol. 3) #61 (November 2002). In this story by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, Ben Grimm is once again the victim of the Yancy Street Gang – or so he thinks! Turns out that most of the pranks he has fallen for over the years were masterminded by Ben’s teammate, Johnny Storm. Finding a receipt for the shop that sent him the latest prank (a pie in the face), Ben stomps off in a mad rage, ready to clobberin’ time the guilty party. Johnny flies after Ben, trying to slow him down and get him to cool off. Ben finally reaches the address on the receipt to find a completely empty lot. He lumbers off, puzzled by how there could be a completely empty lot in the middle of New York City. Only after the fact does he realize it must have been the Invisible Girl hiding the business, saving the Fantastic Four a costly damage bill from another of Ben’s rampages. Waid proves once again why he is a master storyteller, and the energetic art from Wieringo – gone too soon – just leaps off the page. This is a fun story and worth the hunt in the back-issue bin.