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.

Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Essential Defenders Vol. 2

First Published: December 2006

Contents: The Defenders #15 (September 1974) to #30 (December 1975); Giant-Size Defenders #1 (July 1974) to #5 (August 1975); Marvel Two-in-One #6 (November 1974) and #7 (January 1975); Marvel Team-Up #33 (May 1975) to #35 (July 1975); and Marvel Treasury Edition #12 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Gerry Conway, Jim Starlin, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, and others

Key First Appearances: Supreme Serpent, Wrecking Crew (Bulldozer, Piledriver, Thunderball), Elf with a Gun, Starhawk, Aleta, Michael Korvac

Story Continues From: Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 3

Overview: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures of Marvel’s non-team of heroes, the Defenders! The team with no rules, no charter, no membership cards, and no matching uniforms.

Core founding members Sub-Mariner and the Silver Surfer have moved on in this volume to other adventures, but will return in later Essential Defenders volumes. In their place, Valkyrie and Nighthawk team up with Doctor Strange and the Hulk to form the core members of the team in this volume. Other heroes hang out with the Defenders for a few issues in this volume, such as Power Man, Son of Satan, the Thing, and Yellowjacket.

Two story arcs in particular stand out in this issue. For issues #15 and #16, the Defenders face off against Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a group of characters that had not been seen much with the X-Men title on hiatus. This is followed up in #17 and #18 with the debut of Wrecking Crew – three super-powered construction working villains that work with the Wrecker. The Wrecking Crew have been mainstays in the Marvel Universe since then, fighting everyone from the Avengers to Spider-Man to Wolverine, among others.

The volume concludes with a long story arc featuring the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians made their debut in the late 1960s, but were unused for many years until Steve Gerber brought them back to the forefront in Marvel Two-in-One #5, The story arc in Defenders introduced Starhawk to the team.

What makes this Essential?: While there are still moments where the title feels like an extension of the Doctor Strange book, the Defenders start to come into their own as an individual title, albeit an unofficial team. Steve Gerber begins his long run with the team, and we start to see Gerber’s familiar story-telling techniques which will be more prominently seen in the pages of Howard the Duck. This is an interesting read, but I just don’t know if it’s essential to read.

Footnotes: Marvel Two-in-One #6 and #7 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #33-#35 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

Marvel Treasury Edition #12 is also reprinted in Essential Howard the Duck Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: the Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers trade paperbacks from 2013. We are given a taste of the Guardians of the Galaxy in this Essential Defenders volume. But to find the origins of the original Guardians, check out these collections. Originally created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, but fully developed later by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom, the Guardians come together to help save the 31st Century. Vance Astro, Martinex, Charlie-27, and Yondu form the original core, and we see Starhawk join during the appearance in Defenders. Whether you view this as Marvel’s version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, or as a future version of the Avengers, the Guardians are a fun look at one possible future for the Marvel Universe. Given the success of the summer blockbuster of the same name (but different character line-up), fans should check out these volumes to see the roots of the original Guardians of the Galaxy.

Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1

Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 1

First Published: November 2005

Contents: Marvel Feature #11 (September 1973) and #12 (November 1973); Marvel Two-In-One #1 (January 1974) to #20 (October 1976); and #22 (December 1976) to #25 (March 1977); Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 (October 1976); Marvel Team-Up #47 (July 1976); and Fantastic Four Annual #11 (July 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Roy Thomas, Bill Mantlo, Jim Starlin, Gil Kane, Sal Buscema, Ron Wilson, and others

Key First Appearances: Tarin, Blacksun

Story Continues In: Essential Marvel Two-In-One Vol. 2

Overview: It’s Clobberin’ Time! Welcome to the solo adventures of Ben Grimm, one-quarter of the fabled Fantastic Four. Being the blue-eyed idol of millions is not easy, but the Thing pulls it off as he encounters all kinds of heroes across the Marvel Universe.

Marvel Two-In-One actually started in the pages of Marvel Feature. That title had been the starting point for the Defenders and had recently been home to Ant-Man & Wasp storyline. The final two issues of Marvel Feature featured Ben Grimm teaming up with the Hulk and Iron Man. The end of issue #12 promised a Thing team-up with Man-Thing in the next issue, but two months later, it was Marvel Two-in-One #1 that was on the newsstands. Marvel Two-in-One remained a bimonthly book until finally going monthly with issue #15.

The team-ups collected here are a mixed bag – some issues flow right into the next issue, adding another character into the mix. Other issues seem to come out of nowhere – perhaps a fill-in issue that had been sitting in a file cabinet somewhere in the Marvel bullpen. 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. 7 and Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8 handy while reading this book.

What makes this Essential?: This is a great book to give to any reader, young or old, to introduce the Marvel Universe. Ben Grimm is the “everyman” of the Marvel U, — there are numerous logical connections that help make sense of Ben teaming up with diverse characters such as Thor, Man-Thing, Golem, and the Black Widow. While a lot of familiar Marvel writers and artists took turns on this book, the notable name to look for here is Ron Wilson. Ron’s first issue was #12, and he remained one of the main artists on the title for the remainder of the book’s run, as well as the follow-up series, The Thing

Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #21 is not included in this Essential volume. That issue teamed the Thing up with Doc Savage. Marvel no longer holds the rights to publish Doc Savage, so it could not be included in this Essential.

Who’s Who / Reprinted Elsewhere:
Marvel Feature #11 – The Thing & the Hulk
Marvel Feature #12 – The Thing & Iron Man / Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #1 – The Thing & Man-Thing
Marvel Two-In-One #2 – The Thing & Sub-Mariner
Marvel Two-In-One #3 – The Thing & Daredevil / Essential Daredevil Vol. 5
Marvel Two-In-One #4 – The Thing & Captain America
Marvel Two-In-One #5 – The Thing & the Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Two-In-One #6 – The Thing & Doctor Strange / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #7 – The Thing & Valkyrie / Essential Defenders Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #8 – The Thing & Ghost Rider
Marvel Two-In-One #9 – The Thing & Thor
Marvel Two-In-One #10 – The Thing & Black Widow
Marvel Two-In-One #11 – The Thing & the Golem / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #12 – The Thing & Iron Man
Marvel Two-In-One #13 – The Thing & Power Man
Marvel Two-In-One #14 – The Thing & the Son of Satan / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1
Marvel Two-In-One #15 – The Thing & Morbius
Marvel Two-In-One #16 – The Thing & Ka-Zar
Marvel Two-In-One #17 – The Thing & Spider-Man / Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2
Marvel Team-Up #47 – Spider-Man & the Thing / Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #18 – The Thing & the Scarecrow / Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 2
Marvel Two-In-One #19 – The Thing & Tigra
Marvel Two-In-One #20 – The Thing & the Liberty Legion / Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8
Marvel Two-In-One #22 – The Thing & Thor
Marvel Two-In-One #23 – The Thing & Thor
Marvel Two-In-One #24 – The Thing & Black Goliath
Marvel Two-In-One #25 – The Thing & Iron Fist
Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 – The Thing & the Liberty Legion / Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8

If you like this volume, try: The Thing comic from 2006 by Dan Slott, Andrea DiVito, and Kieron Dwyer. This eight-issue series put Ben Grimm back in the spotlight of his own title. Ben finds himself flush with money, so he moves out of the Baxter Building and sets himself up in a penthouse apartment. He starts to hang out with the millionaire superhero crown (Tony Stark, Kyle Richmond), which puts him in the sights of Arcade, Sandman, and many other villains. In the end, Ben finds that the money is not the solution to all of his troubles in life. Dan Slott has a wonderful grasp of Ben Grimm, and I wish this series had performed better to last longer. This is definitely a hidden gem from Slott’s catalog of great titles. The entire series was collected into one trade paperback, The Thing: Idol of Millions.