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Review: Marvel Two-in-One #1

In Marvel Two-in-One #1, writer Chip Zdarsky, penciler Jim Cheung, inkers John Dell and Walden Wong, and colorist Frank Martin break every emotional bone in your Fantastic Four loving body. A comic co-starring the Human Torch was the last place that I expected to see an homage to the opening scene of The Dark Knight Returns where an aging, alcoholic Bruce Wayne tries to find a “good death” by crashing a very expensive stock car. However, Zdarsky, Cheung, and company pull it off complete with a nine panel grid, downcast eyes, and red and blacks from Martin that look like a funeral pyre. And Marvel Two-in-One has a quite wistful tone throughout the issue as Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm come to terms with their grief for the missing Richards family as well as the adventures they once had.

From his work on Jughead Howard the Duck, and of course, Sex Criminals, Chip Zdarsky does funny very well, and that shows in Marvel Two-in-One with the Thing’s deadpan one-liners (Apparently, he was just the Fantastic Four’s “bus driver”.) and a hilarious meta-joke featuring all the actors who have played the Human Torch. But he mainly goes for pathos in this comic, which is helped by the range of expression in Jim Cheung’s pencils and the detailed added in by veteran inkers John Dell and Walden Wong. For example, there is a two page almost silent sequence where the Thing visits a warehouse with all the FF’s stuff, including the Fantasticar, and remembers his family and their last adventure in blue tinged flashbacks. The first half of the comic is almost overwhelming for him with reminders of Reed and Sue everywhere and call from beyond the grave for him to watch after Johnny, who is suffering from both grief and the possible loss of his powers.

Also, the Thing and Human Torch don’t really team up in Marvel Two-in-One #1, which is perfectly fine. We do get a nice nod to the original Two-in-One series when the Thing lays out a villain in one panel that would probably have taken Spider-Man an entire issue or two to defeat depending on decompression. Zdarsky and Cheung have the two emotionally charged brothers physically and verbally butt heads before finally confiding in each other and finding a shared goal in exploring the multiverse using a very cool Reed Richards doodad. Martin turns on the flames before cooling down and going for simple muted colors as they start to talk and trust in each other again. Since the original Jack Kirby and Stan Lee Fantastic Four run, Johnny and Ben have butted heads with the Thing being jealous of Human Torch’s good looks and popularity while he is treated like a monster. However, they are family even if Zdarsky sneaks in a dark end-of-comic twist to get them to team up. It’s so dark that it makes presumably reformed supervillain Dr. Doom shudder.

In Marvel Two-in-One #1, Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Walden Wong, and Frank Martin craft a comic that is true to the legacy of Marvel’s First Family and deals with the emotional fallout of their disappearance at the end of Secret Wars. They also set up a rocky course for the Thing and Human Torch to begin their own adventures with Dr. Doom watching from the shadows as he is still a little salty that he is not the one responsible for Reed Richards’ demise. Marvel Two-in-One is the first step of a road story featuring two brothers that butt heads, yet still love each other with plenty of nostalgia and a sliver of hope to boot.

Story: Chip Zdarsky Pencils: Jim Cheung Inks: John Dell with Walden Wong Colors: Frank Martin
Story: 9 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review