Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thing's Best Friend

One of the most delightful Marvel tales you'll read comes from the the 2005-2006 series, The Thing, which finds Ben Grimm dealing with his status as a billionaire. In issue #4, writer Dan Slott covers a lot of bases but finally narrows down the story's focus to two fronts: Ben getting some unexpected words of wisdom about materialism from his nephew, as well as a touching look at his bond with Lockjaw, the Inhumans' giant teleporting dog.

Yet, aside from Slott's obvious wish to dote on the title character, "Paws & Fast-Forward" turns out to be an excellent Fantastic Four story, with generous time given to Reed, Sue, their children, and Johnny, and giving us a look at the close-knit family they've become. Most of the story is of course seen from the perspective of the Thing, while dealing in the rest of the FF, the Inhumans, and its obligatory villain as needed. I'd say the story is roughly 3 parts characterization and 1 part battle, which is a balance I found I could easily live with. At the end of it, I was pleasantly amazed that all of it could fit so neatly into one issue, and still manage to be so satisfying and entertaining.

It's Lockjaw that actually starts our story, when an exercise involving Karnak results in a piece of lunar shrapnel being embedded in the dog's skin:

Lockjaw seeks out members of the royal family, one by one, for assistance in dislodging the piece of marble, but surprisingly gets no sympathy, with no one realizing he's been wounded and the assumption being made that he's just stirring up trouble. It's really the only part of the story I didn't care for, as Lockjaw has often been a more than valuable part of their group and is basically treated like dirt by everyone:

I must say, though, that being rebuffed by the Watcher had its element of humor:

And so, with a glance at the Earth, Lockjaw heads to the Fantastic Four for help--but, unfortunately, he finds everyone on the team so involved with their own concerns that they don't even notice him. Tell me this team doesn't need glasses, not to notice Lockjaw, for Pete's sake. On the other hand, in a way it's a tip of the hat to how much the Fantastic Four have experienced in their career and the sights they've simply grown used to. But at least there's one member of the team with a good heart, and who's "roamed" enough with Lockjaw to always offer him some attention:

"And they called it--puppy love." -- Donny Osmond

Naturally, Lockjaw wants to hang out with his friend for awhile--and when Reed requests Ben's help with babysitting off-site, it makes for an interesting day for the whole group:

I wouldn't worry about Franklin's mood, if I were you. He's a somewhat unknowing part of a plan of Reed's to give Ben some perspective on his new-found wealth. But before that plays out, Ben takes the kids to the track and gets a "shocking" surprise:

I think it's clear by now that, for all intents and purposes, Lockjaw is Ben's dog, whatever the Inhumans might think. And as far as seeing to his young charges' safety, let's just say Lockjaw has a big advantage over the normal family pet:

No, I don't know how the Inhumans made it to Kree space so quickly either, without their teleporting dog. As for Lockjaw, he's heading right back to Earth to help his orange buddy:

Yep. Ben's dog, without a doubt.

And what happens next comes as no surprise whatsoever:

Talk about finding your pet a good home.

In the meantime, Ben has pulled Franklin aside and discovers the lesson he's learned from his father about how having money to buy whatever you want isn't the blessing you first think it's going to be--and the lesson sinks in for Ben, as well, just as Reed knew it would. And so the end of the story finds both Franklin and Ben having a deeper appreciation of family, now complete with their family dog:

A manhole cover.  I'd hate to see what Ben's going to use as a stick.

The Thing #4

Script: Dan Slott
Pencils and Inks: Andrea DiVito
Letterer: Dave Lamphear


Adam said...

I wish Dan Slott's run on The Thing lasted longer. This was one of my all-time favorites because it was pure joy. It wasn't hosed down with angst or bloated drama. It wasn't bogged down with depressing stories that went nowhere. Each issue was fun, filled with action, and left me with a smile on my face every month. This along with Slott's run on She-Hulk (he should have stuck with that rather than graduate to Spider-Man IMO), and the Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries are the few books I recommend to others in a heartbeat. I even donated TPB's of them to my local library. That is how much I love them.

Thanks for posting this article and bringing back good memories. ^_^

Comicsfan said...

Adam, you summed up the flavor of this series wonderfully. Thanks for your comment.