Friday, March 6, 2020

Things Past And Present

It all seemed so simple for Ben Grimm, the Thing: Reed Richards finally comes up with a formula for returning him to human form, but it would only have been successful on the earliest version of the Thing... so why not go back in time to administer it, thereby reverting himself in the process?

Ah, but what if the "patient" doesn't cooperate, and attacks you on sight?

Uh, Ben? What's so interesting in front of you? Your attacker is to your right--I suggest you get with the program before you end up being a stain on the street, big guy. (Heh heh, just having some fun with our cover artist, George Perez. Seriously, sir, what's up with that?)

But let's backpedal a bit and watch how easily writer/artist John Byrne sets up this story:

We have to assume Dr. Doom thought of adding a locale setting on his machine, otherwise it's going to be a long walk to New York for someone of the Thing's build and weight. (No, I don't know why Doom made no effort to reclaim such valuable technology from his enemies--one story at a time, okay?) As it is, Ben materializes in the Baxter Building, on the same spot he departed from--though back then, the top floors of the building are still vacant of the famous tenants who would even now be considering it as their potential headquarters.

Suffice to say that Ben makes a beeline for his old apartment--yet he's neglected to take into account his own surly mood from those days, bitter at Reed and the cruel circumstances in which he finds himself following the aborted space flight which turned him into a freak for what could be the rest of his life. Such a man wants to remain alone with his thoughts, and hidden from the scrutiny and fearful looks of others--and definitely not in any mood to receive visitors.

Naturally, the Thing tries to get through to his other self, who isn't buying any of Ben's hurried explanation in the heat of the moment and continues his assault. But even Ben has his breaking point, for all the good it does him.

Ben's outright dismissal of Reed's acceptance of his story makes little sense on its face, since Reed would have been the perfect person to approach with the circumstances of this other Thing's appearance (especially with Ben able to prove his bona fides with memories only he and Reed would share); in addition, it would be the surest and most expedient way to defuse this situation and bring both Reed and the Thing on board with his plan. It's a course of action that Ben should have jumped at--which made it the one option that Byrne had to jettison (albeit implausibly), in favor of Ben losing his temper and thereby giving the reader what they shelled out 35¢ to see.

On a happier note (at least where the earlier Ben Grimm is concerned), we've witnessed the last fight of the Thing, circa 1962--a brief existence which he'll no doubt be relieved to discover is at an end, when he awakens.

Unfortunately for our Ben, this would be one of the earliest instances where it was established that altering one's past doesn't necessarily have the desired effect on one's present--something that the closing panels of the story attempt to put the happiest face on that they can.

Byrne would follow up with some nice symmetry to this story fifty issues later, when the Marvel Two-In-One title would end its run--with the Thing revisiting the "other reality" he'd inadvertently created, and discovering how Ben Grimm has fared in the time since the two of them parted company.

Marvel Two-In-One #50

Script and Pencils: John Byrne
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Jim Novak

No comments: