The Thing Marvel Two-In-One 19, 20 & Annual 1: Tigra, Liberty Legion
We begin with a story that pairs the Thing with Tigra. Tigra is one of the most popularly sexy Marvel heroes around. As you can see in the panel below, the Thing is subtly aware of that.
Right off the bat, it is obvious that these two genuinely like each other. A fact that will be borne out later in the fight scenes since these two really do tend to 'team-up' during a skirmish. But that's for later.
And now we have a bit of backgrounder on Tigra. She used to be a costumed human crimefighter. Subsequent power augmentations rendered here physiology volatile instigating an eerie transformation into one of the "cat people". I'm particularly interested in her costumed crimefighter days, when she used to go by the cognomen "The Cat". Her costume is almost the same as the more familiar (to me, at least) Hellcat from the Defenders.
Greer Grant, the Cat. Uncanny resemblance to Hellcat, don't you think?
Two other things I like about this story is that it has a tie-in with an old FF story and we get yet another power object. I've been keeping score since the start of Marvel Two-In-One and we've had two power objects so far: the Power Stone, and now, the Null Bands. These bands were first used by Tomazooma in FF 80 as can be seen below.
The Null Bands are now the property of a 'cat person' known as the Cougar who has been "kind" enough to send in his
henchmen to be beaten to a pulp by the Thing and Tigra. Here the Thing takes the initiative.
Tigra dives into the fray as the Thing shows these jokers that they are definitely in trouble.
And here's a great example of the synergistic team-up that I was talking about. Because he is so overwhelmingly damaging, all the attention of these goons is focused on the Thing, but lo and behold one of these thugs has actually gotten hold of something that might give Ben some trouble - a grenade launcher
But here comes Tigra!
Beautiful. And it won't be the last fight where these two work so well together.
Let's take a break from the action and look at some brilliant tech from Reed Richards.
Check it out. Hold the key, it checks your unique brainwaves, and whatever door it opens is unlocked. I would say that brainwaves still falls into the realm of biometrics, but this leaves fingerprints and optical scanners in the dust (it just occurred to me that the Thing has no fingerprints).
Now it's time for the showdown with the Cougar. Here, Tigra's speed and the Thing's strength is nullified by a gas.
They wind up trapped. All the while, the Cougar has been going around disguised as a human.
The Thing promptly employs his universal solution to getting shackled.
The Cougar ups the ante by bringing into play the vaunted Null Bands.
The Thing remains satisfyingly tough, but the Bands are strong enough to floor Ben, at least temporarily. As before, Ben gets all the attention, allowing Tigra to do this.
Now Tigra is the one in trouble.
The excellence of this Thing-Tigra tag team continues to impress as Ben comes back with a timely grab.
And a throw.
We have to hand it to the Cougar. He's one tough customer. He refuses to go down. Until . . .
The Cougar is shot by the blonde lady in the background. A romantic interest/colleague of he's whom he has been lying to all along (watch for the upcoming movie "Honey, I'm a Cat").
A simple, satisfying story that has Ben participating in his most effective team-up yet.
Speaking of simple and satisfying, the next tale has the Thing meeting the Liberty Legion and it is this kind of story that made a really good impression on me as a kid and has really gone a long way into making me a Marvel fan for life. It has all the fanboy ingredients I appreciate: Colorful characters with interesting powers (and lots of them). Equally colorful villains. Multiple fight scenes. And, as a plus, a historical background - this time, World War II.
And how does the Thing wind up in World War II? Oh c'mon, after all this time traipsing through Marvel Two-In-One with me you know the answer by now: Doctor Doom's Time Platform. Using this platform Ben will be meeting the Liberty Legion. Just look at them:
Let's see. Front and center is the Patriot. The lady with the cape beside him is the Liberty Legion's most powerful member. Miss America can fly, is invulnerable and has super-strength. To the other side is the team speedser, the Whizzer, top speed of 100 mph at his prime (his my second favorite "legionnaire"). The green and yellow guy that looks like he's made of paper, is, of course, the Thin Man - just the thing for World War II espionage work. My favorite legionnaire is the one in blue. Blue Diamond is exactly that, tough as a diamond. The one with the cape is the Red Raven, a classic Marvel hero from the 40's. Enjoy him now in fine heroic form because he takes a villanous turn in the end as can be seen in the pages of the original X-Men. Holding on to the Raven is Jack Frost - an Iceman precursor (at least via retcon).
After some goings on in the present day Baxter Building with the Human Torch, Ben lands in 1940s New York.
I am enough of a stranger to this City to be unable to tell if this is the location of the Flat Iron building (is it the structure in the background?) or Times Square. Before long, we have the surprise arrival of some Nazi fighter planes. This one being piloted by the deadly Tigershark with a Japanese guest in tow.
Roy Thomas really likes putting in a customed and villanous pilot in his World War II tales. I distincly remember the Sky Pirate performing the same role in the All-Star Squadron
. Well, you know what happens with the Thing when anything is flying - he's reduced to the role of spectator. But the Thing does
meet somebody interesting down there.
An awfully cute John Romita Sr. Legendary artist of Spider-Man (taking over from Steve Ditko) and father of the equally legendary JRJR. And yes, Ben does take his "helmet" off. For a time, the "Thing" was nothing more than a strength-enhancing exoskeleton created by Reed and worn by Ben. Unsurprisingly the "armor" was fractionally weaker than the real Thing. This would only be for a short time then the cosmic-powered Thing would be back.
With the sighting of the Skyshark, three members of the Liberty Legion are also seen.
Red Raven, Jack Frost, and Blue Diamond taking to the skies to confront Skyshark and the fighters.
On the ground, a woman starts to shed her clothes, much to the consternation of the conservative Thing. A moment more and Miss America takes to the skies - in a decidedly ultra-conservative costume, I might add.
The Thin Man also joins in. Piloting a plane.
I love how accurately the plane controls where rendered in the right panel but I'm disappointed by the way the Thin Man was included in this fight. The guy has a tremendously unique power - he can become paper thin - it should have been showcased. Flying a plane is such a copout.
Anyway, when the fight begins, we are shown who is the Liberty Legion's powerhouse - it's Miss America.
A close second would be Blue Diamond.
He's just as invincible as Miss America minus the power to fly.
Before this battle begins, there is a panel I particularly like. This one:
The three Legionnaires as they near the Axis fighters. Love the use of perscpective here. We really get an impression that this battle happens at a great height with the landmass almost map-like and the planes flying in formation occupying the middle ground. There is a sense of the vast distances when traversing the atmosphere in this panel. Eerily, even the silence of flight is captured with the static rendition of a dynamic scene. Just wonderful.
Going for an ill-advised - and ridiculous - attempt to catapult himself to the skies using a flagpole, the Thing meets up with two landbound Legionnaires - the Whizzer and the Patriot. The Patriot reminds me of all sorts of people. A while back I mentioned Captain America, now I'm thinking this guy looks like Commander Steel from the All-Star Squadron.
During the course of this adventure some members of the Liberty Legion lose their way and decide to stop at some random farmhouse for directions. Now we get this scene.
That's right. Some people are running around like headless chickens but the wiser set know how to take it slow - really slow. I'd love to be the farmer here if he were talking to any other hero, but since he's talking to Blue Diamond, I'd rather be the Blue. Invincibility is a heck of a power ("go ahead and try to beat me up while I take a nap!). Love the vintage radio.
The "lost Legionnaires" find there way and I notice that this is a very powerful trio - perhaps the most powerful threesome the Liberty Legion can field: Miss America, Blue Diamond and the Whizzer. Another way to look at it is strength, invulnerability, and speed. I wonder why? and suddenly we know. They're coming up against this guy.
Master Man symbol of the Nazi concept of the "superior Aryan race". He has super-strength, flight and invulnerability
and the ego to match. And before long the battle is joined in a wonderful panel
Did I say something to the effect that our heroes are the most powerful trio possible for the Legion? Fat lot of good that will do them.
Master Man takes care of the Speedster.
Most impressively he takes what Miss America and Blue Diamond can dish out without flinching.
Then he shows them what he can dish out.
Victory: Master Man.
On another mission, from a trio we have a duo: Red Raven and Jack Frost. They come up against this guy.
I'm calling him by his Atlantean name, Merrano, because his super-villain monicker is just too corny. He's known as U-Man. As in U-Boat + Man? Human? It's so corny that I like it a bit. So, Merrano, is a very logical villain to have here. He's an Atlantean - therefore tougher and stronger than the average human. He's a full-blooded Atlantean, therefore his coloring, unlike
the mutant Atlantean, Prince Namor, who Merrano has a grievance against. A baffling detail is that Merrano can breath air - Atlanteans typically need a breathing device when walking the "surface world".
Merrano starts things off by slamming into both heroes like they were tenpins.
Red Raven counters with his artificial wings.
That's rough usage of the wings really. Earlier, Red Raven used them to slice through an Axis plane. Considering that these artificial wings don't have an immediate replacement, the Raven is very nonchalant about using them as offensive weapons. The real problem is that Red Raven has a clunky origin. Raised by bird men and given artificial wings - chances are this origin
was inspired by the Bird Men from Flash Gordon stories. A much better origin would be for the Raven to have been kidnapped by
extraterrestrials and been subjected to - how did Alan Moore put it? Flesh mechanics. That way, those wings could have been natural extensions of the Raven. Make them self-repairing and extremely tough and there you have it. Plus, in terms of the Raven's character, he would view himself like a "freak" and have that to wrestle with to give his tales more drama - sort of like
Ben when he was still the real Thing (pun intended). Just saying.
Going back to the melee, Merrano counters with a well placed stone block to the chest. Ouch!
Jack Frost makes a last ditch effort to stop Merrano by converting the place to a large skating rink but no go.
Remember how I told you that the Thing's idea to use a flagpole as a catapult was the definition of stupid? It still is - even though it works.
I can overlook the flagpole stupidity mainly because there is something far stupider, literally, coming over the horizon.
You have got to be kidding me. Now if you're going to do something this bad might as well push it all the way. So how can we put the cherry on top of the crap sundae that is a flying swastika? This is how.
Have an effing living brain piloting it. The cheese-o-meter has long since redlined and everything has exploded on our faces but can we push this travesty still farther? Sure. Give the displaced brain the name "Brain Drain". And now we are all dead of total cheese overload, ladies and gentlemen. Can dead people still be hit? Apparently so, with this last piece of insanity.
Have Brain Drain escape so he can potentially be part of another future story. Omigod!
Anyway, that whole swastika thing goes down. Benjy takes care of it.
Just a little recap: We've seen the Skyshark foiled in his attack on New York. Both Merrano and Master Man were successful against separate Liberty Legion teams. Now just to remind us who's comic this is we get an excellent panel.
Apparently it's going to be all of these villains against the mighty-muscled Thing. Go Ben!
First blood to the bad guys: Point blank gun shot and Atlantean punch.
This is the Thing fools!
The Thing takes a couple more hits but just then the Liberty Legion comes in and the Axis powers are simply overwhelmed. I particularly like the Whizzer vs. Master Man rematch panel.