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Marvel Two-In-One #8 Review

by Charles Martin on July 25, 2018

Marvel Two-In-One #8 Review
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Ramón K. Pérez
Colourist: Federico Blee
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What's a little two-month time-skip between friends? Well, when you're a pair of Fantastic cowpokes grappling with a missing family, failing superpowers, and getting stranded in a dystopian reality, two months is almost a lifetime.

This issue jumps us into the prosaic lives of "Jimmy" and "Dan," a pair of ordinary guys just trying to keep it together in the Spider's hardscrabble AU. Dan keeps his head down and works in a steel mill; Jimmy struggles with the challenges of cooking after a few decades of being fireproof.

There are larger plot wheels grinding in the background of this character drama. Our heroes have AU Amadeus Cho working on a multiversal distress signal, and the Mad Thinker is going to become a problem in the next issue. There are also some admirable structural tricks woven into the story. Small points from the first scenes loop around to turn into hammer blows in the last ones. But the center stage belongs to the high-tension relationship between Johnny and Ben. 

This is the point where Ben's tightrope masquerade at last breaks down. He can't protect Johnny from the truth anymore. Johnny Storm faces the fact that his family is dead, and the fury of that loss is this issue's emotional anchor. 

It's dark, heart-wrenching stuff, and Chip Zdarsky scripts it with considerable care. The emotions are palpable, the sorrow is real. Johnny hurts and I hurt with him. Even though I know the Richardses are alive and well, Mr. Zdarsky makes it easy for me to put myself in Johnny's heartbroken shoes. In fact, his script demands that perspective.

The most noteworthy thing about this issue might be the burden it throws forward onto Dan Slott's upcoming FF relaunch. The Richardses are coming back, and that's cause for celebration for sure. When they show up, though, they owe Ben and Johnny the mother of all explanations. Letting the boys think they were dead isn't just inconsiderate. It's caused real damage, and that's exactly what this issue is designed to show us.

Unfortunately, this issue's visuals don't live up to the sky-high emotional stakes set forth by the script. Right at the outset, I should say that Ramón K. Pérez is surely facing unfair challenges. The solicits reveal that Paco Medina was supposed to draw this arc, but he got called away to backstop Ed McGuinness on the Avengers. Mr. Pérez is a pinch-hitter and must, therefore, be drawing under less than ideal conditions.

What he's producing is still mighty rough. I normally like the sort of organic brushwork he uses for this issue's lines, but these strokes feel terribly rushed. Mr. Pérez's design for de-Thing-ified Ben Grimm works well in the early scenes, but there is no point where his take on Johnny Storm looks satisfying to me. The art is also a little too stiff, robbing a key fistfight of the dynamic impact it could/should have.

The climactic scene presents considerable visual challenges, and I don't think they're met successfully. I've decided after a lot of back-and-forth pondering that the way Johnny and Ben become nearly interchangeable is intentional. Frederico Blee's heavy colours are solid throughout the issue, and he even turns the palette into an effective foreshadowing tool in the buildup to the climax. Once we're presented with Ben and Johnny lit by firelight, though, the warm yellows wipe out any distinctions we could make between the two via colour.

I guess the net effect is to reunite them (in despair, ouch) after Johnny's discovery drives a wedge between them. The visual presentation is so shaky that I don't think I could fault a reader who concludes that the confusion is accidental. Most significantly, the ambiguous art undercuts the emotional impact of what Johnny and Ben are going through.

Marvel Two-In-One got its epic AU world-building out of the way in its first arc and its Annual. Ben and Johnny are still stuck in a different reality, but for this issue, it's merely the backdrop for a knockout character drama. A weighty script is undercut by rushed art that detracts from the climax rather than enhancing it, and this comic lands short of its full potential.

Our Score:

7/10

A Look Inside

Comments

Charles Martin's picture
It's a pity I had such problems with this issue's interior visuals. It's got an absolute banger of a cover, doesn't it?