The truth is out. Reed Richards and Susan Storm are dead, and Ben Grimm’s been keeping it from his supposed best friend, Sue’s brother, Johnny. The ruse was supposed to help him, but it’s cracked their friendship instead, perhaps irreparably.
Bad time for the Mad Thinker to come calling in Marvel Two-in-One #9. Is it good?
They may have lost their powers, but the former Thing and Human Torch are still heroes, and when the Mad Thinker and his twisted Fantastic Four imposters capture this alien universe’s Amadeus Cho and others to lure them out, you know they’ll spring into action.
Which is in contrast to the Thinker’s new minions. They never were friends, just mooks pulling a job, and they didn’t sign on for any of this inter-dimensional hoo-ha. Powers or not, that lack of cohesion makes what’s left of Marvel’s First Family a tough match.
But don’t get smug yet, fellas. Thinker’s not the only returning villain coming after you. And after all the adversity — abandoned on a strange world, no powers, no home, lost in the desert — could there be … a returning hero?
Marvel Two-in-One #9 is a story of two best friends realizing that nothing will ever truly come between them, and they’re pretty damn unstoppable when working together, even under the worst of conditions. And to that end, it’s successful. Ben and Johnny easily handle the amateurish new Fantastic Four, and come up with a plan to keep them from hurting anyone else.
It’s a nice message, but uncharacteristically for writer Chip Zdarsky, it’s about as rote as can be. Up until now he’s been amazing at finding ways to tell old-style stories with modern flair, but the streak ends abruptly here. There’s maybe one good joke (actually poking fun at tropes), but everything else is by the book, unemotional and largely forgettable. While last issue’s reveal was one of the biggest gut-punches of the year, the final page of Marvel Two-in-One #9 can barely muster an eyebrow raise.
The saving grace of that last page is the visual cues that indicate something’s changing for Johnny and Ben. It’s artist Ramón K. Pérez’s best work on the issue, with most of the rest suffering the same shortcomings as previously, namely hard-to-discern facial expressions ( a dagger for an intimate story like Two-in-One) and a lack of motion.
That’s alleviated a bit with some slanted panels during the action sequence, but it’s a patch at best. The pages (yes, PAGES) of overhead shots at the end don’t have the intended emotional impact and just seem superfluous. Federico Blee’s bright yet soft colors serve the story better this time around, especially in the desert.
Marvel Two-in-One #9 is a huge step down from the masterwork Zdarsky had been creating up until this point. A lot of that can be put on the art team, but Zdarsky himself falls into a standard, ho-hum story in this one, something he’s been able to deftly avoid before. He’s clearly a true talent that will likely right the ship sooner rather than later, but this particular issue is a disappointing blip of ordinary in an otherwise extraordinary run.
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