By: Chip Zdarsky, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Walden Wong, Frank Martin, Joe Caramagna
Reading Marvel Two-in-One inspires conflicting emotions. It’s a book that feels like it should have been released much sooner, with characters that have been apart for too long. And yet at the same time, it delivers exactly what’s needed from it in an era of returns going on over at Marvel. Look beyond what it says on the cover, this is the Fantastic Four story that so many have been waiting for.
From the 9-panel structured first page, immediately there is a more serious and heartfelt tone. Writer Chip Zdarsky is known for providing a lot of humor in his books, but this one decides to put those elements in the backseat. Instead, we are given examinations of what life is like after the Fantastic Four. Johnny Storm is spiraling out of control. Ben Grimm is trying to uphold the legacy of the team and being nostalgic over old pictures. And no FF tale would be complete without Dr. Doom and a cameo from Spider-Man, solidifying how connected it is to what’s come before. It’s an appropriate homecoming for these characters, finally finding a place within Marvel Legacy. There are even answers to what the world believes happened to the missing members after 2015’s Secret Wars.
Grief and how the Human Torch and the Thing deal with being left behind are the driving forces in the narrative. Both are at different stages of the Kübler-Ross model, with Ben trying to get Johnny out of the rut he’s in. After being apart for so long, they have to reconnect in order to move forward. Even though he is hurting too, Ben has to be the one to keep the last pieces of his family together. This in turn leads to an interesting choice made at issue’s end. It truly shows how he would do anything to hold onto what he has left, weighing the potential for happiness against the risk of falling apart. On the sidelines, Doom’s stake in all of this is another wrinkle to the equation, but it is yet to be seen if he will return to a more traditional role or be something more.
Jim Cheung’s art with John Dell and Walden Wong’s inks give a fine level of detail that is able to show a great deal. The Thing in particular conveys a number of emotions, his small blue eyes capable of subtle sadness as well as moments of awe. This helps in the quieter moments of the issue, contributing to the somber tone. Frank Martin’s colors add to this and also reinforce the display of Johnny’s anger by making his flames glow brightly and explosively across panels. This balance between the simple and the intense is handled nicely throughout.
Marvel Two-in-One is the sincere reunion of a pair of brothers that desperately need each other. For those who wanted more of these characters and those associated with them, it’s time to jump on board. Where are the Fantastic Four? They’re in these pages and it looks like they’re finally coming home.