THING CLASSIC VOL. 2 (Marvel, First Printing, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Thing #11-22 and Fantastic Four #274 (cover dates May, 1984- April, 1985)
Writers: John Byrne, Mike Carlin (#14-17), and Bob Harras (#18)
Artists: Penciler- Ron Wilson and John Byrne (FF #274) and Inkers- Joe Sinnott, Andy Mushynsky, Danny Bulanadi, Mike Gustovich, and Al Gordon
I have been on something of a Marvel kick lately, part of my mourning the death of these characters and the Marvel Universe as I once knew it. I am not just referring to the recent Secret Wars mini-series, but what I now refer to as Marvel A.B. (After Bendis). You can point to Avengers Disassembled as the beginning of the end for these characters. While there were certainly many enjoyable moments after 2003, the tone and feeling made a turn for the worse, growing from crossover to crossover to pointless, endless reboot after reboot. Nothing matters any more. Neither continuity nor legacy numbering nor characterization that ring true to the foundations of these characters. If it doesn't matter, then none of it matters, and I no longer feel compelled to follow the “All New All Different Marvel”. Bendis has done what DC could never do: Make me hate Marvel Comics, further cementing my conspiracy theory that he is a double agent sent by DC to destroy Marvel from within. My Marvel Comics Group is dead and gone.
Not everything needs a #1 to be a jumping on point, you know. I picked it up #19 of this title one cold rainy morning before school off of a spinner rack at 7-11. My Mom sent me into to buy her a pack of cigarettes and told me that I could get a comic. The cover of #19 grabbed me and that was it. Did I mention that I was eleven years old, and that in 1984 it was a-okay for a kid to go into a store and buy smokes as long as they said that it was for their parents? Of course I knew who The Thing was, as I read Fantastic Four back then, but I didn't know that The Thing was on Battleworld or that this was part 6 of the Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger arc or anything else that was going on. I was able to come into this series cold and have a good idea what is going on.
#19 crossed over with Fantastic Four #274 (also released on the newsstand in October of 1984) creating an awesome Monster Mash indeed. Over the course of those two issues the Thing fought a vampire, a mummy, Frankenstein's monster, and a werewolf. It doesn't get any more badass than that, and my then-11 year old self loved it to death. I read those issues countless times that fall and can almost recite them word for word to this day. I also bought #22 off of the spinner racks, likely because I had received some money from a relative for Christmas.
Aside from those three issues, these were all new reads to me. I bought #24, 30, 35, and 36 off of the spinner racks when they were released, which would be collected in a hypothetical Volume 3. One more fifteen issue trade could finish this line, collecting issues 23-36 and West Coast Avengers #10. This book is already three years old and it hasn't happened yet, so the likelihood of it ever happening is slim.
The Thing decided to stay on Battleworld following the conclusion of the Secret Wars because he could change back and forth to his human form of Ben Grimm at will due to the unique nature of the planet. He also wanted to sort out his feelings for Alicia Masters. Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) gave him a slim card-sized device which, with the press of a button, would transport him back to Earth. With that in mind, Ben Grimm set off on a sort of vision quest.
Mild 30+ year old spoilers from here on out. It's kind of difficult to touch on a lot of points in this book without tipping my hand a little. The planet reacted to the subconscious thoughts of Ben Grimm, pulling all of his fears and desires and twisting them into bizarre scenarios and people. Ben faces many truths about himself, such as why Reed Richards being the leader of the Fantastic Four is really the best thing for them because Ben's own leadership skills are lacking. He experiences blindness at the hands of the Reckoner, giving him insight into Alicia Master's world and fatherhood when he and Tarianna find an orphaned infant, albeit temporarily for both. The biggest truth that he faces is that he is The Thing and The Thing is him. It is this realization that makes him come to terms that all of us face in adulthood: we are in truth our own best friend and worst enemy in one.
All of this heady psychoanalysis could have been painfully dull but wasn't because it was done with plenty of action and fun, something sorely lacking from modern Marvel Comics. See, we are supposed to be past this, as comic books are sophisticated and mature adult art, right? I dunno, I enjoyed this as a kid and I enjoyed reading these issues as a forty-something. I don't need profanity or sexual situations to feel that I am reading something “mature”. Those things seem painfully adolescent to me, but then again I am a dinosaur, right? Unlike modern comic creators and fans, I don't feel that superheroes are stupid, nor do I think that the people who like them are stupid. This Haha we are all in on the joke, aren't superheroes stupid? mentality has ruined comics.
John Byrne's writing is tops, and the art team of Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott can't be beat. Wilson's Thing ranks up there with the best: Kirby, Perez, and Byrne. I cannot recommend this book enough to fans of superhero comics, fun, and life. If you hate fun or life, there are plenty of comics being produced today that will fill that void for you.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Nothing unusual to report.
Linework and Color restoration: Excellent and true.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock of sufficient thickness and weight. This is the same stock found in the softcover Marvel Masterworks and Epic line books, and is my favorite paper stock being used in collections today.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.