Marvel Two-In-One #21-23
Issue(s): Marvel Two-In-One #21, Marvel Two-In-One #22, Marvel Two-In-One #23
This arc begins with one of the more unusual team-ups, even in an era that has seen the Thing teaming up with the likes of the Golem and the Scarecrow and has traveled to the past to meet the Liberty Legion while Spider-Man has met Killraven and Deathlok in their respective futures. The guest is Doc Savage, a pulp action hero whose stories took place in the 1930s. Doc Savage had been published at Marvel since 1972, first in regular comics and then, as of the time of this issue, in magazine format, but as far as i know the stories were mainly adaptations of his pulp novels. His only other "Marvel universe" appearance is Giant-Size Spider-Man #3, and Savage and Spider-Man don't actually meet in that story, with Savage's portion taking place in the past. So this is Doc Savage's only encounter with any Marvel superhero.
The issue takes a split-page format for the first half, with the events in 1976 paralleling those of 1936. In 1936, the wife of scientist Raymond Lightner arrives at the Empire State Building office of Doc Savage and his group of companions. In 1976, the daughter of the Lightners arrives at the Baxter Building.
In the elder Lightner's case, her husband Raymond has gone mad and is engaging in a strange experiment.
In the daughter's case, her brother Tom has revived the same experiment. Both male Lightners were also abusive to their spouse/sister.
Savage's team and the Thing and the Human Torch both go to investigate in their respective time periods, and halfway through the book the timelines are merged, along with the father and son.
The merged villain's name is Blacksun (worth noting that in his pulp stories, a John Sunlight was Doc Savage's only repeat villain), and his powers include dark energy bursts...
...the ability to bend matter and light around his body...
...molecular density that lets him take a punch from the Thing...
Blacksun's motivation is allowing his molecular density to create a black hole, causing an imploding universe and allowing him to become one with eternity and the stars.
The good guys are basically powerless to stop him, but when the cloud cover that was blocking Blacksun's access to the stars clears up, it turns out that he can't handle all their energy, and he passes out. With his powers no longer active, the temporal disruption that created the merged timeline ends, and Doc Savage and his entourage fade away.
Having just done a regular time travel story with the Liberty Legion, i guess it made sense to come up with something unique, but the problem then becomes that there was very little for the characters in the story to do, especially for Doc Savage and his non-powered friends. So it's not a great introduction to Doc Savage. The pulpy detective introduction is representative of his stories, but his interaction with the Thing and the Torch and even Blacksun is minimal, and we learn almost nothing about the rest of his cast. I mean, what was this guy doing to that pig?
Still, the format of the first half of the story was pretty well done, and i was glad to see Mantlo avoid the use of
The story ends with Johnny promising to get Dr. Blake to help Tom Lightner...
...but he has to sort of come to that conclusion a second time at the beginning of issue #22...
...after he uses his fire powers to counter-intuitively cryogenically freeze Tom.
When Ben and Johnny arrive at Blake's hospital, he's trying to finish surgery on a patient while a mysterious entity is forcing his way into the operating room.
The entity turns out to be Seth, the Egyptian god. Blake finishes his surgery and transforms into Thor...
...and the Thing shows up to help.
Unusually, there's no new guest for issue #23 (to be fair, issue #22 was mostly set-up, and Thor deserves a full showing). Seth brings the duo to the Egyptian heavens.
He's got his brother Horus captured...
...and a big monster lined up to eat him.
Fighting ensues, with the appropriate battle cries.
Meanwhile, the Human Torch continues to produce heat to keep Tom Lightner alive (it's not explicitly said that the merger with his father ended when the Doc Savage guys went back to the past). Thor eventually returns and, as Dr. Donald Blake, cures Lightner. Lightner will eventually go on to be the universe-destroying threat Nth-Man and then Mysterium, so maybe the Human Torch and Thor shouldn't have tried so hard?
Overall a fun arc, with the strange Doc Savage story and then the re-establishment of the Egyptian Seth as a villain (although maybe a bit soon after his last appearance, and with such a similar story).
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: See the Considerations section for Fantastic Four #176; this takes place during that issue. The MCP have Thor's appearance here during Thor #239, but that would place this appearance before the first appearance of Seth and the Egyptian gods in Thor #240-241. I'm placing this between Thor #245-246, a period when Thor is currently on Earth.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Marvel couldn't reprint #21--a team-up with Doc Savage--leaving an unexplained hole in the story in Essential MTIO V. 1.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 23, 2011 12:16 PM
The story in #21 was originally announced in FOOM#13 as being in #19, and Lightner was called "Dark Star", which probably got changed due to the Champions' Darkstar.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 4, 2013 6:54 PM
I think, in the Doc Savage pulps, that the pig was the pet of Savage's lawyer assistant Ham.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 25, 2013 3:34 PM
Yes it was; they took the name from the "Habeas Corpus" legal action.
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | May 25, 2013 6:37 PM
Being as Doc Savage's team of aides was known as the "Fabulous Five", one wonders if that name was influential in the christening of the Fantastic Four. For that matter, did it influence the name of the pioneering rap group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five? Don't mind me, just brainstorming.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 6, 2017 9:50 PM
Habeas Corpus was the pet of Monk, Doc's chemist friend, who had a feud going with Ham and called his pig by that name to wind him up. In later Doc Savage tales Ham retaliated by adopting a pet chimp he christened Chemistry.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 15, 2017 7:10 PM
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