Issue(s): Thing #20, Thing #21, Thing #22
One question i have is if Tarianna is really just a mental construct of the Thing's why are we privy to her dreams, which Ben Grimm wouldn't have any knowledge of?
Meanwhile, Llrrllllnnllyyrrl shifts into full villain-speak as she finally receives her dowry, which is Ultron's head.
She restores the head to its body, and is rewarded with death.
The idea seems to be that Ultron's head has regained consciousness (after Doom reprogrammed him during Secret Wars), and he's also been taking advantage of the Battleplanet's wish fulfillment nature to manipulate events so that he could be restored to his body. It's the first event in these Rocky Grimm Space Ranger stories that really made me go "coooool!". But unfortunately, nothing really comes of it, as we'll see below.
The Thing arrives at the wizard's castle - which is also a replica of the Baxter Building - under the impression that he's about to face off against Reed Richards. Reed and Ben parted on good terms, but Ben has begun to have suspicions (correctly) that Reed withheld information from him regarding the nature of his ability to transform into the Thing on this planet. Additionally, since the nature of the wizard's attacks have been getting personal, Ben reasons that Reed is the only one who knows enough about him to launch such attacks. The idea that it's actually a fractured version of his own personality wouldn't occur to him, naturally, but it still says something about his relationship with Reed that he'd jump to this conclusion.
After a confrontation with Sergius O'Hoolihan, the Baxter Building's doorman...
...the Thing faces off against his alternate self.
They wind up battling in an arena, but in the end it's Tarianna, not the Thing, who ends up defeating the wizard Grimm.
After Tarianna kills the "evil" Ben Grimm, the Thing reasons that since she was a construct of his mind, it was actually him making a decision to kill off his Ben Grimm identity and remain the Thing forever. I'm not sure i buy the reasoning, and it's certainly a bit of a dramatic let-down, in any event.
Even more of a letdown is the resolution to the Ultron plotline. While the Ben Grimms are fighting, we see Ultron raising a robot army and taking over the world (it's never shown, and it's not exactly clear, who they are supposed to be battling against).
But when Tarianna kills Grimm, everything created by Ben's (and presumably, Ultron's) imagination begins to disappear. This includes Tarianna, and also Ultron's army and even his body.
The remaining world is shown to be barren and lifeless. The Thing stumbles upon Ultron's head, and then returns home.
The Battleplanet is shown to crumble and explode after the Thing returns home. I'm not sure if the implication is that all life that we saw on the Battleplanet in Secret Wars was actually fake. For example, what about Zsaji's people? Surely the suburb of Denver that the Molecule Man brought home from the Battleplanet was real, so presumably that was true of all the other cross-sections of the planet as well (although i guess it's worth noting that in all the commentary about Secret Wars, including the continuity inserts like Marvels: Eye of the Camera and Code of Honor, no one ever mentions the fact that a big portion of Colorado was torn off of the planet a little after all the heroes disappeared. Does this imply that Spider-Woman II, Volcana, and Titania are actually mental constructs as well?!?). There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the version of the Battleplanet in the Secret Wars series and what is shown here.
The fact that this Rocky Grimm plotline lasted twelve issues that paralleled the publication of the Secret Wars series leads me to believe that it was planned to last this long, but the last arc really feels confused in terms of pacing. The confrontation with the wizard is extraordinarily drawn out over these last three issues but at the same time the Ultron thread feels aborted. Despite hints that there are going to be revelations along the way, the Thing doesn't really come to any grand conclusions. He's resolved to break-up with Alicia, but that was more or less true since issue #10 before he left for Secret Wars. Most disappointingly, there doesn't seem to have been any coordination between Byrne and Shooter about the nature of the Battleplanet. It would have been really cool to have the Thing winding up at sites from battles in the Secret Wars series or making further discoveries about things that were going on that the heroes weren't privy to. Instead, the Battleplanet is re-written as a random fairy tale land.
The quality of writing in this series has not been equal to John Byrne's FF. If it wasn't for the fact that this began and ended concurrently with Secret Wars, i would almost say that during these last three issues Byrne finally decided he'd had enough with this idea and he was just going to hurry up and wrap things up and get the Thing back to Earth. I recognize the difficulty in writing twelve issues where only one character is real, but the imaginary characters that were invented to keep Ben company, especially Tarianna, were really bland. The Llrrllllnnllyyrrl scenes were really cute and the resolution, in the rebuilding of Ultron, was good, but it's sad that that plotline was then discarded.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Thing next appears in Fantastic Four #277, bearing Ultron's head. I therefore have this last arc taking place more or less concurrently with the Wraith War in ROM. Regarding Ultron, there's the fact that he shows up in Marvel 1985 in between the end of Secret Wars and his appearances here, but i'm willing to blame that on Clyde Wyncham's reality altering powers and just assume his head gets dropped back off on the Battleplanet after that's over with, or that was just another Ultron body or whatever (i also see that the MCP places Ultron's appearance in Secret Wars II #7 before his appearance in Thing #20-22; we'll see what that's about soon enough and adjust accordingly).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Like you said, the implication that everything on Battleworld was fake is inconsistent with numerous other stories. Take the Venom symbiote, for example- we've met other members of its race. And Zsaji has been treated as real whenever Peter mentions her. And Puff, Lockheed's dragon friend, shows up later. And Valerie Cooper has referenced meeting Spider-Woman II before Secret Wars II. And of course Spider-Woman II has an ex-husband and daughter. And Zoma the Watcher told Champion about part of Colorado being stolen during Slott's run on She-Hulk, so unless Zoma was lying, that had to have actually happened.
Posted by: Michael | March 11, 2012 3:56 PM
In Amazing Heroes# 39, Byrne stated that his plan was for Grimm to return to earth as Grimm(not the Thing), and to find out he can switch to the Thing and back at will. He would then find out that Reed knew this, and explode at him for spending more of his life as the Thing than he needed. No mention of an "evil" Grimm being killed.
Byrne also stated that the Secret War planet was in a state of flux, so any place Ben visited might not exist a few months later.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 8, 2013 5:37 PM
Byrne also stated there'd be an issue where Grimm went to a "Worldwood" section filled with gigantic trees and civilizations arising among the branches.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 24, 2013 3:35 PM
This was not a very good set of issues with the Thing. Byrne's scripts on the Thing were never great, but at least on Earth they had some relevance. Since The Thing's time on Battleworld is temporary and can't lead to anything long term (like new villains that will carry over), then the quality of the stories better be so good that the period is remembered fondly.
Since Battleworld is a hodgepodge of various worlds - some with life, some not, some with advanced technology, others not - it's a setting that cries out for some real epic sci-fi stuff. Instead, it's just mundane plots. So much more could have been done with it.
Posted by: Chris | March 16, 2015 10:22 PM
That was the problem- instead of Shooter's "hodgepodge of worlds" idea, Byrne went with the "Battleworld is completely shaped by Ben's and Ultron's minds" idea.
Posted by: Michael | March 16, 2015 10:29 PM
The novel/audiobook version of SECRET WARS placed a lot more emphasis on the "granting of wishes," and I have to think a lot of it was inspired by this run.
Posted by: Thanos6 | April 20, 2015 4:31 PM
The Panini sticker book version of Secret Wars also had a plot in which the characters would have wishes granted at various times. It wasnt until years later that I learned the "real" Secret Wars had a significantly different storyline.
The one granted wish that I particularly remember from the sticker book is that someone--I think Reed Richards--wished away Galactus's hunger.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 20, 2015 6:09 PM
I don't think think that everything was fake on Battleworld at least not at the beginning. The Denver Colorado suburb, the dragon and Zsaji's people. The planet was created from pieces of other planets. That said, after Secret Wars 12, the wish fulfillment effect of the planet was in full force and I'd assume that aside from the people who we saw leaving, that any other life would and could have wished itself home as well. Of course, Ben couldn't know this at first, so he still assumed the planet was populated with stranded alien life, which he created subconsciously as he expected to meet them. So, when Ben states that Tarianna was his creation I'm inclined to believe him in light of the lack of evidence to the contrary.
Also, Ultron's defeat seemed to result of a lack of imagination(not the writer's, although...). Ultron relied on the world as Grimm perceived it, but Ultron couldn't even maintain his body without Ben's subconscious generating the environment it was created in. The Thing's concern for Ultron "running the show" alone seems unfounded. I agree that it doesn't seem that there was any other influences acting on Battleworld besides Ben. For that matter, it seems unlikely that any Battleworld creations could be sustained for Ultron to use to escape and conquer with, if Rhodey's Iron Man armor modifications are anything to go by. I'd assume that outside Battleworld's sphere of influence, Ultron's army would meet the same fate as they do with the death of the "evil" Grimm. Ultron's head would just have had further to fall. So really, none of this matters except as a externalized psychological drama, like the Twilight Zone, but 12 issues instead of 30 minutes.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | June 22, 2016 11:24 PM
@Brian- as we saw in Quasar 8, the reason Rhodey's armor modifications didn't work wasn't because they weren't real- it was because they were really an evil sentient machine.
Posted by: Michael | June 22, 2016 11:30 PM
there was a really excellent adventure gamebook in the 80s called öne thing leads to another" in which Ben Grimm has to travel to other multi-verses to find different versions of himself. I'd recommend it highly: http://www.gamebooks.org/show_item.php?id=1717
Posted by: kveto | December 27, 2016 12:19 PM
"That said, after Secret Wars 12, the wish fulfillment effect of the planet was in full force and I'd assume that aside from the people who we saw leaving, that any other life would and could have wished itself home as well."
The problem with that is that the Beyonder specifically said "I am from Beyond! Slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours! Nothing you dream of is impossible for me to accomplish!" I don't recall that the wish fulfillment was spread to everyone else at that point.
Posted by: clyde | May 23, 2017 10:32 AM
I think the wish fulfillment stuff was a part of Secret Wars but not overtly. Spider Man’s costume was shredded, so he wished for another one and the beyonder’s wish fulfillment matched him up with the existing symbiote. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Beyonder had to create the means to fulfilling wishes.
Posted by: Mquinn1976 | April 26, 2018 4:20 PM
In #21, page 14 we're privy to Ben's thoughts about how he now believes his relationship with Alicia has changed. He's already convinced himself she feels the same way he does. Is he trying to make himself feel better about breaking it off?. In the end, calling it off and actually doing are entirely different things. Tough exterior Ben is a creampuff around her and likely wouldn't be able to go through with it in my opinion. As we soon saw, the decision was made for him.
Posted by: KevinA | May 6, 2018 12:47 AM
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