Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Of Beasts, and Things..." Featuring neither Hank McCoy nor Ben Grimm. Sorry.

Before Walt Simonson took over Thor with issue #337, sales for that book were by all accounts in the doldrums, verging on cancellation. At the time, I personally hadn't read the pre-Simonson stuff; but I've read some in the years since. It wasn't great, even not compared to what was to come, but I do remember one bright spot I enjoyed as a kid and just finally got a replacement copy.

For years in their own books and in Avengers, Iron Man and Thor had a strong working relationship: they were the only teammates to know each other's secret identities for a long time, and respected each other greatly. Thor always spoke highly of his comrade's valor; while Iron Man was always impressed by the majesty of Asgard and the gods. Eventually, they would get into a tiff that lasts to this day; involving some oppressed pseudo-European country, the Odinpower, and Thorbuster armor. Recently in the conclusion of Secret Invasion, I believe Thor called out Iron Man as an example of everything that is wrong with everything, ever; but they were still at least work buddies back in Thor #316, "Of Beasts and Things" Written by Doug Moench, layouts by Keith Pollard, embellishments by Simons, Stone, and Marcos.

It looks cooler than two heads, yeah, but...does the top one eat? There's a ton of questions here.If like me, you didn't catch the prior issue, neither did Iron Man, so as he flies into the scene, the recap is for him and the new reader. Neat. Last time, a giant sea monster, actually a disguised ship, swallows a Stark Industries freighter and takes it to a domed undersea city. The city was run by the Bi-Beast, a cranky double-brained android that had been causing trouble for the Hulk and others for years. Using the jet engines stolen from the freighter, he launches his city and attacks Florida, before being stopped by Thor and the city crash-landing.

Thor had been on-board as Dr. Donald Blake, serving as ship's doctor, which seems both inconvenient (tougher for him to duck out and change into Thor) and convenient (twenty minutes after setting sail, the ship gets attacked?) and also indicative of the lack of direction for the book. Thor still had a secret identity, but Jane Foster had been out of the picture for some time; so he didn't have the usual complications that would come with maintaining it. It was a vestigial organ, that didn't really add a lot to the book; except occasionally to get Thor into jams when he lost his hammer for sixty seconds and turned into Blake. And for his medical knowledge, for years Blake may have been more useful in Avengers than in his own book. Tellingly, Simonson would take Dr. Blake out of the picture shortly after taking over.

As the Bi-Beast is hauled off by the cops, a noisy thing on the dome's ceiling pops off and zaps the Beast and his guards with a weird ray. (In context on the first page it appears, it's not clear how big the thing is: it could be the size of a breadbox, but turns out to be at least as big as a motor home.) The ray wakes up the Bi-Beast, who smashes out of his restraints; but also enrages the guards, who attack each other in blind rage.
Oh, thanks for saving the rest of us, Iron Jerk!
The Bi-Beast then commences stomping ass on local law-enforcement, while Iron Man hustles Dr. Blake to cover; ostensibly because he's a lame non-combatant (as in, with a limp) but actually so he can turn back into Thor. While Thor uses Mjolnir to stop the angry cops, Bi-Beast is tractor-beamed away by the ship. Iron Man gives chase, but is shot down, and the craft escapes. Thor and IM begin searching, since Iron Man figures he must've damaged that ship; and they pass over beach, city, and swamp inside like six panels. I've only been there like once, but has anyone at Marvel ever been to Florida? I'm pretty sure the state isn't entirely swampland. And if you go to Marvel-Florida, you know who you're always going to run into, not at the Islands of Adventure, either.

Iron Man was right about the ship being crippled: it crashed into the vast expanses of swamp, and the Bi-Beast dips his feet in the water while bitching to himself--himselves--about their useless ally. The Bi-Beast seems a little down on himself as well, lamenting his numerous defeats. His ally finally tells him to cram it, and reveals himself to be the Man-Beast, from Counter-Earth.

Seriously, Bi-Beast got dicked over on that one...

Long story short: Man-Beast is a super-evolved and very pissed off wolf, created by the High Evolutionary, and the Satan or maybe Cain figure to Warlock's Jesus allegory in his pre-Starlin stories. So, he's a wolf-man in cape and short pants; and has been stringing Bi-Beast along in his plans to destroy Earth, since Man-Beast only cares about destroying Counter-Earth. Well, glad that's cleared up. M.B. also experimented with the Bi-Beast (ew!) and absorbed some of his knowledge, while Bi-Beast got shorter and maybe gained hate. Really?

M.B. sends Bi-Beast off into the swamp to try and find materials to repair their ship; so keep in mind neither one of them is from earth and probably don't realize there's not much help there. As the Bi-Beast sulks along, blowing up an alligator along the way, he is watched by...the Man-Thing. If your eyes are sharp, he appeared on the cover!
The hell? That was working this morning...
I have to confess...I used to really not like Man-Thing. His terrible movie didn't help, even though I regret not buying it cheap...It was partly because he depresses me more than Swamp Thing (Swampie can at least talk, and think, and score...) and partly because every time a Marvel character is anywhere near Florida, Man-Thing shows up. His guest appearances here and in Micronauts come to mind as being from about the same time; and I get the feeling writers wanted to use him but couldn't really advance Man-Thing's story along in those issues. Maybe Man-Thing's story isn't supposed to advance, which is also depressing. Bottom line, though: in Marvel-Florida, you are more likely to run into Man-Thing, then you are an old person or anything.

Anyway. Even though Bi-Beast is supposed to be newly chock full of hate, Man-Thing can't sense any emotions from this bright orange thing stomping through his swamp. All together now: "Whoever knows fear...burns at Man-Thing's touch," so he tries it, and nothing. Bi-Beast casually tosses Manny away, probably not realizing there's anything out of the ordinary about him, but Manny follows. Bi-Beast then finds a trailer-campsite, and conscripts the campers to work on the ship.

Next, we get possibly the biggest asshole line from Iron Man, ever:
'Its called light'? Man, and you thought Tony was a jerk during Civil War.

Thor calls down the lightning, to create a ring of fire around the area, and calls out the Super-Beast: that was the name he knew Man-Beast by, way back in Thor #134. Man-Beast gives his new, not as good name, and calls in his tag-team partner; then Iron Man calls in as well; and the locals set up chairs and crack open some brews.

The brawl accelerates rapidly, forcing the locals to flee as the fighters change opponents; but they don't get far before running into the Man-Thing, who in his mindless way notes the onlookers have fear, but the heroes and villains don't.
The brawl is pretty well choreographed, really.
The Bi-Beast probably shouldn't have kept announcing he was an android, as Thor finally decides in that case, he can unload on him, and knocks him out. Man-Beast breaks for his ship, and takes off; but somewhat coldly, Thor and Iron Man shoot him down. The ship crashes into quicksand, and while Thor and Iron Man can't seem to find it, the Man-Thing placidly watches as the Man-Beast's hate goes out. Aw, that made me a little sad, but he comes back.
I like Thor sighting down his hammer...
The Bi-Beast is hauled off, and would go on to menace both She-Hulk and Squirrel Girl, as well as recently appearing in the Hulk videogame and getting an action figure for it. He's also occasionally been a punchline, albeit one you probably see coming, in Hulk appearances in Twisted Toyfare Theatre. Man-Beast and Bi-Beast aren't as close as they used to be, but they still email each other and get in touch over the holidays; which is a damn sight more than you can say about Iron Man and Thor. Probably because of the light comment.


Sea-of-Green said...

Man, Thor should have clocked Iron Man with his hammer, right then and there.

SallyP said...

Really Tony, there's no need to be snotty.

~P~ said...

Beware of what you ask for...
Man-Thing did indeed have his story advanced quite a bit in the mid 1990's to early 2000's.

Basically, he is the spirit of Adam Q'admon; first man of the universe.

Loooooong story short (JM DeMatteis, nuff said) the spirit of the Nexus was broken into shards (during the whole Heroes Reborn / Return dealie) and each shard went into a different person.

The SKRIERS (Spider-man baddies) got involved, and Spidey too for that matter.

There was also a cosmic badguy (think along the lines of Loki meets the Riddler) named Mister Termineus, who had to steal the aged lifeforce from some little kid (ancient soul) and use it to screw with the Nexus.

Dr. Strange gets into it all, and gives Termineus something to deal with.
But MAN-THING merges with the essence of these Nexus shards (Namor, the Cult of Entropy, Howard the Duck, DevilSlayer - as a human, Eric Simon Payne - thus becoming one of a two-fer "Payne & Sorrow" - Sorrow being some ancient soul in the body of a looneybin attendee where Payne was sent) ALL got involved in this thing).

Man-Thing ALSO merges with his WIFE (not sure if you recall, JM DeMatteis did something similar with DR FATE in the late 1980s) so that the male and female forces are one.
Man-Thing embraces the mind of Adam Q'Admon and becomes COSMIC!

He then becomes an ALL-WHITE (like Sasquatch) mystical entity and ascends to the heavens.

However, the Nexus (and comic fans world-over) abhor the void left by Manny's departure and form a duplicate Man-Thing from the essence of the swamp itself.

Waaaaay out there stuff.

The storyline started suring the Spider-Man Team Up title, continued to a Spider-Man '99 annual (iirc), and then into Man-Thing's 2000-era title.

It got Really twisted right from the get go.

Probably can get the whole thing for about 10 bucks on ebay.

Just don't read it "under the influence". You'll head'll 'splode!