The road to the return of the Fantastic Four continues in Marvel Two-In-One #2, written by Chip Zdarsky with art by Jim Cheung (and a team of supporting artists). Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, more famously known as The Thing and The Human Torch, search for a device that will allow them to travel the multiverse to search for the missing members of the F4, a quest that Johnny doesn’t know is based on little more than false hope planted by Ben in order to bring him out of his funk. Good thing for Ben, Reed, Sue, and the kids ARE out there, but hopefully the Fantastic Two can find their missing teammates before Johnny learns the truth of Ben’s deception.
Returning to the locale of the first Fantastic Four adventure, Monster Island, Johnny and Ben search for the Multisect, the multiversal device, while Victor Von Doom, the former Doctor Doom turned Infamous Iron Man, shadows them, wanting the device for himself. This leads to a brawl with classic Kirby monsters and heaping portions of trash talking as Doom is forced to save Johnny from his failing powers (which he revealed last issue).
This story moves along at a strong pace, balancing elements of classic Fantastic Four stories that feel fresh, perhaps because of the absence of the F4, but just as likely because of the excellent writing by Chip Zdarsky. Zdarsky might not have seemed like the first pick to write this story, known more for his screwball humor than the over-the-top super-science of Marvel’s first family, but he has erased all doubts over these two issues, especially with his handling of Ben Grimm. Seriously, how can a Canadian be so damn good at writing an old school New Yorker? This is some of the best Thing dialogue in years. Funny and insightful, Chip really seems comfortable in Ben’s skin, which makes the whole experience work masterfully. Paired with the decision of leaning into a more morose and depressed characterization for Johnny, the contrast makes the issue flow well and keeps the story moving with ease.
This is only aided by the stunning work of Jim Cheung, who has not only become one of the most iconic artists at Marvel, but draws the best Thing of anyone. Ben is without a doubt the star of the show, though there really doesn’t seem to be anything that Cheung can’t draw. It’s just a shame he’s not faster; next issue sees Valerio Schiti taking over the reins. Shiti is no slouch, and his work should gel well with Cheung’s, but it’s hard not to wish that Cheung could at least get through the first story arc without needing a replacement. However, some things, like gorgeous Jim Cheung pencils, are worth the wait. Especially paired with colorist Frank D’Armata, who, particularly in the underground sequence and the flashback, brings a vibrancy that highlights Cheung’s talents to great effect.
While perhaps not as bombastic as some of the other titles Marvel has been publishing of late, Marvel Two-In-One is shaping up to be a fitting reintroduction for the team that kicked off the Marvel Universe, thanks to the excellent talent Marvel has put on the book. Every person who has complained about the missing Fantastic Four should go out and buy this book now; you will only have yourselves to blame if this excellent title can’t survive.