Marvel 2-in-One Annual #1 // Review
The shadow of Jonathan Hickman looms over the first annual for Marvel 2-in-One, as Chip Zdarsky, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire revisit both the Secret Wars event and the Council of Reeds from his Fantastic Four run. What new twists are in store for the Thing and Doom in this special issue?
The story focuses on Ben Grimm--the Thing--and Victor von Doom--the Infamous Iron Man formerly known as Doctor Doom--who have split off from the other half of their multiversal search party. Both believe they are on a fool’s errand in their search for the missing members of the Fantastic Four and Future Foundation, and take their moment alone to discuss the futility of their actions as they go through the motions of the search. Sent to an alternate universe where Doom succeeded in killing that universe’s Reed, the two engage him, with Prime Earth Doom taking him on in hand-to-hand combat. The other Doom gets the upper hand, and the more heroic Victor tries a final gambit that transports him to another place--the Council of Reeds, who reveal a secret locked deep in his memories about Battleworld.
Chip Zdarsky is known for his humor, but this is largely a humorless affair--to its credit. This is a dark turning point for Victor, and sets up an ominous conflict down the road for the soon-to-be-reunited Fantastic Four. His new incarnation of the Council of Reeds is inspired, a concept that essentially “solves” the blindspot that caused the last Council to become a threat to Earth-616. Of course, it’s not hard to see how this gathering of multiversal Reed Richards could become a threat in its own right, but, for now, it’s a plausible way around the detachment that caused them to treat other universes as disposable. Further, the character examination of Victor is fantastic. While some may be bothered by the track he’s on, it makes more sense for the character, given his past. The embrace of his darker urges undoes the path he’s been on for the past few years, but it fits perfectly into the full arc of the character. The only real drawback with this story is the retcon of who fixed Doom’s face, and why. It might seem like a nitpick, but it’s still a choice that alters the clear intent of the ending of Secret Wars, which may rub some readers wrong.
Declan Shalvey does the line art for this story, and while he is a great artist on stories like Moon Knight or the creator-owned Injection, he doesn’t really feel like the right choice for this story. The best pages are by far the Battleworld pages, but most of the rest feel too sparse or idiosyncratic, which doesn’t match with Zdarsky’s expansive, multiversal story. The art on the characters is a mixed bag; in some panels, the characters look great, while in others, the proportions or details seem off. Plus, the backgrounds are particularly thin for much of the issue, relying largely on singular establishing shots to clue readers in to the setting. This becomes particularly troublesome during the Council scenes, which just take place in a fairly bland, sanitary-looking space. Color artist Jordie Bellaire does a great job adding to the world within the story--particularly in the aforementioned Battleworld scene--but can’t really save the pages with a ton of empty negative space. However, none of this detracts from the story, but certainly doesn’t elevate it the way a different artistic approach may have.
Sometimes annuals are inconsequential stories, but this is not one of those cases. This issue is a ‘must buy’ for any fans of Doom and the Fantastic Four, as the revelations contained within will reverberate through the future of those characters, likely for years to come. While it could have benefitted from a better artistic match to its subject matter, and may have changed an element of Secret Wars for the worse, it is nevertheless one of the best Fantastic Four stories in years, one that will surely get readers hyped for the team’s return in August.