Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Plot / Scripter / Writing: John Byrne (TT#11-13, 19-22, FF#274), Mike Carlin (TT#14-17), Bob Harras (TT#18), David Michelinie (Q#3)
Artists: Ron Wilson (TT#11-22, Q#3), Joe Sinnott (TT#11-18, 21-22), Andy Mushynsky (TT#14), Bulanadi (TT#16), Mike Gustovich (TT#19-20), John Byrne (FF#274), Al Gordon (FF#274)

At the end of the 12-issue Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, the Thing remained behind on Battleworld to embark upon his own private 14-issue Secret War.

That rather makes it sound as though the second story is a sequel to the first. Well, it is, however it's worth noting that the two were produced and published concurrently over an entire year.

As a result, the first part of the Thing's saga doesn't follow-on entirely smoothly after the final part of Secret Wars, apparently having been written many months ahead of it.

For example, at the close of the Secret Wars, there was a wish-fulfilment fall-out from the Beyonder's power, enabling most of the characters' desires to come true. At the start of Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger however, it takes our hero several issues to recall this and draw a few conclusions.

Maybe author John Byrne didn't want to give away how Secret Wars was going to ultimately finish, or maybe he just didn't know yet. Certainly, Secret Wars scripter Jim Shooter had the luxury to foreshadow the events of this chronologically later story.

Either way, the Thing's chief motivation in staying behind on Battleworld is because, for some unknown reason, he can change back-and-forth into his human body here, an ability he doesn't possess back on Earth. Hence he's keen to spend as much of these few weeks as possible in his human form, in case he never gets the chance again.

Well, a comicbook entitled The Thing can hardly allow him to maintain that guise for very long. Certainly not for 22 pages in a row.

As Ben explores the brilliantly diverse patchwork planet with his new friend Tarianna, again and again he finds himself forced into situations where he just has to transform back into old rock face, often to save local civilians.

Now, the Thing has never been the brightest member of the Fantastic Four, but even he can see that his environment is not adding up.

The sky in this part of space should still be empty after the Beyonder destroyed it, yet it's full of stars and planets. Some of these new civilisations paradoxically have histories too. Some of them are eerily similar to his own life back on Earth.

When the two-part crossover Monster Mash finds him battling a series of famous horror movie characters, complete with lines of dialogue quoted from the genre ("... room for one, inside, Sir"!) the source of the planet's ever-shifting trippy environment is unavoidable.

The whole world is being trawled from the Thing's own subconscious, apparently by a sinister cloaked figure who he keeps on glimpsing.

In the middle of all this there's also a crossover to issue #3 of Questprobe. Although billed as taking place after Thing #17, I tentatively vote that it makes more sense straight after Fantastic Four #274, as Johnny appears to be reminiscing about the soon-to-be-vacated Baxter Building. Throughout his guest-appearance, our rocky hero remains in his Thing identity, for reasons unexplained. Like Spider-Man in Questprobe #2, he also mistakes the cloaked Chief Examiner for one of his villains. All right, I've digressed enough.

The Questprobe crossover out of the way, the villain who is actually in control of Battleworld is another aspect of the Thing's subconscious become real.

In other words, this version of his human side - in the form of Ben Grimm - is a part of himself, but one determined not to cease to exist when the Thing eventually leaves the planet. Evil Ben's plan of self-preservation is to kill the real Thing and then take-over his life. I guess that's just a part of the Thing's own free will playing-out. It's a crazy way to commit suicide.

The final issue sees the Thing's friend Tarianna (she never quite becomes his girlfriend) killing his evil Ben nemesis, effectively making it impossible for the Thing to ever assume his human form again.

The Thing can hardly blame her. She was an expression of his own subconscious like everything else in these 13½ issues, so effectively, he did it.

After this run had ended, the Thing did indeed return to Earth, and found himself pining for the also deceased Tarianna, realising that she was his dream-girl. The fact that his actual long-term girlfriend had also ditched him for one of his mates during his month on Battleworld obviously made life alot worse. There's other stuff he goes through too, but to go into even more of the Thing's woes here seems like overkill.

No wonder he wanted to execute the Beyonder in Thing #30.

In summary: Outstanding story, wonderful artwork.


2 comment(s):

At 10:29 am, Blogger The Old Geezer said...

interesting blog

At 6:23 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Thanks, Old Geezer!


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