Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artist: Dean Haspiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with a quick summary of how Ben Grimm came to be the Thing, before we jump to Yancy Street where we find Ben has been involved in what looks to have been a furious battle that has left most of the neighborhood in ruins. The book then jumps back two days where we find Ben & the rest of the Fantastic Four battling the Red Ghost & his Super Apes on board a Russian weapons platform in outer space. With Sue working to seal a hull breach, Reed racing to disarm the soon to be launched missiles, and Johnny keeping the Red Ghost busy, we see it falls upon Ben to deal with the Super Apes. While Ben takes a right good beating, we see he's able to provide the time Reed & the others needed, and the team narrowly makes it off the satellite before it self-destructs. Returning home we see Ben is bothered by the idea that his teammates all have lives outside the team, while thanks in large part to his monstrous appearance, when he's not busy saving the world he has very little to keep him occupied. A visit with Alicia does little to lift his spirits, as he comes to believe that she pities him, and he doesn't like to be treated like a charity case. We then see he pays a visit to Yancy Street, where a run-in with the Yancy Street Gang has him flying off in a rage. However a chance run-in with a young woman who seems to be rather fond of him in spite of his freakish appearance acts to brighten Ben's mood.
Except for Spider-Man, the Thing is the only other character who has remained a constant member of my top five favorite character list, as there's something infinitely appealing about the sheer simplicity of the character. I mean, I've been following the character's adventures for over two decades, and one would think that I would have grown tired of the character's primary gripe, as the Thing has been bemoaning his lack of humanity for as long as I've been following the character, and yet I can't help but fall for this premise every time. The idea that the Thing is a man trapped in the body of a monster is a simple idea and there have been times when I will admit I'm a little annoyed that writers seem to feel the only way than Ben could express his displeasure was to have him storm off in a huff. However, this issue really gets inside the Thing's head so that his frustration is revealed to be far deeper than simply I'm a monstrous freak. We see Ben is tired of being the member of the Fantastic Four who acts as the punching bag, while the rest of the team perform the heroic deeds. We see he's tired of the fact that the others have other lives outside the team, and the sense of abject pity that he feels in the only real emotion that Alicia feels toward him. This issue is a wonderful character study, that also manages to bring something new to the table.
Yes the Thing has found love before, as there's been Alicia & Ms. Marvel, but this issue offers up something new, as we have a woman who looks at Ben in all his monstrous glory and seems quite enamored with what she sees right from the word go. Now the last page would seem to suggest that this woman has a connection to a villain that Ben has crossed paths with before, and while the name of this young woman seems familiar, I can't quite make the connection between the two. Still, given this story is set within the confines of the "Startling Stories" banner, and as such presumably free of continuity issues, I can well envision the tragedy that will inspired Ben to rampage his way through Yancy Street. If nothing else this story should act as a solid ill-fated romance, as the opening pages of this story make it quite clear that this romance is not going to end on a good note, and the last page reveals that this woman is connected to a villain, who would have good reason not to want to see her hanging out with the Thing. Now I'm guessing that events that play out in the pages of this miniseries won't be seen outside the confines of this miniseries, so to a certain extent this story has a rather disconnected feel to it, but this doesn't keep it from being a solid preview of the slippery slope that the Thing could slide down, and what could drive him to completely lose control of his inner rage.
The art of Dean Haspiel is nicely reminiscent of the work of Jack Kirby, with its bold design work and the sense of energy infused into each & every panel. Of course given Jack Kirby is the visual genius who came up with the Thing's look, the art on this miniseries does inspire a decidedly nostalgic feel, that is further underscored by the back to basics approach that the writing takes with the character. Now this isn't exactly a loving tribute to the Silver Age, as the art is more than able to deliver the more complex elements of the material, such as the Thing's building sense of frustration, that lead up to the moments when we see his anger rise to the surface in Alicia's apartment, and then later on Yancy Street. There's also a nice visual sequence that manages to capture the rather unique set of eyes that the young woman that Ben meets looks upon him with. The young woman's apartment is also a fun visual experience, as it's a vibrant representation of her outgoing personality. The book also manages to convey the idea that this woman is truly interested when Ben takes her on a tour of Yancy Street. There's also a nice throw away scene where Ben lashes out at a young boy looking to get his autograph, and one can't help but feel that there are times when Ben is purposely painting himself in a bad light so he can hold on to his victim status.
The idea that this book is set under Marvel's "Startling Stories" banner does take some of the edge off what could've been a very powerful starting point, as presumably events that occurred in this miniseries won't make an impact outside the pages of this miniseries. Still, as a standalone tale, this is a very strong start as Evan Dorkin displays a wonderful understand of the basic theme that make the Thing such a universal character, as I'm sure everyone's gone through a moment in their lives when they've felt like the freak in a room full of bright, happy people, and Ben's sour mood is convincingly presented. The book also opens with a highly entertaining battle against the Red Ghost & his Super Apes, where Ben's role as the grunt/heavy-lifter on the team is well presented, as is his growing dislike of his having to play this same role again & again. The scenes where Ben lashes out at the world also make for some wonderful reading, as the book really conveys his sense of frustration. A very promising start, as Evan Dorkin continues his winning streak in my book.
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