Writer: Evan Dorkin
Artists: Dean Haspiel (p), Wade von Grawbadger (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the Thing in conversation with the Yancy Street Gang, where he learns Hazel was once a card carrying, garbage tossing member of the gang, and this has the group ready to rush to her rescue alongside Ben. After Ben makes it clear that it's best to leave the super-heroics to the professionals, we see he heads to his meeting with the Trapster, where he's able to persuade the villain to give up the location where the Frightful Four are currently holed up. As Ben arrives at Hazel's apartment, he's able to exploit the petty natures of the gathered villains by instigating a power struggle among the four villains. However, while Ben's plan proves to be a success, we see his attempt to slip away with Hazel during the confusion goes off the rails when Hazel picks up the Ultimate Nullifier, and attempts to force the villains into submission with the threat of unleashing its power. However, when the device turns out to be a fake, we see a secret alliance that Hazel made with the Absorbing Man rears its ugly head, and the fight takes a very drastic turn, as the Absorbing Man lashes out at his teammates in anger, killing both the Trapster and the Wizard. We then see Ben moves in to take down Creel, but his efforts are far from successful, and in the ensuing battle a large chunk of Yancy Street is blown apart. The battle is brought to a close in a rather tragic fashion, as Ben accidentally kills Hazel when he shatters the Absorbing Man.
The problem I find I had with this final issue is that the deaths that occur during the big battle served to invalidate this entire miniseries as a real story. Now it's still a fairly entertaining exercise, and I'm not ready to dismiss it simply because this issue reveals itself to be a "What If" story. In fact, one of the most enjoyable super-hero stories ever produced was a "what if" style adventure, as James Robinson's "Golden Age" miniseries killed off roughly half of the DCU's golden age heroes. However, I can't deny I was a bit disappointed when Evan Dorkin offered up that first death, as up until that point this miniseries had done a perfect job of setting itself within the confines of the regular Marvel Universe, and the Trapster's death effectively shattered that illusion. Now I will concede that the first death was shocking as I had managed to convince myself that this was a miniseries set within the confines of the Marvel Universe. However, all the deaths that follow the Trapster's death, including the complete destruction of Yancy Street all carry considerably less punch, as there's a part of my mind that is telling me that the impact of these moments won't be felt outside the confines of this final issue. Than again the book does make for a nice cautionary tale of how dangerous the Absorbing Man could be if he was allowed to act upon his murderous tendencies.
Plus, the simple fact of the matter is that this issue offers up a battle that I've been waiting for quite some time now, as I do believe that this is the first time the two characters have ever squared off. Now considering the Absorbing Man is a regular opponent of Thor and the Hulk, the Thing is a bit outclassed in this fight, and this issue's big brawl certainly does a pretty fair job of backing up this assessment, as Ben spends the better part of the battle getting his head handed to him. However, most of the Thing's best battles have resulted from his being up against a more powerful opponent, with his numerous battles against the Hulk being the prime example of this idea. However, this issue manages to up the stakes considerably as the Absorbing Man is shown to be in full rampage mode, as before the Thing takes him on, Creel has brutally murdered two of his fellow Frightful Four teammates. Speaking of the Frightful Four the Wizard also gets a fairly uncharacteristic moment where we see he's not the uncaring evil genius he's always made himself of to be, as after the Trapster is murdered, the Wizard is the first one to actively take on the Absorbing Man, though he pays a fairly steep price for this decision. It's a fairly exciting battle, with a pretty powerful closing revelation as we see Ben's final attack on the Absorbing Man comes with an unexpected cost.
The art of Dean Haspiel is interesting to look at and for the most part it does a fantastic job conveying the action heavy plot that this issue offers up. I mean the Absorbing Man is in fine form in this issue, as his power is put to good use and the art does a nice job of delivering his various states, with the highlight of the issue coming when he absorbs Ben's rocky hide. There's also some big impact moments in this issue that the art handles quite well, as the explosion that rips apart Yancy Street is quite effective, as is the hellish environment that results. The panel when Ben makes his final attack on the Absorbing Man is also nicely done, and the reveal shot of the tragic accident that results from this attack is also quite effective. The art also does some nice work on the more shocking moments of the story, as the deaths of the Trapster & the Wizard are very effective, with the sequence where the Wizard is bashed to a bloody pulp being particularly horrific. Now there are moments that are a little bit cartoonish, such as the panel where Ben picks up an entire building and drops it on the Absorbing Man, and I found the final page shot of the Thing didn't really capture the impact of this final scene. However, I will give the cover to this issue full marks for capturing the big event that plays out in this issue, and it's also a rather clever design scheme, as the Thing is reflected in the Absorbing Man's chest.
My enjoyment of this story was somewhat undone by the insertion of some jarring acts of violence that presumably earned this story its place under the "Startling Stories" umbrella. Now I will concede that the Absorbing Man's murder of the Trapster and the Wizard did add a greater sense of urgency to the battle, but this is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that whatever happens within these pages won't extend beyond this final issue. Now if you're simply looking for an enjoyable standalone miniseries than this book is certainly one of the best on the market at the moment, and it's certainly the best portrayal of the Thing that I've come across in quite some time. Plus, fans of the super-hero slugfest may want to give this issue a look, as it delivers a pretty memorable exchange between the Absorbing Man and the Thing. However, I found I had some difficulty with the idea that this was essentially a "What If" story, disguising as a miniseries. Than again it would be nice if miniseries were allowed to make such lasting changes.
What did you think of this book?
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