3 out of 5
The beginning of Marvel Two-in-One apparently sprang from Marvel Feature (for whatever reason), and focused on the Thing (for whatever reason) paired up with another Marvel character – generally inadvertently – for the book’s events. As I build my Gerber world, it’s interesting to see how Steve would attempt to shift his style, sometimes rather drastically, to match a book, and it was only when a title could be said to be truly his when he would go to town with the weirdness. Initially I would chalk up these variations to different eras in his career, but while he was turning in the straight forward silly comic pap of Marvel TiO, he was also working on his more emotive Daredevil run and his out-there Man-Thing run (which has a cute crossover with Thing in issue one of MTiO – the blue-eyed guy is pissed to share part of his name with a muck monster), so it really was a case of reader specification.
On Daredevil, Steve’s job was to explore the character to raise sales. On TiO, it sounds more like a case of a big job for a big name author, something Marvel could announce and get people hyped. Steve comes through in his character selection, still staying within the Gerber-verse, but otherwise his main task was staying true to the straight and simple worldview of the rocky guy, despite getting mixed up in cosmic hijinks either because of spaceboy Wundarr, or Destiny’s harmonica… or… well, heck, maybe Steve was plenty weird on this book too. But – sorry, Thing readership – it’s a little dumbed down, the narrative relying more on unnecessary “let me explain what I’m doing” exposition and though balloons, where in other books, Steve mostly stuck to omniscient observations and letting the panel action speak for what’s what.
There’s nothing wrong with these first nine issues, though, except that they’re primarily forgettable. They’re fun to read, and though the art suffers through some inabilities to display the more hectic stuff, you get such a classic batch of dudes (Gil Kane, Buscema) who are comfortable with the Marvel U, so it never breaks the reading spell. You know these characters and recognize their body language. A couple essential plot points that tie into other Gerber books make these worth collecting, but otherwise it’s sorta like “Tales of Steve Gerber, starring The Thing” – just some side stories to fill the time.