Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

It’s funny that all I knew about Chip Zdarsky about three years ago was that he liked to pal around with Matt Fraction and had a dick/sexual inadequacy joke for everything. Basically, I knew he was my kindred life spirit. Since then, though, he’s shown himself to be really keyed in on the personalities of a handful of Marvel Comics characters like in his SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN run and now here, in the kick off to Marvel’s new TWO-IN-ONE series, aka “the closest we thought we were going to get to a FANTASTIC FOUR book because of a crotchety old CEO but now Disney went and got themselves closer to a monopoly so who the fuck knows.” What I’m saying here is don’t think that just because someone has an infatuation with humor centered on their penis that they don’t have heart.

The entirety of the issue isn’t about being maudlin but the brunt of the issue does center on the losses both Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm are still feeling now that it has been whatever three or so years in real time equates to in comic time these days. Johnny occasionally puts on a good front – like in the aforementioned SPECTACULAR run of Chip’s and Andy Kuberts – but he more often than not shells up instead of being the literal and figurative light of the party. And now this remaining physical light that he has is even diminishing as he finds himself losing his powers to compound his descent from practical joking hothead to one of the more dour faces in the MCU now that he’s losing the second thing that made him who he was, after losing the first in his sister.

Those losses also finally break the dam that has been Benjamin J. Grimm’s stoic face since Reed and Sue and the kids went away and he’s been doing a philanthropic dance to which he’s just not accustomed. Basically everything in this issue moves because Chip knows that Johnny and Ben are probably the two most stubborn characters in all of Marvel comics and nudges them just how they should be. The Blue Eyed Thing is pushed in part because of a quick run in with the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man but really, as always, it’s an appearance by Doom in all his arrogant glory that really goads The Thing into action. It falls like you would expect a Fantastic Four-lite story to because the whole point of that team is the familial heartbeat that has now been ripped out, but you still have a dysfunctional pair of “brothers” and a meddling uncle running about. That it took all this time for a creative team to finally bring them back together like this is almost as big a tragedy as the (may as well be) “fact” that the team hasn’t’ been together because a vindictive CEO was upset they didn’t have movie rights for them.

Again, it’s getting to the heart of things that made this book enjoyable though. Yes, as I broke down in the opener, Chip’s usually known for the funny and naughty bits of comic book storytelling, but he and partner in crime Jim Cheung have a much more emotionally frayed opening here. Obviously, I expect shenanigans to ensue now that the Terrible Twosome of the Fantastic Foursome are back together – they’re going to Monster Island next issue for Criminy’s sake – but it shows a depth of character and depth of scripting skill to have the emotional ruminations that went on in this issue with these two characters that are typically hurling pies at each other more than they are sharing their feelings. The funny bits and the action will be coming – you don’t also attach an artist of such overflowing talent as Jim Cheung if things aren’t going to get wacky and action heavy at some point – but this is a good way to show that Chip and Cheung and whoever else joins the adventure have more of a story to tell then what hijinks usually occur when the Torch and the Thing come to town. I got this book more on a lark than a plan because I hopped on to SPECTACULAR late as well, but between these two books I’m really looking forward to seeing this evolution of Chip’s comic crafting talents beyond the hyperactive humor and his tendencies to cackle at genitalia.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.