Last week, Marvel Comics teased that the first arc of the upcoming Marvel Two-In-One, by writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Jim Cheung, will focus on Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm trying to solve the mystery of what exactly happened to Reed, Sue, Franklin, and Valeria.
This is a great setup for a series that teams the Thing up with the Human Torch; brought together by their common desire to find their missing family, they end up working together to deal with whatever other problems inevitably come their way. But it's an even better setup for a stealth relaunch of Fantastic Four.
Don't get me wrong: Ben and Johnny have excellent chemistry together, and I would love to read a book about the two of them, especially one scripted by the often hilarious Zdarsky, whose writing style is perfect for their prankish affection the two share. It's practically guaranteed to be a fun read, just from the setup.
And yet, there are enough oddities that make me doubt that is really Marvel's plan.
Connecting the Fantastic Dots
First off, while Zdarsky is a pitch-perfect fit for a hilarious Ben and Johnny book, Cheung seems like an odd choice for art. He's way too big a name, and his style -- showcased recently in the Spider-Man crossover The Clone Conspiracy, though I always associate him with the original run of Young Avengers -- is far more conventional than has been the norm for Marvel's "funny" books. I have no doubts Cheung's Human Torch and Thing will look absolutely amazing (Just look at the variant cover of the Thing he did for Fantastic Four #642!) but picking him signals that while this book might be funny, it is also serious and, ultimately, mainstream.
There's also the odd choice of title. Older fans might remember the original Marvel Two-In-One, a team-up book starring the Thing, fondly, but the last issue appeared in June 1983, before many current readers were even born. I suspect most readers have encountered the book—if they've encountered it at all—through Jim Starlin's second Thanos saga, which concluded in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2. Playing up the Two-In-One title might serve as nostalgia for some older comics readers, but one would have to be over 40 now to have bought the original book on the newsstands.
Ahh, but Marvel Legacy is built around nostalgia, with the return of classic iterations of characters and legacy numbering. Odd, then, that Marvel Two-In-One is not launching with its own legacy numbering. The original series ended at issue #100, making it easy to start the new series at #101. Or, factoring in the various solo Thing books, it could start at #153. Starting at issue #1 suggests something is up. It could simply be that Marvel thinks a #1 issue for something like Marvel Two-In-One is more likely to sell than an issue #101. Or, it could be that Marvel is planning something else with the numbering.