This issue marks the last appearance of Captain America as the titled guest-star in Marvel Two-in-One, the Thing’s team-up book. Also featured in the book is Bill Foster, a character introduced in Avengers #32 who later became Black Goliath, and at the time of this issue was the second Giant-Man (and would next revert to simply Goliath). There are some fine Cap moments in this comic, but I will highlight some great panels with Giant-Man and the Thing as well.
(Before we start, note the similarity between the cover and that of Fantastic Four #51, the famous “This Man… This Monster” story that also shares an important theme with our tale today.)
Our story opens with Ben reeling from exposure to the radioactive Virus X, courtesy of Cap’s old sparring partner M.O.D.O.K. In fact, Ben looks so bad that some toughs try to get the jump on him, but lucky for him, a friendly neighborhood freelance artist happens by and notices (with his “cold, piercing eyes”) that his old friend’s not looking too good.
Steve ducks into an alley to change so he can help his friend with the “rowdies,” but is mindful that he’s not exactly fighting the Hulk here.
Penciller Ron Wilson’s work in the last panel above, and the other action scenes to follow, reminds me of Kirby’s work in the early Tales of Suspense issues, which this fan appreciates very much.
Below, Cap gives some sage advice as he easily dispenses with the toughs…
…but it’s just a teaser for his “Cap’s 10 Steps to Self-Defense” course, available for only two box-tops from Uncle Sam cereal and a self-addressed stamped envelope.
I have no idea how, but Cap manages to get the 500-pound Thing to the Baxter Building, where Reed Richards enthusiastically greets Bill Foster—sparing no exclamation points—and Cap silently admires Reed’s
scientific brilliance stretchiness.
I think Cap may be the only person who doesn’t wonder why Reed is called Mr. Fantastic… but he isn’t the only hero present that earns Cap’s silent admiration.
Ben awakens in physical agony, but the emotional agony when he realizes the effect of the virus on his appearance is much worse, as shown in a very poignant scene.
Despite his best intentions, Cap really doesn’t know how to relate to Ben’s issue—after all, Cap looks like Chris Evans while Ben looks like me!
Reed finally calms Ben down, not with compassionate words from a longtime friend, but with the powers of a rubber band. When Reed lets him go, Ben walks away, not at all confident about Reed’s ability to restore his face, given his repeated failures over the years to reverse the change that turned Ben into the Thing in the first place. And because Cap understands grief, even of a different kind, he knows to give Ben some space.
While Reed works on a cure for Ben, Cap engages in some parkour to “scour the city” looking for M.O.D.O.K. …
…and of course he makes a note to submit his bus fare later.
Meanwhile, Ben has returned to the spaceport when he and his three best friends took a fateful flight one evening in 1961, a story which he tells Bill Foster, culminating in why he does not have much faith in Reed’s intentions to cure his current condition. Ben breaks down to his good friend, leading Bill to feel ashamed for his own lapses into self-pity before urging Ben not to give in… which he never planned to do, because that’s not who he is.
“It’s me, Ben… Captain America. Remember me?” After our heroes regroup, they break into A.I.M. looking for M.O.D.O.K., and Cap cautions Foster not to take on more than he can handle…
…but Bill proves Cap’s concerns to be unnecessary.
Gee, what do you think he could be trying to prove to the Living Legend of World War II who just doubted his abilities? I simply can’t imagine.
At least the fight seems to have taken Ben’s mind off his own problems. See how he jokes with Cap while they take care of some evil beekeepers…
…some of whom have obviously know nothing about Captain America.
There he goes again, giving lessons for free, until he realizes his students aren’t interested. (I’m sure I’ve never had that problem!)
As they all continue to battle A.I.M., it’s Bill Foster that gets the antidote for Virus X, which he learns works in a very interesting way…
…and poses a very personal tragic dilemma.
In the end, Bill makes the decision we would expect from a hero…
…although he does not regard his own sacrifice as noble, but (ironically) as a reflection of his lesser worth as a hero.
This is actually the end of the story, abrupt as it seems. The good news is that Bill is cured of his cancer just three issues later, in Marvel Two-in-One #85; the bad news is that, many years later, he does not survive the Civil War, where he sided with Captain America in opposition to superhero registration and was killed in Civil War #4 by the clone of Thor created by Tony Stark, Reed Richards, and Bill’s old friend Hank Pym (who, to be fair, was actually a Skrull at the time).
Marvel Two-in-One #82, December 1981: Tom DeFalco (writer), Alan Kupperberg (pencils), Chic Stone (inks), George Roussos (colors), Mike Higgins and Jean Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in black-and-white in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Volume Three
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Marvel Two-in-One #75 (May 1981)