I am getting the distinct impression that Bronze Age Marvel comics were virtually required to have stories that showcased the Hidden Land. Oh well. What's not to like? A tropical jungle in the middle of the Antarctic full of dinosaurs and mutant tribes and all sorts of interesting things that Marvel writers have thought up over the years.
One thing I have failed to mention during my wanderings through Marvel Two-In-One was the very evident bond between Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. It is the third time now that Reed has sent Ben on a mission to someplace. The first time was with the Ghost Rider adventure, then the Son of Satan journey to an Old West ghost town. This story is the third time. Benjy just goes - there's some grumbling, but he goes. His best friend wants it looked into, he'll look into it. One word: friendship. And it's a wonderful thing to see.
So it all starts with Reed detecting something unusual in his monitoring systems in the Baxter Building.
The story is brought about by unusual global volcanic activity. Later on, the Thing would comment that it would have been better if the Human Torch was sent instead. I agree. This mission is full of heat, fire and rock-melting lava and flying would have come in handy. But alas, the Thing will have to make do. His target location: The Hidden Land. Here's Benjy dropping down with a chute.
The Thing is so massive that he makes that chute look like a fanny pack. Will the chute be enough to hold his 500 pounds? Evidently yes, it seems bigger then normal. Probably a special that Reed whipped up just for him.
We've all been to the Hidden Land in other Marvel books. The X-Men, Avengers, you name it. The Hidden Land is like a mall for super-heroes, everybody's been there at one time or another. In Age of Ultron Nick Fury would even have a secret base there with all sorts of goodies. One thing (pun intended) about this place, there's never a dull moment. Shortly after landing, Benjy's already having fun.
The Thing is perfect for this place, the environment is crazy dangerous. Rock hard skin, class 90 strength, iron-willed determination and more combat tricks than you can shake a stick at. The Thing was built for the Hidden Land.
I did say that the Hidden Land was some kind of a mall right? Well, here's the mall administrator.
Ka-Zar. Pronounce Kay-Zar. Spelled T-A-R-Z-A-N. Just like Edgar Rice Burrough's hero, Ka-Zar is a British Lord. Makes one think if Marvel was saving up on licensing the character by creating their own version. I've come to the conclusion that that is not the case. Tarzan, Lord Greystoke, is a 19th century character that would be very hard to write into Marvel continuity. Marvel managed to write Dracula into the continuity because Dracula is an undead prince - it was a simple matter of having someone pull out the stake and Dracula was back to trouble the 20th Century. Tarzan not so easy. So Ka-Zar was a logical creation, allowing "Tarzan" to hobnob with the superhero set.
Artwise, we are given a very nice single page shot of the Thing, Ka-Zar, and Zabu going up against an Allosaurus.
Here's an interesting shot:
Mastodons. Technically Mastodons (and while we're at it, Sabre-Tooth Tigers like Zabu) and dinosaurs never met. Just goes to show that the Hidden Land is a delightful hodgepodge of all prehistoric creatures. Ka-Zar is also shown as being able to master these charging horde of mammals by essentially screaming from the top of his lungs. Absolutely ridiculous. I love it. Also, let's not forget Sheena.
Well one can only look at the flora and fauna for so long. So here we have Tank no. 23.
Michael Jordan's own personal tank ladies an gentlemen. Seriously (did I just say 'seriously'?), These uniformed men are led by one Volcanus.
This man intends to give himself superpowers by using the Hidden Land's strange volcanic phenomena. He's brought his crew and everything. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I'd do it myself. What's wrong is this.
Firing on the Thing and starting a fight. They should have just talked to the Thing and Ka-Zar and made it clear that they didn't have anything to do with the volcanic activity and are merely there to take advantage of it. And that would have been that and Volcanus would have been the newest superpowered villain in the Marvel universe. But instead a gun was fired and now everything's a mess.
You'll notice that the Thing was hit point blank. No bother.
Here's another great action shot of the Thing.
As for Volcanus he falls into the lava and his dreams of superpowerdom with him. And that's the story.
I noticed something curious about this tale. Ka-Zar is the self-styled lord of the Hidden Land and he's very territorial. When the Thing arrived, Ka-Zar was there, Zabu by his side. Gives me the impression that nothing happens without being noticed by him. So, logically, since Volcanus and his men came before Ben, I'm sure Ka-Zar might have noticed them too. But he never approached them. When the Thing showed up with Ka-Zar in front of those men it seemed that it was the first time these men encountered anything other than the beasts in the Hidden Land. Therefore, I conclude that the proud "Lord of the Hidden Land" practiced a healthy yet uncharacteristic timidity when Lord Volcanus and his men were concerned. When the Thing arrived Ka-Zar saw an ally of sufficient power, making it practical to confront Volcanus. It seems a loincloth and a knife can only take you so far - no matter if you have a Sabre-Tooth Cat by your side. He does like to swagger, this Ka-Zar, but he knows when he's outclassed..
As for Ben, he does have a mission to accomplish so he begins a daring descent.
This is the part when Ben rightly wonders if this job wasn't best given to someone who can fly. Still, having the strength of the Thing does have its advantages. For example, Ben can make his own handholds.
At the end of his subterranean journey the Thing encounters the - quite frankly - unimpressive looking, source of all the geological activity - the Basilisk.
Like Ka-Zar, the Basilisk is also prone to preening. Fortunately, he's also prone to a headbutt.
A basilisk is a mythical creature that can turn anything to stone with its gaze. So this villain is well named.
There is a slight difference. This basilisk freezes his foes rather then petrifying them.
Fortunately Ben thaws fast.
A word about the panel below. That panel does not only show a violent collision between the Basilisk and the Thing it also shows them both teleporting to New York City.
Heaven forbid we stay out of New York too long, this is Marvel Comics after all.
We stop here for a bit because the Thing and the Basilisk are on a certain tangent and headed to a specific location. They are fated to meet another one coming from a different tangent but for that we have to backtrack a bit to know where Spider-Man is coming from.