Posted - November 12, 2015

Previous: Marvel Two-In-One 4 to 6: Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange

The Thing Marvel Two-In-One 7 to 9:
Valkyrie, Ghost Rider, Thor

Marvel Two-In-One 7 Marvel Two-In-One 8 Marvel Two-In-One 9

From last issue, Doctor Strange, and to some extent, the Thing, got involved with no less than a physical manifestation of destiny itself. Three people were affected: the lost office worker Sheldon, the despairing punk Duff, and the wino Alvin Denton. Both Sheldon's and Duff's situation were handled last issue . Today we look at Alvin Denton and it is fitting that he gets a story all to himself because Alvin's situation is different. Here he is telling his story.

Alvin Denton tells his story

When I first read this comic I was very young and a statement like this was way over my head. Since then, I know a bit more of what life is like. I've heard, read and watched actual riches to rags tales so Alvin's monologue has greater impact for me. This sort of thing happens to real people and it is not something to belittle. Alvin Denton has been subjected to one of the harshest human experiences - a fall from the heights. Just think what it's like to go from having a place in Manhattan and a pleasure house in Vermont to getting drunk in the subway and regaining consciousness in a park bench. Of the three people touched by destiny, Alvin Denton is the most pitiable. Everybody touched by destiny will - according to destiny herself - fulfill their destiny. Their belief will manifest itself as was shown last issue in the cases of Sheldon and Duff. I wonder what belief Alvin Denton has and how will it manifest?

I also mentioned that Alvin was unique. What makes him unique isn't his circumstance. What makes him unique is that he is the father of one Barbara Denton.

Mad Barbara Denton

As you can see Barbara is quite mad, as in "crazy". She's been warped by her experiences in another dimension. Barbara is an occult practitioner who took things too far. She was kidnapped and toyed with by supernatural creatures that have driven her insane. Her story can be found in early stories of The Defenders..

Now it's about to get really complicated because Barbara is also Brunnhilde.

Brunnhilde, one of Odin's Valkyries, the vaunted Choosers of the Slain. What?! You say? I know, I know, it's all pretty crazy and I think I'm missing some parts of the jigsaw myself. Here are the pieces that I do have:

It starts with the Enchantress. She uses her power to infuse Barbara with the esssence of Brunnhilde, changing her into the familiar Valkyrie from the pages of The Defenders.

Now I know that Brunnhilde isn't magically created from nothing. I know she existed from way before in Asgard. For example, she features prominently in the Eternals Saga where she is shown with the other Valkyries in Asgard. So how could her "essence" be "infused"? I don't know.

Also, when Barbara becomes Valkyrie - evidently Brunnhilde gets control of Barbara's body - where does Barbara go? Is she still in there? Does she "pop out" into another dimension? What happens to Barbara when Valkyrie manifests? From reading The Defenders, I know that Val is almost always herself and does not revert to her alter ego. like, say, Thor. Where is Barbara the whole time?

The Valkyrie character is certainly one of the more complicated ones I've come across in Marvel. Looking at our current tale, I observe that there must be something of Barbara's residual memories in Val because Val does this.

Valkyrie riding Aragorn snatches Alvin Denton

What you see is Alvin Denton being snatched by his "daughter" while Brunnhilde is in control.

Doctor Strange and the Thing are still embroiled in this story. It's amusing to note, that last issue read like a Doctor Strange story while this one will read like a Defenders story. Not to leave out the Thing in his own comic, he is sent to a location by Doctor Strange (a founding member of the Defenders) where he can rendezvous with Valkyrie. On the way, Ben stops at a gasoline station where he encounters the Executioner.

The Executioner, disguised as a gas boy, attacks the Thing

Disguised as a gas boy of all things. It's a good match fightwise, the Executioner is a half-giant Asgardian, a master of weapons and war - not as strong as the Thing though. Unfortunately for Benjy the Executioner almost always never travels alone. During these days, where the Executioner walks, the Enchantress can't be far behind.

The Enchantress blasting the Thing

With Ben out cold, the pair avail themselves of destiny's mystic harmonica. I doubt we'll ever see that harmonica/deus ex machina after this tale but you can always file it in your Marvel trivia tidbits as one of the lesser known Marvel power objects. Destiny's Harmonica: A reality altering power object that manifests the user's belief into tangible objects or situations. With the two Asgardians having escaped, the Thing is of a mind to give pursuit but is restrained by Denton who has an unshakeable feeling that compels him to continure heading to a location in Vermont.

It is a measure of the Thing's belief in "intuition" that he prioritizes the Vermon trip - against the initial advise of Doctor Strange to pursue the harmonica instead.

Before long the pair spot Barbara Denton.

The Thing and Alvin Denton spot Barbara Denton

And are witness to her remarkable transformation to the Valkyrie!

Barbara Denton transforms to the Valkyrie

Alvin Denton has lost everything, but he will always be father to Barbara. He must have remembered all the years she was in his care, all the days that she grew up under his watchful eye. His daughter. Nothing stops him from putting his arms around her, not her mystical transformation or the unsheathed sword, Dragonfang.

Alvin Denton hugs Barbara Denton in Valkyrie form

Little do any of us know, but this is as good a "goodbye" as he will ever give to Barbara. A father's final farewell to his daughter.

With the sudden appearance of the Enchantress and the Executioner the mystic harmonica is also produced and this happens.

Alvin Denton blows the mystic harmonica of destiny

Alvin Denton uses the hamonica and makes manifest his deepest belief. And what is his deepest belief? This:

Everything getting destroyed

The destruction of everything.

It makes sense, Alvin has destroyed his own life long ago. He manifested his utter hopelessness and surrender in his own life. A homeless drunkard. Of course, at his core is this - a belief in nothing. A belief that destroys everything.

Shortly after this obliterating act, Alvin Denton dies - presumably of a heart attack. This is a mercy I think. He has fallen too far and his life of late has been harsh - I remember him in the subway from the last story. Next we see him waking up after spending the night on a park bench. How many dismal nights and days has this man suffered? In this case, death should be a welcome release.

With everything obliterated by Denton's act only these four are left: The Thing, the Executioner, the Enchantress, the Valkyrie and Barbara Denton. Barbara Denton is the most unique creature in the universe at this point. She's the only being without the word "the" in front of her name.

Oh yes, the magical harmonica remains too, and the fight is on for the next one to blow into the damn thing. Here's a very nice panel of the tussle between the well matched Thing and Executioner.

Thing vs. the Executioner

And now the Thing vs. The Enchantress

Thing vs. the Enchantress

In the end it is the Thing who uses the harmonica next.

Ben uses the mystic harmonica

And what is Ben's belief? What is at the heart of a hero? Why, the return of everything of course.

Ben restores reality

What a crazy adventure this is. And just like the adventure with Daredevil, the continuation does not lie in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One, we are directed to The Defenders (#20). I leave with an opinion that Valkyrie's is a truly convoluted history - whatever writer is going to be stuck with this one it will be like untangling a ball of string. Was there no editor? Anyway, on to the next tale . . .

And this one is a delightful Christmas story!

With the Ghost Rider! Wtf!? Onwards. . .

This story had me referencing the Marvel Wikia entry for one Miracle Man - the antagonist of this tale.

Get this. Powers: None(!). Abilities: Miracle Man is a master hypnotist.

Well! I'm dumbfounded! In this tale Miracle Man does the following things:

He creates a star in the sky.

A star in the sky

He compels supernatural beings (American Indian spirits) to be become the Three Wise Men of Christian lore.

The Magi

He changes an Indian Reservation to the Biblical Bethlehem.

Ghost Rider looking at Bethlehem

He fires bolts from his hands

Miracle Man fires bolts at the Thing

He makes people do things.

Wyatt Wingfoot, thrall of Miracle Man

That's Wyatt Wingfoot acting like a resident of ancient Bethlehem

And most baffling of all, he actually causes the creation of a real child.

A strange child created by Miracle

Master hypnotist!?

I can't explain it. The closest thing I find to an explanation is from Benjamin J. Grimm.

The Thing gives his opinion of Miracle Man

Okay, Thing, whatever you say. What the Marvel historian in me finds noteworthy is that this is the second appearance of Miracle Man since he first showed up in the now classic Fantastic Four 3.

This tale is also a nostalgic trip for fans of the Ghost Rider. He is very different here from his portrayal in later works like, say, World War Hulk. In that story the Ghost Rider was truly supernatural. So powerful that even the rampaging Hulk could not defeat him. Here, the Johnny Blaze persona is fully in control resulting in a very compassionate and heroic Ghost Rider.

The Ghost Rider is inspired by Evel Knievel. And Ben knows him like that - so to the Thing, everything about Ghost Rider relates to showmanship. And you know what? Johnny goes along with it. In a rather amusing panel he explains to Ben about his "skull helmet".

Ghost Riders explains about his skull helmet to the Thing

Still hiding his very real supernatural roots, Johnny subtly tells Ben that he cannot be harmed by fire.

Ghost Rider very subtly insinuates that he's the real thing

It's a kinder, gentler Ghost Rider and, quite frankly, it's great to have an issue that pretty much shows him in a way that we will perhaps never see again.

I did mention that this is a Christmas Eve story right? Well, here's a great snapshot of Christmas Eve in the Baxter Building.

Christmas at the Baxter Building

This is how it once was. Medusa was not on the Moon. The severe, and slightly hostile, consort of the equally serious Black Bolt. There was a time when she was not feeling threatened by the humans, at ease enough to give Johnny a kiss under the mistletoe. Namorita is here too, one of the family. And Wundarr, the big little kid just enjoying Christmas and playing with the young Franklin. Bygone days. Captured forever in this snapshot.

Okay, Christmas over, it's time for the mayhem of a new year. To start things off how about this beautiful panel of a near collision between the Fantasticar and the mighty Thor!

Thor and the Fantasticar in a near collision

The villain of the piece is the Puppet Master. Not much to look at, but like Psycho Man and like DC's Psycho Pirate, I am sure Puppet Master occupies a very special place in the hearts of comics writers. Before I continue let me digress . . .

I am a fan of a card game called Magic the Gathering. It is a game where the rules are written on the cards. They've all got this wonderful fantasy-inspired names. One such card is called "Act of Treason". If you have this card, it allows you to control your opponents in the game.

Puppet Master is Marvel's "Act of Treason" card. Put him in a story and control who you want, after all he is a - puppet master. As mentioned, this guy is a godsend to writers and in this story the Puppet Master gets to control the big kahuna himself - Thor. So we get treated to some sights and sounds like . . .

Thor hitting Reed Richards with Mjolnir.

Thor hits Reed with Mjolnir

Thor literally blowing away the Human Torch.

Thor puts out the Human Torch's fire

Thor breaking down the defenses of the Invisible Woman.

Thor tries to break the Invisible Woman's shield

And of course, The Thing vs. Thor

Thing vs. Thor

Notice the cop out? As in, mind-controlled Thor not as strong as regular Thor. This reminds me that Thor had a robot stand-in in Civil War and he was also absent in World War Hulk. Presumably Marvel's most powerful - Marvel's version of Superman is another way of looking at it - they can't just show Thor being able to stand toe-to-toe against the upper mid-level powerhouses like the Thing. For my part I wouldn't mind if they just threw away the excuse and have Thor defeat the Thing after an epic battle. That works for me. But that's not the way it goes here.

In the end it is Wundarr's tendency to absorb latent radiation that destroy's Puppet Master's control (Puppet Master uses radioactive clay and is assisted by the obscure Radion). How would you like to be in this bind?

The Thing and Thor surround the Puppet Master

And thats our Marvel Two-In-One three-in-one. Thanks for joining me!

Next: Marvel Two In-One 10 to 12: Black Widow, Golem, Iron Man