New To You Comics #124: It’s Clobberin’ Time In ‘The Thing’

by Tony Thornley

Everyone has different tastes in comics. Here at New To You Comics, we explore that as Tony and Scott dive into comics that, well, it’s right there in the column title. This week, we dive into a recent hit starring one of Marvel’s greatest.

Ben Grimm was probably Marvel’s second biggest star of the 70’s and early 80’s. Thanks to multiple factors, his star faded a bit, but some of the greatest individual moments in Marvel history are centered on The Thing. He’s a lovable, super-strong monster, but also one of the human and relatable superheroes in comics.

So when famed novelist Walter Mosley was announced as the latest writer to tackle Ben’s solo adventures, it was something worth paying attention to. Joined by rising star artist Tom Reilly, one of the industry’s best colorists Jordie Bellaire and prolific letterer Joe Sabino, it was a dream team of a book.

When Ben Grimm finds himself alone- as he and Alicia Masters take a break and the rest of the Fantastic Four head out on their own- he thinks it’s time for some peace and quiet. He quickly is drawn into an adventure with stakes much bigger than the tough kid from Yancy Street could have ever dreamed. It’s an adventure that could change the entire Marvel Universe as we know it.

Tony Thornley: Scott, you know I like this book. We talked about it quite a bit as it was coming out. Did you get a chance to read it then? 

Scott Redmond: Reading it for this column was my first time reading the series, even with all the talks and the rave reviews of it. It’s one of those books that piqued my interest at the time and I had every intention of reading it but got busy and never actually dove in. Despite having all the issues sitting right there. Now I have, and I’m thankful I have because wow that was good stuff!

Tony: Isn’t it? This is such a great series. It has just a little bit of continuity, but it was divorced from the “now” of the Fantastic Four as it was being released. If I had to pinpoint it, I probably could, but roughly it was sometime in the Byrne run of F4 continuity-wise, but also Mosley makes it very modern.

That means this is a pretty timeless superhero adventure. Mosley takes Ben through a bit of a greatest hits, but he writes it so well that it doesn’t feel like a greatest hits story. He also creates a unique supporting cast for this story that serves very specific purposes while also integrating themselves seamlessly into Ben’s life.

Scott: I was super wondering about the time cause there was mention of returning a ring and fiance, and not being super versed in the older Fantastic Four comics, I wasn’t sure how many times Ben and Alicia have been engaged. But as you said, it didn’t matter because this was truly an ageless sort of title. It just felt classic and modern at the same time, one of those “This is a good time and I don’t care if it fits into canon or not” affairs which are nice to have. I could read some Mosley written Thing or entire FF stories all day every day. 

Tony: The story is structured as several single issue but interconnected stories, which then resolves into a single longer arc. You get the opening/set-up, you meet his love interest Amaryllis, the Champion of the Universe returns for a rematch… then things get more interesting and build up to a massive “universe is at stake” fight to conclude the series.

Scott: I really liked that aspect, because the adventures felt unique and interesting but the thread connecting them was there without having to beat you over the head with its existence. In fact some of the beats at first do not seem connected but then when it all comes together at the end the full puzzle is entirely clear and every piece fits in so well. I’m all for the big story arcs and tons of action that happen in many comics today, but I sure do miss more stories like this happening regularly. 

Tony: Oh yeah, definitely. It kind of feels like a blend of Kirby with Marvel Two-In-One and later character-focused runs like Simonson and Waid with its scope. Mosley always keeps it modern and timeless though. Just great writing.

But man, did Marvel editorial ever pair him up with a fantastic art team. Reilly is coming up quickly as a star, and Bellaire is just one of the best in the industry. It shows here.

Scott: They sure did. Fantastic…I see what you did there!

Tony: Master of puns, right here. 

Reilly is great at character acting on the page. Everyone is distinct and has their own body language that’s unique to them. Alicia Masters moves like she’s really blind, Ben has swagger, the aliens move like they’re inhuman, the kids look like kids… It’s really great work. 

Scott: I am not sure if I’ve read anything from Reilly per se before this, but I want to see that art way more. Just so detailed and energetic, nailing all of the stuff that was needed.  It’s that great blend of realism and fantasy that works so well in many of these comics, where the world and characters just have a weight and realness to them even if the circumstances and settings are beyond what we normally see. 

Tony: He’s also really great at the action. A good superhero artist is great at conveying motion realistically and showing impact. You can feel it when Ben gets hit, when he hits back. Using the Kirby tech weapons later in their series, it still looks like it has heft as he swings it. It adds gravitas to the brawling in a way that isn’t pretentious.

Scott: Agreed. I love when the action is so real like that, where it feels like it could burst right off the page. Rather than just appearing as a snapshot or static image, which yes the art is inherently a static image because of its form but some artists sure can make those static images feel anything but. That’s sure Reilly. 

Tony: Bellaire just stunned me here. She uses a palette that’s a little muted, adding to the timeless and slightly retro feel of the series. She’s also able to make the fantastic balance well with the mundane by making the colors feel real even though its energy from an alien weapon or the characters are standing on the Blue Area of the Moon. It looks great.

Scott: Agreed on Bellaire, I will sing her praises forever. It’s amazing how well she has a style that is recognizable yet perfectly morphs to fit whatever style it is paired with. That seems like an easy thing when stated but there are some colorists that are far better at it than others, and Bellaire is surely in the top of the list. Put this page next to stuff she’s done in other comics and guaranteed some would not believe they came from the same person. 

Tony: So what did you think?

Scott: This is one of those books that I’m so glad I finally got a chance to sit down and read because it’s just a really fun and gorgeous adventure that has a lot of weight and depth behind it without having to fully know what is going on around it. Often, and this is no slight, miniseries featuring a character still revolve around something that happened to them in another book or just stuff happening in the line as a whole. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a basically stand alone rocking adventure with a character that reminds us why comic books are such a great medium. 

Tony: Heh, rocking. But amen to that! Absolutely fantastic stuff.

Well that’s it for this week. Come back next week as Tom returns and we dive into Titan Comics’ just-concluded Doctor Who: Origins!

%d bloggers like this: