Marvel Two-in-One #87: Menace of the Microworld!
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Penciller: Ron Wilson
Inker: Chic Stone
Letterer: Parker & Higgins
Colorist: Christine Scheele
Editor: Jim Salicrup
The Guest Star:
Mr. Fantastic; Human Torch
The Set Up:
We open at the Baxter Building, where Ben is once again being used as a guinea pig in one of Reed's experiments. When its over, Ben walks off to one side, and then very shortly begins shrinking until he disappears away to nothing. Reed and Johnny quickly mark the spot, and instantly diagnose that he's been transported into a microverse. They audibly wish that they were able to get ahold of Ant-Man, as the original Ant-Man had helped them with a similar problem before. A nearby ant (who apparently understands English) hears the conversation, and immediately broadcasts the call to all the ants in the area.
Out in the suburbs, the new Ant-Man (Scott Lang) is trying to get his daughter to clean her room when a small army of disturbed ants begins pouring in. Scott send his daughter off to a movie, then shrinks down and gets the message from the ants. He immmediately hurries to the Baxter Building, where he introduces himself, and offers to help. Reed points out that by applying repeated doses of the shrinking gas, Ant-Man should be able to shrink small enough to reach that microscopic world. Testing it on himself, Ant-Man quickly discovers that it works.
Arriving in the microworld (where they also speak English, apparently the universal language of both ants and microcitizens!), Ant-Man is immediately accosted by soldiers in semi-medieval armor who recognize him as being from the "macroverse." He gets away, and quickly finds Ben lounging on a couch, with beatiful women in attendance. Ben has been brought here by their queen, Pearla, and has agreed to serve as their champion in a combat against the leader of their enemies. Ant-Man is taken away to rest in a room of his own which does a nice imitation of a cell. He promptly escapes, of course, and while shrunken hitches a ride on one of the guards back to Queen Pearla, where we learn that she has drugged Ben into compliance. She intends to launch a surprise attack on her enemies while the contest of champions is going on.
As the drugged and sluggish Thing is armored up and sent into the gladiatorial ring, Ant-Man frantically rides to the rescue on a very alien-looking ant...
Page 26, Panel 1. Ben, in the gladitorial arena, throws his opponent into the stands. "Stop bellyachin', creep! I don't tell ya my problems! But don't worry, pal! Soon, all your problems will be over, 'cause-- It's Clobberin! Time!"
Things of Interest:
And so, it begins... I earlier commented that the end of the Gruenwald/Macchio run was the start of the decline of MTIO. With this issue, it is now officially in its deathbed, only poking its head up once or twice for decent issues like the Ultron two-parter (92-93), and the Annual 7 / issue 97 duo.
Zorak, one of the bad guys in this issue, has never appeared outside this issue (to the best of my knowledge). Though you certainly can't tell it from this issue, Pearla (the other bad guy) has a long history! She dates all the way back to FF Vol. I, issue 16, where she was a mere Princess, and a one-shot love interest for Johnny Storm. Pearla has also since appeared in FF 284 and, I'm told, in FF Unlimited 8.
Ant-Man (Scott Lang) is fairly well established by this point, having appeared in decent sized roles in both the Avengers and Iron Man, and bit roles elsewhere. Many years later he'll actually go on to unofficially join the FF for a stretch in Fantastic Four issues 384-416 (approximately), and subsequently become a member of Heroes for Hire and then the Avengers.
The basic back-story to Scott Lang as Ant-Man is that he was an ex-criminal who went back into crime solely to arrange to get the services of a doctor who could help his daughter Cassie with her heart problems. In the course of a burglary to try to arrange this, he stole one of Henry Pym's Ant-Man suits, and used it to help stop a bad guy (and to save his own daughter to boot). Hank Pym gave him his blessing to keep the suit. At the point in time where this story occurs, Hank Pym has had a nervous breakdown and is apparently acting criminally.
If I were a better (or at least more bored) person, I'd go back and calculate how many times in these issue Ben gets used as either a guinea pig or at least plays an important part in one of Reed's experiments. They always end not-so-well too. You'd think they'd learn...
The best parts of this issue are the interactions between Ant-Man and his daughter, Cassie. The final two panels have a nice Ben/Scott exchange on the subject, as the two start to leave the Microverse:
Ant-Man: "I hope we get back soon! I'd like to join a special young lady for dinner!"
Ben: "What's on the menu?"
Ant-Man: "Er... Peanut butter and banana casserole!"
Ben: "Really? If I had something like that waitin' fer me-- I'd stay here."