The Thing: issues 11-23

Writers: John Byrne (11-13, 19-22), Mike Carlin (14-17, 23), Bob Harras (18)
Artist: Ron Wilson
Inkers: Joe Sinnott (11-13, 15, 17-18, 21-22), Joe Sinnott & Andy Muchynsky (14), Joe Sinnott & [Dan] Bulanadi (16), Mike Gustovich (19-20), Bob Layton (23)
Letterers: Rick Parker (11, 14, 21), Jim Novak (12, 15-16), Michael Higgins (13), John Morelli (17, 20, 22-23), Janice Chiang (18), Jim Novak & Squid (19)
Colorists: George Roussos (11-12), Bob Sharen (13, 15-23), Julianna Ferriter (14)
Editors: Bob Budiansky (11-17), Mike Carlin (18-22), Mark Gruenwald (23)

The Villains:
     11: the Takers
     12-13: analogs of Dr. Doom & his Doombots
     14: the Silben race
     15: Gruhl of Shalfbut, armed with a Tantorian P-Z Lanta; an alien analog of the Yancy Street Gang
     16: animated skeletons; stone people; the Sorceror in green (disguised as Lorra Gudma of the stone people)
     17: the Sorceror in green; the Reckoner
     18: the Sorceror in green; animate trees; Annihilus-like aliens
     19: the Sorceror in green; a ghoulish carriage driver; a vampire; a mummy; a Frankenstein's monster
     20-22: the Sorceror in green
     23: none, really

Guest Shots:
     11: Llrrllllnnllyyrrl
     12: Hanrak; Tarianna
     13: Hanrak; Tarianna; Taymar (Leenn village leader); Llrrllllnnllyyrrl; the Takers
     14: Tarianna; the Turek race (including Billera)
     15: Tarianna; Llrrllllnnllyyrrl; the Takers
     16-17: Tarianna
     18: Tarianna; people of Muab (Juneyar, infant ling; Tabith, the old nursemaid; Mara / the Lady, Guardian of Muab); Llrrllllnnllyyrrl; the Takers
     19-20: Tarianna; Llrrllllnnllyyrrl; the Takers; Ultron
     21: Tarianna; Llrrllllnnllyyrrl; Ultron
     22: Tarianna; Ultron
     23: Human Torch; Mr. Fantastic; Invisible Woman; Franklin Richards

The Set Ups:
     Issue 11: Rocky Grimm, Space Ranger... Having learned during Secret Wars that he can change back and forth from the Thing to Ben Grimm while on the Beyonder's Battleworld, and having been (wrongly) told by Reed Richards that he can only do that there, Ben stays for some adventuring. An alien known as a "Taker" quickly steals Ben's "take me home" gizmo, and Ben has to retrieve it, gaining the help of a young green alien girl named Llrrllllnnllyyrrl, whose also looking for something she wants from the Takers.
     Issue 12: Ben is attacked by a pair of barbarians named Hanrak and Tarianna, of the people of Leenn. Attracted to the female Tarianna, Ben quickly aids them against an evil wizard who seems to be Dr. Doom, complete with an army of Doombots.
     Issue 13: Ben and Tarianna travel to what seems to be Doomstadt and Dr. Doom's castle, and Ben investigates the castle to try to determine what is going on. Elsewhere, Llrrllllnnllyyrrl continues to try to find her item, with no success.
     Issue 14: Ben and Tarianna find an abandoned spaceship, and end up using it to defend one alien race from another which is attacking it. Ben teaches his new allies how to fight and defend themselves.
     Issue 15: Flying the spaceship from last issue, Ben and Tarianna end up in a strange alien bar, get in bar fights, and are subtly tormented by a gang of aliens oddly parallel to the Yancy Street Gang from back on Earth. Meanwhile, the Takers bring Llrrllllnnllyyrrl the wrong item again, which turns out to be a weapon which automatically opposes the most powerful person its heard of. Llrrllllnnllyyrrl and the Takers accidentally send the weapon (called a Tantorian P-Z Lanta) after Ben.
     Issue 16: Back on foot, Ben and Tarianna are separated on a high rock plateau, inside which Ben confronts a race of rock people who look amazingly like the Thing. Unbeknownst to Ben, one of them is actually a mysterious Sorceror in green, who'll shortly become very important.
     Issue 17: Our mysterious Sorceror in green taunts Ben with news of the missing Tarianna. Seeking her, Ben meets and fights someone known as the Reckoner, who blinds Ben, and Ben is forced to both cross a desert and fight the Reckoner, all while unable to see.
     Issue 18: Reunited with Tarianna, and with his sight restored, Ben is forced to take custody of an infant child named Juneyar, and then to battle to return the child to his rightful kngdom so as to thwart the mysterious Sorceror in green. Meanwhile, aliens looking like Annihilus nab Tarianna. Still no luck for Llrrllllnnllyyrrl either.
     Issue 19: Seeking Tarianna, the Thing encounters a series of classic horror movie monsters: a ghoulish gravedigger type, Dracula, the Mummy, and Frankenstein's Monster.
     Issue 20: Tarianna is being tormented by our Sorceror in green, seeing fragments of the history of the Thing / Ben Grimm. As she stabs a vision of the Thing circa Fantastic Four #1 or so, Ben Grimm, far far away, feels the pain, and as she slays that Thing, suddenly Ben can no longer change forms. Elsewhere, Llrrllllnnllyyrrl recovers her long lost mystery item, which we see to be the head of Ultron. Finally, at the end of this issue, we (and Tarianna) learn the identity of the Sorceror in green, though Ben will have to wait two more issues to learn it himself.
     Issue 21: Believing the person behind all these head games to be Reed Richards, Ben has come to a replica of the Baxter Building, and tries to battle his way to the top floors. Elsewhere, Ultron is reborn, rewards Llrrllllnnllyyrrl by killing her, and prepares to conquer Battleplanet.
     Issue 22: Ben comes face-to-face with the guy who's been the Sorceror in green through these past issues. Ben learns that everything thats been happening on the planet has been a product of his own subconscious mind, and when Tarianna kills the Sorceror in green (taking a fatal wound herself), everything on the planet fades out, leaving just Ben Grimm and Ultron's again-bodiless head. Realizing its all been a bad head trip, Ben activates his "no place like home" gizmo, and returns to Earth, while the Battleworld breaks up behind him.
     Issue 23: Back on Earth, Ben has some flashbacks to old times, and packs his stuff while giving Johnny Storm the silent treatment for taking up with Ben's old girlfriend Alicia while he was away. Reed picks this time to tell Ben that he'd been lying to him about how he could change back and forth from the Thing to Ben Grimm, and Ben throws a giant-sized tantrum and storms out of the Fantastic Four, apparently for good.

Clobberin' Time?:
     Issue 11, page 19, Ben smashes into the Takers' city: "Okay, ya crum-bums... It's Clobberin' Time!"
     Issue 12, [page 15/21], Ben utters his battle cry while attacking a giant Doombot-type.
     Issue 14, page 16, Ben issues the battle cry as he leads an army of spaceships to engage the bad guys.
     Issue 15, page 20, Ben finishes Gruhl off, yelling the customary yell.
     Issue 17, page 21, Blinded and angered, Ben takes down the Reckoner, one syllable per punch: "It's. Clob. Ber. In'. Time!!"
     Issue 19, page 19, Ben issues his battle cry while finishing off a mummy.
     Issue 21, page 17, Ben discovers he can once again change into the Thing, and yells his battle cry while climbing up an elevator shaft. (hey, I just report 'em, I don't write 'em.)
     Issue 23, page 6. In a flashback to a classic Johnny/Ben pranking/squabbling style fight, Ben yells "It's Clobberin' Time!!" as he goes after Johnny.

Petunia's Patch:
     Issue 18, page 8. Ben decides to capture a couple of unicorns for transport, thinking to himself that "taming two of these unicorns should be pretty easy. They look as ferocious as my Aunt Petunia's pet parakeet."

Things of Interest:
      There is kind of a bonus issue or two in this mess: The story in The Thing #19 is a two-parter, finished in Fantastic Four #274, where Ben battles the Monster Master (Julius Akerman), the guy responsible for those movie monsters in The Thing #19. Similarly, Fantastic Four #277 occurs between issues 22 and 23, which is where Ben discovers that Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) is now in a serious relationship with Ben's old girlfriend, Alicia Masters.
     Ben refers to his mother as "Mama Grimm" in issues 12 and 22.
     Tarianna stays kind of important, probably the only thing of import in these issues: she was Ben's "dream girl," and in the next year's issues he meets a woman back on Earth who is pretty much her twin: Sharon Ventura.
     In my opinion, calling these issues "awful" does a disservice to the word "awful." Track 'em down if you want, or just move on to issues 24 to 36. I give this set a "one half head" rating overall, but I could be probably talked into "one head" for issues 11, 17, and 23, and maybe about "one and a half heads" for issue 22, while everyting else is solidly at the bottom. Overall, not good. Really. I wish I could tell you otherwise, I really do, particularly since I'm a fan of many of the creators.
     As a very minor note- the next/last links below will take you to Marvel Fanfare 15 as the previous issue, and Marvel Fanfare 20 as the next. Fanfare 15 would actually take place between The Thing issues 9 and 10, and Fanfares 20-21 between The Thing issues 22 and 23. Between 22 and 23 might have been a better split for these two pages, but 23 finishes the psychological arc for all this, and besides, the cover image graphics fit better this way. The expression "close enough for government work" comes to mind.
     I've tried to stay spoiler-free on the big twist in all this, but I think I have to discuss it for any of this to make sense. So if for some reason you actually care, skip on the the next set of issues and don't read on from here. As noted, everything on the Battleworld came from Ben's mind, including the Sorceror in green, who was really the human side of Ben Grimm given solid form. So... back on Earth, Reed Richards had not so long ago figured out that Ben could change to human form, but subconsciously feared that Alicia only loved him as the Thing, and that was creating a mental block which was keeping him Thinged. On the Battleworld, without Alicia around, there was no reason for the block, so he subconsciously let himself change at will. When he and Tarianna killed his "human half" (the Sorceror in green), Ben made himself unable to change back to that form- he'd killed it. He returned to Earth, found Johnny and Alicia in each other's arms, and was thrown for a loop despite the fact that he and Alicia had been having their "let's break up" talk when Ben got pulled away for Secret Wars. Reed, knowing Johnny had broken up Ben and Alicia for good but not knowing what had happened on Battleplanet, chose that time to tell Ben the good news that he should be able to change back and forth, and why. Upset with Reed for lying, p.o.ed at Johnny for girlfriend poaching, and angry that Reed had lied to him instead of leveling with him, Ben threw a tantrum and walked out. All in all, a decent psychological explanation for this, and I'd like it, except for the niggling fact that it took a full year of pointless and not exactly interesting storylines to get through all of this.
     With that spoiler in mind, its worth noting that of those on the villains and guests list, only Ultron and the Fantastic Four family in issue 23 were really real. Everything else was invented from Ben's mind.
     Marvel is producing a Thing Classics #2, which will collect issues 11-22 of this series. Its scheduled for an August 2012 release.