Thursday, July 25, 2013

Project Pegasus

If you have not figured it out by now, I am a geek.

I'll let that sink in with you for a bit because I'm sure it's a shock.

When buying comic books as a youth, one of the attributes I typically looked for was "how many heroes were in it?" If it was a "team book," I somehow thought I got more for my money. So you can imagine that Marvel's Two-in-One was a comic I often brought home.  Each issue featured Ben Grimm, The Thing from Fantastic Four, paired up with a superhero of the month.  Most of the time they were stand alone stories, but every now and then you got an ongoing arc.  One of those arcs was titled "Project Pegasus" and it has now been collected in a very nice hardcover edition.

Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. was a center for super science, where energy of all forms was studied.  This included the study of (at times unwilling) super-powered beings.  One of these test subjects was a powerful alien named Wundarr.  Unfortunately, the guy had the mental faculties of a five year-old.  He met The Thing and Ben become an uncle-figure to the young man.  Or whatever he was.

Wundarr ends up in Project PEGASUS and not through his own volition.  Ben charges into the project to rescue him but finds Wundarr well taken care of.  As much as a scientific guinea pig can be anyway.  Since Ben was there already, Quasar (a superhero in charge of security on site) asks Ben to take a sabbatical from the Fantastic Four and work security at Project PEGASUS.  He accepts.

How do you like that?  The guy breaks into the place and he's offered a job.

Unfortunately for Ben, he's not the last to attempt an infiltration.  A criminal named Victorious is the first attacker.  He breaks in and steals the Cosmic Cube (an extraterrestrial container of unspeakable power.  If you saw the Captain America movie, you know what this is.)  Fortunately, Ben gets it back with the help of Captain America but that's not where the trouble ends.  More and more assaults are made on the Project as someone has nefarious plans for the scientific secrets housed within its underground labs.  There is also danger from within from supercriminals such as Klaw and Nuklo.

Guest stars filter in and out but mostly stay for the climactic finish.  In addition to Captain America and Quasar, we see Giant Man (the African American version), Thundra, Deathlok, and the character with perhaps the best name in comics...Man-Thing.  That moniker made things really interesting when Marvel published Giant-Size Man-Thing #1.  In the end, there is also the appearance of the mysterious hero called The Aquarian.  He was very late 60s in style, big sleeves and bell-bottoms and long flowing hair, and didn't seem to catch on with readers.

This is a fun collection from when comics were...well, fun.  They didn't make me want to slit my wrists after reading them.  There is no real deep message or literary significance here, just escapism with the 1970s Marvel vocab that doesn't quite insult your intelligence.  Plus, a side of Ben's disposition comes out that we don't often see in other books.  In this storyline he must take on the role of a mentor to younger heroes.  We see him develop into a protector, a caretaker, and someone whom the other characters end up affording a great deal of respect.

This is worth a look.

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