Marvel Madness

That Time Thanos Was Defeated By the Perfect Marvel Team-Up

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Well, everyone, we’ve reached the end of this little marathon I’ve put together for Marvel Madness this month. The culmination of the MCU officially begins today now that Avengers: Infinity War has been released to the public, which means we have time for one more look at the many, many defeats of Thanos the Mad Titan. Now, so far this month I’ve focused on two of the most ridiculous stories that Thanos has ever had the pleasure to be apart of. We’ve seen him get defeated by a group of super-powered pets and a little boy with terrible taste in hats. And, unfortunately, I couldn’t really find anything more humiliating than those two defeats. But, in the process of looking for stories that featured Thanos at his absolute worst, I did come across a story that was very in my wheelhouse. This isn’t going to be quite along the lines of the previous two issues, this one’s a little less wacky. But, it did become possibly my favorite failure that the Mad Titan has ever had. It’s true, nothing can quite beat the sheer universe-shattering power that Infinity Gauntlet contains, and Thanos’ defeat in that story is very cathartic. But, this story really does it for me. It’s on a much smaller scale, and features a wonderfully Marvel Comics premise. Because even though this story does spill out of the Avengers, it takes place in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One, a comic that I’ve already brought up once here before. It was a series that featured monthly adventures where the Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing got to go on adventures with a rotating cast of Marvel superheroes. It was a great way to introduce readers to characters that they maybe weren’t already reading about, and led to some truly weird and wonderful stories. And you know what Marvel Two-In-One is really similar to? Marvel Team-Up, a comic series that revolved around basically the exact same premise and  had the exact same function for the company. The only difference was that it revolved around Spider-Man teaming up with various heroes instead of the Thing. So, how perfect would it be to have Spider-Man and the Thing, Marvel’s two greatest team players work together to defeat one of the biggest threats of the Marvel Universe? Well, this perfect.

Like I said, this story actually comes right after the events of an Avengers story-line. But, it’s helpfully recapped in the first few pages of this comic, taking the form of a terrible vision that Peter Parker is having late at night, courtesy of the telepathic Avenger Moondragon. She’s beaming these visions into Peter’s head in the hope that he’ll be able to help the Avengers, after they were beaten by Thanos. See, Thanos, as usual had been on a quest to impress Death, and that took the form of him devising a weapon powered by a synthetic Infinity Gem to destroy Earth’s sun, and thus the solar system. But, the Avengers, Captain Marvel (the original Kree one), and Adam Warlock all teamed up and managed to destroy Thanos’ fake Gem, stopping him. But, Thanos is a crafty old monster, and this was all apparently a feint, luring the heroes into a sense of false-security just in time for Thanos to unleash a powerful weapon that was even able to take down Thor, stopping all of the Avengers in one shot. He then takes them hostage and pries the Soul Gem righto off of Adam Warlock’s forehead so he can use it to destroy the sun.

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All of this is sent straight into Peter Parker’s head by Moondragon, even though she’s imprisoned with the rest of the Avengers, hoping that he’ll be able to save them. The only problem is, Peter Parker isn’t exactly used to all this cosmic nonsense. He doesn’t know how to defeat someone like Thanos, hell, he doesn’t even know how to get to space. Luckily, he does know some people with access to spacecraft. So, Peter tosses on his Spidey costume and begins web-slinging over to the Baxter Building, hoping to get the help of the Fantastic Four.

Spider-Man is able to slip past the Baxter Building’s security, and manages to find Ben Grimm sitting alone in a room, reading Salem’s Lot and smoking a cigar. So, even though he’s here asking for a favor, Spider-Man decides to scare the holy crap out of Ben, sneaking up behind him and spooking while while engrossed in a Stephen King classic. Ben freaks the hell out, and begins ranting and raving to Spider-Man, thoroughly pissed off at the web-head’s antics. Spider-Man is eventually able to calm the Thing down though, and gets him to stop ranting and listen to why he’s there. The two sit down together, and Spider-Man lays out his entire night of visions to Ben. Leading to some disbelief.

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But, even though it all sounds too insane to be true, Ben does recognize the fact that Spider-Man has always been straight with him in the past, and agrees to help him out. For whatever reason they decide not to get the rest of the Fantastic Four involved, and instead just hop into a space-shuttle that Ben was supposed to be testing anyway, and blast out into the void. Which was pretty old-hat to Ben, but doesn’t seem to phase Peter that much either, which is a little weird. I guess he’s been to space before.

The Thing is still pretty unconvinced about this whole Thanos thing, and seems to be going along with this just to humor Spider-Man. Until they get out of the orbit of Earth and come across Thanos’ massive ship, floating there menacingly. But, while the two are gawking at the mile-wide space-craft, they end up getting picked up by Thanos’ tractor-beam, drawing their ship into the hangar of Thanos’ craft. And, right as they get inside, they find a whole army of weird alien assassins that Thanos has acquired to be his own personal army. The two heroes leap from their ship, and begin fighting the aliens, hoping to take them down quickly so they can deal with Thanos himself.

 

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This battle doesn’t go un-noticed though. Thanos is watching the entire exchange, personally ordering in reinforcements that he thinks will be well-matched to defeat the heroes. And, it turns out that Thanos does have a skill for management. Because the soldiers he calls in are actually able to get the best of Spider-Man and the Thing, taking the two heroes out of commission. Which doesn’t really spell good things for Earth. Or the various cosmic beings who are invested in this battle, including Master Order and Lord Chaos, who floating heads in space who are monitoring the whole situation and are afraid that if Thanos is able to use the Mind Gem to destroy an entire solar system he won’t stop until the entire universe is thrown into chaos.

But, Master Order and Lord Chaos have another plan. They were apparently the ones to spur Moondragon to pick the Thing and Spider-Man for this raid, but not because they thought the two superheroes could beat Thanos. No, they did it because they thought they would be able to get to the Soul Gem and save Adam Warlock, letting him take care of the Mad Titan. Unfortunately, after being defeated Adam Warlock retreated into the Soul Gem, like he’s wont to do, hanging out with Gamora and Pip the Troll. You know, living the high life. But, the two cosmic entities are convinced that Spider-Man and the Thing still have a chance, even though the two are in a less than ideal position at the moment.

 

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Yeah, Thanos has brought our two heroes to the same room where he’s keeping the rest of the Avengers in stasis like trophies, and just wants to gloat a bit. Spider-Man and Thanos do their best to act tough, but Thanos sees through their acts and teleports himself out of his weird little opera box, and comes down to intimidate them personally. He shows off his newly acquired Soul Gem, and explains that he’s going to use it to cause the sun to go supernova, destroying everything our heroes have ever known. They’re obviously horrified by this, even though they already knew that this was Thanos’ plan. But now Thanos gets to expound on it all, telling them why he’s doing this, and laying out Thanos’ whole deal. He explains how he met the personification of Death, fell in love with her, and decided that he’d do anything to curry her favor. And, killing an entire solar system will do the trick, or so he assumes.

This motivation has been Thanos’ whole deal, for the character’s whole history, and it’s one of the reasons that the character has never really done it for me. Because, when you get right down to it, Thanos is just a whiny asshole, hurting others because the girl he likes doesn’t like him, even though he’s a complete dick. I mean, as we’ve learned, this is a real issue in the world, and there are plenty of actual evil pricks who cause harm in the world for the exact same reasons as Thanos, but it’s just a motivation that has never worked for me as a supervillain. Especially one who puts all of reality in jeopardy every couple of years just because he’s a love-sick dope. And, the Thing agrees that Thanos is just an insane loser, and responds with his trademark tact.

 

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I love the Thing so goddamn much. But, as you may have imagined, this doesn’t actually end up accomplishing a whole lot. Thanos doesn’t seem to care about the massive punch that the Thing just laid upon him, and ends up blasting the Thing back into unconsciousness. Which certainly freaks Spider-Man out. He now knows that Thanos single-handedly defeated the entire Avengers and one of the strongest heroes that he knows. So,  he does what any rational person would do in this situation, and run the hell away, as fast as he can.

Spider-Man starts web-slinging, escaping Thanos and scurrying away before the Mad Titan or any of his soldiers could stop him. But, he doesn’t really have a plan in mind. He’s just a dude from Brooklyn who usually deals with muggers and weird animal-themed villains who rob banks, not stopping an intergalactic space god hellbent on destroying a solar system. So, he just kind of keeps running, trying to stay one step ahead of Thanos and his goons, until Master Order and Lord Chaos take notice of him again, and begin subtly using their powers to push him to a specific goal. Spider-Man finds himself getting drawn back into that trophy room from earlier, and when he gets in he realizes something he can do. He smashes the machine that’s keeping the Avengers in stasis, drawing them back to reality and giving himself some reinforcements.

 

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The Avengers then join into the fight, attacking Thanos with everything he’s got. The Mad Titan is a little off-guard, but he’s still able to call in his own reinforcements, drawing his army of alien assassins to help fight off Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Thing also regains consciousness at this point, and is able to get a few good licks in on Thanos, joining in the general pummeling of the Mad Titan. The battle rages on for quite a while, and it seems shockingly well-matched for most of it. Thor and the Thing spend all of their effort battering Thanos, throwing him around the room while the rest of the Avengers deal with the aliens, keeping them off the two heavy-hitters.

But, it all seems to be for naught. Thanos does get battered, but he’s still far more powerful than the Avengers, and is eventually able to defeat Thor and the Thing, making it clear that he’s just going to continue until they’re all defeated. Which means Spider-Man is going to have to think of something better to do. He starts running around, being nudged in the right direction by Master Order and Lord Chaos once more. And, with their help, his spider-sense draws him to where Thanos was keeping the Soul Gem until he used it to destroy the sun. Spider-Man doesn’t quite understand what he’s doing, but he’s able to free the Soul Gem from the stasis that Thanos had it in, which is enough to drag Adam Warlock kicking and screaming back to reality, fully recharged. Warlock has been given even greater powers than before after being back in the Soul Gem, and realizes his true purpose. He takes all of that power, and grabs Thanos by the arms, using every last ounce of his strength to turn the Mad Titan to stone, at the cost of his own life.

 

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So, Adam Warlock is seemingly dead, yet again, and Thanos is defeated, yet again. Thanos’ army of sketchy aliens then immediately surrender, realizing that without a leader they stand no chance of defeating the Avengers, and decide to just give up. Which is lucky for them, because Captain Marvel decides that if they bring them back to Earth and arrest them, they’ll just escape and become problems further down the road. So, they all agree to just let the army go, forcing them to wander the universe in search of a new evil overlord to boss them around.

The heroes then give Adam Warlock an impromptu funeral, since as far as they know he died during his assault on Thanos. He’s actually back inside the Soul Gem, ready to pop back out whenever Marvel felt like insisting he was important in the future, but they don’t realize that. The heroes have some eulogies, and thank him for saving their solar system before returning to Earth. And our heroes, Spider-Man and the Thing have a moment to reflect on the fact that they played an instrumental roll in saving the Earth, and that they did the best they could.

 

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This issue is a whole lot of fun. As I’ve said, I’m not the biggest Thanos fan. I think that the story he was meant to be in was Infinity Gauntlet, and that the character really never should have come back after that story. That defeat should have been the end to the character, because that was the biggest and craziest he was ever going to be. He could only go down from there. But, it’s stories like this that lead up to Infinity War, and make Thanos the believable threat that he was in it. Seeing that Thanos would be able to cause so much chaos with just one of the Infinity Gems that two cosmic gods had to get involved really sets the standard for the menace he could possess in the future. This is a great Thanos story, and one that does make me appreciate the character as much as I’m probably ever going to. And, it’s just so fun that his downfall was brought about by Spider-Man and the Thing, two of my favorite Marvel characters, and two heroes who really dealt with some stuff above their pay-grades in this story. Yeah, Adam Warlock really ended up being the more influential part of this story, but I really enjoy the fact that these two heroes who so often were used to accentuate other heroes got to shine. I love Ben, I love Peter, and I love their relationship, so getting to see them travel into space, save the Avengers, and help stop Thanos from destroying the Earth is just a whole lot of fun for me. It wasn’t as silly as the other stories I talked about this month, but it’s still one that I really love.

 

Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 was written and penciled by Jim Starlin, inked by Joe Rubinstein, colored by Petra Goldberg, and lettered by Annette Kawecki, 1977.

 

 

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