I was unaware of this existence of this book, which collects the Thing issues 1 to 10 from 1983 / 1984, until a few weeks ago, but once a certain Mr Rol told me about it, I was simply unable to resist ordering a copy. I’m not sure why, really. I mean, yes, it’s a book full of Thing comics written by John Byrne, who at that point was also in the middle of his classic run as writer / artist of the Fantastic Four – sounds pretty good so far, doesn’t it? – but it’s also a book full of Thing comics drawn by Ron Wilson, an artist whose work I hated when I was younger, and I didn’t even buy more than two or three issues of this series when I was a Marvel-addicted teenager – I was 14 / 15 years old when these comics were originally released – even though I was most certainly buying the Fantastic Four at the time. I suppose I bought it mostly because of the John Byrne factor, but also because I am starting to get a bit nostalgic about the 1980s, which is crazy because I hated the 1980s at the time, and particularly the early-1980s, when I was still at school (man, I hated school!). I guess now that I am older, I am able to mentally sift the good from the bad, and appreciate the things that did make me happy in the 1980s – comics, pop music, etc. – without associating them with a time when I was essentially miserable. Or something like that. Whatever it was that compelled me to buy this book, I wanted it bad and I got it. And it’s okay. I suppose. In places.
The first few issues reprinted in this volume are actually not that bad at all, and the first two issues are even pretty good. In issue one, the thing returns to Yancy Street to try and talk some sense into a street gang by telling them about his own involvement with gangs as a kid. The only thing that marred this issue was the fact that it contained yet another retelling of the FF’s origin (there’s another retelling in #10) and Ron Wilson’s art, which is not necessarily bad but is rather boring. Wilson draws the least threatening-looking street gang I have ever seen – I swear the Happy Days gang were scarier looking than this lot! But the downbeat story was decent, even if Byrne does tend to over-write a bit (as it was the 1980s, I’m prepared to overlook that sort of thing). Issue two contains another downbeat story, with the Thing again thinking back to his younger, pre-Thing days, after he receives a letter from an old flame and begins to worry what she will think of him when she sees his rocky face for the first time. This issue is inked by Byrne, in the scruffy style he was using in the FF at the time, which transforms Wilson’s art and makes it look like Byrne drew the whole thing (perhaps in a hurry, but it’s a big improvement). After a reasonable start, though, the quality of the stories starts to go downhill, and apart from a few pages drawn entirely by Byrne in #7, the rest of the art is by Wilson, inked by Hilary Barta and Joe Sinnott.
Issue three, in which the Thing, with the help of Lockjaw and Crystal, fights the rest of the Inhumans to stop them turning Crystal and Quicksilver’s human baby into an Inhuman, is alright. In this issue, we discover that Lockjaw is not a dog at all, but a particularly ugly Inhuman – which is what puts Quicksilver off the idea of changing his kid into an Inhuman – and he even speaks for the first time. (Did Marvel ever bring that up again or did Lockjaw just go back to being a dog after this?) It’s not as good as the first couple of issues, though. The two part story from issues five and six, in which the Thing destroys half of New York after being possessed by the Puppet Master, is pretty bad, and the story from #7 isn’t much better (remember assistant editors’ month?), while the two part story in issues eight and nine, in which the Thing again destroys half of New York, this time possessed by the spirit of a murdered Egyptian slave – who dresses like a Roman centurion, for some reason – is really bad. Which only leaves five decent issues in the book.
The better issues are the more subdued issues, in which the Thing dwells on his past or his relationship with Alicia, or some other emotional dilemma, while the bad issues mostly contain action-orientated stories. These issues are bad partly because Ron Wilson’s art isn’t exciting enough to carry the action and partly because the stories are just plain bad. I guess Byrne was saving his better adventure stories for the FF.
Cost: This has a very high recommended retail price of £18.99 / $24.99. I bought my copy from the Book Depository for a more reasonable £11.91 but I probably could have picked up all the comics contained in this book for less than that on eBay and I probably could have picked up all the good issues for a couple of quid. On the ration indeed.