Lettering Reveals Status and Power in Marvel Two-In-One 3

By Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Marvel Two-in-One 3 is all about characters either rediscovering or redefining their relationship to their super powers. Our titular pair of marvels even goes to doctor Rachina Koul in the middle of nowhere Wyoming to jump-start Johnny’s powers. Ben describes Johnny as “broken” and whether that’s just referring to his ability to flame on, or more holistically applies to the man is left up to the reader’s discretion. But the implication is clear: without their defined roles as superheroes and supervillains, these guys just don’t know how to function. The damn Mad Thinker is going so crazy he’s styled his facial hair to look like Reed Richards and claiming to launch a “New Fantastic Four.” Basically: everyone goes nuts without boundaries. Today, I want to explore how lettering emphasizes the connection between a character, their powers, and how they view themselves in this universe.

VC’s Joe Caramanga does an absolutely stellar job of telling this story through sound effects, special cases and some truly bold lettering choices. The impetus for all of this super-soul-searching is the absence of Reed Richards. We don’t start the issue with this information – not literally anyway. It will take until page 17 for Dr. Koul to reveal that Johnny and Ben are losing their powers because Reed and Sue are missing. But the Mad Thinker and Caramanga are clued into it from the beginning. The Thinker stares at a monitor, trying to divine the multiversal location of Mr. Fantastic, when Doom suddenly appears on the scene. Caramanga pops a special case title into the Mad Thinker’s mouth:

No other character in this issue gets this kind of introduction, even when Johnny is surprised to see Hercules, and Dr. Koul is surprised to see the whole trio. That’s because the Mad Thinker is a little more tuned in to what he’s doing: positioning himself among the scattered giants with big, colorful names.

While the rest of the characters may not yet realize that that’s what they’re after, Caramanga reminds us how their powers are related to lettering in the same way their status is. I love Hydro-Man’s wishy-washy lettering in blue speech balloons as he attacks Ben and Johnny, just as I love seeing Johnny burn the water out of Ben’s lungs with an epic FWO OOSH! sound effect (red outlined, and transparent on the inside so we don’t miss any of the action!). And then as he retreats out the toilet, Hydro-Man’s last words in the issue get graphically flushed away with him.

It’s all a great set-up for when we check back in with the Mad Thinker, and he drops his most meaningful special case title.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?


2 comments on “Lettering Reveals Status and Power in Marvel Two-In-One 3

  1. I was a little disappointed with this issue. Zdarsky has been promising adventure, and I would have preferred to actually get there. Especially as this issue feels a bit… typical. Zdarsky puts his little twist with the idea of Rachina Koul, fixer of superpowers, but ultimately it gets into a pretty typical ‘Two characters get in a meaningless misunderstanding that leads to a fight ‘ story, which I’ve never been a fan of. As I’ve been reading classic comics lately, the insertion of meaningless fights because the issue needs to have a fight scene in it has always been a problem, and I don’t like that this book inherited it. Between that, and Herucles’ taking up major page time despite achieving little that couldn’t be achieved without him (at least skip the bar), and this feels like a comic that has pushed everything great about this book to the sides. It is still there, but nowhere near enough of it.

    THoguh I have to say, the idea that the Fantastic Four need to be around each other for their powers to work is an actual cool idea that is a real strong metaphor for who the Fantastic Four are. I wish it was introduced in a comic that didn’t feel the need to crowd that reveal out.

    Also, the line about multiversal travel being impossible is… weird. Multiversal travel is something that happens every Sunday in the Marvel Universe. It is not something that requires a super specific device, as the Fantastic Four in particular and superheroes in general do it all the time.

  2. Matt again wrote my comment for me. I am still onboard for this – I’m not going anywhere yet, but it definitely was a minor lull. Which is too bad, the idea that the FF need each other for their powers as a story and as a metaphor is new and interesting, but again, a bit too much fluff, which kills me because I generally want MORE Hercules (and a Hercules / Thing team-up would be awesome as well).

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