B&B 2-in-1 Round 11: The Metal Men vs. Mister Fantastic

Batman leads 7 to 3, but it's Dinosaur Week, and it looks like only Ben Grimm is embracing the theme! That could spell trouble for the Caped Crusader unless he gets some mighty awesome guest stars. And he does. The fight is on.

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Mister Fantastic, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ernie Chan, Marvel Two-in-One #36, A Stretch in Time...

In the black corner... it's Batman and the Metal Men, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Bob Brown and Frank McLaughlin, Brave and the Bold #103, "A Traitor Lurks Inside Earth!"


The Stars
So if you remember, the Thing flew an experimental plane into the Bermuda Triangle and wound up 222 million years into the past and teamed up with Skull the Slayer. Dinosaurs were roaming the Earth in those days, and they made perfect targets for Ben Grimm's rock-throwing skills.
Even if I can't quite decipher his jokes sometimes. It's not just rocks either. Later, he tosses Skull further up a river so the Slayer can save his friends' life. Almost all his friends. Ben takes care of the one guy left to drop off a waterfall by breaking all the way down with the balls of his feet. For an encore, Ben flies a repaired super-plane back through the Triangle to 1977, a difficult piloting feat, so he doesn't need your whining back there!
Self-pity is HIS thing! Shut the HELL up, Skull. But it doesn't end there. They were followed by the Leopard Priest and his flock of pterodactyls, which gives Ben the chance to show off his pteranodon whispering, fly up to fight the villain, and get the final blow. As the Priest falls off his mount, no one asks if he made a big splat or a big splash, so I'm gonna assume Ben killed that guy. Ooops! Thing Trivia: We also learn Ben is a Charlie's Angels fan. But who isn't? A lot of badassery here. +9 points
Batman is comparatively more low-key. Asked by the Pentagon to hunt down the scientist responsible for technology that's gone rogue, he follows some rather unlikely clues (like a sea shell that only exists on ONE island) and leaps to Adam West-level conclusions (bats' sonar is all screwed up, must be radiation going from villain HQ to nearby cave, though props on using his totem animal in his solution), not to mention how well-stocked his utility belt is (Will Magnus's last will and testament? check!). Among his feats, we also find some nice pole-vaulting over an electric fence and surviving levels of radiation only fit for machines, but it does make him pass out. +6 Bat-points

The Guests
Ben is still hanging with Skull and Co., and the Slayer does show off a few cool acrobatic moves. Despite his natural ability, Ben doesn't seem to like him, and there's a lot of venomous banter going on. The rest guest-star is Reed Richards who, at this time in the FF's history, has grown weak. For some reason, he finds stretching extremely painful. So it's though blazing pain he fights dinosaurs. Props! The cover doesn't lie: He chokes out a pterodactyl. He also pulls a hard rubber ball trick!
Left fatigued, he falls into the Atlantic and lets himself float away. Until Ben throws himself off a pterodactyl to catch Skull's falling girlfriend and he has to turn himself into a trampoline, even if it kills him!
This IS his best friend we're talking about, after all. +8 points

The Metal Men are also at a strange place in their lives. For years now (because Haney doesn't believe in any sliding time scale), they've been trying to live among the humans because Doc Magnus is a puppet of a foreign dictator, somewhere. This is a product of how their original series ended, mid-story, with 1969's #41. Mercury is a vocal advocate of "Robot's Lib" and wants equal rights and opportunities for his people, and he convinces Gold, who had been living disguised as a human, to assemble the old team.
They're all in menial jobs, with Platinum as a... go-go dancer? Only in Haney comics. Since the villain of the piece is a robot, they're not keen on helping Batman - and for a second, it almost seems like they've betrayed him - until he guilt trips them using Doc Magnus' will (not that he's dead), which reminds the robots that they shouldn't write off humanity just because some people are mean. Gold realizes that nuclear war (those are the stakes, folks) would melt an awful lot of robots too, so they're off on a mission only machines could undertake. It wouldn't be a Metal Men story if they didn't talk about temperatures and other key metal trivia, so of course, that happens. And it wouldn't be a good Metal Men story if they didn't so some cool shapeshifting.
Or in this case, slightly disturbing shapeshifting. Everyone seems to have a function. Iron gets them out of their cell. Mercury coats an electrified ladder with his least-conductive body. Gold shows how ductile he is by become a long wire that can pull all of the villain's servers out of the wall at once. Tin makes a fine hostage. Hm, now that I look back through the issue, Lead and Tina don't do much. Not a perfect card! +7 Bat-points

The Villains
There are really two types of dinosaurs in this tale. The brontosaurus who, in addition to having been debunked by science (or at they back, Pluto-like, now?), are described by Skull as being too stupid to figure out people are meat and thus inedible unless they taste them, and really can't track/trample them if underwater. More impressive are the pterodactyls who can be organized into an air force by the Leopard Priest, who brings them to the 20th century!
His ambition is to rule the primeval world with whatever tech he finds in the future, but whatever. This is a dude who rides a frickin' pterodactyl into battle! The flying lizards are defeated, but not hurt too badly. They'll be spending the rest of their lives in the Savage Land. Aww. #Ecoterrorism. +4 points
Over in the Haneyverse, the U.S. of A. frets over John Doe the Robot-Computer, in charge of its whole missile defense system, "flipping out" on its first birthday. It was given human traits by its creator Brian Cosgrove, see, so the military guys on coms could relate to it and not turn into robots themselves (uhm...). This thing has an EPIC origin story:
That's a lot of crazy sauce, and of course, when it goes rogue, creates the Robots' Lib movement, and asks for enforced affirmative action and that robots be put into all the highest positions in the world so they can fix war, hunger and disease overnight, it's just about impossible to get to it. The REAL villain, however, is Cosgrove himself, who has vowed to destroy his creation. He's killed by John Doe's suicide hypnosis, but makes a surprise return as Doe's back-up personality when Batman and the Metal Men pull the plug on the main one. As Cosgrove, the Robot-Computer sings like HAL (but a more patriotic song than "Daisy") and uses sonic blasts to stymie the heroes while he initiates a self-destruct sequence. Cosgrove has his way from beyond the grave, and his creation dies. +6 Bat-points

Odds vs. Ends

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-That editor's note on page 16 finally tells us just who adjudicates No-Prizes. (Marv Wolfman, who really shouldn't be editing himself, has been sour in tone in the past; is this more of the same, as if an evolving FF story screwed up his plans?)  +1 point
-Speaking of Wolfman's editorship... the issue ends with a big question mark re: the next issue's guest star! Did they just not want to say, or did Two-in-One go to press before the next issue was even scripted?!? I mean, Marvel wrote it too! Just a question. +0 points

From Brave and the Bold:
-Bob Haney's DC Universe is a very strange place indeed. Here we are, in 1972, and there's a HUGE crowd of robots at the Robots' Lib rally. Apparently, "robots and computers have come into widespread use, doing a thousand dangerous and dirty tasks, the tireless uncomplaining slaves of chauvinistic man!" That is amazing. I mean, I don't see any car-making robot arms or chess computers in the crowd, nor would these non-sentients ever attend such an event. Amazing. +3 Bat-points

Farewells and Scoring
Unfriendly farewell: Whoa whoa whoa. That's not how it works! Skull turns to his antagonist Professor Corey and mends fences, almost magically? And then there's a lot of happy waving from a car? No, this is way too friendly for Two-in-One. -1 point
Friendly farewell: Nope, the Metal Men don't get it either. After saving the world together, Tina turns to Batman and calls him a male chauvinist? And while they don't show it, you can be pretty sure the next panel would have Batman acting very dubious at Mercury's political agenda. This is all most unfriendly. -1 Bat-point

Maybe it's a Dinosaur Week miracle, but Mister Fantastic stretches just a little farther than the Metal Men combined, 21 to 20! And that allows Ben to close the gap a little bit, with the Dark Knight still leading 7 to 4. It's true what they say: Dinosaurs make everything better.



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