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In the past, I've mentioned that the Flash's "Rogues Gallery", only really became the bunch of... if not exactly friends, then vaguely companionable allies, in a retcon when Wally became the Flash.

However, I do love the concept of criminals not all being monstrous, antisocial loners, and of course, this being comics, someone else did it earlier.

And better yet, the group I have in mind debuted in a story featuring not only Ben Grimm, the ever lovin' Thing, but one of my favourite C-list superheroes (here depicted in chibi mode by the redoubtable Katie Cook)


Though the young'uns might not credit it these days, back in the 70's and 80's the Thing headlined his own team-up series, akin to Batman in "Brave and the Bold", "Marvel Two-in-One" was one of the brainchildren of the mighty Mark Gruenwald who I have expressed my gushing admiration for before, but never hurts to mention again. (And art by George Perez didn't hurt it either)

Such was Mr Gruenwald's love of the toybox that was the Marvel Universe he often had six or seven running subplots at the same time from Ben's relationship (or lack of same) with Alicia Masters, to the ongoing adventures of the likes of Thundra, Aquarian and Project Pegasus, but often calling up old or forgotten subplots which no one else had gotten around to finishing.

One of these involved an innocent group of humans who had been transformed by a gas into amphibian humanoids by a random villain known as Dr Hydro in the Sub-Mariner's title. Seemingly stuck as they were forever, they approached Dr Walter Newell, oceanographer and part time superhero Stingray. Having met both the Submariner and Triton of the Inhumans in the course of his career, Dr Newell had been struck by how much the "Hydro-men" looked like Triton, and wondered if there was some connection between the two. Since he doesn't know Triton well, he approached the Fantastic Four for assistance in getting in touch with him, and for confirmation of his fears about the connection.

Reed Richards supplies both, he confirms that the Inhumans Terrigen Mists were behind the creation of the Hydro-Men, and the Inhumans are not happy about it, and want to see for themselves.

Ben offers to fly Dr Croft (one of the Hydro-Men) and Dr Newell out to the rendezvous point.

En route, and having a little time to kill, they stop to investigate an oil rig, which has aroused Dr Newell's suspicions. He knows that there aren't any oil deposits anywhere this region of the sea, so why have Roxxon built such a thing (Roxxon was a convenient evil corporation in the MU at the time, not sure if they are still around. If it involved business and was underhand, chances are they were involved somewhere.)

So they land the pogo-plane (I love that name, it's so... silly) and Dr Newell puts on his hero duds, more because it's practical diving gear than because he wants to be there as a superhero, plus it sets the scene for this nice little moment...

Said it before, say it again, Stingray has a terrific visual. Whilst he tries to use his suit to stop the main tower toppling he's not doing very well, his suit amplifies his strength by a lot, but when flying has nothing to brace himself against. Meanwhile Ben is literally holding the Rig's ruptured support with his bard hands.

Ben makes some very rough and ready repairs to the support with some handy girders, and hauls himself up on deck.

Ben is doing just fine as you might expect against those sorts of odds, when an unconscious Stringray is hurled from the water onto the deak. Ben manages to catch him, buthas no clue what could have happened, until a minsub appears and from it emerge...

(There had been earlier Serpent Squads made up of the original Viper (not Lady Viper, the bloke who came before she took over the name) his brother, the Eel, and Cobra., then a later group with Lady Viper, Eel, Cobra and, presumably for shits and giggles, Princess Python of the Circus of Crime (but more about her another time. Neither had been seen in a long time)

Next issue starts on that cliffhanger. The Squad discuss in suitably plot expositiony tones, the events that brought THEM here. The rig is a blind to cover their mission to find and recover the long lost Serpent Crown for their boss, who gave them their powers and abilties. Anaconda seems something of a bruiser who would enjoy batlting the Thing, Black Mamba is a little more easy going, or not as outright violent at least, Sidewinder is the one in charge and Death Adder? Well, he's a creepy little dude and no mistake (He's also mute due, apparently, to an accident when he was implanted with his gills).

Another nifty little visual tic there for Sidewinders powers. His cape is central to his ability to teleport.

And now we see another nice little plot notion. How DO you chain up someone with superstrength in such a way that you can use ordinary chain, but still ensure that they don't just pull free? (Oh and Dr Croft is sill back on the pogo-plane, worrying a lot... oh, and using the radio, because he's not a complete idiot)

Clever chap that Sidewinder... The rig is still going to collapse, and Ben will sink with it, and drown just like an ordinary person.

I love the Thing in this title, I really do... He does manage to shinny down the leg of the rig to where it was buckled in the explosion and thus get free and barely makes it to the surface near the pogo plane before needing to breathe (It's better not to ponder Ben's ability to float, given his mass and physical density, because, y'know, this is comics! :) )

There he is met by Dr Croft and Triton himself, who had only just arrived a moment before (or he'd have gone to help Ben himself). When Ben mentions the Serpent Crown being involved, Triton gets worried, he's heard the SubMariner talk about it, and it is seriously bad mojo, as well as being one of the most powerful objects on Earth. They set off to deal with the Serpent Squad, this time Ben takes breathing apparatus. Stingray will follow when he recovers (Given he was punched from a depth of several hundred feet, through another hundred feet of air to land on an oil rig, his being out so long isn't perhaps too surprising)

Down below the Serpent Squad (Who were all made amphibious when they were given their powers) have indeed located the Crown. Anaconda unearths it, and is warned by Sidewinder to remember their orders. They are to find and retrieve it, but under no circumstances to put it on their heads.

The Squad are a nicely powered little quartet; Teleportation from Sidewinder, poison extensible claws for Death Adder, Anaconda has super strength and her coils and oh, yes, that leaves one member we haven't seen in action yet, doesn't it.

Though it's not as such, referred to here, Black Mamba has a couple of powers linked together, she can "shed her skin" by releasing the darkforce energy, and an implant Roxxon put in her brain lets her link to her targets pleasure centres, pulling out an image that they will trust and not fight against. A fairly lethal combination.

The Inhumans always seem to talk slightly pompously.

The Squad manage to get away using a depth charge to delay our heroes, and thus ends the second part of the trilogy.

Now, I'm going to shortchange what is actually a pretty nifty story here, and I feel bad about that, as my focus here is on the Serpent Squad. If anyone is really keen to see the Scarlet Witch and the Thing deal with the Serpent Crown I'll see what I can do, but in the meantime, here's Sidewinder's last contribution to the story.... (I won't comment on the fact that someone dressed like he is, appearing and disappearing in crackles of green energy with associated noises is described as being "unobtrusive", but I suppose this IS Washington DC, they might just assume he's a minor demon in league with a politician.

And thus did the Serpent Squad make their mark, but this was far from the end of their story, and more about that next time! :)

Date: 2012-05-13 12:58 pm (UTC)
werehawk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] werehawk
Looking forward to these Serpent Society master posts. I have most of the Serpent Society appearances and as good as these are, the best is yet to come! (the Capt. A issues). I have issue 64 of Marvel Two in One which is the bulk of this post - great issue (actually lots of good issues in this time period). So the first few scans are from 63? and the last two from 65?

Date: 2012-05-13 09:28 pm (UTC)
werehawk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] werehawk
I actually have all of the appearances post-Cottonmouth as well as most of the earlier ones and you picked out some good ones!


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