Friday, January 24, 2014
Review: Project Pegasus Saga
The Thing: Project Pegasus is a hardcover collection of The Project Pegasus saga, a story that ran in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One. MTIO was a guest- star book- every issue featured Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, teamed up with another super hero (or villain). Most of the stories were pretty forgettable, however the Project Pegasus saga was one of the few diamonds in the rough.
The first part of the story is a two- parter featuring Ben and Captain America. Ben barges into Project Pegasus (a top secret energy research facility) looking for Wundarr, a starchild who he feels is being mistreated by SHIELD. Captain America is at the facility looking into security issues for Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD. Turns out SHIELD has acquired the Cosmic Cube, an object of great power capable of reshaping reality. They want to use Wundarr to help unlock its secrets. When the Cosmic Cube is stolen and Wundarr is injured, causing him to fall into a coma, Ben and Cap track the Cube to the Florida Everglades, where they do battle with a mysterious entropy cult. This is the weakest part of the book. The real saga kicks off right after, with Ben heading back to Project Pegasus several months later to check up on Wundarr. He feels guilty for not making it back sooner, and has managed to get himself assigned to the security detail. He meets Quasar, the new security chief, and after the obligatory misunderstanding they begin to work together to improve security.
Ben soon discovers that Wundarr had his natural abilities enhanced by the Cube to the point where he dampens energy all around him- lights go out, machines stop working. He is however in a coma due to the overload of cosmic energy he received. Ben is not happy to hear this, and while wandering the corridors of the facility is ambushed by Deathlok, a cyborg from an alternate future who has stolen into the facility, both to eliminate Ben and to set up something called an Nth projector. Deathlok wounds Ben and things looks grim, but Quasar and security arrive just in time and Deathlok escapes.
As Ben gets medical attention, Quasar tracks Deathlok to the "Pit", a part of the facility where radioactive material is stored. Quasar has his hands full, but after Ben shows up with security Deathlok initiates an auto- destruct sequence and Quasar is forced to destroy him before he can trigger an explosion that would decimate the entire facility.
It turns out the shadowy organization that sent Deathlok has a man on the inside- a cosmic energy researcher named Dr. Lightner- and with Deathlok being out of the picture they launch another plan. Several super villains with energy- based powers have been detained at the Project for study, and Lightner is ordered to release one of them to sow chaos. Lightner releases Nuklo, a radioactive mutant with a childlike mind, and he begins to cause all kinds of problems while Lightner works on the true objective- assembling the Nth projector that Deathlok failed to finish.
The alarm sounds and Ben's poker game is interrupted. Seeing multiple alerts, Ben and Quasar split up, with Ben going after Nuklo and Quasar investigating a disturbance in the nuclear research module. Ben is joined by Dr. Bill Foster, also known as Giant- Man (yes, really). Together they manage to neutralize Nuklo after tracking him throughout the facility. Meanwhile, Quasar manages to defuse a reactor overload using his energy powers, and with Nuklo back under control the heroes get a breather. But not for long...
Ben is wandering the corridors after checking on Wundarr, and runs into Thundra of all people. Thundra, an old acquiantance from his Fantastic Four days- but what is she doing here? Welll... it turns out she and four other female operatives have snuck into Project Pegasus on a mission for the same group that sent Deathlok. Ben tries to apprehend her, and of course a fight breaks out. Thundra, being seven feet tall and from Femizonia, a reality where women reign supreme, is more than a match for Ben and they have quite the knock-down drag-out battle.
Meanwhile, Quasar runs afoul of Thundra's compatriots and more battle ensues. At the end of the day Thundra and her group are taken and Ben is left wondering what is going on. Lightner, meanwhile, uses the chaos to his advantage and finishes assembling the Nth projector. Ben tries to find out from Thundra what is going on, but she will not talk. Wundarr, meanwhile, wakes from his coma and and begins to wander the halls of Pegasus. Unfortunately his energy dampening powers neutralize the holding cell of a supervillain named Solarr. The villain promptly escapes and enlists the aid of another prisoner, Klaw. Together they try to break out. At the same time, Pegasus security finally discovers that Lightner is the mole inside the project. Too late, however. Lightner has activated the Nth projector- it's purpose is to open a portal to other dimensions. The plan is to teleport the entire facility into another dimension, thus destroying it, but Lightner first uses the device on himself, in order to restore the powers he once had as the supervillain Blacksun. This being comics, something goes horribly wrong, and Lightner is instead transformed into a living dimensional portal. Oh-oh.
Security alarms go off again, Solarr and Klaw seek to escape, and the heroes go after them. A battle breaks out in the project's Loop, a monorail- like transportation system that covers the entire complex, and the heroes are defeated. Klaw is about to kill Ben when Wundarr shows up.. but Wundarr has changed. After finding the Cosmic Cube, which seemed to be calling to him, Wundarr finds his energy dampening powers have been greatly increased. Furthermore, he no longer has the mind of a child. He now calls himself the Aquarian (named after his native star system) and wishes to use his powers to make the world a better place. Aww. That's nice. Ben and Aquarian get an injured Quasar and Giant- Man to the infirmary, then they go after Lightner.
Lightner is beginning to destroy the facility with his dimensional abilities and Ben and Aquarian have their hands full. Aquarian tries to dampen Lightner's energy and is successful, but has to pull back when his power also causes life support functions to go out. Things aren't looking good when Quasar, Giant- Man and a newly- released Thundra show up to help. Hey it's old home week. Giant- Man sacrifices himself to stop Lightner- turns out he's dying anyway of radiation poisoning and figures he has nothing to lose, but it doesn't work. Aquarian then enters the towering space warp that used to be Lightner, and strengthened by the link to his friends, manages to save Giant- Man and stop Lightner by expanding his null powers inside him. Project Pegasus is saved! Yay, pass the champagne.
The Project Pegasus saga is one of the better known storylines of the time period. It really is a great story- a top secret facility, super villains breaking loose, and an extradimensional threat. What's not to like? The real star of this story, for me, is the facility itself. A research facility with futuristic technology, holding cells for super villains, a monorail- like transport system- there's just a lot to like here. The story is studded with footnotes referencing other issues and stories that feed into this one- this is a prime example of a time when continuity was king in comics. It's very possible that the SHIELD facility that is featured in the beginning of the Avengers movie was inspired by Project Pegasus