Credits: J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Michael Zulli (penciler), Al Williamson (inker), Bill Oakley (letters), Kevin Somers (colors)
Summary: In Mojoverse, a monstrous Thingee devours Longshot. After a near-death experience, Longshot awakes in Kansas. He’s secretly followed by the Thingee, as Longshot begins a journey to the X-Men’s home. He befriends a girl named Betty, who’s later traumatized by the Thingee. Longshot finds her in a sanitarium, where he’s joined by six patients who feel a kinship with him. After Longshot uses magic and faith to revive Betty, he’s confronted by the Thingee. The patients unite, and by choosing love over fear, the monster is transformed into its original form, the Beautiful Thingee. Rejuvenated, the patients join Longshot on his earthly journey.
Continuity Notes: In case this wasn’t officially confirmed before, the narrative captions refer to Longshot having a wife, who is presumably Dazzler. Longshot is also given a tiny, rhyming sidekick in the story named Nutt.
Production Notes: This is a $3.99, forty-eight page one-shot. This is an unusual format for Marvel, as one-shot stories this size are usually in the $5.99 bookshelf format. This is also a rare hand-lettered comic from the late ‘90s. I seem to recall the opening DeMatteis/Zulli arc in 1998’s Webspinners also had hand letters by Bill Oakley.
Review: Before the Mojoverse became a tired venue for TV and movie parodies, it was Ann Nocenti and Arthur Adams’ weird corner of the Marvel Universe. The original Longshot miniseries had some elements of media parody, but the majority of the story focused on inserting fantasy elements into the “real” world of Marvel’s superheroes. J. M. DeMatteis follows the original premise, treating Mojoverse as a fairy tale environment, while using Longshot as a reverse Dorothy in the allegedly normal world of Baum, Kansas (this might shock you, but this comic is filled with Wizard of Oz references).
Aside from using the story as an excuse to play around with hallucinogenic ideas, DeMatteis really does display a firm grasp of Longshot’s character. In his original appearances, Longshot was the naïve innocent in our world, but as the story points out, innocence can’t last forever. Considering his adventures with the X-Men, and the war he fought to overthrow Mojo, it strains credibility too far to keep the same character arc going. Instead, Longshot is now in search of something he feels is missing, which he later realizes is his own innocence. He’s still childlike and trusting, so he feels like the same character, but he eventually learns the value of the experiences he’s traded for that innocence. Longshot is paralleled by the story’s villain, the Thingee, who reveals in the end it was mistakenly trying to regain its innocence by consuming “purity in all its forms.” It’s a well-executed, well-drawn story. Letting faith and magic heal a comatose girl, and defeating the main villain with the power of love, are the types of ideas that rarely, if ever, work in traditional comics, but I’ll even give them a pass this time, since this is clearly a fairy tale as much as it is an action comic.