While working on last week’s piece I was thinking about some of my favorite rereads. Which made me think about some of my favorite done-in-one stories.
For anyone who isn’t aware of the term, done-in-one refers to a complete story told in a single issue. There may be an epilogue to entice you to read the next issue, but for the most part, those 8 or 20 or 48 or more pages tell a tale that has a beginning, middle, and end. No “Part Three of Six”, no “TO BE CONTINUED” where we learn how our hero escapes the cliffhanger, just one story between two covers. At least as far as I’m concerned. And, in this particular instance, between the last page of the main story and the back cover. I may be cheating by calling a back-up a done-in-one. But there have been back-ups that told a serialized story. Nemesis in The Brave and the Bold. Green Arrow in Detective Comics. The Endangered Species storyline running through the X-Men titles.
We all have our favorite done-in-ones. Superman Annual #11, The New Teen Titans #8, The Amazing Spider-Man #248, Batman Special #1, The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans, Fantastic Four #262, Star Trek Annual #3, The New Teen Titans #38, and DC Universe: Rebirth #1 to name a few of mine. Done-in-ones usually feature mainstream characters because non-DC and non-Marvel books generally tell a story that spans over multiple issues. That’s not to say none exist. Grimjack was a long-running series with single issue stories. Hellboy has had self-contained stories. And we can’t forget the EC anthologies, full of O. Henry-like tales.
There is one story that has stuck with me for a very long time. It’s a simple 5-page back-up from Marvel Team-Up Annual #7, titled “No Place to Run”, and it is quite different than the traditional team-up that preceded it.
Written by Bob DeNatale, pencilled by David Mazzucchelli, inked by Brett Breeding, colored by Christie Scheele, and lettered by Janice Chiang; “No Place to Run” is the story of one night in the lives of Arthur and Jennifer Berman.
This isn’t your typical superhero story, even though there are heroes in it. But just barely.
The Bermans live in Albany, New York, far from the craziness of Manhattan. It’s a typical day for them, leading toward a typical evening, until Jennifer turns on the television. That’s when we see two newscasters reporting live on a midtown incident involving Human Torch, Black Panther, and Crimson Dynamo. Thanks to a cameraman on the scene, some of the fight is broadcast until it is abruptly interrupted. The Bermans try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, anxious and scared, until eventually the newscasters return, pleased to report the incident is over. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for the Bermans.
What makes this story different is context. We’re joining that action – the little we see of it – already in progress, we don’t know anything about what lead to this event, and what doesn’t put anyone’s mind at ease is the possibility of a radioactive threat. On top of that we’re watching it unfold with these two people we were just introduced to, who know as much as the reader does. This isn’t a story featuring Ben Urich or Etta Candy, characters we’re familiar with and we know their world can be a little crazy at times. The Bermans are ordinary people, unable to explain what’s going on, and we’re as lost as they are. We’re not used to that. At least I wasn’t when I bought this issue off the rack in 1984.
David Mazzucchelli, Brett Breeding, and Christie Scheele do a fine job of visually setting the tone of the story. The worry on Arthur’s and Jennifer’s faces, the concern on the faces of the newscasters, only being shown what’s happening from a cramped angle on a small television screen that splashes light across their faces and into the room; it’s no surprise this back-up is something I recall vividly over 30 years after first reading it. And that last panel. That last panel is why I could never forget it. That last panel is why I would suggest you read this story.
It’s weird. Nothing earth-shattering happens in this story. But the fact that it’s a bit different made a lasting impression. Just like in the real world, where we don’t know what someone else is thinking, there are no thought balloons from anyone. We are at the mercy of Bob DeNatale. There’s a narrator at the start, setting the scene, but after Jennifer speaks, we only read what’s being said in this straightforward and linear story.
The only complaint I would have would be the errors in the credit’s box. David’s last name is misspelled and Bob has an unnecessary space in his. But that doesn’t detract from the tale they’re telling.
The main story (also a done-in-one) is fun, with Spider-Man teaming up with Alpha Flight. If you’re a Louise Simonson, Paul Neary (who you may know primarily as an inker over Alan Davis and Bryan Hitch), Sam De La Rosa, or John Byrne (he penciled the cover) fan, you’ll enjoy it for the creators. Especially if you find it in the three-for-a-dollar bin. But it’s the second story that makes this Annual a keeper.
That last panel, though.