Review by Frank Plowright
The Serpent Crown was an ancient mystical device much prized by assorted evil types at Marvel during the 1970s for its ability to connect with alternate universes and for the wearer to control others. It caused considerable trouble for the Avengers, appropriately in The Serpent Crown, where it eventually fell to the bottom of the sea.
In terms of the Thing’s 1970s continuity The Serpent Crown Affair follows The Project Pegasus Saga, and beyond the writers, the connection is the endemic corruption of the Roxxon Corporation, who’d previously used the Serpent Crown, and are now attempting to retrieve it. Stingray, Triton and the Scarlet Witch guest star. That’s coupled with a single chapter, also written by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio revisiting a few loose ends from the Project Pegasus story, and an annual from 1982 tying up the Serpent Crown’s history.
The success of Gruenwald and Macchio’s scripts is very much dependent on the artists. The three chapters of the first story are illustrated first by George Pérez, then by Jerry Bingham (sample spread left), barely remembered for comics now, but with a dynamic style that pointed the way to his future career in illustration and fine art. The plot is staged and features coincidences, but the Thing and his allies and enemies are given a grandeur and elegance entirely absent from Ron Wilson’s work when the Thing teams with Thundra and Hyperion. A plot in which each wishes to return to their own world and the technology devised to permit it starts well, but any novelty disappears with the crude and unimaginative art.
Gruenwald was a first rate editor loved by all who met him, but with the best will in the world, he was a limited artist (sample spread right), able to lay out a page of action, but unable to keep characters looking consistent and very basic with movement and detail. His plot sees a number of superheroes in addition to the Thing converge on Project Pegasus, where the Serpent Crown’s malign influence is causing chaos. While Gruenwald ensures Doctor Strange, Quasar, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man and the Thing all have a part to play, it’s an over-egged plot, and throughout the book the writers fill those dialogue balloons as if there’s been a word sale somewhere.
The opening three chapters are still fun if you can overlook the vast wordage, but the remainder drags the overall rating down.