Appearing in "Runaways"
- Taskmaster's men
- Kaminsky, the Human Cannonball
- Sharon Ventura (Photo)
Races and Species:
Synopsis for "Runaways"
In Sandusky, Ohio, the Thing comes across a poster advertising a local circus which features a female lion tamer that who is nearly identical to Tarianna, the imaginary woman he fell in love with on Battleworld. When the driver on his bus tells the Thing that he needs to keep going, Ben decides to stay behind and check out if this woman is really Tarianna or not. Ben then goes to a local mall where as he decides that he needs something less conspicuous than his battle togs to go waltzing around in. Getting a long coat and a hat, Ben hopes this will disguise him a bit, but that idea falls through when the cashier recognizes him immediately. Still, Ben goes to the circus and pays admission and begins walking the fair grounds. He checks out the various freakshow attractions but sees no sign of this woman who resembles Tarianna. He does see someone he does recognize though: young Vance Astrovik, who is part of the circus as apart of a mind reading act. In the middle of his show, Vance spots Ben in the crowd and calls for a quick break, realizing he has been spotted Ben tries to slip away but young Astrovik manages to catch up to him. Wondering why a minor is so far away from home on his own, Ben decides that he should bring the boy home. When he tries to force Vance to come with him, the young mutant uses his telekinetic powers to force Ben away. Suddenly, Vance is pulled away by a woman named Lauren Anderson who has to talk to Vance about something very important.
Lauren pulls Vance aside and warns him that more people have gone missing and that the police have been nosing around the circus. Fearing that something dangerous is going on, Lauren warns Vance to be careful and asks him to see her after the show before leaving after a kiss and a hug. Ben approaches Vance again telling the youth that he overheard what they were talking about. Ben asks if the woman in the poster was one of the people who have gone missing as well. Vance then accuses Ben of being sent by his parents and storms off refusing to tell him anything. Vance then pays a visit to the owner of the circus to bring up Lauren's concerns. The owner assuages Vance's worries and sends the boy away. No sooner is the lad gone does the owner pick up the phone and order Anderson to be terminated. Later that night when Lauren is late for their rendezvous, Vance assumes the worse and goes to check on her trailer, unaware that he is being followed. Inside he finds Lauren's trailer shows signs of a struggle. Fearing that she is in trouble, Vance goes looking for her when he hears sobbing from one of the tents and decides to go and check it out. There he finds Lauren tied up and a prisoner of the circus owner, who turns out to be the assassin trainer known as the Taskmaster. The Taskmaster demands Lauren to admit that she is an undercover officer trying to infiltrate his organization.
When she refuses to talk, the Taskmaster threatens to strike her down with his sword, forcing Vance to step in, using his telekinetic powers to cause crates to begin toppling over. The Taskmaster responds from drawing his bow and arrow, but suddenly the Thing steps in to block the lethally fired arrow, which bounces off his impervious hide. The the Taskmaster making a break for it, the Thing chases after him. After Vance unties Lauren, he also follows after the villain to try and stop him as well. The Taskmaster tries to stop the Thing by tossing a lions cage on wheels at him. When the cage smashes open, Vance uses his powers to round up the big cats until Ben can contain them in a ticket booth. When Ben tells Vance to get to safety, the boy refuses telling Ben that he has a new sidekick. With no time to argue, Ben agrees to let Vance follow along with him. Running into the center ring, they are suddenly surrounded by the other circus performers who are really assassins who have been trained by the Taskmaster. As the two heroes fight off these assassins the Taskmaster tries to escape.
The pair make short work of their attackers and when they exit the tent they find the Taskmaster has been nabbed by the authorities thanks to Lauren who reveals that she was an undercover officer sent to infiltrate of operation. With her mission over she says goodbye to Vance and kisses him one last time. With the danger passed, the Thing decides to take off himself. When Vance tries to tag along, Ben calls him out on being a runaway and tells him to go home to his family. When Vance points out how hypocritical Ben is being after running out on the Fantastic Four, it convinces Ben to allow the boy to come along. Vance then reminds Ben about the woman on the poster, telling him that not only is she real, he knows where she went after she left the circus.
Tarianna is alive — and on Earth! But that's impossible! Or is it? The Thing goes on a quest to find the truth. Instead, what he discovers is trouble — big trouble!
- At this point in time, Ben was recently involved in the Secret Wars in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12. After which he decided to stay on Battleworld because he believed that that planet allowed him to change back and forth between his human and Thing form. He was there from Thing #11-22 when he sacrificed his ability to return to human form to stop Grimm the Sorcerer. In Fantastic Four #277 and Thing #23 Ben learned that not only that his teammate Johnny Storm is now dating a woman who everyone thinks is Alicia Masters, but also that Reed Richards knew that Ben could change back and forth any time he wanted for some time prior to the Secret Wars. Some additional facts:
- Johnny isn't really dating Alicia Masters, as revealed in Fantastic Four #358 she is really Lyja, a Skrull spy who took Alicia's place circa Fantastic Four #265.
- Reed was aware that Ben could change back and forth at will in Fantastic Four #245. Although Ben thinks he's lost his humanity for good following the events of Thing #22, this is also proven as false as seen the next time Ben is restored to human form in Fantastic Four #326.
- Sharon Ventura resembles Tarianna the woman that Ben dreamed up on Battleworld and adventured beside from Thing #12-22. When they defeated Grimm the Sorcerer she ceased to exist as she was a product of his imagination.
- Ben recognizes Vance Astrovik from their first meeting in Marvel Two-In-One #69 when Vance's future self unlocked his latent mutant powers.
- The reason why Vance has run away from home, as revealed in Thing #32, is that his father had become abusive toward him.
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