The Thing, the blue-eyed idol of millions is a billionaire thanks to Mr. Fantastic, who gave him his share of Fantastic Four investments.
Following the suggestion of Hiram Sheckerberg and Rabbi Lowenthal, Ben Grimm begins an intense, month-long preparation process to have his Bar Mitzvah to mark the thirteenth anniversary of his "second life" as the Thing. Practically all the heroes in the Marvel universe are invited to the ceremony and the subsequent super hero poker tournament at his penthouse.
The Constrictor and Hercules square off in a private game of poker in which Hercules wins back his Olympian gold that the Constrictor won in a court case.
After the tournament has started, Squirrel Girl and the rest of her Great Lakes teammates (Flatman, Mr. Immortal, Doorman, and Big Bertha) appear. However most people don't know who they are and the heroes are a little embarrassed by their presence, which is a normal reaction. When Mr. Immortal introduces them as the GLX (Great Lakes X-Men), Rachel Gray telepathically removes that memory and instructs him to choose another name. Dr. Strange does likewise when Mr. I refers to them as Great Lakes Defenders.
Thing steps in and tells them that she was invited. When She-Hulk asks Squirrel Girl how she knows Thing, she describes how she helped him defeat the Bi-Beast in Central Park the other day. Much to everyone's complete surprise, Ben backs up her bizarre little tale.
One by one the heroes fall to Thing's superior poker skills. One of which is the Impossible Man, who was invited after Thing helped cure him of the Poppupian version of the hiccups when he accidentally demolished the temples of Shemballa in Tibet. Thing works out an arrangement with the monks to offer Arlo North (the current boyfriend of Alicia Masters) the chance to redesign the temples, a rare honor. North accepts and quickly leaves for Tibet. The instant that North leaves, Ben calls Alicia and offers to take her to the opera, which she accepts.
Eventually the tournament comes down to Ben and one other player. Despite his (fantastic) four of a kind hand, Flatman wins the tournament with a straight flush. During their collective victory dance, they decide to call themselves the Great Lakes Champions. Hercules is offended at being loosely associated with them and has to be restrained.
Spider-Man informs a dazed Thing that - from what he's heard - the GLC sits around all day and play cards since they don't actually fight crime.
When Alicia offers Thing a consolation prize, he clears everyone out of his penthouse in record time. As he closes the door, Spider-Man voices the one thought that we all have at this point: "Um.. is that it?" The answer, sadly, is yes.
I think this issue holds the record for having the most heroes in a non- crossover story. I think that given this was the last issue, the creative team wanted to go out with a bang and include almost every hero into one story. In that respect, they succeed. Many do not say anything, which is acceptable given the large cast involved in this story. Those that are used are used well, even if it's for a single panel.
Overall this series is - quite frankly - one of the best that Marvel has ever published. I have no idea why sales did not meet the required level. This has everything you could possibly want from a comic: dead-on characterizations, comedy, adherence to continuity, compelling stories that aren't "decompressed", etc. Hopefully this series can be restarted much like Slott's sister title, She-Hulk (Vol. 4), with more success.
4.5 webs. This would have received a full 5 but Alicia's sudden change of heart really bothers me. It's obvious that from the beginning Slott intended all along to get them back together. The abrupt end to this brilliant series caused them to compress potentially six more issues of the Ben-Alicia subplot into 4 pages using the Impossible Man's "hiccups" as a catalyst to bring them back together.
Despite the creative team's situation, the resolution doesn't show Ben, Alicia, or Arlo in the best light. Alicia comes across as flighty, Ben as a manipulating jerk, and Arlo as apathetic after the build-up in previous issues as a decent guy. I really wish that Slott had been given more space to wrap it up properly because this is out of character for Ben and Alicia. It gets the results that everyone wants, but not in an acceptable manner.
Skipping over that element, the rest of the story was excellent.
Constrictor won Hercules' gold in She-Hulk (Vol. 3) #9 (not reviewed on this site).