Wednesday, September 30, 2015

December 1976 Part Two: Spider-Man is Not Only Amazing, He's Spectacular!!!

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man 1
"Twice Stings the Tarantula!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema, Mike Esposito, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Dave Hunt
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Sal Buscema

On a boring photo assignment at the University, Spider-Man (getting overhead shots for Peter Parker) quickly finds some action when old foe Tarantula shows up to kidnap the Vice Chancellor! A short but frenetic battle—with Flash getting smashed for trying to be a hero—ends with Tarantula kicking Spidey in the gut and getting away in a purple sedan, and Spidey bemoaning his broken camera (and newly broken hand when he punches a brick ledge in disgust). Glory patches him up back at the Parker pad, and they go with MJ to City Hall to get Glory a job, but Peter spots the purple car, heads off to call Aunt May (meaning change into Spidey). Tarantula is dropped off in the basement garage by the mysterious driver, and is met by a waiting Spidey. The bandito slips away into the Mayor's private elevator, which Spidey breaks into and tackles the villain in the top NYC official's office! The two go at it in close quarters until they crash out the window, with Tarantula grabbing the Mayor! Our hero has only one choice—to save the Mayor, meaning Tarantula scurries away again, and Spidey swings off to meet the friends waiting for him. --Joe Tura

Joe Tura: A new monthly Spider-Man comic? Making that three Spidey books every month? Sign this 9-year-old up! Needless to say, I was fighting off the old guys buying their OTB papers and the kids buying egg creams at Grand Candy to get this one off the shelves. The cover blurb says it all: "First Issue! Collector's Edition! By popular demand Spidey stars in an all-new action series!" Plus it's written by former Amazing-scribe Gerry Conway and drawn (both the cover and the insides) by my all-time overall fave Sal B. So yeah, I was all in, baby! On the letters page, Gerry pontificates in his "Notes From Myself" about the reasons for the creation of another Spidey title, and what the plans are. Basically, with such a large and interesting supporting cast –maybe the best, if you ask me—they needed more room to tell more of their stories, coordinated with Amazing Spider-Man, to make a "double-sized comic" each month. But of course, they will do so with the highest of quality, referencing what happened to Superman over at DC (well, without so much as saying so, but the faculty can read between the lines). Sounds good!

Joe: Let's go random for this first ish with our commentary, shall we? Lots of little moments, which was part of the charm of Conway's run on Amazing. I forgot Tarantula was trained to be "his country's Captain America", but man is he ever an arrogant one. Spidey insults the heck out of him the whole time, though, which is to throw the villain off his game, but results more in making him loco in the cabeza. One goon yells "Bye-Bye Web-Spinner", but does anyone really call Spidey that? Or was it allusion to the band on the greatest comic book album ever? Was Gerry channeling The Little Rascals on page 6 when Tarantula's goon tells Alfalfa, I mean Flash, "Get lost kid—you bother me!" Love the reaction on page 14 when a City Hall denizen goes to the can and the door is locked since Peter was changing into costume. Love the thrifty Mayor (obviously Abe Beame) saying "For this I gave up being City Controller?" on page 23. Lots of nifty action, classic Spidey vs. bad guy repartee, and of course, moments from the supporting cast add up to another very good Wall-Crawler tale.

Fave sound effect is when Spidey rips off the elevator door on page 17 with a mighty "SCRUNGH!" It ain't Spidey lifting the giant piece of equipment off his back, but it's another small test that he passes with grit, determination and elbow grease.

Matthew Bradley: “What do you do when a character is so popular that two monthly books featuring his adventures only leave most Marvelites screaming for more?” asks the Bullpen Page.  “Well, you don’t do anything until you’re one hundred percent certain that you have a writer/artist team available who can maintain the same high standards set on the two books already being published.  Then—and only then—you come up with a third monthly title that deftly duplicates all the wonderment of the other two.”  Certainly if experience is the primary qualification, these guys are all over it:  Gerry’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man is a defining feature of the Bronze Age, while the Buscemosito pair is a Marvel Team-Up mainstay.

I’ll leave Gerry’s lettercol “Notes from Myself” to our arachno-scholar, except to point out how his “carefully structured ballet” between Spidey’s solo titles—whether it eventuates or not—recalls the “bi-weekly comic” Englehart achieved with the Avengers/Defenders War.  For many of us, the Tarantula is a welcome reminder of his climactic Jackal epic, during which I became a Marvel full-timer, while for us Monday-morning quarterbacks, Lansky’s introduction is notable.  Stylistically, this doesn’t feel any different from a typical issue of ASM, which isn’t surprising when you consider how many of those Gerry wrote; Sal and Mike display their usual rock-solid professionalism, and indulge in a tour de force with the full-pager of one spider tackling another.

Ka-Zar 19
"Raknor the Slayer!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Val Mayerik
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

As Raknor the Slayer approaches, Zartos lets it slip that Ka-Zar killed his son in the arena, and the warrior attacks from his wind-shark steed, knocking K-Z out and taking him back to the Quarlian city, with Zartos regaining his courage to go help out. Meanwhile, Tongah and Kloss feel their strength being sapped, probably by the Power Stone, which isn't affecting Marston. Back in the Savage Land, Sheesha escapes, but her friend Kronak is killed by the aliens, with the Zebra-people in danger of being slaughtered by the approaching invaders, and Klaw & Saxtur plotting to make new machines. In Quarl again, the ministers want Queen Tadylla to enter the "fires of submission" to further sap her will, but she refuses. The debate is halted by the arrival of Raknor, Warrior Prime and his captive Ka-Zar, whom he vows to slay right then and there. Zartos jumps in and distracts everyone enough that K-Z breaks free of his bonds and takes down Raknor when the Quarlian calls our blond hero "weakling". With more warriors approaching, K-Z grabs Tandylla/Tandy and he and Zartos flee the arena. –Joe Tura

Joe: Is it possible to have a Ka-Zar issue that's not half bad? The story actually flows well, even through the asides and subplots. The action is pretty decent, with Ka-Zar kicking some Quarlian butt when he's insulted, because he's one of the most conceited characters in Marvel history. Zartos adds some comic relief that's not stupid, and also helps drive the plot. If only it made more sense with all the alien mumbo-jumbo like "fires of submission" and "shark corrals" and "power stones" and so forth. The bravado is on maximum power, with nearly every character thinking they're greater than the next, even the old men in charge of the power stone. I feel bad for poor Tongah though, having been aged by the sapping stone. Something must be wrong with me that I didn't hate this comic—maybe the stone is sapping my strength and youth, too! Save me, Ka-Zar—you're my only hope! Wait, only one issue left? Hopefully he gets here quick!

Chris Blake: Doug has a number of seemingly disparate storylines at work, as Tongah, Kirk Marston, Klaw, and Ka-Zar are each playing out their own little dramas.  At least Doug found a way to bring K-Z and Tandy back together, even if it is one of those I’m-taking-you-away-for-your-own-good sort of rescues.  We get not one, but two battles with Raknor, which is fine.  I still enjoy Mayerik’s art, but I’m distracted by the lack of backgrounds and other non-character details as I flip thru the final eight pages; it’s as if Mayerik suddenly remembered that he had to run out and do something.  Hmm.  Not sure what else to say, except that, if Doug is able to wrap this whole production up in his one remaining slim-little-issue, I’ll nominate him for a no-prize.  

Kull the Destroyer 18 
“The Keeper of Flame and Frost!”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Ed Hannigan and Alfredo Alcala
Colors by Marie Severin
Letters by Alfredo Alcala
Cover by Pablo Marcos

For the last three nights, Atlantis has been under siege by giant, flying manta rays with razor-sharp pincers. Kull, now the captain of the city’s army with the supposed death of Khor-Nah, is borne aloft by one of the monsters but manages to kill it with his sword — he lands safely. Kareesha ignites a cauldron filled with a sickening compound and the choking fumes drive away the abominations. Along with Ridondo, Kull gathers a group of soldiers and heads after the rays as they fly off in the direction of the dreaded Great Mist-Swamp. When they reach the outskirts of the fetid fields, they camp for the night, witnessing a Pegasus pulling a chariot through the starry skies. The next morning, the former Valusian monarch awakes to find that half of his men have fled. The rest of the band continues on and is soon swarmed by a group of lorkas, the man-apes created by the wizard Sarna. But these are an intelligent, talking breed: they stop their attack when they realize that the Atlanteans share a common enemy, the manta rays, whom the beasts say were created by Shemenon, the God of Fire and Ice. The lorkas take the soldiers to Shemenon’s lair, a mountain in the heart of the Mist-Swamp. Suddenly, a pack of rays flies out of a cave on the peak’s face to attack Atlantis yet again, followed by a huge, gelatinous creature with quivering tentacles. Khor-Nah, surprisingly still alive, emerges soon after, boasting that he found a powerful gemstone that allows him to control the manta rays, the tentacled terror, and Shemenon himself. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: Not really sure what to make of this one. Doug Moench throws in everything but the kitchen sink: flying manta rays, ape-men, the blob monster, the return of Khor-Nah and this Shemenon fellow, who appears as a crystallized giant on the final panel. It’s all a bit goofy and I'm not sure it hangs together but things move along at a brisk pace — where it’s going I have no idea. Moench certainly makes it difficult to write a short synopsis. Khor-Nah seems to have just accidentally stumbled across the gemstone after surviving the Kraken last issue. That seems odd: something so powerful just lying around? As I mentioned in my write-up for Kull the Destroyer #17, Alcala inking Hannigan is an improvement over the other way around, but the art is still very inconsistent. The splash page is a thing of beauty while other panels are very half-assed. Excellent cover by my old Tales of the Zombie pal Pablo Marcos: can’t remember him illustrating any other up to this point. Though I now see that his first comics work in the United States was the cover of Giant-Size Dracula #2 (September 1974). So there you have it.

Master of Kung Fu 47
"Part III (Leiko Wu): Phantom Sand"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Hugh Paley
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Dave Cockrum

Shang-Chi and Leiko Wu have successfully infiltrated Fah Lo Suee’s strike force, and are travelling to the Arctic on her transport, still wearing the masks of the Oriental Expediters.  Fah commands them to go forward and monitor their flight while the pilots take a break.  S-C and LW take advantage of this opportunity, as they radio London and provide the coordinates to Fu Manchu’s fortress to Sir Denis (who is recovering after being shot by the brainwashed Dr Petrie, as Petrie himself is undergoing reconditioning to recover his mind).  Once the pilots resume control and prepare the ship to land, S-C and LW are directed to switch to cold-weather gear; they hesitate, knowing full well that this change (involving removal of their hoods) will reveal their true identities.  They finally are left with no choice, and fight their way off the transport, onto the snow and ice outside, and into the frozen environment away from the landing site.  Within his arctic fortress, Fu reflects on the process of reviving his ancestor, Shaka Kharn; Fu intends to raise him as his son, since Fu has disowned his errant offspring – Shang-Chi.  Reston and Larner are flying to the arctic to provide backup for S-C and LW, until they are detected and shot from the sky by Fu.  Reston forces the crippled craft into a rough landing, while Larner signals their location back to MI-6.  Fah reaches the flyer first, and recovers the injured British operatives.  Fu sends his own troopers, who attack and rout Fah’s squad, taking the few survivors for re-indoctrination to the Si-Fan.  S-C and LW (having spent the night in a cave, together, trying to keep each other warm …) fight off Fu’s crew as they help Reston and Larner escape; they also snag Fah, who had shot double-agent Griswold before he could dishonorably surrender to Fu.  Fah reveals Fu’s plan: he intends to “hurl the moon out of its orbit.”  Back at MI-6, Black Jack Tarr prepares to join the arctic action, while Ducharme radios Fu, indicating that the British do not suspect that her loyalty continues to be to Fu alone.  -Chris Blake

Chris: Brief notes on the LOC (printed in MoKF #51, in response to this issue).  T.W. from Frenchtown NJ observes that “every panel Paul draws should be framed forever.” High praise indeed.  Next, ten points to Ed V from Roanoke VA, who observes that the communications officer is named “Ward Sarsfield;” since I’m not a source materialist like our own Prof Gilbert and Prof Tom, I wasn’t aware that Doug was tipping his bowler to Arthur Sarsfield Ward, the author (under pseudonym Sax Rohmer) of the original Fu Manchu novels.  Nice catch, Ed!

Doug continues a trend he had started last issue, as the commentary switches to a character other than Shang-Chi; last time it was Reston, this time Leiko.  The timing is interesting, as she and S-C have been circling around, seeming to draw nearer to each other.  Leiko’s observations for much of the issue are matter-of-fact, betraying no particular feeling for him, until Doug provides a compelling passage (on p 10), which features Leiko’s admiration for S-C’s fighting prowess: “…his mind, a thousand eyes seeing each opponent’s attack before it is conceived…the sight of his perfect body in motion is glorious – breathtaking.”  Later, in the cave, Leiko speaks directly to S-C about his constancy: “Your strength never leaves you.  No matter what happens, you withstand it.  You always stay the same;” she also reflects on how she has come to rely on the strength of his spirit.  As they kiss, the darkness of the cave enshrouds the two figures, together…

Chris: It’s time for MI-6 to take a hard look at its procedures manual.  There’s a curious sequence, when S-C and LW radio in to Sir Denis; they identify themselves by the code name “Caretaker,” to which Sir Denis responds as “Reaper.”  After that, the following names are openly stated over the airwaves: Petrie, Reston, Tarr, and Fu Manchu!  Uh, what’s the point of using code IDs at all?  I don’t know why Fu keeps Ducharme on the payroll –  any kid with a HAM radio in his attic could pick up the exchange, write it down on a postcard, and send it c/o “Fu Manchu, Arctic Fortress, North Pole,” and Fu would be onto the whole scheme!  Speaking of Ducharme, I don’t know whether wishful thinking or poor debriefing is to blame for missing her role as a double, but especially after the whole Petrie affair, I’m afraid that heads will roll in the MI-6 back office! 

There’s more fighting required for S-C this time, which means the art has more of its usual high-energy moments than it had in our previous issue, which had mostly involved our heroes following along behind Fah & Co.  An impressive, somewhat curious moment with Fu on page 15, as he’s depicted with an upraised fist, holding a curved blade, as an oversized image of his falcon, Fleurette, and the skull of Shaka Kharn, loom behind him.

And, to answer your question – no; Shaka Kharn is not a disco and funk singer from the 70s and 80s.  You’re thinking of someone else.  

Mark Barsotti: After a long series of generic covers, Dave Cockrum serves up a winner, evocative of Paul Gulacy's illustrative, cinematic style. As for "Part III (Leiko Wu): Phantom Sand," once you snake-swallow the unwieldy title, it moves our Big Story down the tracks fine, while perhaps inevitably suffering a bit of the "mid-chapter mopes."

The graphics are gorgeous and a lot does happen. Dr. Petrie being deprogrammed, Shang-Chi and Leiko make it in a snow cave, and, for a handful of gripping panels, mid-book, we learn that Father Fu has gathered the bones of and proposes to resurrect a "long-dead" ancestor, a great warlord, and cast him as "a new son," to replace disloyal S-C and, incidentally, help him rule the world. Just the sort of grand, twisted scheme we expect from Fu, who's the ultimate, er, Mandarin.

All to the good, but the Bang! Bang! Chop! Kick! seems a little stale, the plot a little forced. Two mercenaries inexplicably insist on keeping their masks on in the getaway jet and no gets suspicious? "Ah, Did Benny there always have t*ts?" 

More assassins who can't aim machine guns. Reston and Larner shot out of the sky, with nary a scratch from the fiery crash...

Mid-chapter mopes? A bit perhaps, as it's hard to sustain a high-wire act across half a year, but we'll soldier on.

Marvel Presents 8
The Guardians of the Galaxy in
"Once Upon a Time... the Silver Surfer!"
Framing Sequence
Story by Roger Stern
Art by Al Milgrom and Bob Wiacek
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Jim Novak

"When Lands the Saucer"

(reprinted form Silver Surfer #2, October 1968)
Cover by Al Milgrom

The Guardians retrieve a ship’s recording device floating in deep space, and watch the Badoon’s first visit to Earth until Vance, enraged by his race’s treatment of the Surfer, smashes the mento-corder.  Roger Stern writes the 2.83 Milgrom/Wiacek pages framing this fragment of Silver Surfer #2; succeeds Gerber (who cites Howard’s campaign and the upcoming KISS project as the primary causes of the D3) in #10; and sticks with the Guardians through Thor Annual #6 and Avengers #167, co-plotted with Wein and Shooter, respectively. When I called this “savagely mutilated” in our coverage of the original, I had no idea; it has just 14.17 of Stan’s 40 pages—to which our august Dean has treated me—with swoon-inducing Buscema/Sinnott art. 
-Matthew Bradley

Chris: I flipped thru the issue prior to settling down to read it, and I thought, “Wow – Milgrom’s really figured out how to draw the Surfer, hasn’t he?”  Then, as I looked a little closer (maybe it was a double-take), of course I realized that the art was by Big John Buscema, and that we had ourselves – okay class, say it with me – we had ourselves a reprint, that’s right.  It’s especially sad when this happens with a bi-monthly title – readers (well, the readers who will continue to follow the title, that is) now will have a four-month wait before they see Steve G’s Origin of Starhawk story.  

Steve lays out the cause for the missed deadline in a letter, appearing on the LOC page (instead of a text page within the comic itself, for a change), which indicates that Steve now is completely caught up in promoting Howard the Duck for President; the story for this issue, then, becomes another victim of the American political system.  Steve’s letter has its moments; at the end, he is interrupted as the editorial armadillo bites him in the face.  

Marvel Spotlight 31
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD in
"Assignment: The Infinity Formula!"
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Howard Chaykin
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Jim Novak
Cover by Howard Chaykin and Klaus Janson

Following a murder in Paris, Fury gets an anonymous phone call:  “Prof. Sternberg is dead.  We will now be supplying you with your ‘Ponce de Leon’ serum.  Madame Renour shall act as our agent in this matter.”  He tells Val to have Duncan take over as acting head of S.H.I.E.L.D. while he goes on a “hunting” vacation, and during his transatlantic flight, he recalls how Sternberg saved his life when he stumbled into a French mine field, but made him an unwitting guinea pig.  Six months after World War II, Sternberg sent him an inoculator, yet before Fury could have its contents tested, he awoke to find he had aged 60 years overnight, and began paying extortion for an annual booster to sustain the serum with which he might live indefinitely.

Swiftly disposing of her thugs, Fury realizes that Renour, with whom he worked in Viet Nam in the ’50s, was delaying him while Steel Harris returned to the safety of his Vegas casino.  As he and Harris negotiate, a third party steals the Infinity Formula; Harris refuses to believe he is not responsible, and the fleeing Fury, forced to sacrifice his flying Carabo to take out a helicopter, is presumed dead.  Returning to the Golden Dagger, Fury suggests that the two men—now both aging rapidly—join forces, but Harris goes off the deep end, believing Fury is a vengeful ghost, and after their tussle ends in his fatal fall, Val appears to inoculate Fury in the, uh, nick of time, explaining that she had noticed his odd behavior every year, and stole the formula on his behalf. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: In Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Sean Howe quotes Starlin, noting that he wrote this while working on Warlock: “Stan always had trouble with the stuff I did…I had Fury embezzling funds so he could get this formula that would extend his life. Stan was so upset by it he said it would never be used in Marvel continuity, or ever reprinted.” I detect no hint of embezzlement (although the immunity and aid Harris demands would arguably be worse), but since this was announced back in April, some retooling may have occurred.  I never liked Chaykin’s faces, yet his layouts sometimes seem to invoke Steranko; probably unfamiliar with Val at the time—seven years after the demise of Fury’s title—I certainly appreciate the ending more now than I did then.

Chris: Solid story by multi-talented Starlin, as he plays Nick more as Marlowe than Bond.  I can only draw one aspect of the story into question: as he stands alone in the casino, Steel muses to himself “Without the inoculation, I’ll be dead inside an hour.” Nick then strides in and suggests they work together to recover the Infinity formula.  Two problems with this: how does Nick figure out that Steel also is dependent on the formula to stay alive?  It's not like Steel said anything to Fury about his need for the formula; is Fury trying to follow up on a hunch, and bluff Steel into admitting his shared need for the formula, thereby scotching Steel’s negotiating position?  I could’ve used something here to set up Fury’s offer.  Also, Steel’s observation about his impending doom completely undoes the moment during the fight when we recognize that Steel also has accelerated aging; if Jim could've introduced some foreshadowing – without an overt statement of Steel’s need – the reveal of Steel would've carried more weight. 

I realize I'm supposed to recognize Chaykin's art as "stylized," but I can only appreciate it to a certain degree; after that, all I see is "sloppy." The right inker could build up the atmosphere, and add clarity, without flushing out the energetic layouts.  So, I would go with a Janson or Adkins, possibly Chiaramonte.

Joe: I found this one to be a rollicking adventure that combines the devil-may-care of a Man From U.N.C.L.E. with the heyday of Steranko's S.H.I.E.L.D. run. Of course, there were times that I didn't know what the heck was going on, but it's certainly interesting to note the foreshadowing of the recent Original Sins "event" in the Marvel Universe. Starlin does a good job with Fury's voice, inner and outer, while Chaykin is the man to draw this tale, giving it some kinetic energy, nifty layouts and strange close-ups that keep the interest most of the way through. I have to say Spotlight is surprising me a little the last couple of issues. Let's hope it keeps it up, though.

Marvel Team-Up 52
Spider-Man and Captain America in
"Danger: Demon on a Rampage"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema, Mike Esposito, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Al Milgrom and Frank Giacoia

As Spidey swings by, a “hole in space” opens through which (and out of Captain America #203) emerge, sequentially, a Dark Dimension monster, the Falcon and Leila, Texas Jack, the Night People, and Cap.  The latter can’t be bothered to hear about said monster, fixated as he is on cold-cocking Falc and getting him into the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatrists, leaving the NYPD to clean up the rest of the mess, so with New York’s Finest paying unwanted attention and the critter having lumbered off, Spidey understandably follows suit.  Cooling his heels since his takedown by Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere #20, Batroc the Leaper spots le diable in the alley below his conspicuous penthouse “hide-out,” and decides to enslave—er, befriend it.

Stopping by the Bugle to get his camera fixed, Peter ponders JJJ’s “odd” behavior, conveniently forgetting that he was lucky not to get fired after telling Jonah off last ish; meanwhile, on a South Ferry pier, le diable throws a car through a S.H.I.E.L.D. hovercraft’s engine without touching the deadly and volatile $10 million worth of transuranium Batroc wants to steal—not bad, given the language barrier and all.  Our heroes get wind of this, converge on the pier, and use a classic “get between the charging villains and duck” ploy to take Batroc out of the fight.  They then pursue a suddenly, inexplicably, and ominously glowing monster onto the Staten Island Ferry, and after Cap rejiggers the engine to create a precisely timed explosion, they debark with seconds to spare.
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Gerry revisits his best-known character twice this month, returning to his old stomping grounds here and launching a brand-new vehicle; in addition to maintaining continuity with the debut of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man (and, believe it or not, the insular Kirby Cap), this one-off has the same creative team, but Conway’s script falls sadly short of the Buscemosito art.  The unusually high snark quotient in the above synopsis should suffice to highlight most of the absurdities and inanities that drag this one down, especially disappointing given my high regard for the previous Spidey/Cap teaming in #13.  The not-quite-MARMIS is particularly annoying, leading to a lot of unnecessary “Damn it, how’d that monster get here?” rigmarole on Cap’s part.

Joe: Re-reading all these issues of MTU really has me smiling. I know, I know, get off the Spider-Man crack pipe, but you have to admit, they're a lot of fun. So what if they don't usually add much in the way of influence on the regular Marvel continuity outside of Spidey's super stories; we still get action, humor, great art and electricity. This ish gives us glances of what's going on in Amazing Spider-Man, as well as the incredible "leap" of Batroc thinking he can easily make an alien his slave, with just one look over the balcony. Oh, those arrogant French! It's always great to see Our Pal Sal draw Cap again, My favorite part was on page 17 when Spidey whispers to Cap that he's had a long day and wants to wrap up their battle. Oh, that wall-crawling jokester! It was curious for Cap to knowingly "kill" the demon, although after destroying a whole dimension, I guess that's just another notch on the belt—but wait, he's walking away slowly at the end, looking down. A man of conscience, that Captain.

Marvel Two-In-One 22
The Thing and The Mighty Thor in
"Touch Not the Hand of Seth!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

Hoping to save the life of Tom Lightner (no mention of his father, with whom he had merged), Johnny halts his metabolic rate, sheathing his body in a shield of intense heat until they can get him to Dr. Don Blake, whom Ben has apparently forgotten meeting in #9.  Then in surgery, Blake is sought by a mysterious figure who routs the hospital security staff with his touch of death, and after finishing the critical stage, he sends the patient and staff away; the intruder knows his secret identity, so Blake changes to Thor, having sensed that his enemy is the Egyptian god of death.  Naturally, Ben et alia now arrive, and Ben wades into the fight just as Seth—having already conquered Horus and Heliopolis—summons forth the armies of the dead... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Plenty to criticize here, yet I like the use of Seth, and it’s worth noting that his prior appearances marked Mantlo’s only 1970s credits on Thor’s own book (#240-241).  My remaining remarks are made by a medical/scientific layman, and I invite correction, but I call B.S. on the Torch’s “cryogenic baking” of Blacksun for all sorts of reasons, and alas, the dire Wilson/Marcos art in that sequence has not improved since last issue, looking astonishingly amateurish.  Broadly speaking—yes, I’ll qualify that statement in a moment—the hospital stuff is better, and although the Wilson/Giacoia cover totally blows the climactic revelation of the “surprise” villain, you’ll have to concede that it is completely accurate, even replicating the cliffhanger virtually verbatim.

While working on #21, Professor Gilbert asked what type of doctor Blake is.  According to this, he’s “one of the ten most gifted surgeons in the world!”  No indication of what kind (they usually have some sort of specialty, no?); moreover, while you can bet I’m not gonna dig through my 280-issue collection to confirm it, I think he was usually portrayed—perhaps not explicitly—more like a G.P., better suited than a hotshot surgeon to Odin’s goal of teaching Thor humility…except when they wanted a dramatic O.R. scene.  Similarly, in the current Invaders, Jacqueline has been largely drained by a vampire, so they logically begin a massive transfusion but also, you guessed it, slap her onto the table for an operation.  I ask you, what kind, and why?

Chris: I’ll admit that I was growing a bit impatient with poor ol’ Bill here in the early pages.  First, I didn’t buy Johnny’s theory that super-heating the body of Blacksun would prevent cell deterioration; next, I was annoyed by Bill’s oversell of Don Blake as “one of the ten most gifted surgeons in the world!” Well, of course he isn’t, Bill – with the very limited amount of time Dr Blake has available to see patients down here in Midgard, it’s a wonder he’s able to keep his license to practice medicine, let alone achieve and maintain that sort of reputation.  No, you and I know that Dr Blake is good to have available to walk in from the next room (after Thor has walked into said adjoining room, and we have observed a lightning-flash) anytime there is a superhero, or a close friend or family member of a hero, who requires a quick, no-questions-asked reviving on the last page of a Marvel comic.  Beyond that crucially-important all-purpose healing skill, I question whether more than a handful of people in the world even know his name.  

Things begin heating up as Seth starts flinging mortals around.  (So Bill thinks enough of his Egyptian baddie that he brings him right back after only about a year, publication-wise – that’s kinda fast.)  The action moves right along, and Bill leaves off at an exciting point, as Ben and Thor have a few seconds to formulate a game-plan before being overrun by the skeleton squad.  Best of all, no MARMIS – the two heroes exchange pleasantries, and are prepared to go to work.  I’d say “good stuff,” but to be honest, the stuff is mostly “good enough” stuff.  

Nova 4
"Nova Against the Mighty Thor"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Irving Watanabe and Denise Wohl
Cover by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

Running late for a Math test, Nova/Richard Rider saves Ginger from an oncoming truck with no driver [a bit of a stretch, Marv!], realizing he has to adopt a "Nova-voice", lest his buddies recognize him, before struggling with the test. Meanwhile, Thor comes across a fire in a chemical factory, making it rain to help put out the flames and trying to rescue a trapped worker—when he's attacked by a nasty demon calling himself The Corruptor, with the power to affect the Asgardian with the "touch of evil"! As Richard Rider hangs with his pals, Bernie wondering what happened to Caps, he changes into Nova when spotting Thor fly by, but the newly-angry Avenger strikes! Wondering why, and what are the right moves to make, Nova fights Thor, learning some new suit powers also. But when the Corruptor changes back to human form—having been transformed by the chemicals into a Jekyll/Hyde monster, Thor is back to normal, and makes nice with new hero Nova. They track the worker to his house, and he's The Corruptor again—compete with shiny new costume [another stretch]. His powers and strength are growing, but eventually, the good guys win out, keeping evil from spreading any further. –Joe Tura

Joe: I always thought, never having owned many Tomb of Dracula comics, that Tom Palmer's high point was his long run as Avengers inker in the 80s. And there are a lot of pages here that remind me of those books, especially 6 and 7. But the very good artwork here is overshadowed on most pages by a zillion word balloons. Now, Thor can be known for pontificating Shakespearan-style quite often, but Nova matches him word for word with teen hero-speak, and the Corruptor is right behind with his starburst balloons of demon-esque, Villain 101 speeches. Not sure what the deal is with him, anyway. Chemicals make him a demon that can control minds like Thor's? Marv has to work on his bad guy creations, methinks. There were some decent battles here, especially the Thor-Nova donnybrook, and the Thunder God shows respect like most good Asgardians, but all in all it's just average to me, unlike the opinions of the fawning fans on the letters pages. And the end arrives quite abruptly, but this time I'm not complaining too loudly.

Matthew:  Interestingly, the same month with no new Thor story in his own mag, we get a double dose of him here and in Marvel Two-in-One, although unlike Mantlo, Wolfman at least gives a nod to the Thunder God’s continuity.  I’ll minimize my standard complaint about the deleterious effect of Palmer’s inks on Buscema’s pencils to nominate the Corruptor as a contender for Worst Villain Origin Ever.  In this year’s Daredevil Annual, which Marv also plotted, a Maggioso gets knocked into a bunch of scientific machinery and, hey presto, suddenly turns into Mindmaster, complete with costume; here, a poor schnook gets a bunch of chemicals splashed on him, and develops not only a whole new persona but also powers with which he can control an Asgardian!

Chris: Before he gives the Corruptor a K.O., Nova has the effrontery to shout at him, “You talk too much!”  Well, the same can be said for nearly every character in this issue, which is clotted with dialog and thought balloons from start to finish (you’d think Doug Moench might’ve written it!  Sorry, Doug.).  It’s a choppy story, as we go from Rich’s math woes, to yet another exchange with the insufferable Mike Burley (with a text page seemingly Xerox-copied from the three previous issues of this series), to the run-in with Thor, to the trials of Jackson Day, then the final defeat of the Corruptor.  The Corruptor, and his seemingly random switches into simmering evil, is mercifully dispatched in one issue.  Thru it all, Rich derides himself as an indifferent student, poor athlete, and neophyte super-type.  My hero!

Chris: Say, do you think Caps is okay?  Strange choice by Bernie, isn’t it, to wait until the end of the school day (and after he’s complained about his inadequate banana split) before he tells Rich and Ginger that Caps’ front door is standing wide-open, and no one is in the house.  Bern-dog, if you’d brought this up earlier, you might’ve enlisted Rich to play boy detective with you – it certainly would’ve given him the proper excuse to blow off that dreaded math test.  Gee whiz – math class is the pits, isn’t it!  Hoo boy!

Luke Cage, Power Man 38
"--Big Brother Wants You... Dead!"
Story by Marv Wolfman and Bill Mantlo
Art by Bob Brown and Jim Mooney
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Ron Wilson and Klaus Janson

Luke Cage, Power Man for Hire sinks below the streets of New York when Chemistro Mark II turns the sidewalk into quicksand. Some fast thinking on Luke's part lands him in the subway staring down an oncoming train. No train can stop Cage though and he makes a nice, neat entrance into the car (well, maybe not too neat). Back at the apartment of Curtis Carr (aka Chemistro Mark I) to ask the man a few more questions, Cage discovers he's been followed by Carr's successor, who transforms the staircase into paper, allowing the Hired Hero to plummet all the way down to the basement, where Chemistro waits. A battle royale ensues and spills out onto the street, with Luke dodging pajamas as sharp as knives, walls that become sticky tar, blazingly hot steam, and excellent Justin Bieber records (hey, this Chemistro can transform anything into anything!) before our hero is able to lasso the creep and learn the whereabouts of his boss. Once he gets into the office building, Luke Cage finally comes face-to-face with the costumed loony known as Big Brother. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Holy Jumpin' Christmas! After a brief lapse in entertainment with the fun-as-measles Power Man Annual #1, Bill "Angry Young Man"-tlo and Marv Wolfman get things back on track with this wall-to-wall (or should I say muck-to-tar) action issue. Chemistro's bag starts to empty a bit (how many times can you turn pavement into quicksand without losing your reader's interest?) but the writers are on that and ready to shift gears real quick, offering up yet another fourteenth-tier villain we can root for, the comicly costumed Big Brother (in case you don't get the name, he's got a really big eye on his chest). Back again are my favorite bits: the supporting cast interludes and that wonderful soda machine (which serves our hero chicken soup instead of coke -- Sweet Chortlin' Chitlins!). Who needs action when you've got the funniest dialogue and backstory scenes in the Marvel Universe? Brown and Mooney do an all-right job of providing visuals; that last panel of Big Brother on the move  (far below) sure looks like the work of The King. And you got to love a city that bounces back from every Tom, Dick, and Luke destroying subway trains on a whim. You'd think that would shut down the entire service for weeks but not in New York. No sir!

Son of the Leader?
Chris: Chemistro’s not an easy opponent; he effectively keeps Cage on his heels most of the time, with Cage forced to react to the latest substance-conversion prank (maple syrup?) and unable to formulate a game-plan of his own.  Quick thinking to swim down thru the sidewalk-quicksand, especially when he doesn’t have to worry about landing on the subway tracks.  The fight really goes out of Chemistro though, doesn’t it, as soon as Cage has crushed his hands; not quite the hotshot now, eh Chemie?  Good issue with adequate action, which sets us up well for the next chapter.  

I like the Brown/Mooney art better here than I have on Daredevil, maybe because most of the action takes place during the day, so I don’t miss the shading and atmosphere we’d expect in a night-setting, which Mooney doesn’t deliver as effectively as a Janson.  Great cover – I love Cage’s glare as he’s fighting his way back to Chemistro (well, to his leg, at least).  I thought sure it’s Gil Kane/Klaus Janson, but GCD tells us Ron Wilson provides the pencils.  Go figure.  

The Son of Satan 7
"Mirror of Judgment"
Story by John Warner
Art by Sonny Trinidad 
Colors by Bonnie Wilford
Letters by Jim Novak and Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson

Mindstar's challenge to Daimon is interrupted by the fiery arrival of Anubis.  He summons a monster to combat both Daimon and Mindstar; Anubis declares that Mindstar had betrayed him, by failing to deliver a soul that belongs to him.  Daimon determines that Anubis might've been convinced by Mindstar that his darksoul is the soul Anubis is seeking; ergo, Daimon must keep Mindstar from being destroyed so that he can square this with Anubis.  Daimon offers a challenge: if he defeats Mindstar, then Mindstar would lose his powers and be “reimprisoned in his useless physical shell,” the form of Silas Warden.  Neither can secure an advantage over the other in the battle, until the oracle Proffet arrives.  Mindstar blasts Proffet, and Daimon’s outrage over his needlessly harmful treatment of her gives him a burst of fury that his uses to finally vanquish Mindstar with soulfire.  Daimon and Proffet then are unexpectedly summoned back to earth by a magic circle devised by his assistant Saripha; Proffet is revived, healed by Daimon’s power.  Proffet departs, but Saripha picks up on Daimon’s report of being tired – she tells him that he’s staying with her; Daimon gratefully agrees.
-Chris Blake

Chris: So, that’s about it for Daimon’s solo series.  The lettercol hints that a final issue (by Bill Mantlo and Russ Heath) still could see print (spoiler alert: it will), but this is the last outing by Warner & Trinidad.  Warner had gamely tried to come up with a few stories for Hellstrom, but their length (3-4 issues each) and their convoluted nature put them well behind the standard Gerber had set in Marvel Spotlight; I mean, even though I have the lead for this title, I can barely remember what happened last issue, and I can’t tell you what Mindstar’s purpose or motivation were supposed to be.  Warner would've been better off following Gerber's lead, and sticking to taut two-parters (which Gerber had done most of the time – his multi-part tarot story in MS is an exception).  

Also, Daimon is not as interesting a character when he’s not struggling to maintain a balance against his Satan-funded darksoul.  The moment toward the end, when Daimon’s hatred proves to be the difference as he overcomes Mindstar, should carry more weight than it does, especially because of its implications.  Warner would have us believe that Daimon employs “pure emotion,” not darksoul, to dispatch Mindstar, but this doesn’t make sense – typically, this sort of outburst would only be possible thru controlled use of his darksoul.  It would have been interesting to see Daimon struggle against allowing it to go free, and for the darksoul to get loose in his rageful reaction; Daimon then would have to work (perhaps with the help of the sympathetic Saripha) to safely rein it back in again.

Matthew:  Is it cancelled yet?  Yes and no.  The lettercol reveals that it was, effective with this issue, but they figured they had nothing to lose by running an off-the-shelf story as #8, and as long as it’s by somebody other than Warner and Trinidad, a slight delay in putting this book out of my misery is unlikely to do serious harm.  In fairness, they do pull their game up a little—if too little, too late—by finally shedding some light on Just What the Hell (as it were) Has Been Going on Here, and Anubis admittedly looks fairly cool.  If they’d brought some of this clarity to earlier installments, I might’ve been on board, but as it is, the frenzied tying up of loose ends still left me with both lingering questions and skepticism over that happy ending with “dear Saripha.”

Super-Villain Team-Up 9
"Pawns of Attuma!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Jim Shooter and Sal Trapani
Colors by Hugh Paley
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

Wearing the Vision’s cloak, Attuma sends the Avengers (captured in #154 and controlled by his slave-collars) to Hydrobase to attack Namor while he seeks world domination, his technos having re-wired Iron Man’s chest-plate.  Agents of the unseen “Orbiter” monitor both these developments and those in Latveria, where the Doombot sends the circus away, dismisses Boris, gives Namor the vial of antidote stuck in his belt, and unmasks himself as Crown Prince Rudolfo.  Following Astonishing Tales #3, his rebels hid in the mountains, whence they are now infiltrating Doom’s soldiers, and Rudolfo replaced one of his robot duplicates, yet unlike the Shroud, Namor refuses to join the exiles and—still believing Doom dead—flies away.

On Hydrobase, Tamara and Namorita are growing skeptical of Doom’s claim that he can cure the Hydro-Men, and with good reason, but the ruckus raised by their catching him contacting Gregor about a business deal is interrupted by the Avengers.  They are relieved that Namor’s absence gives them an excuse to attack Doom instead, yet knowing their true quarry, Nita (identified, in a major gaffe, as Subby’s sister) and Tamara oppose them as well, and hampered by the collars, they are again defeated.  The Beast—who “chose wisdom over valor and split”—recruits fellow “second stringers” Wonder Man and the convalescent Whizzer, while Namor learns that Attuma is “after a special weapon housed at a Maryland research center.”  (Continued in Avengers #155.)
-Matthew Bradley

The long-awaited return of
the MU cheesecake!
Matthew: Who would’ve guessed back in February, when Mantlo pinch-hit with scripts for Champions and SVTU, that he would not only be the regular writer on both books by December but also—with each in its death throes, which will take barely another year—pull off, in collaboration with artist Bob Hall, an insane crossover between those two of my doomed underdogs?  Such is the stuff of which my personal Golden Age is made, because with this issue, Bill takes the reins smack in the middle of a previous crossover that just happens to fall within one of my all-time favorite epics, bookended by a pair of drool-worthy Conway/Pérez/Marcos issues of Avengers.  Even the jarring presence of Shooter’s debut as a penciler (!), capably inked by Trapani, can’t rain on this parade.

I’m obliged to admit that Jim (who will switch back to his writer’s hat, briefly alternating with Gerry during the transition, when he concludes the arc in Avengers #156, although Cap returns in SVTU #10 for an awesome three-issue coda) doesn’t totally stink up the joint.  As for the story, with this being but an interstitial part of Conway’s run and Mantlo having just come on board—continuing to help fill, perhaps even benefit from, the voids left by the departing Isabella and Englehart—I have to assume that Gerry was instrumental in the plotting, yet in my view, there’s plenty of praise to go around.  This rests securely on the solid foundation established by Stainless during his abbreviated tenure here, even reclaiming Rudolfo from Doom’s short-lived solo strip.

Chris: As I prepared to re-read this storyline, I recalled that it was somewhat confusing; I think the problems stem from this issue, in part because there are so many things going on.  It’s good to see Prince Rudolfo again, but with Doom absent, can we expect to witness any more of the Latverian velvet revolution?  Who is the shadowy figure called “Orbiter,” and what is he after?  Doom seems to be in communication with this person as well (p 16, pnl 5).  The Avengers’ fight with Doom really should have been better, but Tamara and Namorita’s involvement only makes the battle more disjointed (and by the way, Bill, Wanda’s arm isn’t broken – she had been shot in Av #153; please make a note of it).   And now we learn that Attuma is after some super-weapon that’s stored in Maryland?  Like I said, there are a lot of here-and-there details to sort thru.  

Shooter’s layouts aren’t as amateurish as I remember them to be, as he provides some interesting interaction of figures; in many cases, though, the figures themselves look dinky or awkward, with Doom looking especially scrawny.  Shooter had to have been, what, the 10th or 11th choice for pencils here; I wonder how it happened that there wasn’t anyone else available.  Too bad someone like Sinnott, or Marcos, wasn’t available to pull the visuals together into a coherent whole.  

The Mighty Thor 254
(reprinted from The Mighty Thor #159, December 1968)
Cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott


The Tomb of Dracula 51
"The Wildest Party"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

In order to raise funds for their world conquest, Dracula and Anton Lupeski hold a fund-raiser and attract several very rich, lovely people. Since the guest list is so restricted, Blade II and Hannibal King decide they'll just have to crash the gate. While watching Blade and Drac duke it out, Hannibal spots Deacon Frost amongst the guests and gives chase. Frost manages to slink away in the mist while Dracula puts a stake into the faux-Blade's heart. Meanwhile, Anton Lupeski has a scheme he wants to share with Dracula's bride, Domini. The plan is not well-received and Lupeski has to feel a bit exposed. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: I've never read an issue of Tomb of Dracula that was such a drag. Nothing much is happening and what is doesn't hold my interest for long. Seriously, do we have to have a romantic interlude between Rachel and Frank that ends with the smitten dope uttering the eternal words, "Rachel, sometimes you talk too much, you know," and sealing it with a kiss? The blazing battle between Blade II and Drac is nothing but a series of missed stabbings (don't these guys know where the heart is?) and unending promises ("-- in moments, you will be destroyed!"). Our esteemed illustrators, usually on the bullseye, seem to be taking it easy this time out as well. The only high point would have to be Lupeski's secret meeting with Domini, wherein the gorgeous lady tells Lupeski she'll have nothing to do with his proposed coup but caps the conversation with an ominous, "I will deal with my husband in my own way!"

Chris: Fans have been waiting for months to see a rematch between Drac and Blade.  We finally get it, but I have to wonder why Marv feels the need to interrupt it three times (although one of those times is Hannibal’s brief confrontation with the slippery Deacon Frost, another sought-for run-in).   The breaks disrupt the flow of the battle, and prevent any sense of build-up toward the finish.  As for that last moment, when we appear to have a pivotal development in this series – we can be reasonably confident that Blade isn’t really dead.  How do we know that, you ask?  Well, because on the letters page, Marv promises an upcoming Blade feature.  Oh well.  

Chris: I found it strange to see Drac openly soliciting support from – and performing for – the well-heeled guests at Lupeski’s soiree.  Drac typically hypnotizes people when he wants something; is there a reason why he’s handling things differently this time?  I wonder whether Marv isn’t offering some commentary on the American political process, with its currying of favors and begging for acceptance, with 1976 being (yet another) uninspiring dog-and-pony contest for the presidency.  The banalities expressed by some of the guests (eg “You must give your lovely wife my best – and do tell her I just love her dress.”) add an extra degree of unreality to the proceedings.  

One question though: Marv indicates at one point that most of the guests (except Deacon Frost) are shocked by the outbreak of violence between Drac and Blade; but, Marv doesn’t say anything else about it.  Drac seems to think this will be another demonstration of his power; so, is he right, and are people suitably impressed, or has Drac undone himself, as the guests are thoroughly repulsed by the sight of Drac stabbing a man in the chest -?  

Mark: There's a big disconnect here from last month's Surfer Showdown, and it kinda drains the life out of "The Wildest Party." Last month, cult leader Lupeski was suddenly wielding Big Mojo Magic, Baron Mordo-on-steroids, enough to pluck Silv Surf off his board and wind him up to attack Drac. That ain't Ouija board on acid stuff, but 'Ski's reduced once more to scheming d-bag in a goofy mask. And with nary a reference to Big Mo Magic, Marv only underscores what a bad idea Surfer v. Dracula was and we're all better off just forgetting it.

But 'Ski still has a role here, hosting a fund raiser attended by the rich, hip Rosemary's Baby crowd. Rooting of course for Ole Scratch. For those that can't forget last month, the Count displaying his turn into fog-'n'-bat wares to woo society matrons is a jarring tonal shift. See underscoring bad idea.

Later Drac fights Vamp-Blade, thankfully putting the irksome doppelganger down. Gene and Tom supply a brief but intense stake fight, with extra big splashes of blood. Domini & Drac's kid continues gestating, with mom's past longing glances at the Jesus painting perhaps tipping Marv's hand...

The most effective scene was Hannibal King confronting Deacon Frost, and that lasted less than a page. The rest is certainly not a bad comic, but the party sure peters out early. 

X-Men 102
"Who Will Stop the Juggernaut?"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Dave Cockrum and Sam Grainger
Colors by Bonnie Wilford
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and John Costanza
Cover by Dave Cockrum

 In the dungeon of the Cassidy castle, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine tangle with Juggernaut, while Banshee takes on his arrant cousin, Black Tom; as the battle gains intensity around her, Storm cowers on the floor, in tears, paralyzed by her intense claustrophobia.  Her thoughts trace a path back to when she was five years old, living in Cairo with her parents; when the Suez Crisis brought French and British warplanes to the skies of her city, and one of those planes was crippled by flak, which then crashed into her home.  Ororo’s intense pain woke her, as she found herself injured and trapped by rubble, her parents killed by the explosion and building collapse.  Ororo survived for years as a beggar and a thief on the streets of Cairo, until at age twelve, she began a year-long, two thousand-mile walk alone to the Serengeti plain in deepest Africa.  Ororo thinks of the time she had met Charles Xavier, who led her away from her solitude; Ororo’s thoughts create a link with Prof X, who reads the images in her mind, and recognizes in an instant that the X-Men are in desperate peril.  Prof X calls Scott away from Jean’s hospital bedside (as she still is recovering after having – somehow – survived to land the shuttle, despite its being consumed by fires of re-entry and unusually intense solar radiation); he expects to send Scott to Ireland to aid his teammates, but Scott refuses to leave until Jean’s recovery is assured.  The Professor’s outrage is interrupted, as he sees in the mirror the face and torso of a person, seemingly wearing some sort of space-suit and helmet, which Xavier recognizes from his fevered dreams.   Back at the battle, Nightcrawler burns Juggernaut’s face, then is felled as Black Tom blasts him in the back; left unconscious on the floor, Nightcrawler is not aware of the wall sliding open to reveal little people – leprechauns? – who reach his injured body and pull him away, behind the closed-again wall.  Black Tom KOs Banshee, and reflects on the “tidy profit” he stands to gain once he and Juggernaut have killed the X-Men.  Storm watches helplessly as Juggernaut brings a stone wall down on Colossus.  She marshals all her will to fight back, but her lightning-bolt is zapped back at her by the immovable object of Juggernaut, and she falls as well.  Now, the two villains are prepared to torture the X-Men, as they expect the psychic link the team shares with Xavier will draw him in to the kill, as well.  -Chris Blake

Chris: Storm’s origin story is unique, not because it involves the traumatic death of family or a journey that becomes a rite of passage; these elements are familiar enough from plenty of other back-stories.  No, the unique factor is that Storm’s origin has nothing to do with her powers; it’s all about Ororo’s development as a person, despite a potentially crushing setback, years of desperate need, and a daring, possibly life-threatening exploration into the unknown.  There’s nothing about Storm’s powers, neither how she discovered them, nor how her use of them changed and developed over time – simply, powerfully, the circumstances that have shaped Ororo into the person she has become.  It gives us, as readers, an appreciation for how carefully she has tried (for years) to repress her memory of the enormity of her past loss; she’s lived, successfully, thru so much, but now, trapped in this stone-heavy, lightless dungeon, the pain comes roaring back.  Once we know these details, her effort to join the fight (when, unfortunately, it’s already far too late) becomes even more impressive.  

Chilling moment when Jean (in a single, shadowy, tantalizing panel) sheds some light on her transformation in XM #101: she tells Misty that she had died, then “brought [her]self back to life” (p 16, last pnl).  More to come on that little development . . .

This is our first look at Nightcrawler’s near-invisibility when he’s in the shadows, cleverly realized by Cockrum (p 23, last pnl).  I wonder what CC & DC are up to with the little people coming to his rescue?  Will the thoughtful imps help save the day -?  

Matthew: It’s comforting to know that every other month, I have something to look forward to at the bottom of the stack, and Grainger’s byline is, for me at least, also cause for celebration; I especially liked the rendition of Charles in page 16, panel 3, and his calling Scott an “ungratefulcur” always stuck in my head for some reason.  I’d forgotten we had a lengthy flashback to Storm’s past, but it’s certainly welcome, and quite logical given the claustrophobia induced by Cassidy Keep.  Speaking of which, the far-better-informed Professor Chris had some criticisms regarding Sean’s ancestral home that would never have occurred to me, so it will be interesting to see how he responds to the apparent leprechauns who drag Kurt from the shadows.

Also This Month

Adventures on the Planet of the Apes #11 (Final Issue)
< FOOM #16
Kid Colt Outlaw #213
Marvel Classics Comics #12
Marvel Double Feature #19
Marvel Tales #74
Spidey Super Stories #20
Two-Gun Kid #134
Weird Wonder Tales #19


Planet of the Apes 27
Cover by Malcolm McN

"Apes of Iron"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Herb Trimpe

"Conquest of Blood"
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Chapter 6
Story Adaptation by Doug Moench
Art by Virgil Redondo

Our latest episode of the usually enjoyable Terror kicks off with an attack by android apes (aka Gorilloids) on Brutus and his baddies, and the Supreme Commanders are watching, with all the drones "assigned to Brutus" now gone. The good guys, sailing on the North Apes' ship, catch up to the charismatic Gunpowder Julius and Steely Dan, learning Brutus is still alive, much to Jason's chagrin. Back in the city, the Lawgiver lies dying, and young Thaddeus searches the Forbidden Zone for an answer—and finds The Makers, mutants who are creating more Gorilloids, and later, Thaddeus slips and is discovered! Brutus tries to talk the androids who attacked him into joining his cause instead of kidnapping his apes, while our heroes, back at Gunpoweder and Julius' stockade, are attacked by annoyed Assisimians. A stalemate leads to a plan—Gunpowder and Jason against their two best Assisimians—and a victory for the good guys leads to an invite to a feast of friendship! Learning of the Lawgiver's condition, the five protagonists leave the feast early and rush to the city in the Northern ship, finding they're installing a new peace officer, gorilla Moravius. But suddenly, Brutus and the Gorilloids start their attack!

One can only dream what Mike Ploog, or Tom Sutton, would have done with this chapter. Yes, Trimpe is a fine artist, but for some reason his black and white stuff seems slightly boring. He does draw a mean Gorilloid, and some gruesome mutant Makers, but everyone else looks kinda the same. I will admit he tries his best, but as I've said a million times, there's just too much to live up to. That said, we get closer to yet another standoff between Brutus and Jason, at this point let's call them mortal enemies, with many other players joining the fray. Lots going on, in fact, to hold our interest well.

Next we get the first John Warner editorial in a while, and he explains Doug Moech has been using the "shooting scripts" for his Apes adaptations, thusly the differences in the Marvel stories vs. the finished films, like Breck being alive after Conquest and MacDonald having more to do than he did in the film of Battle. Also, he spills that when Battle is done, there will be a new Derek Zane story, and in the "titanic 30th issue", we'll get a double-size Terror novel. Yay! Oh, wait…more on that in the coming months…

Let's skip the letters page spread and the Jim Whitmore "photo primer" on how to act like an ape—complete with step-by-step illustrated instructions—and get to Chapter VI of Battle, which kicks off with Breck and the mutants almost blowing up the barricade, but their second blast knocks out Caesar and sends the apes scurrying. But Aldo and the gorillas are laying in wait, attacking the mutant caravan and cutting their number in half.  Meantime, Breck stands over Caesar with a flame-thrower, taunting him until Lisa's cry urges the simian leader to strike back, setting off a loud explosion and sending a fiery Breck running. The apes begin the battle anew, taking down their attackers with machine guns, until a weary Caesar declares an end to the fighting. But an angry Aldo still wants to kill—and he'll kill Caesar if he tries to stop him!

A rousing, slaughter-house of a chapter (without the gory blood) seems nothing like the finished film (see above for why), but yet is fascinating in the struggle between Caesar and Breck that's as psychological as it is physical. Yet, there's also the endless power play of Caesar and Aldo that's fed by bloodlust as much as it is dedication to a cause and past history. A different kind of chapter, in that the script is as action-packed as the art, which is done here by Virgil Redondo, a Filipino artist known for working on many of the B&W Marvel mags. Redondo does a pretty good job, although his ape expressions seem either like laughing or indigestion at times. The eyes he nails, especially on the increasingly mad Breck. Now we wait for the final chapter next time out!--Joe Tura

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 31
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Dark Waters of Death!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Joe Staton and Sonny Trinidad

Iron Fist, Shang-Chi, Jack of Hearts, and The White Tiger all team up to help Filippo Ayala, the brother of Hector, the (not so) secret identity of The Tiger. Junkie Filippo has a bomb wrapped around his waist and a date with a dealer on the freighter known as El Tigre. The Kung Fu superheroes make it to the ship but there are a plethora of baddies there waiting for them. One of the baddies is Stryke, the thug who murdered Jack's father, and Jack finally gets his revenge by blasting the man into atoms. Once the rest of the henchmen have been dusted, The White Tiger confronts his brother, Filippo, who he has learned is the real ringleader of the deadly drug trade. Filippo has contacted Fu Manchu in an effort to gain more power but the evil mastermind pooh-poohs any suggestion that the two might become partners. With his empire crumbling around him, Filippo Ayala tells White Tiger to leave the ship so he can detonate the bomb around his waist.

A jam-packed issue of Kung Fu Team-Up proves that more is definitely less, at least in this case. The narrative is so jumbled and meandering, it's tough to keep up with it. It's laughable that Hector's hopped-up brother is revealed to be the brains behind the huge drug empire, detective Blackbyrd somehow survives a helicopter crash (without any explanation), Shang-Chi is reduced to an onlooker for most of the length (with only a few lines of meaningless dialogue), but the most confusing thing, as always, is the art. No Rudy Nebres to blame this time out but I suspect editor John Warner showed Staton and Trinidad what he wanted and they gave it to him: the same-o same-o. Lots of bleeding panels and two-page spreads that make little if no sense. What the hell happened to the return of the Sons of the Tiger? The editorial (announced on the contents page) is given over to an ad for The Rampaging Hulk #1 so I guess we won't get an answer to that question. Let's just be thankful that the Kung Fu craze came to an end in 1977 and we only have two more issues of this to wade through.
                                                                 -Peter Enfantino

Marvel Preview 9
Cover by Earl Norem


Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Tony DeZuniga

Hold on to your hats, True Believers, MAN-GOD is finally here! "The FIRST and GREATEST superhero of all time!" screams the cover, and at first glance, he looks pretty constipated, the big galoot, as he saves a smokin' damsel in distress. Well, the cover has our attention! Turning inside, the contents page tells us what's to come: "From birth, he was like no other before him. And, as a man, he stood upon the treshhold of destiny. Would he use his superhuman powers for good—or to become the greatest menace the world has ever known? First time in comics form—an awesome adaptation of Philip Wylie's epic novel Gladiator, as conceived by Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, and Tony deZuniga." Ok, I'll admit I know Jack about this Gladiator novel, but I suspect Prof. Colon will fill in the blanks for us, so let's move on to the comic proper.

Now, not sure if Buckler is involved since DeZuniga is credited on the splash page as the artist, but a peek at Prof. Matthew-provided diversions of the groovy kind blog post say Buckler did the first 3-5 pages then had to stop due to either illness or overwork.  Then the issue was lost in the mail, which may or may not have been a happy accident…you can decide yourselves ha ha.

Anyway, our story begins in 1914, with Hugo Danner, "the product of an amazing biological experiment", aboard a French ship where he saves a young boy who falls overboard and kills a deadly shark for good measure. Back at a café, the mysterious American meets New Yorker Tom Shayne, and their awkward beer-drinking silence is met with the cry of war! World War I has broken out, and the two men decide to fight for the French Foreign Legion, battling a bunch of hooligans after joining, with Hugo tossing the men around like rag dolls.

Afterwards, Hugo flashes back to his origin—his college biology professor father invented a serum he tested on a kitten that became super-strong and terrorized the town until he had to poison it. (No, really, a freakin' super-kitten!) Then he injected his pregnant wife with the serum (Dude!), but their healthy son Hugo soon turned increasingly stronger, with an incredible appetite. His first year of school, there was an incident with a bully that caused Hugo to hide his power, until at the age of 12, he revealed his abilities to his father. At 18, Hugo headed to college, becoming a football star and hooking up with the alluring Iris. Finding out his parents are bankrupt, he vows to help, but is conned by a brazen hussy after a drunken frat boys' night out.

A penniless Hugo tries to rob a store, has second thoughts, then goes to Coney Island of all places, where he bests "The Battling Swede" in a sideshow, meets the beautiful Charlotte, and becomes a circus strongman. He meets old friends Lefty and Iris, then the next day Charlotte runs off with artist Valentine, so Hugo goes back to Webster College and the football field. But after he accidentally stiff-arms a man to death, Hugo leaves the school and becomes a pearl diver in the South Pacific, making enough to travel to France, and the flashback is over.

During the war, Hugo discovers he is impervious to bullets, and although his platoon is nearly all killed, he single-handedly defeats the German troop they were fighting, leaving behind a scene of incredible carnage! Later, he uses his leaping ability and strength to bring back much-needed supplies and guns, and is sent to the front lines again. Alas, there his friend Tom Shayne is killed by a grenade, which sets Hugo off on a bloodlust that ends in total slaughter of the enemy! Exhausted, he wakes three days later in a hospital to meet Tom's parents, then is held back while the generals decide how to use him. That is, until Hugo spies a blinded Lefty and the rage returns—but before he can set out, the war is over! And so is the adaptation of the first half of Gladiator.

Whew…I mean, whewwwwww….Will we ever get the second part? Not to this day as far as I can tell with quick research, but we do get this novel-length tale that is so right up Prof. Gilbert's alley that I think he might enlist in the Legion with hopes of meeting Hugo! I can't say I liked this slightly confusing, super dense adventure, but I can't say I hated it either. There are scenes of brutal carnage; a puzzled man-god discovering himself, his powers and the wiles of women; an evil indestructible kitten that looks like the Joker (page 15); depressing tragedy; pathos; and not a lot of humor, which was unexpected to be honest. All in all, not as horrible as I thought it was going to be, but certainly not worth staying up until 12:35 AM to write about.

The whole shebang ends with a short bio of author Philip Wylie and his other works, including the fact that his niece's murder in 1963 was used as the basis for the first Kojak TV movie, which is utterly fascinating and tragic. Then an article about Supermen in Science Fiction that I will admit I merely skimmed because it's way too late and I'm way too tired.—Joe Tura

For this adaptation of the 1930 novel Gladiator by Philip Wylie, the Earl Norem cover painting vaunts “man-god” Hugo Danner as “the FIRST and GREATESTsuperhero of all time!,” but Marvel already said that about Doc Savage!  (“The FIRST superhero of ’em all --,” according to color comic Doc Savage #1)  Maybe the issue’s “Supermen in Science Fiction” essay, by Don and Maggie Thompson, will clear this matter up. 

—Professor Gilbert

Since I see nobody else has done so, I'll just mention that Wylie was the co-author, with Edwin Balmer, of the 1933 novel When Worlds Collide, famously filmed by George Pal in 1951, and its 1934 sequel, After Worlds Collide.  -Matthew Bradley

The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 16
Cover Art by Earl Norem

“The People of the Black Circle”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

“A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career”
Text by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark

“A Portfolio of Robert E. Howard”

“The Hyborian Age Chapter 5: Fire and Slaughter”
Text by Roy Thomas
Art by Walt Simonson

“Worms of the Earth”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith and Tim Conrad

“Swords and Scrolls”

John Buscema. Alfredo Alcala. Barry Smith. Tim Conrad. Walt Simonson. Richard Corben. Earl Norem. Mike Zeck. Gene Day. And of course, the writing brilliance and editorial mastery of Roy Thomas. By Crom, if you can’t find something to marvel at with this issue, you’re the son of a Stygian sewer rat.

With the 25-page “The People of the Black Circle,” Thomas, Buscema and Alcala begin their adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s novella of the same name, which ran in the September, October and November 1934 issues of Weird Tales. It will take four magazines to complete the tale, ending in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #19.

In Ayodhya, capital city of Vendhya, King Bhunda Chand writhes in torment on his bed, his sister, the devi Yasmina, by his side. Convinced that sorcery is siphoning his very soul and transferring it to a demonic night-weird, he begs Yasmina to takes his life — sobbing in misery, she plunges a knife into his heart. Elsewhere in the city, the conspirators celebrate their victory: Kerim Shah, working for King Yezdigerd of Turan, and the sorcerer Khemsa, sent by the dreaded Black Seers of Yimsha to help Kerim in his plot to overthrow the king.

Days later, Yasmina, along with her maid Gitara, visits Chunder Shan, governor of Peshkhauri in Northern Vendhya. Shan’s territory is under siege by Conan and his savage Afghuli hillmen. But recently, seven of the Cimmerian’s sub-chiefs have been captured and Chunder has been seeking a meeting with the barbarian to talk the terms of their release: the heads of the Black Seers for the return of his men. Unannounced, Conan steals into Chunder’s chambers to parlay — when he sees the devi in the room, he kidnaps the woman and rides off into the night towards the villages of Afghulistan. Chunder Shan frantically gathers his men and races off in pursuit.

Unnoticed, Yasmina’s maid Gitara steals away, returns to Ayodhya and meets her lover, the sorcerer Khemsa. She tells him that the devi has been kidnapped and taken to the Himelian mountains by Conan. The royal maid urges him to betray his Black Seers masters, steal Yasmina from the Afghulis himself and ransom her for a fortune. Khemsa agrees, but before they head out, the dark wizard steals into Ayodhya’s dungeon by mesmerizing and murdering the two guards — he then slays Conan’s seven sub-chiefs with a luminous, green smoke. Meanwhile, Kerim Shah, who overheard the conversation between Gitara and Khemsa, sends a messenger pigeon to Khosru Khan in the Turian city of Secunderam, informing him of the kidnapping and telling him to send three thousand horsemen to capture the devi for themselves.

As you can see, we have plenty of players in “The People of the Black Circle,” all converging on Afghulistan for the ultimate pawn in a grand powerplay: the devi Yasmina. As mentioned, this is part one of four so we’re in for a bit of a ride. The creative team remains for the entire run so we’re in very capable hands. Khemsa seems like a formidable wizard, commanding one of the prison guards to  impale himself slowly on his lance and crumpling a steel door with a wave of his hand.

A tale of the Pict king Bran Mak Morn that originally appeared in the November 1932 issue of Weird Tales, the 15-page “Worms of the Earth” trumpets the return of Barry Smith. It doesn’t look like an unfinished piece that was lying around since Smith’s art is more mature and even more brilliant than what was on display in the amazing “Red Nails” adaptation in Savage Tales #2 (October 1973) and #3 (February 1974). So I’m not sure how this came about since it seemed that there was bad blood between Thomas and Smith when the artist dropped out of the scene years ago. The Englishman only illustrates half of the 15-page story: Tim Conrad, an obvious Smith devotee, handles the second part, offering art that looks remarkably like Barry’s.

Using the name Partha Mac Othna, Bran Mak Morn witnesses the crucifixion of a fellow tribesman, ordered by the Roman general Titus Sulla after the man struck a Roman merchant who tried to cheat him. When the Pict is nailed to the wood and the cross raised, Titus Sulla imperiously orders a young officer named Valerius to give him a drink of wine. But when the barbarian spits in his eye, the outraged soldier runs him through dead. The general is upset that the victim’s suffering was cut short and orders Valerius jailed. The disguised Pict king is particularly haunted by the brutality since the crucified man realized who he was and wordlessly pleaded for help. That night as a guest of Titus Sulla, Bran Mak Morn has a fitful sleep, dreaming of the legendary Pict ruler Gonar, who urges the current monarch to put aside his thoughts of revenge. But Morn ignores the warning, stealing out into the night until he finds the window to Valerius’ cell. The Pict calls out to the Roman and slices the man’s throat when he approaches.

This is only part one of “Worms of the Earth,” which will wrap up next issue. That installment will run 23 pages, all by Tim Conrad, so Barry Smith only handled 7 pages of the entire 38-page story. But, I refuse to look a gift Turian stallion in the mouth: at this point, any of Smith’s gorgeous artwork is a treat and he’s in remarkable form here. He adds painterly effects to his black-and-white illustrations — wisps of breath, floating clouds — that seem literally to float on the page. Love it, love it, love it.

Roy and Walt Simonson’s long-unfolding adaptation of the Howard essay “The Hyborian Age,” continues with part five, “Fire and Slaughter.” In this one, the combined forces of the Picts and Cimmerians finally bring down the Aquilonian empire. First reprinted in Savage Tales #2, “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career” returns here, now enhanced by even more original drawings from the pages of Weird Tales. And we have another “A Portfolio of Robert E. Howard,” this time featuring one-page illustrations by Buscema, Richard Corben, Frank Giacoia, Gene Day, and others including a cover for a proposed Conan book drawn by Virgil Finlay, one of the most talented Weird Tales artists.

On top of all that, we have a killer cover painting by Earl Norem and a frontispiece by the rounding-into-form Mike Zeck. In all, one of the most magnificently illustrated issues of The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian to date. -Tom Flynn

Professor Gil, Moldy PulpMeister on "The Hyborian Age Chapter 5":

“[T]hey shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” says the ancient Book of Isaiah, but the Picts have another idea.  When the Nemedian priest Arus “found that there were vast deposits of iron ore in the Pictish hills ... he taught the natives to mine, smelt and work it into implements – agricultural implements, as he fondly believed,” according to Howard’s original essay (a piece of information curiously absent from Thomas’ otherwise carefully considered abridgment of the adapted text).  Arus desires to bring the bright light of Mitra and civilization to these savage lands.  As Maximus says in Gladiator, “I’ve seen much of the rest of the world.  It is brutal and cruel and dark.  Rome is the light.”  

The Picts, in turn, “work them into weapons.”  It is “with these [that] Gorm began to assert his dominance over the other Pictish clans,” on his way to becoming a Blut und Eisen unifying force, the Bismarck of his race.  This prehistoric Iron Chancellor is dragging his Volk out of the Copper Age and into an Age of Steel “hammered...on a thousand anvils.”  

Elsewhere, a distracted Aquilonia was still “pursuing her wars of aggression to the south and east,” heedlessly swelling her ranks with Pictish mercenaries.  These Picts returned “to their wilderness with good ideas of civilized warfare--” and, underscoring one of Howard’s themes in his Conan yarns, a “contempt for civilization which arises from familiarity with it.”  

During this time, “Gorm...became chief of chiefs,” and with that title “he moved against the frontiers, not in trade, but in war.”  Arus “too late...saw his mistake; he had touched only the pagan’s greed, not his soul.”  In essence he had chummed the waters with his stories of the wealth and splendor to the south, and so the Pictish sharks trained their appetites southward.  Belatedly, Arus makes “a last effort to undo his unwitting work,” and for his troubles “he was brained by a drunken Pict.”  You can almost hear him cry aloud in his last moments as Alec Guinness did in The Bridge on the River Kwai, “What have I done?”  

In a final indignity, Gorm proves “not without gratitude; he caused the skull of the slayer to be set upon the top of the priest’s cairn.”  Howard’s essay adds a little more by stating: “[I]t is one of the grim ironies of the universe that the stones which covered Arus’s body should have been adorned with that last touch of barbarity – above a man to whom violence and blood-vengeance were revolting.”  Lux aeterna luceat Arus.  

After this “[t]he Picts burst upon the Bossonian frontiers-- clad not in tiger-skins but in scale-mail, wielding weapons of keen steel,” Arus’ unintended legacy.  It was like building up Russia after the Second World War, or enabling the nuclear reactor programs of rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.  

Soon all the tributary states buffering Aquilonia are swamped.  Aquilonia, meanwhile, is preoccupied with its eastern war against Nemedia, its campaign made up mostly of Bossonian mercenaries.  But in the Bossonian marches, it was those “sturdy Bossonians [who] held the [Pictish] invaders at bay, thus keeping them from attacking Aquilonia itself.”  The Bossonian regiments desert Aquilonia’s Nemedian campaign to beat back the Picts shattering their homelands.  In spiteful retaliation, the Aquilonians massacre their faithful Bossonian allies and devastate their lands, an atrocity that would reverberate with more unintended consequences.  

With no Bossonians to stand in their way, and with Aquilonia’s legions still fighting faraway foreign wars, “the Pictish invasion burst in full power...led by old man, but...the fire of his fierce ambition undimmed.”  Zingara, Corinthia, the Shemites, and others “seized this opportunity to throw off the yoke,” and if that were not enough, “[i]n the midst of this chaos, the wild-born Cimmerians” – Conan’s people, though Conan is long gone by now – “swept down from their northern hills, completing the ruin...”  Thus it was that arrogant Aquilonia sowed the seeds of its own destruction and “went down in fire and blood!”  

As was said last issue, “Better for the flower of Hyborian civilization if Arus [the missionary priest] had been speared instead.”  The mustard seed of the faith of Mitra, “chief god of the Hyborian conquerors,” had fallen on stony ground.  If, after the fifth-century Vandals and Goths sacked the Eternal City, a Holy Roman Empire rose from the ashes of the Roman Empire, the same will not happen after “the foundations of the Pictish empire” are laid – the “squalid Picts” will build nothing in Aquilonia’s place.  

These “blood-mad barbarians” from the Pictish wilderness rupture a dam from which floods not only the aforementioned Zingarans, Corinthians, and Shemites, but soon the unstoppable Hyrkanians and Turanians.  Theirs is the fury of the ill-converted Northern European barbarians of the First Crusade who sacked Byzantium on their way to Jerusalem, their savage souls barely penetrated by the preachings and teachings of their own Arus, St. Boniface, their primitive hearts still in thrall to old gods of slaughter...  

Fittingly, “[t]he Hyborian Age comes to an end, amid blood and battle.”  Page 46 is a one-page spread of epic devastation, illustrated by Simonson the same way he did with “the Cataclysm that rocked the world!” (Savage Sword of Conan #7), only this cataclysm wrought by man’s hand, not nature’s.  


—Professor Gilbert