|Wanda edges out Janet for Marvel|
babe of the month.
Fantastic Four 59
The Mighty Thor 137
Sif, the beautiful goddess who is sister to Heimdall, displays for Thor the battle skills she has developed over the years. As enchanted as much by her as by her talents, Thor shows his own skills are none to be ignored. Both however, fail to notice the imminent danger that has surrounded them: a legion of trolls, at war with Asgard, and seeking prisoners. Though not long a match for Thor, the creatures nonetheless escape to their subterranean depths with Sif, and Thor gives pursuit into the maze of tunnels. He loses track of them, but has been led into a trap; appearing before him is Ulik, a hideous monstrosity, and most powerful of all the rock trolls. Sif, meanwhile, is brought before the somewhat less frightening but equally hideous king of all the trolls, Geirrodur, who has plans for the feisty goddess. He renders her unconscious with a gas (the vapors of quietude), and sends her to Grak, the troll guarding their invasion shaft, a tunnel centuries in the making that will lead them directly into the heart of Asgard. The Mighty Thor has other things (or A thing) to contend with. Ulik’s strength is as powerful as legend has told, and armed with two metal hand pounders, he gives Thor a fight for his life. When the titans are at a stalemate, Ulik vanishes in a beam of light, and an apparition of King Geirrodur appears. He tells Thor that Sif has been sent to Earth, held captive by Ulik, and there she will die if he doesn’t go to her rescue; while Asgard may well fall in the Thunder God’s absence if he does. Thor reasons that Sif is in need of more help, and disappears in a spinning vortex to arrive on our planet. Grak opens the invasion shaft, and the troll invasion begins in earnest. What Thor doesn’t realize, is that Geirrodur knows his secret… a certain Dr. Blake!
JB: There are some villains in each comic that are truly unforgettable; for Thor, Ulik is definitely one. The full page when he first appears is startling, and Kirby/Colletta depict him as something that would make even Thor’s stomach turn. The battle is the best since Thor and Hercules went at it, and he wasn’t exactly mopping up the rock floor when Geirrodur whisks Ulik away. I like the mystery too: how does the troll king know Thor’s secret identity? -Why have they risen up now, after all this time? -Wasn’t Thor’s own hammer forged by the (same?) trolls in ages past? And ok, why does Ulik’s armor seem to disappear and reappear in the first few panels of their fight?
The Amazing Spider-Man 45
Conquest of the earth by reptiles is the plan on The Lizard's mind. To that end, he's letting loose hundreds of snakes and crocodiles, all willing to do his bidding. Only thing standing in his way is The Amazing Spider-Man but, with one arm in a sling, how much good is the wall-crawler?
PE: For a moment there, while Spider-Man is deliberately attempting to make The Lizard angrier, I thought maybe Reed Richards had made a fleet of his Anger-Disturbo Ray and shipped them out to all the superheroes in New York but then comics would get pretty boring wouldn't they? I've gotta believe there's more of a story to that dopey blank-balloon panel (reprinted below) than Stan wanting his fans to get in on the act. DEADLINE DOOM strikes again? An oversight? While I like The Lizard as a villain, this story wasn't among the better Spidey tales in the Romita era so far. It's a by-the-numbers fight-it and right-it issue with a heaping helping of "I feel so sorry for myself" to add the cherry on top.
Tales of Suspense 86
Iron Man comes to the rescue of Happy Hogan, who disguised himself as his hero and was captured last issue by The Mandarin. The Mandarin has modified his deadly rings and has more than one trap awaiting Ol' Shellhead in his castle. Once I.M. has eluded the deadly traps, he throws down his gloves and challenges The Mandarin to a hand-to-hand battle. Despite his expertise in martial arts, Mandy is no match for a man in an armored suit. I.M. locates Happy in a basement dungeon He also finds out that the Oriental madman has set a missile on a course for an American military base but, with a little of his engineering ingenuity, Iron Man is able to replot its course... right to The Mandarin's lair (KABOOM!!).
PE: There's a moment here very reminiscent of Ditko's famous panel of Spider-Man lifting the machinery (back in The Amazing Spider-Man #33) where Iron Man pushes against the closing walls. I had to laugh out loud when Shellhead tells The Mandarin he's taking off his iron gloves so he can battle with his foe man-to-man. Umm, what about the rest of your armor? Nicely done ending where Tony Stark shows a little coldbloodedness by rerouting the missile to strike the Mandarin's castle, knowing full well his enemy will be there when it does. I'm sure it won't be long before we find out that a/ The Mandarin used his Tele-porto ring to beam him to another spot or b/ the back door was open. Exciting installment here and, as Professor Matthew notes, it could have done with a few more pages at the climax.
Captain America fights his way deep into Yashonka, a weapons-developing base inside (COMMIE ALERT!) Russia, searching for SHIELD Agent 60. Determined that Cap will not escape and tell all the decadent democracy-loving countries in the world of the new, deadly weapons they've created, the Yashonkians throw everything in the book at our star-spangled hero, including a giant robot. Able to shrug them off, Cap takes an electro-shaft right to Agent 60, disguising himself as Commie Colonel Kuro Chin. By the time Cap has reached 60 though, the agent is a shell of his former self, broken down from stress and fatigue, and can help no longer. He bids Cap good luck but, in the heat of battle, makes a surprise appearance and saves Cap's skin, taking a fatal bullet in the process. The Z-Ray is destroyed and the agent's death was not in vain.
The X-Men 29
While goofing off on a 'snow day,' the X-Men inadvertently stir up the Super Adaptoid, who combines powers of four of the Avengers. Meanwhile, the Professor's black sheep, Mimic, isn't coming around to the whole team-player concept. When Xavier gives him the boot, he runs into the S-A and offers to join up and become a Super Adaptoid himself. Things don't go as planned, and the two mix-and-match villains end up knocking heads. In classic Marvel fashion, by the end of the grudge match, Mimic has learned the meaning of true friendship
PE: Oh heavens! Our splash could been reprinted in the 1970s in the special "The X-Men Went to Riverdale High School" issue of What If? And, can I ask this silly question: Bobby the IceMan has a run-in with The Super Adaptoid, runs back to tell the others, and they don't believe him? Let me go back through the previous 28 issues quickly and catalogue all the other-worldly and super-powered foes these X-dopes have fought. Why in the world would this green menace stir disinterest and disbelief?
|"Archie! Betty and Veronica are lookin' for you!"|
PE: Finally, after all this time we get to see Maneuver 2-C. Definitely a smoother play than 6-F but not quite as jaw-dropping as Jean Gray's 36-Double D. Another dreadful issue, this one topped off by a confusing twist at the climax: The Mimic loses his powers. Since we weren't clued in to the reason, I was surprised Stan "The Man," reduced to editor on this title, didn't order a blank panel and chime in at the end that readers could write their own finale! Another Marvel Madness First! Gawdawful art by Werner Roth (not a first) reduces some characters to sticks, others have malformities. Just look at the leg on Jean Gray (to my left). How does she sit down when she has no bottom?
JS: With all of the X-boys layered up for the winter, I want to know if it's Cyclops leering stare that keeps Jean's naked legs warm.
No sooner has our hero disembarked from a plane back in America, then he becomes spectator and unwilling participant in the antics of a new villain. Equipped with bouncing springs under his feet, the bad guy can leap about without any policeman being able to catch him. As the villain hops away, Daredevil can only hope to run into him again sometime in the future since there was no chance during this encounter for him to change into his hero costume with all the witnesses around. Matt has an even more pressing matter: what to tell Foggy and Karen when he meets up with them again at the law office. Since abandoning Karen at the boxing match to face the Android, he hasn’t so much as called or written them a letter. Someone who has supposedly written a letter, though, is Spider-Man, letting Matt know that he is aware that he is Daredevil. His two law office mates had opened the letter addressed to him when they weren’t sure if he was ever coming back. Matt at first lies to Karen, saying that because of all the pressure he was under, he needed to take a vacation out of the country and gave an usher a note at the arena that he was supposed to give to Karen to explain everything. When confronted with Spider-Man's letter, Matt comes up with the excuse that he has a twin brother, who Spider-Man must have confused as Daredevil. Foggy has a real hard time swallowing this as he and Matt have been friends for a very long time and Matt has never once mentioned having a twin brother. Matt goes so far as to disguise himself later on as his twin brother to fool Foggy and Karen. While this charade has been going on, we learn that the new villain is a toy creator. Donning a new costume to make himself look like a frog, he dubs himself Leap-Frog and goes on to commit thefts across the city. At the end, Daredevil tracks him down. The Frogger puts up one hell of a fight, but in the end, Daredevil prevails.
Tom: This issue was sort of a hybrid of the worst this series can offer and the best. The best is represented by some slam bang action and good artwork. The worst, well I’ll let my fellow professors handle the task of pointing out the stupidity of the Matt’s twin angle. I’d elaborate further, but thinking of it too much will cause blood to shoot out of my nose. While I liked the Frog villain to an extent, didn’t they have a guy dressed up as a Frog not that many issues ago?
PE: Yep, it's official. Not Brand Ecch was a spin-off of Daredevil. Can't wait for the obligatory team-up of Leap-Frog, The Owl, The Beetle, and The Porcupine.
|It would have fooled us too|
Jack: What a bunch of grouches you cats are! I dug this issue the most. Mike Murdock is one swingin' cat and the Leap-Frog made my heart skip a beat. Seriously, the art is so good that I thoroughly enjoyed this harmless tale. This is the Gene Colan I loved from Tomb of Dracula.
PE: Professor Jack, I've already granted that two-week respite you asked for. No need to prove to us you really need it!
Tales to Astonish 88
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
Attuma is back with a vengeance as he, along with his barbarian horde, attacks Atlantis once again. And once again, he and his cronies are defeated by Namor. They go back to their underwater hideout to sulk. As Attuma gives them a pep talk, a spaceship flies above earth. Unseen aliens talk about searching planets for intelligent life. They pass up Earth, though, not having the time to check it out. In the back cargo compartment of the ship, a giant metal robot, called the Servo-Robot, accidentally falls out of the ship all the way into the earth’s ocean. It floats into Attuma’s turf, so naturally he and the barbarians attack it, believing it was sent by Namor. Lucky for them, the robot hasn’t been programmed to attack anyone yet, since their swords and weaponry are useless against it. They tie the Servo-Robot up with seaweed and Attuma is able to open up its control box. He’s able to program the robot so that it obeys the sound of his voice. Our story ends with Attuma planning on using his new toy to kick Sub-Mariner’s ass.
Tom: These are the kind of stories I like. Whether or not that shows that I have bad taste I’ll have to let my fellow professors be the judge. It’s always nice to read the standard tale that throws a curve-ball once in a while. This issue’s story starts out being the typical Namor versus the barbarians clash, then has a sci-fi/alien twist thrown in. I just kind of wish the robot looked a little more menacing.
|Hide your tin cans, denizens of Atlantis!|
|Now we know why he did not run for re-election in '68.|
Tom: Here I thought that Boomerang was just a loser villain taking up space until he got traded to Spider-Man’s comic in return for the Hulk series getting the Rhino. It turns out he was a very pivotal character in making the Hulk’s life a miserable wreck. For that alone he should have gotten more of a beating then he did in this issue’s finale. A pretty solid tale as far as Hulk stories go.
MB: This is the earliest work I’ve seen by Gil “Sugar-Lips” Kane, who would be the final victim of the Hulk’s notorious revolving door for artists. Like Colan, he had a distinctive style that was by no means right for every strip, yet while I wouldn’t call Kane’s Jade-Jaws definitive (a vexing question in itself), I do think it’s a shame that he didn’t get more than four issues in which to flex his emerald muscles, and Buscema is admittedly a tough act to follow. As for the story, having the Hulk’s chances for LBJ’s dangled amnesty dashed by a low-rent villain such as Boomerang—who wimps out before paying the price with his apparent death—is a cruel irony, even though we were fully aware that Greenskin’s heroic status was inevitably temporary.
|The Marvel U staff late on a Tuesday night.|
Strange Tales 153
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
During a rare shave, Col. Fury recaps his debt to Hydra’s only female member, who saved his life, but the car in which Sitwell and Jones are trying to take her to safety is blown up by Hydra agents. As Fury and Dugan fly to their aid in the captured saucer, the new Supreme Hydra attains “the ultimate hiding place” by assuming the identity of captured S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Bronson. Jasper and the three ex-Howlers are reunited in battle with Hydra, pitting the new portable electro-image distorter against their armored Hydra-Piller vehicles, yet when the reinforcements summoned by Dum-Dum rescue the rescuers, Fury has no idea that the man he recommends for a citation for his heroic role in the battle is really his incognito nemesis.
Also this month
Fantasy Masterpieces #7
Ghost Rider #1
Marvel Collectors' Items Classics #7
Millie the Model #59
Patsy and Hedy #110 (final issue)
Rawhide Kid #56
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #39
Not to be confused with the cursed hog rider introduced in the 1970s, The Ghost Rider was Marvel's attempt to cross-pollinate the superhero and western genres. This incarnation of Ghost Rider was based on a character created by Ray Crank and Dick Ayers back in 1949. Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Ayers streamlined G.R. for the 1960s and gave it a go, thinking the superhero half of the zine would bring in more readers. The first four issues featured a new 17-page G.R. story written by Friedrich, penciled by Ayers and inked by Vinnie Colletta and a back-up reprinted from a pre-hero Marvel western title. The G.H. story in issues 5 and 6 were expanded to 20 pages. The most intriguing aspect of the title may be the 5-pager, "The Tough Ones," in the final issue, written by future Batman superscribe Denny O'Neil. Pencils on "The Tough One" were handled by Herb Trimpe (his third Marvel job after work in Kid Colt, Outlaw #134 and 135), just a year before becoming the definitive artist on The Incredible Hulk. The experiment lasted a mere seven issues and the first six were reprinted in 1974-75 as Night Rider.
Jack: Can we get some love for the final issue of Patsy and Hedy? 110 issues and never a word from the faculty. Black Goliath never made it that long . . .
PE: No, really, Professor Jack, the vacation is yours!