Wednesday, March 6, 2013

April 1970: Will Sharon Carter Be Happy Behind a Desk?

The Avengers 75
Our Story

The Avengers are at Pier 12 holding a press conference and bidding farewell to Henry Pym and Jan who, with Bill Foster in tow, are leaving for Alaska on assignment from Washington. Once they leave, Quicksilver returns and in his haste, pisses off Goliath and a fight breaks out. Once calmed down, Pietro explains why he's there. Months earlier, Scarlet Witch lost her mutant hex powers so she and her brother took off for Europe with The Toad to find a way to restore them. Toad leads them to an ancient library of spells where Wanda recites one and brings Arkon the Magnificent to life. He demands Wanda be his mate and sends the Toad to another world.  Arkon is from a dying, warlike planet whose source of light has ended. The only light comes when an atomic blast on Earth pierces the bridge between worlds.  He lured Wanda to find the right spell to bring him to Earth where he needs to set off a massive detonation to give his world perpetual light. He then takes Wanda and vanishes. Pietro seeks the help of The Avengers who don't really believe him until a news report tells of Arkon and his possession of the most brilliant minds in the world, who are able to fulfill Arkon's mad plan. He threatens to reveal the fate of Earth.

SM: I skimped on Arkon's backstory here because it's a honking long flashback that we all read. This is a hugely epic start to something I hope goes on for a bit (I purposely don't read ahead) to justify the page count spent here. This story kicks off like so many others; a hero is in such a hurry he doesn't take a couple of minutes to stop and say "hey guys, I know I've been away a long time, but Wanda's in trouble and I really need your help." So a brawl ensues. Honestly, I'm a little tired of that gimmick, it's cheap and makes everyone look like emotionally immature kids.  

MB:  Like Orka, Arkon is another villain whom I first met much later in a Bronze-Age caper (a deliciously complex Fantastic Four arc that Roy wrote in 1975), but boy, as introduced with Buscema/Palmer artwork here, he sure does look, well, magnificent.  Add to that the return to active duty of on-again, off-again Assemblers Pietro and Wanda—perhaps to offset a 15-issue hiatus for the Pyms—and the larger canvas afforded by, thank God, a continued story, and we’re talking some serious comics here.  I usually get impatient when so much space is devoted to the backstory of a relatively minor villain, but Arkon’s seemed both engrossing and necessary to the story’s development, so I was quite content to go along for the ride, especially with those visuals.

SM: The story of Arkon's world and race are compelling and a better read than I thought. I'm not usually a huge fan of barbarian races, mostly because Marvel is full of them and they all seem the same. But the threat is strong and a good enough reason for this guy to not simply want to destroy Earth, but need to in order to save his own race. He's still a self righteous jerk, but with a well thought out story that paves the way for a huge battle to come. It's cool to see Jarvis standing up to Pietro when he's being "man handled" and even more awesome that Jarvis immediately offers the little mutant turd some coffee.  Quicksilver is a snot and I did not miss him in the slightest. So this story had better be worth it. The art certainly is. John Buscema is at the top of his game and each panel crackles with energy.
Rare early rendition of Steven Tyler?
PE: I've almost found it, I don't know, a surreal experience to witness a flashback within a flashback which is what we get with Arkon the Swell's origin tale. A nice, ironic touch that Arkon's world needs us to go sky high for their survival. The Magnificent One looks to be a try-out for a certain Barbarian that Big John Buscema will take over art chores for in exactly three years. The story's a decent one but it couldn't help but being a bit of a letdown after the classic arc we just finished last issue.

SM: The cover is, again, completely misleading and off the mark. This is the only book I'm reading for this blog that goes for the bait and switch. I wish they'd knock it off, it cheapens the really good storytelling going on inside.

JT: Funny that Goliath, aka Humongous Hawkeye, part of Cap's Kooky Quartet with Pietro, is the one on the cover to want to stop his fellow Quartet member....

Captain America 124
Our Story

While day dreaming of Sharon Carter, Cap is taken by surprise by two AIM assassins. Unluckily for them , they are two of AIM's less talented stooges, something Cap himself notices as he beats them quickly. Modok, it is revealed, sent these two out knowing they'd fail. He has one eliminated while giving the other a choice: death or cyborg treatment. Mr. Stooge picks the option without death and becomes Master Cyborg and goes out to eliminate Captain America. Cap, meanwhile, is at SHIELD HQ, blackmailing Nick Fury into making Sharon a desk agent so she won't risk her life. She is apparently okay with this and they both go off for some canoodling. Later, Sharon gets a call ostensibly from Fury who wants her to tell Cap to meet him somewhere. It's a ruse! The real Fury walks in and thinks Carter is joshing as he goes off on a caper. Sharon takes off to intercept the cyborg and save Cap. After a fierce battle, Cap defeats the man/machine and learns that Sharon came out to save him while Fury attacked AIM HQ. Cap then decides he can't trust them because they broke their promise to keep Sharon in a "girl's job" and walks off on his own.

SM: Like the Kirby issues of Tales of Suspense, we start off in mid-action scene, which is pretty cool. Of course, Cap is doing the old soliloquy bit, but at least he's thinking it and not speaking out loud, as he usually does. Cap wonders also why Modok would send out two lacking assassins and so do we. Modok immediately has one killed while sparing the other. I don't see why he needed to send out any of them, let alone two. He could have just ordered one of his crappier employees to take the procedure. What was the purpose of sending two? Did one guy get beaten worse? And which one was spared, the biggest loser? It's merely there to justify an action scene, but it falls apart without any explanation. The Master Cyborg looks ridiculous with his pointy hat and ears. Also Stan calls the term "cyborg" a symbol for "cybernetic organism." For a guy with a huge command of the language, it seems odd he didn't call it an abbreviation or an acronym. Bad Stan.

MB:  I have mixed feelings about this issue, which kicks off with an unusual device whereby the cover serves as a kind of de facto first panel, since the narrative begins there and resumes directly on the splash page per se.  I welcome the return of MODOK and his A.I.M. minions (especially as illustrated by Colan and Sinnott) after the lame villains we’ve had here of late, even if this Cyborg does look like an amalgam of Ultimo, the short-lived Daredevil villain the Tri-Man, and the Tin Man, complete with funnel-head.  Without a side-by-side comparison, though, I’d swear Cap’s visit to Fury on page 7 echoes a recent one almost verbatim, and I buy neither Sharon’s sudden acquiescence to his wishes nor the last-page misunderstanding du jour.

PE: Well, Professor Matthew, you're more charitable than me as I was going to mention that the scene where Cap goes to Fury in a fury and demands a desk job for Sharon has been duplicated in darn near every issue we've read. Maybe it just seems like it though. Usually when Cap says "I've been looking for you, Fury" the Colonel's response is "Really, I thought you were here to see ______ (fill in the blank with whatever musical act was hot at the time)." The Marvel Universe has more hidden cameras than CCTV! Fury's shot of the cyborg busting into the bank goes from the exterior to the interior but what's even more impressive is that when he switches the gizmo on to "scan the streets to see if anything's doin'" he hits a home run first time out. Call him cyborg or call him android (just don't call him conehead). I sure can't tell the difference. Seems like every title has a half-man/half-machine villain now. I choose to believe that Gene Colan was forced to draw his demonic cyborg with an oil funnel on its head. That's something Stan would insist on.

SM: I can understand Cap demanding Sharon take a desk job; he's from the 40's and old fashioned, but jeez, did Fury and Sharon have to agree so readily?   And is Cap such a jerk he can't spare 30 seconds to hear Sharon's explanation why she leaped into action? She doesn't even try. "How can I get him to believe me?" I dunno, try saying something to him, Agent 13. Stan was never great at creating realistic obstacles for his heroes' relationships, but this was particularly lame. Cap is such a whining, self centered tool sometimes.
Again, awesome art. Sharon is gorgeous with a killer figure. Gene loves to draw her ass, which is good because he draws it so well.

Daredevil 63
Our Story

Matt and Foggy head to Prison Island, where a con that denies being the villain he appears to be waits. None other than the Gladiator is he, or… is he? The costume fits, but he claims it is a case of mistaken identity. Bring on D.A. Foggy Nelson, once a victim of that villain’s blades of steel, and chum Matt Murdock, who, as Daredevil, will know the truth. The fact that Karen Page, his ladylove, has just quit and is leaving town (and him??) in a couple of hours, is a wee bit of a distraction. Questioning the con, they try to jog his memory, which suddenly comes back to life when Foggy hands him another prop—his blades of steel. Big G grabs Foggy and sets to escape, but not before Matt “accidentally” shuts off the lights long enough for Foggy to get free and the Gladiator to escape, with Matt “in tow.” Actually, it’s Daredevil who’s now on the loose and he sets out to fulfill the plan Matt and Foggy had set up: that the blades they gave to the Gladiator were rigged to disintegrate in minutes! Tricked into a cell by DD, he now has no way to escape, and our horned hero does what’s really been on his mind: calling Karen to stop her from taking that plane…too late.

JB: It may have been a ruse to give the Gladiator those ”rigged” blades, but he could have done a lot of damage in the meantime! This issue doesn’t have the epic battle of G’s appearance in issues #18-19, but we can compare Gene Colan’s art (who took over the DD chores right after the first Gladiator story) to John Romita’s.   I enjoyed Roy’s style of the cut between scenes from Prison Island to Karen’s long departure, without much in the way of a “meanwhile” style. The more I revisit this title, the more I’m reminded how dark a lot in life Daredevil has drawn (no pun intended).

NC:  I know everyone (myself included) has been pretty hard on Karen, however, after this issue I find myself a wee bit more sympathetic towards her.  If Karen’s one of those gals that needs a guy to lean on her, it would be pretty shocking to find out how independent he is – that is not what she originally signed up for!
Those booby-trapped blades were very cool albeit risky – however, I am starting to wonder if the same technology has been used on some of my kitchen appliances!

MB: Reading this back to back with the concurrent Colan-illustrated opus in Captain America, I felt a sense of déjà vu, since both mingle the return of a venerable villain with a fresh (?) helping of the hero’s soap-opera love life, and leave him in a similarly bereft state at the end. The circumstances of said return stuck in my craw at first, not only because of Foggy’s unusually profound stupidity in facilitating the Gladiator’s escape by providing him with the very thing he wanted, but also because Stan had him do precisely the same thing with the Leap Frog in #26 of this very magazine.  When I saw that it was just a ruse to expose the Gladiator’s fake amnesia, I tipped my hat to Roy for his skillful misdirection, and enjoyed bidding adieu (for now) to Karen.

JT: One of the oldest comics I owned, of course with no cover and no first two pages. But The Gladiator left a big impression on me!

SM: I went through the issue thinking Foggy was the stupidest attorney of all time. Then it turned out to be a ruse to get the Gladiator to actually use his blades so they break. Well, great, but nobody knew Daredevil would show up. Even Matt didn't see it coming and he was in on the deception. So then this guy who gave DD a run for his money would have been contained by prison guards? Yeah, the warden told them to let DD take the guy alive, so I guess they were prepared to blow his brains out, but still, it seemed like a lot to go through. And yeah, they did let Leap Frog do the same thing. It was less silly then because he paid the price of his stupidity on the next page, not 10 later.  Karen is Agent 13. Agent 13 is Karen Page. They look alike, they act alike, at times the even talk alike. Not sorry to see her exit. Another "stupidity reigns" love life.

Fantastic Four 97
Our Story

Even on a much-needed beach vacation beside a part of the ocean called the Lost Lagoon, Reed can’t resist investigating the waters where a number of ships have mysteriously sunk recently. Accompanied by Ben and Johnny, Reed pilots an “air/sea cruiser,” a Tony Stark designed Navy vehicle to see if they can find any clues. After getting rammed by a giant killer whale, they decide to head back to shore to join Sue and baby Franklin for some R and R. Watching a local aquarium show, they decide to ask the assistance of the apparently mute man who performs (with unsurpassed skill) with the dolphins as a guide to the local waters. What they don’t realize is that he has transformed himself to human form from his real appearance. He is a humanoid amphibious creature, which incidentally, is similar to what has been seen near the sinking vessels. As they traverse the depths, the mystery guide leads them into a sea-bottom bog where the ship gets stuck, then punches his way out of the ships hull, leaving the boys to drown. Ben gets them to safety, following the guide to an air-filled chamber. There’s no guide in sight, but there is the creature, revealed. Ben attacks, and the creature defends himself. When the Torch’s flame chases him away, they see where the mystery being is headed: a seashell-shaped craft, which has crash-landed in the ocean. Apparently he saw the boats in the area as a threat to his safety. He has a female of his species in the craft, and waving off our team, he blasts off, taking with him any answers of his origin.

MB: In recent weeks/months, I’ve been neglecting the work of one of Marvel’s finest inkers, Frank Giacoia, who has been filling in for Joe Sinnott; always a good match with Kirby, he really shines here, his firm lines smoothing, but never obscuring, Jack’s blocky style. Proving that I don’t always complain about one-and-dones, this is a fun little opus, an apparent homage to the 1950s sci-fi films of director Jack Arnold, most notably Creature from the Black Lagoon (sans Suzy in the white one-piece) and It Came from Outer Space.  That doesn’t mean, however, that the plot doesn’t have holes through which you could pilot the Pogo Plane, e.g., if the monster can’t communicate with humans, how did he ever land that job at the oceanarium?

PE: Sign language? Maybe I've seen too many movies but that sure doesn't look like a lagoon to me. Looks like the deep sea. I'm with you (again) Professor Matthew: this here's a mindless one-shot but at least it's a fun one. Now bring back those multi-issue epics please! Our friend, the Monster, will return from space again to face The Four in #124.

JB: As well as the delightful and silly parallels to a 1950’s creature film that you mention Professor Mathew, I feel like I’m reading an F.F. version of Scooby-Do, where the air/sea craft is like the Mystery Machine; this time the guide really is an alien. All the “yeah, right” assumptions the characters make go along with this (“too many witnesses told of seeing a monster in human form,” “there might be an entrance to the caves below” from the aquarium, the alien “must have crash landed”). Not an epic classic like the F.F. has often produced, but a fun story with some nice art—I love the seashell spacecraft!

SM: This is one of the better later-Kirby one-shots, a Star Trek-like tale about not judging by appearances and how love is universal. It's actually one I enjoy quite a bit. There are a lot of off-duty personal moments for the FF that make this title unique. It's also cool how Stan is just a bit more subtle in presenting a creature who can't speak English. We read his thought and word balloons when he's alone, but when we see him with others he's either silent or speaking in a strange tongue. A nice bit of realism from The House of Flapping Gums. The inking is not my favorite, but Joe Sinnott will return shortly. Stan doesn't seem to realize a pimple and acne are pretty much the same thing, but otherwise, a nice issue I actually revisit fairly often.
JT: Dude, Reed Richards looks ripped on that cover!

The Incredible Hulk 126
Our Story

The lifeless form of Dr. Banner gets taken away by worshippers of the Undying Ones.  This group of younger hippies takes Banner to a secluded house.  Once there, Banner transforms into the Hulk where he fights the massive Night-Crawler in another dimension.  While the monsters battle, it is revealed that Dr. Strange is being held by the Undying Ones because he prevented them from transporting over into the earth's realm.  In a close match, the Hulk is victorious.  Dr. Strange is able to take Banner back away from the other dimension.  The story ends with both doctors recuperating at Strange's New York pad.
Tom:  This story is a continuation from Sub-Mariner's comic a couple of months ago.  While I wasn't a fan of that particular yarn, I must say that this tale was all around excellent.  The Night-Crawler was a very interesting protagonist that deserves his own series. 

MB: At last, Roy gets to conclude the saga of the orphaned Dr. Strange in yet another of his books, picking up where Sub-Mariner #22 left off two months back to introduce such significant characters as cult leader Van Nyborg and his followers, Jack and Barbara (née Denton) Norriss.  Because Barbara will eventually become the longtime host for the persona of the Valkyrie, this issue forges multiple links in the chain leading to the Defenders.  The Hulk’s primary foe—who, out of deference to the latter-day X-Man, was subsequently rechristened the Dark-Crawler—is essentially just another palooka, but the black-light effect during their battle is kinda cool, as is Greenskin’s bemusement about his seemingly endless fall through the darkness.

PE: Since I didn't read the first part of this arc back in Sub-Mariner #22 nor did I ever cotton to the adventures of Dr. Strange, in the immortal words of The Hulk: "...head spinning!" Seems, to me at least, random to end the story here in The Incredible Hulk but I suppose Roy had a tale to tell and Stan's "No multi-issue stories" sign was hanging in The Rascally One's office so he done pulled a fast one. I know that if I was a regular Hulk fan (I wasn't until a couple years later) I'da been steamed to be dumped in the middle of such an intricate quilt. It's not a bad story; it really doesn't do much but seemingly put the Stephen Strange character to rest. We know better though. 

SM: As you guys have already said, this issue exists solely to wrap up the Dr. Strange story, which I never found all that interesting. The Night Crawler is an okay villain, but all in all, a busy yarn I never got into. I found the girl's self sacrifice to free Strange to be an okay ending, and Stephen and Bruce's goodbyes were well done. Otherwise, it's another of those "skip it and miss nothing about the Hulk" sort of tales that seems prevalent during this period.

JT: Re: the cover: can heads turn that way? Even if it's The Hulk's noggin?

The Invincible Iron Man 24
Our Story

Washed into a grotto in the Aegean, Whitney falls into the hands of Dr. Vryolak, who says he can repair her face and sells her golden mask to an amateur spy, in whose home it is found by S.H.I.E.L.D.  A jealous Jasper confronts Tony with the knowledge that she is alive, and must be brought to justice despite her apparent reformation; meanwhile, Vryolak orders his son Miklos, the Minotaur, to raid nearby villages, funding the experiments that made him a monster.  Iron Man skirmishes with Miklos in a burning village as he and Jasper separately seek Whitney, whom Vryolak plans to turn into Miklos’s mate, but her suspicions are aroused, and after Jasper intervenes, his love inspires Miklos to save the others as the labyrinth collapses on the Vryolaks.

MB:  Relieved of his duties on this month’s Sub-Mariner—as is Marie Severin, who keeps her hand in here by supplying Shellhead’s cover—inker Johnny Craig returns to his long-term gig, but mixes it up by trading jobs with regular penciler George Tuska.  The EC veteran’s style is appropriate for this tale of mad scientist Dr. Vryolak and his man-monster offspring, the Minotaur (one-shot villains, presumably unlamented), and the stylized-color montage on page 15 is particularly effective, yet Archie seems a little off his game this time out.  Much as I welcome the return of Madame Masque, and the revelation to Jasper that Whitney was still alive, this story jumped around way too much for my taste, and was larded with laborious captions and footnotes.

PE: Like a great big bowl of Peanut M&Ms, I loved the heck out of this dopey story. It's a goofy quilt made up of pieces from various horror films, including Eyes Without a Face (Madame Masque), The Vulture (Miklos the Minotaur), I Was a Teenage Werewolf (the manipulative mad scientist), The House of Usher (that climactic collapsing castle) and any number of 1960s Italian horror films (the generally sleazy atmosphere) but Archie manages to pull it all together in the end. Call me crazy but what the story reminded me most of, for some reason, was a nasty little horror flick from 1959 called The Brain That Wouldn't Die, about a nutty young scientist who keeps his girlfriend's head alive after she's decapitated in a car wreck. The girl learns to psychically communicate with one of her boyfriend's experimental failures, a grotesque giant kept chained in a closet. Except for the living head, the giant in the closet, and the bucket of blood... right, I'm still trying to connect it, myself! Miklos isn't a bad guy (well, alright, he did kill some villagers but...), he's been manipulated by his crazed father. It's never really clear why Dr. Vryolak wants to create a race of minotaurs (and that origin story is A-One WTF?) but I guess, if I had the tools, I'd build me some guys with bull heads too. More than any other Marvel comic in recent history, this is fun, check-your-brain-at-the-door material. By the way, do some of the panels look like Miklos had some hastily-added briefs?

SM: I don't know why I like Johnny Craig's cartoony art better than George Tuska's, but there's something more appealing about it. I guess it's cartoony without being goofy. I find it pleasing to the eye. The story, however, is quite goofy and a lot of fun. Jasper has some set of stones to confront Stark that way (still wailing over the girl he didn't try to save - d'oh!). I usually found Jasper annoying, but I liked he more here. There's something sad about the guy. I agree with Professor Pete, the story is right out of some old low budget horror flick, another reason why I got a kick out of it. Fun all around.

The Amazing Spider-Man 83
Our Story
A brand new villain, The Schemer, announces his plans in (literally) big bold type to take over the Kingpin’s domain, by striking quickly at his assets and on his turf. But Peter Parker/Spider-Man is around to help stave off the criminal action, all the while taking pics of the action yet wary of the Kingpin being involved. But the corpulent crook is instead seen arguing with wife Vanessa about their missing son. Peter sells the pics at a bargain price to J. Jonah Jameson then helps give buddy/rival Flash Thompson a big send off back to Vietnam—but not as big as the smooch from Gwen. As seemingly happy couple Peter and Gwen walk off, a careening truck nearly smashes them, but Pete’s quick reflexes, strength and smarts saves them (and his secret identity). An angry Spidey then sets off to find The Schemer, who is obviously responsible for the accident, and finds his headquarters quickly, setting off a nifty battle with a dozen thugs, but eventually the big bad guy escapes. Heading to the hospital, Peter’s tardiness leaves Gwen to think he doesn’t care, which in turn leaves our hero wondering if “life is reaching a turning point”.
JT: Stan’s Soapbox defends having stories with “moralizing” and while that’s (thankfully) not the main focus in this issue, there’s a pair of panels on page 10 where Peter ponders why we’re at war. Seems like a throwaway but is actually nice that he’s wondering about something other than his own insecurities, and being topical at the same time. Another amazing (pun intended) job by Jazzy John Romita, who is really becoming a hard act to follow for every other Spidey artist that does follow him (until MAYBE Todd McFarlane—I’m sure Prof Pete can’t wait to get to April 1988!). And Inker Mickey Demeo turns out to be Mike Esposito, who later becomes part of the superb Sal Buscema/Mike Esposito team on Marvel Team-Up, one of my all time favorite series. Which of course I only bought thanks to Spidey’s involvement. But I digress, because although another rushed issue, it’s not only a solid story with some good action, but lays the groundwork for storylines to come. And any Kingpin appearance is OK in my book.

SM: Yeah, The Schemer. Not a big fan of this guy, although I liked him later as a character in the 80's we won't get to, sadly. Mostly based on his appearance, knowing who he is, the whole outfit makes no sense. I'm not gonna spoil anything, just that I'm not thrilled with this guy.

MB: The credits in my Marvel Tales reprint included an unfamiliar name, [Tony] “Mortellaro,” which looked like it had been added ex post facto.  Per the blog Four-Color Shadows, he “worked as an assistant to…Romita and often did the backgrounds and cityscapes in Spidey comics….[H]e sometimes snuck in portions of signs or headlines or billboards that had some portion of the phrase, ‘Backgrounds by Mortellaro.’  Check just about any Romita-drawn Marvel from at least 1970 on for these Easter Eggs.”  Meanwhile, bringing back the Kingpin and finally giving us a look at his elusive wife, Vanessa, are cause for celebration, and while I won’t spoil the secret of the Schemer, a little bit of competition is sure to keep the Kingpin on his toes.

PE: But why would The Schemer need to wear a cape with a logo on his chest? Wouldn't a nice suit and tie have been much better suited to a rival of The Kingpin? I won't give away any secrets about The Schemer either but it continues to amaze me that these bad guys can wear such elaborate masks and make-up that no one would notice the disguise. I remember this arc as being a classic one but this kick-off is a bit weak and you'll have to forgive me if I backpedal in a few issues if the story line doesn't elicit girlish squeals from me now as it did forty years ago. I do like how Stan's added another brick to the "Does Captain Stacy know or doesn't he?" subplot. Like many others, I suspect he knew quite a while before Peter dropped that "people never knowing the truth about me..." remark in front of the smart cop. That's the good stuff. The bad stuff is that we're evidently in for another cold shoulder from Gwen Stacy and that's got me rolling my eyes.

SM: This is the where Gwen drives me nuts. How long is Peter away after he dropped her unconscious body off at the hospital? A couple of hours? Yet that's long enough for her to get mad at him? It's things like this that chip away at how awesome the Gwen Legend is. She's not as flighty as MJ, but she turns on a fricking dime with Peter. She'll have this mad on for a few issues, and right after she gives Flash Thompson some tongue, I wasn't liking her a whole lot. At least Flash finally went back to the war.

JT: Yeah, makes you think just how good of a character Capt. Stacy was at the time. And Gwen is a hot, popular teenaged female, so her actions aren't exactly uncommon.

SM: Stan hinted at the Kingpin's wife some issues back and it was tantalizing. Now we finally see her and she's...Vampirella? It's funny how Stan provides the Kingpin with a wife and son but not a name. Not nuts about Mickey D's inks, but then again, I never liked his work much. He doesn't ruin anything here, but it could be better.

Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner 24
Our Story

Namor is having a bad day to say the least!  Not only is he a prisoner of both Krang and Dr. Dorcas, he get's strapped to the outside of a killer whale as part of a fleet led in the command of Orka, about to take over Atlantis.  Things aren't too bright on the other side either as Tiger Shark has claimed Atlantis as his own after saving Lady Dorma and Vashti from a pack of fearsome killer whales.  Once Orka's fleet invades, Dorcas and Krang leave him to his own devices as Tiger Shark's violent struggle leaves them to believe that between the two battling titans, there won't be much left for them to rule over.  Tiger Shark happily brawls with Orka as the two perish under debris. Namor takes back control and Lady Dorma is happier then ever.
Tom:  This royal rumble was a pleasure to read.  I was glad to see Tiger Shark mix it up with Orka, albeit briefly.    

MB: This issue features not only an all-star team of Subby’s foes (Tiger Shark, Dr. Dorcas, Orka, and Warlord Krang), but also a penultimate fill-in by the book’s original penciler, Big John Buscema, ably inked here by his recent Amazing Spider-Man colleague, Jim Mooney. Said artwork is so sumptuous—and the addition of the pointy-grinned Tiger Shark to last issue’s already heady mix is so welcome—that I’ll even overlook Roy’s dredging up the hoary Dorma-makes-a marital-deal-with-the-devil routine from Tales to Astonish, which at least gets resolved within the confines of this very issue, and with a happy ending, to boot.  Again I opine that had it been possible for the current creative team to remain on board, this would have stayed a top title.

The Mighty Thor 175
Our Story

After taking time to stop an attempted truck hijacking, Thor heads back to New York. Before he can catch up on Dr. Blake’s medical practice, he is greeted by Thor’s love, the Lady Sif, who has come with dire news. No sooner has All-Father Odin closed his eyes for the Odinsleep than Loki has assembled an army of Asgard’s most hated foes: “mountain giants, trolls gnomes and demons.” Their death march to Asgard is witnessed by Balder, Fandrall, Hogun and Volstagg, all now healed and free to go (to their deaths?) from Karnilla the Norn Queen. Thor and Sif arrive on Bifrost to see the warriors of Asgard already in the throes of battle. Thor heads to find Loki, knowing he is the mastermind behind the invasion. The God of Evil, a step ahead, has already made way to Odin’s bedchamber, the guards there led by Sif. The catch-22 is, Loki is Odin’s son, and points out they can’t rightfully take arms against him. In fact the guards reluctantly hold Sif back, while Loki slips Odin’s Imperial Ring off, and onto his own hand. Donning new duds to show clearly his ruling intent, Loki sounds the trumpets to signal an end to the battle, and commands Thor and company (at threat of harm to Sif) to bow down before him.

Verily, tis the wrong finger thou dost holdeth up, Loki!
JB: There should be some fine print in Asgard’s laws that stop Loki from taking rule just because Odin needs a nap (especially after the Mangog incident not too long ago). Imagine worrying about what you might wake up to! Poor Karnilla may be lovesick, but she doesn’t let it change who she is.  Another Marie Severin cover (thanks Glenn and Matthew); a sign of Kirby on his way out? Actually, this issue gave the King something more in line with his grand style to draw. In a way, I almost feel like the sixties are still with us just a little (for a couple more issues), this being a worthy three-story tale. It shows signs of being a little rushed: the speed of the invasion, Loki’s secret passage to Odin’s chamber (how convenient!), why the Imperial Ring has so much significance, but we all agree Thor needed a return to what made his title so good at it’s best.

SM: Now this  is what I'm talking about. The Fall of Asgard is an amazing epic and considering how lazy and blasé the recent issues had been, I lost all hope of anything reaching entertaining. But this was a good one, even though it feels kind of padded. Loki finally gets what he always wanted and even Thor must bow to his authority.  Still, certain things leapt out at me, such as Loki saying he is "blood of Odin's blood." Did everyone forget Loki was adopted? He may have princely authority, but he has no blood claims to the throne. And considering all his BS in the past, I can't see Odin keeping him in as a successor. Then again, Odin was pretty fickle. A great line from Thor, apparently written by Yoda: "Such monumental infamy must not unpunished go!"

MB: Marie Severin’s eye-catching cover promises a wealth of wonderment within, which the Lee/Kirby/Everett team delivers, mixing Midgardian and Asgardian adventures with aplomb. Deliberately or not, the epic shot on page 6 echoes a classic Ray Harryhausen film, as though the mountain giants had been matted in behind those rocks separating them from the Warriors Four. Page 16, panel 1 is a welcome reminder that—for all of his cowardly bluster—Volstagg can still pull his considerable weight when the chips are down, but I must say I question the logic of those in charge of guarding their liege during the Odinsleep, which evidently amounts to:  “It’s okay to forsake our duty and let somebody pass who might slay Odin, as long as that somebody is Loki.”

SM: The art is on a bit of a higher level than usual for Kirby of this point; the energy is undeniable. He seems like he was having a good week. I also loved how Thor not only defeated the criminals in the beginning, he also dutifully scooped up an armful of guns and brought them to the police. Something about that image made me smile. Not crazy about the cover which does not do the interior justice. Marie Severin was a lower tier artist and worked best doing Not Brand Echh!

PE: It was nice of The Mighty Thor to aid local authorities in the nabbing of some truck-jackers but I'm not sure the local street workers are all that happy since The Thunder God's idea of avoiding violence is destroying the road the truck is traveling on. Which brings up an interesting question: what might the budget of New York City be if it's destroyed monthly by aliens, mole men, and Atlanteans? It's no wonder the city went broke in the 70s! Just when I'd given up "The King"for "gone to DC in his heart and mind," he shows that he could still whip up some awe-inspiring art such as that Harryhausen-esque full-pager as well as the intricate and busy shot that ends page 9 (shown to my right). Colan and Adams could work miracles with a man in underwear but, for sheer majesty and epic proportion, no one touched Jack. This title has needed a good kick in the ass the last several months and it looks like an Asgardian battle epic is what was needed to wake it from its slumber. Verily, I say!

The Silver Surfer 15
Our Story

During a swanky clothes “shopping” spree, the Silver Surfer has yet another personal/philosophical crisis.  He has vivid memories of his past foes which lead him to remember some friends . . . the Fantastic Four! Norrin Radd rushes to the Baxter Building, just in time to eavesdrop on The Fantastic Four discussing SS with an army General. Our clan of superheroes spots the SS and tries to catch him.  In an effort to shed the Human Torch, the Silver Surfer flies into the barrier that surrounds his Earthly jail.  He is only momentarily stunned, however, and the battle goes on.
The General has called in his troops, but this is no challenge for our cosmic powered hero.  A super-nova fire screen from the Torch makes the Silver Surfer angry and he whacks the Torch with his cosmic powers right onto the tracks of an oncoming train! Norrin Radd can’t bring himself to hurt Johnny Storm, so he lifts the train out of the way and sets the Torch aside.  While the army folk are making sure Johnny is alright, SS overhears that the authorities were trying to “get” him to help with a space program.  Poor Silver Surfer realizes that he was guilty of the very prejudgment that he has been subjected to.

NC:  My favourite part of this issue is when SS can’t figure out why people still think him unusual when he wears human clothes.  It may just be that walking around with a hat and trench coat while carrying a huge surfboard in the middle of the city is a bit of an eye catcher. The Torch did a pretty good job of keeping up with the Silver Surfer – maybe too good?  I just wouldn’t have thought that Johnny had that kind of speed available to him.  I learn something new every day.

MB:  A Bullpen Bulletin asserts that the Torch’s presence represents “a new policy of guest-star appearances in our superhero spectaculars” (ditto Subby in next month’s Iron Man), but as they were never averse to guest shots before, one wonders what precisely the “new policy” is.  I’m obliged to say that as much as I love the Surfer and the Buscema art, absent some cosmic saga of the type Starlin would have spun a few years hence, Stan simply does not seem to know what to do with him on a regular basis, which is perhaps inevitable for the character.  I have the final issues as originals rather than Fantasy Masterpieces reprints, so at least they’re uncut, and this one gives us a gorgeous preview of Big John’s work as penciler of the FF, effective with #107.

Also this month

Chamber of Darkness #4 ->
Chili #12
Kid Colt Outlaw #145
Marvel's Greatest Comics #26
Millie the Model #181
Our Love Story #4
Rawhide Kid #75
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #77
The X-Men #67 (reprints The X-Men  #12)

I'd venture a guess that few Marvel Zombies picking up the fourth issue of Chamber of Darkness realized that they were seeing history unfold before their pre-teen eyes. "The Sword and the Sorcerers" by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith is an obvious prototype of Conan the Barbarian (who would make his legitimate Marvel debut six months later), right down to the loincloth and horned helmet. Barry was obviously still working on mastering the human form as Starr the Slayer's torso, while nicely muscular, changes from panel to panel, swinging the pendulum from anorexic to bulky. That aforementioned loincloth looks to be two times the size of Starr's midsection in some shots, resembling a diaper that hasn't been pinned properly. Acknowledging the prototype, Roy and Barry reprinted the story in Conan the Barbarian #16 (July 1972) and it's been reprinted a few more times since. That Conan #16 also featured a reprinting of "Night of the Frost-Giants" from Savage Tales #1, the reprintings a result, no doubt, of Barry missing a deadline.

Note the unusual fitting of Starr's jockey shorts


  1. Fantastic Four: Kirby submitted this story for a laugh. Determined not to create any major new characters, and running out of TV shows for inspiration, Jack went back to 1950s and the last great Universal monster. Two years later, while working for DC, he was astounded to learn that this throw-away character had been resurrected for another tilt at the FF. Nothing ever goes to waste at a meat processing plant ... or a comic book company.

    Thor: Another rejected cover, or to me more accurate, a modified cover. Stan decided Jack's original was too static, and got Marie to paste over the bottom half, reposing Thor, Loki and the Warriors. Was it really worth the extra hassle, time, and cost? Did the changes result in a better cover? Although I can see Stan's point, this change seems like a trivial waste of time. Here's a comparison.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  2. Scott, thanks A LOT for getting the theme song from The Patty Duke show stuck in my head!

  3. Jack, (pause) sorry.... If it makes you feel any better, I shot myself in the foot and have been humming it since Saturday.

    Glenn: as always, thanks for the additional info on the goings on back then. Jack's original cover was exactly right for the story. It's accurate and a nice, chilling preview; what could make Thor and the others willingly bow to Loki? It was engaging. The redo was pretty awful. It's over the top and shows Loki besting Thor in combat. Uh, nope. Ah, Stan, I love you to death, but that choice was a stinker...

  4. Prof Scott, big props for the Not Brand Echh shout-out!

    Another great post. So proud to be part of this Merry Marvel Marching Society!

    1. And we're pleased as punch to have you aboard, Prof. Joe!

    2. Ha, thanks Prof. Joe!

      Gotta admit, this is an awful lot of fun. It's great to have a "legit" excuse to go read comics.