Thor and Iron Man are summoned back to the team in order to help find the captured Black Panther and Monica, held by the newly formed Lethal Legion. Their goal is to capture the Avengers and kill them "in the selfsame instant," and whichever team member captures the most, wins "the greatest reward." After the Legion is dispersed to complete their tasks, the Panther escapes his bonds and contacts the Avengers to warn them about the Legion. However, the Legion's leader, the Grim Reaper, planned this in order to split the Avengers. The Reaper still blames the Avengers for the death of his brother Simon, the Wonder Man. After a pitched battle, four of the Avengers are captured and bottled as a deadly vapor fills their cell. However, when the Reaper discovers his brother Simon's brain pattern was used in the Vision, he frees him. This tips the battle and the Avengers mop up. Suddenly, however, the Vision decides it sucks to be an android and leaves the team.
SM: I recently nominated John Buscema as the greatest Marvel artist of the 60's, and I don't regret this choice. However, he does have a habit of going way over the top with his hyper-dramatic angles, character poses and, as seen in this story, teeth-bearing angry faces. The cover alone had me laughing out loud with its stereotypical "villain" faces. On page four, the image of the Grim Reaper looks as if someone shoves a steel bar into his anus. There's a thin line that separates "dynamic" from "overbaked," and this issue crosses it repeatedly. I know I use the word "overbaked" a lot, but it truly fits this title. The story is okay, the standard Marvel punch up with lots and lots of over the top dialog. Nobody talks like these guys. Either Marvel tries to hard to be hip with the lingo, or they have people speaking in this weird, heroic manner, referring to each other by titles "'easy, Avenger," "I just had a wild thought, Thunder God!" and so on. Roy Thomas does his best impersonation of Stan, but it's getting old.
|"This is gonna hurt me more than you!"|
Captain America 128
Bored out of his mind, Steve Rogers wanders the city, stopping when he sees people looking at posters of past idols at a bookstore. He overhears people dissing Captain America as a well-past-his-prime has-been. So Steve makes up his mind to buy a motorcycle and ride the streets of the US - away from SHIELD and Sharon, to find a life for himself. After a mere few hours of riding, he reaches Coits Neck, NJ and is promptly arrested for not wearing a helmet by some jackass cop. It seems he assumed square, clean cut Steve Rogers was one of the visiting Satan's Angels because, you know, he was riding a motorcycle. The Angels see the cops running in a "bike brother" and promptly break Steve out of jail. When Steve stays behind to help a cop the Angels attacked, he makes an immediate enemy of their leader, Whitey. Later, at a Woodstock-like rock concert, the Angels bust in and go nuts. Cap arrives and tackles the gang. When Whitey gets tossed off his bike, the cycle goes flying into his brother Dickie (seriously), who is seriously injured. Cap leaves him to ponder his brother's fate while the Red Skull spotting Cap on video, vows revenge!
|Vic Morrow makes his Marvel debut|
like one of those old crappy Crown International 70's drive in movies, with all sorts of "topical" hell raising and ironic shock endings where someone close to the lead character is tragically killed - only Stan gives Dickie a chance to survive. Cap vs Bikers is not even lukewarm stuff and the art is finally awful. Dick Ayers was a shitty artist, but usually a fine inker, but apparently only for Kirby, since his work here is well below par. At least the final panel promising the return of the Red Skull promises some good times. But this issue is instantly forgettable. Why is it that Cap is a has-been and a square, but none of the other heroes in town are? Sometimes it feels like each book exists in its own universe. Finally, the cover: it would have worked just fine without a single dialog balloon, so why bother? Too many covers have needless dialog, spelling out what the illustrations make perfectly clear.
|Jack, please come back!|
Matt Murdock crashes Karen Page’s L.A. pad to rave about her reviews while she is waiting for a phone call about another acting gig. It’s a new series with the Stunt-Master, and they ask her if she can convince Daredevil to act. To keep Karen by his side, Matt agrees. The first day of filming, after getting the large remuneration in order, DD becomes a pseudo-assistant: answering Karen’s phone call (from Foggy), finding out why Stunt-Master is tardy . . . While this is going on, Stilt-Man appears! He is the reason Stunt-Master is not ready for filming – having knocked the ex-villain out, Stilt-Man uses makeup to alter his facial features, so he can exact revenge on DD as Stunt-Master. When Daredevil finds “Stunt-Master” he notices a difference in his friend’s heartbeat, but puts it down to pre-filming jitters. On film, Stilt-Man rides the tied-up actor’s motorcycle, his hydraulic legs in tow, straight towards Daredevil . . . but he misses and falls off a bridge into the water below. Holding his breath in order to don his stilts, the villain pops out of the water and steps on a few boats on his way to best DD. However, DD suspected it wasn’t Stunt-Master, and is ready for the Stilt-Man. With his billy club line, DD circles and ties up the scoundrel. The police take Stilt-Man away, but the show must go on. DD has to go back to New York (Foggy needs him there), so he tells his lady that it’s her career or him. Karen’s unsure, so Daredevil gives her time to make up her mind, but not much!
NC: Although this was a very silly issue, I kind of liked it. Poor Stilt-Man – he’s kind of losing his edge when it comes to villainhood. The Stunt-Master warms my heart when he points out that he is not so noble that he won’t accept a big wage – a bit of realism – when a life of crime dries up it must be a bit hard to find a good job! I’m also a bit happy that DD’s decided not to follow Karen around like a puppy dog drooling over a piece of chicken. Yes, I agree that he is being unfair in not considering dropping his career for her (or even looking at a supportive compromise), but it is a bit annoying when he trails around after her.
JB: I’m really starting to question how “dark” or “serious” a superhero DD is, but I’m enjoying the soap opera for now. I love the alliteration in the title (Stilt-Man Stalks The Sound Stage!), and Gene Colan’s action sequences are still second to none for visual flair.
A little relaxation time is all the Fantastic Four get before they get interrupted with an eviction notice. The Maggia, the world’s largest crime syndicate, has bought the Baxter Building out from under them! While the Maggia leaders make their plans, our heroes take a stroll in Central Park to relax, until they see a helicopter landing on the roof of the Baxter Building. It’s the Maggia, and when the Torch flies to investigate, they’re ready for him, knocking him down and capturing him. The rest of the team head for their headquarters, determined to regain control of it. Making their way to the T.V. monitor room, they see the Maggia men everywhere. Soon they’re under attack, and knocked out by noxo-gas before they can stop the criminals. The second in command, Gimlet, puts them in concrete crates and dumps them in the river, despite orders from Maggia leader Top Man to do things legally. Crystal blasts out of her crate first, and then helps the others free themselves; they swim to shore. Sue, meanwhile, having taken Franklin back to Agatha Harkness, has entered the Baxter Building, invisibly of course. The gangsters discover her, but she holds off their attacks until the rest of the team return. The doorman of the Baxter Building appears, and shoots Gimlet. Reed is suspicious, and unmasks the doorman, who is actually Top Man, having used this position to spy on them for weeks. The legal takeover has blown its cover.
JB: I remember seeing the cover of this issue years ago. Never having read it, I’d hoped for something totally different. I don’t mind Alicia’s new hair colour; if I recall she’s one of the Marvel gals who seems to change her appearance frequently. With the miniskirt and all, she seems to be getting younger! I like the Woody Allen and Cassius Clay references, which oddly, don’t date the issue that much; they’d fit as easily years later.
|"And my partna here is Grasshopper!"|
The Incredible Hulk 130
The Mighty Thor 179
Odin sends Thor to Earth to find Loki, who has to answer for attempting to usurp the throne of Asgard. The God of Evil, and his sidekick, the wizard Igron, have created a new weapon: a seething energy “facemask.” When Thor arrives he transforms to Dr. Blake, knowing that Loki will be watching; thus when his half-brother appears, it is Thor not Blake who waits. Loki releases the facemask from it’s casing, and it attacks the Thunder God’s face. Energy between the two of them exchanges their powers—and their faces! Now with the upper hand, Loki “Thor” strikes his brother down, and changes their clothes, making the switch complete. When Balder and Sif come to Earth to aid their friend, they find “Loki” instead in Blake’s office. They don’t believe him to be Thor, and demand his whereabouts. Only when Thor is forced to stun Balder with Loki’s power, but doesn’t finish him off, do the brave and stunning ones believe that the identity exchange is real.
JB: An interesting cover (Marie Severin); if the general rules (as Professor Glenn has mentioned) included the primary character facing front, then here we get a variation. The very vicious-looking Balder and Sif, swords raised, facing Thor (hammer down) create an effective image, even if this isn’t how it happens inside. The facemask bit is a different enough tool to make the identity exchange worthwhile. Loki is in good form (the illusion of “money” he passes the hotel staff, banishing Igron to the trolls after he’s served his purpose). Once again, we get a look at the team of Balder/Sif working together. “I don’t want to marry Thor, Odin’s making me!” at least Balder might hope. Stan Lee didn’t wish Jack Kirby much in the way of good luck, or say how valuable he was to Marvel, as he announced his departure. Hmmm…
Namor spends some time in New York hanging out with his friend Diane Arliss. He laments he can't stand how many surface dwellers litter and pollute the earth. While walking about, they come upon a protest rally where kids are demonstrating against a company that wants to tear up a park to build a factory. Some goons that work for the factory owner, Mr. Westman, try roughing them up. Namor saves them and one of the kids turns out to be Westman's son. Subby is reluctant to get involved when he is invited to speak at a rally but gives in when he sees the monstrous Brutivac construction, a machine that looks like a supersized bulldozer. Supposedly, the machine can destroy anything and also works underwater. At the rally, Namor makes his appearance as Westman and his goons show up to start trouble. Westman goes beserk as he takes control of the Brutivac in order to destroy the park and anyone that tries to stop him. Even Namor is no match for the machine as it lays him out, helpless. He is saved when Westman's son jumps in front of the Brutivac. Westman comes to his senses and stops the machine, but only after it injures his son. In the end, the villainous tycoon is remorseful as he promises the youth he will listen to him as he takes him home.
Tom: You know a story is written too sappily when you feel like you've come down with diabetes after reading it. Simply terrible. The Brutivac looked stupid. Westman's turn around is so completely dramatic and unbelievable. One moment he's spazzing out, ready to kill everyone, the next thing you know he's giving his driver the evening off because he turned into such a 'nice guy.' I have no problem with Namor stories speaking out against pollution when they are done right, like a few issues ago, but stories like this make it no surprise that this series never made it past the 1970's. Future Namor adventures can get no worse then this.
|Next issue: Better working conditions for Kazoo Manufacturers|
PE: "He's either a masked menace -- or a psycho case! Take your pick!" Wow, that's no way to talk about your future hubby, MJ!. A little silly that Spidey's been on death's doorstep for two issues now but three seconds after giving him the thumbs-up, the doc exclaims "I've never seen anyone recover so fast!" and The Amazing Spider-Man begins doing jumping jacks, death in the rearview obviously. I can't remember the last time we had an entire comic book sans villain. Considering the events of the next few issues, it's strange that Captain Stacy seems almost convinced that Peter Parker is not Spider-Man. We'll discuss this further soon. A very well-written issue, proving the medium doesn't need wall-to-wall action to satisfy.
SM: MJ is, again, a bitch. She's so on-again/off-again about Spider-Man, it's annoying. Did she and Harry really decide to come back to Gwen's house simply because Peter just might return to explain why they were there? How long did they wait? And all of this for the flu? The doctor is a little too flippant for me, but whatever. My family physician is also a jokester, so it's fine. He just sounds more like Stan than his own character. Great art, a fine story and a resolution that almost works. But Hobie really ought to be doing some hard thinking.
Captain Marvel 21
SM: You know, there's no real reason why Rick couldn't approach Reed Richards. Even if Reed forbids access to the Negative Zone, what's the harm in asking? If Rick explains and doesn't lose his temper, Reed would probably help. So how would that work if Reed took some jet packs, went into the Negative Zone and brought back Mar-Vell? Could he and Rick co-exist in our reality?
|We know The Hulk and you are not the Hulk, sir!|
Amazing Adventures 1
The Black Widow
SM: Jack and Chic are together again and the results…aren’t that good. Jack was gone and gone and gone. The story is weak and predictable and this feature might have been a much more interesting addition to the Might Marvel Checklist if it was done when the Inhumans were interesting, around FF issue 45. They work best as supporting cast rather than leads.
Astonishing Tales 1
Chamber of Darkness #6
Invincible Iron Man King-Size Special #1 (all-reprint)
Ka-Zar #1 ->
Kid Colt Outlaw #149
Mad About Millie #14
Marvel's Greatest Comics #28
Millie the Model Queen-Size Special #9
Millie the Model #185
Our Love Story #6
Outlaw Kid #1
Rawhide Kid #79
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos King-Size Special #6
Western Gunfighters #1
One of the most puzzling moves of 1970 would have to be the new Ka-Zar (featuring Daredevil and X-Men) since KZ is starring in one-half of Astonishing Tales, also debuting this month. The most chin-scratching aspect of this new title though is the fact that two-thirds are reprints. Oh, make no mistake, I understand the economics of reprints: they're fast and they're dirt cheap. This one, carrying a higher price tag than most other Marvels, contains KZ's first appearance from X-Men #10 and a reprint of Daredevil #24 (also featuring KZ) along with, inexplicably, a new Hercules tale from the crackerjack team of Allyn Brodsky, Frank Springer (who illustrated the single worst Marvel story in the 1960s), and Dick Ayers (who illustrated most of the other worst stories of the 1960s). Herc's pop, Zeus, who has the orneriest streak this side of Odin, becomes enraged by his strongman offspring and sicks The Huntsman on him. Amazingly, I liked the art (as though torn from the pages of a 1950s comic) quite a bit but the story is a bizarre fragment that not only leaves us without a conclusion but appears to show the great God running from danger with his tail tucked between his kilt. The final panel asks what the reader thinks of Hercules and if more adventures (ostensibly, the second part of this to begin with!) should be forthcoming. Readers are warned that plot points of this story may pop up in future issues of Sub-Mariner. Was this story ever finished? Why would such a truncated story appear in the first place? Ironically, no mention is made of Herc on the cover even though this was the only new material in the issue. The big Ka-Zar lasted a mere three issues.