Astonishing Tales 2
Having stopped the rebellion, Doctor Doom also stops the robot Rudolfo from escaping his dungeon, and Doom is actually shocked to learn it was the same robot who abdicated the Latverian throne to him! The Faceless One comes out of hiding, disclosing he has taken over The Doomsman android, who leaves non-stop carnage in his wake. Back at the castle, Ramona almost fires on Doom, but it was just a test by the Master of Menace. Armed with robot-smashing rifles, Rudolfo’s rebels march on the village, until Doom himself joins the fray, protected by a Nulli-Screen. The Faceless One then uses his spheroid to sneak into the castle, and he and Doom battle quickly to a stalemate, until The Doomsman barges in, torn between his two masters!
JT: There is a lot going on in this half issue, and it all flies by so fast, with quick Tony Scott-esque cuts, that it’s really hard to take it all in. That said, it’s a little bit of an upgrade from issue #1, and both Roy and Wally Wood do the best they can with limited space. The Faceless One, complete with old-school scuba helmet and dime store utility belt, makes for a fairly unoriginal villain, but Doom’s superiority complex and dastardly dialogue more than make up for it. But I have to say, with his bad attitude and incredible smugness, it’s no wonder the good Doctor built so many robot friends to keep him company.
The Avengers 81
This month's issue opens with cap, Thor, and Iron Man wondering if the split decision last time is a sign of the coming of the end of the Avengers. Black Panther isn't so sure, yet he still leaves to attend to saving the young lives of his students in Harlem while the others seek out Zodiac. Meanwhile the rest of the team goes with Red Wolf after Van Lunt to avenge the murder of the Indian's family. An aerial attack by Van Lunt brings down the Quinjet. After the crash the villain's henchmen capture the Vision and Scarlet Witch after Vision resolved not to put Wanda's life in danger by attacking. Worse, Van Lunt uses the same leverage to make the Vision his personal body guard. At the same time, Goliath and Red Wolf search in vain to find their two missing teammates and go to Red Wolf's local village to lead his people against Van Lunt. He has trouble convincing them of his identity to the chief, who does not want to come off as an "Uncle Tomahawk(!)" When Van Lunt's goons attack, and Goliath and Red Wofl defeat them, the tribe casts off their "Uncle Tomahawk(!)" label and join in the attack launching at Van Lunt's desert hideaway. However, he is protected by The Vision who, when confronted by Goliath, can "say no more!" As the giant and the android fight, Red Wolf and a group of Indians at atop a nearby dam, poised to destroy it. Van Lunt goes to stop them with Wanda in tow. Her hex powers return in time to keep the Indians from being killed, but the battle has weakened the dam. It collapses, sweeping away Van Lunt, Lobo and Red Wolf. However, Red Wolf appears in his civilian identity at the end, casting off his vengeance-ridden identity and resumes his life among his tribe.
SM: But what about Lobo? Is the poor wolf dead? And Uncle Tomahawk?!!!! Seriously? If there's a line between a message and effing stupidity, then we've pole vaulted right over it. Okay, sure, according to my friend Wikipedia, this is a real term, but it's just too ridiculous to contemplate.
Having the team split is being blown way out of proportion by the overdramatic Avengers at the start. Sometimes splitting a team is the best way to cover a bunch of crises. And having four Avengers "refuse to abide by a majority decision" doesn't make much sense when four Avengers vote to go one way, four vote to go another and the remaining one wants to focus on something else. There was no majority decision!
Conan the Barbarian 1
PE: Though the first issue is a delight to read, there's really no evidence here of the cultural phenomena this comic would become. Barry Smith is still stuck in that cartoony mode he was in when penciling The X-Men and The Avengers last year but it also could be the inker he's saddled with, Dan Adkins. We'll see Barry's style morph and solidify over time on this title and, eventually, we'll be forced to nod in agreement with all the praise the strip accrued. There's no doubt, however, that elements of Conan are groundbreaking -- there had never been a more violent or sexual Marvel comic book (at least in the Silver Age); it's evident the barbarian's foes are not victims of flesh wounds and broken bones after their battles and the sensuality (though there's only a bit of bare bosom on display) is bubbling under the surface. I'd argue this is the second most influential Marvel comic book of the 1970s (after Giant-Size X-Men #1 of course) evidenced by all the spin-offs and rip-offs. This initial title managed to last 275 issues (December 1993), far outnumbering the original stories of Robert E. Howard. Credit the comic i.q. of Roy Thomas for guessing Conan would catch on with comic fans. I've never read a Conan comic in my life but this one's got me wanting more.
SM: Good lord, this was the best book I've read in months, a title that will grow quickly into something very special indeed. For now, it hints at this greatness around the edges. It is a fine start and Barry Smith is already breaking free of his Kirby imitations. It is still weird art, but it has power, life and energy (although the narration box at the top of page 2 is pasted right over a character's lower face). A great cover and a grim, unrelenting, humorless tone help cement the epic nature of this fantasy series. I was never a follower of Conan and I'm not a fan of "barbarian heroes" in general, but I'm looking forward to watching this unfold. This is also some of Roy's best writing. He obviously was into the character and the world of Conan and he drew me in effortlessly. An auspicious beginning and one of the few popular Marvel Mags to take place outside the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Captain America 130
Steve is at the movies (RIP Roger Ebert) watching a film about himself as Cap fighting the Hulk. The typically rude audience is yapping throughout, bitching at how unrealistic Cap is in the movies and how he isn't "relevant in today's world." Now newly disgusted with everyone, Steve goes back on his bike to see America (hopefully the rest of America is less obnoxious). He's stopped by a road block and Cap goes on ahead right into a massive student riot. After saving the dean from the rampaging students, Cap is approached by a TV producer, who asks him to do a single appearance on television. However, a masked villain is behind it, planning to have Cap deliver an anti-youth address. Cap doesn't go for it and makes his own speech. The mystery villain has Batroc the Leaper, Whirlwind and The Porcupine attack Cap at the TV studio. Cap defeats them and they get away, and the mystery villain is still a mystery.
|And Hugh Hefner as... The Hood|
|Cette édition est pleine de la merde|
Daredevil crimps the plans of the “Black Power” gang the Thunderbolts, but when the getaway truck crashes, he discovers that the driver is a teen. Carrying the kid to help, Daredevil is approached by . . . the Black Panther! In the hospital (staffed by a couple of nurses drooling over our masked heroes) the Panther explains that he was helping a schoolteacher “friend” to figure out what was wrong with the hospitalized boy, Lonnie, who now has no will to live. The dark Avenger had saved Lonnie and his Veteran brother Billy from being accosted by the Thunderbolts when they refused to join up. DD isn’t (yet) as forthcoming about how he knew about the gang’s plans tonight, but drags the Panther to the Thunderbolts hideout. Turning off the lights gives the Panther and Daredevil a distinct advantage and after a lot of biff, bang, boff and gunfire they, with Billy’s help, manage to stop the gang. The dynamic duo drop Billy off at the hospital to save his brother, and after this, all is disclosed! T’Challa (the Panther) admits he is Luke Turner, Lonnie’s schoolteacher, and says he knows that DD (astounded!) is Matt Murdock! Billy tells Lonnie he was working undercover for the D.A.’s office to stop the gang. There’s more than we’ve seen in the Thunderbolt’s actions and our two heroes look forward to the second round.
NC: Well, I have not a lot of knowledge about the Black Panther, but what an awesome couple! I
thought this issue was one of the best racially motivated comics I have ever read. Not too preachy, not too heavy, but with a lot of equality and compassion built in. I loved the DD comments flying around: “license from Sears and Roebuck”, “like a bat out of Helsinki” – Roy Thomas kept me on the edge of my seat and laughing my head off at the same time!
JB: Funny how the black nurse likes T’Challa and the white one Daredevil, even though they can barely see any skin under those costumes. The bit about the crooked cop helping the Thunderbolts out…is that a clue to the next part of our story? Despite coming from different worlds, the Panther and Daredevil blend smoothly; I could see them hanging out more often. DD often gets the more human villains (literally, not compassionately); this gives his mag the right grounds to explore some tough issues, i.e. the racism here.
Fantastic Four 103
Reed contacts President Nixon and convinces him to hold off Earth’s military from attacking Namor’s fleet of ships from Atlantis until he can try to reason with undersea monarch. While the Sub-Mariner was pushed into this likely war scenario by Magneto, the mutant (whose selfish intentions are not yet clear to him), he is cautious of a full-fledged attack. Magneto grows impatient, and uses his power to launch a missile from Namor’s ship. The approaching Fantastic Four detonate the missile. It seems a battle is imminent. Magneto takes advantage of the moment with his own plan. While the F.F. are busy with Namor, Magneto nabs an arriving Invisible Girl (nabbing her metal Aero-car that is), and likewise Lady Dorma, who thinks it is her hubby-Subby who’s running the show. When the F.F. and Namor see Magneto and his captive ladies on the view screen of the Atlantean ship, they see they’ve been backed into a fish tank, and the mutant holds all the cards.
JB: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this issue. Namor wasn’t being duped too blindly, and Reed was on top of things trying to stave off WW 3. I should say President “Nixon,” since he’s not actually named. I’m fascinated by Agatha Harkness; too bad her part here is brief, but I know she’s in many issues upcoming. Is that a hint of boy Franklin’s abilities when she says, “Someday perhaps, we shall tell her just how much WE know”? Looking forward to what’s next…
|And starring Milton Berle as... Magneto!|
The Incredible Hulk 132
Thunderbolt Ross and his military troops finally have the Hulk in their clutches. Imprisoned at a military base, the Hulk is unable to escape. Jim Wilson leaves to go home since he feels bad for his role in setting the Hulk up last issue. Ross assigns Major Talbot to follow him but Wilson loses him when he boards a mysterious small ship that has been waiting for him at his burned out slum. The ship takes him to an even larger one that is used by the vile Hydra organization. They want Jim to help them take the Hulk away from the military base and to convince him, they show him film footage of the Hulk being viciously attacked by various military weaponry. Jim doesn't know that the footage is actually showing a robot Hulk used for testing. Using his military pass along with tricking Thunderbolt Ross, Jim is able to free the Hulk from his bondage so that the Hydra ship can pull the Hulk up onto their vessel through the roof. Once he's aboard with Jim, the Hydra boss makes his intentions clear as he gloats out loud how they will use the Hulk to rule the world. When Jim tries to intervene, he is struck down, which causes the Hulk to break his shackles and to go on a rampage. Jim is accidently injured when a blast bounces off the Hulk and hits him. With the Hulk destroying their ship and defeating the hydra troops, the bad guys decide to escape in smaller vessels. The story ends with the hulk landing back on the ground with Jim, vowing vengeance against the world if his friend doesn't recover.
TM: I could have dealt without Betty's theatrics this issue, along with Jim Wilson quickly wearing out his welcome in just his second appearance but the jive talking Wilson is already starting to equal Rick Jones in the annoying category. I know that the characters' dialogue is a product of its time, but I still can't help but feel that it was a little over the top, even for back then. If Wilson was deemed so important by Ross then why didn't he just simply order him to be detained? Makes a lot more sense than sending Major Talbot (a major!) out to follow him like a spy through the inner-city. The Hydra clowns also make for bad protagonists since it's hard to take them seriously as a threat. Watching the Hulk mop up the floor with them is no different then watching him beat up on the helpless military. The only thing to commend in this comic was the artwork. I sure hope that Jim Wilson doesn't start up his own Ghetto Teen Brigade next issue.
SM:. Jim betrays the Army while being duped by Hydra and Roy bends over backward to make sure General Ross is reasonable about it. Does this sound like Thunderbolt Ross to you? The guy who verbally beat the crap out of Rick Jones every chance he got? This smells a lot of a "Ross is not a racist" than anything else. The softening of old Thunderbolt continues while Betty freaks out. Again. Ugh. At least they had the sense to make her mentally unstable in the issues to come. John Severin sketches another issue, pretty much burying Trimpe's own style in a so-so story,
The Amazing Spider-Man 89
Peter/Spidey is more than content that Doctor Octopus is “kaput” after last ish’s climactic plane explosion, until he spots a Bugle story that says there was no trace of Ock in the wreckage. Randy Robertson (son of Robbie) spots Pete and asks him to commit to an air pollution protest, but stopping Doc Ock takes precedence. Hiding in the shadows, the diabolical Doc vows to crush Spider-Man forever! After an hour of swinging and searching, and a quick aside to everyone’s favorite cigar-chomping curmudgeon J. Jonah Jameson, Spidey spots the metal-appendaged madman trying to wreck the city’s main power plant! He engages the angry and determined Ock in a balls-to-the-wall battle that’s as evenly matched as it is ruthless and power-packed. But when Ock topples a water tower, Spidey races to stops it, balancing it on his back on a rooftop ledge to try and save the crowd below, which he does! Then Ock seizes his opportunity and throws the wiped-out wall-crawler off the roof, seemingly to his death!
JT: “Sugar-Lips” Gil Kane, famed for his fantastic Silver Age work on DC’s Green Lantern and Atom, takes over penciling duties on Amazing, the “personal choice” of Jazzy Johnny according to the Bullpen Bulletin, but with Romita on inks and as “artist-emeritus”, this issue seems like a hybrid of the two at times, but at the same time a smart transition. Kane’s style is on display immediately though, with the nifty angular views and overhead shots of facial expressions. The best panel in the book is "where? where? where?" you ask--Page 9 (below), which lets everyone know this is a different take on Spidey for sure. Kane’s action scenes are a little more frenetic also, yet more than worthy of his predecessors. There are times when it looks like Ock has ten tentacles instead of four. Kane also gives Ock a slight makeover, slightly thinner with a shaggier haircut. Then again, surviving a plane explosion will do that to a guy. All in all, as much as Romita is the quintessential Spidey artist in my opinion, we are in for a treat in the coming months. And honestly, as a kid I wasn’t the biggest Kane fan, not that you’d think that from what I’m writing here. Now about that nickname….
The Mighty Thor 181
Sif and the Warriors Three have arrived in Hades, to find “Thor”--in the body of Loki—imprisoned in a clear globule. Their attempts to free him are futile, as Mephisto toys with them. Thor conceives a plan: using the power of Loki he controls while in his brother’s body, he causes Sif’s sword to impale a nearby dragon, who angrily uses his flame to melt the globule. Back on the Earth’s surface, the other Thor (you know, Loki) makes his demands of world domination known to the United Nations, having sealed off the building from the outside with a barrier. Balder is there, and engages “Thor” in battle, tricking him into admitting in front of the world’s leaders his true identity. Ironically, it is the sheer goodness of the Asgardians that save them, as Mephisto can stomach no more, sending them back to Asgard. Thor returns to Earth and uses the magic of Loki he currently possess to draw his evil brother to him. He goads Loki into tossing his hammer, keeping him busy for the sixty seconds it takes for the hammer to become a walking stick. This breaks the spell, and the brother’s spirits are returned to their own bodies. Loki flees, vowing to return in victory next time.
SM: Joe Sinnott's inks aren't fitting well with Neal Adams' pencils, but it matters not. This is a wonderful, epic, action filled issue. It goes at a good pace, wrapping up the central conflicts in due course. Returning Thor to his rightful place is done naturally and well, although I rather thought they merely looked like each other rather than having swapped bodies (even the recap at the top of the issue supports this). If only their appearances changed, their abilities would be unaltered. But maybe I'm just confused.
JB: Funny how Odin all of a sudden “knows” that Loki is in Thor’s body and vice-versa; before he was willing to send “Thor” packing and throw away the key. I’ll have to keep in mind Mephisto’s weakness, if I ever end up in his realm; just be loving to the guy and he’ll feel so sick he’ll send you home. Thor’s cleverness in saving the day was commendable, but why didn’t the hammer return to Loki pronto, if he was able to lift it anyway?
PE: Sinnott's a stellar inker but I can't help feeling that having him work on Neal Adams' pencils is like having The Osmond Brothers' producer calling the shots on Highway 61 Revisited. The genius is still on display but it's muted a bit. Nice trick on Thor's part to fool Loki into throwing the hammer (and thus making the switch back to common tree branch) but it once again brings up that nagging question (nagging to me at least): how can Loki lift Mjolnir when his father considers him inadequate? Definitely a case of the rules being rewritten over the years. Gotta love that classic panel of Loki with a shiner! This month's Bullpen Bulletins almost hints that Neal's tenure on The Mighty Thor is long-term rather than the sadly abbreviated two issues we're blessed with. Not that I'm dissing Big John's upcoming stint, mind you. (Outrageous plug department: we'll be studying Neal Adams' work on the DC mystery line in a few weeks time over at Bare Bones.)
Also this month
Chamber of Darkness #7
Kid Colt Outlaw #150
Li'l Kids #2
Marvel Super-Heroes #28
Marvel Tales #28
Millie the Model #186
Our Love Story #7
Outlaw Kid #2
Rawhide Kid #80
Spoof #1 ->
Western Gunfighters #2
Why Stan thought it a good idea to publish another Mad rip-off a mere and change after Not Brand Echh went down in flames is probably lost to history and bad memories. It might not even have been Stan by this point. Maybe The Rascally One was feeling amorous and full of bad one-liners and puns threatening to burst from his insides. At any rate, someone told Roy, Marie Severin, Stu Schwartzberg, and Len Wein that it would be hilarious to do parodies of Dark Shadows ("Darn Shadows"), Marooned ("Maroonded"), and The Mod Squad ("The Clod Squad") without telling them the strips themselves would have to include some funny stuff. Those titles are knee-slappers though, ain't they? Inexplicably, this would be a one-shot until the sophomore issue popped up out of nowhere in November 1972. Until then, let's call this Poof!