Wednesday, April 10, 2013

September 1970; The Origin of Red Wolf!

The Avengers 80
Our Story

The Vision, who left the Avengers last issue, comes between the Indian Red Wolf and his victim, who escapes, which pisses off Red Wolf something fierce. After a quick battle, The Vision takes his defeated adversary back to the mansion. The team is in the midst of discussing which menace to fight first; the reformed group Zodiac, or organized crime, which is preying on the students T'Challa has been teaching. When the Vision arrives, Red Wolf engages in a very long flashback in order to explain his origin, a tale which boils down to "my parents were shot before my eyes on the orders of Cornelius Van Lunt who wanted to buy our reservation." After consulting with the ghost of legend called "Red Wolf" - pretty much a spirit guide -  the Indian took the responsibility of becoming the living embodiment of the legend and the name Red Wolf. The man he was attacking was Joe Chill - I mean, Jason Birch, one of the gunmen who killed his parents. In order to best serve each problem, the Avengers split up as the Vision wonders if they are breaking up for all time.

SM: As much as I am growing a little weary of the extended flashbacks kicking off each new two part epic, I have to say I found this one to be pretty gripping. The Red Wolf is a good character with a compelling backstory. Of course, it worked even better for Bruce Wayne, but with a few amendments and a little racial relevance tossed in for good measure, it's equally at home here. It does, however, eat up 8½ pages of story (Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson did the same thing in two swift pages - lesson to be learned here). I really wish Roy would take some of these new characters he's stockpiling and reuse them. That might save us half an issue of flashbacks. I'm not thrilled to see Van Lunt again, but he has potential to grow beyond his original "Mr. Gideon" status. I did not miss his derby and handlebar mustache.

JT: Red Wolf! Alright! Not the most original of characters, but having owned Marvel Spotlight #1, he'll always have a place in the comic box of my mind. Of course, the MS Red Wolf was this one's ancestor, but that's just barking at the moon.

MB: Setting aside the obvious difference of Red Wolf’s tribal heritage, I’ve always found him and Lobo uncomfortably similar to Ka-Zar and Zabu, which tells you about where they stand in my affections (or lack thereof), and perhaps Roy expended a few too many pages recounting his origin.  But somebody must like him, given the bewildering number of Red Wolf characters Marvel has had over the years, while with 20/20 hindsight, any story involving Cornelius van Lunt is of automatic interest to me, especially as delectably delineated by Big John Buscema.  It’s reassuring to see the Vision back already, and since I can’t remember exactly where they’re headed with the sub-team thing, it will be interesting to see just how that plays out.

PE: Having read Black Like Me cover to cover and then exposing the ails of Black America, Roy goes to the library to check out Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Professor Matthew rightfully points to a similarity between Red Wolf/Lobo and Ka-Zar/Zabu but I'd say an easier template would be The Falcon and Redwing. I'm looking forward to the issue of Red Wolf when Lobo finds out that his mother was killed by the guy he's been following around all these years. I liked the issue very much, with the splintering of the team a very intriguing concept. How will Roy handle the three simultaneous plotlines? With "split screens"? Tune in next month to find out. As for Roy's answer to Philip Mallory Jones' fiery dissection of Avengers #74, The Rascally One does not take steps back from the fire but rather discusses Jones' points very intelligently. Read it and you can't help but be impressed by this writer who, in his own words refused to sit "... simply nodding at my cluttered desk, muttering 'Of course. Right on. How true.'"

SM: Cap is great in this issue, better here than in his own title (which is nothing new). He gives a stirring speech about what "Avengers" as a word means and how they aren't always living up to it. There's little bickering (there's no space for it), and it's nice to see Thor and Iron Man sticking around and working with the scabs. Goliath resting on the table, and bending it, is a wonderfully subtle artistic touch. The art, again, is amazing, if overly dramatic. All in all, a good issue, if a bit top heavy on the guest character's history. Also, not sure why The Vision thinks dividing the team into a three pronged force is in any way a harbinger of things to come, but I suppose Roy has something in mind. Can't wait for the extended flashback explaining it.

Captain America 129
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Cap is still seeing the world on his bike, not realizing the Red Skull is watching his every move. Meanwhile, the Skull is planning to plunge the world into war by abducting King Hassab of "oil-rich Irabia." The Skull manipulates road signs(!) to make sure Cap and the King wind up in the same small town at the same time. The Skulls minions capture the King. Cap, figuring it is a trap, goes to rescue. The Skull, in his mountain hideaway, has a rocket, you see, and he plans to put Hassad in it and launch him into space (!). Cap stops this nefarious plan, fights the Skull, which results in the Skull being trapped in his own rocket and launched (!). Oh, the irony! The cosmic justice!

SM: Good God, what a mess. Actually, it's kind of okay until we get to this rocket business, although the hilarity begins with the Skull standing by to switch around road signs. The Skull spends so much time and money getting his Blofeld/Dr. Evil Lair set up, complete with Rocket when just killing Hassad with a fricking bullet would do the job far easier. When someone says "comic book plotting" this is what they mean. Oh, and the dialog: "To the helicopter!" and "Open the cave mouth!" are uttered within mere panels of each other. That must have been some fine wacky tobaccy Stan was smoking. At least there's no whining about Sharon, just a cursory comment about why he's on the road, which is fine. The helicopter with the "fake clouds" was pretty funny when it really just looked like "black smoke." And nobody noticed the honking big chopper blowing these clouds around until it was too late? I feel like we're just marking time until someone comes up with a good plot. The Red Skull is too good a villain to be wasted on single issue, crappy stories.

You can kiss that secret identity goodbye again, Jethro.

Proof that only Frank Robbins could do The Skull worse
MB: For me, this issue contains a built-in paradox:  although the Red Skull’s goal of unleashing global warfare is admittedly ambitious, his methodology seems decidedly rinky-dink, with the central tactic of switching the road signs evoking nothing so much as a Warner Brothers cartoon, plus I don’t know how many oil sheiks toured the American heartland. I’m also not enamored of this ongoing Easy Rider bit, since despite the fact that one of that film’s protagonists is nicknamed “Captain America”—presumably with 100% irony—their counter-culture ethos is about as far removed from Cap’s as one gets.  Dick Ayers continues to earn his faculty laughingstock status (especially with that Red Skull Muppet in page 19, panel 3).

PE: When one wants to maintain his secret identity, is it really a good idea to ride around on a motorcycle (sans helmet, I should add) with your shirt open and flapping in the breeze, your stars and stripes on display for all passers-by? I'm confused by The Skull's plan (and, after reading this mess, I'm sure Stan was just as confused): why not just kill the sheik? Why concoct a goofy plan including switched road signs (Meep-Meep!) and superheroes? And what part did Cap play in this plan? And, further, how did The Skull know where Steve was headed? Did his imaginatively monickered "Remoti-Scanner" also have a built-in "Brain-O Scanner"? Last issue I said the inking by Dick Ayers wouldn't bother me. I lied. Ayers' Skull looks like something that should be grazing in Jurassic Park. Things won't get much better for a while since we've got several months of Ayers' tenure left on this title before a mass of guest inkers take over.

SM: "Dick Ayers continues to earn his faculty laughingstock status (especially with that Red Skull Muppet in page 19, panel 3)." Thank you, Prof. Matthew. You owe me a new laptop, which was ruined by the soda I just spit all over it.

Daredevil 68
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Daredevil, back in New York, kids himself he doesn’t miss Karen.  He gets to the D.A.’s office just in time to stop a kafuffle between Foggy and bad guy Kragg, with his gang, the Phoenix. The gang has “bought” a fighter named Kid Gawaine and wants to make sure that Foggy stays out of it.  Daredevil gets interested when he realizes that this Kid’s trainer is Pop Fenton, who trained his Dad.  Sure that Pop would never do anything illegal, Matt investigates – a blind guy looking for his Dad’s old trainer. While Matt talks to Pop and Kid (who seems decent), Kragg recognizes Murdoch as the D.A.’s assistant.  The Phoenix gang, who have plenty of money bet on Gawaine’s loss, blaze in and hit Pop; Kid Gawaine holds them off while Matt sneaks off.  Poor Gawaine is caught between a rock and hard place – and decides not to throw the fight. Wait: here comes Daredevil knocking out the Kid, using theatrical makeup to impersonate him.  DD got Pop’s memo saying even if the Kid doesn’t cheat, the Phoenix will ensure his loss; a huge “Neural whatchamacallit” will be aimed at the fighter’s optic nerves rendering him blind.  Luckily, this doesn’t affect DD!  The “wrong” guy wins, the gang goes after Kid, but Daredevil (and Pop) save the day.

NC:  Although I wasn’t unhappy about the skin shown, that cover was another misleading one.  These makeup kits that actors use are amazing – I sure wish I could get my hands on one of them!  I really like the science-fictiony idea of the machinery to make Kid go blind – however, it is a bit bulky and I don’t really know how their aim could be quite that accurate.  It seems like the Neural machine may have cost more money than they could hope to win if Kid loses the fight.

JB: I had a lot of fun with this issue. It wasn’t a classic in any sense, but Roy weaves in a few reminders of DD’s early days with his father. It lacks the emotional depth of his origin issue, but reminds me of the grit that made Matt Murdoch into such a great superhero. Foggy, like most politicians, doesn’t always show the best judgment, but I like better as D.A. than Matt’s legal partner.

MB:  Last month, my eyes rolled when the Stilt-Man used hitherto unknown make-up skills to copy the features of the Stunt-Master, outdoing even Cap’s notorious “mud-mask.”  This month, my jaw dropped at Roy’s chutzpah as, in the very next issue, Matt used hitherto unknown make-up skills to copy the features of Kid Gawaine—which Hornhead has literally never seen—well enough to fool an entire arena.  But that jaw threatened to dislocate when Kragg’s equalizer just happened to be the one thing that would not affect a disguised DD, a gizmo roughly the size of a Hummer that he is somehow able to deploy inside said arena with none the wiser.  Not even a nod to the Robinson/Bogart chestnut Kid Galahad could save this one from kissing the canvas.

SM: Ah, the old "Boxer is threatened to take a dive and the hero has to take his place" story. A variation of this plot was used in Superman #1. In 1939. Let's see, we add troublemakers in weird costumes (why the costumes for so mundane a group of idiots?), DD keeping a make up kit with him to magically transform his face to match the boxers and the weird ability of this boxer to survive being shot at point blank range. DD returned to New York for this tripe? At least we got to see Matt deliver the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. A shame, this could have been a nice story with which to bring up memories of Battling Murdock. A missed opportunity by Roy that could pass for Stan's later writing easily.

PE: If Fred Wertham thought Batman and Robin were hiding a secret in their closet, he'd have had a field day with this cover.

Fantastic Four 102
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As Ben nurses a cold on a rainy New York day, far below the ocean depths the Sub-Mariner follows a shock wave to its source in one of his ships. He finds an unconscious figure on a primitive isle, and brings him back to Atlantis. The figure is Magneto, the evil mutant, who attempts to convince Namor to combine forces with him to take over the surface world. Back at the Baxter Building, Reed uses a Magna-Tracer device to find the source of a number of disturbing activities in the city that have been powered by magnetic force. He determines that Atlantis is the source, and sends a probe to find out more information. After an attack by their own equipment (thwarted by Crystal), Ben presses a button to send a warning shock missile to Atlantis, convinced the cause is there. Magneto (responsible for all the recent magnetic havoc) convinces Namor that it is the FF who is responsible; war on humanity is formally declared by the undersea monarch.

JB: Is it just because the Fantastic Four was the first Marvel comic of the Silver Age that it is considered the flagship title of the company? At its best the comic is certainly unbeatable, but it seems that best is less frequent than it should be. Having four (or more) leading characters might be considered a bonus by some; to me it seems the balancing act required to give each of them equal quality time was a tough juggle to maintain. Seeing how the ‘70’s fare will give a broader perspective of this, I hope. Silly invasion story notwithstanding, I enjoyed Kirby’s final splash. A read of the worlds he came up with at D.C. Comics shows thereafter showed he still had a lot to give, once the reins were cut lose on his creativity.

SM: Jack leaves the title with this issue (aside from a story which was pulled and reworked and will be printed a "few months" from now) and it's not a bad one at all. It's all build up for the saga to come, but he puts in good work. One aspect of the FF of his that I always loved is the "off-duty" side of the group. They are a family and live in this big apartment, so they are always around each other. So we get to see them all in their civvies just having normal lives from time to time and this issue spends many pages on this domestic stuff. Other artists would tap this aspect, but none would relish it like Jack until John Byrne took over in the 80's.

PE: Another new invention whipped up at the last second and never to be used again: The Magna-Tracer, developed to trace flying chunks of tin back to its source. Speaking of those chunks of tin, did I miss the part where Jack and Stan explained exactly why Magneto is targeting The Four rather than his arch-enemies, The X-Men (I mean, aside from the fact that they have no regular magazine, that is)? Namor should try to remember all the times a Marvel Misunderstanding led him to attack the FF and the surface-world. I know I can remember all of them. So this is The King's swan-song for the title that made him a pop icon? One word for this and the several issues before it: lifeless. Unlike his stint over at The Mighty Thor (which, for some reason, has never been perceived as Jack's crowning achievement but should be), it's obvious The King's best days were behind him and it was time to move on. Sad but true.

SM: We do get to see more of Magneto's face than ever and I too wondered why he was the slightest bit concerned with the FF when talking about New York, rather than The X-Men, but yeah, the X-Men were out of a  job, so whatever. While the art is a thousand times better than one would expect from a departing Kirby, many panels go by without even a hint of background. And Namor (whose eyebrows are out of control) goes without toenails. Diabetes?

MB:  Although Amazing Adventures will continue burning off Jack’s Inhumans inventory until January, this was the last work he completed for Marvel before decamping to DC and thus, in many eyes, the continental divide between the Silver and Bronze Ages.  He certainly gave himself an action-packed send-off, yet its artificially induced FF vs. Atlantis conflict oddly mirrors the FF vs. Inhumans one he is simultaneously telling in AA, right down to that last-panel exclamation of “War!”  Comparing this with Magneto’s prior appearance, as rendered by Adams in X-Men #63, this feels like a step backward (and for some reason, his helmet suddenly became more revealing), so the change to a more sophisticated style does not seem like such a bad thing.

Farewell to the King

SM: While the Marvel Inventory will still gives us bits of Jack's work in the months ahead, the King had effectively left the building. His work on the FF could never be underestimated and his plotting brought the series to amazing heights. It's a real shame things didn't work out and his fertile imagination was left untapped as he grew discontent. Much of what Marvel is, even to this day, comes down to Jack's energy, imagination and fast pencils. The FF is my all time favorite comic thanks in no small part to his and Stan's work. Thanks, Jack, you were a tough act to follow and it would take a little bit for the FF to bounce back.

The Incredible Hulk 131
Our Story

Still separated from Bruce Banner, the Hulk hides out in a burned out building where he meets and makes a new friend with a black teenager named Jim Wilson.  Wilson has no family and he promises the Hulk that he will lure Banner back to the building so the Hulk can kill him.  Back at the military base, Banner convinces Ross that the best option in order for no military troops to get hurt, is for him and the Hulk to reemerge back into one being.  Wilson hears this while spying on them before a guard catches him.  He feels that Banner is doing the right thing so he lets them know where the Hulk is hiding out.  Iron Man shows up to help and they set off to catch the Hulkster.  They bring along a special gamma ray gun, that can reunite Banner and the Hulk, hidden inside a truck.  Once at the burned out building, Wilson is able to lure him out, but the Hulk smells a rat and goes berserk.  The Hulk beats up Iron Man for a bit before he is eventually shot, along with Banner, by the ray gun that turns them back into one whole being.  With the Hulk knocked out, the story ends with his capture by the U.S. military.

TM:  This issue is mainly notable for introducing Jim Wilson, aka Black Rick Jones, who will become
a somewhat reoccurring character over the next few years.  Other then that, it's the same old cat and mouse routine between the Hulk and Thunderbolt Ross with some 1970's jive thrown in.  What are the odds that the Hulk will escape his capture next issue?

SM: The Hulk joins the civil rights movement with the introduction of Jim Wilson, a sort of black Rick Jones. The difference is, Jim isn't annoying and he doesn't want to be a super hero. Jim will last for decades until (SPOILER) Peter David kills the character in a famous (and amazing) story about the tragedy of AIDS. But we'll never get around to the 90's, so we don't have to suffer Jim's fate here.

MB: Much gear-shifting here, starting with the fact that Roy features a guest-star whose own book he doesn’t write (unless you count The Avengers); Shellhead doesn’t quite seem himself—although, to be fair, the Hulk’s “straw man” joke isn’t really in character, either. For the first time in a long time, Herb has a dedicated inker, but now we’re back to John Severin, rather than his more Hulk-experienced sister Marie, and again, the results look more Severin than Trimpe.  Finally, Roy has introduced a long-term supporting character in the form of yet another youthful sidekick for the Hulk, Jim Wilson, and despite the obvious attempts at social relevance by making him an underprivileged black kid, it appears that he may be less annoying than Rick.

SM: As mentioned, the art is more John Saverin and Trimpe and that bothers me. Severin's art is too "sketchy" for me, so this run of Hulk books don't resonate like the others. The guest shot of Iron Man is pretty cool though and the resolution to the Banner/Hulk crisis is satisfying with a nice, if predictable, twist. All said, however, this issue is really only notable for the introduction of Jim.

The Invincible Iron Man 29
Our Story

Sailing in the Caribbean, Tony picks up a boatload of political refugees who fled the Overseer, an electronic “control center” that has enslaved their nation, and after taking them to a free port, he heads for their island as Iron Man.  He soon locates the gigantic machine, which defends itself with power beams and a robot Myrmidon, and as the peasants are inspired by this show of resistance to rise in revolt against the Overseer’s soldiers, Iron Man crosses a few wires, causing Myrmidon to destroy the computer.  Before the compound explodes, Iron Man rescues the man who designed and directed the construction of both machines, allegedly for the good of the people, and they forgo vengeance when a little boy thought martyred is revealed to be alive. 

MB:  Succeeding Goodwin for a single issue, sometime colorist Mimi Gold debuted as a Marvel writer with last month’s Chamber of Darkness #6, and would rack up two more horror credits (Where Monsters Dwell #15 and Fear #9) in 1972 after only one other super-hero script, the Widow story in Amazing Adventures #4.  As a writer, Mimi makes a good colorist; this story is pretty old hat and, more important, it raises awkward questions about how Iron Man can violate the sovereignty of another country, however repressive, without an international incident. (“Immigration authorities and police…are ready to assist the brave little band…”  Really?)  Here and there—e.g., page 3, panels 2-4—new inker Chic Stone raises Heck’s pencils above the norm. 

JS: Is it just me, or did Myrmidon grow? In those three panels, he appears to be three different sizes when compared to the tin man.
SM: I'm not sure about this one. It goes really well for the most part, with a Cuba-like nation under the thumb of a tyrant and the people too defeated to fight for their own liberty. Iron Man goes to show them they have to fight for their freedoms. Okay, fine, a cheesy super computer and robot are a bit much to take, as well as having a Latin-style Wizard of Oz manning the controls. Still, when the boy Santo was shot down, I was impressed they had the balls to kill the boy, even to motivate the people into action. Then, they took the coward's way out and it turned out that he "was only stunned." Not that I'm bloodthirsty and like to see kids getting offed by the villains, but it would have been a daring and bold move. Instead, it's a cheat and a super happy ending.

JS: I guess I am bloodthirsty, as I was extremely disappointed by the revival of little Santo (so he could go on to have a lucrative career as a masked wrestler). 

The Silver Surfer 18
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Our hero, who has recently fallen into the Great Refuge, awakens to find himself amongst a pile of Inhumans. Unbeknownst to him, he is being used by Maximus in a scheme to anger the Silver Surfer (who doesn’t know there are “good” and “bad” Inhumans) so that he will attack Black Bolt and his gang.  SS gets tangled up in a fight with Medusa and cracked by Karnak. It seems that they were doing the wrong thing . . . Black Bolt had wanted to welcome the Silver Surfer as a friend.  Unfortunately, the Surfer’s trust has been diminished – and so have the Inhumans’ trust in him when Maximus’ gang shows up to set up war.  Maximus is disappointed that Black Bolt and the Surfer have not destroyed each other, but he fights – only to have his ship blown apart.  This injustice of the fighting where Norrin Radd had hoped to find sanity finally burst his bubble.  He flies away with cosmic power speed vowing to treat all of the beings of Earth the way that they have treated him:  with savagery and aggression.

NC:  I was shocked to uncover the ominous end of the compassionate and ever-probing Silver Surfer.  It is understandable that he has had enough, but to vow to destroy the beings of the Earth (basically) is a bit much – couldn’t he just avoid them?  Although this issue was a bit dull (until the sad ending) and seemed like a never ending lineup of Inhumans had it in for the Silver Surfer, it was kind of cool to see each of the Inhumans in action.

SM: Another farewell to Jack as he gives us a paint-by-numbers battle issue. One senseless fight after the other as we, again, get another look at The Inhumans (these guys are seriously wearing out their welcome with me). All of this simply leads us to the startling conclusion where the Surfer has had enough of mankind's bullshit and decides to become the most dangerous and deadly one "of all." With no warning, though, the book ends here, even though Stan is plugging for the next ish which would have shown us the "savagely sensational new Silver Surfer!" I'm bummed we never got to see that, considering the raw savagery of the art. At the same time, this dead end book needed to be wrapped up. I won't miss it. Still funnier is Stan's Soapbox where he tells the fans about Kirby's departure and then goes on to say it's no big deal and it's just a flash in the pan. Not a fitting goodbye to the guy who was arguably half of Marvel in its heyday.

MB:  “While [Kirby] began figuring out how to chop in half the Inhumans stories he’d already drawn, Lee called him to ask if he’d fill in for an issue of the floundering Silver Surfer,” writes Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.  “Kirby took the assignment, although it was salt in the wound to pinch-hit on the character he’d created himself but been denied control of….[His] mood came through on the final, frighteningly intense pages…”  This looks and feels more like one of those Amazing Adventures yarns with the wrong cover attached than it does the Surfer’s own strip.  The latter ends abruptly here at a most inauspicious moment, without even a Surfer vs. Black Bolt clash of the titans, but Trimpe’s inks are surprisingly good.

The Amazing Spider-Man 88
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The “most sensational exhibit” in the Museum of Natural Science is on display to a captive audience: Doctor Octopus’ mechanical arms! All is calm until the bespectacled baddie, using his atomic-powered mental control over the arms from a lonely Midwest prison, gets them to smash out of the museum. Luckily, Spider-Man is nearby, but his heroic attempts to corral the corpulent crook’s appendages fail when he has to web a wall from crushing the nearby crowd. Leaving the pursuit to the police, Peter heads back to his apartment for an all-night study session, followed by a meeting the next day with Professor Warren for a little reprimanding/morale boosting. Back in the Midwest, Doc Ock’s lethal limbs bust him out of prison, where he then breaks into a plane headed east—that happens to be carrying the controversial General Su, guarded by the State Dept., along with intrepid editor JJJ & son/Colonel John Jameson. A defiant Ock holds the plane and its passengers for a ten million dollar ransom, and hearing this news, Robbie Robertson and Peter hop a cap to Kennedy. With a demonstration going on to protest the General’s presence in the U.S. to add to the chaos, Peter manages to sneak away and change into costume, where he sneaks onto the plane to try and stop the six-armed scoundrel. After webbing Ock’s eyes, claustrophobic calamity ensues, until Ock starts to take off down the runway! Spidey hops off and the plane explodes, but has the vile villain truly been vanquished once and for all?

JT: The terrific Romita cover promises “The Rampaging Return of Spidey’s Deadliest Foe!” And especially based on current events in the Spider-Man universe (no spoilers here!), that’s no exaggeration. Doc Ock has always been one of my favorite villains, and even though it’s easy to argue good ol’ Norman Osborn/Green Goblin can be considered Spidey’s top archenemy, no one would argue it you said it was Ock instead. Of course, I had the Marvel Tales version of this one (#68), with the completely different color scheme, but hey, that was the beauty of MT for kids like me that weren’t allowed to start collecting Amazing Spider-Man at 3 1/2 years old.

MB: This is one of the best issues of Amazing—or, for that matter, of anything—I have read for a while:  it goes like a bullet without feeling rushed, or like action just for action’s sake, yet still allows time for our beloved subplots and supporting cast.  I’ve always felt that Dr. Octopus could give the Green Goblin a run for his money as Spidey’s arch-enemy, and the fact that his arms alone hold their own for so much of this issue supports that, as well as assuring us that we’ve embarked upon a solid multi-part story, and I won’t spoil any surprises for you first-timers.  This also marks the end of Romita’s briefly interrupted (#76-81) fifty-issue run penciling the Web-Spinner, although Jazzy Johnny would return several times in the years ahead.

SM: Fantastic! Easily the best issue of the month and a high point in the run of the book. It hits every point, has plenty of action beats and leaves time for unforced personal life stuff for Peter. Professor Warren (remember that name) leaves him a note on the bulletin board, which seems like an unreliable way to get a student into your office - unless they are all 100% trained to check the board every morning. Still, even the meeting is nice, with a "word to the wise" for Peter, and Gwen is finally acting like a real, loving girlfriend for a change.

PE: Two very good issues in a row and each the polar opposite of the other - this being the all-out action piece. Don't look now but if I recall correctly we're in for some real magic this year in The Amazing Spider-Man. I'm partial to Doc Ock appearances as I feel he's one of Spidey's more imbalanced foes. Rather than one of those sixth-tier villains (like The Kangaroo and the recently retired Prowler) that positively cry out "I'm... not... really... that... dangerous!" I get the vibe Ock has no problem killing someone. Nice to see future Gwen-stalker and secret identity of The Jackal, Professor Warren popping up again. Naively I keep waiting for some clue to his future behavior to rear its sleazy head but I know it was all created out of thin air (and the imaginative brain of writer Gerry Conway) half a decade later.

SM: Dock Ock is back and, when used correctly, he's the best of Spidey's villains and here he's used to great advantage. His mental control over his arms is well realized and Spidey's early fight is a great harbinger of things to come. Everything clicks, from the dialog, to the illos, all the way to the "is he or isn't he" ending. The best part is at no point are we encouraged to believe Ock is actually dead, which is nice for a change - especially since he'll be back next issue. Top class, applause all around. Why couldn't Stan deliver this sort of work in Cap's book? What a difference.

JT: Stan’s captions are more enjoyable than ever in this rock-solid, action-packed ish. My fave: “Why worry? How’s this for openers…?” which then leads into some always-fun museum mashing. Overall the script is dynamite, with nearly every line a firecracker, surpassed only by the Romita-Mooney action scenes, which as always feature some of the best “sound effects” in the biz. Although I’m still practicing my pronunciation of “SPLTAMNNG!” Throw in a miniseries-worth of supporting characters, a crowd of hippie militant protestors at the airport (it is 1970 after all), and some fine foreshadowing of future events (to those in the know) and you have probably the best comic of September 1970. Also great to see this month’s Bullpen Bulletin pay a nice tribute to Jazzy John—but was that to rub in the face of the just-resigned Jack Kirby? Hmm….

The Mighty Thor 180
Our Story

As Loki, in the body of “Thor,” wreaks havoc in the streets of New York, “Loki” (a.k.a. Thor) tries to stop him. Odin’s Vizier, at the demand of the All-Father, shows him the battle via the Enchanti-Sphere. Consumed with rage, Odin sends “Loki” to Hades. Balder uses the magic of his blade to send Sif back to Asgard, and takes up the fight against “Thor.” Back in the golden realm, the Vizier informs Sif that she can’t disturb Odin, not even to tell him the truth, as the omnipotent one is busy brooding. In Hades, Mephisto greets who he believes to be his cousin in evil, Loki, but a touch is all it takes for the horrid goodness of Thor to be revealed. The Monarch of Hell sends obstacles seemingly without end against “Loki.” Sif entails the aid of the Warriors Three, and the four of them, with the Vizier’s help, go to help the real Thunder God in Hades. When they arrive, they see Mephisto has imprisoned their prince in a globule.

JB: This interesting epic continues with a few oddities. Now, not only does Odin’s sleep bear no interruption, but his “brooding time” as well. And what’s with the Warriors Three, fighting a seeming troll invasion, which is then forgotten, as if it were some sort of Asgardian video game? Neal Adams creates some nice images of Asgard, and I find his panels of the characters, except for some facial close-ups, gives them a younger looking appearance. Mephisto looks as delightfully devilish as he does in the Silver Surfer.

SM: Neal Adams? Hot damn! It's a shame, though, that his first picture of Thor on the splash seems to be straight out of a Kirby reference drawing (the cover of JiM 89). And the guy running at the bottom of page 2…who runs like this without breaking a foot? He makes up for this with the huge full page picture on page 4 or Odin enraged. Magnificent! Joe Sinnott's peerless inks just make this more amazing. The story is just a battle-filled continuation of the body swap story begun last issue, but the art makes it better than it would be. There's great energy in Adams' work and fantastic clarity. Not much of a story, but it delivers the goods. Very enjoyable.

MB: I am mischievously tempted to say, “Jack who?” after seeing the first of two fill-ins by a match made in Heaven (or at least Asgard), Neal Adams and Joe Sinnott, but with Kirby’s metaphoric body not yet cold, I will wisely express only my gratitude that we have not seen the last of Neal now that X-Men has been shuttered.  A Bullpen Bulletin extols “the majestic quality of [his] inimitable artwork—the dramatic impact of his powerful penciling—and the larger-than-life emotions his drawings can generate…”  Interestingly, despite the dramatic difference in their styles and, quite frankly, the vast superiority of Adams’s face and figure work, the panel layouts in this story are extremely reminiscent of Kirby’s, which makes for a curious reading experience.

PE: If you've got to lose the best artist of the 1960s on your title, it helps to soothe the wound if you apply a dressing treated with Neal Adams. That intro panel of Mephisto is proof that Mr. Adams brings magic to anything he touches. No other artist could have illustrated Hades and its master quite that way. The story continues to be a good one and the climax of this issue leaves me hopeful that Stan can cook up something winning for the finale in the next. I would say that, for being the all-seeing father, Odin sure gets tricked a lot. Even Mephisto knows the truth.

Sub-Mariner 29
Our Story

Namor bids farewell to his friends in New York before he dives back into the ocean to swim home.  Meanwhile, the mighty Hercules has an argument with his dad Zeus.  After Hercules storms off to the Mediterranean, Zeus sends the vile Huntsman to track him down and to bring him home.  The Huntsman decides to use Namor to help him with his quest.  Using female Sirens to posses him, he sends Namor to apprehend Hercules.  When Subby does find Herc, the two duke it out for a short time.  When Hercules inadvertently puts a town at risk by hurling a boulder meant for Namor, it breaks Subby from his spell.  With him no longer being under the Huntsman's command, the two heroes buddy up to take the villain on.  Using his powerful staff, the Huntsman conjures up three giant monsters: a Cyclops, a lizard-like dragon, and a giant made of stone.  It's a brawl of epic proportions as Hercules and Subby battle the giant monsters.  Eventually Namor is able to separate the Huntsman from his staff, which causes the monsters to vanish away.  Before Hercules can kill the Huntsman, Zeus intervenes.  The immortal father and son make amends and go home.  Zeus uses his powers so that no earthling will remember what transpired on that day.  So in the end, Namor wakes up on the beach with no recollection of what had just happened to him.

TM:  After last issue's snoozefest, this tale was a welcome treat.  Hercules always makes things interesting, and any comic that brings in a crew of beasts that could have starred in 'Where Monsters Dwell,' is alright by me.  That doesn't mean this issue didn't have some flaws to it, as I found the whole plot revolving around Hercules running away from home like a teenager and his daddy out looking for him a bit strange.  The Huntsman has to be the most offensive looking villain I have ever seen.  He probably spends his off days driving around the neighborhood in a gray van, trying to lure children into it with promises of candy and puppy dogs.      

SM: A tale more entertaining than it should be mostly for the relationship between Namor and Herc. Once they got past their differences and the spell Namor was under, they worked together and were doing quite well as buddies - until Zues came down and wiped Namor's memory of the event. A real shame, I enjoyed seeing Namor working with a super powered dude rather than simply fighting from cover to cover. The art was nice, easy on the eyes. Decent time passer for a pointless "reset button" tale.

MB: This concludes a Hercules tale from Ka-Zar #1 that I’ve never seen, in which (per the MCDb) the Huntsman “makes short work of” the Avengers; that was scripted by Stan’s sometime assistant, Allyn Brodsky, not by Roy, who chronicled the Prince of Power’s early days with the Assemblers.  It’s up to Roy, Our Pal Sal, and “Gaudioso” to finish what Brodsky—best known as a writer, if at all, for a brief stint on Iron Man beginning next month—and the dreaded artists Frank Springer and Dick Ayers began.  The Huntsman’s selection of Namor as his puppetdu jour seems somewhat random, although it’s nice to be reminded that Subby and Hercules met in Avengers #40, and Roy gets to work in beloved classical references like Scylla and Charybdis.

Amazing Adventures 2
The Black Widow
Our Story

Reflecting upon Hawkeye and the Red Guardian makes Natasha put an early end to a date with director Roman Wilson, whereupon Maria brings her son, Carlos, to meet the Black Widow, who now knows her identity is no longer a secret.  He asks her to aid his group, the Young Warriors, which wrests control of a building in Spanish Harlem from shady candidate Anthony Scarola and turns it into a center for underprivileged children.  As the Young Warriors feed a free breakfast to the hungry kids, Scarola sends in gun-toting thugs, but after helping to disarm them, and urging the youths to work within the law, Natasha is stunned to learn from New York Press columnist Paul Hamilton that she is being called “a red-eyed radical.”

MB: It may be too soon to say whether the redemption of Gary Friedrich (if any) is underway, and it’s a bit silly of Natasha to be shocked that her secret is blown after the highly recognizable member of the jet set went into action with her whole naked face hanging out.  But Gary has staked out a promising new piece of turf with this topical storyline—as the former international agent devotes herself to the concerns of oppressed Latinos—and planted seeds thereon that may flourish in the few future issues.  As for the artwork, it probably goes without saying that as rendered by Johns Buscema and Verpoorten (the latter also scheduled to start embellishing The Fantastic Four next month when Romita succeeds Jack Kirby), the Widow looks beyond hot in her white trench coat.

SM: The Black Widow returns to help a group of inner city kids take a building and make it a community center where….what is this, Breakin' 2 Electric Boogaloo? More racial tensions that seem out of place for a former spy. I'm not having much fun with this feature. The art is still great and Natasha is still hot.

The Inhumans
Our Story

With the FF apparently behind the recent attacks, Black Bolt leads Medusa, Gorgon, and Karnak in an assault on the Baxter Building, using Lockjaw to transport them, and they arrive while the Richardses are out shopping, planning to immobilize the FF and then await the order to attack the city.  Karnak subdues Ben with a well-placed blow, Medusa ensnares Crystal, and Gorgon defeats the Torch, but on Maximus’s remote island, Triton arrives on a vital mission, having followed traces of his radioactive experiments.  Spotting the tell-tale missile launcher that confirms Black Bolt’s suspicions, Triton captures Maximus and heads for the Great Refuge, sending a signal for his fellow Inhumans to stand down and explain.

MB: As we now know, this was part of a single story broken up to fit the revived split-book format, and as such it makes a nice intro to the Inhumans’ solo series, obviously mindful of the fact that a guest appearance by the FF couldn’t hurt sales.  Kirby’s writing is a little bit better in the second half, with its solid plot and healthy dose of verbal and visual humor involving a bathrobe-clad Ben, although if I were the FF, I think I would still find the Inhumans’ rushed explanation somewhat wanting.  As for the artwork, inked once again by old hand Chic Stone (mistakenly credited as “Chick” last time), it too seems a tad more assured, since as I recall some of the facial features were a bit sketchy before; perhaps the publication delay permitted better embellishment.

SM: On one hand, it's pretty awesome to read this because it's a Kirby FF adventure I've never seen before. On the other, the Inhumans are too easily fooled into thinking the FF, of all people, would attack them (especially with Crystal - an Inhuman - on the team). It's sloppy, by the numbers stuff with a very heavy handed moral about nuclear war tossed in at the end. Jack's art contrasts sharply with the more realistic stuff done by the Buscema boys and Neal Adams. I was never a fan of his scripting though. It gets worse when he returns to do Cap in a few years.

Also this month

Mad About Millie #15
Mighty Marvel Western #10
My Love #7
Ringo Kid #5
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #80
Tower of Shadows #7
Two-Gun Kid #94
Where Creatures Roam #2
Where Monsters Dwell #5

Coming Next Month!


  1. Bradley to McIntyre: It was worth it! :-)

    On a more somber note, let us mark the recent passing of artist Carmine Infantino at age 87. I have a brief tribute over at Bradley on Film.

  2. Yes, he deserves a moment of silence. His work on Batman and his unique take on Star Wars were a staple of my childhood.

  3. I'm surprised I didn't comment on the ridiculousness of this month's Avengers cover. Red Wolf is shouting at the top of his lungs, Lobo is attacking Cap is about to get mauled (he sees it coming) and Thor is blissfully and totally clueless; "I see them not!" Puny god....

  4. I just realized after doing all these Hulk summaries that he is sort of a ripoff of Soloman Grundy. At least personality wise.

    Stan rejected the story originally intended for FF #102. More about that when we get to #108. The Magneto/Sub-mariner story was the last work Jack submitted to Marvel until his return later in the1970s. Kirby calmly handed the pages to Stan, told him that he'd had enough, and walked out. Years earlier, Stan figured Ditko was going to quit at some point, but Jack's departure came as a complete surprise. It's possible Stan wasn't fully aware of Jack's dissatisfaction.

    Stan knew Kirby was working without a contract. After all, he'd gone in to bat for Jack, telling Goodman that Kirby was an important part of Marvel. However, according to Sol Brodsky, in the office, if asked to change anything, Kirby quietly did what he was told, but it was a different story when Jack and a few staffers went out to lunch. Typically, Kirby flew into a rage, and slammed his fist into the table, angered at having to make trivial changes to one of his stories.

    BUSCEMA: In those days, for some reason the Silver Surfer just didn't click. The number one issue sold well, but each succeeding issue lost sales. It just went down, which was probably what was bothering Stan. Many years later, Stan told me at lunch one day, "John, I just didn't know what the hell to do with the damn thing. I didn't know what direction we were going."

    TJKC: It's been said that Jack was upset about the Surfer series, because he had his own vision of the character.

    BUSCEMA: Yes, I could understand Jack's resentment. This was his thing, his idea, his creation - and it's being taken away from him and given to me.

    TJKC: Do you think Jack was treated fairly at Marvel?

    BUSCEMA: You know the story better than I do. What I know is second hand. We all know how Jack was treated. They cut his page rate; you know the story?

    TJKC: No.

    BUSCEMA: This is again something told to me; I don't remember by who. Well, Jack Kirby was very fast. Martin Goodman was upset that Jack Kirby was making so much money. He felt, "Kirby's turning out so much work, let's cut his rate." That's when Jack left Marvel and went over to DC. This is the story that was told to me.

    I'll never forget when I walked into Stan's office and heard that Jack left. I thought they were going to close up! (laughter) As far as I was concerned, Jack was the backbone of Marvel.

    (excerpt from interview with John Buscema, conducted by John B. Cooke.)

    In the final pages of SS #18, the Surfer, tired of being mistreated, flies into a rage and announces that he's been pushed too far, and now he's going to push back. I think Stan missed the message.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  6. As always, Glenn, a mass of great info! Thanks!