Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney
Namor, along with his new buddies, the Silver Surfer and the Hulk, converge on an island military operation. The U.N. is working on a nuclear weather control device that Namor feels is dangerous. The head military guy in charge tattles on them to the U.N. headquarters. In response, the Avengers team sends out Iron Man, Goliath, and Thor to intervene as the rest of the group is busy filming a commercial. As they fly to the Island to confront Subby and his pals, Lady Dorma and Ikthon arrive so that Atlantis's top scientist can look at the weather contraption. When the Avengers arrive, Namor and the Surfer tries to reason with them but the Hulk can't control his bestial instincts and attacks. The two groups fight it out with Namor battling Goliath, the Surfer taking on Iron Man in a fight in the sky, and the Hulk squaring off with his old buddy Thor. The two groups have a good go at each other until Ikthon reveals that Namor was right to be suspicious all along. While the weather controlling device may have the potential for good if properly structured, this one was set to explode. In the end, Namor's little band is broken up, with the Hulk leaping away in disgust (no longer able to smash things), while the pompous Silver Surfer flies off to be by himself.-TM
TM: This was an issue I would have avoided buying back in my younger days as the hero versus hero misunderstanding scenario was usually boring. At least to me. This was a pretty enjoyable read thanks mainly to the writing as it does a good job showing off the unique personalities of the heroes. The Hulk goes on to further demonstrate why he was kicked off the Avengers from back in the day because he is an idiot who can't control himself. Goliath characteristically shows off his ineptitude when he can't hold on for two pages against Namor without getting himself drowned in the water. The Silver Surfer is pretty much a tool thinking he's better then anyone else on earth. It's solid guys like Thor and Iron Man that demonstrate the qualities of real heroes you would want on your team. Namor would be right up there with them if he just had a bit better people skills.
The Avengers figure in so prominently, that I thought this was their own title, particularly in regards to the "charity TV spot" which I assume was the Toys for Tots thing in the prior issue of The Avengers. Or perhaps they have a list of charities to dance for. I rather enjoyed this one. There were the usual "could be easily avoided" fights, but for the most part, the "Titans Three" mission is an honorable one. Although, I thought Thor might have more to say about weather control machines, seeing as he himself can control the elements. No speech about "the power of gods in the hands of weak, chattering mortals?" I'm disappointed. Maybe he was saving his speeches for his own title.
SM: I'm with Prof Matthew, it was a nice change to see them all part as friends rather than pissing someone off (like Rick Jones did) or leaving with barely veiled threats. The art is to die for. A fine conclusion to this mini-epic.
JT: One of my favorite (possibly the favorite) Subby issues ever. And again one of the few I actually owned.
"His Brother's Keeper!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Neal Adams and Tom Palmer
Leaving on a mission to find a place for his people among the humans, Black Bolt does not stop to explain to Gorgon why he has sealed Maximus inside a cylinder, where his vital signs hover near the brink of death. Fearing that he plans to murder his brother, Gorgon and Karnak break open the cylinder while Black Bolt prevents a boy from being forced by his uncle to aid in a warehouse robbery, and dons human garb in order to seek aid for the injured youth. To their horror, Gorgon and Karnak learn that Maximus has at last developed a super-power, that of instilling amnesia, and as soon as he awoke, he directed it toward Black Bolt half a world away, so that if he speaks he will unwittingly “annihilate an entire metropolis!”-MB
|Black Bolt Unmasked!|
SM: Neal Adams takes over the strip and it is, of course, gorgeous ("Jack Who?"), but Maximus looks completely different from his past depictions. Of course, the usual refusal to explain only makes the usually loyal subjects jump to incorrect conclusions. Like Matthew, I also noted this is the first time we get to see what Black Bolt looks like. So why did he wear a mask in the first place? It's not like he has a deformity or a day job to protect. Plus, there's no real note of the event. I mean, this is a character that had been around for something like 6 years and we never saw his face before this. Yet, the reveal is ignored. And is "Black Bolt" his real name? This is an interesting story so far, something I only read about in flashback during the Avengers Kree-Skrull War arc (coming soon!).
"...And To All a Good Night"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan and Bill Everett
On Christmas Eve, Ivan prevents a troubled teen from jumping off a bridge and takes him to Natasha’s home on the top floor of Manhattan’s Mammon Towers. The young man explains that after arriving from Utah in search of “new life-styles,” he fell in with a group of self-styled anti-establishment “Robin Hoods,” but then got cold feet when their leader, the Astrologer, who plans their crimes by the stars, intended to hold the city’s entire supply of rare type O-negative blood for ransom. At that point in his narrative, the Astrologer’s gunmen—who saw him getting into Tasha’s Rolls—try to invade her penthouse from above and below; the nameless teen gives his life to save hers, hurling himself and a hood from the terrace.-MB
will arrest the attention of any straight male) while Roy briefly assumes control of both halves of the book. Here, too, he shows his talent for breathing new life into characters, specifically Ivan, who was created by Friedrich out of the thinnest cardboard, but emerges from this issue as a fully rounded person, and will play an increasingly important role in the Widow’s various venues over the years. The Astrologer plotline is admittedly hokey (albeit less so than those green costumes erroneously shown on the cover), but the outcome was sobering and, unlike one correspondent, I find what they call Tasha’s “new role as a socially-involved super-heroine” a refreshing change.
SM: Um, wow, is this the first time Marvel has flirted so closely with female nudity? Lots of side-boob in the shower scene with only Natasha's hair covering her nipples. She's been drawn hot since the feature began, but they're really amping up the sex here. Is this what they were trying to get the older readers with ("look kids! Boobies!"). It probably would have worked for me. I give Roy credit for the downbeat ending to the issue. Natasha's little cast of supporting characters gets a welcome boost and the art is, again, even without the boobage, incredibly good. The art in this issue as a whole is almost too good for the subject matter.
The Amazing Spider-Man 94
"On Wings of Death"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and Sal Buscema
Bemoaning the loss of Gwen from his life, Peter blames Spider-Man for all of it, and recounts his origin as he walks/mopes along, all in the first person, from the spider bite to the capture of the burglar who killed his Uncle Ben. Even seeing Betty Brant on the streets can’t snap Peter out of his angry funk, and he becomes angry for even rehashing his past as he ends up walking from Manhattan to Queens and Aunt May’s house. Suddenly, The Beetle appears and breaks into a nearby store, eluding the police but not taking anything. Arriving at Aunt May’s, Peter’s handed a newspaper by Anna Watson hat alerts him to the Beetle’s break-ins, but he goes to take a nap as Aunt May heads off to the store to buy him milk (!). As Peter is beset by dreams of the Beetle, he’s awoken by Anna to find out the insidious insect has captured his beloved Aunt! He quickly changes into Spider-Man, learns The Beetle was after a hidden vault all along, and manages to save a frightened Aunt May. Then Spidey proceeds to exterminate the big bad bug after a short battle tossing him into a pool where his heavy wings do him in. - JT
JT: John Romita and Sal Buscema together? Two of my all-time favorite artists on my all-time favorite comic book? Um, sign me up! Yeah, it’s partly an origin rehash, and a quick dispatch of a fairly dumb villain, but who cares? It’s Spider-Man and it’s great, dammit! I love that Peter/Spidey is so angry and annoyed. Heck, he should be—his best gal split the scene and he blames only himself. And of course, he’ll protect Aunt May with every ounce of his being, even if he may not drink milk any more unless he happens to be in Queens after hiking over the bridge on foot. Now, why Auntie needed to go out for milk at that time I don’t know, but my late Mom was big on the whole “you have to have milk in the house” thing so I experienced this firsthand and understand where Mrs. Parker is coming from…..That said, guilty Peter is back this month, but for some odd reason, with p-o’d Pete partly along for the ride, it’s not as mopey as past issues. I know I had this month’s book in my long-gone collection, but it was missing the first four pages, so big thanks to Dean Pete for finally allowing me to see them!
MB: The Lee/Romita/Buscema troika returns, with a twist: this time, the sibling in question is inker Sal, although I doubt an untrained eye like mine would have noticed the difference if the credits were omitted. I can only speak for myself, but I feel like we needed a retelling of Spidey’s origin like we needed a return appearance by Loki in Thor; interestingly, that aspect was much more prominently featured on the drastically reworked cover of the Marvel Tales reprint, from which flashbacks to his rogues’ gallery were evidently cut. Weak spots in the story: how obvious it was from the Bugle diagram that Aunt May was on a collision course with the Beetle, and how miraculous it was that the rooftop swimmers weren’t cut to ribbons by glass.
SM: I originally read this as a Marvel Tales reprint and it's not much. Little did anyone suspect at the time, this period where Gwen is in London is the infamous "Gwen has a baby after sleeping with Norman Osborn" retcon that made me hate J. Michael Straczynski forever. But we'll never get to that run, so we can just put it out of our minds. Pointless as it all is, we still get a nicely realized recap of Spidey's origin and supporting cast. However, it takes ten pages to get the Beetle in on the action. Aunt May gets to see some thrills and, of course, even after being saved by Spidey, she's still terrified of him. Go figure. At least Peter finally remembered his debt to Uncle Ben is the reason he's still fighting crime. Peter, though, still has awful taste in shirts. A well drawn issue, but like Sam Bullitt's story, a placeholder. You can totally skip this issue and miss nothing.
PE: Is it a pile of socks waiting to be laundered? A bag of trash near the front door? The neighbors cooking Thai again? Nope, it's this worthless issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, surely one of those rare demons that even the completists avoid when rounding up a full set. This has to be the most egregious offender of Deadline Doom/"Let's just put something out there, they'll buy it" I've ever encountered. To make matters worse, the art is horrible. Are those credits right? Mix a "greatest hits" of Peter Parker's life with a bulldozer full of cliches and you get, perhaps, the worst issue of ASM. Really, May Parker could drop dead of a heart attack hearing a doorbell ring but Anna Watson waves bye-bye as the old bat heads down the street to get a carton of milk while the Beetle is on his "frightening wave of terror"? And thank you, Professor Scott, for reminding me about that gigantic pile of crap Straczynski lay upon the heads of all Spidey fans. I had just about calmed down. Let's just squirt an extra canister of butane on the entire print run of #94 and toss one of JJJ's stogeys at it.
JT: OK, I can't fully disagree with you guys, but to call this the Worst. Issue. Ever. is a bit harsh, Dean Pete. Wait until we get to Keith Pollard! Sure, there is no need whatsoever for an origin story, but there's plenty of good stuff here. Not the best, but still worthwhile. And yes, I liked Spidey Super Stories!
Captain America and the Falcon 135
"More Monster Than Man!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Cap brings the Falcon to meet Nick Fury and his mob and Falc gets to beat Dum Dum in a rassling match. He wins their respect and we meet a weirdly simian looking Dr. Gorbo. Gorbo is in love with his comely assistant and feels disrespected by the SHIELD guys. He wants to prove his superiority by becoming stronger by creating a serum made of ape blood. Predictably, this transforms him into an Ape-Man. He realizes he can commit any crime as the ape dude and hide in plain sight as Dr. Gorbo. He goes to destroy Project Earth Dig, a government initiative to dig a hole large enough to safely bury nuclear waste. Cap and Falc try to stop him, which leads Cap and the Ape guy to a deadly fall into "the deepest hole on Earth!"-SM
SM: Some plots should be thrown into that hole with Cap and Gorbo. Gorbo is a typical Gene Colan creation; someone so strange looking it was as if fate decreed him to be some weird-ass criminal no matter what. His invention is a tired retread of Mr. Hyde. Who would suspect a man who becomes a different identity after each crime? I mean, besides anyone who's heard of Bruce Banner, or Calvin Zabo or anyone who can transform into a man brute. Whatever. The "big dig" is simply crazy. Nobody seems to think sticking radioactive material miles underground would have an adverse effect on the planet. I'm sure the Mole Man or Tyrannus would have something to say about all of this. You know, with all the super technology in the Marvel Universe, you'd think Reed Richards would just whip up a widget to get rid of the waste. He could beam it into the sun or give it to Annihilius or something.
MB: “Wait’ll you see the magic that Tom Palmer’s inking lends to Gene Colan’s pencil work on this [issue],” raves a Bullpen Bulletin. “And then, next month, prepare for the most electrifying change-over of all, as Wild Bill Everett embellishes Gene’s artwork—giving Cap and the fighting Falcon a luster and an excitement such as they’ve never had before!” I’ve always said that the one place I really appreciated Palmer’s inks was over Colan’s pencils in Dr. Strange, so it’s no surprise that I highly approve of the team here (although I still find Gene’s Nick Fury egregious), especially when rendering that extraordinary shot of the simian Gorbo on page 9. I got this as a back issue when still pretty young, so for me, that cliffhanger lasted years!
SM: Funny stalling tactic in the beginning. The Falcon takes forever to travel down by barber shop chair, so instead of just letting it go (Sam seems like the kind of dude to rap with the barber awhile), the chair has to be "jammed." And nobody fixed it, hinting that Falc wasn't keeping his finger on the button. I don't know why this made such an impression on me, but it stuck out as cheesy. And, sadly, we're back to the Steve/Sharon soap opera. It was a nice break while it lasted. I also find it amusing that Sam Wilson can find a model of Ape Guy "for Redwing to study." Did he stop by the Puppet Master or Alicia Masters' place and ask one of them to whip it up? And can you picture Redwing, with little birdie specs, staring at this model, rubbing his chin and saying "hmmmmmmm?" There is entertainment value here, but it's some really strange stuff.
PE: By sheer coincidence, Dr. Gorbo looks like a simian long before he starts downing chimp blood to become Junior Kong. At least Stan thought enough of our intelligence this time out to not name his scientist Dr. Orangutan or something along those lines. I love when The Falcon preps Redwing before setting off to hunt for GorboKong by having the bird study an Aurora model of a gorilla! And how about those quick-thinking scientists back in 1971, digging a hole right down to the center of the earth so they could dump America's atomic sludge "safely!"
"In the Country of the Blind!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Syd Shores
Daredevil breaks up a group of thugs, only to get cracked on the head, momentarily regaining his sight. Except it’s only a dream. Matt’s doorbell rings; it’s Foggy Nelson, who has mysteriously lost hi sight! Matt takes him to a leading ophthalmologist, who says the D.A.’s blindness is temporary. As Matt takes Foggy home, it becomes apparent that this blindness has affected almost everyone in the city. DD, out searching for answers, interrupts a group of criminals on a robbing spree, led by a guy called the Smasher, who proves to be tough enough to stun Daredevil long enough to get away. DD comes to with the help of a man named Slate, blind like himself, who takes him to the police station. There our hero meets a group of local friends, blind for most of their lives. One, a lady named Cindy, has the answer: she overheard by chance, two men putting something in the city’s water supply that has caused this temporary blindness. Thanking his newfound friends, DD manages to find Smasher and crew, still out taking advantage of the city’s blindness, and sets to get revenge for his prior setback. He gets unexpected help from his blind friends, who help take down the criminals. The sight of the city will soon return, and Matt feels a little less alone than before.-JB
JB: A nice little bit of work from Gerry Conway; not a classic piece like those he would be remembered for, but he’s still getting going. Nice for Daredevil to find some new friends, especially after acknowledging that he’s been distant from Foggy (and Karen) in recent months. Gene Colan always varies the sizes of his panels to keep the visuals interesting.
SM: Wow, what an awful cover. I hope the story inside is better than this… Ahem. Anyway. I loved Matt's dream of regaining his sight. I wonder if that would really happen…how his sight returns and his mask opens up to show us his eyes. Since it's a dream, it's not an error, but it took me by surprise for a second. A stretch of a story, but I liked the reversal of the sightless, people used to being blind and could navigate as normal, helping DD save the city. Superficially, it's a fun issue, but don't try to find logic in any of this.
MB: Is this a good issue of Daredevil? No, it really isn’t, although Gentleman Gene is, as usual, beyond reproach. But in all fairness, is it worse than any number of previous lesser issues written by Roy, or by Stan before him? No, it really isn’t. Sure, having the whole city go blind provides a pleasing echo of The Day of the Triffids, yet it is well beyond the scope of this post to enumerate all of the logistical absurdities regarding how said blindness was inflicted or, worse, rectified, which to this reviewer just spells lazy writing. DD’s conveniently precognitive dream went on way too long, and my eyes started rolling when Gerry introduced the little band of blind people, knowing that any effort at getting to know them would be completely wasted.
Fantastic Four 108
"The Monstrous Mystery of the Nega-Man"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
With Framing Art by John Buscema and John Romita
Reed explains to the other members of the team why there is such a danger from Janus, Reed’s former college friend, having forced his way into the Negative Zone. Some months back, a being calling himself Janus, the Nega-Man, had broken into a city bank vault, foiling the efforts of the Thing and the Human Torch to stop him. Shortly after, “Janus,” Reed’s old friend, asking for help, contacted the team at which point the communication had been cut off. Surmising what may have been happening, Reed took Sue with him to Midvale, where Janus lived, leaving Ben and Johnny to keep watch in the city. Sure enough the Nega-Man returned wreaking havoc in New York, before escaping with a warning of conquest. Reed and Sue, at Janus’ home, witnessed the arrival of Nega-Man, who wasn’t expecting them. Reed had grabbed his control module, holding him captive. Janus then shot the Nega-Man, his “brother.” Since their college days, Janus had continued his experiments looking for a negative form of power, and they had taken a diabolical form, creating a sort of evil double, thus the Nega-Man. Back in the present, Janus had eventually succumbed to the temptation of more power, continuing to experiment. Having so much knowledge of negative power, his entry into the Negative Zone is of immense danger. Presto…the alarm sounds. Something has found it’s way back from the Negative Zone into their lab entrance. Some thing named Annihilus! -JB
JB: The telling of the story mainly through flashbacks makes the business of the Nega-Man more interesting than it might otherwise be. If yet another evil double created by some form of deadly energy is nothing new, the finale, when Annihilus finds his way back into our world, was a welcome development; a hideous and fascinating foe. The Negative Zone remains one of this magazine’s more interesting creations. I’m guessing next issue will step things up.
MB: This hybrid has a curious history: it began as a Kirby tale, intended to be #102, then was shelved, replaced by the current #102 just before his departure, later cannibalized with new framing material by his successors, Romita and Buscema, and given some consistency by inker Sinnott. The resulting patchwork quilt is a bit disorienting, and as “Sincere Stan” says in his footnote, “Only mixed-up Marvel would attempt to show flashback scenes from a story we’ve never printed before!” Of course, anybody with a knowledge of Roman mythology had a leg up on the solution to the mystery (although the connection with the two-faced god Janus goes unspoken in my Marvel’s Greatest Comics reprint), but if it brings back Annihilus, I’m all for it.
PE: There are a lot of things I'm thankful for in this world but, right this minute, number one could very well be that Professor Jim has to write up the synopsis for this indecipherable mess, not me! A lazy Marvel proofreader doesn't help either (at one point, Reed says to Sue "You and are taking a little trip"). I did think it was nice that Reed didn't immediately pack up The Invisible Girl (as in invisible in her own title lately) and send her to watch little Franklin while he fought crime on a high level. The whole story has "alternate history" feel to it, as if none of the events here will impact the future (read that as "The DC Method"). It's amazing the lengths Stan and the Boys would go to use up every inch of Kirby art in their possession. I'm sure it helped meet a deadline as well. As the like-minded Professor Matthew alluded, anything is bearable as long as it leads to a really good Annihilus tale. Now let's hope Stan delivers one.
PE: Back in the ninth issue of The Kirby Collector, an essential guide to the work of "The King," editor/publisher John Morrow was able to use discarded original art for the first version of Fantastic Four #102 (bits of which were screwed with and released as #108) to reconstruct the story that Jack had originally set out to tell for his final FF story. According to Morrow, the story goes that "someone at Marvel felt (the story) wasn't dialogueable" and so was shelved until "(not so coincidentally) the same month as Jack's New Gods #1 came out at DC." Class acts all around, these guys. The Kirby Collector comes highly recommended (even to non-Kirby buffs like myself) and back issues can be found here.
The Invincible Iron Man 35
Story by Allyn Brodsky (plot) and Gerry Conway
Art by Don Heck and Mike Esposito
As Jasper faces death, Whitney (whose right leg looks more like Plastic Man’s!) realizes she loves him, and a vengeful Iron Man must be stopped by Matt Murdock from beating the Spymaster’s location out of the Espionage Elite. The Zodiac assigns the Spymaster to a new target, Daredevil, who is captured with Madame Masque just as they meet, and at S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury is compelled to lash out with the captured Zodiac key until Iron Man can seal it in a force-field. Iron Man discovers that the key is being powered from another dimension just before he, Fury, and Kevin are taken and held in the Zodiac HQ beneath Manhattan’s West Side Highway, where a disembodied voice yet again urges Fury to take the key... (Continued in Daredevil #73.) -MB
SM: Whitney Frost has a normal face again? Did I miss the issue when this happened? There was no reveal I can remember. As I recall, her trip to have her face restored was a lure into the clutches of the Minotaur. No work was done on her and I can't find any appearances of her in another titles. And if she's awesome again, why wear the mask? I can't even tell if she's supposed to look different or not, but she is introduced as a "new character" at first and then slides the mask on. Capricorn looks like an idiot in that costume with skirt, and his eyebrow tentacles are laughable. He doesn't really use them in this issue, but last time, I couldn't keep a straight face. I can't imagine what kind of hold he has on Spymaster who is, at turns, defiant and submissive. Capricorn has nothing superior going for him, why couldn't Spymaster just pants the guy and choke him with his super eyebrows?
MB: “Meet Merry Gerry Conway, pushin’ towards twenty,” says a Bullpen Bulletin, “who’s already got a couple of science-fiction paperback sales under his belt and who cut his artistic eyeteeth at Marvel scripting mystery yarns and Ka-Zar’s capers. Gerry will be writing Daredevil, and Iron Man as well, from here on in—and, despite what the competition may say, it isn’t true that he still pays half-fare on the subway!” Although Gerry is now handling both titles, his predecessor, Allyn Brodsky, plotted this cross-over, and while we’re at it, inker Mike Esposito is finally billed under his real name. Too bad Sal Buscema, whose cover was used in an unforgettable house ad (“It starts with a bang in Iron Man—and ends with a blast in Daredevil!”), didn’t do the interior.
SM: The art is below par (or the new par), a Don Heck Special, but there's at least one shot of Cappy Corn that looks like it's done in the Tuska style, the 3rd panel on page 19 (reprinted to my right). Also, Iron Man's massive fist on page 3 is just weird. It's ironic that the Iron Man movies are hugely profitable, while his book was, for a long time, pretty lower tier. It makes one miss Tales of Suspense. To be continued in last month's Daredevil. Ugh, someone was asleep at the wheel. Jasper Sitwell is still hovering between life and death, but I submit Iron Man has no need to worry. When Jasper spoke his last words to Shellhead before passing out, he didn't confess to knowing the avenger's secret identity. "Jasper called me, sir…like he would Tony Stark! He knew!" Luckily, we were spared that for once.
JS: Once again, I appreciate why I was never really into Shell-head as a kid. For me, the first time I really enjoyed an Iron Man tale was when Robery Downey Jr. suited up for the first time.
The Mighty Thor 186
"Worlds at War"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
As Odin wages battle with his hidden foe, Infinity, he still finds time to save his son Thor from certain death. Having reverted to his human identity of Don Blake while waiting for his Mjolnir to return, the Thunder God faces the approaching Guardian of the World Beyond. Odin strikes the Guardian with a bolt of force, and Thor’s hammer makes it back in time. Three times he downs the Guardian, and three times Infinity revives him with a bolt of energy. Finally Thor forms a force vortex that shields the Guardian from any help. Thor then commands the mists to clear, and he sees Odin waging his cataclysmic battle. Joining his father’s side, Thor sees the ever-watchful, non-interfering Silent One, and demands some answers. While Odin forbids Thor from harming the mysterious being, the Silent One beckons Thor to follow him, and leads him beyond the swirling fog, beyond the battle, to a precipice, where he sees the beings true master: Hela, Goddess of Death. His purpose fulfilled, the Silent One falls to the ground. The death Goddess strikes Thor with a bolt of (non?) energy, and protesting, he begins to whither and age. Hela departs. The Silent One comes mysteriously to Thor’s aid; a single tear in his eye, he transfers his life energy to Thor, losing his own in exchange. While havoc threatens life everywhere, including Earth and Asgard, Thor returns to his father’s side, who, shocked at seeing Infinity’s true form, has become yet another mindless follower. He strikes at his son…-JB
JB: I hadn’t read this one in so long, I didn’t realize my copy was missing pages 11 to 14, but the story seems to flow smoothly nonetheless. I’d like to have seen what mischief the Warriors Three were up to in Asgard! The mystery begins to unravel, as the shock of seeing Infinity’s identity drives Odin mad. And what a poignant ending for the Silent One (an all-too-brief career for him), as he sacrifices himself to save Thor. Hela’s part isn’t yet clear (I won’t tell), but it’s a welcome return for the Goddess of Death, last seen in issue #150, as we’re faced with the battle even the Gods must one day lose. Some nice Buscema art...
MB: As I told Mrs. Professor Matthew, despite the fact that the splash page touts this as a part of “Perhaps the greatest saga in this, the Marvel Age!,” I have absolutely no recollection of these issues from whenever it was that I acquired them, which doesn’t bode very well for Stan’s big post-Kirby epic. Mind you, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, either, and there’s no shortage of stuff going on, to be sure; it’s just that this third segment (out of an eventual four, as I understand it) almost inevitably leaves so many questions unanswered that I, for one, had no idea what the heck was going on. That said, however, Big John Buscema’s exquisite art makes this a trip eminently worth making, especially with Sinnott back after a fine Grainger fill-in last month.
PE: Unfortunately, I'm with Professor Matthew on this one. There's a lot going on but I get the sense of a lot of wheels spinnin' in the mud. All this calamity and nothing's getting done. Lots of lordly speeches without anything of substance being said.It's got the feel of an epic, I grant thee, but it's a bloated epic, one that may sink from the weight of its own pretensions. Honest to gosh, I didn't peek but I can't imagine, when we finally come face-to-face with the visage of Infinity, it will be worth the sight of a panic-stricken Odin. Mayhap I'm wrong.
SM: I also agree, so little is actually happening here outside of the constant battles and speeches. However, the Silent One's sacrifice was a nice, touching bit of business and the pictures are lovely. It's far from a bad issue and it's all great fun. I just like a little more movement in my story, as in progression, not just beating people up and stuff. Still, compared to some of the last half dozen Kirby stories, this is top stuff. Now that King Kirby is gone, Odin is getting a larger chunk of the action. He's a portly fellow, but John B does wonderful work bringing his regality to life (if that's not a word, it should be). It does seem that they're doing all they can to make sure everyone currently active in the Thor universe gets some "screen time." I can't complain, I guess. It's not dull, but it does shout out "filler."
The Avengers 86
"Brain-Child to the Dark Tower Came...!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney
Still stuck on a duplicate Earth, Quicksilver, Goliath, Scarlet Witch and The Vision team with Nighthawk to stop the solar rocket. The rocket was built by Brain-Child, a boy named Arnold Sutton who was mutated by radiation his parents absorbed. Now he has super brain power and looks like someone from Talos IV. Meanwhile, Thor, Iron man and the Black Panther are still trying to find and rescue their compatriots. Back on the alternate Earth, the five heroes got to Brain-Child's island and do battle, resulting in the mutant becoming a normal kid. The four wayward Avengers are rescued at the end of the story by the three on our Earth, leaving us to ponder if they indeed did return to their own Earth or to a third, identical version.-SM
SM: I can't help but wonder if the Vision could have "powered down" the vehicle and allowed Nighthawk go talk to his friends, since they only stopped fighting when he arrived. Oh, but of course, that would have prevented pages filled with fighting and that's what the kidz plunked down their allowance for, right? I have to remember that I'm looking at these issues with adult eyes and that lends a bit of cranky old man cynicism to the reviews. The Squadron Supreme is actually kind of a cool group and I have no idea if they figure in the MU in the future, but they would make a decent addition (Nighthawk reminds me of the later Nite Owl from Watchmen). I can't read Brain-Child's dialog without hearing Stewie Griffin's voice, though. He's a sympathetic villain, the type we haven't seen in a little while. He's just some poor kid socked with a power he never wanted and isolated from mankind. His own death wish is strangely touching, while being over the top enough to give the story a pleasant Saturday Morning TV vibe. Roy Thomas was writing a ton of titles at this point, but The Avengers seemed to be one he really sunk his teeth into.
MB: Sal Buscema returns for this uncredited early effort by future EIC Len Wein who, per the Marvel Comics Database, “was named as co-plotter by Roy Thomas in the introduction of Marvel Masterworks: The Avengers #9”; the Comic Book Database, if not the MCDb, adds that Wein worked on Daredevil #71 (as the lettercol in #76 confirms). These followed his obligatory Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness gigs, yet it will be years before Len, who wrote concurrently for DC, becomes a fixture of the Marvel super-hero landscape. As in Sub-Mariner, inker Jim Mooney is well-matched with Sal, leaving me again more pleased with the art than the story, although seeing Brain-Child spoofed on The Tick before reading this probably didn’t help.
PE: Though I usually savage this type of science fiction in the Marvel comics (super-villain created by radiation), I thought this one was a notch or two above the usual fare. There's some honest-to-gosh pathos here as we learn the full scope of Mind-Kid's plan. This ten year-old's led such a miserable life, he's willing to commit suicide on the grandest scale possible. As a Monday morning quarterback, I have to smile at the references to Robert Browning's "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", paraphrased as this issue's title, knowing that the poem was inciting author Stephen King to create his own fantasy world at the very same time. If the design of Brain-Boy looks as familiar to you Bronze Age Kids as it did to me, check out The Amazing Spider-Man #138 for the similarly bulbous Mindworm. I'd completely forgotten the character's previous appearance as a secondary evil mutie in The X-Men #62-63.
JT: A Stephen King shout-out! Yeah!
SM: Brain-Child does indeed remind one of the Mind-Worm; the difference being I hated the damned Mind-Worm, drawn by the hideous pencils of Ross Andru as sitting Indian style in his wife beater. Brain Child isn't so bad. Just a heads up, fellow Faculty; I lose interest in any title drawn by Andru. Spidey will drop off my "must read" list for a very long time. Once again, Marvel Continuity is shown to be slender as Thor appears here and in Sub-Mariner's book while battling in The World Beyond in his own. I guess they've given up on having these stories take place at the same time. This was why Stan removed Thor and Iron Man from the group to begin with, but Roy wanted the all stars involved. At any rate, the last minute theoretical twist at the end, one of many questions of this type the Vision likes to ponder, was cool. Did they actually return home or….?
The Incredible Hulk 137
"The Stars Mine Enemy!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Shanghaied aboard an alien vessel, the Hulk runs into his old nemesis, the Abomination. The two pick up right where they left off from a couple years ago as they start brawling. As numerous other extraterrestrial prisoners look on, Xeron steps in before they kill each other. A helpful alien later explains to the Hulk that they came upon the Abomination some time ago after he slayed a monstrous beast on some planet. Once he was aboard, the Abomination challenged the former first mate of the ship to combat, killing him and taking his position. Even the moronic Hulk realizes that he is in a tough position with few options. If he destroys the ship, along with everyone on it, he has no way back to earth. Time goes by as the Hulkster gets with the program. He works along with everyone else as the ship's mysterious captain, Cybor, remains unseen. The Abomination won't let go of his feud with the Hulk though. He clocks the Jade Giant from behind with a harpoon, knocking our hero off the ship, drifting into space as meteors head towards him. Luckily for the Hulk, Xeron is able to save him. The three heavy hitters are summoned to meet with Cybor before the Hulk can get his revenge. Cybor reveals himself to be split down the middle: one half human, the other half robotic. It's this android side of him which powers the ship. He relates to the three that he was once completely human, but was severely injured while hunting Klaatu. Klaatu reappears in outer space. As bad timing would have it, the Hulk has transformed back into Bruce Banner. Everyone powers the smaller ships as Xeron and Cybor attempt to harpoon Klaatu. Cybor is successful in mortally wounding the beast but gets pulled onto Klaatu's back. Xeron and the rest of the alien slaves drift helplessly as they follow their leader and Klaatu into the scalding sun. The Abomination and the Hulk mix it up one last while floating in space with the Hulk seemingly getting the best of it. The story ends with the two combatants falling back to earth.-TM
TM: This issue has always been a personal favorite of mine. One thing that always bothered me though was how in the hell did Cybor become an outer space alien harpooner in the first place before he even became deformed?! I know in a series that has stories revolving around two gamma-mutated humans, turned into monsters, then kidnapped aboard an alien ship powered by intergalactic slaves in the search of a giant creature made up of energy, that the reader needs to exercise some suspension in belief but this one is stretching it. It is an exciting and creative issue though. Trust me, after reading about the Hulk fighting the Abomination some fifty more times in this ongoing saga, this tale is one of the better ones.
MB: This conclusion makes it clearer that what we are dealing with here is an intergalactic Moby-Dick, complete with obsessed, body-part-deprived captain Cybor, harpoonist Xeron, and “great white whale” Klaatu. Offhand, I don’t recall seeing Esposito ink Herb’s Hulk before, but I found the results pleasing, which along with that long-awaited return appearance by the Abomination—however out of place he may have been—helped me get through a story that I still found largely uninteresting. I did, however, enjoy seeing in the lettercol that another reader made the same connection I did between Rachel’s encounter with the Hulk at the water’s edge in #132 and Boris Karloff’s ’31 Frankenstein, described as “one of Roy’s favorite pics of all time.”
|Somebody call Ray Bradbury's lawyer!|
Creatures on the Loose 10
King Kull in
"The Skull of Silence"
Story by Roy Thomas
Adapted from the Short Story by Robert E. Howard
Art by Berni Wrightson
King Kull leads his guardsmen through a treacherous mountain path on the way back to their home, Valusia, the city of wonders. As darkness falls, the group spots a dark castle in the distance. When Kull suggests that they seek shelter from the night in the stronghold, a slave warns the mighty ruler that the long-dead wizard Raama had imprisoned the Spectre of Silence within it walls years earlier. Kull ignores the warning and breaks the seal on the castle door, unleashing the Spectre from a golden gong. Before he succumbs to the harrowing creature’s tendrils, the Valusian ruler manages to smash the gong, destroying the Spectre. -TF
TF: With the inaugural issue of Creatures on the Loose, formerly known as Tower of Shadows, Roy Thomas introduces another Robert E. Howard character into the Bronze Age. While Conan has always been the more popular sword and sorcery hero, Howard actually created Kull of Atlantis first. The characters are similar, but there are some notable differences. While the Cimmerian was a wander, Kull’s adventures were mainly set in Valusia, the kingdom he ruled. And King Kull is a bit more cerebral. Though, judging from this story, he’s far from a rocket scientist. Tiring of the responsibilities inherent with wearing a crown, Kull brazenly opens the castle door to recapture the reckless barbarian spirit of his youth — and he nearly pays the ultimate price. For the 7-page story, Roy sticks with the pulpy prose style he developed for the Conan series and Bernie Wrightson was a sweet choice for artist — though he’s a bit removed from his remarkable Swamp Thing skills. The guardsmen have a colorful personality, with a few resembling Native Americans. Kull would return in a few months for his first solo series, “Kull the Conqueror.” Be there effendi! Creatures on the Loose #10 also includes the reprint “Trull the Unhuman!,” with art by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. The less said the better.
PE: What? Professor Flynn, surely you jest! How could I let such a bold statement go unanswered? "Trull the Unhuman!"(originally from Tales to Astonish #21, July 1961) takes the totally original idea of an alien who possesses the "body" of a steam shovel and terrorizes a work crew. I know what you're saying: Didn't Theodore Sturgeon do that in the 1940s in "Killdozer" (Astounding, November 1944)? Well, yeah, but so what? And didn't that story approach the theme with intelligence and suspense rather than with dopeyness and soap opera? Well, yeah, but... Anyway, can someone out there tell me why it is that Earth is known as Earth throughout all the galaxies? Is there a sign on a really big post (preferably right through New Jersey), visible from a hundred trillion light years away? I just ask because it seems like every alien invading our world addresses it as "Earth" rather than "Splot" or "Grumph" or something in their alien language.
And why do they always call themselves Venusians or Martians (or Uranians or Plutonians)? Wouldn't they have another name for their own planet or are they just very polite beings and allow us to name their worlds? Anyway... you gotta love a killer steam shovel that smiles. As for the main event, I find it a bit of a letdown after the premiere issue of Conan the Barbarian. I love Bernie Wrightson's art, always have, but he has that same flaw that plagued Graham "Ghastly" Ingels: his humans don't look human. He's unmatched when it comes to creepy, drippy monsters and exaggerated characters (those old guys who have spittle dripping from chapped lips and gnarled hunchbacks with clubbed feet, etc.) but I can see why Barry Smith got the job on Conan. The people gotta look like people. In an interview that appeared in Alter Ego #70 (July 2007), Roy reveals that "Bernie had really wanted to do Conan and that hadn't worked out." This was the only Kull story Wrightson would pencil. Not long after, Bernie was off to DC to do Swamp Thing. A much better choice. Kull will be given his own title in three months time and Ross Andru and Wally Wood will handle art chores.
JT: A "Killdozer" shout-out! Yeah! What a month! Loved the TV movie, loved the Marvel adaptation! And let's not forget Wrightson's best work, as artist for Stephen King's The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, Creepshow, Cycle of the Werewolf, and the greatest book ever, The uncut The Stand. But I digress.
JS: And let's not forget the Wrightson project that Marvel would help bring to the masses a few more years down the road - his phenomenal illustrated Frankenstein!
SM: The extremely weird art hampered my enjoyment of this tale. It was honestly nothing great compared to the awesomeness going on in Conan. I'll keep checking, since a new artist takes over next time, but for a first shot out the door, this one doesn't go far with me. Funny, though, how the longest commentary by the two of you, especially Dean Peter, is for this relatively minor issue.
Also this Month
Ka-Zar #3 ->
Marvel's Greatest Comics #30
My Love #10
Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #18 (all-reprint; last issue)
Rawhide Kid #85
The Ringo Kid #8
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #85
Two-Gun Kid #97
Where Creatures Roam #5
Where Monsters Dwell #8
The Angel in
"In the Den of the Dazzler"
Story by Jerry Siegel
Art by George Tuska and Dick Ayers
The Angel is on a mind-blowin' rampage, out to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of The Dazzler. No one is safe from the ire of Warren Worthington, least of all ex-girlfriend Candy. Um, why Candy? Because Warren was out on a date with the hot redhead instead of, I guess, sitting by his father's side day and night. There's no real sense to Warren's rage against the innocent Candy but that makes for an even more interesting and enthralling story. Is the young X-Kid coming unhinged? Very reminiscent of Jerry Siegel's Mighty Comics material, there's some nice stuff here: the aforementioned deflection of blame, Angel's showdown with the cops ("I'm a Homo-Superior! Mebbe that puts me above the laws of ordinary people..."), a wild throwaway panel of an undertaker cold-calling Warren for business, and The Dazzler's "chemoid particles" planted in the sweaters of his henchmen, which allow him to zap them to dust when they yack to the fuzz. There's only one drawback to this winner and that's the abrupt title switch for the concluding installment from Ka-Zar to Marvel Tales #30. A title I somehow lack! Professor Scott to the rescue. Next month: the thrilling conclusion. -PE