Amazing Adventures 7
The Inhumans in
"An Evening's Wait for Death"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Neal Adams and John Verpoorten
Red Chinese troops find the Inhumans unconscious on the beach, but as the cautious captain orders them to set down their weapons, the awakening Medusa misinterprets things, and a melee breaks out until she, Gorgon, Karnak, and Triton flee in a long-hidden rocket. The strange weapon pointed at Black Bolt and Joey turns out to be “a versatile instrument” grafted to the wrist of a man who notes that they call him “Mister Dibbs,” offering to help “a fellow outcast,” but he is an ally of Roscoe’s, and apprehends them after fathoming the secret of Black Bolt’s discarded costume. Three incognito Inhumans track their leader to San Francisco’s Johnson Street, where Dibbs threatens that Black Bolt will bring down the fire-traps. -MB
SM: "They call me Mr. Dibbs." Jeez, Gerry, you might as well have come out and said it, you were
obviously thinking it. There's much padding as the Inhumans get into two (count 'em, two) pointless brawls in their ten page story span. One was their fault, the other not so much, but fights without real meaning aren't exciting. They just exist. They are pretty, however, and Neal Adams makes things visually interesting when Gorgon, Karnak and Medusa are finally seen in civilian clothing. I'm not nuts about how he draws Medusa's face, but he does make sure she's hot in every other way. Why Karnak has to wear a turban is a mystery (aside from getting a quick laugh - which it didn't from me). Is his head super big, like the Leader? And did this perfectly-sized clothing really come out of the beach lockers? Who dresses like that to the beach?
SM: We're back into the whole Civil Rights thing again. A little more clarity is offered this time, as we're told the citizens want to take down the fire-trap tenement buildings, but even so, it would leave them homeless. Is a crappy building worse than no building at all? Is this how it really went down in 1972? It's like Russia protesting the atomic bomb by detonating nuclear weapons over Moscow. I love how Tibbs gives speeches about being under the heels of white society and then brings out Black Bolt as his ally. Sorry Tibbs, but the only thing black about him is his name. Since everyone can see his pasty white skin, I'd say he isn't the best symbol for your peeps.
The Black Widow in
"The Sting of the Widow!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Heck and Bill Everett
Fretting that Ivan may suffer the misfortune she thinks she has brought on others, Tasha seeks some perspective at Avengers Mansion, and realizes upon seeing ex-flame Clint Barton—now Goliath—that the past cannot be reclaimed. The Astrologer demands $60,000 for Dr. Lichenstein, but after Ivan forces the location out of his messenger and summons Natasha, the gang spots him following their truck and wrecks the car, mistaking it for the police. Unable to contact Ivan, and fearing for his life, the Widow defeats the gang at a 12th-Avenue wharf before they can transfer the doctor to a launch; she and the Astrologer plunge into the Hudson, from which Ivan arrives in time to pull Tasha, who blames herself for another death. -MB
MB: This time, when the music stops, Heck hangs onto his chair, while Roy and Sal are supplanted by Merry Gerry and Wild Bill, respectively. Conway continues to expand his portfolio with former Thomas titles, first here and next month in Sub-Mariner, but since at the moment he’s following through on plotlines established by Roy—with whom he collaborates on Natasha’s next and final installment—we can’t know how much might have been mapped out already. Certainly this self-pitying “I’m a jinx” routine is wearing way too thin, and Everett doesn’t seem to mesh well with Heck (no complaints about the commendable cheesecake in page 5, panels 6 and 7), but it’s nice to know a little more about Ivan, who we learn saved Tasha’s life back in Russia during the war.
|"If the Gods give you cheese, make cheesecake", I says|
SM: Yikes, another Don Heck masterwork. He tries, God bless 'im, but he just can't make Natasha sexy. I've never seen a Marvel character disrobe so often (come on, her costume changes are nothing like Spider-Man's). Between the crummy art and the constant self pity, the Black Widow is an unappealing character in this series. The Astrologer feels like a bad Ant-Man villain and his death, which bothers Natasha, comes none too soon for me. Only one more of these to go? Bring it on and get it done.
The Amazing Spider-Man 98
"The Goblin's Last Gasp"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia
The Green Goblin shows up outside Peter Parker’s window and smashes through, promising a new weapon that will make his nemesis helpless. But a quick-thinking Peter shows Gobby his ailing son, Harry, which spurs something in Osborn’s twisted brain and he zips away. Peter gets Harry to the hospital, then begins pondering his lost love Gwen, who we promptly see in London, pining for Peter and promising to put things right. Peter is then confronted by Harry’s sleazy pusher and his pair of clichéd 70s goons, who accost our hero but are quickly dispatched, even though Peter holds back enough that he doesn’t completely maim the crooks. JJJ and Robbie quickly discuss Harry’s hospitalization and how they’ll spin it in the Bugle—which is, against the growing drug scene. As night falls, Peter changes to Spider-Man and begins prowling the city for his archenemy. Suddenly, The Goblin strikes! He has Spidey reeling, then sets off a pumpkin bomb that releases a strange mist—one that saps the wall-crawler’s sticking ability! Even worse, Spidey runs out of web fluid—but is able to use his arachnid-powered athletic ability to end up with a scissors hold on the evil eccentric, eventually steering him and his Goblin Glider to the hospital, and the window outside Harry’s room. The shock of seeing his son in trouble causes Osborn to faint, so Spidey swiftly gets him home and burns his Goblin costume. Heading home to a life of “dull and empty loneliness”, Peter is stunned to see Gwen has returned, and the lovers romantically reunite with a closing kiss! –JT
JT: With a fantastic Gil Kane cover, this conclusion to the landmark trilogy is off to the races! And what a conclusion it is! Action, drama, pathos, suspense, action, slick threads, romance, did I mention action, editorializing, medical emergencies, angry archenemies, killer Kane angles and more! But for all it’s greatness, I have some nitpicky questions. What happened to Spidey being out of web fluid during that final battle? Are we supposed to think he somehow refilled on the way to the hospital, or was only the one web-shooter out? Continuity! And where’s the punctuation in all the word balloons? Only question marks and exclamations, which looks a bit odd. Is letterer Artie Simek to blame? Where’s my red pen?
SM: Well, here it is, the conclusion to the Drug Arc. It would be easy to expect the final chapter to be something of a disappointment, but damn it, it's not. This is easily some of Stan's best work. He won't be this good again and it's obvious he was passionate about the subject. Everything clicks here, from the art, to the dialog and each scene delivers a satisfying punch. Speaking of which, the sequence where Peter kicks the drug dealer's asses was just incredibly gratifying. I still have to chuckle; right after Peter thinks "and [I] hope they think it's Karate," the dealer helpfully says "and all that Karate jazz ain't gonna help you now!" I was never a fan of Peter's paranoia about his identity (or Tony Stark's or whomever). Why would beating up a dude automatically make people think he's a super-hero, or specifically Spider-Man? They'd probably simply figure he was stronger and a better fighter than they thought. Kids grow up and get stronger and it's not as if Pete hides his muscles. The guy is ripped for a "bookworm pantywaist." No matter, it's a great cathartic bit. However, I can't help thinking Peter still should have called the cops, rather than let him off with a threat. How many other lives did this guy ruin? Considering he was in possession of narcotics and he would have gotten some jail time. Secret identity woes? Have Spidey take them in and say Parker tipped him off. Maybe I'm making too much out of it, but that's what I'm paid for,
PE: A very satisfactory wrap-up to an enjoyable arc but... you can see why something radical had to be done with The Goblin and soon (it would be done in exactly two years) because you couldn't keep having that same foundation (Norman pops up in Parker's life, gets the heebie-jeebies, suits up, fights Spidey, then has some kind of trauma that puts him back in Happyland again) to the story over and over without the well running dry. Obviously, Spidey's web-shooters were only experiencing a hiccup because suddenly, only a few panels after coming up dry, they're working perfectly. I wonder how long The Goblin's mist will render Spidey unstickable to most services. I'd argue that this arc wasn't long enough, especially since the Goblin only showed up in the final panel of part one and reared his head only a few panels afterwards. Another issue or two would have been just right.
MB: Lee, Kane, and Giacoia end the celebrated “drug trilogy” on, if you’ll pardon the pun, a high note, and while the climax seems a little abrupt, I suspect some of that may be due to my Marvel Tales reprint, in which Spidey’s web-spinning ability suddenly returns without comment or explanation. Once again, some the images I found most indelible, and most characteristic of Gil’s unique style, were those of the anguished Goblin’s face as Spidey steered him unerringly toward Harry’s room. The happy ending with Gwen was a welcome change of pace, but obviously, Norman Osborn’s intermittent amnesia and his knowledge of Peter’s secret identity are a ticking time-bomb; as Spidey rightly states, “Only death can seal his lips forever.”
JS: I loved that line, and what it says about how much Spidey has changed since Amazing Fantasy 15. If push came to shove, would he be able to do what needed to be done? Right about now I'm thinking yes. I liked how Stan managed to setup Gwen's return in an issue that could very easily kept its entire focus on the primary story. The art rem
SM: The short discussion with Jonah and Robbie is also excellent. Jonah has come a long way since his
introduction and he's got a great sounding board in Robbie. Spidey's final battle with the Goblin is outstanding. The stakes are really high and short of killing him, it's hard to see how Spider-Man could win and still keep his secret safe. Obviously, going back to the previous amnesia state is the only way, but how they get there is noteworthy. It puts the whole drug message in the forefront of guys in tights fighting, yet makes it an organic part of the conclusion. I don't feel it's sudden at all, there are plenty of pages devoted to everything necessary. In particular, the three panel series of Gobby's final break is sublime and Gil Kane delivers the goods. It's all wrapped up beautifully with Gwen's return. It's a magical moment. The entire trilogy is the best storyline in years and everything concludes without a sour note, or menacing shadow. It is, as Stan says, a happy ending all around. This story was a huge accomplishment, in message, story, and influence. I disagree that this could have gone on for one or two more issues. Anything more would have padded this thing out. As it stands, it's a tightly packed and exciting saga.
Fantastic Four 112
"Battle of the Behemoths"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
The sight of the Thing has turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk, and Ben isn’t himself either, so two tempers equal, you know what. The city watches from a distance while the military prepares to strike. Ben’s new turn to his darker self gives him some points against the Hulk’s superior strength; neither side gives an inch. Reed and Johnny differ in their opinions on how to help. The Torch is ready to fly off the handle, but Mr. Fantastic grabs him back. And good thing, the owner of the Baxter Building cuts off their electricity in another attempt to evict them. Reed is sure the only way to help Ben is to reverse his transformation and thus reason with him. Johnny uses his flame to supply the building with power. Sue, with Agatha Harkness and Franklin, sees via a crystal ball what her teammates are up to, and makes haste to join them. When the military is ready to strike, the Hulk jumps closer to the city to prevent any missiles being fired, and the Thing soon follows. Reed finishes his machine to cure Ben, and he and Johnny head to help. In the meantime, Alicia has gone out in search of Ben, having heard on the radio of his dilemma. She finds him, and having done just that, the Hulk presses his advantage, knocking the Thing down, and maybe permanently, out. When the other three teammates arrive, they may be too late. -JB
JB: I found this one to be a welcome breath of fresh air. An epic battle between the Thing and Hulk is
something that, curiously, hasn’t been overdone, and what a battle it is. The other scenes serve, if nothing else, to give us a breather. It’s a little hard to believe Alicia could have found her way through New York traffic to find Ben. Agatha Harkness and her crystal ball don’t raise any questions from Sue; the former's power may not be understood, but is no longer a surprise to the F.F. Some of the battle sequences are spectacular. While we may have expected the Hulk to win, I doubt Ben is finished yet—looking forward to the next installment.
PE: A well-done action issue that would have been even better without the cliche-ridden dialogue. How many times do we have to see Ben tell The Hulk, "Okay, the kid gloves are off," on one page? How many times do we have to moan to the Torch's whiny caterwauling about his brother-in-law's perceived inactivity? Poor Reed constantly spends 12 hours of the day cooking up a potion to turn The Thing back into Ben and the other 12 doing the old vice versa. I welcome the epic saga due in about a year : "This Here Monster is Not One No More No How!" I dig these Hulk/Thing meet-ups. They're what comic books are all about. Brainless Beast Bashing. It'll be a few years before I get another crack at it but I seem to recall my favorite as a young'n was the epic battle in Giant-Size Superstars #1.
SM: I love the cover! It is simple and eye catching. No overly complex visuals, no hyperbole, just two titans going at it. As I said last time, this was one of my earliest comic buys. Not this actual issue, but the Marvel's Greatest reprint. It's straightforward, a monster mash, beautifully drawn and paced. The Hulk looks great; fierce and deadly. The Thing, now totally evil, holds nothing back. When the story centers on them, it's great fun, but when it veers off, things get strange. For example, Jonah Jameson's rant on TV is far too over the top, even for him. To condemn is fine, but now he's crazily telling people that everyone with super powers must be "smashed." "Smash them! Crush them! Kill them!" Really? Kill them? He's totally around the bend and nobody that extreme would be left alone to his own devices, especially considering how the citizens are thrown in to a state of panic (this will happen a lot over the next few issues). This is a 180 degree shift from the sober, reasonable Jonah seen in this month's issue of Spidey, and both were written by Stan! Then we get Collins, the landlord, who is also out of his fricking mind. I blame some of this on Stan, but John Buscema has to get some of the heat, also. His drawings are so over dramatic and operatic, no "regular" dialog would fit. Everything has to be over the top and while this works for some titles, like Thor, after a while we need a break. It's all shouting, arm waving, belching cigar smoke and Dutch angles. Everyone is gritting teeth or clenching fists. After a while, it gets tiresome, even laughable. There's no reason given as to why Bruce Banner was in New York in the first place. As soon as the fight is over, the Hulk changes back and he's gone at the speed of plot. Once again, Johnny overreacts and jumps to conclusions about Reed "killing" Ben. This kid is so annoying and, I agree, Johnny should just shut up and realize Reed is never wrong! What a lousy teammate and brother-in-law.
The Incredible Hulk 141
"His Name is ... Samson"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin
Time is desperately running out for Betty Ross as her cell structure continues to crystalize. Thunderbolt Ross turns to a highly regarded psychiatrist named Doctor Leonard Samson for help before she dies. The doctor has a machine that he believes will work but they need the Hulk to make a transfusion with his gamma radiation. Ross and Major Talbot are able to locate the monster after he goes tearing apart the city. Using an image of Betty, they are able to calm him down enough so that he transforms back into Bruce Banner. They go back to Doc Samson's lab where the experiment is a success. There is even a possibility that Banner will remain human forever. Later on, in private, Samson uses the psychic gamma radiation energy, left over from the experiment, on himself. The remarkable results turn Samson into a super strongman with long green hair. Always secretly wanting to be a hero, he trains himself so he has great speed and agility to go along with his new strength. Samson and Betty soon become pals and start hanging out together. Banner becomes jealous since it seems like now Betty has no time for him. This jealously eventually manifests itself into a rage that turns him back into the Hulk. As the Hulk goes on another rampage, Samson tries to strut his stuff by attempting to stop the savage beast. In a brief fight that ends in a test of strength, Samson is easily defeated. The story ends with Betty walking off with Samson and consoling him while the Hulk looks on dumbfounded. -TM
TM: Ladies and gentlemen, the Bullpen is proud to present to you: the biggest stroke in the whole Marvel Universe........Doc Samson! Mere words cannot describe how all-around terrible this issue was...... bad artwork that looked more suitable for an issue of Groo, shitty plotting combined with nonsensical science jargon, unrealistic changes in character's relationships, and the introduction of a total loser as a new super-hero that would eventually go on to make many more unwelcome guest appearances over the years. So let me get this straight: instead of going to the nearest strip club or singles bar to get laid after his transformation, Samson has to put the moves on Betty Ross? What a scumbag. This would have been fine if he'd gotten beaten into a bloody coma or better yet, killed by the Hulk. Instead, we get a brief fight at the end that looked more like a squabble between two children on a playground. Did Roy even realize how big of a loser he was making Samson out to be? Did he actually expect readers to empathize with Samson and feel sorry for him after he gets his ass handed to him in just about four pages? The worst part was Betty, in the end, walking off with him. Samson did make a nice play by openly pitying himself so that she would feel sorry for him. Never mind how he pretty much challenged the Hulk to a fight, believing that his own strength was superior. I'd say ol' Roy must have wrote this as a sick joke but I have to give him some credit. Most Hulk issues that suck are just boring. This is the first issue I can recall, after reading, that made me irritated. Samson was killed off in the Hulk series a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, his death came forty years too late. Hopefully he will stay dead.
SM: Doc Sampson was never my favorite character, but he was a regular when I first started reading "current" Hulk stories, as opposed to reprints. His origin is pretty good and helps to tie up a lingering, if underused, plot about Betty Ross. I thought turning her to glass was an interesting twist, but they did nothing with it. However, it gives Sampson a reason to exist, so I guess that's something. She shows what a shitty character she is, though, when she apparently finds favor in the newly muscular Doc, whose pulsing and rippling physique gives her the tingles. Sure, she says she loves Bruce (while on a date with Sampson!) and wonders why he doesn't call. Is your phone broken, Betty? Did you lose his number? Have you forgotten where he's staying? Bruce, of course, is an imbecile. He initially steps aside and lets the Doc take his chick, but then gets fed up and thinks the only way to get her back is to ditch his cure and become the Hulk again. I know love can make a guy do stupid things, but everyone here is just wrong. Doc is wrong for beating Banner's time with his girl (that didn't sound right); Betty is wrong for dating Sampson when she supposedly loves Bruce; and Bruce is wrong for a) giving up and b) putting the world in danger because he can't deal with his baggage. The art is downright ugly at times. Severin's inks ruin Trimpe's pencils. I don't know why, but on page 18, panel 4 (above), Doc reminds me of Peppermint Patty. Eh, it's all sketchy, lacking realistic detail and hard to take seriously. Compare it to the cover, done by someone else (Trimpe himself?), which is amazing. Sort of an important issue, but something of a dud nonetheless.
PE: Despite (or maybe because of) all the silliness, this is one to enjoy and Doc Samson only gets better with each successive appearance. It's a testament to how durable Levi's were back in the old days that Samson's shirt rips to shreds but his trousers don't even gain a wrinkle. And I can almost understand the color of Samson's hair turning green but why the sudden David Cassidy-esque outgrowth? Did his fingernails grow long as well? The costume's a bit too Captain Marvel (of the Shazam! variety) but then what can we expect when Roy actually fesses up that "there is really nothing new 'neath sun nor moon." That full-page "How to make a superhero" formula (reprinted above) is just a little too silly though, even for a funny book: "I've always wanted to be a superhero! First thing I'll do is head to the costume store where they're sure to have a suit that's not based on an existing superhero (well, strike that one since Doc finds one of Billy Batson's hocked costumes at Heroes-R-US). Next, I'll hit the gym and find some one-ton dumbbells! Finally, dinner at Spago's with the world's mousiest do-nothing! I am set!"
LOL-dialogue of the month:
Thunderlips Ross: Look at her, Talbot, look at my daughter! Still a creature of immobile crystal -- who doesn't eat -- doesn't breathe -- doesn't truly live. And yet, they tell me -- she's going to die!"
|Can the human arm actually bend like that?|
MB: Obviously, most of Marvel’s headliners were already in their roster by the time Roy came on board, so his own creations were often limited to secondary figures, yet he has an impressive track record even there; he and Herb now introduce durable frenemy Doc Samson, the strip’s fourth (I believe) character transformed by gamma rays, and the first who did not turn totally green as a result. I’m not normally a fan of John Severin’s inks on Herb’s Hulk, but I will allow that here he does a pretty good job, especially with the pre-gamma Samson. This issue just proves my point about Jarella, though: as it opens, it is the Hulk who laments his lost love, while Bruce gets jealous over Len’s attentions toward Betty, completing forgetting Jarella ever existed.
Conan the Barbarian 7
"The Lurker Within!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith, Dan Adkins & Sal Buscema
Traveling the Road of Kings that snakes through the civilized Nation-States, Conan encounters a maiden threatened by a pack of wolves. After chasing them off, he agrees to accompany the woman back to Numalia. Revealing herself to be the niece of the Governor, the haughty Lady Aztrias convinces the young Cimmerian to steal the contents of an ancient bowl guarded in the House of Relics. At night, the warrior thief enters the stronghold to find the bowl already emptied and the master of the House murdered. Conan is captured by a battalion of guards and charged with the killing — but soon, all are attacked by a huge serpent with the head of a man. The creature slays everyone but the brave barbarian, who pummels it to death. Wounded, Conan stumbles through the treasure-laden castle, coming across the empty bowl. He peers inside and sees a frightful vision of the horned Thoth-Amon, the most fearsome of the Stygian wizards. Conan flees, leaving the nightmare of Numalia behind. -TF
TF: Here’s another “freely adapted” tale based on a posthumously published Conan story by Robert E. Howard: “The God in the Bowl,” first seen in a 1952 issue of Space Science Fiction. There’s neither space nor science fiction in the story, but, surprisingly, there is a bit of murder/mystery involved. After Conan is captured, Demetrio, the noble Chief Inquisitor, actually tries to get the facts straight before assuming the barbarian’s guilt. Lady Aztrias even returns to the scene of the crime, in a doomed attempt at a double cross. A great thrill is the first appearance of Thoth-Amon, Conan’s eventual archenemy, the Dr. Doom of the Hyborian Age. Ironically, the two never actually met in any of Howard’s writings. Speaking of Hyboria, The Hyborian Page is a complete spread this issue, with three lengthy letters and three lengthy replies. One of the letters complains about the absence of thought balloons in the comic — sad to say, I hadn’t even noticed. The fairly snarky answer explains that it was a conscious decision by Roy to not rely on thought balloons, as he was striving to resemble “the soliloquy form of an earlier tradition.” Bravo Mr. Thomas, and sorry I didn’t notice sooner. Lastly, Dan Adkins and Our Pal Sal are the co-inkers: on the pages he finished, Adkins didn’t ink the nipples.
SM: Another adaptation, this one "freely" done by Roy. Excellent tale all around, I feel like I should just copy and paste the previous blog's review each time. Really fine story with some nice callbacks to the Elephant dude story. I don't know how closely this follows the original prose, but nevertheless, it's another fact-paced and well-written and illustrated issue. I do see these starting to fall into something of a pattern as we read them once a week. Conan meets someone, rides into their city, goes to steal something, things go wrong, Conan fights his way out, something weird happens. I maintain this series needs longer arcs. We're up to speed on this world, let's get into it. I wonder if Barry Smith's version of Conan is anywhere near what Robert Howard had in mind. Until I read these tales of the lanky Cimmerian, all I had to go on was Arnold's beefy form.
"The Horns of the Man-Bull!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Passing by a theatre playing the first movie starring “Karen Page”, Daredevil waxes romantic over what might have been. He hears the call of someone in need: Dia and George, a married hippie couple who’ve gone into a back lane to smooch. They are accosted by “Itch”, “Bull” and two other thugs planning to take the unsuspecting couple to the Professor to be experimented upon under orders from their boss, Mr. Kline. DD saves the day and tries to take the lovebirds to Foggy in order to press charges, however Foggy has received a disturbing phone call and is in no mood to help. Daredevil then takes the two visitors, to Matt’s house for safe keeping – warning them to stay put for their own safety. While there Dia answers a phone call from Karen – who jumps to the wrong conclusion and hangs up. The Bull gives himself up to the Professor’s experiment because he lost the hoodlums. Murdock hears the remaining hoodlums’ jeep while he’s on the prowl and wraps his billy club wire around two trees – causing a vehicular accident. The ruffians recover quickly and Itch injects DD with a knockout drug. After taking our hero to the lab, Itch then finds free-spirited Dia and George at a burger joint (they went out after all!). DD wakes up to a strange horned vision: Bull has been transformed into “The Minotaur”.
-NC & JB
NC: There was a bit much yearning for Karen again, but at least Matt recognizes how pitiful his self-pity really sounds! Aside from the misery, I did really like this issue – I also like the many cliffhangers it left us with. What was up with Foggy? Would Karen try to phone again? What will the bad guys do to Dia and George? How will DD deal with the Minotaur? What kind of powers did this experiment give our new evildoer? Fantastic!
MB: The “big-time writer” depicted herein was the short-lived George Alec Effinger (1947-2002), best known for his cyberpunk novel When Gravity Fails (1987), who also scripted the adventures of Edwin L. Arnold’s Gullivar Jones and Lin Carter’s Thongor for Creatures on the Loose; his unseen friend is editor and future collaborator Gardner Dozois. Tellingly, one of the correspondents in this issue’s lettercol writes, “I strongly suspect Gerry will become a good author in 3 or 4 years [!], much in the way Thomas developed, but he simply needs experience to catch the comic-book flavor.” Gerry does seem to display some progress this month, so perhaps that time-frame is overly pessimistic, and in retrospect, the debut of the Man-Bull is promising.
SM: When an issue kicks off with two pages of whining by the title character, I count the seconds until I check out. Daredevil has taken over Cap's constant bellyaching. How many years until Frank Miller arrives? Some interesting (I guess) developments with Foggy, who is apparently in over his head with some shady characters. Karen, having heard another gal pick up Matt's phone, considers all her movie star success a waste without him. Honestly, this hot and cold, love-don't love, thing is truly tiresome. Medical experiments, the Minotaur, blah, yadda, etc. This is an unholy mess and the constant bitching has worn me out. Next.
Captain America and the Falcon 139
"The Badge and the Betrayal!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and Tony Mortellaro
Cap is summoned by the police commissioner to help find out what is behind the disappearance of scores of police officers. Whoever is taking them is leaving the badges behind and, apparently, only Captain America can crack the case. Cap agrees to go undercover as rookie Officer Steve Rogers. This gives Steve a new, double purpose: solve the mystery while possibly carving out a decent civilian life for himself as a police officer. Meanwhile, Sam Wilson gets a visit from local chick (and new supporting cast member) Leila. She's there to get Sam interested in black pride, but Sam would rather offer her a job or make the beast with two backs. Leila's not looking for work or his beanpole, so she leaves Sam to nurse his, um, ego. He changes into his Falcon duds and tests out his new Nylon swinging line and Falcon claw. All of this fascinating activity is interrupted by SHIELD, who snags Falcon with a tractor beam and brings him into the Heli-carrier to ask him where Cap has disappeared to (are their phones broken?). Sharon's worried and Nick wants to make her feel better or something. Falcon is no help so, after swapping a few zingers, they beam him back down to Harlem. Meanwhile, Steve begins his new life and meets Sgt. Muldoon, who brings back warm and fuzzies about Sgt. Duffy from WW2. We all remember Duffy, who used to put Rogers on KP and bully the crap out of him. This fills Steve with happy nostalgia while surprisingly sparing us the obligatory whining about Bucky, and he goes on his beat. Steve is attacked by a gang of hooligans who hate police. Steve is holding his own when the fight is broken up by Reverend Garcia, who is happy to see Steve didn't draw his gun as others might. After a nice chat, Garcia rounds the corner. Suddenly, Steve hears a strange noise from where the Reverend was walking. He follows and Garcia is gone. Switching to his costume, Cap finds a courtyard full of statues. But they're not statues! They are Reverend Garcia and the missing Cops and they're all stoned! No, not like that. They are victims of the Grey Gargoyle, whose "slightest touch can turn men to stone!" And he's advancing on Cap now…! -SM
SM: Not a bad start to this multi-part epic. Steve as a cop is actually a pretty interesting turn of events, but I can't see it making his life any easier. Now he has co-workers and bosses to make excuses for ducking out to become a super-hero. Cap is still a self-centered jerk; he's got a partner, an organization he frequently works with that employs his cranky, whiny girlfriend, and he doesn't tell anyone where he's going or what he's embarking on. All this does is create unnecessary worry and tension, giving us a useless sequence where Falcon has to fight SHIELD dudes because nobody fricking communicates.
MB: I hadn’t recalled that Steve’s decision to become a man in (red, white, and) blue was one of the most promising directions this strip would take—and that cover is, of course, completely misleading, suggesting a nonexistent either/or “choice”—but I’m not exactly Mr. Memory, and quite frankly, I found this issue’s arguments in favor of the change to be pretty convincing. Naturally, the solid Romita artwork and the promise of a return by one of my old favorites, the Grey Gargoyle, after a virtual all-setup issue in which Cap doesn’t see any real action, are powerful persuaders. One thing is now abundantly clear, though, namely that as some of the faculty has repeatedly pointed out, Stan is hoping we’ve forgotten the whole secret-i.d. bit.
PE: Well, I haven't forgotten. It'll be interesting to see how Stan explains how Steve will keep his anonymity among the boys in blue who have worked alongside Captain America for so long. If I was Stan, I'd have written in a sunburst or mass selected memory failure long ago. This issue sees the introduction of an important part of this Cap/Cop saga, namely Sergeant Muldoon, the superior who reminds Steve of his old army sergeant. There will be plenty of twists and turns coming in the life of Sgt. Muldoon and we'll be better for them (at least as I recall!). Professor Matthew exits the closet and admits a fondness for third-tier villain Grey Gargoyle. While I won't quite go public with such an admission, I will say GG makes a thrilling entrance as we exit. Less entrancing is the introduction of the reverse bigot, Leila, a character so full of bile it's a surprise she doesn't explode on contact with other humans. I was a bit puzzled as to why Robbie over at The Daily Bugle (at least I think it's Robbie that Jazzy's drawing) was hanging out in Sam Wilson's office until the Poor Woman's Pam Grier popped her 'fro in the do'. I can see only two reasons why Sam/Robbie would give this girl the time of day.
|Does JJJ know Robbie's moonlighting?|
SM: We meet Leila for the first time and she will prove to be one of the most obnoxious, two dimensional Civil Rights mouthpieces in the Marvel Universe. We're going to be stuck with her for quite some time. She's really a piece of work and a bigger racist than most of the white folks she hates. While John Romita does his usual good job, he makes Sam Wilson look like a grinning idiot around Leila. Maybe that's the point, but this guy is apparently head over heels moments after they meet. Yet since she says nothing appealing, he must be reacting strictly to her looks. She'll spend months calling him a weak Uncle Tom and he'll continue drooling over her. Really doesn't do Sam's character any favors. But neither will the Red Skull in a few years. Oh, Snap! The Grey Gargoyle is a decent, second (or third, as Dean Peter suggests) tier villain. I have a soft spot for him, thanks to his appearances in the old Thor cartoons based on the Journey into Mystery adventures. He's at least better than fellow Frenchman Batroc the Leaper by a mile. Zut alors!
The Avengers 90
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema
Smashing into the hospital where Captain Marvel is receiving treatment, Kree Sentry 459 announces his mission to capture and execute Mar-Vell. Quicksilver, Vision and Scarlet Witch are on hand to fend off the Sentry, but despite their best efforts, he makes off with Mar-Vell. They fly back to Avengers Mansion and find a video note by Goliath; he took off to help Jan Van Dyne, the erstwhile Wasp, who's husband, Hank Pym has gone missing in Alaska after fending off a giant dragonfly over a strange jungle in the middle of the frozen wastes. That was a long sentence. Goliath goes in to find him, battling strange ape like creatures once he arrives. He is zapped by Ronan and the Sentry, who brainwash Goliath into attacking the rest of the team when they show up, giving the Wasp a whack that knocks her out. Little do the Avengers know, Mar-Vell is the captive of Ronan, who has a citadel in the hills. He has created this jungle with the aims of destroying the human race. His method is to de-evolve humans into a primeval form and his first subject was Henry Pym. Now a strange ape-like creature, Hank descends upon a helpless, unconscious Jan. -SM
SM: Much as I really enjoy this saga overall, there is a great deal of padding in the first few issues. None of this will really amount to a hell of a lot and it's not really very interesting. Who cares if Hank Pym is an ape? Or about this weird plan of Ronan's? Why not just blow us all up or something? None of it is going to stick and there are better, more interesting threads to deal with. We'll get to them in time, but for now, this is a meandering yarn that has yet to find its way. The two and a half pages of backstory don't do much more than take up space, but I guess they had to explain it for people who didn't read Mar-Vell's own book. Like everybody. The art is okay, but I really prefer John to Sal. Sal's women aren't nearly as pretty.
PE: That finale was indeed a humdinger but the rest of the story is leaving me flat (or perhaps confused) so far. I'm not sure, if I was a ten year-old MZ reading that recap of thirty or so comic books in a handful of panels, I'd stick it out for the umpteen more issues this saga will last. I'll keep an open mind through this journey but seeing as how this team continues to be so fractious (where the heck are Thor, Cap and Iron Man again?) shouldn't the title be Some of The Avengers?
"And Here I'll Stand!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Ross Andru and Jim Mooney
Namor can't get over the loss of his wife Dorma as he swims about the ocean. He goes to Llyra's former headquarters looking for revenge but it's desolate. With no kingdom to rule, Subby finds an island off the New York coast where an abandoned, dilapidated old prison sits. Deciding to make this place his new home, he spends a long night using his powerful hands to reshape the building's structure more to his liking. It doesn't take long before the cops are on to what Namor is up to and they send a crew to investigate. Namor tries to bluntly negotiate with them, claiming he just wants to be left in peace. In turn, he will reward the earthlings by sharing his knowledge of the sea. Some crackpot, worried about his property value plummeting due to Namor's new arrival takes an officer's gun and shoots him. Subby disarms the man and throws him into a pesky news crew that has been egging the action on. The police warn the former king of Atlantis to watch his temper or he will be arrested. When Subby threatens them it's time for the National Guard to get called in. Believing that they are merely bluffing with their arsenal of tanks and weaponry, Namor refuses to leave the prison island. He figures that they wouldn't ruin their own land and property. The Mayor has given them orders to blow up the island so that Namor will have nothing which is what the troops do, then leave to let Namor sit on a small piece of land left to sulk. His day gets even more exciting when Diane Arliss and the Stingray approach him. Diane gives Namor a paper that reveals proof there might be a slim chance that his father is still alive. Namor flies off to begin a new quest in search of his father. -TM
Tom: This was an interesting yarn in the annals of Sub-Mariner. It would have been cool if he ended up keeping the prison as a new headquarters. The Mayor's decision to have the whole island destroyed seemed a bit odd. I would have preferred some minor league villain like the Eel taking a shot at Subby, instead of some lone weirdo. Hopefully his new quest will be interesting.
MB: Per the lettercol, “Roy—after spending months working up to the situation in which Namor leaves Atlantis to try to become a true human being after the death of his beloved Dorma—finds he’s too loaded down with work to continue the strip…[but Roy] will continue to work with Gerry on the plotlines…” So he bids adieu to the book he and Big John triumphantly launched three years ago, and although it has had its ups and downs (Brutivac, anyone?), I’d say he’s getting out while he can still hold his head high. Roy will, however, return to writing this character regularly when he launches The Invaders in 1975; meanwhile, third time’s the charm as penciler Ross Andru, also too busy to stay on, gets the benefit of Jim Mooney’s steady hand.
SM: Namor's new direction continues. Jim Mooney's assistance really does wonders for Ross Andru, and the result is a very nicely illustrated story. There are only one or two "Andru-isms" that I notice (like the maniacally grinning TV reporter), but for the most part, this is well done. The story is average, just another stepping stone toward something else, but still entertaining and energetic. Of course, humans are too stupid to listen, because all Namor wants to do is live alone on the island. He even offers to pay rent! Although, you'd think the master of the sea would know plenty of deserted islands far from humans where he could be a hermit and think all he wants, instead of picking an island right off of Manhattan, teeming with millions of people. Oh, look, Diane Arliss! A new quest! The Search for Namor's Dad! Sounds interesting, and hopefully it will be a bit more logical than this issue.
The Mighty Thor 190
"-- And So to Die!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Hela has found Thor on Earth, and the Thunder God surrenders rather than the alternative of Hela taking the lives of other innocent people. A few obstacles remain, however. Karnilla warns Balder of the dire situation, he then rushes to see Odin. Already aware of the situation, the All-Father heads to Earth. Finding Hela about to give his son the final embrace, Odin does the unthinkable. He slays Hela so his son will live. Deed done, but as Thor quickly points out, without Hela, all living things will never perish. With no death, insects and vegetation grow out of control, the human population multiplies; Thor can’t bring himself to be the cost of such misery, and asks Odin to let him die instead. The All-Father restores Hela to life, and the aging process on Thor begins. Odin brings Sif to Earth to be with her beloved in his final moments. Sif, not too proud to beg, pleads with Hela, appealing to her as a woman. While the Death-Goddess admits she has never known love, when Sif offers up her life instead, Hela is touched enough to abandon her cause—for now. Returning to the Golden Realm, the Asgardian’s joy is short-lived however. In Odin’s absence, Loki has stolen the Odin-Ring, whose wearer holds the power of Odin. Declaring a new reign, his, Loki gloats, and no one has the power to stop him. -JB
|"Odin, the ever-grumpy, no-necked, badly-dressed kewpie doll hath cometh!"|
SM: The art is to die for and the operatic styling of John Buscema is perfectly suited to the over the top melodrama of the denizens of Asgard. I'm assuming Hela's failure to do her job doesn't throw anything out of whack. Thor was to be taken in Odin's place, and she admits it really isn't Thor's time. Surely the more honorable thing for Odin to do would be to give his life rather than kill Hela. She took a portion of him to create Infinity anyway. And if one can "cheat" Hela, how or when is it really someone's "time?" Is it not Odin's time then? Methinks Stan maketh this up as he go alongeth.
JB: When this story finishes with the Loki bit at the end, I can’t help but feel cheated. After all the rigmarole with Hela, finally sparing Thor, here we go again with Loki. It’s not that he’s not a great villain, but the Odin-Ring? Why have we never heard of this before? And all this carnage happened in the short time Odin went to Earth? Perhaps the story with Hela/Infinity was contrived and drawn out too long, but it was a valid tale, Hela having been short-changed in the history thus far. Doesn’t Loki ever tire of plotting—how much revenge does he need for being denied rule of Asgard? John Buscema really goes wild with the costumes. Hela looks imposing with her wild “antlers” and considerable height. Loki on the other hand, sports one of his more comical raiments. I’m looking forward to seeing how things are going to play out for Balder. I can’t think of an Asgardian who values all things “good” more, thus one who will be duly troubled by his chosen allegiance to Karnilla. I doubt if even Sif, in all her wiles, could get him to sway from his sense of loyalty now. Thankfully, this business with Loki does develop some interesting turns in the next couple of months.
SM: Odin repeatedly states he is too grief stricken to speak - just before prattling on and on about how noble and worthy Thor is. Why does Hela have to age Thor for him to die? Is it his fate to perish of old age? Is she accelerating the process? (Psst, dude, it's an awesome visual, shut up!). Thankfully, Sif is able to convince Hela to spare Thor out of love, because Hela herself has never known the emotion. Can I have a little butter with that corn? Another brooding, self pitying Marvel character. Jeez, someone send her a guy. Best line of dialog in a while: "None may share mine Odin-Thoughts!" I'm going to use this from now on. "I must not tell you mine Scott-thoughts!"
MB: Here’s another of those out-of-the-frying-pan-into-
SM: Hela dies, which means all death is averted on Earth. That's all well and good, but Thor takes to the air and, within minutes, minutes I say, insects have multiplied by the millions, vegetation has grown out of control, and the human population explosion causes "teeming multitudes to fight for every inch of living space." There's no mention of Thor traveling through time. He merely flies into the air and looks downward. Wouldn't all of this happen over the course of time? From the span of weeks to the gulf of years? We're apparently supposed to believe that Hela's death will cause all this to happen within seconds. Weird, Stan. So, Loki has the Odin-ring. Again. Didn't Stan just do this story shortly before Jack left? Was it so amazing fans begged to see that plot again (short answer: no)? And really, all you have to do to become ruler of Asgard is wear the frigging ring? Then why the hell does Odin remove it? A perfectly good, if corny, story brought low in the final three pages due to this incredibly stupid and overdone plot twist. Ugh.
PE: A below-average wrap-up to an arc that seems as though it should have been longer but I'm glad it wasn't. The first part of the story is: Odin claiming he can't (or won't) interfere and then doing so and The Thunder God flitting from here and there and stopping now and then to say he won't give up. Peculiar that Karnilla would alert Balder to Thor's fate. Is she, perhaps, being groomed to be a "good girl"? I'm with Professor Matthew when it comes to that "awesome ending" (Stan's words, not mine); how many more times do we have to see this particular plot device? I find it laugh out loud funny that, five minutes after Hela, Goddess of Death has been dispatched, the world's population doubles, earth is plagued with insects, plants grow to ten feet, men refuse to shave, and Professor Scott admits to liking a Ross Andru strip! We do need death big time!
The Invincible Iron Man 39
"A Twist of Memory -- A Turn of Mind!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Herb Trimpe
After visiting the comatose Jasper, Tony is knocked out by gas in his car, which plunges into the East River, and taken to a vast submarine where the White Dragon (“He who is a coward”) schemes to regain face among the Council, his people, and his beloved Shara-Lee’s father. [Hey, nobody doesn’t like Shara-Lee.] Placed in a mysterious machine, the Transcriber, Tony is next seen at S.I., urging Kevin to forget his appearance before a U.N. committee in favor of developing a new weapon; his odd behavior, accompanied by drowsiness and headaches, continues for days. The control device in Tony’s skull is hampered by steel, and when the White Dragon sends a signal to destroy it, only to see Iron Man fall from the sky at that exact moment, he realizes the two are one and the same. -MB
MB: I can only characterize this issue’s art as bizarre. It’s the self-inked work of guest penciler Herb Trimpe, yet bears less resemblance than expected to the unfiltered Trimpe we sometimes see on the Hulk, to the extent that I can’t help wondering if it’s attributable to something other than just the difference in tone between the two books. In fact, with 20/20 hindsight, it appears downright Asian in style (anticipating the manga trend that has helped keep me away from today’s comics), which—if deliberate—would suit Gerry’s forgettable villain du jour, the White Dragon. Herb’s occasional mid- to late-1970s forays on this title were, as I recall, much more conventional. The story is rather disjointed, which again may be intentional, but for me lessens the ending’s impact.
|Deadline problems necessitate the farming out of art chores to Mrs. Blumenthal's 4th Graders, Brooklyn Elementary|
|Professor Scott finally has enough and ends his tenure the hard way|
PE: Though it's neither trumpeted on the cover nor whispered anywhere on the pages inside, this is the 100th issue of Iron Man (61 numbers of ToS included of course), the third Marvel character to cross that milestone (FF and Thor being the first two).
Also this Month
Creatures on the Loose #12 ->
Kid Colt Outlaw #154
Marvel Tales #31
My Love #12
Rawhide Kid #89
The Ringo Kid #10
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #89
Two-Gun Kid #99
Where Creatures Roam #7
Where Monsters Dwell #10
Our "one new story per reprint title" trend continues with "Master and Slave" written by Al Hewetson and penciled and inked by Syd Shores. The humorous story of Igor, slave to Baron Frankenstein for decades and only now feeling a bit put upon. When he initiates a work stoppage by tossing Frankenstein's heavy volumes to the floor, it leads to a heart attack for the elderly scientist. At first ecstatic but later lonely, Igor heads down to the village for a servant of his own, only to be pelted by rotten fruit and old VHS tapes. He heads back to Castle Frankenstein, vowing to make a slave of his own. Unfortunately, the dim-witted dwarf utilizes his old boss's brain and, soon, Igor's right back where he started. Best laid plans of mice and men. This was Al Hewetson's only script for Marvel and it comes just months before he became editor over at Skywald, where he made a "name" for himself writing lurid horror stories under a multitude of pseudonyms. He wrote a fabulous book chronicling those years, Skywald Horror-Mood (Headpress, 2003), published just months after his death. Sadly, that book is now long out of print. Golden age great Syd Shores is the perfect artist for this strip as it almost has a pre-code vibe to it. Ironic that these "filler" stories end up being better than the tales that filled Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows. -PE