Wednesday, December 4, 2013

February 1973 Part One: The Valkyrie Begins Her Defense



The Amazing Spider-Man 117
"The Deadly Designs of The Disruptor"
Story by Stan Lee and Gerry Conway
Art by John Romita, Jim Mooney, and Tony Mortellaro

Peter holds up the crumbling ceiling just long enough to save the crowd, and spins a web shield to save his secret. As a defiant Richard Raleigh continues to rail against organized crime, we meet a masked figure known as The Disruptor, who wants to destroy Raleigh and is also behind the creation of The Smasher. His henchman scientist Thaxton has increased Smasher’s power, but the new control unit is a bit wonky. JJJ and Norman Osborn discuss how to get Raleigh elected, but Joe Robertson has his suspicions and looks into the candidate’s background. Spider-Man stops a penthouse robbery, then calls Aunt May and attends the Raleigh Youth Rally—where the Disruptor drives in, calling for Raleigh! His goons battle Spidey as the masked madman speeds off, vowing to come back with The Smasher! After one of his goons overhears JJJ and Raleigh talking about Robbie, the angrier-than-ever Disruptor uses the now-functioning control unit to order The Smasher to bring him the city editor! --Joe Tura

Joe Tura: The second part of this trilogy zips along nicely, but is a lot of exposition for the finale, which makes sense since it was originally the middle of one long tale. Solid art, decent script, some small dramatics with Peter and Gwen, some heroic stances by Robbie,and the introduction of the silly-costumed Disruptor. Man, this is one angry dude, straight out of the Snidely Whiplash School of Villainy but with a political bent that would probably land him on Larry King. The ending simply wants me to get to next month sooner than later! Fave sound effect: “BUNT!”, as Spidey knocks a gun out of The Disruptor’s hands. Did not know Romita was such a baseball fan!


Scott McIntyre: We meet the Disruptor in this chapter of the Raleigh Trilogy. He's not the strongest villain and even if I didn't know his identity already, he still wouldn't be fascinating. Peter keeps saying Gwen could die and it would be his fault. Is this foreshadowing by Gerry Conway? We're only four issues away from Gwen's swan dive. Once again, this is a glorified reprint with new bits slotted in to maintain continuity. The seams are invisible and the story is still excellent. Raleigh is a bit of a stiff with no real personality other than his over-the-top rhetoric. It's still good to see Peter out with his friends and one last visit with Norman Osborn before he flips his brain. The art is again the best it gets and that's pretty damned good. There's nothing like a hunk of Romita goodness to make my day better. Aside from the usual over-cooked Stan Lee dialog, this is top class Spidey.




Matthew Bradley: A side-by-side comparison shows that excepting Gerry’s “additional dialogue” and some minor tweaks to the art, last issue was lifted essentially panel for panel from the 1968 original, but this time around, only about half of the pages were repurposed.  The added material—most notably the Disruptor, who I always thought was kind of cool, despite the fact that he really doesn’t bring much to the table except a big mouth—earned Gerry parity with Stan on the script credit.  They also had to work around Captain Stacy’s death in the interim by transferring most of his role to Robbie; fortunately, Romita provides the new pages in addition to revising the old (abetted by Messrs. Mooney and Mortellaro), so visual continuity is maintained.




Mark Barsotti: The rewritten and the dead: Prof Matthew has already noted that the departed Captain Stacy was replaced by Bugle editor Joe Robertson. The flip side of that equation is the brief insertion of Norman Osborn (P. 14), who was "dead" when this story first appeared in '68. Among the art changes (spoiler alert - for those who've never read comics before) is the new set of duds on the Disruptor (Pages 7-12) who first appeared, spouting almost the exact same dialogue, as mayoral candidate Richard Raleigh! So the Disruptor and gang's appearance near the end of the ish, calling for Raleigh's head, is all new, and all for show. We can only speculate the double RR was angling for a job with the in-coming Nixon administration.






Doc Savage 3
"Death in Silver"
Story by Steve Englhart
Art by Ross Andru and Tom Palmer


“Commodore” Winthrop, owner of the shipping company Seven Seas, threatens to reveal the secret identity of the mysterious mastermind of the Silver Death’s-Heads gang who are on a citywide crime spree.  Winthrop is silenced in a ’scraper-shaking “BA-TOOM!,” his last words to the mastermind, “I gave my secretary your blueprints--and the whole sordid story!”  Monk rushes from his penthouse laboratory above to investigate with Ham, only to see their witness murdered with an arrow before their eyes.  The “archer in silver” gives them the slip and, taking a janitor’s clothes, blends in with the building residents.  Ham phones for Doc Savage, but before he can arrive the disguised archer calls in an armored car crew to kidnap Ham, Monk, and Long Tom.  At the Wall Street skyscraper, Doc joins the police investigation and deduces that a cannonball fired by a boat on the East River caused the explosion.  A cop bursts onto the scene with news that Silver Death’s-Heads murdered two more witnesses in their homes.  -Gilbert Colon

Gilbert Colon: Desperate for clues, Doc investigates an eerily silent factory owned by Commodore Winthrop.  He finds Winthrop’s beautiful secretary Lorna Zane splayed out cold on the floor.  The Commodore’s efficiency expert, Harry “Rapid” Pace, mistakes Doc for the culprit and jumps to her defense, but Doc literally holds him off.  Looking for blueprints, the Silver Death’s-Heads and their commander Ull barge in to take Lorna and knock Doc out.  Lorna and Pace, stashed beforehand in a closet by Doc, are safe.  The hooded assassins surmise that “the Zane Dame” escaped.  On their way out Doc, having feigned unconsciousness, overhears them say they are headed to see Bedford Burgess Gardner, head of Transatlantic (the Commodore’s main shipping rival).  Doc shelters Lorna at a beauty salon run by his cousin Pat Savage and drives with Pace to the reclusive Gardner’s Hudson Valley mansion.  

Gilbert: Upon their arrival, the household butler dies in front of them from a bullet wound.  After Gardner refuses to cooperate, Doc conducts his own search.  Pace, meanwhile, steals away into the wine-cellar where a clandestine meeting is being held.  “Ull?  This is your boss,” a shadowy figure says to the gathered silver-costumed marauders, “Here are your orders...”  When Doc’s search leads him to the basement, it is Silver against Bronze, and the beaten villains scatter.  Still Doc manages to capture one.  In the closet, Doc finds “yet another character in this doomsday drama,” Transatlantic’s financial advisor Hugh McCoy who accuses Gardner of shooting the butler.  Doc also finds a cold-cocked Pace, but no trace of Gardner.  Doc’s prisoner takes a capsule given him by Ull to wipe his memory before questioning, but it turns out to be poison.  The betrayed silver fiend’s last words: “Savage...your men...Indian’s head...”  With this new clue, Doc swears, “I will find my aides--or die trying!” 


Gilbert: “...All in the tumultuous 1930’s!” heralds the splash page, and compared with issues past, this holds true, though the period detail began seeping in from the first issue, albeit gradually.  This time around, in this adaptation of Lester Dent’s third Doc Savage novel Death in Silver (October 1934), the action never leaves the New York area.  Set mainly in Manhattan, issue #3 feels, compared with the exotic adventures Doc so often embarks upon, more like a 1930s detective tale with the Man of Bronze sleuthing through crime scenes and sniffing around for clues.  Besides “unique locales,” Dent (in his now-famous Master Formula) recommended pulpateers also write about familiar ones, “a place where you’ve lived or worked,” and New York City is where Dent and his family moved to write for the pulps in the early ’30s.  (When you end up with a bibliography of nearly 160 Doc Savage novels to your name, a close-to-home escapade from time to time can be a pleasurable change of pace.)  Again Monk and Ham resume their raillery, but with Long Tom receded into the background, this installment (like the novel) whittles its Fab Five to a much more wieldy “Fabulous Trio,” and Steve Englehart’s storytelling is smoother for it.  What remains to be seen is if the second issue can afford Doc’s cousin Pat more than a cursory introduction, and some “screen time” to go with it.   





Astonishing Tales 16
Ka-Zar in
"To Stalk a City!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Rich Buckler and Chic Stone

Ka-Za and Zabu patrol the streets of Manhattan, from Central Park to the subway to Broadway, and are spotted by a hoodlum who races off to tell The Pusher. Back at Bobbi Morse’s apartment, Ka-Zar vows to destroy the druglord, just as the evildoer himself vows to “hunt up some jungle meat”. Vinnie, aka Percy Calvin, is accosted by The Pusher, who’s looking for a payday from an A.I.M. agent and looking to control the city’s drug lines. So he uses Vinnie as bait to draw Ka-Zar out—and wearing a strength amplifier, the Pusher strikes! A suddenly brave Vinnie tries to stop him, but the powerful Pusher nearly kills him! Ka-Zar comes to and pulverizes The Pusher in a power-packed donnybrook, then takes Vinnie to the hospital so the young man can recuperate and be near his Mom, Dr. Calvin. —Joe Tura

Joe: Lots of unnecessary, odd posturing and gesticulating by Ka-Zar and The Pusher in this Buckler-drawn ish, and lots of verbal posturing also, mostly spoken in some bizarre Friedrich language. “The whirling whine of a man-wrought machine!”, “It is the blue-coats—who would imprison us if we were caught!”, “The blue-coats abound like ants in a rain forest!”, “It is as if the city stores these foul odors—to use if perchance the air might freshen! And that’s just page 3! Ka-Zar grabbing Zabu by the scruff of his neck on pages 3 and 6 cracked me up. Bad Kitty! And I’m shocked to learn Ka-Zar is a fare beater! Is that the behavior of a lord? I think not, sir!

Peter Enfantino: My favorite bit of Friedrich writing this issue has to be the "Mindwatch" page (below). I'm not sure how many other 11 year-olds dug this, but I sure did.


Dig this, righteous muthas!






The Avengers 108
"Check -- And Mate!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Don Heck, Dave Cockrum, and Joe Sinnott

The Vision has agreed to the Grim Reaper's plan: take the body of Captain America and be human again. However, it's a ruse, a diversion as Cap launches an attack and they render the villain unconscious. Vision and Cap free the rest of the Avengers when the Space Phantom arrives with leftover Hydra agents. The Scarlet Witch escapes while the rest of the Avengers are recaptured. The Phantom follows her to the Mansion and captures Rick and Wanda. The Phantom decides to take Rick's form (which will send the boy into limbo) and kill the Avengers disguised as an ally. However, he doesn't reckon on Captain Marvel appearing instead, the result of the Phantom attempting to send two beings to limbo. Rick is in the Negative Zone, as usual, while the Phantom floats in his own dimension. Mar-Vell frees the Avengers and tells a super complicated story about how this was all planned in between panels. Wanda is upset because the missing Quicksilver seems to be forgotten, but the Vision, with his newly discovered insights into family, offers his shoulder. -Scott McIntyre




Scott: Still overly complex, with not one, not two, but three plot-stopping instances of filling us all in on how stuff was done behind the scenes. This isn't very satisfying. The Grim Reaper is still overly dramatic, as is all this, and once again Rick Jones is used as the solution to the weird plot. The art isn't bad, and while the layouts sometimes betray Don Heck, the pencils do not. It's all very nicely illustrated. I do wonder why the Avengers shout out "Avengers Assemble!" when they're already together. Shouldn't that be their cry to announce it's time for the monthly meeting?




Matthew: I’ve just seen this issue for the first time, courtesy of Dean Enfantino, so I have no preconceived notions, but my gut reaction is that it’s kind of an odd duck, with the Space Phantom—a seemingly unlikely criminal mastermind—and the Grim Reaper making for one of the stranger pairs of villains.  While we’re on the subject of unusual collaborations, we have the returning Avengers warhorse Don Heck inked by newcomer Dave Cockrum and old master Joe Sinnott; the results frankly don’t look like the work of anybody in particular (certainly not Heck), but are by no means displeasing.  Chalk it up as an offbeat solution to Cap’s secret-i.d. problem, a thrifty way to use up those old Tuska pages, and an interesting challenge for newbie Englehart.


"You see, Bobby, when the earth cooled..."

Peter: I would disagree violently with my esteemed (or steamed?) colleagues that there isn't Heck evidence here. Au contrairee, mon professeurs! If anything, this gives proof to what a great job Jim Starlin did last issue at masking the Heck-ian quirks. You can see Uncle Don all over The Space Phantom here whereas last issue the villain was creepily unique. From the awful art to the overly-complicated story (I still can't make heads or tails of the Cap and Rick amnesia sub-plot) to its laugh out loud final expository (which immediately reminded me of the lab guy on Police Squad - later the Naked Gun films - who would explain everything to the detectives in minute detail, all delivered in a monotone), this is the worst issue of The Avengers that I can remember. Yeccccchh! Is "Calparth!" some kind of swear word on the planet Space Ghost Phantom comes from?




Conan the Barbarian 23
“The Shadow of the Vultures”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith and Dan Adkins & Chic Stone

Conan arrives at Pah-Dishah, the sprawling city of King Ghannif, father of Queen Melissandra of Makkalet. After a scuffle with royal guards, the Cimmerian is granted an audience with Ghannif. The weary warrior informs the portly monarch that his daughter’s kingdom needs help against the invading Turian army: Ghannif vows assistance and pays Conan a bag of gold for his service. Conan rides south, hoping to leave the Makkalet headache behind. Back at the Turian siege camp, Prince Yezdigerd summons Mikhal “The Vulture” Oglu, most deadly of all the slayers, to hunt down the Cimmerian and deliver his head. Oglu and his Turian archers relentlessly pursue their prey until Conan finally realizes that his only refuge is to return to the safety of Makkalet’s stonewalls. At the city’s gate, Conan’s exhausted horse collapses and all seems lost — however the gates burst open and a red-haired Pah-Dishah she-devil named Red Sonja and a Makkalet battalion force the Turians to retreat. That night, Conan is waylaid by a pair of Makkalet traitors under the pay of The Vulture and is taken to an abandoned watch-station where he is bound and gagged. But Red Sonja saves the barbarian again, kicking in the door and killing the traitors. Sonja clambers to the roof of the way-station while the determined Cimmerian extinguishes the lights within and prepares for the arrival of the fearsome Mikhal Oglu. The next day, an ornate chest is delivered to Prince Yezdigerd: inside, The Vulture’s severed head.
 -Thomas Flynn



Thomas Flynn: With Fafnir still presumed lost, Roy and Barry introduce another character based on a Robert E. Howard creation, Red Sonja. In Howard’s mythos, she was called Red Sonya, introduced in the 1934 short story of the same name as this “Conan the Barbarian” issue, “The Shadow of the Vulture.” Roy’s entire Makkalet arc must have been inspired by the story as well since it tells the tale of a siege. Mikhal Oglu and his gruesome fate are also taken from Howard’s original. Plus, in what must be another hat tip, Roy has Conan call her “Son-Ya” throughout. She’s still a savage beauty, but Barry’s costume is quite a bit more modest than the chainmail bikini that made the buxom character famous. Though the buxom part probably helped. There’s still chainmail, but it’s a shirt — blouse? — and Sonya sports a miniskirt and calf-high boots. Not sure how many times she appears before then, but we’ll have to wait until 1975 and the third and final issue of the black-and-white magazine “Kull and the Barbarians” to get Red Sonja’s origin story. Well, Roy’s origin at least. Yeah, I’m covering that series, and it appears to be mainly reprints of, ugh, “Kull the Conqueror.” Mikhal Oglu’s introduction has a lot of sound and fury but he doesn’t live up to the hype. And I guess he’s called The Vulture since he wears a pair of goofy wings on his back not because he enjoys roadkill. This is the fourth installment of the Makkalet arc and we don’t seem to be any closer to solving the mystery of the living descendant of Tarim. However, we are perilously close to the end of Barry Smith’s remarkable run. Sadly, Chic Stone does him no favors.


Scott: Another winner from Roy and Barry by way of Robert E. Howard, the story is notable for the introduction of Red Sonja, who will wind up with her own title. Until now, my only real familiarity with the character comes from the godawful movie of the same name. She's interesting, but she's just one of many interesting souls introduced in this series. The story is a decent adventure, but the final pages are incredible and memorable for the cold brutality. A fitting ending to this tale.

Joe: I had no idea I once owned the debut of Red Sonja! Yep, I recognized the cover right away and Prof. Flynn's boffo summary brought back memories of sweet Sonja in her chainmail. Geez, more and more I'm wishing I would have kept my collection. Then again, if I would have, I might not be writing this right now!

Scott: Barry Smith's art is again striking. I'm out of adjectives to describe the joy the images bring. Such a classy looking series. I guess in a way I should be happy he's leaving the title, there are only so many ways I can write the same thing.


Mark: Behind a bad Gil Kane cover lurks Barry Smith's penultimate issue of CTB, and the first four color appearance of fiery Red Sonja, a heroine who can fight and drink and, okay, maybe not wench  with any man, even the titular Cimmerian himself. And her chainmail shirt and hot pants (not a mini-skirt, Prof Tom) are sexy but believable, unlike the itty-bitty bikini lesser writers than Roy Thomas would decide she should appear in, the better to get fan-boys drooling (and they hoped, buying). The story takes Conan back to Makkalet, herded there by a horde led by Mikhal Oglu, the Vulture, feared Hyborian age hit-man, his very name "a quivering watchword of horror..." Alas, the Vulch doesn't live up to his billing or his wings, as Conan dispatches him in two quick panels. Another solid adventure, but it merely whets the appetite for the final masterpiece from Thomas and Smith, one of the greatest writer/artist teams in comic history.



Captain America and The Falcon 158
"The Crime Wave Breaks!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and John Verpoorten

The Viper has poisoned Cap and the Falcon, leaving the antidote out of reach. After Viper leaves the two heroes to die, Cap claws his way to the vial by sheer strength of will. He drinks it and after a quick recovery, gives it to the Falcon. They split up to try to trace the Viper and Cap ends up at Mudoon's apartment. The suspended cop tells Cap he suspects the Cowled Commander is really Patrolman Steve Rogers (oh, snap!). Meanwhile, Falc checks in with Morgan, the crime boss. However, he won't talk. Luckily, the comic book gods are on Sam's side and after following a hunch about his being an advertising genius, he finds the Viper lickety split. While searching for more clues, Cap comes upon a bank robbery. He pounces on the criminals and soundly beats the living snot out of them with unexpected, newfound super strength. As they are taken away they mention nobody can stop this new "Crime Wave." The Falcon beats up on the Viper and he too spills the same beans. Cap returns home to find his apartment trashed and his crappy landlord tell him it was done by the cops. As Steve walks the streets, he is cold cocked by Muldoon and the Viper tells Falc they will never beat the new criminal team led by the Cowled Commander! -Scott McIntyre


"... I have an urge to watch Al Pacino in Cruising!"
Scott: Steve comes home to a completely trashed apartment: I guess when Muldoon told his partner to put everything back the way they found it, he was thinking of a definition of that term that I was unaware (we know Steve is a slob so maybe the flat was a mess when they got there?! - The Dean). The point was to not leave behind traces, but I guess their shift was up or something. Damned union rules. Good art, good characterization and a fine moment when Sam thanks Cap for saving his life without actually thanking him. I love a good bromance.

Mark: Man, this one's a steaming pant-load. I expected Englehart would have trouble blending the other Steve's (Gerber) absurdist ad-man Viper with his more conventional chest-thumping heroics and that prognosis is unhappily on-target. Cap's opening, anguished roof top crawl to reach the antidote for the Viper's poison finds Englehart's heroic prose veering dangerously close to over-wrought parody ("...he can not recall if his eyelids are up, or have collapsed under their own mass."), and things are mostly downhill from there.

Matthew:  I may come out of this whole experience as big a Sal Buscema fan as Professor Joe is.  Not that I ever wasn’t a fan, but I’m often so busy comparing him—unfairly—with brother John or describing his work with phrases like “solid but unspectacular” that I focus on the latter at the expense of the former.  Except for the tour de force opening of Cap taking the antidote (the effects of which are only starting to be felt), there’s a slight feeling of running in place here, but I think it’s just because Steve has so many balls in the air:  the Falcon’s interactions with Redwing and Morgan, Muldoon and his suspicions regarding Patrolman Rogers, etc.; thank goodness they didn’t try to throw Sharon and Leila into the mix this time, too.

Scott: A really nice, fast paced issue, with a new wrinkle added to Cap's life as he gains super strength.
This development will spell some trouble between Cap and the Falcon, so get ready for more heated discussions involving Leila. Yay.

Mark: The antidote unexpectedly amping up our heroes powers is a good touch (let's hope it plays out further next ish), but then the Fac beats long-shot lotto odds by finding the Viper via his "special chemicals and herbs" at the very first pharmacy he checks out, as if Englehart wanted to dispense with Gerber's goofy villain will all deliberate speed. Then Muldoon commits felony assault upon Mr. Rogers in an effort to clear his name right after Steve's landlord tries to "blackmail me over my secret identity – and he doesn't even know my secret identity!" Hard to take any of this with a straight face and...wait a minute! Could Mr. E be trying to one-up Gerber with his own over the top absurdist put-on? That has it be it! And the most convincing piece of evidence is the last panel, when the defeated Viper tells Sam when he doesn't report in our heroes will "have to face the Plant-Man! The Porcupine! The Eel! The Scarecrow!" Lordy, I'm laughing so hard that my sides ache. Englehart unveiling the ultimate quartet of barrel-bottom sad-sack baddies in the Marvel U has to be one of the greatest in-jokes in comic history! The only other alternative: steaming pant-load.

Peter: I'm still feeling the effects of the "After-The-Other-Cap" hangover, not digging this Viper story whatsoever. Last issue, I could foist it off on Baby Gerber but this one sits squarely on Stainless shoulders. It's only the grout between tiles though, as I know another great storyline is just around the corner. For the first time I can remember, I'll have to switch viewpoints on a major character's arc, and agree with one of the professors (was it Mark or Scott?) that the Muldoon situation is being run into the ground. Resolve it already and move on. It's bad enough I have to acknowledge I'm wrong, I don't want Stainless to continually present evidence why I was wrong! That last panel, introducing next issue's villains, belongs in Daredevil not Captain America.


Uh-oh, is Don Heck right around the corner?




Daredevil and The Black Widow 96
"The Widow Will Make You Pay!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Ernie Chua

Thinking Daredevil may be dead at the horns of the Man-Bull, the Black Widow uses her skill and weaponry to keep said villain at bay. Police sirens send him and his pal Itch running, just as a stirring DD shows signs of life—barely. Off to the hospital they go, to remove the bullet in his shoulder. Meanwhile, the two criminals head off to see “the Professor” who developed the serum that transformed Bull Taurus into the monster he now is. The Professor has developed a serum the two plan to put into the San Francisco water supply to turn it’s citizens into deformed creatures as well. Back at the hospital, Natasha is thrilled that Matt has pulled through the operation and will live. She sets out to find Taurus and make things right. Bull and Itch succeed in sabotaging the city’s water, at which point the former tosses the latter aside, figuring he’s of no more use. DD awakes a little later, and plays a hunch in finding the whereabouts of his opponent, who plans to throw away the antidote for the water supply that the Professor has developed, wanting others to suffer like him. Bull also plans to get rid of his benefactor, and DD pursues them to the dock. He tricks Bull into falling into the water with an anchor, gaining a respite for the moment. -Jim Barwise


Chunt! Son of Bunt!
Jim Barwise: Is it just me, or is anyone else wondering at the gap where the Man-Bull is fighting Black Widow one minute, then suddenly he’s back at his hideout with the Prof? Where’d Natasha disappear to? Perhaps the best thing about this tale is the Widow’s independent success holding off the Man-Bull, as well or better than DD does. Overall it’s pretty average, though with some spooky locales and some decent subplots like Commissioner “Ironguts” O’Hara admitting he misjudged our hero. The promise of the cover is unfulfilled.

Scott: This was a surprisingly good solid action yarn with Natasha taking the lead for most of the issue while DD recuperates from his battering and operation. Of course, he's on his feet pretty damned quick, but the fight is worth it. The police commissioner lightens up finally and the doctors come up with a slender reason for not unmasking our hero. Natasha is well portrayed here, a vengeful lover out for blood. She does well. The plot is average, but it's all good with images like this. Something about the art is particularly striking, and I have to credit the inker Ernie Chua, aka Ernie Chan, one of my favorite inkers. It's beautiful work, he always makes pencils pop. His inks on The Incredible Hulk first caught my eye and I always enjoyed any issue he worked on. He and Gene work well together and made this issue very easy to like.


And not one shower in six months!
Matthew:  What is it with Hornhead and villains who put stuff in the water supply?  I didn’t like it when the populace of New York was thusly rendered blind in #74, and although we’re told that there is an antidote this time around, the whole “city of monsters” thing just seems like more careless writing, with no thought given to the ramifications, as well as engendering an unusually misleading cover (“Legion of the Lost!”)—not that the story actually depicted inside was short on drama.  Nice to see return appearances by two of San Francisco’s finest, Lt. Paul Carson and Commissioner “Ironguts” O’Hara, and that when Ernie Chua has something better to ink than the mess handed to him by Wayne Boring in last month’s Captain Marvel, the results are quite good.



Mark: Hey, kids! A snark-free DD review as Gerry Conway ties up the Man-Bull two-parter in solid fashion by tying an anchor around the bovine beastie's neck and drowning him in San Francisco Bay. Early on, Natasha fights the Bully-boy to a stand-still, allowing paramedics to rush our wounded hero to the hospital and extract a bullet from his shoulder. While he's recovering, the Widow takes on the anti-social Mr. Taurus for round two after he doses the SF water system with the professor's Island of Dr. Moreau man-into-beast potion, and gets Bull-whacked into the bushes for her troubles. The weak and bandaged DD is then out the hospital window and off for a final showdown with the horned horror, leading to the anchor-lasso deep-sixing of the Man-Bull mentioned above. Ernie Chua's inks aren't a good match for Dean Gene's pencils, but Colan's mastery still shines through. The "dark" heroes of the late-70's are still years away, so it's worth noting that DD makes no effort to dive into the bay and save MB's life. Good riddance, you rodeo refugee! You shan't be missed.






The Defenders 4
"The New Defender!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and Frank McLaughlin


Dr. Strange, Namor and the Hulk have returned to the dimension of our Earth, “landing” by a castle somewhere in the British Isles. They have brought back with them the human girl Barbara, whose mental separation from the Nether-God has driven her insane. The Hulk blames Strange for this, and carries Barbara off into the castle. The others follow, fearing old Greenskin may harm her unintentionally. Once inside they find it not only deserted, but without any sign of their two companions. The answer is quickly forthcoming, as a flaming brazier bursts forth, transporting them to another place (and time?) where warriors, led by the Executioner, attack them. While they can handle the hordes, they lose the advantage when a Merlin-like sorcerer named Fragon adds his power to the battle. Overcome (losing some of  their powers here), they are tossed in a dungeon where Barbara and Bruce Banner are already hanging out. The explanation is soon provided from a neighbouring cell where Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, and the Enchantress are doing time. Some months back the Enchantress and the Executioner had been banished to this land from Asgard by Odin. The latter soon fell for the realms sorceress queen Casiolena, abandoning his former partner, Enchantess’ revenge tried many schemes, eventually finding her in Garrett Castle (where we started), where the Black Knight was guarding the fire brazier. Combining her magic with it, she wooed Whitman into helping her, and they returned to fight Casiolena. Although Odin had decreed that the Enchantress keep her powers, they couldn’t overcome her rivals’ on her home turf—thus, dungeon time! Against everyone’s objections, she takes advantage of the presence of the human girl Barbara, and transforms her into the Valkyrie, a warrior personality that will keep the human one submerged. The plan to free them works, as the new Barbara breaks them free from their cells. The somewhat larger team, with the Valkyrie their secret weapon, wins the day, and a beaten Executioner crawls back to his former mistress’ side. The Black Knight objects to having been thus used, but is only turned to stone as a reward for his love. The group carries Dane with them; they will do their best to break the spell once back on Earth. Whitman’s flying horse Aragorn is tamed by the Valkyrie, who announces her desire to join their ranks. -Jim Barwise

Jim: This is a heck of a tale that reminds me how fun comic books can really be. We’ve got a hefty mix of characters (including the hot new Valkyrie!), all kinds of emotional motivations, and a dimension that is colourful and full of surprises. Again, the very seeming incongruity of this odd bunch seems to be their greatest strength, and keeps their adventures honest. I’m finding Sal Buscema’s art to be different enough to be quite distinctive.

Matthew: Despite my personal passion for the war with the Avengers (for which this issue lays some important groundwork, as did last month’s Thor), Stainless made his greatest impact on the non-team here, noting with commendable understatement on his website that he “added a Roy-character called the Valkyrie to provide some texture to the group.”  In fact, he continues to show himself as Roy’s spiritual heir by picking up bright, shiny plot elements like some kind of literary magpie, and then working his own special magic on them.  Sal continues to earn Steve’s praise as “a perfect comic book storyteller,” mastering a large number of characters (even if the Hulk still looks like he needs a shave); Frank McLaughlin’s inking is never less than serviceable.

Scott: Nice, probably the best issue to date. I never considered The Executioner to be an overly smart foe, but when he's not nursing a boner for the Enchantress, he comes across more intelligent (even if he's still doing another woman's bidding). Valkyrie arrives and she's pretty awesome from the get go. I expected her to be somewhat overbearing, but she's pretty great. It's all good fun, introducing a new character and giving Bruce Banner some game time, even if his random "Hulk memories" are convenient. Why did I never notice Namor has an earring?

Peter: The appearance of Val is a bit jarring; she's just suddenly there and given a mini-origin (Enchantress Junior sorta kinda), but knowing the character becomes a third-tier Marvel hero adds a little weight to the story. I'd question the notion that the babe would know the name of this brand-new ultra-secret sorta kinda non-Super Group ten minutes after she's sprung from the womb of The Enchantress ("I think I'd like to become a Defender, you know, like you guys!") but, when we're talking about chicks who fly on winged horses, it's the least of my disbelief suspensions. As with the current Fantastic Four, this continuation of last month's story is something of a letdown but, with my mind still singing the screams of Barbara last month, that was to be expected. I never could, and never will, warm up to Sal's Hulk. He's just too... boxy and his face is too wide. The man can definitely pencil a warrior woman though, I'll give him that.





Fantastic Four 131
"Revolt in Paradise"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Ross Andru and Joe Sinnott

An infuriated Johnny Storm, who has made his way to the Great Refuge to find Crystal, has found her indeed. He’s also found that she is in love with someone else: Pietro, aka Quicksilver! After she and her fellows force some calm upon him, the Torch hears from the horse’s mouth about how this came about. After Crystal had last left with her dog Lockjaw to return to the Refuge, instead of bringing her back with his dimension travelling powers, he took her to the aid of Quicksilver, who in defeating a giant Sentinel, had hurt himself. They brought him back to her homeland where her fellow Inhumans had aided in his recovery. They had also fallen in love. Before the two men can duke it out, an earthquake shakes the city. Next the Alpha Primitives, the subterranean Inhuman slave race, break into a full-scale revolt. The Inhumans drive them back underground and seal off their return path. But Johnny and Quicksilver, with Lockjaw’s aid disappear in search of Crystal, who has been kidnapped by the Alpha Primitives. They find their underground city. They also find Crystal, in the clutches of a giant named Omega, who, as a slave of the Alphas, gives them a choice: aid in his masters revolt, or watch their loved one perish! -Jim Barwise

Jim: I found this Inhuman storyline rather refreshing, without another tiring tirade from Maximus, and
with enough surprises to make things interesting—namely the romantic shocker with former Avenger Quicksilver. If a tempermental Torch could be said to have handled it well overall, he didn’t do too badly, putting his personal feelings behind him long enough to fight with the Inhumans instead of against them. The rebellion isn’t something new, but the giant Omega raises some questions. Machine? Being? And if he has as much power as he hints at, how is he controlled by the Alpha Primitives?

Matthew:  I’ve never found Crystal all that interesting, and we’ve seen how tough FF membership is on relationships, so with her fickle nature, it’s perhaps just as well that she’s now headed for the altar with Pietro (whose failure to contact the Avengers is inexcusable).  So, this advanced civilization that is led by the noble Black Bolt, and reluctant to mingle with humans because they’re different, has “an enslaved race, born and bred to serve [them]—and fit for nothing more,” whom Johnny tactfully calls “apes”?  And they’d be perfectly willing to bury the Alpha Primitives in their catacombs if Crys weren’t a prisoner?  Much of this will be addressed next month, but meanwhile, the lettercol reports the effects of John Buscema’s summer vacation.



Mark: This issue had a major impact on me as a twelve year old. For context, here's what I wrote about my "relationship" with Crystal shortly after securing a junior teaching position here to august Marvel U: my "first worship-from-afar celebrity crush was on Johnny Storm's girlfriend, Crystal. Her only competition was Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C., but how often did that air and besides... Crys was pretty much a dead ringer for Ms. Welch anyway and the most gorgeous woman King Kirby ever depicted. Those lips, those hips, that funky black double-helix hula-hoop thing she always wore in her hair." If Professor Matthew never "found Crystal all that interesting" as a kid, I can only speculate that his eyesight was even worse than mine! The issue that she first appeared in an FF uniform (#81, "Enter - The Exquisite Elemental!") was also the first issue of my multi-year subscription to Fantastic Four, so I grew up not only infatuated with a fictional female character, but saw her as an integral part of Marvel's first family. In retrospective, I know she'd been largely written out of the book by 1972, but as a kid I always expected her return to both the team and Johnny. This issue tore the scales from my eyes. Painfully.

Peter: It ain't bad but it's nowhere near the high-energy funfest we were lucky enough to score last issue. The art, by stand-in Ross Andru, is a bit shaky but I guess any story that can make me feel sorry for the eternally boring and one-note Johnny Storm can't be all bad. There must have been a more fluid way of dumping Crystal (whose entire character had become an afterthought) from the title without having her, out of the blue, shack up with Pietro. It's a shocker all right. Roy can still make me wince with his bad one-liners (Johnny calls Quicksilver "a refugee from a race track" -- Ouch!) but The Rascally One can still come up with a good right hook now and then.


Matthew: “Roy had to have two issues…done by other pencilers….[This one is] superbly rendered (we think) by Ross Andru,” who aptly just drew the Torch in Marvel Team-Up #1-3.  “The other, by a talented lady named Ramona Fradon whose comic-book work we’ve admired for a long, long time (but who’s been out of the field for a couple of years) will be roaring your way in ish #133.  [#132 and 134-on] will be done just a wee bit differently.”  Buscema, soon to take over Conan the Barbarian, “will merely be doing what we call ‘breakdowns’ (translation:  half-finished pencil layouts of each panel) for every issue—which will then be finished off (both penciling and inking) by…Sinnott.”  They note that #128 was secretly done that way, with none the wiser.

Scott: Yay, Ross Andru!  At last! In case you couldn't figure it out, I was being sarcastic. At least he doesn't draw Crystal in her FF uniform, so I'll let the continuity error go because being in her own clothing makes more sense. So, Quicksilver is fine with letting his friends and his sister believe the worst and waste time looking for him simply because he doesn't have his super speed back? What a douche. I seriously freaking hate this guy and his costume. Oh, and the last panel on page 10 (below): Worst. Kiss. Ever. Johnny freaks out, as per his norm, and Maximus' body poses (and everyone else's for that matter) are a major reason I dislike Andru's work. It all ends on a cliffhanger and next month our regular artist returns. Yay, at last! In case you couldn't figure it out, I was not being sarcastic.


In a moment of unbridled passion, Crystal accidentally
bites off Quicksilver's nose

Mark: Trying to review this issue sans my juvenile perspective is impossible, but I'll start by noting Crys' clothing has magically transformed from the FF uni she was wearing last ish to a yellow jumpsuit. Substitute artist Ross Andru is more than adequate, no doubt thanks to Joe Sinnott's always stellar inks. The backstory of Crystal finding Quicksilver (thanks to Lockjaw's unpredictable powers of teleportation) and nursing him back to health after he was injured offing a Sentinel in Avengers #104 is the kind continuity tie-in the House of Ideas used to excel at before their own history become too unweildly. The uprising of the Alpha Primitives, one expects, will lead a critique on the mortality of a "worker class" bred to serve the elite, but it's hard to focus on social commentary subtext when reading this makes the seven year old inside me just want to stamp my little feet.







7 comments:

  1. The girl over there with the hot pants on, Filthy MacNasty all night long. Get down hu! The one over there with the mini dress ha! I aint got time, I still dig that mess. Get down! But I like the hot pants. Hey! I like a hot pants.

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  2. I regret to announce that Professor Flynn will be taking an unscheduled leave of absence due to stress.

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    1. As long as I still get paid. Hot pants!

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  3. I do believe that was the one issue of Doc Savage I owned. But I also do believe I have no memory of it beyond the cover.

    Prof. Matthew, there's always room on the Sal Buscema bandwagon! Hop on board!

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  4. Of these mags, I got Ka-Zar, the FF, Avengers & the Defenders off the spinner racks. The Defenders was definitely the best of the lot. The FF was a bit of a shocker, although to be honest losing the love of your life to an arrogant, fleet-footed prick isn't quite as awful as accidentally killing her while trying to save her after your drug-addled roommate's lunatic father has knocked her off a bridge. Hmm, seems in this era Marvel was unravelling many old time romances.

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  5. Some fans back in the Bronze Age thought that lovely Crystal should have replaced the whining Sue Storm permanently!

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