Wednesday, January 15, 2014

April 1973 Part Two: Introducing The Wendigo!

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire 8
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Billy Graham

Luke Cage tears up his office in an angry rage. He's trying to figure out who had put the hit out on Frank Jenks, a man that had scheduled a meeting with Cage some time ago. Outside, he recognizes one of the goons who had attacked him and chases him down. Cage tries to beat a confession from the goon but the man eventually escapes. A rich looking dandy hires Cage to find four men that have stolen some equipment from his boss. Cage tracks them down in a warehouse. After one of the men shoots him with a scientific gun, they escape, but not before Cage figures out that they are androids. When Luke tracks the rich man to a hotel suite, it's revealed that the man who hired him is none other than Doctor Doom! The androids were the Doc's and they escaped Latveria. As he reluctantly goes along with the job he was hired for, Cage gets a tip from Doom about the escaped droids' whereabouts. It's all or nothing when Cage has to destroy the robots as they try to beat him to death. When the Hero for Hire returns to the hotel the doorman tells him that Dr. Doom was pleased with the job but refuses to pay. Cage vows to travel to Latveria to get what's owed him. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: After a run of some pretty mediocre villains, it's nice to see a heavyweight like Dr. Doom get drafted to make an appearance in this title. Doom's arrogance, while engaging Luke, is  amusing and I love how he skipped out on paying the Hero for Hire bill.

Peter Enfantino: I wasn't sure that the Universes of Luke Cage and (SPOILER ALERT!) Doc Doom would mix all that well but Stainless does a great job of bringing the two together in a perfectly plausible way. This is a funny, exciting first chapter in the arc and I can just imagine Stainless sitting at his typewriter (with Isaac Hayes on the 8-track, Schlitz and a ciggie on the go) pumping out the kind of dialogue African-Americans could laugh, rather than wince, at. He's clearly having a good time and this book's got an edge to it no other can touch. FYI: I used "Jive-talkin' freakin', motherless candidate for the psycho hatch" on the boss this morning. Didn't come out with the same oomph, I'm afraid.

Scott McIntyre: This issue is a solid action yarn; a lot of fun with some great little character bits that help to fill in Cage's world. The poor guy goes through more shirts than Bruce Banner. His deal with Doom is okay, but turns more fun in the last few panels when the usually honorable good doctor stiffs Cage for his fee. The art is crisp and energetic. The dialog is, as Dean Peter mentioned, laughable, but that adds to the ride. This will never be my favorite book, but it's entertaining as a drunken sailor in church.

Peter: On page 9, a Jewish woman refers to Cage as "a qviet (sic) friendly schvartze boy." Schvartze is the equivalent in Yiddish for the "n" word, and in Marvel Comics The Untold Story, author Sean Howe relates how Stainless was tricked into using the term by George Tuska. An apology was offered up in the letters page of #11.

Shanna the She-Devil 3
"The Moon of the Fear-Bulls!"
Story by Carole Seuling
Art by Ross Andru and Vince Colletta

While working out the difficulties of finding a construction company to build a replica of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Ecological Niche" house, Shanna the She-Devil is, once again, disturbed by a panicked villager. This time out, a village has been completely destroyed by a monster bull. Investigating, the redheaded female ball of fire and sexy, sultry vigor discovers a race of cretins Cretans have bred a new strain of huge mutant bulls, each equipped with "fear-rays" atop their gargantuan heads. Captured by the bad guys, Shanna is brought before their leader, the great King PhoboTaurus (or Fear Bull in layman terms), and told his polan: he intends to take his Fear-Bulls away from the jungle but he needs a strapping young lass by his side. Without pause, Shanna reminds Phobo that she is a She-Devil and ends his terrible streak of terror... just like that. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Where to start? The "story" is all over the map. Why does a jungle girl want a replica of "Ecological Niche" built in her neck of the woods anyway? Wouldn't the destruction caused by the construction company negate the good she brings to the local villages? Wouldn't her jungle friends think her a bit arrogant living in a fab pad while they eat grubs and grain? Who is the mysterious hooded man kept in the shadows throughout the issue, teased as though he's someone we already know (Doctor Doom was my first choice) and then unmasked and dispatched in a silly climax? Writer Seuling was clearly drawing lots of inspiration from the 1930s adventure pulps in both action and title but there's really nothing new or involving here. It's just a disposable comic book produced to fill a slot. As far as the art goes, Shanna looks good enough (though the cheesecake factor has definitely been ratcheted down a whole lot) but everything else looks cut and pasted from a sticker book.

Adventure Into Fear 13
Man-Thing in
"Where Worlds Collide!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Val Mayerik and Frank Bolle

A cult leader convinces his followers that the Man-Thing’s swamp is a vortex of realities and its secret lies in an ancient text.  When he opens the box containing the book he discovers it is missing.
Simultaneously, Jennifer tries to convince her new beau, Jaxon, not to hang out by the swamp but, unfortunately, Jaxon will not listen.
When Jennifer and Andy (her brother) return home, they encounter the cloaked cultists leaving their Grandfather’s barn.  The shady cult leader blames Kale (the Grandfather) for the loss of the sacred book, but it was Jen and Andy who had burned it.
Jaxon, unwinding with his guitar by the swamp, is attacked by a demon.  The Man-Thing is watching and following.  When Jen, Andy and Kale discover the now demonic Jaxon, they are all flung into a menacing version of Hades.  Man-Thing tags along and sees mirrors with reflections of himself as a monster and . . . as his human form Ted Sallis.  A demon, Thag, offers him his lady-love Ellen and his human body in exchange for the murder of the three humans.  Ted will have nothing to do with it.  He turns back into Man-Thing, grabs Ellen, who disintegrates, and then confronts the demonized Jaxon.  Man-Thing realizes that this is a “psychic mirage” after grabbing Jaxon, who is afraid, but does not burn.  The whole earthly group is shuttled back to the swamp, with Man-Thing still holding Jaxon.  The demon inhabiting Jen’s man is burned up by Man-Thing and our hideous hero returns to the depths of the swamp. A connection between Jen and the Man-Thing is discovered. -Noel Cavanaugh

Noel Cavanaugh:.  This was my first chance to read “Man-Thing” and I loved it.  The visuals are perfect for such a sci-fi/paranormal story and there is something to be said for a beast who has the guts to throw a demon’s minions – right at the demon!

Matthew Bradley: Gerber returns to the elements he’d introduced in #11 (the Kale family of Citrusville, Thog the Nether-Spawn, the Tome of Zhered-Na), and throws in the conceit that will become the centerpiece of the strip, the Nexus of All Realities.  Among a handful of ’70s inking credits for Golden-Age penciler Frank Bolle, this begins Manny’s relationship with artist Val Mayerik, who would bridge the remainder of his series here—co-creating Howard the Duck in their final issue, #19—and the start of his eponymous solo title.  The otherwise uncredited 1962 reprint, “Mister Black” (Strange Tales #93), was drawn by Heck; the MCDb tells us that it was plotted by Stan and scripted by brother Larry, but curiously misidentifies the artist as Gene Colan.

Scott: An interesting story which felt more appropriate for Dr. Strange than Man-Thing, but still a decent time passer. The art is a little off beat, which helps this title greatly. The horror titles benefit from having new artists rather than the usual gang from the bullpen. Ted Sallis makes an appearance, but his character is so under-developed, there is no resonance to his choice. Man-Thing is interesting, but not for any desire to see him returned to human form. It's Ben Grimm Syndrome: do you really want to see him cured?

Peter: This series, which could just as easily have devolved into Man-Thing By Night and stumbled and bumbled, is progressing nicely. I read this as a wee MZkid but I can't, for the life of me, remember where it's going (other than towards the Duck, of course). I'm finding that to be a god thing on this journey, coming to these with a clean slate. Well, it could be the start of Alzheimer's, of course, but I try to look at the bright side of everything. As for the reprint, I'm wondering if Colan did a bit of a mop-up on the story as there are definitely traces of Gene amidst the Heck (that sixth panel on page 24, for example).  If so, the Dashing one should have paid the Gentleman to follow him around throughout his career. This is the best Heck I've ever seen. On the "Monsters Mail Box" page, future small press writer/artist Matt Howarth contends that having Howie Chaykin ink Gray Morrow (back in #10) was a mistake. 

Sure don't look like Heck to us

The Incredible Hulk 162
"Spawn of the Flesh-Eater!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

The Hulk is still searching for Betty Ross, tearing through the Canadian countryside, when hears a voice calling out, saying that it is Paul Carier and that he needs help. As he tries to follow the voice, a group of armed men shoot at the Hulk. When they realize that the bullets have no effect on him they stop. A woman starts hitting the Hulk in desperation as she screams for him to tell her what he did to Paul, her brother. When the woman refers to the Hulk as the Wendigo, the Green Goliath denies that he is this creature but admits he heard Paul asking for help so he volunteers to look for him. The Hulkster finds the Wendigo holding a man captive. The two monsters fight for a spell, with the Hulk eventually being able to save the man while the Wendigo storms off. When he takes the wounded man back to a cabin where the search party is staying, the woman relates that the man is Paul's friend, Georges Baptiste. In a fit of fear, George tells everyone how he and Paul, along with a third man named Henri, were out hunting together when they were chased into a cave by wolves. With no food available, Paul eventually cracked and ate (the now-dead) Henri. As local legend has it, this is why Paul became the Wendigo himself. The Hulk goes off and encounters the Wendigo once again. This time he figures out that the voice he heard is Paul's, being willed from the Wendigo's body. The Hulk tries to subdue the monster so that he can bring him back to the cabin and save him but finds it's not so easy as the Wendigo is the Hulk's match in strength. They fight in a titanic battle until Paul communicates to the Hulk that he is done as his mind eventually slips away and only the savage Wendigo remains. Knowing that it's a lost cause, the Hulk allows the Wendigo to run off into the wilderness. Meanwhile, General Ross waits to get clearance from the Canadian government so that he can take his Hulkbuster squad into the country to get the Green Goliath. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: The Hulk shows a lot more vigilance in this story then he has previously. Not sure if being a savior is his strong suit though since in the end he just let the Wendigo escape to go further killing and eating people. Once again, the creators have come up with a decent villain that has an interesting origin story. The fight in this issue was brutal and enjoyable.

Matthew:  I introduced the Wendigo,” Englehart noted on his site.  “Not long after I left the series, Len Wein brought him back and put him up against a guy Len created called Wolverine.  If only I’d been that smart...  In my less than humble opinion, creating the Wendigo makes Stainless no slouch, and this story becomes another feather in the collective cap of our now-battle-tested trio.  For years this strip wallowed in, well, I won’t say “mediocrity,” but I will say “something other than consistent quality,” as various writers failed to do anything with the Hulk, rather than just have stuff happen around and/or to him.  With things like the wonderful character stuff on page 6, Englehart breaks that pattern, making the brevity of his run bittersweet.

Peter: Stainless works his magic fingers over that typewriter and out pops another fun comic book. Professor Matthew has a good point (as usual), noting that no writer really "got" the Hulk and Steve's at least on his way to possibly cracking that nut. One piece of advice: I could do without ever seeing another intro of Thunderlips Ross unveiling yet another secret video of Hulk in action. Seriously, there must be miles of this footage somewhere since every other issue seems to showcase that scene. 1973 was shaping up to be a biggie in supernatural characters for Marvel (nothing remotely resembling a ghoul would have been allowed before the CCA ease-up) and Wendy is an excellent addition that was, sadly, under-utilized in my opinion. I'm looking forward to revisiting the creature's solo appearance in the CCA-free Monsters Unleashed #9 next year. I'll be damned if that doesn't look like Spiro Agnew in the Wendigo suit at times. By the way, in an interesting side note, (SPOILER ALERT!) Paul's friend, Georges, will succeed him in the snowman suit. I hope Professor Joe is paying attention to the sound effects effected this issue (check 'em out below).

Scott: It's interesting to notice how horror titles get away with more than the tentpole Marvels. When we get the explanation of Paul's harrowing reasons for becoming the Wendigo, they dance around the word "cannibalism." However, if this was a Mike Ploog drawn horror title, they'd come right out and face it. Aside from this chilling origin, the Wendigo does nothing for me. He's pretty poorly drawn and these one-off characters are far from gripping. A side trip to Glenn and Betty's honeymoon doesn't fill me with excitement either. She's still a wacko. There is greatness ahead, but not yet. Not yet.

Peter: There's a hilarious letter on the Green Skin's Grab-Bag page that reads: "To Whom It May Concern: I'd like you to know that Hulk #158 was very strange. Especially the letters page. Brad Williams did not write that letter. Check the original. I did." -- Unsigned (no address given). Our behind-the-scenes letter person responds: "We cannot be reading this."

The Invincible Iron Man 57
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by George Tuska, Mike Esposito, and Frank Giacoia

Tony rehires Pepper as his personal secretary while a union leader accuses him of treason, for offering to share his meteorological and environmental discoveries with the world, including communist nations.  But “Gene Kahn” is the Mandarin, who had recovered from Black Bolt’s hypnosis (Amazing Adventures #4) and revisited the spaceship from Maklu-4, where he found a headband that enabled him to retrieve and reactivate his rings.  Having burst into Kahn’s office and been apparently knocked out, Iron Man plays possum as the Mandarin reveals that the Yin, whose secrets he sought, had learned their sorcerous skills from Axonn-Karr’s race; they resume the battle, evenly matched until the Mandarin summons his “eleventh ring,” the Unicorn. 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Although Gerber is known for his offbeat stories, his choice of villain here is not only traditional but, I would argue, overdue; however, if the reports of Stan’s ire over last issue are true, then it might have seemed best to play it safe.  In any event, a Shellhead/Mandarin bout is always welcome, and this one provides both a decent battle—with Esposito and Giacoia not surprisingly bringing out the best in Tuska’s trademark action scenes—and a substantial explanation of how Mandy bounced back from his fairly decisive defeat at the hands of Black Bolt.  Extra points to Steve for continuity with the Inhumans strip, plus Mandy’s origin in Suspense #62, and it will be interesting to see what happens with Pepper (not to mention the Unicorn) tossed back in the mix.

Scott: After a couple of really interesting issues by Jim Starlin, George Tuska returns to bedevil my eyes with his Saturday Morning cartoon pencils. It's nice to have the Mandarin back again, even if he comes across a little more ridiculous when he barks for Mac and Guff to join him. Pepper is back, which is always nice, as Tony's supporting cast is woefully sparse since he booted Marianne. Of course, Tony can't totally suppress the douche gene when she arrives, hoping she still loves him. Well, Tony, if you stop kicking girls to the curb or causing their death, maybe you wouldn't be nursing a case of repulsor balls.

Peter: Yep, such a comedown from last issue, but you can tell that Steve's getting this Tony Stark fella down rather quickly. Of course, there's really not much substance to a guy who basically makes a lot of money, sleeps around, and dresses up in armor when the moment is right. Still, I detect a gleam in Baby's eye when Pepper comes lookin' for her job back (and I would assume that the job title is Hostage) and Tony graciously grants her wish. The noble thing though, while Pep is explaining that she and Foggy Happy are having financial difficulties, would be to up his chauffeur/bodyguard/flunkie/mutant enemy's pay rather than wonder if this chick will still sleep with him if he flexes his muscle. 

Marvel Spotlight 9
Ghost Rider in
"The Snakes Crawl at Night.."
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Tom Sutton and Chic Stone

When we last saw our hell-spawned hero, his sabotaged motorcycle had left him plunging to his doom at Copperhead Canyon.  The sound of Ghost Rider’s impact on the canyon floor can be heard above – the mysterious Apache shaman Snake-Dance exults in victory.  Roxanne goes in search of the missing Johnny Blaze, and is kidnapped by Sam Silvercloud, the same rodeo hand (and secret follower of Snake-Dance) who had threatened Johnny and then tampered with his bike.  Meanwhile – in the blazing afternoon heat, Johnny begins to stir.  A searing blast announces the arrival of Satan (dramatic, ain’t he?).  Satan reveals that, if Johnny were to die by mortal hand, Satan would not be able to claim his soul.  And so, Johnny will die at a time of Satan’s choosing – until then, he will be “immune to all the murderous feats of your fellow man!”  Johnny mulls his hellish death sentence until a helicopter scoops him up (with less than an hour to go until his sundown transformation!).  Johnny rushes in to do his Ghost Rider act for the paying crowd.  GR tries not to be distracted by thoughts of the missing Roxanne, but still fails to execute the final jump, and crashes into a retaining wall.  Firefighters are astounded to find that GR has come through without a scratch!  GR spots Silvercloud, demands information from him about Roxanne, and learns that Snake-Dance has prepared to sacrifice her to the snake god.  GR scatters Snake-Dance’s followers, but he has arrived too late to prevent Roxanne from venomous snakebites.  The Apache are transfixed by the sight of the flame-skulled Rider; Snake-Dance cannot imagine how GR could possibly have survived the fall to the canyon floor.  Possessed by fear for Roxanne, and rage toward the Apache, GR consumes the sacrifice site in hellfire.  GR turns to race to the hospital, and threatens further destruction for the tribe, should Roxanne not survive. -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: Overall, this issue holds together far better than MS #8’s mash-up of two completely unrelated stories.  There are a number of significant developments for GR in this issue: 1) Johnny is now more accustomed to the change to GR – in fact, he wouldn’t mind it much “if only the pain weren’t so great!”; 2) GR turns out to be indestructible, or at least unkillable.  This helps to explain how GR was able to withstand a bullet to the skull in MS #7 – Satan has his back; 3) perhaps of most significance is that the GR hell-spawned bringer-of-vengeance persona has begun to manifest itself more fully – GR uses his flame not simply to impede or contain someone, but to destroy part of the Apache village.  In the same issue, a letter-writer suggests that “Ghost Rider should eventually find his powers turning against him.”  Perhaps this action is the start of that process, as Johnny’s control begins to give way, and the Ghost Rider asserts himself.

Matthew:  Ploog-fanatics will be disappointed that although he drew the cover—his last for Spotlighthis days of penciling this strip are over.  The rest of us can be disappointed that the interior art, by the rather odd couple of Sutton and Stone, is a mess:  several human characters look like twisted demons (e.g., page 6, panel 3; page 15, panel 7), Rocky appears to have wandered in from an entirely different magazine published by Archie Comics, and they’re not very good at drawing a skull...which you’d think would be a freakin’ prerequisite!  Social relevance aside, and without assuming Gary endorses it, I’m disturbed by Sam Silvercloud’s rationale, basically, “Because of what your people did to mine, I can do whatever I want to you.”

Chris: This marks the third instance—in five issues – that an opponent of GR has put Roxanne at risk of harm or death.  She seems to have the ill luck to be universally regarded as a prime candidate for sacrifice to an evil being.  It’s surprising that Mephisto hasn’t sought her out yet for himself.  Johnny’s soul supposedly is protected by Roxanne’s pure love for him.  Could it be these threats to Roxanne have been engineered by Satan himself, to get her out of his way?  Or, by saying he could snatch Johnny’s life whenever he chooses, could the king of lies simply be screwing with Johnny?

Joe Tura: A mess is a good way to describe this whole issue. The art is strange, the story is all over the place. It could have been a fun mess, but seems more confusing to me than anything, like I need a scorecard to keep track of the cast...except for Satan.

Chris: Mike Ploog has moved on to provide his masterful work for Frankenstein.  GR doesn’t suffer in Tom Sutton’s hands, although Chic Stone’s inks are a bit indistinct here.  I will say that Sutton’s rendering of the skull can be inconsistent, as sometimes it looks like the fright mask Johnny claims to wear for the show.  GR’s imposing presence on pg. 23, as he faces down the tribe, is a clear highlight.

Marvel Team-Up 8
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Cat in
"The Man-Killer Moves at Midnight!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Jim Mooney

The Cat attacks Spidey to prove herself, then asks for his help against the Man-Killer, whom she has trailed to New York after the murder of an anti-feminist politician in Chicago.  Furious that her colleagues hired a man for protection, the Man-Killer recalls how the career of Olympic skier Katrina Luisa Van Horn ended when a male competitor caused a fall that scarred and crippled her; she and the wealthy militant group who supplied her exo-skeleton plan to strike at “the center of male power in this city,” the Harlem Power Plant.  Although the attack is foiled, the Man-Killer escapes with a secret prototype radioactive generator, but is rendered catatonic when the Cat reveals that her rehabilitation was financed by hated men (from A.I.M.). -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: “We’re giving it to you straight,” raves a Bullpen Bulletin:  MTU “has become such a smash hit that, starting right now, it’s going monthly!”  There’s a double irony here, first because this entry (curiously crediting “Irv Forbush, peacemaker”) tries, however misguidedly, to drum up support for the Cat, whose eponymous title would last only one more issue, and second because this book’s success coincides with back-to-back monuments to mediocrity.  Often a very good inker, Mooney was hardly an inspired penciler, and since he wears both hats here, the results rarely rise above average; the best you can say about Gerry’s story, whose feminist angle bludgeons readers with the subtlety of  a two-by-four, is that the Spidey/Cat conflict depicted on the cover is phony.

Scott: Jim Mooney is one of those artists who is basically competent and creates easy to look at illustrations, but he's not what I would call upper tier material. He was more at home doing work at DC in the 60's, but would stick around penciling Spider-Man well into the 80's. Marvel Team-Up can be great at times, but it was mostly pretty middling. This is toward the bottom of the heap, with the Cat being a less than interesting character and Spidey being fodder for another amateur having to prove herself. Black Widow, The Falcon, The Cat, The Gibbon… Doesn't anyone want to try their luck against Bobby Drake? Is it me, or are the villains created for this title pretty dull?

Joe: Is it me, or is the Man-Killer one of the angriest Marvel villains ever? I always liked this tale, but reading it 40 years later makes me realize a couple of things. First, it ends way too quick, but probably wouldn't have worked as a two-parter. Also, Spidey is convinced a bit too easily by the Cat to go after the super-powered she-devil. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this being a "team-up" book, it's like Spidey has to go! And dig that crazy Battering Ram car, like a souped-up VW Beetle covered with mud! 

Sub-Mariner 60
Story by Bill Everett and Steve Gerber
Art by Sam Kweskin and Jim Mooney

Heavy are the thoughts of the Sub-Mariner as he contemplates what to do regarding the captured sea alien, Tamara, being held prisoner in New York by the United Nations. Vashti, his long time adviser, wants him to reclaim the crown as ruler of Atlantis. Since Namor is still hesitant, Vashti meets with the barbarian Lorvex and persuades him to unite the military troops to help Namor with the rescue. The dishonorable Lorvex agrees only because he looks at it as a chance to loot. Namor leads the charge under the condition that no surface dwellers will be hurt. The Atlantis military does their job as they cause chaos all over New York, leaving the city in a grip of fear. When Subby goes to where Tamara was being held captive he finds that Lorvex has already taken her away on his flying ship. Namor confronts him but Lorvex orders all the men under his command to attack the citizens of New York. To make matters worse, Lorvex threatens to drain the chamber that Tamara is being held in. Realizing that it's the right thing to do to sacrifice Tamara, Namor beats Lorvex and tosses him into the ocean below. Tamara is saved as Namor orders the Atlantis army to cease their war and return back to the ocean. Worried that the United Nations will declare war against Atlantis, Subby gives a speech in front of the U.N., blaming them for all that's transpired. Back under water, Subby gets the good news that no retaliation will be forthcoming against Atlantis and dons the crown of Atlantis once again. -Tom McMillion

Matthew: To begin at the ending, I’ll always have some positive thoughts regarding any installment that effects Namor’s long-overdue resumption of the throne, while thanking God that his own creator, Wild Bill Everett, lived just long enough to plot this tale.  Once again supplying finished art over Kweskin’s layouts, Mooney doesn’t come off all that much better than in the current Marvel Team-Up, but whatever else you want to say about the outrĂ© Atlantean invasion force they and scripter Gerber have dreamed up, well, it’s certainly different.  Lorvex, having lived down to expectations, is never seen again, yet Tamara will appear in a handful of future issues and even spill over into (be still my heart) Super-Villain Team-Up during the Bronze Age.

Scott: At last, Namor takes up the throne of Atlantis once more. It was a quick, fairly fun issue, but not particularly enthralling. The story was by Everett, but I miss his art. Jim Mooney does good work and it's better than what we had the previous month, but it's not as jaunty. Lorvex sounds like a Dr. Seuss creation and thank Zod he's gone for good. A shame we lost Wild Bill to the cosmos as his work was outstanding and always beautiful to look at. However, time and the Merry Marvel Society Marches on…

The Mighty Thor 210
"The Hammer and the Hellfire!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema, Don Perlin, and Vince Colletta

Having sought a place to think in Korea, Thor is attacked by soldiers. Quickly routing their threat, a far greater one watches from afar. In the realm of the rock trolls, Ulik and King Gierrodur watch and form a plan to remove what they see as the biggest threat to their plans of invasion: Thor’s Mjolnir. While Thor sleeps atop a rock cliff, trolls sneak silently forth and use magic to transport the Thunder God to their underground caverns. Thor awakens and has no trouble in overpowering his kidnappers. Ulik appears however, and challenges Thor to fight hand to hand without his hammer. Honour-bound to fight fairly, he obliges, but it’s a trap. While the two battle, the other trolls carry a slab of Uru metal that acts as a huge magnet and draws the hammer from Thor, leaving him with only sixty seconds of time left before he reverts to Dr. Blake. Ulik manages to delay Thor before he can pursue his hammer.  The trolls toss it into a huge fire pit, and seeing it as his only option, Thor dives in after it.
 -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Ulik has always been one of Thor’s best foes, not only because of his strength, but the thin veil of obedience he shows to king Gierrodur and his fellows. The troll’s plan is a worthy one, although I wonder at another option: why not forge a similar weapon as Thor’s hammer? The sympathetic lean of the troll queen was an unexpected touch. Having Earth as the setting is likewise interesting.

Scott: This issue brings up a question I've probably asked before: why does Thor's lack of hammer still
revert him to human form after all this time? Wasn't this restriction put in place to teach Thor humility by living life as a human? Hasn't he proven time and again that he is the most awesome and worthy being ever made? Odin is a bitch, that we know, and he holds unfair rules in place for long periods, but come on. Don Blake is a non-entity at this point, and logically, there's no reason for him to exist anymore. Instead, the time limit is there as a ticking clock to build suspense, but it's been used far too often. So how do they ramp it up at this point? By taking away his hammer and detailing the Longest. Minute. Ever. It take a full five pages for that minute to go by and it still hadn't ended by the time we got to the last panel. Thor was still himself last we saw him. Marvel Time is a bendy and twisty beast.

Matthew:  In an interesting development, this issue interpolates finished art by Don Perlin in between Big John Buscema’s layouts and Vince Colletta’s inks, although to my untrained eye, the resultant “Perlin Sandwich” is largely indistinguishable from the norm.  Storywise, it’s a nice compromise:  Gerry continues to spare us the Asgardian shenanigans that I have found so oppressive of late, yet the Thunder God is still facing an equally mythical foe in a decidedly, shall we say, non-metropolitan setting (no sign of a young Dennis Rodman).  One of Thor’s better villains, Ulik was in desperate need of rehabilitation after the indignity of sharing space with the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, and so far, this two-parter seems to be providing it.

Warlock 5
"The Day of the Death Birds"
Story by Ron Goulart
Art by Gil Kane and Tom Sutton

Two geologists in the Mojave Desert, fearing the effects of an imminent bomb test, see Adam emerge from his cocoon, to which he returned after Eddie’s funeral. In the Livermore Valley, Counter-Earth’s masked but benign government scientist, Victor von Doom, shares their concern that the test may trigger the San Andreas Fault, possibly activating a cache of outlawed weapons buried nearby, yet Carpenter, now President, ignores his warnings.  When the quakes occur and burst the San Andreas Dam, Adam realizes this is why he was awoken, but after he has stopped the flood and diverted the anti-personnel “Deathbird” missiles long enough for von Doom to destroy them, Adam is shocked to hear Carpenter denounce him as “a serious danger.” 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This is among the small number of Silver-Age Marvel writing credits (mostly horror) for Ron Goulart, whose publicist I was when St. Martin’s Press published his comedic mystery novel The Tijuana Bible in 1989.  Some story elements—the accuracy of Doom’s predictions, the dramatic convenience of the eleventh hour at which he is able to make them, the suddenness with which Carpenter blows off his brilliant and trusted scientific adviser—seem hard to swallow, while the name of the weapons so improbably stored near the fault is given as “Death Birds” in the title and “Deathbirds” in the dialogue.  But with Sutton again inking Kane, Adam looks great (Doom more variable), and it’s always fun to play around with the distorted-mirror aspect of our setting.


Chili #22
Combat Kelly and the Deadly Dozen #6
Crazy #2
Journey Into Mystery #4
Jungle Action #4
Kid Colt Outlaw #169
Li'l Kids #11
Marvel Triple Action #10
Millie the Model #201
Monsters on the Prowl #22
Our Love Story #22
Outlaw Kid #15
Rawhide Kid #110
Sgt. Fury #109
Supernatural Thrillers #3
The Gunhawks #4
Vault of Evil #2
X-Men #81

Tune in on Sunday for a Marvel Collectors' Item Classic by Professor Mark Barsotti. Thought you'd seen the end of Crystal and Johnny? Think again!

1 comment:

  1. Just to make Peter's life more difficult, how about adding cover credits? That Sub-Mariner cover is so ugly I had to look it up to see that it's by Buckler. And why is Buscema drawing the Shanna cover but Kane drawing the Thor cover? Buscema's women are always too muscular to be knockouts, but they're not as bad as Kirby's.