Wednesday, February 12, 2014

June 1973 Part Two: The Monsters Have Officially Been Unleashed!

The Tomb of Dracula 9
"Death From the Sea!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Vince Colletta

In the city of Little Pool, a fisherman pulls Dracula's body from the water. Believing him dead, a group of men take him to the local church where, once surrounded by the crosses inside, Dracula comes to. Still reeling from the poison dart that Harkness shot him with, Drac concocts a story to the priest and some of the townspeople of how he ended up in the river.  A young man named Dave offers Dracula a place to stay with him and his mother so he can recuperate. Dave is having problems with his girlfriend Andrea because he wants to leave the boring town of Little Pool. Andrea doesn't want him to leave because she loves him but can't go with him because of her family. That night, Drac musters the strength to head into town where he drinks the blood of a girl who, in turn, attacks a male patron from the tavern. Now, both vampires, the two stalk the night until they come upon Andrea outside of Dave's home.  When Dave asks Drac for his advice about what he should do concerning his love life, the Count encourages him to stay in the town with Andrea and not leave. Their heart-to-heart is broken up when they hear Andrea screaming. Dracula saves the couple by using his hypnotic vampire powers to order the two fiends away. The priest witnesses this and knows that Dracula is evil personified. As the priest whips up the villagers to attack him, Dracula flees into the woods. A brief game of cat and mouse ensues as the villagers search for the count and the other two vampires. The villagers kill the female vampire while Dracula saves one of the town folk by eliminating the other vampire. Feeling bad that the weakened Count is about to be captured and killed, Dave tells the priest and his crew that Dracula went "the other way." The story ends with Dracula thanking Dave for his help and offering his assistance in the future if he and Andrea ever need it. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: It's nice when the star of this title gets his own story to shine in once in awhile instead of having to share the limelight with the vampire hunters. While I am against turning Dracula into a full blown anti-hero, at least at this point, showing a different side to him makes him more fleshed out as a character. I'm probably the biggest cheerleader of this title among the faculty staff and this issue won't change that as it is my favorite issue so far.

Scott McIntyre: An interesting story, something I wouldn't have seen coming when I started this series: Dracula being protected by an untainted human, forming a bond of friendship by the end. I knew this wasn't the average tale when Dracula indulged in heart to heart talks with young David. I'm enjoying the dimension these sorts of twists give the character who could have simply been used the same way repeatedly. The art is below average, with Vince Colletta's inks doing muddy business. Otherwise, a very solid issue.

Werewolf By Night 6
"Carnival of Fear!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Bolle

Watched by someone holding a mystical orb, the Werewolf is skulking at a semi in a truck stop when a troop of truckers takes off after him. They actually almost beat our hairy anti-hero, but when they realize he’s a werewolf, they split. The person watching him turns out to be Swami, who owns a mysterious bloodstone and runs a circus that he will move to Los Angeles to be near the Werewolf. Jack, Lissa & Buck visit the circus, where Jack meets Swami—and is entranced by some sacred fumes! Meantime, LA cop Lou Hackett vows to find the werewolf loose in his city! Back at the circus, Jack is caged by dwarf Mige, but gently befriended by giant Elmo. With the rise of the full moon, he’s put on display as the “Wildman of Borneo” and changes right in front of a slightly amazed, slightly skeptical crowd! Werewolf grabs ringmaster Calliope, but Mige whips him until he lets go. After the show closes, Mige lets Werewolf out of the cage since he’s ruining his dreams, but instead they fight until Elmo shows up. The peaceful giant tries to reason with the beast, but instead the whole circus troupe helps out and knocks down the tent. Trailing after Mige, the Werewolf is instead led to another cage, holding Mige and a quartet of angry lions! –Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Right off the wolf (right off the bat should be reserved for Tomb of Dracula - yuk yuk), the John Costanza lettering throws me, and makes WWBN more pedestrian than usual, since the lettering is usually one of the only cool things about this book. I mean, if you’re going to cram your story with oddballs and weirdos, the lettering might as well be a little odd too! A nice Ploog cover gives way to another wacky were-tale, with Bolle’s inks again muting Ploog’s horror mastery, and the story a little like they’re making it up as they go along, but ending on a cliffhanger instead of the expected deaths of the main villains for once. And what’s with the letter in Weremail By Night from “The Werewolf of La Porte, Indiana? Geez, people will do anything for attention…

Scott: Sort of fun, with Jack under the thumb of "The Ringmaster" in a way. The art is pleasantly weird and Jack seems less cartoonish than usual. I found it amusing that his tormentor, Mige, looks like a mini-Flash Gordon. Other than that. nothing overly special.

Shanna the She-Devil 4
"Cry Mandrill"
Story by  Carole Seuling and Steve Gerber
Art by Ross Andru and Vince Colletta

After yet another boring day of wrangling rumbling rhinos, Shanna, the She-Devil and her "beau"Patrick are invited to a mysterious dinner date. When they get there, they are greeted by a table of strangers. A hooded figure enters to inform his guests they've all been chosen to be his crew at the overthrow of three African nations. When Shanna and her co-horts balk at the man's demands, he removes his hood and reveals himself as The Mandrill!!! Though the dinner guests are taken captive, our lovely jungle vixen and her two felines are able to escape. Once back at her hotel room, she is startled by Jakum Singh, agent of SHIELD, who asks Shanna to go back and be captured by The Mandrill (!!!) so that his fellow agents can put the bad guy out of business. As an added incentive, Jakum tells our heroine that her father has been captured and held as well. The She-Devil returns and foils The Mandrill (!!!)'s evil scheme but, alas, her father has already been taken away by the evil genius' henchgirls. Whatever will Shanna do?

Peter Enfantino: Steve "Baby" Gerber was either having a ball on a dying title or else he was dead serious and losing his marbles. The whole thing reads like a parody. What is The Mandrill? No reasoning is made for this half-man half-ape villain, not even the obligatory "I was struck by lightning while experimenting on apes" origin. Whatever the writer's mental state, the story is a delightful goof and vastly more entertaining than most of the other titles this month.

Luke Cage, Hero for Hire 10
"The Lucky and the Dead!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by George Tuska and Billy Graham

Luke Cage is hot on the trail of the murderer of Frank Jenks. After a field interview with Jenks's old lady, Cage goes to a bank to open his safety deposit box. He foils a group of bank robbers before he finds a matchbook to a restaurant in the deposit box. The restaurant has just burned down when Cage reaches it. The owner is Senor Suerte, a supposedly respectable business man who in reality runs a string of successfully rigged gambling dens. Unknown to most, Suerte is a super-villain named Mister Death. Born with unbelievably good luck, Mister Death equips himself with an electrical suit that has a small roulette wheel attached to the front of it. Relying on luck, Mister Death has his unwitting victims spin the wheel and if they choose to shake the wrong hand (electronically charged), they get burned to a crisp. Jenks was killed by his men because he owed a large marker and threatened to rat out Mister Death to the authorities. Believing that Cage is getting too close to finding out his dirty misdeeds, Mister Death and his men ambush him at his office. Cage beats up the lackeys but Death manages to electrocute him. Cage wakes up and finds himself chained to the ground in an old water tunnel. As the water rises below him, Mister Death leaves him to drown. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Mister Death is one of the most awesomely stupid villains I have ever come across in all my years of reading comic books. I mean that as a compliment and found this story to be very creative, especially for its time. The Puerto Rican villain is no worse then Batroc the Leaper, Plant-Man, or any of the other sixth-tier villains wasting space in the Marvel Universe. He could probably hold his own against the Shocker or Electro if he gave up the roulette wheel and just used both hands.

Scott McIntyre: More Tuska fun here in an issue filled to the brim with incident, but little interest. It's not even goofy fun, it just sort of lies there. None of the usual inner city dialog jumped out at me as being overly crazy, but maybe I’m building some callouses.  Mr. Death looks like "Black Tony Stark" and there's the usual Tuska Tooth in and around the place. Very little of Billy Graham's work shines through. The stories are missing some of the darkness of the early issues.  It began as an interesting sort of mystery, but really meandered in the back half. Not much to write about here, sadly.

The Incredible Hulk 164
"The Phantom From 5,000 Fathoms!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani

The Hulk swims through the ocean in an attempt to get back home to the desert in New Mexico. He mistakes a submarine for a giant fish that is going to attack him. While the Hulk punches a hole in the submarine, Captain Omen espies them from his underwater headquarters. He kidnaps the Hulk and hijacks the submarine by using a giant squid-like contraption. Once aboard, Omen orders his musclebound, broad-shaped men to escort the submarine soldiers to a separate waiting area so he can talk to the Hulk in private. Captain Omen explains to the Hulk that his men are built so widely because their bodies have evolved, living under such deep sea pressure all their lives. When the Hulk finds out that Captain Omen wants him to work for him he fights his men and escapes back out into the ocean. Even the Hulk can't stand the pressure of the deep ocean depths and he gets brought back aboard. Once he passes out he transforms back into Banner. Omen later goes on to explain to Bruce that he and his men are claiming part of the ocean's floor as their own territory. When some of Omen's workers begin to ask Banner what the outside world is like, since they have never been there, Omen orders Banner to be taken away. When his son touches Banner,  Omen becomes irate since Banner may be carrying some outside disease that he has never encountered before. Once again Banner turns into the Hulk and starts to fight the goons. Omen transports the Hulk back out onto the ocean floor where he can't breath. The Hulk is given an air helmet and then ordered to work or a poisonous gas will emit from the helmet that will kill him. The story ends with the Hulk apparently doomed to be a slave for the maniacal Omen forever. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Very weird story. The Marvel staff must have been smoking some good weed when they came up with this corker. I'm mildly interested in seeing what happens next issue but the overall strangeness is a little bit too much, even for a comic that features a mentally challenged mutated green monster and his love for a bi-polar dingbat named Betty Ross.

Scott: Omen spelled backward is Nemo. Clever. Not. I would have preferred more about The Gremlin and the captured General Ross than taking this side trip into undersea boredom. Then again, I'm more a fan of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea than 20,000 Leagues. The only real event of note is the introduction of Col. Jack Armbruster, who will be around for a little while. My first brush with the Colonel was in the Power Records Book and Record, so when I started collecting back issues, it was a thrill to get his first appearance. He won’t be with us for long, but I always enjoyed his contributions. He gave Ross someone more military and less obsequious to play off of than his idiot son-in-law.

Matthew Bradley:  June encompasses a mini-cluster consisting of Iron Man and this issue, which—with a bit of a shock—I realize in retrospect is the only one of Englehart’s run that I had at the time, as much as I revere them now.  Naturally, a lifelong obsession with underwater photography and the like hasn’t hampered my nostalgic affection for it, and Greenskin gets to show a little more thought than usual.  Under other circumstances, I might kvetch about, say, page 22, where the words threaten to crowd out the pictures, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s offset by not one but two spectacular full-page shots, in addition to the splash, that allow Trimpe (still channeling EC legend Jack Davis, of whom he was a big admirer) and Trapani to cut loose.

Scott: The Hulk is a little whiny for my taste. However, what this part of the story lacks in real excitement will be made up in the conclusion when things get very, very dark. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Peter: Even with (what should be) a dopey villain like Captain Omen brings his A-game. A fabulous, funny, and exciting tale start to finish. This is finally the Herb Trimpe I grew up and loved for many years on Hulk (even if his Armbruster is a tad too Jack Davis-ish). Banner's thought balloon monologue (when he echoes readers' sentiments about The Hulk facing goofier and goofier villains each issue) is a classic. I'm not sure, however, you can breed a man who can live at the bottom of the ocean in just two generations but then that's why they keep me out of the science department.

Scott: Trimpe and Trapani do decent work, but I’m still looking forward to Jack Abel’s inks shortly to come. However, in the meantime, this is still vintage Trimpe Hulk and it’s still fun to look at. This version of Jade Jaws is massive, much more bulky, or blocky, than previous depictions. In fact, he’s about as wide as the people he sees in the sub, but since he ain’t so smart, he questions.

The Invincible Iron Man 59
"A Madness in Motown!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito

Stark blames himself for Marianne’s deterioration, while Happy’s chauvinism breeds resentment over Pepper’s business trip with Tony to Detroit, where Gary Gilbert—better known as Firebrand—has been hiding out with his sister, Roxanne, who turned a blind eye to the crimes that financed repairs to his exo-skeleton. Disavowing S.I.’s “blood money,” she demands that Tony personally handle the sale of the stock she inherited, but the vengeful Firebrand kidnaps Pepper, ordering Tony to have Iron Man meet him at Simon Gilbert’s grave.  Buried alive, Iron Man tunnels underground to escape, protected by a new cryogenic unit; committed to non-violence, Roxie blocks Firebrand’s blast and, gravely wounded, begs Iron Man to spare him. -Matthew Bradley

Scott: Oh the Hogans are falling on hard times. Happy looks more handsome than ever. Amazing how he looked like William Demarest when he was first introduced in the early 60's. Now he's ten years younger and right out of Vogue. And he's a sucky husband to boot. Nice. Welcome back. Turn into the Freak already. So, without peeking ahead (because I can barely tolerate this book bi-weekly), can I assume we’ll be dealing with the Hogan’s marital troubles? Will there be temptation in Tony’s future? At least he finally realizes he was a jackass to Marianne, wackadoo that she was. Has anyone taken a poll to see how many of the Marvel heroes of the time were actually pretty unlikeable?

Matthew: My copy of this issue proudly displays its forty-year vintage with a big chunk out of its cover, and helps explain why I’ll always be favorably disposed toward Firebrand among Shellhead’s variable rogues’ gallery.  That’s a grudging concession to Professor Flynn, yet I might even be inclined to show it to his fellow naysayers, in part because Esposito has largely done very well by Tuska’s pencils.  Some faces—especially the unmasked Firebrand’s—are still a problem, but others (e.g., page 2, panel 3; page 6, panels 2 and 4) look like characters instead of caricatures; I love the, if you’ll pardon the pun, stark simplicity of page 5, and while that cutaway of the cemetery in page 19, panel 4 probably isn’t very plausible…it sure is a cool shot, coffins and all!

Scott: The Firebrand's ridiculous mask bugs me yet again and I had completely forgotten about his father, who was an obnoxious member of the board. It’s hard to get behind a villain whose motivation seems to be avenging the death of a father he admits was a crappy father and a lousy person. At least when Roxie needs help, Iron Man actually takes her to the hospital. Maybe he did learn from Janice Cord's death...

Marvel Spotlight 10
Ghost Rider in
"The Coming of Witch-Woman"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Tom Sutton and Jim Mooney

Ghost Rider pushes his chopper over 100 miles per hour as he fires along the desert highway. He is desperate to reach the hospital before Rocky succumbs to venomous copperhead bites. Back at the Apache village, the former followers of Snake Dance have turned on him, as they accuse him of having tricked the tribe into belief in the old ways, at the expense of much-needed progress.  Sam Silvercloud’s attempt to lynch Snake Dance is interrupted by the sudden arrival of the shaman’s daughter, Linda Littletree.  Meanwhile – GR drives into a side entrance to the hospital and sets a doctor’s lab coat aflame in order to command his immediate attention for Rocky. The emergency room staff doubt they can save her, since they have run out of the venom antidote – instead, they will see if a transfusion can save Rocky.  GR rides off into the night, as his concern for his love is too unbearable.  And then – Linda steals a snakebite antidote from Snake Dance, and races her own souped-up chopper to The City.  GR is chased by police.  Linda arrives with the serum in time to save Rocky.  GR foils police by blasting a firewall in their path.  Linda discovers that Rocky’s father is the same Crash Simpson who – years ago – had saved her from being hit by a truck.  GR races by Linda, as he still tries to elude police, and Linda takes up the chase.  GR eludes a police helicopter by riding into a glowing vortex, and finds himself confronted by Linda, who reveals herself to be the Satan-serving Witch Woman, and now promises GR his death! -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: A potentially suspenseful story is undone by frequent, sometimes jarring changes in setting. The first interruption – immediately after the getting-reacquainted flashback – goes on for three pages, when one page would have sufficed to present Snake Dance’s fall from grace in his community (this is the first of two lengthy scene-shifts to the Apache village, which eat up a total of five pages in a twenty-page GR story).  Once we finally return to GR’s mad dash to the hospital (GR’s on a mad dash to save Rocky’s life, remember, readers?), the action is slowed by seven densely-worded captions on the page, mostly repeating what we already should know about Rocky’s desperate condition.  And just where is this city, anyway?  How long does GR have to race his bike at 100+ MPH?  Why withhold this crucial plot point?  I’d also like to have a word with the pharmacy administrator at a southwestern hospital who would ever allow supply of the antidote for copperhead venom to dry up.  (“Whattaya mean the delivery’s not til next Tuesday?!”)

Chris: Snake Dance’s onetime lackey Sam Silvercloud has a strange reversal of character, as now he suddenly is concerned that SD’s methods are causing harm to the tribe.  Any reservations about this when you were sabotaging Johnny Blaze’s bike in MS #8, Sam?  Or how about when you kidnapped Rocky in MS #9.  Hmm?  SD the great-and-powerful changes drastically himself, as the first sign of tribal opposition causes him to crumple up, when the reader might reasonably expect him to fight to defend his claim to power.  (After all, what else has he got?)

Matthew:  Once again, I learned the hard way that a Gary Friedrich script is not the thing to read in bed with eyelids already drooping, forcing me to endure the ordeal of a refresher, which is in no way enhanced by the perfunctory Sutton/Mooney art (most notably that demented Muppet of a doctor in page 10, panel 4 and GR’s maddeningly inconsistent eye sockets).  In fact, this is such a clear template for the study in mediocrity the strip would become that I’m amazed Blaze ever graduated to his own book, maybe for the sheer novelty alone.  The Apache storyline rambles relentlessly, aimlessly on, with no clear point of view or, alas, end in sight, while Linda Littletree looks like some kind of stick figure, her connection with Rocky a howling coincidence.

Chris: The non-plot-advancing action that we typically get at the bike-stunt show is replaced here by a meandering motorcycle-cops chase.  These pages also don’t provide any useful insight to GR’s character. Nearly all of GR’s behavior in this issue seems within Johnny’s control – GR spouts off some threats to the police, while he thinks to himself (in Johnny’s voice) that he has to be sure not to injure them as he uses hellfire to brush their bikes back.

Chris: The plot detail about Linda having been saved years before by Crash strikes me as being completely pointless.  Friedrich has the courtesy to suggest that Satan might somehow be behind this and other improbable coincidences (either that, or is Friedrich saying “the devil made me write it!”?).  We’ll have to see how this (might) develop next issue.

Joe: This seems more like Marvel Soap Opera to me. I checked out early, sorry. Especially when it's obvious Gary Friedrich is getting paid by the word. Have you ever seen such looooooong captions? 

Chris: Tom Sutton’s art is acceptable, but last issue was better – a few moments of menacing mien are the only highlights this time.  I was distracted by the lack of evidence of the (very cool) hellfire-fueled cataclysm that closed MS #9.  Also, the village sequences appear to be in daylight, while GR’s pages are presented as taking place in the middle of the night.  Overall, too many pages feature figures standing around, talking, which could also be blamed on an over-long plot-sketch by Friedrich.  Mooney’s inks do not complement Sutton’s pencils here.  If I remember correctly, Mooney better serves as penciller for GR’s eponymous mag, when paired with an inker who can help set the right atmosphere.

Marvel Team-Up 10
The Amazing Spider-Man and the Human Torch in
"Time Bomb"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Jim Mooney and Frank Giacoia

Zarrko has sent three capsules to our century whose “chronal radiation” will reverse progress, enabling him to conquer both his time and Kang’s with the weapons from an unaffected North American depot.  Iron Man’s armor is crippled, so Spidey uses Kang’s time portal to return to 1973 (just as Kang gets the drop on Zarrko and is stunned by the arrival of parties unknown), recruiting the Torch to help locate the “time bombs.”  Johnny incinerates one in Japan and saves Spidey from the effects of another in Venezuela; in Greece, Spidey stops him from destroying the third bomb, their only lead, but the Torch, who realizes their radiation is like that surrounding the Great Refuge, cannot face his ex-flame, Crystal, and sends Spidey on alone. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: It certainly didn’t take Gerry long to revert to the original Spidey-Torch pairing, a reunion marked by a story and Mooney/Giacoia art that provoke equally hearty ho-hums, although Johnny’s casually bailing on Spidey—not to mention the fate of the world—in a fit of romantic pique is a jaw-dropper of the highest order.  Trumpeting Kang as the villain on your cover (marred by the ludicrous tagline “War—across a thousand centuries!,” even though our eras are separated by a “mere” twenty centuries), and then telling us on page 7 that we won’t see him again until next issue, also does not endear this potboiler to me.  The “around the world in eighty minutes” plot is superbly deconstructed on Bronze Age Babies; let’s hope the third act improves.

Joe: Some random thoughts about this one: I always had mixed feelings about that red Torch costume. Yet I always loved the Spidey-Torch team-ups, no matter how many times they dragged 'em out! Spidey's mode of transportation is interesting. Good thing the flight to Venezuela from New York is only an hour, if his webbing would have melted while they were in the air...yikes. OK story, OK art. Kind of like the middle part that drags the story out, mostly, but still OK.

Scott: There's something off about this "tomorrow war" that I can't put my finger on. Perhaps it’s simply not epic enough and seems to kind of meander from place to place. Or maybe it’s because this story, as they pointed out twice, has already taken place. So where’s the suspense? Answer me that, Goblin! Answer me that! The shifting of partners from the suddenly useless Iron Man to the Human Torch unbalanced the (slender) momentum built by last issue. Having the villains exit the story as soon as they do robs it of their menace and plan. So things just sort of happen. The art is also a tad subpar, which drags it down a little further. So far, this has not been Marvel's Greatest Month. MTU was always a little small time for me, but there are some dandy stories to come. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

Warlock 6
"The Brute!"
Story by Roy Thomas, Ron Goulart, and Mike Friedrich
Art by Bob Brown, Tom Sutton, and Frank Giacoia

Carpenter sends the military to arrest Adam, asserting that his jewel is hypnotic, but he refuses to submit without precise charges, fleeing to protect innocent bystanders.  Outraged by this injustice, von Doom calls Reed Richards, who refuses to help while changing into the Brute, having been affected by cosmic rays on his 1961 space flight despite the Man-Beast’s efforts to prevent an indigenous FF, and is hypnotized by the shadowy figure behind his creation.  Astrella lures Adam to the Golden Gate Bridge yet has second thoughts when the Brute attacks; believing him to be a Beast-Man, Adam devolves him into Reed, whose True-Earth double he knows, and then flies to a cabin where Doom meets him and Jason appears to report the capture of the others. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Ron Goulart’s contribution to the series appears to have been fleeting, since his plot is not only scripted by the returning Mike Friedrich but also “from an idea by” editor Roy, who later had a lot of fun with the Brute at the tail-end of his second stint on Fantastic Four.  As with Amazing Adventures #16, DC warhorse Bob Brown—once again done no favors by his inker, in this case Tom Sutton—would arguably improve after a rocky start on the Marvel work that dominated his last days, most notably an intermittent three-year run on Daredevil.  Future Marvel scribe Marc De Matteis (also represented in this month’s Thor lettercol) weighs in on the religious debate, although this issue focuses more on the whole distorted-mirror principle.  “Blast that Pentagon!”

The Mighty Thor 212
"Journey to the Golden Star!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema, Don Perlin, and Vince Colletta

Thor sees that his friend Balder, who has mysteriously reappeared after having been missing for some time, seems indeed to have gone mad, as Fandral had said. The Thunder God concludes that it must be Odin’s doing, as Balder keeps using the word Asgard in otherwise confusing sentences. Volstagg remains with Balder, while Thor, the Warriors Two, Tana Nile, Hildegarde and Silas Grant journey to Asgard. They find it deserted, until they meet initially hostile lizard creatures, who offer their story. Sssthgar, their leader, relates a tale of a civilization that developed much like on Earth, except it was lizards instead of mammals who discovered tools, etc. One day they were invaded by ant-like creatures from space (suppress a chuckle), who had far superior technology and took some of them as slaves to be auctioned off on their world. In space flight the ship passed Asgard, where the insects attacked. A similar result found Asgard’s finest to be slaves as well. Sssthgar and his people escaped from the ship during the struggle, but are in effect marooned here. He promises Thor directions and aid in conquering the ant creatures, if the Thunder God will take them along.  They journey in the (later-called) Starjammer to a world called Golden Star, where they do indeed find the ant creatures—auctioning off Odin! The Asgardians attack, despite some uncharacteristic objections from Odin. While Thor and company gain the upper hand, all is not quite as it appeared—turns out the lizards weren’t being altogether truthful. The Vrellnexians, as the ants are called, were the lizards former PARTNERS, whom they have now had conveniently defeated, leaving the reptiles in charge. They surround the Asgardians. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: I remember liking this issue in the past. One thing that struck me this time was the math. Did all the lizard creatures fit in the ant’s spacecraft? Or on the Asgardian vessel? All the Asgardians in the ant ship? The return to Asgard is initially eerie; the whole city empty is deafening! Hard to believe Thor would believe the story though. And I believe the Asgardian vessel is later called the Starjammer.

Matthew: In spots, the Buscema/Perlin/Colletta/Forbush artwork seems to suffer more than before from its too-many-cooks origins, with poor Balder—admittedly in extremis—doing his best Michael Sarrazin impersonation in page 2, panel 1.  Gerry and Roy earn their own brickbat for Hildegarde’s assertion that “but one word doth pass his lips, that we may understand,” when the erstwhile brave one is clearly speaking in coherent, if cryptic, sentences.  Although the art perks up a little when we leave Midgard, I find it tough to believe that Mighty Odin & Co. fell to a bunch of anthropomorphic arthropods; meanwhile, I never know who to blame for these things, but the cover promises “The Secret of Sssthgar!” while simultaneously blowing that same secret.

Scott: A really well done adventure, with a great old school style space opera story. The reasons why Balder is nuts and Odin so docile have yet to be explained, but the story of the reptile aliens and their slave trading masters is a lot of fun. The turnabout at the end wasn't too hard to anticipate, but it's all in grand style. Balder, weirdly, looks like a surfer without his helmet. Not at all like the guy we've seen for years. Why Thor brings Silas Grant to Asgard is a mystery since he doesn't seem to possess any real battle skills. Plus he's mortal, so bringing him to Asgard should be something of a no-no. Not that Thor cares much since he's willing to "make Odin pay" or some such impossible thing. The cover is pretty damned inaccurate.

Peter: Drink in hand, I sit in my easy chair, taking up the latest issue of the title I voted Best Title of the 1960s and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What the hell has happened in the last 42 months? Has Gerry (so good over on Spidey) decided that Marvel needs a Lord of the Rings-inspired title even if the company can't get the rights to the real thing? Please. Please. Please restore this book to its former glory.

Sub-Mariner 62
"A Realm Besieged"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Sam Kweskin and Frank Giacoia

"Tales of Atlantis"
Story by Howard Chaykin and Steve Gerber
Art by Howard Chaykin and Joe Sinnott

Things look dark for Atlantis as Dr. Hydro and his army of amphibious troops attempt to take over the majestic city. Just when it looks like defeat is imminent for the Atlantean people, Tamara the space woman joins in the battle to help them out. Meanwhile, Namorita finds where Subby is being held captive inside of a giant atom and she frees him. While fighting Namor, Dr. Hydro is killed by a runaway military ship. Before he dies, Hydro reveals to Namor that there is no way to cure all the kidnapped people that were transformed by gas into amphibians. Namorita suggests that the freaks live with the people of Atlantis since they will be shunned by the surface world. The story ends with Namor contemplating what to do now that the war is over. -Tom McMillion

Tales of Atlantis backup story

Millions of years ago, the emperor of Atlantis, Kamuu, and his warrior queen Zartra, lead their troops against a rival clan of ocean dwellers called the Lemurians. The Lemurians try to drill a hole through the plastic dome bubble that surrounds Kamuu's city. To counter this, he has his men pump up underground molten lava and pour it over the sides of the dome. The strategy seems to work, killing the enemies, but the lava begins to burn through the dome, threatening everyone inside.
-Tom McMillion

Matthew: Yes, there is life after Everett, although sadly, the book’s bifurcated structure was intended to help ease his deadline pressures.  Demonstrating how completely the popularity of Robert E. Howard has pervaded Marvel, plotter/penciler Chaykin’s new Sinnott-inked “Tales of Atlantis” back-up feature is set “500 years after the reign of King Kull—8,000 years before the coming of Conan,” yet since that has nothing to do with Namor, it is of little interest to me.  The Kweskin/Giacoia art on the primary story gets the job done, with two full-page battle scenes, but frankly not much more than that, while Gerber scripts the entire issue and, per the lettercol, we are “off on a whole different plot tangent—different from anything done in this mag before!”

Scott: The title takes a huge dip in the wake of Bill Everett's passing. At least it's short, leaving room for the new Tales of Atlantis feature. Much like Tales of Asgard, this will touch on the ancient history of the undersea kingdom. It looks very pretty, but there's little of interest for me here. Apparently they’re keeping Tamara around primarily out of guilt, since her constant hostility wouldn’t keep her at my dinner table for long, no matter how often she led the charge into battle. And, evidently, this guilt is strong enough to give her constant access to Vashti and therefore Namor. The art is workmanlike and feels more like something out of DC than Marvel. Sam Kweskin is a name I’ve run into doing these reviews, but never before. Quick research shows his Marvel career didn’t go much past this era. The Romita cover, however, is pretty great.   


 Monsters Unleashed 1

"The Man Who Cried Werewolf"
Story by Robert Bloch
Adaptation by Gerry Conway
Art by Pablo Marcos

"The Thing in the Freezer"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Syd Shores

"Vampire Tale"
Story Uncredited
Art by Doug Wildey
(reprinted from Journey Into Mystery #16, June 1954)

"Skulls in the Stars"
Story by Robert E. Howard
Adaptation by Roy Thomas
Art by Ralph Reese

"One Foot in the Grave"
Story Uncredited
Art by Tony DiPreta
(reprinted from Journey Into Mystery #1, June 1952)

"The Fake"
Story Uncredited
Art Uncredited
(reprinted from Menace #10, March 1954)

"World of Warlocks"
Story by Gardner Fox and Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan

"World of Warlocks"

Unlike Dracula Lives! and Tales of the Zombie, Monsters Unleashed begins life as an anthology book rather than a showcase for continuing characters. With the second issue that will change for the better, but how does this first issue fare? The overall sense here is one of bad planning. I'm not sure enough time was spent on a game plan for the black and white line. Monsters Unleashed, for instance, is a hodgepodge of Famous Monsters of Filmland and Creepy. Bad puns and decently drawn half-nekkid women (but not enough edge to get them fully nekkid ala Warren) do not a successful venture make. The difference between Marvel and Warren in 1973 is that Warren's black and white comic magazines (Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella) had a pretty high quality writing percentage (particularly Creepy). Not so here.

I love Robert Bloch's short stories but "The Man Who Cried Wolf" is not one of his better works and that carries right over to the adaptation. It's a wholly predictable story of infidelity and female werewolves with passable PG-13 art by Pablo Marcos (in these B&Ws, all women have really big breasts and they're always busting those buttons) and not nearly as good as the recent Marvel Bloch adaptations in Journey Into Mystery. "Thing"s go from bad to the worst in Marv Wolfman's "Thing in the Freezer," an abominable bit of tripe about a zombie infestation on a cruise liner. Wolfman got his start selling crap like this at DC and, when he jumped ship, he brought his bag of cliches with him. Thankfully he'll show just how good he can be later on when his run on Tomb of Dracula really starts cooking but, right now, he's looking for a voice. "Skulls in the Stars," Roy Thomas' adaptation of a Robert E. Howard Solomon Kane story reads more like one of Howard's fragments but it's graced with splendid Ralph Reese art. Can "World of Warlocks" save an other wise unremarkable premiere issue? 'Fraid not. It's a John Carter, Warlord of Mars homage snoozefest that should probably have been scheduled for Savage Tales. Though its clear from the climax that Pfc. Brian Morgan, Warlord of Warlocks was being set up for a continuing series, mercifully a second chapter was not forthcoming. The three reprints this issue are just as forgettable, but one is mildly amusing: "Vampire Tale" concerns a very bandaged man who's put on for trial for murdering a man he claims was a vampire. After he's found guilty and sentenced to death, he doffs bandages to reveal he's a rotting corpse, a victim of the vampire!

"The Thing in the Freezer"

Tony Isabella provides a "jocular" run-down of the four Universal horror features starring Larry Talbot, The Wolfman. The adjective is in quotes because, aside from Isabella himself, I can think of no one who would find his jokes funny ("Ma and Pa Kettle Meet the Lycanthrope" anyone?). As for the piece itself, we get nothing more than a Forry Ackerman-style synopsis of the films. It's as if Isabella has no opinion on these films other than a one-liner or two. -Peter Enfantino

Professor Gilbert on "Skull in the Stars" and "World of Warlocks"

"Skulls in the Stars"
Ralph Reese's punch-drunk palooka gargoyle of "Skull in the Stars" hardly captures what Howard's prose describes at one point as "one unnamable, formless mass."  The monstrous form is supposed to be "misty and vague," but Reese renders it as, to crib Shakespeare, "too too solid flesh" -- obvious, identifiable, and corporeal.  Kane initially mistakes his "misty attacker" for "a shadow of mist, a wisp of moor fog."  Even when "the thing began to take on shape," Howard describes it as "vague and indistinct."  How to draw this is, in all fairness, the challenge, but Reese's interpretation is every bit wrong.  When Howard writes "serpent of smoke," something more along the lines of the smoke monster from the series Lost comes to mind, though references to "talons" and "a brain-shattering travesty on the human form, like, yet horribly unlike" complicate the matters for any artist's rendition.  Regardless, the almost comical gargoyle-demon that ends up on the page seems a departure from the Howard text which, ironically, partially sits side-by-side with the illustrations, creating a distracting tension between word and image.  The thing's "two hideous eyes [that] flamed at him" -- "frightful and insane, with an insanity transcending earthly insanity" -- are supposed to hold "stark horror," but the sum total of its ugly mug has all the intensity of a sleepy-eyed Neanderthal. (The crazed Gideon and his ghost are consistently described as "maniac," not "village idiot" or "dullard.")  Many of the humans fare no better (Kane the fortunate exception), at least a few of them looking like picaresque walk-ons from an R. Crumb comic, not an appropriate style for Howard's fantasy.  Even still, readers will if nothing else have been exposed to Howard's powerful prose and storytelling thanks to Roy Thomas' consistent fidelity when adapting him.  Those who do not mind the art's flaws, or can overlook them, are at least in for that treat.

Writing about "World of Warlocks!," Professor Pete calls its "Brian Morgan, Warrior from Earth!..." John Carter-ish, which means he is also Gullivar Jones-ish, another Marvel property which directly riffs off of Burroughs' Barsoom fiction.  Instead of swordsman Lt. Gullivar Jones, we get "sabre champion" Pfc. Brian Morgan, both soldiers having been summoned out of "V.C.-land!" to another time and world by a wizard (Lu-Pov in the case of Gullivar and the Prince of Wizards Makkador in Morgan's case).  There is no Princess Heru, but there is the underdressed damsel-in-distress Myrilla.  We even get Gullivar scripter Roy Thomas on board for their newest sword-and-planet romance. 

At the beginning, Morgan is summoned from Earth by the wizard to "destroy -- the Overseers! [and] free this ancient sphere," then adventures in a dead city.  Both these plot devices can be found in Marvel’s Gullivar Jones series (Creatures on the Loose #16-21).  When confronting some sentient gems, Morgan even speaks in Gullivar's glib tone: "Tell me more, jewel-baby!"  Like Gullivar, he is a war-weary Vietnam vet, and like Gullivar, when he fights with unexpected prowess he says things like, "I don't know my own strength!" 

One significant departure is that Gullivar's "Wonderful Wizard of Mars" Lu-Pov, affectionately modeled on author and editor Richard A. Lupoff, is a benevolent Martian Merlin-figure genuinely concerned with liberating the Red Planet from tyranny.  The malevolent Makkador the Mage, in contrast, is a conjure man who brings Morgan to his alien world through black magic incantations and lies to Morgan about the Overseer's enslavement.  He is a kidnapper and extortionist who holds Myrilla ransom under threat of death in order to force Morgan to do his evil bidding, all for the darkest ends imaginable. 

"Warlocks!" concludes with the implicit promise of further adventures: "But other, even greater dangers await the warrior from Earth..."  It seems awfully odd to begin a new Gullivar-esque series not long after cancelling Gullivar Jones.  Why not just resume with Gully?  ("Warlocks!" could easily have passed for a Gullivar tale, and done so without inventing any new characters.)  The fact is that Lt. Jones is slated to soon make a return, and to these very pages (in Monsters Unleashed #4 and #8), while apparently Pfc. Brian Morgan will not.  

In one way this a shame due to the dynamism of Gene Colan's stylized and stylish black-and-blue-and-white art. Another lost opportunity was ERB-loving Weird Tales contributor Gardner Fox, his short ten-page tale showing a sophistication that could have given new direction to future Gullivar entries. (Incidentally, two years after this "Warrior from Earth" story for Monsters Unleashed #1, Fox would go on to author a novel called Kyrik: Warlock Warrior, no apparent relation to "World of Warlocks!" beyond the similar-sounding title.) -Gilbert Colon


Chili #23
Combat Kelly #7
Crazy #3
The Gunhawks #5
Journey Into Mystery #5
<- Haunt of Horror #1 
Kid Colt Outlaw #171
Li'l Kids #12 (Final Issue)
Marvel Tales #43
Marvel Triple Action #11
Millie the Model #202
Monsters on the Prowl #23
Our Love Story #23
Outlaw Kid #16
Rawhide Kid #112
Sgt Fury #111
Supernatural Thrillers #4
Vault of Evil #3
                                                             Wyatt Earp #5 (Final Issue)

What could possess a comic book company to jump into the prose pulp/digest market? Arrogance, possibly. Marvel had grabbed the Number One Selling Comic Company trophy away from DC and now it was looking to conquer other worlds. Why it thought that little tiny space occupied by Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and a smattering of other niche titles was a gold mine waiting to be robbed is lost to the ages (those responsible probably don't want to cop to being the man behind the move). In any event, the company must have sunk a few pennies into The Haunt of Horror  (Harlan Ellison surely did not come cheap) only to see their attractive new child become a beautiful disaster. Kids didn't want to read these stories minus the pretty pitchers and, I'm sure, it didn't help that the pages of Ellison's story were printed out of order (making "Neon" even more confusing than when you read the pages in order). The grand invasion lasted only two issues but left behind some pretty good stories in its wake (that Ellison story was printed the right way in the second issue) and what's wrong with a Marvel version of Weird Tales anyway? -Peter Enfantino

With the fourth issue of Supernatural Thrillers, marvel checks another box off in its desire to present its own version of every classic monster. Ron Goulart adapts Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and then watches in horror as his decent lift is handed to Win Mortimer for penciling chores (an artist who makes George Tuska look like... well, an artist). I know I probably say this every week, but this could be the worst art Marvel ever published!  Next up for Supernatural Thrillers: The Living Mummy and ascension to MU coverage. -Peter Enfantino

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