Wednesday, April 23, 2014

November 1973 Part Two: Introducing... The Savage Sub-Mariner!

Luke Cage, Hero For Hire 15
"Retribution Part II"
Story by Tony Isabella and Billy Graham
Art by Billy Graham

Luke Cage is stressed out, attempting to figure out how his lady friend, Claire Temple, got arrested for the murder of Phil Fox. The real murderer of Fox, of course, is the former prison guard, Rackham. With captive Mrs. Jenks, a nervous Rackham rationalizes that he still holds all the cards since he has Dr. Burnstein's journal, detailing his experiments and Cage's true identity. The two escaped convicts, Shades and Comanche, put their revenge plans against Rackham on hold as they shake down the owner of a string of liquor stores for protection money. Cage is able to sneak a visit to Claire where she relates to him all that has happened. When Luke visits his ghetto snitch Flea to get some information, the man leads him to a liquor store. Cage is soon reunited with his old prison chums as Shades and Comanche are hiding out inside. -Tom McMillion



Scott McIntyre: Is Cage ever not pissed off about something? We're propelled into the second part of this tale, which is shorter than usual for whatever reason. Billy Graham gives us the full Tuska Teeth on Rackham and, with Graham also doing the scripting, we get some interesting narrative choices. He indulges in a little street slang more than once, making it a little confusing. Cage isn't narrating this; this is Graham going a little crazy. Lots of energy and action with a lovely full page spread of Cage falling from the side of the jail, but very little actual progress. Was there not enough material to fill an entire issue?

The Sub-Mariner reprint (which would have been more fitting in his own title since it was dedicated to Everett) was a butt load of chocolaty goodness. Such fun and beautifully drawn.

Peter Enfantino: "Invasion!" originally appeared in Sub-Mariner #35 (August 1954). Tony Isabella has some interesting things to say about Steve Englehart, Billy Graham, and the credits for Hero For Hire #15 and 16 at his Bloggy Thing.





The Tomb of Dracula 14
"Dracula is Dead!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

The vampire hunters are somewhat shocked that Blade was able to kill Dracula during their previous battle in an old mansion. Before they get a chance to seal Drac's fate by cutting off his head, an army of townsfolk, under Dracula's command, breaks inside the mansion and takes the vampire lord away. As they carry the Count into the countryside, his corpse mummifies. This causes the spell held over the villagers to dissipate and they run off, leaving his body behind. Nearby, a disillusioned preacher named Josiah Dawn sees a bright shining light that leads him to the vampire's cadaver. Josiah rejoices as he believes this is a sign from God that will guide him and his followers to an enlightened path. The next day, Frank Drake informs his fellow vampire hunters that he has found fliers plastered up all over town, illustrated with a picture of Dracula's corpse, advertising that Josiah will resurrect the dead. The hunters arrive to confront the congregation but are too late to stop Josiah as he pulls the stake from Dracula's heart. As the prince of darkness regains his demonic form, Josiah and his followers reveal that they are ready for him by displaying crosses. This was all part of Josiah's strange plan to banish Dracula and to prove that the power of God is stronger than his evil. Even though he is caught off-guard, Dracula's power is far greater than they could have imagined as he summons a lightning storm, killing Josiah. The story ends with Drac turning into a bat and flying off as the vampire hunters look on helplessly. As this adventure takes place, Doctor Sun's agents continue their mysterious plans as they inspect a vampire stolen from a morgue.  -Tom McMillion



Mark Barsotti: Like Gwen Stacy, Dracula is really dead, having been staked by Blade last ish. But unlike the unfortunate Ms. Stacy, death isn't necessarily an insurmountable problem to our five hundred year old connoisseur of the rich red. A mob of possessed villagers descends on our hearty band of vamp hunters before they can decapitate the count, almost trample Harker and company, and make off with Vlad's rapidly decomposing body. The dead fanger's hypnotic hold on the mob suddenly evaporates. They drop his coffin and flee, and there Drac (and the book) might have ended forever, save for traveling Chautauqua tent preacher Josiah Dawn and his really fu**ed-up relationship with the Lord.

Tom McMillion: There is some deep underlying message in this story regarding religion and faith I can only speculate the meaning of. I guess it would make sense that some religious fanatic would be dumb enough to resurrect a vampire only to try to kill it again to prove a point. Not the best story in the series so far but interesting nonetheless. I'm intrigued by the slowly developing side plot involving the mysterious agents that work for the still unseen Doctor Sun. Are we going to have a Dracula versus Fu Manchu-type story later down the road?

Chris Blake: Marv Wolfman understands that the conflict with Harper's Hunters is made more compelling if the undead vampire can find ways to undo their victory over him.  Dracula's ability to dupe the well-meaning Preacher Dawn into restoring him suggests that Drac’s power isn't even extinguished in death – a formidable and, ultimately, possibly an unbeatable foe.  Dawn has moments of inspiring courage in the face of an opponent who clearly overmatches him.  The lightning-strike to Dawn’s cross is an ingenious move by the ever-resourceful bloodsucker.

Mark: The preach knows a PR opportunity when he stumbles upon a coffin full of it, and so Quincy & crew see a poster promising to resurrect the Count. Come one, Come all! Balloons for the kids! It's hard to follow preacher Dawn's twisted, connect-the-dots theology, but, hey, bringing the Lord of the Undead back to life (by simply removing Blade's wooden dagger) so you can off him again while the crowd roars, "We're killing Satan's Demon, Lord!" is sure to fill the collection plates.

Things naturally go off-script. Drac summons lightning (part-Asgardian? Who knew?), preacher Josh's ornate crucifix gets zapped, and the revived Count flaps away into the night. Another dark delight from Wolfman and Colan.



Scott: It seems as if John Romita did the majority of this month's covers. The interior is pure Colan as Drac is eventually revived by a religious zealot. Was it established that Drac could summon lightning? It's a nice, crispy death for our guest character. All good fun, but a bit of a comedown from the last few issues.

Peter: Like Dr. Strange, I'm coming to this title fresh. I never bought into the Count on screen or in the comics until I was quite older (and then, only in moderation). Reading this now, I'm struck by just how adult the themes and dialogue are, as though Marv was writing for those college students who used to eat up Amazing Spider-Man on campus and take in Stan Lee lectures. Those kids have grown up by 1973 and sold all their Spideys and FFs to the shady character down at the comic shop, so Marv has his work cut out for him, attempting to build an audience out of 12 year-olds who only want to ogle Sue Storm in a bikini and watch The Hulk beat Thor senseless. Those kids didn't want to read about deep subjects like religion and faith (I sure didn't) so my hats off to Wolfman and Colan for not bowing to pop culture (Drac hasn't called anyone "meathead" yet, has he?) and telling the story they want to tell. I haven't read the entire series up to this point so I'll have to take Professor Tom at his word that this one isn't the best but, judging by the quality here, it's high time I backtracked. This one's pretty damned good. Extra points for Marv's full-bodied preacher, who at no time resembles the cliched snake charmer we've all come to know and know and know...



Werewolf by Night 11
"Comes the Hangman"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gil Kane and Tom Sutton

Philip Russell is being tortured by The Committee, who want Jack, but Philip won’t give his stepson up. Jack himself moves into a new apartment (finally!) in “singles hang out” Colden Springs, where Tina Sands, aka Sandy, knocks into mysterious Mr. Coker, who’s carrying supernatural tomes. Cut to a mugger who is slain by The Hangman, who not only carries out his own brand of justice, but takes the mugging victim with him to protect her and to have someone to share his origin story. Jack senses the moonlight and strolls the beach where it becomes Second Night and he changes—but suddenly a bevy of body-builder buffoons accost the Werewolf! At The Hangman’s lair, he recounts his love of justice and eventual transformation into the anti-hero he perceives himself to be. Meantime, Werewolf fights off the swimsuit-clad simpletons and heads for the city, where he runs into Buck and Lissa—but the Hangman thinks he’s attacking! When he pushes Lissa, the Werewolf goes hairy and attacks! After a fairly even battle, Werewolf is distracted by police sirens and the Hangman is able to noose him…Will he survive? –Joe Tura

Joe: “At last—Werewolf—Written by a Wolfman—“ Yep, the splash page went there, as Marv Wolfman debuts on WWBN. First, he throws in the usual “weirdo of the week” but manages to actually kick things off with a two-parter of all things, as well as laying down lots of groundwork, like the mysterious Mr. Coker (you had to know there was a reason I put that in the summary; well, at least I hope it goes somewhere since he was carrying a “Supernatural” book and “Werewolf Blood”), Sandy and the two hotties in Jack’s building. Anyone who reads this book knows not to trust anyone or anything.

The Kane/Sutton team is subpar, to be honest. Either one or the other might have been a much better idea. Only the first and final pages truly stand out, even though it looks like Werewolf has way too much mascara on. Plenty of nostril shots to appease the faculty, and lots of flowing hair, even on Jack. Does anyone draw 70s hair the way Kane does? Finally, no mention is made of a letterer, but maybe because it seems as if there are five different ones in the issue!



Chris: At first glance, there isn’t much to the Hangman that we haven’t seen and heard before from other vigilantes.  I appreciated the progression into his mindset as chronicled in the Hangman’s back story, but I especially enjoyed the self-serving nature of his tortured logic, as he justifies locking up women for their protection.  We also have a glimpse into Phillip Russell, who we’ve been led to believe is one of the villains in Jack’s story – if Phillip isn’t willing to hand over his step-son, does it mean that Jack might have been wrong about him?  Stay tuned . . .

Gil Kane serves as a fitting replacement for Sutton, especially with Sutton himself providing the inks.  There are a number of very effective moments in the art, especially the haunted look on the captive girl’s face (p. 14), the intense expression on the Hangman’s scarred face (above), and Jack’s transformation (below), the depiction of which can make-or-break any issue of WbN.  The colors are more effectively unusual here than they had been in WbN #10, and my first thought was that George Roussos had returned, but the colorist credit says only “Stan G.”





The Incredible Hulk 169
"Calamity in the Clouds!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel

General Ross sits aghast as the television screams that his daughter, Betty, is now a mutated monster called the Harpy.  Even though she is out of her mind, the Harpy somewhat recognizes her father when he shows up in a taxi. She whisks the Hulk away into the air just as a strange tornado appears out of nowhere. Sucked into the deadly vortex, the two green freaks wind up in a city in the clouds where they are met by the monstrous Bi-Beast, a creature that informs them they are his prisoners. The Hulk and the Harpy briefly team up to fight the Bi-Beast until the lack of oxygen in the air causes the Hulk to turn back into Bruce Banner. After the Bi-Beast defeats the Harpy, he informs Banner that he was created long ago by the Bird People. When Bruce tells the monster that he is a scientist, the Bi-Beast puts him to work to fix the machines breaking down that give the city its oxygen. Banner agrees to help as long as the Harpy will be released under his care. The Bi-Beast gives the Harpy over to Banner, unaware that Bruce isn't trying to fix the machines, but using them instead to cure Betty of her Gamma ray mutation. M.O.D.O.K. and his crew track down the Harpy. Once the Bi-Beast informs him that Banner is working on their machines, M.O.D.O.K. freaks out, worried that Banner is going to use the technology to destroy them all. When the villains confront Banner, he turns into the Hulk again and fights with the Bi-Beast. A double cross comes in to play as M.O.D.O.K. claims the city for himself; he has his guards shoot and mortally wound the Bi-Beast. Not wanting his precious city to fall into someone else's hands, the Bi-Beast activates a lever that causes his whole world to collapse. M.O.D.O.K. and company make their escape while Banner and a newly cured Betty fall into a deep crevice as the city crumbles to pieces.-Tom McMillion



Scott: This was my first exposure to MODOK as a kid, having picked up this issue at "110 Bargain Books" in the late 70s in the back issue bin with my allowance ($3 a week and that was after I got a raise – miss ya, Mom!). It's a lovely issue, beautifully drawn and perfectly inked. The illustrations are crisp and clean, the colors vibrant. This issue pops. I actually hauled out the copy I still have (poly-bagged but still dog eared) and the smell of the ink and paper hit me and dragged me back in time. This is the Trimpe/Abel team at its finest. Englehart is also on his game here, introducing us to the Bi-Beast up in Cloud City. A decent concept, but it strains credibility that no one ever discovered this hidden city in the clouds. Hasn't there ever been a cloudless day in the Marvel Universe? Would no one in the air or on the ground spot this lonely billowing mass above? Satellites never caught it? Nick Fury never smacked into this thing with the Heli-Carrier? Reed Richards never picked it up out of the corner of his eye? With all of the advanced tech in the MU? But, meh, let's go with it, because if we don't, we lose this grand adventure.

Matthew Bradley:  Seemingly determined to go out with a bang as his tenure on this book— which at the moment could be retitled Hulk on Acid—winds down (the next three issues will be scripted by others from his plots), Stainless takes an already offbeat storyline and kicks it up yet another notch…eight miles up, to be precise, with a Red Raven tie-in beyond Rascally’s wildest nightmares and the granddaddy of all cliffhanger endings.  Since Steve gave us the double-no-wait-triple-decker Nameless One in Defenders #3, I wonder if he was going for a variation on a theme when he and Herb, still saddled with Abel’s sub-Trapani inks, created the Bi-Beast. But with MODOK et al. back in the mix, it’s probably best to check your brain at the door and enjoy.




Scott: Sadly, the Harpy is cured very quickly, before she could really be a menace or a solid adversary. She had real potential and at least another issue in her before getting pushed out. At least Bruce finally gets to see her naked. Making that sexier is the fact she’s now married at this point. Woo-hoo, go Marvel. The Bi-Beast apparently dies here but (SPOILER) will return eventually. Is this the first issue where it is specifically stated Banner's eyes change from brown to green when he becomes the Hulk? I remember as a kid being confused since I was introduced to the Hulk via his TV series. I was all "but his eyes are white!" Aside from that childhood confusion, this was a great early read for me that still holds up well today.

Peter: I'm with Professor Scott when he rhapsodizes about a third part to this arc, a storyline I really dug. Despite the ascendancy of Stainless to the writing mantle for this title, I thought the last batch of issues had a drag to them, they weren't all that much fun. This two-parter hit all the right notes. That full-pager (above) of the Bi-Beast claiming pure power, The Harpy showing shock, and our green hero piping up with a "Huh?" is priceless. So The Harpy cries green tears? I wonder if all of her bodily fluids run emerald. Does the same happen with our titular hero? I liked the shout-out to Red Raven, an arc from way back that I really enjoyed. The Bi-Beast's suicide/genocide scene is right out of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. And, all together with MODOK one more time: "Fates preserve me!"



The Invincible Iron Man 64
"Rokk Cometh!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito


Promoting urban renewal, Iron Man demolishes a condemned Detroit slum, but just as he finishes demonstrating S.I.’s new prefab modular-construction materials, Dr. Spectrum returns to destroy the building, although the rebellion of his prism results in his being driven off by an ultra-violet ray.  Learning that Tony no longer needs his chestplate to stay alive, Happy attacks, interrupted by the arrivals of Pepper, who tries to talk some sense into him; Eddie and Obatu, who seeks to hire Tony’s bodyguard; and Rokk, a giant energy-being who captures Obatu on behalf of his creator. Rokk’s mind-probe reveals that Roxie can be used against Tony, so he tries to kill her, yet in the midst of their fight, Rokk fades away, revealed as Spectrum’s creation.-Matthew Bradley


Matthew: I doubt it will swell the ranks of the Tuska Fan Club, but I do think attention must be paid to that unusual series of full-page montages, leaving us without a standard panel layout until page 10.  Otherwise, it’s one of those issues that makes me throw up my hands and say “nolo contendere” to the ferrophobes; it’s not terrible, but doesn’t exactly get your pulse racing, either, and as Mark Drummond comments on SuperMegaMonkey, “Pepper is constantly drawn to look like her eyes are on the verge of popping out of her head.”  The imaginatively named Rokk (presumably as hard as…?) is what Dad used to call “a big nothing,” and the whole Obatu/Rokk/Spectrum/prism shtick is so convoluted that Mike Friedrich almost seems to be channeling his dreaded namesake.



Scott: While Tony is right to shoulder some of the blame for ruining Happy and Pepper's marriage, calling it "wonderful" when it clearly wasn't kind of jumped out at me. They've obviously been unhappy for a while and Pepper did put the moves on Tony. Everyone is guilty here, but Tony was just following his tongue. At least his true feelings are revealed, but all it did was produce a fairly long yawn. Roxy is just another dame in the long chain of chicks Stark will chase from now to whenever. Otherwise, not the worst issue of the month. A decent dust up, but I'm wearying of this Dr. Spectrum dude.





Jungle Action 7
The Black Panther in
"Death Regiments Beneath Wakanda!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson

The Black Panther plummets from the top of Warrior Falls to the rocks far below.  Killmonger stalks away, certain of T’Challa’s death.  The Panther keeps calm, and remembers his father’s instruction not to fear the Falls.  T’Challa uses the outcropping rocks to slow his descent, so that he splashes down, battered and bruised, but alive.  Monica finds his limp form adrift in the river, and helps bear T’Challa home, where he spends the next week recovering. T’Challa reflects on his past history with Killmonger, whom he once knew as N’Jadaka.  The Panther had helped N’Jadaka return to Wakanda after N’Jadaka had been taken captive by the Klaw and forced to steal vibranium; N’Jadaka then had “vanished into the wilderness” following his return to the homeland.  Taku informs his prince of a report of “death legions” converging on Warrior Falls, so T’Challa (despite not having fully recovered from his injuries) springs into action.  The Panther discovers a huge mining operation, positioned directly below the vibranium lode – Killmonger’s forces are digging the precious ore out from under the Wakandan miners!  T’Challa then is attacked by Killmonger’s serpent-handling ally, who calls himself Venomm (why two M’s?  couldn’t say).  T’Challa defeats his challenger, and vows to end Killmonger’s campaign against Wakanda. -Chris Blake



Chris: Since JA #6 required McGregor to establish so many facets of the storyline, there doesn’t appear to be as much happening in this second chapter.  It’s interesting to know that the Panther and his rival have some past history, but T’Challa doesn’t reflect on whether he sees N’Jadaka as capable of leadership, or ambition, or cruelty, or anything else, observing only that he cannot guess how Killmonger “has become so powerful in so few years.”  McGregor presents more palace discontent, as Tanzika is aloof towards Monica, and Zatama is outright disrespectful towards his prince (more on those fronts to come in later issues).  Venomm doesn’t put up much of a fight, but he’ll have another chance.  Tayete and Kazibe are perfunctorily clobbered.  The Buckler-Janson art overall is lacking something, when compared to the  solid work of JA #6, but the impressive two-page spread on pg 2-3 (above) more than makes up for any murky or unfinished-looking panels elsewhere in the issue.

Since there are no fan letters yet, the letter-col features a piece by Steve Gerber, who describes the close collaboration between McGregor and Buckler.  Gerber states that Roy Thomas initially had selected him to pen the Panther’s Rage storyline, and doesn’t explain how the writing chores were switched instead to McGregor.  Gerber accurately describes the story as “precedent-shattering,” in that it relates an African-based tale that centers on “the first jungle hero who’s not a foreign import.”  Yes, in an era so soon after many African nations had established independence from European colonizers, it was ambitious for Marvel to select this as a setting for comics storytelling.

Fortunately, we are spared a Lorna of the Jungle back-up reprint (which would have been even more incongruous, when paired with Gerber’s comments), and instead get a benign Don Rico-Syd Shores story about elephant jousting from a 1956 issue of Lorna the Jungle Girl.  This, thankfully, is the final reprint, as future filler pieces will be pin-ups, maps, a synopsis, and other materials that tie-in to the storyline.



Matthew: Steve Gerber, in another “special message” (see Sub-Mariner), writes about the strip’s genesis, “precedent-shattering” nature, and future.  In a bimonthly book, with four pages expropriated for an admittedly unusual reprint—“The Fury of the Tusk” from Lorna the Jungle Girl #22 (December 1956)—it’s clearly being doled out sparingly, yet the evident care that Messrs. McGregor, Buckler and, yes, Janson are putting into it means we are unquestionably getting quality if not quantity.  The 90°-rotated spread on pages 2-3 is a tour de force, with the atmospheric page 11 (above) not far behind, and Don skillfully interpolates Killmonger into T’Challa’s history, going back to Fantastic Four #53, while building his world and supporting cast of today.



Kull the Destroyer 11
“King Kull Must Die!”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Michael Ploog

In a secluded cabin, Count Ducalon, Baron Kaanuub, Commander Enaros, the rabblerousing singer Ridondo, and other Valusian conspirators await the arrival of a mysterious stranger named Ardyon. When he arrives, Ardyon promises they will overthrow King Kull by midnight, claiming that the royal guards will be asleep at their posts. On the way to the capital, the group is joined by a squad of traitorous Black Legionnaires. When they arrive at the palace, the guards are indeed disabled, so the intruders easily enter Kull’s bedchambers. Unlike his men, the defiant monarch stands ready for the fight, killing Enaros with the first vicious axe blow. Many others also fall, including Ridondo. But when Kull faces Ardyon, his strength suddenly fails and he collapses. In a demonic flourish, Ardyon reveals that he is actually Thulsa Doom. Taking the crown off Kull’s unconscious head, Dooms places it on his own, and the golden band transforms into a serpent crest. Thulsa Doom proclaims himself the new King of Valusia as Kull is dragged off to the dungeons. -Thomas Flynn



Thomas Flynn: The splash page boasts “Beginning: a new and startling chapter in the life of Kull of Valusia, Atlantean-born monarch of the topaz throne!” Now the new part can’t be Roy Thomas, since he’s a returning veteran of the series. So I must assume that we’re talking about the Kull debut of Michael Ploog. Ploog’s work here is a revelation, head and shoulders above what I’ve seen so far on the MU posts. Like Barry Smith, he’s a natural for the sword-and-sorcery category. Just check out the cover, aforementioned splash, and page 27: squint and you might discern some of that Smith style. But while Barry was much more classical in his sensibilities, Ploog’s artwork has a loose, druggy vibe that’s definitely rooted in the ’70s. I’m psyched to see that Mike will remain for the next four issues, as he single-handedly raises the usually mediocre bar. Another change is the title itself: Kull the Conqueror is now Kull the Destroyer. I would imagine that “destroyer” would test better among the S&S crowd than “conqueror.” Though Kull the Conquering Destroyer is not half bad. Roy is pretty faithful to the source work, “By This Axe, I Rule,” the last of Robert E. Howard’s Kull stories. Thomas also utilized this one as a basis for the very first issue back in June 1971.




Marvel Feature 12
The Thing and Iron Man in
"The Bite of the Blood Brothers!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Jim Starlin and Joe Sinnott


Seeking a lead at the desert outpost where he encountered Thanos in #55 of his own mag, Iron Man flies over the Thing (plodding home from last issue), who is irate at being left in the dust and goes in hot pursuit.  Still lurking about, the Blood Brothers get the go-ahead from their Masterlord to kill Iron Man, yet when he realizes he is outgunned and flies off for “Avenger reinforcements,” he collides with Ben.  With a “glomp,” one of the fanged frères unsuccessfully tries to live up to his name by biting Ben, who battles them single-handed as Iron Man recuperates; the two join forces and prevail over the brothers, whom Thanos zaps away for their failure, but Iron Man is left with insufficient power to carry the chagrined Thing back East. -Matthew Bradley




Matthew: It didn’t take Starlin long to reunite with Friedrich (Shellhead’s regular writer, supplanting Wein after one issue) and tie this into their Thanos War in Captain Marvel; Iron Man doesn’t actually begin the journey that leads him here until CM #30, but I’m not gonna wait around.  It’s already a pretty honking coincidence that out of the whole Southwest, Shellhead just happens to fly over the spot where the Thing is schlepping home, and then to have Ben just happen to be another of the handful of people with prior knowledge of Thanos…but I quibble.  Aside from the friction between them, which I found overdone, it’s a nifty sophomore outing for the strip, soon to morph into Marvel Two-in-One, and FF veteran Sinnott certainly brings continuity to Ben’s appearance.



Chris: A rock-em sock-em run-in with the Blood Brothers.  A MARVIS moment--mercifully--is avoided. Missed opportunity: we're reminded that the Blood Brothers are space vampires (who knew?), but the one Brother's chomp to Ben's rocky neck could've at least been exploited to comedic effect (I mean, that's gotta hurt, right?).  And even though they're vampires, it doesn't appear that they can change form, or hypnotize people, or anything else.  Clever musical reference: Thanos issues an order, which the Brothers receive as their "satanic majesty's request" -- nice one, Mike. 

Overall, this chapter doesn't contribute much to the Thanos War storyline.  Fans who hadn't been keeping up with Captain Marvel might've been confused to see Mentor and Eros pinned to the wall like rare butterflies. Thanos packs up his toys and leaves in a huff when the Brothers appear to be losing the fight.  If anything, the removal of Thanos's minions serves to draw Thanos himself to direct involvement in the fight.  




Marvel Premiere 12
Dr. Strange in
"Portal to the Past!"
Story by Steve Englehart, Mike Friedrich, and Frank Brunner
Art by Frank Brunner and Crusty Bunkers

Clea and Wong find Dr. Strange in the desert, contemplating his new place as the premier magician in the cosmos. They return to his New York home, where he chooses Clea to be his disciple, just as he was to the Ancient One. While she starts her studies, he deems it worthwhile to seek out his foe and one time rival—Baron Mordo-- to try and make peace. In Transylvania he searches, and finds a lead in the members of a gypsy camp. Lilia, a gypsy witch, hypnotizes Stephen in order to aid her people. Mordo had feigned love for her in order to obtain the Book of Cagliostro, her people’s most treasured possession. They fly to Mordo’s castle, now levitating in the sky, and find the book seemingly unguarded and open. It is however, a trap, and a creature called the Living Gargoyle appears in Mordo’s absence. When Stephen cannot act quickly enough to defeat it, she frees him from her spell. Ironically, she is killed by the Gargoyle in doing this, but Dr. Strange is then able to defeat it. He absorbs the books secrets, finding that Mordo is planning to use its knowledge to warp time. Stephen follows the path through time Mordo has taken, in order to find and defeat him. -Jim Barwise



Jim Barwise: It’s hard to know how the quality of this comic can stay so consistently high, yet that’s exactly what's happening. We have the new order of cosmic magic being established as Strange takes over from the Ancient One and takes on Clea to follow him (in more ways than one). The misguided gypsy woman Lilia proves to have nobility as well, and sadly dies for it. Baron Mordo manages to be an ominous presence without appearing in a single panel. Brilliant.

Matthew:  It apparently took a village to create this entry: on his website, Englehart notes that Mike Friedrich scripted the second half while Stainless was on vacation, and Frank Brunner’s customarily wondrous work was again inked by the collectively pseudonymous “C. Bunker,” but said village gives a good account of itself.  Now that Steve has wound up the REH run he inherited (which I for one consider underrated overall), it’s a natural move for Doc’s new scribe to get back to basics with Mordo, bringing him into the storyline in a logical way.  Like last issue’s framing sequence, this satisfyingly explores the aftermath of the Ancient One’s ascendancy, and I enjoyed the desert scene, plus Doc overlooking the quotidian detail of the jeep.

Chris: Solid-enough story as we begin a new storyline in search of the always-Moriartian Mordo.  I guess we don’t have as much of a story unless Strange is hypnotized, then released, so I won’t curse him for a novice for being so easily duped by the gypsy queen.  The desert meditation sequence serves as a fitting final chapter to the Shuma-Gorath epic.  Possible peyote influence for one of the Stevens (either Strange, or Englehart –or both?) contributing to the groovy one-with-cosmos musings. 


Art continues to be above-par – the story does not require Brunner & Co to be as far-out this time as in the previous issues.  I did want to point out that Alan Weiss, Rich Buckler, and Dave Cockrum also were among the Bunkers, since their art is likelier to be in evidence around this time than some of the other illustrators who had been mentioned in connection with MP #10. 



Peter: Strange is now the Great Grand PooBah of the Universe and yet he announces it to all in earshot not with braggadocio but with a sigh. He comes across as a guy who'd just rather sit at home with a beer and Kojak rather than the savior of the world. I think Brunner's perfect rendering of that weariness is what's hooking me. I wasn't a big fan of Strange when I was a 12 year-old MZ; I think it went right over my head and, besides, I could never get into the mystical arts jazz. Hell, this series may be going over my head now!




Mark: One of the classic arcs of the '70's begins in low-keyed fashion, with no hint of the Big Stakes ahead until the final page. We open with Clea and Wong finding the Doc in the Mexican desert, where he's been meditating for nine days, contemplating the Ancient One's death and transformation. Strange emerges feeling Om OK - You're OK; his consciousness has been raised, sure, but recruiting Clea as both disciple and main squeeze adds to the Doc's sunny disposition.



Mark: As the new Sorcerer Supreme, the Doc feels duty-bound to try making peace with the Ancient One's original disciple, Baron Mordo. Off to the Baron's ancestral village, "a haunted nest of death and deviltry" (tough duty on the tourist board!), Strange falls in with Lilia, a raven-haired gypsy vixen, then literally falls under her spell. Seems Mordo had recently romanced Lilia, but only to steal "our people's most treasured heritage," the mystic Book of Cagliostro, and she orders the bewitched Doc to retrieve it. Mordo's Living Gargoyle watchdog has other ideas, and the ensuing battle costs the gypsy her life, but not before she releases the Doc from her spell. He promptly shatters the Gargoyle like a glass goblin and discovers Mordo has used the Book of C to not only travel into the past but also acquired the power to change it, power that "could topple the pillars of our universe!"

Strange follows, of course, so buckle those Sacred Seatbelts of Satchmo, kids, 'cause your synapses are about to get royally rewired. If last month's Ditko/Lee reprints celebrated the past, Englehart & Brunner (w/Mike Friedrich pitching in on the script) are about to stake their own enduring claim to Eye of Agamotto greatness.




Marvel Team-Up 15
The Amazing Spider-Man and Ghost Rider in
"If An Eye Offend Thee..."
Story by Len Wein
Art by Ross Andru and Don Perlin


Peter and Mary Jane are watching Johnny Blaze and Roxanne Simpson in their extravaganza at Madison Square Garden when a motorcycle-riding villain, the Orb, disrupts the show, hypnotizing the crowd with his eyeball-helmet.  As Spidey helps Ghost Rider defeat the Orb’s men, he escapes with Rocky, to whom he reveals his mangled face and true identity of Drake Shannon, her father’s ex-partner, disfigured in a race to determine ownership of the show.  He now demands it as the price of Rocky’s life, having received his helmet from a mysterious “They,” but a Spidey-tracer brings the heroes to his lair; a three-way cycle chase through Grand Central into the subway leads to Rocky’s rescue and the Orb’s apparent demise via express train. -Matthew Bradley


Matthew: Len doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo about Peter brushing off MJ in Amazing #126, which we’re told this follows, yet he gives us a dose of MTU at its best, a MARMIS-free alliance that contributes to the guest-star’s mythos.  I got this in a treasury edition years after my first issue of Ghost Rider (#15, coincidentally also featuring the Orb), but reading it now, I admire the way it eases this supernatural strip into the Marvel mainstream, and as a bonus, the Orb’s Ringmaster routine forestalls any pesky “Where did Petey go?” moments.  This is also notable as the last issue by Spidey mainstay Andru—inked by Perlin once more—and, I believe, the first of Len’s recurring allusions to the shadowy “They,” not to be confused with Them of Strange Tales fame.

Scott: Another story I first read in a Treasury Edition, this one isn't bad. The most memorable image is of The Orb's unmasking. I wondered at the time why they could show this guy's horribly ruined face, but always keep Doctor Doom's disfigurement under wraps. It's a decent enough story, but The Orb is just a cycle-riding version of The Ringmaster. There is a cute bit where Spider-Man is under the impression Ghost Rider's flaming skull is actually some kind of elaborate mask. Entertaining and fun. A good team up.



Joe: I always loved this Gil Kane cover, with "modifications by John Romita" per the MCDB, and Spidey certainly does look more Jazzy than Sugary. But that has little to do with the insides. I don't like Perlin inking Andru, but I do find it cool that you could buy a Spidey balloon at Madison Square Garden during a stunt show. The Orb is a goofy villain, but nasty at the same time, and allows for Peter to change into hero garb so right there he's worth his weight in eye shadow. And he's about as gruesome looking as it comes without the helmet, thanks to a horrible accident that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But why do so many people want to own the cycle show? I guess since it's always sold out it's a solid moneymaker? Revenge can't be the only factor, right?

Peter: The Orb is an obvious "nod" to The Eye, a character created by Grass Green in the mid-1960s. Written and drawn by Biljo White (the editor of the legendary fanzine, Batmania), the adventures of The Eye appeared in several comic fanzines in the mid-1960s (including Star-Studded Comics and Voice of Comicdom) and was collected in a very enjoyable trade paperback published by Hamster Press in 2002.


The Eye... The Orb... The Socket... The Pupil... The Iris...



The Savage Sub-Mariner 67
"Seawinds of Change!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Don Heck and Frank Bolle

Namor must make a hasty retreat as he is surrounded by killer whales under the command of Orka, allied with the She-Beast to overthrow Atlantis. Subby burrows underground but he does so at such a magnificent speed that, once he pops out at a different location, he is unable to stop. Unfortunately for him, a ship carrying canisters of potent nerve gas is floating in the area. Namor isn't able to halt his trajectory and he crashes into the ship's canisters, causing them to explode and the poisonous gases to be released. The Inhuman called Triton finds Namor and brings him to the Fantastic Four's headquarters so he can be helped. The aftereffects of the nerve gas have left Sub-Mariner in a state where he cannot live outside of water for very long. When Namor wakes up in a water container and is informed by Reed Richards of his predicament, he goes berserk, believing that the Fantastic Four are lying to him.  Reed makes Namor a special costume that will allow Subby to function outside of water as long as he wears it. Realizing that he was wrong, Namor thanks them for their help before he leaves to protect his city. In Atlantis, Orka and the She-Beast's victory is short-lived as the poison that was released earlier seeps into the city, causing everyone except Tamara to begin choking. -Tom McMillion



Tom: Subby's new costume is an improvement over his green speedo and it is still worn by him today in comics occasionally. Other then his new duds, along with an always welcome but too brief brawl with the Thing, there isn't much going on here that we haven't already seen in this series. Was Subby's new uniform a desperate attempt to give him a new look in the hopes that it would increase the comic's sales? Probably, except it was a little too late by this point.

Matthew: The deathwatch begins with the major life change, inevitable parade of sales-pandering high-profile guest stars, and ominous bimonthly status for the so-called “Savage Sub-Mariner” (not to be confused with the calm, placid Sub-Mariner we had in the past).  If I sound bitter, it’s because I am; Subby’s one of my favorite characters, and although the strip had its ups and downs even in the old Astonish days, Roy and Big John launched his solo title on the highest possible note.  I don’t prefer Namor’s Romita-designed duds to his old trunks, but I have always liked them, which is the only good thing I can say about the artwork as unindicted co-conspirator Bolle throws Heck under the bus.  Worst Thing Ever, outstripping even Kane’s MTU #6 disaster.

Scott: A pretty epic issue, with only the usual substandard Don Heck pencils bringing this down a bunch of notches. With more competent art, this could have been a real home run. John Romita provides the cover and the new costume, which is botched by Heck in the climactic reveal. It's much more impressive as done by Romita, but then again, what isn't? The upshot to all this is that Namor is on another "hate mankind" kick which will begin another series of battles against the surface men. While this issue is dedicated to the late Bill Everett, it doesn't come near the quality of his work. The reprint in Hero For Hire is many times more fun than what we get here.



Matthew: In a “special message,” lame-duck Gerber notes that the deadline-challenged Everett “maintained sort of an off-again, on-again relationship with his 1939 creation until illness overtook him…and during that limbo-like period, all of us (Bill included, we think) pretty much lost sight of what we were trying to accomplish with Sub-Mariner.  And yet, since none of us—least of all, Bill himself—knew exactly when or if he would be returning to the book (and if he did, which chores he would choose to undertake), it became impossible to take any bold, decisive steps in any direction.  [After he died], Roy and I were able to take a long hard look at Sub-Mariner.  And we saw immediately that something had to be done:  something new and innovative and different…”

The Mighty Thor 217
"All Swords Against Them!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Sal Buscema

The Starjammer returns to Asgard, expecting a royal welcome. Instead they find that impostors matching them are the center of attention for their fellow Asgardians! Odin bids the impostors begone; instead they behave as originals, and a battle begins. Not much light is shed on the mystery until Fandral bumps into Volstagg, who explains that he and Balder (who returned to the Golden Realm from Earth) were the first to face the impostors, and Balder, overcome, was tossed into the dungeons. They set out to free him. A girl named Krista, meanwhile, wanders just outside the city walls, and finds a glowing stone unlike any other. The Rigelian Colonizers continue to flee their world in anticipation of an approaching deadly mystery. Thor and Sif find (the false) Balder, who leads them into a trap before explaining who he really is: Igron, Loki’s former assistant. Sent as a slave by Loki for being rebellious, Igron developed his magic skills to a point where he not only escaped, but created these false gods in their absence. A timely bonk on the head by the real Balder knocks him out, and without his guidance, the false gods dissolve into nothingness. The light of victory is soon overshadowed by the news from Odin—a new menace of grave danger approaches from deep space! -Jim Barwise



Jim: Although this might fall into the category of a “filler” issue, it’s better than some recent issues. We get the rather entertaining face-off with their evil twins, not knowing who the heck they are. While this happens, a couple of mysteries develop. What is the mysterious stone the girl Krista finds? And what is the menace the Rigelians fear (not Xorr as I thought last time)?  Can’t say as I blame Igron for being grumpy under the circumstances.


Matthew:  Big John is known to have favored little brother Sal as his inker, so I’m sure I’m not alone in welcoming the sibling-power of this one-off with open arms.  I was also relieved to see that the cover did not actually portend another Thor/Odin rift, yet was not one of the outrageous “cheats” sometimes foisted upon us, but a deliberate misdirection that in its own way accurately depicted the contents within.  Merry Gerry is like a perpetual-motion machine in this issue:  he keeps various balls in the air with his frequent “and we’ll have more on that story as it develops” digressions, does a Half-Roy by picking up a minor plot thread from three years ago, and gives us one of the frying-pan-to-fire endings that have become virtually de rigueur for this crazy title.

Scott: A one-and-done story with impostors and clanging swords and flowery speeches. There is so little substance here, just pretty pictures and far too many characters milling about. Apparently Don Blake has been completely abandoned by this time. I guess his practice has shut down. It's amazing just how much of Thor's Earthbound identity was tied to Jane Foster. Once she was removed from the book, Don pretty much ceased to be. Unfortunately, the pageantry and jousting just isn't enough to support the title. Some new blood is needed. How long until Beta Ray Bill? Oh, 1983. Never mind…





Also This Month

Beware! #5
Chamber of Chills #7
Crypt of Shadows #7
Kid Colt Outlaw #176
Marvel's Greatest Comics #46
Marvel Spectacular #4
Marvel Super-Heroes #40
Marvel Tales #47
Marvel Triple Action #15
Mighty Marvel Western #28
Millie the Model #206
Monsters on the Prowl #27
My Love #26
Rawhide Kid #117
Ringo Kid #23
Sgt. Fury #116
Special Marvel Edition #14
<-Supernatural Thrillers #6 
Two-Gun Kid #114
Vault of Evil #7
War is Hell #6
Where Monsters Dwell #25
Worlds Unknown #4



THOSE MARVELOUS MARVEL MAGAZINES



Monsters Unleashed 3


"Man-Thing!"
Story by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway
Art by Gray Morrow
(reprinted from Savage Tales #1, May 1971)

"The Cyclops"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Davis
(reprinted from Journey Into Unknown Worlds #50, October 1956)

"Frankenstein: AK (After Karloff)"
Non-Fiction by Martin Pasko

"The Death-Dealing Mannikin"
Story by Kit Pearson and Tony Isabella
Art by Win Mortimer

"Contact!"
Story and Art by Tom Sutton
(reprinted from Tower of Shadows #6, July 1970)

"Swamp Girl"
Story Uncredited
Art Uncredited
(reprinted from Mystic #19, April 1953)

"Preview: The Son of Satan"
Text by Carla Joseph

The Cold of the Uncaring Moon"
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by George Tuska and Klaus Janson

"Birthright!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Gil Kane and Crusty Bunkers

For a number of reasons, this third issue of Monsters Unleashed, a title I loved to death as a wee lad, is one gigantic disappointment. Now, I don't remember being all that disappointed with the finished product forty years ago, but then I really liked Charlie's Angels too and that just doesn't hold up these days either, does it? The Frankenstein Monster story promised on the cover doesn't show due to the death of Syd Shores. Roy Thomas lets us know on the debut letters page that the story will be finished and pop up in MU #5. The Son of Satan, also blurbed on the cover, turns out to be a text piece, no more than a glorified advertisement for Marvel's latest horror hero.


"Sleep-inducing Mannikin"

The reprints are a sorry bunch (do we really need another rerun of Man-Thing's origin?), taking up 22 pages, and the film history lesson is another of the ilk that makes you think Pasko read a whole bunch of Famous Monsters back issues to research his thesis. So what does that leave us? Three "original" stories.

In "The Death-Dealing Mannikin," Lucio, a gypsy's son who wears belted Levi's despite living in 1935 Austria, has had enough of the brutal treatment he and his family have suffered at the hands of Baron Krutze. Lucio seeks out the help of a witch, who transfers the man's soul into a clay figure and gives it the gift of movement. The dummy begins its campaign of revenge. Win Mortimer's art is abysmal, lacking anything resembling style or drama. Which is apt for the story, an unoriginal "blending" of Robert Bloch's "The Mannikin" and The Golem. Bottom of the barrel stuff.



But wait, there's more! "Cold of the Uncaring Moon"offers up a typical werewolf tale (tail?) with a nice twist ending but suffers, fatally, from Tuska-itis. Effectively served up as George's test run for his upcoming stint on the Man-Wolf series in Creatures on the Loose, it's obvious quite early that the only criteria Roy was looking for was that Tuska drew a better werewolf than he did. Rascally's the big-shot editor, not me, but I wouldn't have put this guy in charge of any title. There's nothing even remotely frightening about Tuska's lycanthrope. At least he didn't draw the thing with buckteeth. That first panel on page 52 (reprinted above) is a Frazetta steal. The original is shown below. Tsk, tsk, Tuska!



After the "Lastwar," two very well-developed specimens named Galt and Ayn frolic through the "lost Valley" and conquer all sorts of dreadful monsters before their handler, a robot, finds them and returns them to the breeding plant where they were born. "Birthright"isn't written by Robert E. Howard but most of it sure reads like it. What it resembles even more is the type of story Gil Kane was selling to DC's House of Mystery and House of Secrets in the late 60s and early 70s, pseudo-Sword and Sorcery. Overall, an extremely lackluster installment of MU. Let's put it in the rear view and hope for the better next time! -Peter Enfantino


"Birthright"


7 comments:

  1. FYI to Dean Pete: Tuska's Frazetta ripoff turns up again in Tales of the Zombie # 5, supplementing Part 2 of Claremont's prose story "With the Dawn Comes Death." Of course, I didn't know that until now.

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  2. Prof Matthew,

    Great takedown on Subby (loved the "unindicted co-conspirator" line; you listening, T.D. - that's "Tricky Dick Nixon" 4 U kids -?). Sucks when the characters/books we love suck, but it can make for a superior vitriolic spew...

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  3. I know less than almost anyone about the whole Ayn Rand subject and all the controversy about her, but naming the futuristic woman "Ayn" must have been an inside joke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rand preached a philosophy she called Objectivism. Basically, it means, all decisions should be made based on reason and logic … so far, so good.

      On the next level, Objectivism is all about the pursuit of your own needs to the exclusion of everything else. The popular name for this is “selfishness.” Rand also hated the State, didn't believe in taxes or welfare, and despised the concept of “altruism.”

      She was a chronic chain smoker who believed the Surgeon General's claim that smoking harmed your health was a hoax. Rand died in 1982, from cancer caused by smoking. So much for making decisions based on reason and logic.

      Despite having $500,000 in assets, she spent the last eight years of her life on welfare, something she said should not exist. So much for the principles of Objectivism.

      Speaking of principals, Her most famous work, Atlas Shrugged, is in the process of being turned into a movie. So far, two parts have been made, but the Producers have struggled to get financial backing. The problem … why would any Objectivist invest in anything that will not benefit them financially. It's highly unlikely they'd support the project for altruistic reasons. ;)

      All the best,

      Glenn :)

      Delete
  4. Grant: Completing the joke, "Galt" is the hero of Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED.

    Mark: Thanks so much! I've often said that the worst comics/films/etc. can result in the best (i.e., most readable, if not favorable) reviews.

    Chris: What an asset you are to the faculty.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you.
    Again, I'm a real outsider when it comes to Ayn Rand controversies, and also a really terrible novel reader, so I wouldn't have known that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Grant,

    If you want to read some terrible novels, Ayn's yer gal!

    ReplyDelete