Wednesday, May 14, 2014

January 1974 Part One: The Amazing Spider-Man Vs. The Vulture(s) in Our 200th Pulse-Pounding Issue!!!!

Welcome to 1974!
Our Giant-Sized 200th Anniversary Issue!
Introduction by Professor Matthew Bradley

The year opens with a Soapbox that encompasses some of the trends I had mentioned last month. “Notice anything different about your latest Marvel mags? Notice more space devoted to the Bullpen Bulletins? How about the larger Letters Pages [ironically, I read this in the lettercol-free Avengers]—and the fact that we have fewer titles on sale than a few months ago?” Stan notes that in ’73, Marvel “outsold every other comic-book publisher in America, and throughout the world! But the more titles we gave you, the more you kept demanding. And the more you asked for, the more we tried to give you. Until…we realized we had to stop and catch our breath…. [as] we were in danger of sacrificing quality for quantity—and we’re just not about to do that!”

Stan also plays the economic card, joking that “we wouldn’t want you to give up such frivolous luxuries as food or housing in order to keep up with us….And that’s the reason you won’t have to Beware the Claws of the Cat for a while, and Night Nurse has broken her appointment. Yep, we’ve reluctantly given vacations to a few of our secondary characters in order to devote more time and effort to our world-famous line of scintillatin’ superstars!” Related items by Roy reveal a hiatus for Supernatural Thrillers, which returns in June with a resurgent Living Mummy, and a switch to quarterly publication for the 75¢ magazines. He promises that Savage Tales #3 will be worth the wait, “with a 37-page Conan classic illustrated by Barry Smith…” Paging Prof. Flynn!

And now... January 1974!

Amazing Adventures 22
Killraven/War of the Worlds in
"Washington Nightmare!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Herb Trimpe and Frank Chiaramonte

Killraven and his Freemen are sailing on a barge towards Washington when they’re attacked by a giant sea mutant! While KR and M’Shulla battle—and kill—the creature, Old Skull and Hawk are captured by the swashbuckling Sabre on land. Carmilla Frost and Grok lead the party to the Washington Monument, where they’re ambushed by green-skinned gal Mint Julep [Really????], but they end up joining forces and sneaking into the Lincoln Memorial. Inhuman, tentacle-armed Abraxas is there, selling Old Skull to the highest alien bidder, when Killraven & krew burst in. KR battles Sabre in the shadow of Lincoln’s statue, when suddenly Abraxas wraps his slimy limbs around the red-haired rebel and throws him to the Masters in the audience! -- Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Talk about topical! If the title of this issue came out today, the political pundits would have a field day! Alas, readers in 1974 would not. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible, but I still feel like something’s missing in these Killraven tales. Maybe it’s the so-so Trimpe art, except for the nicely done two-page spread of the creature attacking the cargo barge; maybe it’s the talky McGregor script, which at least moves the story along nicely, name-dropping landmarks all the way; or maybe it’s the ever-growing cast of confounding kooks. At least we get a small cliffhanger, reason enough to stick around another issue.

Mark Barsotti: "Washington Nightmare" is a solid installment, given some clunky dialogue ("And you speak of irony whenever you mouth those words." "Would I do a thing like that, K.R.? Heaven Forbid!") that speed-bumps Don McGregor's otherwise propulsive plot and more uneven art by Herb Trimpe (he serves up a great two page spread of an aquatic beastie sinking Killy & co's tugboat & a nicely trashed D.C. It's the human faces that are awful). We learn the Martians dine on human flesh, meet a green-skinned female (no word of Gamma Rays yet) resistance fighter with the unfortunate name of Mint Julep and cape-wearing Sabre (yes, he wields one; a bit on the naming nose, Don), who leads a band of freebooting cavaliers, allowed to roam unmolested by the masters since they deliver captive humans to a slave auction set up in the Lincoln Memorial.

And you speak of irony: Sabre the slaver is black.

Mark: 15 pages, rounded out by a reprint I didn't read. Better some backfill than having a fledgling title miss a month on the stands. The Big Bad, Abraxas, cover-pimped as "the Human Squid," looks like Crusher Creel/the fake Thing from FF #51 with octo-arms, who – final cliffhanger panel - lofts Killraven above a gaggle (pod? matrix?) of Masters, hungry tentacles all aquiver for sweet man-meat.

It's fun covering a well-regarded title I never read with fresh (albeit middle-aged) eyes, and I encourage other esteemed facility members to not just revisit their teenage faves, but sample strange fruit, unread offerings on the weirder fringes of mid-70's Marvel.

Peter Enfantino: Oh, I second that emotion, Professor Marco. I'm having a devil delight with Dr. Strange, Luke Cage, Dracula, Kung Fu, and the wacky War of the Worlds, titles I wouldn't touch with a pair of those silky gloves the goofball collectors wear when they're examining their minty-fresh Todd McFarlane variant cover slabs. McGregor was obviously given a free rein because... why not? It's not a company tentpole like Spidey or the FF. Though I don't have sales stats for Amazing Adventures (the shorter run titles tended not to publish figures), I would bet my limited edition Frampton Comes Alive! picture disc that this was a title two steps away from the hangman's noose at all times. Hell, the powers-that-be might not have even known it was on the slate. That's how Gerber was able to transform Man-Thing from a monster comic book into something akin to a Kerouac novel and how McGregor is allowed to throw lots of SF elements into a blender and see what happens. It's not as visually pleasing as Dr. Strange nor is it as consistently interesting as Tomb of Dracula but it's a book that will stay in my "gotta read" pile for the near future. Years later, McGregor would modify the Sabre character, take it to a fledgling comics company called Eclipse, and create what could become the very first "graphic novel." Class... dismissed!

Joe: Because of the shock of Killraven getting thrown to the bad guys, we get the enjoyable little filler “amazing adventure” called “The Man Who Went Too Far” from Richard Doxsee, which originally appeared in Journey Into Unknown Worlds #56 (April 1957). In the middle of a forest, scientist Martin uses his cosmic magnet to shoot a ray into space that attracts a transparent man to Earth, much to the horror of his colleague, York. After Martin analyzes the creature, York attempts to smash the ray and is stopped by Martin. However, during the fight, the ray was powered up and sent tilting downward, which may have drawn a creature from below into our world—a creature that “makes footprints ten inches deep…in solid rock”…and is headed towards the city…

Gil Kane + Ernie Chan
Conan the Barbarian 34
“The Temptress in the Tower of Flame”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chua

When Conan grabs Death’s arm, he begins to age rapidly. But when the stubborn warrior refuses to let go, the fearsome female reverses her spell. Knowing that Death must answer any question, the barbarian asks her how can one man rule Wan Tengri? After she whispers the answer in Conan’s ear, Death transforms into the lifeless body of Kassar, the sheepherder. The Seven Wizards approach the Cimmerian, demanding to know what Death told him. After he defiantly states that he will tell the secret to only one Wizard, the sorcerers and their minions turn on each other. During the confusion, the weasely thief Bourtai appears and leads Conan away. Together they begin to search for Wan Tengri’s true ruler, the imprisoned daughter of the former king. After killing a fierce manticore and a mace-wielding giant, Conan and Bourtai finally find the princess. They make their way to the top of the tower, discovering the strange machine that is the source of the Flame Winds that enslave the citizens of Wan Tengri. When Conan destroys the machine, the people rise up and kill the Wizards. Regaining the crown, the princess rewards Conan and Bourtai with a fine sailing ship and two chests of gold. As they sail away from the city, the duo notice that the princess has resurrected the Flame Winds — she is a sorcerer herself and plans to ruthlessly rule Wan Tengri as the Wizards had. Further out to sea, the galley changes into a leaky dinghy and the gold into useless rocks. The powerful Princess has reclaimed her generous gifts. -Thomas Flynn

Mark: More masterful buckle & swash! There's no MCD in the Hyborian Age, kids, as Thomas and Buscema wrap up their "Flame Winds" trilogy in fine fashion, racing breakneck through nineteen pages of swordplay and sorcery, palace politics and rebellion, narrow escapes, an evil (okay, maybe just amoral) princess to be rescued, and a comic ending that half-convinces me that, as much inspiration as Roy Thomas drew from Robert E. Howard, he copped Conan's luck with women from the early days of Peter Parker.

Thomas Flynn: The Rascally One’s adaptation of Norvell Page’s “Flame Winds” ends on an exciting note. The action doesn’t let up and the twist ending was unexpected and quite satisfying. I’m a bit confused by the Death character though. You would assume that the actual Death wouldn’t be dispatched so effortlessly. Plus, she couldn’t have been just a ruse of the Seven Wizards since they didn’t know the answer to Conan’s question. Oh well, I’ll have to live with it. The Princess is quite a number, wearing the skimpiest of outfits, including a see-through skirt with long slits up both sides. And no, she doesn’t wear panties. The manticore is highly impressive as well. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t sport those cool bat wings. And I guess we’ll see how long Bourtai sticks around — he comes across as entirely untrustworthy. There’s a No-Prize winner on “The Hyborian Page,” which is always fun to see.

Mark: There's so much going on, with nary a wasted panel, that my esteemed colleague, Professor Thomas', confusion about the role of masked "Death" is understandable. As we pause to catch our breath on the next to last page, however, Conan reveals "when the bogus 'Death' whispered in my ear - she who was doubtless sent somehow by the princess - ." Which means the Conan-aging gimmick was likely just stage magic, albeit of the highest order.

What's more interesting is Conan displaying the native cunning that would one day make him king. For "death" merely whispered "that he who rules the princess rules Wan Tengri" (subtext: so free the princess, per her plan), but Conan comes up with the brilliant notion of turning the wizards against each other ("Come to me when I've one wizard to deal with, not seven.") on the fly. By Crom, there's a first-rate brain in that thick Cimmerian skull!

Sailing away victorious with "monkey-face" Bourtai beside him, Conan's treasure turns into rocks, his "beauty of a ship" into a leaky rowboat. Thanks for nothin', princess! In his early adventures, Conan got a fair share of pelt, but ever since Red Sonya left him dangling at the end of a rope in #24, his romantic life has gone to Hades. Thanks for nothin', Roy!

The Avengers 119
"Night of the Collector"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Bob Brown and Don Heck

Returning to the mansion after their long battle, The Avengers set off their own defenses. After finally defeating them, Thor takes the brain-drained Loki on as his ward and confines him within the mansion. The Black Panther asks Mantis about her history and, as soon as she evades the question, she is hit with a psychic message about danger in Rutland, Vermont, where evil forces have gathered on Halloween in the past three years. Once arrived, the man they believe to be Tom Fagan turns out to be The Collector who attacks the Avengers and captures Thor, Cap, Iron Man and the Panther in short order. The remaining Avengers find Fagan tied up in the woods and hatch a plan. Tom and the townspeople descend upon the Collector and distract him while the others are freed. Once the Collector is defeated, Thor leaves Loki with Tom in Rutland, where the former God of Mischief can spend his days in peace. -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: The Collector is a decent enough villain; I never had a problem with him. However, I'm getting just a little tired of this "Tom Fagan in Vermont" stuff that keeps polluting the stories. I appreciate the effort to tie up Loki's story for the time being, but this is just too lame and cheesy a tale for its own good. Don Heck's inks influence too much and it feels more like his book than Bob Brown's. The Mantis mystery is tantalizingly teased, but the Swordsman remains dull as dishwater. A middling issue.

Matthew Bradley: Bob Brown inked by Don Heck—now there’s a twofer that is almost guaranteed to generate some complaints among my fellow faculty. The art is sufficiently rough-and-ready as Battlin’ Bob begins his segue to Daredevil this month that I won’t mount any kind of serious defense, although I’ve seen far worse. In this first postwar issue, Stainless has so many irons in the fire—e.g., the disposition of Loki, Wanda’s growing and disturbing misanthropy, T’Challa’s conflicted loyalties, the obligatory seasonal return to Rutland and guest shot by Tom Fagan, and the broaching (but by no means revealing) of Mantis’s shadowy past—that there’s barely room for a super-villain, which explains why the Collector gets put away a bit more readily than usual.

Chris Blake: The Rutland Halloween in-joke is dragged out one more time, and this might be one time too many – I’m pretty sure this is its final appearance (although I did like the way Roy interrupted himself when he nearly said “Justice League,” in the editorial comment on pg 11). The Collector is manageably handled in this one issue (saints be praised). It’s hard to believe that, in order to acquire this prize, his plan would be to lure the team to Vermont, and into the woods, so that he could wrap them in – wait for it – bearskins (so maybe Roy was thinking of the JLA when he was editing these pages . . .). Too bad Iron Man seems to have installed a butane lighter in his gauntlet (pg 15) – repulsor rays might’ve shredded the skin pretty handily. Is the Thanos War here yet? Please keep me posted.

Heck’s inks give me fits – who signed off on this? So, there really was no one else available – no one at all – at no time, nowhere else, to ink this issue? Look at page 17 – just LOOK at it (if you dare). What might’ve been a decent Bob Brown (we’ll never, ever know) is reduced to something like Frank Robbins. I’d take my chances with a “D. Hands” issue anytime (or, hey, why not hand it off to the Crusty Bunkers?) over Heck’s inexplicable combination of indistinct scratches and heavy black lines. I’m surprised Romita didn’t sit up all night and re-touch every panel, rather than sign off on this. But wait – same art team next issue?! Rabbit season – duck season!!

This is what happens when a story scheduled
for Crazy gets popped into the wrong title.

Starlin + Milgrom
Captain Marvel 30
"...To Be Free From Control!"
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom

After creating a device to track Lou-Ann’s control frequency, Iron Man goes west in search of clues, and as Mar-Vell awaits daylight, when his photonic energy is at its peak, Rick accepts Mordecai’s renewed offer to make him a teen idol. Now creating a sparkling “exhaust” trail, Mar-Vell locates and enters the Controller’s lair, easily trounces his minions, and tries to reason with him, telling Earth’s would-be viceroy that Thanos will dispense with him once he outlives his usefulness. This warning is dismissed but borne out when Thanos, sensing that Mar-Vell’s power will soon enable him to prevail, zaps the Contoller; while Rick is reunited with the liberated Lou-Ann, Drax arrives at Avengers Mansion and Thanos ponders his next step. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Mar-Vell is practically ubiquitous this month, and except for Iron Man’s prematurely published escapade in Marvel Feature #12, the inter-title continuity with the Thanos Warper se is well-choreographed in the current issues. There is a straight linear progression from Marvel Team-Up through Daredevil to here, where Shellhead embarks on his mission, yet even allowing for those digressions, things have obviously happened offstage. Abruptly en route to San Francisco when first seen post-metamorphosis in MTU #16, Mar-Vell is already aware of Moon Dragon (as she was then being called), hitherto not even mentioned in his own book, and tells her, “The Titans were surprised—and pleased—to learn you might still be alive!”…which is news to readers, too.

Interestingly, the sophomore effort from “The Detroit Gang” (writer/artist/colorist Starlin, inker Milgrom, and letterer Orzechowski, “edited by honorary Motowner Roy”) makes no mention of Mar-Vell’s extracurricular activities. But between those and his Eon-enforced absence last time, this entry has a feeling of clearing the decks for the real action to come, and despite achieving a degree of closure with the Controller’s defeat—reports of his death, as with that of Super-Skrull, turn out to be greatly exaggerated—it engenders more of anticipation with its teasers involving Drax and Thanos. I enjoy spectacle as much as anybody, especially when served up by Starlin, yet this surfeit of full- and almost-full-page shots seems oddly arid, especially inked by Milgrom.

Scott: A bit of a come down from the previous grand issues. The Controller is a bland villain and Mordecai P. Boggs' arrival (looking totally different) brings on a yawn. The story has an odd way of giving the feel of chapter breaks here and there, but I don't know if that's the intention. Starlin's art again straddles the line separating weird from brilliant. Some characters look great, others freaky, but there's no denying the energy and imagination.

Mark: Marv is still flying high with Captain Starlin at the controls, but given that last ish stands as one of the highlights of the decade, some letdown is inevitable. We open with a wordy re-cap of events between Marv and Shell-Head and dense word balloons hang like fog throughout, with CM delivering stilted, overly-formal dialogue like "Only because I now know the true depth of your depravity! You seek power built upon ruined lives! Because of this I must cause the end of an empire!" mid-punch. One hopes letterer Tom Orzechowski was getting overtime.

Chris: First look at the new power – and, as importantly, the new persona – of Mar-vell. Starlin again plays with expectations by having Marv first try to reason with the Controller, and convince him of Thanos’s unreliability as an ally, before the Controller throws down anyway. Another chapter of the Thanos War which features very little involvement from the titular opponent – well, at least we get a teaser that Than-san is ready to unleash the Cosmic Cube (next ish -!). Thanos’s decision to destroy the Controller makes no sense – weren’t these people affixed with slave discs so that they could be compelled to aid Thanos’s invasion of Earth? With the Controller destroyed, his influence dissipates, and the slaves revert to normal life. On to Plan B, Big T?

Milgrom’s signature flat-scratch style begins to assert itself, and the inks don’t do as much for Starlin’s solid pencils as they had last issue. Admittedly, Milgrom’s inks have improved since the Bronze Age, but his pairing with Starlin at this point has never made any sense to me. Incriminating photos are the only possible explanation for Milgrom’s long artistic association with a far superior craftsman like Starlin. 

Matthew: Starlin tied with Walt Simonson, no slouch himself, for the Shazam Award—presented by the short-lived Academy of Comic Book Arts (first president: Stan Lee) from 1971 to 1975—as Outstanding New Talent of 1973. For the following year, during which the Thanos War reached its climax, he lost the Superior Achievement by an Individual award to some guy named Thomas, and as much as I adore writer-editor Roy…we wuz robbed! Justice was served when the 1978 Eagle Awards were presented at the British Comic Art Convention, where Jim paradoxically won both Favourite Single Story for Avengers Annual #7 AND Favourite Continued Story for the SAME issue, as well as its conclusion in Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2.

Mark: We get the renewed threat of Rick Jones' singing career, with Brian Epstein-wannabe Mordecai P. Boggs promising to make Slick Rick "the idol of teen-age America!" The art remains stellar, particularly the final Cap-Controller smackdown, before Thanos pops in to kill off another disappointing cat's paw. And the Destroyer returns, knocking politely at the door of Avengers Mansion on a matter of "galactic urgency!"

You can lay odds it concerns Thanos' "one wish," which – going out on a limb here – I'm guessing ain't more Kute Kitty videos on YouTube.

Vicente Alcazar
Creatures on the Loose 27
Thongor in
"In the Crypts of Yamath!"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Val Mayerik and Vicente Alcazar

Thongor and Karm Karvus stand together against a thousand swordblades out to avenge the Sark of Tsargol’s death. While they protect the girl Kora, an eerie blackness falls on the arena – it is Sharajsha in the airship. The three climb to safety where the wizard halves the Starstone, now in their possession, and relates the rest of the quest: “...this fragment from a forgotten star must be dipped in the eternal fire which can only be found in the crypts below the altar of Yamath!” They land Kora near her village and fly at once to the red-roofed city of Patanga.

Above the spiked domes of the fire temple, Sharajsha and Thongor leave the safety of the Nemedis and make their way ever downward into the heart of the ancient crypts where the graven demon Yamath waits. The wizard begins the work of forging the sword in the flame from his meteoric fragment while Thongor stands watch. The Yellow Druid and his temple guard approach, and Thongor mows down the “jackel-kissers [sic]” like chaff with the sword of his father. The cowardly druid flees, followed by Thongor’s bellow, “I’d hoped to...end your evil life...!”

The druid returns with reinforcements and orders Thongor be seized and sacrificed to “merciful Yamath...lord of fire!” for “his insult to the holy druids.” As suddenly as they arrive, they scatter at the sight of a fiendish abomination rising before them. Only Thongor stands his ground, swinging his blade through “wisps of nothingness!” The “eerie wizardry” is naught but the “mental imageries!” of Sharajsha who has accomplished forging “the second Star Sword” with the delay Thongor won him. A noxious vapor seeps into the room and their lungs, sprawling them both lifeless on the cold stone floor... -Gilbert Colon

Gilbert Colon: This issue of “Thongor, Warrior of the Lost Land!,” like so many, qualifies as one of those “fabulous fantasies” readers expecting escapism flock to, but there is an essential dimension missing for it to qualify as “in the Great Tradition of Conan!” (as Vicente Alcazar’s cover art starburst boasts). Thongor is commonly called a Conan clone or carbon copy, and at times it does seem Carter’s barbarian was bred in Athmar Phong’s breeding vats. It also sometime seems that one of the few significant differentiations between Thongor and Conan is that the Valkarthan is a Viking and the Cimmerian a Celt. 

Absent, however, is a crucial quality in Thongor as well as, to borrow a phrase from Karl Edward Wagner, other “Pseudo-Conan[s].” In his essay “The Once and Future Kane,” Wagner – himself a creator of the demi-Conanesque Kane, the Mystic Swordsman (not to be confused with Robert E. Howard’s Puritan swordsman, Solomon Kane) – explains: “Pseudo-Conan is out having just the best time, ’cause he’s the biggest, toughest, mightiest-thewed barbarian on the block, and he’s gonna have a swell time of brawling and chopping monsters and rescuing princesses and offing wizards and drinking and brawling and ... and ... etc... etc....” While Carter’s savage does not quite posses Conan’s “gigantic mirth,” Wagner might as well be writing about the Thongor tales without citing them by name. Herein lies the problem, which Wagner zeroes in on: “But in Howard’s fiction the underlying black mood of pessimism is always there, and even Conan, who enjoys a binge or a good fight, is not having a good time of it at all.”

Luckily, Carter is enjoying himself. He has a genuine love for the genres he pastiches, which comes through on the page. His real forte is long-form storytelling and he delivers a compelling story arc that keeps us reading. The exiled Thongor takes to the air for adventure, learns the fate of doomed Lemuria and, with the help of a wizardly “supernatural helper” (per Joseph Campbell in his Hero with a Thousand Faces), discovers a destiny that he and his “fellowship” must fulfill – Starstone must be found and melted, and Star Sword must be forged from it to fight the dormant Dragon King race, with Thongor playing his part in this vast cosmic drama.

Each Marvel installment is like a chapter in a novel, or episode from a serial chapter-play, whereas Howard’s self-contained yarns read more like impressionistic vignettes from a life that jump around in chronology. (To tie together Conan’s threads, one must look to Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark’s “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career.”) REH himself attempted only one Conan novel, but in Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria, Carter maps out the Big Story to carry his characters along and sweep up readers with them. It is almost as if Carter asked himself, “What if I took Conan, plucked him out of the short story, and plopped him into a high-stakes Lord of the Rings epic novel?” Carter’s Thongor and the Wizard of Lemuria is no literary Lord of the Rings saga, but judging from Marvel’s adaptation, and with the fate of all Lemuria hanging in the balance, it certainly feels like it fits the definition of “page-turner.” 

Chris Blake: Still plenty of action in Mayerick's pencils. I like the idea of pairing him with Alcazar for inks; the art, at its best, has an agreeable texture and fluidity -- although I don't find quite enough of these moments here. If they'd had more than one issue to work together, the Mayerick-Alcazar team might have produced more consistent results (and, in fairness, once we get to it, we'll see that Alcazar's self-inked work in #29 is quite good). Sal Trapani, who has done very well by Mayerick's pencils on Man-Thing, would have been a suitable fit.

Gilbert: “He was the first visitor in history from outer space!,” begins the Amazing Adult Fantasy #9 reprint “I Come from the Black Void,” “and yet, Earth didn’t care!” This opening well sums up this Steve Ditko-illustrated tragicomic tale featuring a Xenian ambassador trying to forge friendship between two worlds, but instead, in failing to take into account local Earth custom, becoming grist for scripter Stan Lee’s punch line.

Sal Buscema
Captain America and the Falcon 169
"When a Legend Dies"
Story by Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich
Art by Sal Buscema and Frank McLaughlin

Walking the streets of Harlem, the Falcon is attacked by Crime Boss Morgan's men. Captain America sees Falc outnumbered and takes care of most of the men. Falc is down about Cap being clearly the physical superior, so the Avenger promises to speak to the Black Panther about helping his partner gain some kind of edge. On the way, Cap spots a TV ad from The Campaign to Regain America's Principles, with committee founder Harderman calling him a violent menace who targeted "private citizens" like Dr. Faustus. Now the public is afraid of him. After the Falcon and Leila go with the Panther to Wakanda, Cap goes to see Harderman, who challenges him. Once Cap leaves, Harderman calls his peeps to say the operation is on. Later, Cap sees a liquor store being robbed by the Tumbler, but after a tussle, the villain escapes. Afterward, Sharon tells Cap that Peggy has joined SHIELD. Steve tries to see Fury but he is frozen out by Val. Later, at an exhibit hall, Cap spots Harderman with the Tumbler in his civilian identity and the Tumbler runs. Cap throws his shield and the Tumbler falls down dead. A well-placed witness blames our hero for it, but we see he was assassinated by a sniper hiding in the ceiling, as Harderman's plan goes into action. -Scott McIntyre

Scott: And so the longest story arc in Cap's career to date begins, as he fights against the influence of the Committee to Regain America's Principles (CRAP for those who fell asleep before page eleven). Lots going on here and this will continue to build into the best storyline of the character's 70s run. It begins with the Falcon once again feeling like Cap's junior partner thanks to our hero's increase in strength. This will lead to the Falcon getting some additions to his uniform to make him live up to his name.

Once that's out of the way, Cap's life gets a lot more complicated. Peggy has joined SHIELD (the standards must be getting pretty low). The Tumbler was a quick, one-off schmuck from the Suspense days and it's cool to see him return, since his quick death as a patsy gives him more importance. The guy in the ceiling we will see again and Cap will have to deal with a lot more CRAP in the issues to come. Good solid art, a fine turn of events and more subplots than you can count make this kick off a winner.

Mark: And so it begins in earnest, the greatest Cap saga of the '70's (I know, our illustrious Dean disagrees and may exile me to off-campus parking at Hooters until I win my space back after the Broncos beatdown the Pats (again) this fall, but the Bad Cap epic had a lame-o ending and Secret Empire does not)! Steve Englehart has been planting seeds for awhile and now fire up the John Deere, boys. It's harvest time.

Matthew: It begins: the seeds Stainless has been planting start to flower into the Secret Empire plotline, which (in scope if not in quality) outdoes his false-Cap arc, just as his Celestial Madonna saga will outdo the Defenders war in Avengers. McLaughlin again proves himself a fine match for Sal’s pencils; conversely, the Tumbler was never anything but a bottom-tier bad guy, yet in this context, as we shall see, that is eminently suitable. Other old-timers will naturally recognize the Committee to Regain America’s Principles (whose CRAP acronym editor Roy cautiously downplayed) as Englehart’s opening salvo against then-current Nixonian excess, specifically the still-hard-to-believe-they-did-that Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP).

Peter: There's some real good stuff here but there's also some CRAP. Ba-dum. I've been waiting years to use that line. As Professor Matthew noted, this is the prologue to what is probably Stainless' most loved/notorious storyline in his Cap oeuvre (I swim against the current and still proclaim "The Other Cap" as Steve's crowning achievement). Cap's swift agreement to Harderman's charity match defies logic as does his never-ending patience with Sam's whining and the new "let's hire an octogenarian" policy over at SHIELD, but there's enough solid groundwork delivered here that I can push that all to one side and just enjoy the read. Good times ahead, folks.

Matthew: The restored full-page lettercol presents a favorable response to the introduction of conscientious objector Dave Cox back in #163, and quotes Englehart’s appreciative reply: “I think it’s become pretty evident in my work that I have a heavily humanist philosophy, and the reason for that, as you may have divined, is that I am, myself, a C.O. In fact, I was (honorably) discharged from the Army on those grounds.” It also cites his move to San Francisco, noting that, “due to that cross-country trek, scheduling hassles, and several other boring reasons, Steve is handing Cap’s [scripting] honors over to Mike Friedrich for the next couple of months [starting with the second half of that very ish]. As soon as he digs in out there, though, he’ll be back on the job as usual.”

Mark: Mike Friedrich scripts most of the story, but Stainless directs. We open with an assassination attempt on the Falc, which Caps helps foil. But Sam has a bad case of power-envy, so Mr. Rogers agrees to approach the Black Panther about a Wakandaian-upgrade for the star-spangled sidekick.

The anti-Cap TV ads start to sway the gullible public, so Cap visits the ad agency of one Mr. Harderman, the Mad Man behind the Committee to Re-Gain America's Principles. For students who think the CRAP acronym is a bit on the nose, Richard Nixon's '72's re-election campaign (somewhat subtle spoiler alert) was known as CREEP. As always, fiction's got nothing on real life.

Z-grade villain the Tumbler returns from the Silver Age, a sacrificial stooge to get Cap in the middle of a frame, a la Lee Harvey Scapegoat. Watch out for the jailhouse transfer, kids, 'cause we've only just begun!

Starlin, Romita + Al Milgrom
Daredevil and the Black Widow 107
"Blind Man's Bluff!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Bob Brown and Sal Buscema

Kerwin J. Broderick and Terrex merge into one creature, demanding the people of San Francisco bow down to his rule—or die! Daredevil attempts to tackle him, and gets temporary leg paralysis as a lesson on the futility of resistance. While Natasha, DD and Moon Dragon brainstorm with the police, a new ally has appeared to aid the cause—Captain Marvel! He handles Ramrod easily, before transposing to the Negative Zone with his ally, the boy Rick Jones. Marvel returns and the group of them conceive of a plan. They get unexpected help from Broderick’s former (after Terrex took the life of his girlfriend Janis) ally, Angar the Screamer, whose voice creates a distortion of reality. Marvel had pointed out that Terrex’s weakness is Broderick’s mind, and they seek to attack on that basis. What they need to defeat Terrex is un-life, or the illusion of it. With Angar’s help they essentially kill Terrex/Broderick by making him/it believe in it’s (un)reality. -Jim Barwise

Scott: Bob Brown, while a better artist than Don Heck, is the wrong man for this story. Captain Marvel looks less cosmic and Thanos, seen in quick flashback, looks weird. Seeing Rick stop for ice cream against Mar-Vell's wishes is simultaneously funny and ridiculous. "Sure, I'll help ya, Marv. As soon as I'm done with my cone…" After Rick says they need a break, Mar-vell concedes the point! Overall, a middling issue.

Cheesecake No More
Jim Barwise: It’s surprising how often DD’s mag is the vehicle for for forces better suited to more”cosmic” heroes. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, here, relatively well. Captain Marvel is always a welcome visitor, and between Moon Dragon and himself, they conceive of a plan other than brute force. The result: satisfactory and entertaining. A somewhat humbling lesson for Matt and Tasha too...

Matthew: Mar-Vell’s guest shot here continues the process of integrating Moondragon (introduced, we may recall, one issue of Iron Man prior to the Big T himself) from the periphery of the Thanos War into the primary theater of operations; Starlin will standardize her name, still being given as “Moon Dragon.” Penciler Brown begins his long stint with the warmest possible welcome, i.e., inks by the great Sal Buscema, and the contrast with the recent Heckstravaganzas is like night and day. “I couldn’t believe—that the scope of the conflict—could be so—big,” the Widow gasps, yet while thus acknowledging how far out of their league she and Hornhead are, Steve handles the complex climax well (as he does Mar-Vell’s character and admiration for DD).

Chris: Since Mar-vell’s recent MTU appearances had nothing to do with the Thanos War, I was concerned at first when Cap showed up unannounced in Golden Gate Park; thankfully, the tie-in explanation was forthcoming soon after. Gerber’s story is acceptably way-out. One question: at various times, there’s a nonchalance expressed by several characters (ie Rick stops for a two-scoop ice cream), despite the threat posed by Terrax – oops, I meant Terrex. Was this effect ever explained – did I miss something here? Also, what are we to suppose DD had planned, that required him to confront Terrex in his Murdock suit? That kinda gets shelved when Angar shows up (his motivation well-orchestrated by Steve). Credible use of Moondragon’s power, as she guides the effect of Angar’s scream-illusion.

The Bob/Sal art isn’t great, but it’s good enough; there are glimpses of both artists’ styles throughout. The un-life sequence (below) is nicely understated, and well-complemented by Petra Goldberg’s colors.

Buckler + Klaus Janson
Doc Savage 8
"Werewolf's Lair!"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Rich Buckler, Tom Palmer, and Jack Abel

The hidden sniper fires and the Bronzed Giant disappears into the billowing falls below. Nearby, Patricia Savage and her servant Tiny escape their captors. The hoods catch up and, with Doc dead, Pat and Tiny have officially outlived their usefulness as hostages. To the surprise of everyone, the Man of Bronze suddenly appears, commanding, “Release them--,” before overcoming their resistance. 

Doc explains to Pat how he took the precaution of tying an invisibly thin but incredibly strong wire around his waist. Prepared to carry Pat and Tiny across to the other side, Doc encounters the Werewolf who accuses them of trespassing “on the Sacred Land of Loup-Garou!” and threatens to kill them “horribly!” Doc BWAMM!s the beast unconscious and unmasks him for a costumed thug. Back at the cabin, they find the cube gone. Señorita Oveja bursts in, having been released to carry a message from this “Werewolf.” Enraged at his defeat by Doc, the Werewolf demands the cube, or their father dies. She relates to Doc her family’s connection to the cube – she and her father are descendants of the real “Werewolf,” a 17th-century pirate whose gold-filled ship sank. His dying gesture was to make a cube that holds the treasure’s cavern location. The señorita’s father learned Doc’s uncle found the cube, and Rabanos offered to recover the family fortune. Doc does what no one was able to – opens the cube in seconds. It unfolds into a treasure map, “X” marking the spot.

The Werewolf comes knocking and threatens to kill his hostages (Pat, Señor Oveja, and Rabanos) if Doc does not hand the cube over. Doc demands their release, but the animal-man startles them with the revelation that Señor Oveja and Rabanos are not prisoners but partners! His surrounding men gas Doc and his companions, and they slowly come to in the cavern housing the lost treasure. Rabanos divulges that Alex Savage’s murder was a ploy to lure Doc up north and solve the cube’s riddle. Now Rabanos takes the reins, saying that they have all outlived their usefulness (again!) and he will dispose of everybody, his own compatriots included! Previously immunized from the gas by Monk the chemist’s preventative antidote, Doc grabs Rabanos by the throat. The Werewolf admits that “We suspected Rabanos of treachery” and Ham marvels that “...even the señorita is in on it!” 
Doc and the Werewolf go at it supermano a wolfmano, and Doc KA-WHUMPP!s him once more. In all the action, the cave roof collapses, and only Doc, his aides, and the Ovejas survive. Renny breaks the disappointing news that their so-called family treasure will be used to build public hospitals in Canada, and Doc explains to the señorita that she should feel lucky to be alive. Pat joins her cousin and his band of adventurers to make it a “Fabulous Six,” the story concluding with “ -- the Code of Doc Savage, 1932”: “Let me help all men, without regard for anything but justice. Let me be considerate of humanity and nature in all I do.” -Gilbert Colon

Gilbert: Doc’s Code – “Let me do right to all and wrong to none” – serves as the story’s coda, sans any applause à la George Pal’s campy 1975 film. Not only the story’s coda, but the series’ coda as well because on this note, Marvel’s Doc Savage takes a sudden bow after only eight issues.
Inside these pages, the criminal’s compulsive need to explain himself fulfills the almost inevitable moment of exposition (pg. 26). We never see the oft-mentioned Canadian Mounties ride in like the cavalry, but maybe that is because on page 2, Doc is finally and officially described as “a superhero if you will --” and superheroes – even a cooperative one like Doc – rarely if ever need the authorities. (It is just about always the other way around.) The honorific would probably blush the bronze complexion of the noble, humble Doc Savage, for in the novel Brand of the Werewolf Lester Dent says of him, “Hero worship got Doc’s goat - when he was the subject of admiration.”

Besides subsidizing public hospital construction and operating costs with the pirate treasure (the Bronze Man explains, “That is what we usually do with any money that comes our way”), the Doc of the novel notes that “Some…came from the churches of old Panama City” and righteously promises “That portion...will be turned over to the church, its rightful owner.” Perhaps this is what Lester Dent meant when he said of his creation, “I took...Abraham Lincoln with his get – Doc Savage.” This was, after all, not today’s America, but the “Thunderous ’30s,” and Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties has nothing on Doc Savage.

Last issue was adapted by Gardner Fox with Tony Isabella, but Isabella autogyros this one solo. This change brings about no noticeable disruption in storytelling, but it is a shame to lose Fox who seems tailor-made for this material. Looking back at Fox’s career, it was he who contributed the idea of Batman’s “wonderful toys” only a few years after the Doc of the pulps was expanding his own arsenal of gadgets. Fox was a former pulp author, like Lester Dent. Fox co-invented the idea of the superhero team with the Justice Society of America, the first “superamalgamated” superteam, a mere seven years after Doc’s “Amazing Crew.” Fox’s other co-creation, Justice League of America, means that he penned Man of Steel stories before going on to adapt the Man of Bronze. During Fox’s comic-book tenure, Batman called New York his hometown (until Bill Finger went on to mythically dub it “Gotham”), the same very real stomping grounds of Doc Savage who operates out of the Empire State Building.

At issue’s end, one letter-writer makes a pitch: “In the Dec. (March) issue you announced that Mr. Steranko will do a few stories. Any chance at Doc Savage?” But with no issue #9, there would be no Jim Steranko illustrations (other than the two early covers). However Steranko was to have other pulp forays in his future, one example being cover art for Pyramid Books’ reissues of Walter B. Gibson’s old Street & Smith Shadow novels, making Steranko to The Shadow what James Bama was to Doc Savage. DC came close but no cigar to hiring Steranko for their Shadow comics, but Pyramid did continue their relationship with Steranko on the pulpy hardboiled detective graphic novel Chandler: Red Tide.

What began with the death of Doc’s father in issue #1 ends here with the death of Doc’s uncle, Marvel officially announcing in the letters page: “It’s a cancellation nobody at Marvel wanted to see, especially neo-scripter Tony Isabella, a Doc Savage fan from way back.” Unbeknownst to them at the time, fans would have only to wait till August 1975 when Marvel relaunched an all-new black-and-white magazine titled – easy to remember – Doc Savage. To be continued…

Buckler + Sinnott
Fantastic Four 142
"No Friend Beside Him"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott

Johnny and Ben are furious at Reed for what they feel was destroying his son Franklin’s brain (and what Reed felt was the only way to stop the boy from reaching a critical mass that would have destroyed the Solar System). They walk out on him. Only Medusa believes Reed did what he had to do. Ben goes to see Alicia. She isn’t at her apartment, but she left him a note telling him to meet her in the Balkans, where she has gone for the operation that may give her sight again. The town where Ben meets her is supposedly haunted by a demon, and when Ben takes an evening stroll, he meets said creature, a purple monster calling itself Darkoth the Death-Demon. After an initial battle, Darkoth disappears. Later, when Alicia is having her operation, Ben finally gets impatient and enters the operating room…empty!! Darkoth is back, and a second battle leads Ben to an underground hideout of some sort. Meanwhile, Medusa convinces Reed to go to his college alumni reunion. It turns out to be a setup of sorts, as only a handful of people are there, and dinner is served up by Reed’s own former classmate—Victor Von Doom!! -Jim Barwise

Matthew: Per this month’s Bullpen Page, “[Rich Buckler’s] dream for well-nigh a decade as a comic-book fan was to get a chance, one day, to draw the fabulous Fantastic Four title! And he’s made it at last!” He pencils the lion’s share of the next thirty issues, and with Joltin’ Joe providing his usual sumptuous continuity, I can survive my disappointment over Big John’s departure. Wish I could say I was jazzed about Doom’s last-page (if perhaps not entirely unexpected) reveal, but the writing in the recent run of this book has been, in my opinion, mixed at best, leaving me with little confidence in Gerry’s ability to handle Doom, despite his Latverian flirtation in Astonishing Tales #7-8; the whole set-up with Ben and Alicia feels way too familiar.

Mark: Call me a sucker but "No Friend Beside Him" raises my hopes, yet again, that Gerry "Three Card Monte" Conway, post-Franklin brainbombing fiasco, will prove capable of writing a top-flight FF tale, start to finish. Call me a rube, but I reach for my wallet...

Chris: It's hard to imagine a smoother transition, as we welcome “Swash” Buckler on board; it doesn't hurt that “Joltin’” Joe is still in the fold. The dust-ups with Darkoth are bristling with energy, and plenty of Kirby-worthy debris – the apple cart was a nice touch, as well. We get some tantalizing glimpses of a shadowy Doom, without anything blatantly given away until the very last moment. This isn’t exactly Doom’s most spine-chilling plot on record so far (“Hah, yes! I will entrap that sentimental fool, Richards, with a class reunion!”), but we know Vic’s only getting warmed up (um – don’t tell him I called him “Vic,” okay -?). By the way, anytime Medusa offers to schedule dinner reservations, and then dresses up to go out (pg 7), the correct answer is "Yes, please."

Peter: The story's for the birds. Would Ben really burst into an operating room where his girl was having her eyeballs adjusted simply because he had an itchin' feelin'? I thought Grimm was over his "Alicia won't love me if she knows what I look like" self-pity years ago. The only right note struck this issue (aside from the gorgeous art) is Reed's doubt about what he had to do to his son. As I recall, that will escalate in the issues to come. But, again, how about that art? Professor Chris hits the nail on the head with his Kirby comparison. Maybe more than Kirby or Buscema, Little Dean loved Rich Buckler's FF and seeing it here for the first time in forty years brings back some fabulous comic book memories. It only seems natural that Rich Buckler would head from Darkoth, the Death-Demon to Deathlok the Demolisher in a matter of months.

Scott: Rich Buckler steps in for the art chores and his transition is seamless and wonderful. His work is full of life and energy. He partners beautifully with Joe Sinnott. This makes this iffy tale much more interesting, since the Alicia/Darkoth/Metro U plots don't do much for me. Reed's tantrum is a little over the top, but that's about par for him. I wasn't itching to see Coach Thorne again. I was hoping we were done with the Metro U plots so happily dropped by Stan in the 60's. The final scene is a corker, and must be some sort of inspiration for the Darth Vader dinner reveal in The Empire Strikes Back.

Jim: I enjoyed this issue more than most of my fellow professors, I think. Interesting that Rich Buckler’s art (which everyone agrees is spectacular) fits as well with Joe Sinnott’s inks as Buscema and Kirby before him, a credit to the latter. Ben’s self-pity is nothing original, but I wonder if we’ll see more individuality from the characters if the group’s breakup continues for a while. Having Reed and Medusa head out for some recreation is a nice touch. Darkoth looks menacing, if not original, and even the somewhat expected appearance of Dr. Doom is quite effective.

Mark: We get lots of Ben Grimm, Alicia in peril, and clobberin' time action. We get Johnny and Wyatt Wingfoot visiting Metro U, stoking memories of the Kirby/Lee glory days and Medusa smokin' hot in a micro-mini to remind us its the Swingin' Seventies. Rick Buckler arrives, his pencils looking almost exactly like Big John Buscema's (a good thing), thanks to Joltin' Joe's inks. "Swash" Buckler's art will come to look more like Klassic Kirby soon enough, which is even better.

No idea why our Latverian overlord (or Kid Conway) feels the need to deploy Darkoth, a faux "Death-Demon", nor do I care, 'cause right now Doc Doom has invited us to dinner to celebrate "the end of the world!" and I'm ready to dig in.

Even though I fully expect Ger to serve up rubber chicken and stick us with the check.

John Buscema
The Frankenstein Monster 8
"My Name is ... Dracula --"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by John Buscema and John Verpoorten

Having unwittingly unleashed Count Dracula on the world, The Frankenstein Monster wastes no time trying to get the genie back in the bottle. Unfortunately, the vampire's strength equals his own and the Count gets away, leaving The Monster and his friend, the young gypsy girl, Carmen to wander the forest. They head back to the gypsy camp, only to find it has been sacked and all its occupants murdered. In a rage, The Monster swears revenge and heads to the village. Carmen tries to dissuade him but to no avail. Once the Monster leaves, the girl is left unprotected and, soon, becomes Dracula's latest victim. In the village, the townspeople overpower The Monster and tie him to a stake. The crazed villagers light their bonfire and stand back in rapt amusement.

Peter: I'm warming up to the Buscema/Verpoorten team but, of course, I desperately miss Ploog and his drippy backgrounds. I can only imagine what his Dracula would look like! Actually, as luck would have it, I don't have to wait very long -- one month, to be exact -- until Drac pays a visit to his other Marvel Monster Cousin, Werewolf by Night. Can't wait. But I was supposed to be commenting on this issue, which I found very entertaining in a mindless Universal Monster Rally sort of way. Friedrich ticks all the boxes... gypsys, torch-bearing villagers, a riot-inciting burgomeister, scantily-clad babes,and some good old-fashioned fisticuffs between monster legends. Carmen's death is handled nearly off-screen, no fanfare, simply a vampire's victim, but I would imagine when The Monster gets wind, Drac will be the one feeling the heat.

Chris: The monster is possessed by fury from the issue’s opening to its finish, with Buscema’s pencils well-suited to a story that provides so much action. The death of helpless Carmen at the vampire’s hands is easily the most effective moment of the story, and hearkens back to the heartache-infused tenor of this title’s first six issues. Not sure whether we see any more of Dracula in #9 – he may already have served the dual purpose of advancing the story, and moving copies off the drugstore shelves (since Drac is prominently featured on the cover this time, after a teaser for #7). The decision to include another filler reprint is unfortunate – between last issue and this one, readers have been gypped (sorry, I couldn’t resist) out of eight pages of new story, which might’ve allowed the monster time to continue his tireless Search for the Last Frankenstein – which is supposed to be the driving theme for this title, right?

Scott: The art in this retro style monster mash is better than last issue, but not nearly as artsy as Ploog's pages. The lines are clearer and more solid, but it feels less appropriate for the title. It's really lost something here. The story is still fun, but nothing so crazy good that I have to rush to read the next issue.

Peter: Once again, a reprint impedes the progress of the storyline but at least we get a gem of a story. "The Man Who Can't Be Stopped" tells the story of Professor Thornton, a genius who has built a machine that enables his brain to read the thoughts of anyone. Thornton's gizmo works too well as it picks up the thoughts of the everyone on earth and transmits them to the professor's brain all at once. With art by the legendary Joe Orlando (an EC alumni who would go on to edit many of DC's mystery titles in the 1960s and 70s) "The Man" originally appeared in Mystical Tales #7 (June 1957), and was published in that pablum-producing time just after the initiation of the Comics Code. Despite its limitations, the story is better than it should be for a 4-page quickie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 128
"The Vulture Hangs High!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt

Falling from an incredible height with no buildings in sight to snag, Spider-Man manages to spin a net with the last of his web fluid and survives. He heads to the biology lab to try and figure out why the Vulture killed the student and comes across “nice” Dr. Shallot cleaning up. At the Registration Office, Peter realizes lab assistant Christine resembles the murdered girl—her roommate! After getting reamed out by JJJ for not getting Vulture pics, he enlists informer “Mouthpiece” Moylan for info on who’s been masquerading as the bird-brain. Acting on the tip, Peter heads to the waterfront to check out the West German ship “Dusseldorf”, and spots a sailor attacked by the Vulture, as well as broken glass holding chemicals, right before ol’ Vulchy attacks and tosses him in the ocean for snooping again! Heading back to Mary Jane’s apartment, a soggy Peter gets her in a cab towards the police—but the MJ-hunting Vulture strikes! After Spidey webs a protective webbing tent over MJ, an annoyed Vulture flies off, leading Spidey to head to the lab, confronting Christine and calling out Dr. Shallot, when suddenly an angry Vulture swoops in…and is changed back to Shallot when Spidey slips him an antidote to the bio-mutation experiments the diabolical doc had been doing that helped him resemble the Vulture, whose costume Christine had freed from the State Prison. Yep, due to a slip of Vulture recognizing him as civilian Peter Parker, Spidey cracked the case! --Joe Tura

Joe: We start with, in my opinion, one of the most iconic Amazing Spider-Man covers ever. A tingling, nervous, stupendously Romita-drawn Spidey looks over his shoulder as a greenish Vulture shadow is cast upon the wall our hero is sticking to. Then we get the words “The Shadow of the Vulture!” because we don’t know who that is flying towards Spidey, having been under a rock for the past 10 years, and maybe we’d think it’s the Falcon or Nighthawk. And why isn’t that the title of this tale anyway? That would have been more imposing than “The Vulture Hangs High!” So what, we’re led to think he can fly, and he’s just hanging out on a rooftop? The better idea is thinking his shadow casts an evilness upon the city from which it may not recover! Swing and a miss by Gerry.

Our wrap-up to the two-issue mystery is not bad, but not all that good either. A decent little Holmesian twist, or maybe keeping with 1974, it’s more Columbo as the bad guy slips up stupidly, leading to his downfall. The women in this story are a bit too dumb also, even MJ, except for maybe the sassy girl at the Registration Office who only gets a couple of panels to not care what Peter is doing. Dr. Shallot is about as one-note-villain as it gets, and isn’t much more attractive in his normal state than when he’s “mutated” into the Vulture. And his only motivation is he went slightly mad? I guess that’s believable, especially for a pre-teen. Next month, we’re promised a much creepier villain, one of the slimiest of all Spidey’s Rogues Gallery—The Jackal. Booooo! Hisss! Booo!

Marvel Age Drunken Humor

Scott: Maybe it's today's security centric society, but the fact that Peter can just flirt with a comely secretary to get full, unsupervised access to registration's files is ridiculous. Between the crummy art and the poor writing, I'm starting to wonder why so many of my fellow faculty consider this period to be particularly classic.

"... oh, just one more thing..."

Joe: Favorite sound effect has to be the Captain Marvel shout-out on page 22, as Vulchy swoops down on the cab making the alien noise “KREE KREE KREE KREE”, then the cab smashes into a stoop, having been conquered with a loud “KRANGG!” (See what I did there?)

Scott: Spider-Man's fall from the sky is completely lacking in suspense and danger since we've seen him get out of these jams dozens of times before. What's the sweat about? Just make a web parachute as you have so many times before, Spidey. Then, after he lands, he's so aware of his own feelings, he has to tell us "now it hits me…THE REACTION!" Who the hell really does this? He is given a few seconds of delayed panic and it's all a bunch of BS, thank you very much.
Matthew: Man, they sure love these multiple-Vulture stories. Back in #48-49, we had the original, Adrian Toomes, vying with Blackie Drago for the dubious honor of that i.d., and here, with ol’ Adrian still in the hoosegow—not, as the cover so ludicrously asserts, “only a few minutes ago” but by my calculations since #64 (September 1968)—comes another pretender in the form of Doctor Shallot, who shouldn’t be confused with the dastardly Professor Onion. In my book, less is more when it comes to the Vulture, despite the effort to mix things up with the whodunit, and the fun of hearing Spidey channel Einstein (“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”) at the fade-out.

Mark: In honor of Mother's Day, I invoke this piece of maternal advice: if you can't say something nice about somebody, say nothing at all.

So, in re: Gerry Conway's addlepated, bird-brained wrap-up to the faux Vulture fiasco...


  1. Congrats on 200 "issues", guys. Have been enjoying your reviews.

    Regarding Buckler on FF, wonder if you guys are aware of the degree to which he was encouraged by Marvel to swipe from Kirby? Shar at Panelocity has a lot of comparisons.

  2. Wasn't A Contract With God the first graphic novel? Love the cover credits! Interesting to see who Marvel thought could sell magazines.