Wednesday, May 21, 2014

January 1974 Part Two: Marvel Two-On-One?

The Incredible Hulk 171
Story by Steve Englehart and Gerry Conway
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel
Cover by Herb Trimpe

Betty Ross is reunited with her father as she gets dropped back off at the military base where General Ross has been waiting. Their happy reunion is short lived as the Rhino and the Abomination take over the base in a vengeful effort against the Hulk. When Jade Jaws makes his appearance the three duke it out for a short time before the Hulk retreats. The villains plan on detonating a nuclear bomb, set to a timer, once the Hulk returns to rescue Betty. Luckily, Jim Wilson shows up with his girlfriend and is able to deactivate the bomb. The Hulk is able to defeat his two foes simply by moving away when they charge at him and accidentally collide into each other. Colonel Armbruster uses a machine to capture the Hulk while he is distracted by reporters.-Tom McMillion

Matthew Bradley: Stainless spins quite a story, which is scripted in this case by Gerry and combines the back-to-back villains of #158-59, but is let down somewhat by the rest of the team. Abel again makes us long for Trapani as an inker for Herb (the birth of whose son by the former Linda Fite, Alexander Spurlock Trimpe, is announced on the Bullpen Page), especially with that unbelievably goofy shot of the Rhino in page 22, panel 5, and a big emerald demerit to colorist George Roussos for making the Abomination match his temporary ally, the Rhino, rather than sporting his usual gamma green. I have to imagine Jim’s race against time with the self-destruct device is at least partly an homage to one of my favorite SF films, The Andromeda Strain (1971).

Peter Enfantino: I feel a bit greedy in that Rhino and Abomination are two of my favorite villains and half a story is just not enough room to contain them. Besides, if Steve and Gerry had added another chapter to this saga, maybe they would explain which of the super-villains is made of TNT. How else to explain the explosion and hole in the ground after the two butt heads in our pulse-pounding climax (I was almost expecting to see an ACME detonator sitting off to the side of the crater!)? Loads of fun this one but, seriously, when do we get to the issue where Jim Wilson has his 13th birthday?

Scott McIntyre: Another Marvel Comic which was adapted into a Power Records story, this one was also edited from its original form to take out mentions of Talbot's death and the friction between Betty and her father. Quite an eye opener to this kid raised on the tie-ins more than the actual comics. It's a fun story, finally teaming up the Abomination and the Rhino to great effect. Even so, there are a number of head-scratchers in the mix, such as the Hulk beating a hasty retreat when faced with a laser weapon ("scrunch?!") and Jim Wilson stating that he and General Ross go back “more years than I…” Also, when did Ross regain his command? The last we saw, he was on an enforced leave. Did it simply end? The Power Records version reprints the final page of the previous issue, which created another "Betty Ross Talbot Wardrobe Mystery" in how she went from wearing her mysterious sack last time to scoring a full outfit on the chopper. If she was wearing baggy fatigues, it would make sense, but she now sports a mini skirt and fashionable shoes. The actual issue starts with her on a plane rather than the helicopter she was picked up by, so apparently she made a switch at some point. Not as important as I’m making it sound, just kind of jumped at me.

We learn that the Hulkbuster Base has a self destruct mechanism. Okay, great, but a Gamma Bomb? Isn't that just a tad extreme? Wouldn't some well placed C-4 charges do the job just as well without irradiating the area and potentially creating more green mutants? Obviously nobody gets cancer from it, but how many Hulks, Leaders and Abominations do they really want? To make it more implausible, Jim Wilson manages to get all the way down to the bomb from his position and shut it down within the "less than 3 minutes" time frame. The idea that the Hulk loses interest in the fight, leaving the two baddies to collide is great fun…but what happens to them? Did they vaporize? Since we'll see them again at some point, obviously not, however just leaving a crater is a little vague. Of course, we can't have Ross and the Hulk shaking hands without some jackass ruining it. In this case, Col. Armbruster, who is remarkably dense in this issue. Granted, he was never painted as the sharpest tack on the board, but thinking everything is under control when all personnel are missing and the radio equipment is smashed is borderline retarded.

The Trimple/Abel art is smashing (pun definitely intended) and this is a nice change of pace. Ross seems to be softening toward the Hulk, which is never consistent or lasting, but it’s still better than the obsessive, blustering jerk we got in the 60’s. He’s a pretty decent man, a full formed character, depending on who is doing the writing. We’ll see how long it lasts. 


Jungle Action 8
The Black Panther in
"Malice by Crimson Moonlight"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson
Cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia

T’Challa is alone, as opponents reach for him from the surrounding jungle. A woman with a staff observes the conflict from a distance, then moves purposefully on. She subdues Zatama, states that her name is Malice, and declares that she has been sent by Killmonger to remove Venomm from captivity. Venomm discusses with Taku how he first met Killmonger, and his promise to Venomm of future glory. Monica sees T’Challa held in restraints, and in her concern for his welfare, manages to interrupt the sacred Panther ritual, which leaves T’Challa’s powers short of their full restoration. Malice attacks, and gashes T’Challa’s shoulder with her trident-spear. She pursues her advantage, until Monica distracts her from delivering a coup de grace. T’Challa prevents Malice’s escape as he (with only a portion of his full strength) drives her staff through a wall, and catches her in a shower of stone shrapnel. -Chris Blake

Chris Blake: An unusual approach to this story, as it takes place almost entirely in real time. Don and Rich achieve this effect in the first few pages, as both the Panther and Malice stories run simultaneously, first on two wordless pages, then as if on a split screen. Killmonger’s presence is felt at a distance: T’Challa channels his rage into his training exercise, as he recalls the slaughtered villagers from JA #6; Malice presents as someone trained by T’Challa’s opponent to be both powerful and single-minded (“her eyes never betray her thoughts”); T’Challa recognizes that he lacks knowledge of his adversary’s capabilities. I found myself re-reading some of McGregor's passages: “the crimson moonlight seems to hold on to the smothering heat of the day;” T’Challa’s reflection on his father death turns to “death rushes in upon him, a wraith-like reality he cannot conquer;” Monica’s homesickness leads to her relating an overheard chant to “some out-of-sight calliope playing a forlorn refrain.”

The map of Wakanda from JA #6 is reprinted here. Roy acknowledges that he'd rather repeat the map than run another Lorna story - amen to that. There's also a two-page spread of past artistic depictions of the Panther, which is fairly useless, especially when you consider that about one-third of the artwork is a Buckler/Jansen piece that we had seen in the previous issue – filler filler filler. On the letters page, Roy states that there has not yet been a decision about expanding the Panther story to fill an entire issue. He also tries unsuccessfully to dodge the question about how the Panther could have stated in Avengers #112 that he had no plans to return to Wakanda – when, clearly, he is here.

Another masterful use of a two-page spread by Rich & Klaus, as we observe Malice’s infiltration of the palace. Glynis Wein applies McGregor’s crimson motif to great effect on these pages. Lastly, the Panther always should be depicted as he appears on the bottom of page 16 –forceful and determined (and as black over dark blue, rather than blue with black shadings).

Matthew: I gather this strip is experiencing some growing pains: the “all-new, all-great origin” promised on the cover does not appear herein, the next issue is a long time coming, and the page count still isn’t up to a regulation 19, although at least Panther-related material replaces the reprints. But none of this is reflective of its quality, with McGregor’s oft-discussed prolixity bothering me not a whit, while Buckler—who sometimes seems to emulate predecessors Kirby and/or Buscema in the FF stint he begins this month—blazes his own trail here, with Janson’s shadowy inks giving his work a suitably different flavor than Sinnott’s. It’s interesting to note the resemblance betwixt Venomm and Deathlok, whom Rich will introduce seven months hence.

Ka-Zar 1
"Return to the Savage Land!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Paul Reinman and Mike Royer
Cover by John Buscema

Ka-Zar and Zabu parachute into the Savage Land, ecstatic to be home, yet K-Z misses Bobbi Morse. As the jungle lord dives into a cooling lake, he’s attacked by a “long-tail”, then a shark, both of which he kills! All the while, he’s watched by Malgato, the Red Wizard, who tells the tale of the Savage Land to brutish Maa-Gor. Turns out there was a “cataclysm” which shook Atlantis into the sea and created the hidden jungle. Then we get an un-requested recap of Astonishing Tales #3-9, before Malgato sends a pair of pterodactyls after K-Z! The “thunder-wings” carry Ka-Zar and Zabu back to the wizard. He gets them in a net and orders Maa-Gor to beat them with a club, but Ka-Zar’s rage wins out, he rips open the net and escapes to the jungle. A newly strengthened Maa-Gor follows and after a short battle, knocks our hero out, bringing him back to the castle to be sacrificed to Garrokk, The Sun-God—alongside Shanna, the She-Devil! —Joe Tura 

Joe Tura: Ka-Zar gets his own mag! Hooray! Um, well…maybe….We’re promised a “Fabulous First Issue!” on the cover. And what’s inside is far from fabulous. We get bland art from Reinman and Royer, who sound like a pair of injury attorneys. We get a script from Friedrich that tries too hard to cram too much into a small comic book and falls flat. We get a name-drop of Kull to appease the savage Prof. Flynn. We get a couple of decent battles, and some wacky wizardry from a bearded weirdo. We get a Letters Page for a book that hasn’t even existed before this month—was Ka-Zar that popular that we needed to have some Astonishing Tales letters printed here? And finally, it’s Shanna! Appearing next to a caught-in-a-wind-machine Ka-Zar and looking simultaneously busty and wooden at the same time. Gee, can’t wait until next issue! As long as there are new artists, that is. I’ll even take Don Heck! (Oh wait, I looked ahead….)

P.S. Colors are by Stan Goldberg, the legendary Archie artist who my daughter, wife and mother-in-law recently met at Grasshoppers Comics in Willeston Park, NY on Free Comic Book Day. He drew a nice Betty for Cassie, but I’m told he seemed a bit like an old curmudgeon.

Man-Thing 1
"Battle for the Palace of the Gods!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Val Mayerik and Sal Trapani
Cover by Frank Brunner

The demons of the Overmaster (who plans to rule the universe) have invaded the swamp, which is the nexus point of multiple realities. The Man-Thing, Korrek the warrior prince, and the duck named Howard stand against them. Dakimh the Enchanter appears; he sweeps the demons away in a vortex to nothingness. He then brings his three companions to join the battle elsewhere…Speaking of, at the Congress of Realities, where beings from all planes gather to achieve “godhood” (domination over other existences), Jennifer Kale is to be killed. As Dakimh’s apprentice she is seen as an obstacle to their goal. Her teacher saves her with a spell that temporarily turns her into water—long enough to escape through a crack in the floor. Dakimh’s team now complete, they journey through a series of unrealities to find the Cosmic Axis. They do, but then the Congress of Realities pass through this dimension en route to Therea, the home of the Gods. Our team follows, taking up the fight against the Overmaster and his minions. Ultimately the ultra-pure Therean water proves the Overmaster’s undoing. Dakimh reveals a humble cottage as the home of the real Gods, who are dogs in this case. They are all returned to their respective realities. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: The comedic flair of this issue is darn near as good as its dramatic potential; demons running a construction camp--being shot at by a clothed duck-- is a great start! The pass-through not only of Daredevil and Natasha but the Congress of Realities is rather like the train going through your living room and leaving it unscathed. We get the Dr. Seuss-like walkway through Oblivion that leads to poor Howard’s rather casual death, and the Therean world, to my limited knowledge of literature, brings to mind a Clifford Simak novel, complete with dogs that are gods! What else but a literal giant arrow could the Cosmic Axis be? A great start for Man-Thing’s own magazine.

Mark Barsotti: "Now in his own...fear-fraught" mag and sporting a gorgeous, quaggy Frank Brunner cover, Manny and his metaphysical allies "Battle for the Palace of the Gods!"

Well, all except Howard. The waddling wisequacker sticks around long enough to wield a revolver while talking like Edward G. Robinson, see, before falling into oblivion, apparently on orders of editor Roy Thomas, whose hit-making radar was way off on this one. The survivors press on against the suit-wearing Overmaster and the Congress of Realities, a collection of greedy, grasping adventurers from across time, all in quest of "Godhood: defined as domination over all the planes of reality..."

Scott: A solid, spooky first issue to the Man-Thing's own title. Mike Ploog is back and is the best artist for this title. Steve Gerber, who normally runs hot and cold with me, does well here. Man-Thing is teased with a possible return to humanity, as many other monstrous heroes of Marvel have been, but this is still a very effective and exciting issue. Really, a great start. At least we’re done with Schist. Surely his name is a bilingual pun, no? Scheisskopf!

Matthew: Picking up where Fear #19 left off (and ceding that title to Morbius next month), this marks an outstanding debut for Manny’s own mag, with a sensational Frank Brunner cover and a name for our cigar-chomping, pistol-packing waterfowl, who obviously survives his “fatal” plunge. I’ll second the letter from Professor Gilbert’s and my future fellow barbecue attendee, David McDonnell: “Gerber/Mayerik/Trapani make a great team, though I’m not so thrilled with Sal’s departure from Hulk.” The biggest WTF moment is the two-panel cameo by DD and the Widow; Gerber is currently writing their book as well, although I can’t remember offhand if this incident, about which they “will wonder…until the end of their days,” is ever mentioned therein.

Mark: This was a great month for ontological exploration in the Marvel U. Steve Englehart has Doc Strange chasing Sise-Neg back to the Dawn of Time in Marvel Premiere, here we get Steve's Gerber's more comic cosmology. Led by absent-minded Dakimh the Enchanter, Manny, Korrek the Barbarian, and scantily-clad Jennifer Kale (saved from a firing squad by a random two panel DD & Black Window swing through an open dimensional door) defend "the verdant paradise called Therea" from the limo-riding Overmaster and his time-tripping mercenaries. This being Manny's book ("the Man-Object," as Dakimh calls him), he takes center stage against the Overmaster after the latter peels off his businessman's mask, Mission Impossible-style, revealing himself as "The Nether Spawn," or as the Church Lady knows him, Sat-an!

Manny baptizes OM/NS in the pure waters outside the titular Palace of the Gods, melting him down like the Wicked Witch of the West. And if the final reveal is a bit of a shaggy God story, it doesn't mean Gerber's barking up the wrong tree.

Rather, there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...and Manny forgot the rest.

Marvel Premiere 13
Dr. Strange in
"Time Doom"
Story by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
Art by Frank Brunner and "Crusty Bunkers"
Cover by Frank Brunner

Dr. Strange follows the trail of his archenemy Mordo. He travels a void of non-reality, where the runes in the Book of Cagliostro have led him. He finds Mordo, who has learned from the book how to travel back in time to alter the future without endangering himself, thus making himself supreme. Both men find their powers to be slightly weakened in this existence, but before their battle reaches a conclusion, Mordo flees to carry out the remainder of his plan. Stephen follows through a dimensional void, losing Mordo’s trail, finding himself in 18th century Paris. He witnesses a worship procession for Cagliostro (the reason for Mordo’s travel here) and follows him to his home. Strange tries to warn him about Mordo, but the magician is uninterested and departs for his own reasons. Stephen disguises himself as Cagliostro and awaits Mordo’s arrival. Initially fooled, Mordo realizes the disguise. In the battle that follows, the Eye of Agamotto is about to force Mordo to reveal some answers when he disappears. Then Dr. Strange finds himself reliving the past moment when he met Cagliostro. What is causing these bizarre alterations he doesn’t know. Soon Cagliostro reappears, and then Mordo, and the two of them overpower Dr. Strange. The former then strikes down Mordo, not allying himself with anyone. He then reveals his story… He is really named Sise-Neg (Cagliostro being elsewhere at the time), and he is from the 31st century. He confirms that the mystical power of the universe is finite, and in his time its use was practiced my many; the result being no one could wield much more power than another. Sise-Neg found a way to travel through time, and in the past, the less people using the powers of magic, the more powerful he became (his presence accounting for the others loss of power in this shared time). Paris is just a pit stop en route to his ultimate destination: the Dawn of Time, where he will be able to control all the mystical power that exists. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: There hasn’t been a bad issue yet, and this one is no exception. Cagliostro/Sise-Neg is a compelling villain; I hope we get to see his future world at some point. Interesting theory about the finite-ness of the universe’s mystical power, when the theory is often that its dimensions are unending. The art is dense and beautiful, and the story complex enough to keep one guessing. If time travel is possible, how many others might have found it before Sise-Neg, considering many Marvel tales use it as a point of departure. A cool touch when Stephen sends Clea a message through time via the Book of Cagliostro.

Chris: You gotta love a nifty time paradox. I wasn’t sure where this issue was headed – it seemed like Steve & Frank might’ve been satisfied with a reliable old Mordo-grapple (although Steven’s conjuring of a demon-form to combat Mordo was a peculiar deviation from the playbook). But then – Dr Strange, disguised as Cagliostro, invites himself into Cagliostro’s abode, and repeats the same scene as earlier – which, for a moment, begs the question: who is Cagliostro? Could Steven, in the Cagliostro persona, have gone into the past on some other occasion and written the tome that sets off this whole sequence of events? But no, Steve & Frank have an even wilder idea, as Gen-esis, sorry I mean Sise-neg, sparks a race to the very beginnings of time itself! What’s next?! (Also – nice touch with Steven’s note to Clea, as it appears to her in the book two hundred years later – we’ll see if this moment proves to be a vital plot point, or if Steve was simply sharing a romantic moment.)

Mark: By the nattering nabobs of negativism, time is a loop, ye seekers of mystic insight, an ever-morphing Möbius strip, a snake devouring its tail, munching thru tomorrow to yesterday, so when the good Doctor follows Baron Mordo to eighteenth century Paris, he arrives at the home of "infamous philosopher and sorcerer" Cagliostro before the Baron, even though he left after him. When the sorcerer ignores the Doc's warnings about BM and vanishes, Strange impersonates Cag to fool Mordo, who, even defeated by the Eye of Agamotto, also vanishes, prompting Strange to again don Cagliostro drag in time to greet Doctor Strange, come to warn Cagliostro...

If that makes your heads wanna pop like a zit, class, just do another bong* and read on, read on.

Matthew: Englehart told Alter Ego, “Unfortunately, Frank was painstaking with his art [even coloring this issue and #12], and…just couldn’t stay with it” when the strip’s popularity later made it go monthly, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the Crusty Bunkers once again inked a presumably deadline-pressed Brunner. As the lettercol reveals, “the main three are Neal Adams, Ralph Reese, and Far-out Frank himself. They do the bulk of the inking, and get random assists from such folks as Al Milgrom, Al Weiss, Dan Green, Jim Starlin, and any other comic pro who wanders by.” Despite the differences between them, Doc and Captain Marvel simultaneously achieved their respective forms of cosmic enlightenment, while Sise-Neg is like a mystical Kang.

Mark: And enjoy the pretty pictures. Frank Brunner's lush art (inked & abetted by the Crusty Bunkers) conjures up Neil Adams with a touch of Ditko (e.g. Mordo, p. 16, panel 4), presented in vertiginous slice and dice panels of varying shape and size, invoking the sense of time-tripping dislocation, of the Doc being one step behind Cagliostro.

Who reveals himself as 31st century sorcerer Sise-Neg, traveling back in time to glom ever-increasing amounts of finite mystic energy. Absorbing ever more power, SN is Big Bang bound, with him ready to star in the Let There Be(spot)Light!

*CO & WA students only – Dean Peter

Marvel Spotlight 13
The Son of Satan in
"When Satan Walked the Earth"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Art by Herb Trimpe and Frank Chiaramonte
Cover by John Romita

Daimon escapes from Satan, as his chariot sprints back to Fire Lake. He finds that demons have broken thru the sealed portal to hell (hidden under his house) and dispatches them. Daimon consults the diary of his mother (now deceased) in the hope that he might find a clue to Satan’s eventual defeat. As he reads, Daimon is heartbroken by his mother’s account of Satan’s seduction, and of her eventual breakdown once Satan announced his true nature to her. He recalls (in a flashback) how Satan’s beckoning voice led to his first descent to the pit of the netherworld itself. Satan declared his expectation that Daimon would rule hell by his side, as his son, and then flashed him back to the surface world. Daimon realized he would face certain destruction if he defied Satan, but returned via the portal, finally deciding he would incite the damned to revolt against their tormentor. Satan brings the fight to his son, and Daimon discovers he can channel the same power commanded by his father. Daimon distracts Satan, and flees hell with two trophies: his father’s chariot, and most importantly, the netheranium trident. -Chris Blake

Chris: First, I have a few questions: 1) Friedrich tells us that, once at home, the chariot steeds are kept somewhere under Fire Lake, and that Daimon unbridles and feeds them. Uh, Mike, you just told us that these horses can travel at close to the speed of light – what could you possibly feed an animal that can move at warp factor 9, and where can I get some? 2) Daimon fights off one of the gate-crashing demons with a torch – these are demons that are routinely exposed to the fires of hell, are they not? Is a household torch (well, you know, a house with a hell-portal doesn’t typically have track lighting) really going to faze this demon? 3) Daimon’s sister (unnamed in this issue, soon to appear as Satana) was willing to sacrifice the house cat – why wasn’t Daimon recruited to Satan’s bidding, while he too had been an impressionable youth? 4) Satan has an unspecified weakness to netheranium – what possibly could be Satan’s reason for mining it, so that there’d be more of it around? What could he possibly do with it? Was the exclusive export deal with Kim Il-sung simply too good to pass up?
Steve Gerber starts a 10-issue run with SoS, beginning next issue, and puts the character thru more changes. To this point, all we know about Daimon’s power is that 1) he started using it one day while battling his father in hell, and 2) he has indicated that his powers expire during daylight hours. In time, some of the more way-out matters, such as the in-home hell-portal and hellsteed chariot, are toned down, while the role of the trident is further clarified. Steve also will devote considerable attention to the nature of Daimon’s transformation itself, as Daimon will be able to control when he can use Satan’s power, but his capacity to control himself while he channels these forces (beware the dark side) always will be tenuous. More to come.

Trimpe’s art continues to be off the charts, from the gruesome demons to the intense close-ups (I’m wondering whether Herb had a glam-era David Bowie in mind as he was sketching Daimon’s features –see 1st panel on pg 6). A range of notable moments, all on pg 15: Victoria’s trepidation, in the face of new-found horror in her home; Satan’s grey-faced glee prior to his brain-roasting reveal to his wife; Victoria’s shattered, locked-up solitude; Daimon’s quietly tearful separation from his sister. And don’t let me forget Romita’s boffo cover – buy this comic!

Matthew: Friedrich bids an almost immediate adieu to his creation, so it’s probably a blessing—as it were—that the increasingly ubiquitous Steve Gerber heads up an entirely new creative team next time, and will write all but the last issue of his Spotlight run. It’s difficult to divine (sorry!) Satan’s master plan from Gary’s barely coherent script: does he have an office job in his guise as “the most handsome man any earthly woman had ever seen”? Was Daimon’s sister christened “Satana,” and if so, wasn’t that a bit of a giveaway? Artwise, the Romita cover hints at the possibilities, but Trimpe and Chiaramonte aren’t up to the task when even the humans appear abnormal, e.g., the teens on page 3, and especially the freakish Mama Hellstrom.

Joe: If I didn't know better, I would have thought this was a Steve Gerber tale. It's weird and detailed and even shows some of the tortured in Hell--except for my favorite, Sisyphus! But why does Trimpe draw Satan like he's the Human Torch's dad? I did like Hellstrom's origin, and his bravado in attacking his father. And of course, the fantastic cover by Jazzy John!

Marvel Team-Up 17
The Amazing Spider-Man and Mister Fantastic in
"Chaos at the Earth's Core!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Gil Kane, Sal Trapani, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Esposito
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Spidey enlists a despondent Reed Richards, who uses a device he’d built after encountering the Sentries to trace the gem’s Kree energies to the center of the Earth, which the Fantasti-Car reaches via the tunnel last used in FF #128. The Mole Man’s minions detected the gem on the surface, and once they have gassed and paralyzed the pair, he plans to focus the energies of his giant magma-powered laser cannon through it, disintegrating Mar-Vell. But our heroes were playing possum, and escape death in the magma pits just before the Basilisk arrives to battle the Mole Man for the gem; their efforts to free Mar-Vell fail, yet he changes into Rick, making the gem contract, and Reed’s tinkering with the cannon triggers an eruption as they flee. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Even though Len drags in another of my favorites, whose out-of-character behavior is justified by the break-up of the FF, the conclusion of this two-parter must be considered a letdown. It seems meaningless to critique the art, with the inking of Gil’s pencils credited to “Everybody!,” indicating a last-minute Crusty Bunkers-type frenzy in which random passers-by were dragooned into service; the results get the job done, more or less, but look even less distinctively Kane-like than last issue. Despite—or perhaps because of—becoming the object of the exercise, Captain Marvel is relegated to a sub-damsel-in-distress role, with a couple of token lines in the murky denouement (was his oh-so-conveniently delayed transformation a part of Reed’s “risky” idea?).

Chris: I like the way this issue ties into present FF continuity; still, it’s kinda sad that Spidey has to shame Reed into helping him – not the can-do Dr Richards I know. Strange moment as Medusa is left behind so she can catch up with her rest. It’s handy that the tunnel to the center of the earth is sitting there, unattended, without even a manhole cover, or something. Nice touch to have the Basilisk appear and undo Mole Man’s plans – it’s reasonable to expect that Basi wouldn’t have given up on his “precious” gem that easily. Plus, it’s always fun when the baddies turn on each other. Marv somehow busts out of the gem – I was reaching for my No-Prize application, until Rick explained that there was room to move within the expanded gem. Marv was simply waiting for the precise moment to enact the transformation! Smart cookie, that Kreeman.

The art holds up well enough, with a few weak moments, despite the three-headed inker (Trapani, Giacoia, and Esposito, according to GCD). And howzabout that Kane/Giacoia cover! Nice bonus – no word balloons (“Attack, my minions! Destroy them!”).

Scott: The most interesting part of this issue is watching Spidey talk Reed Richards out of his selfish funk by guilting him into helping. Both men are fairly obnoxious when they have something on their minds and it's an interesting dynamic. Once we're past that, the story settles into the same old thing. At least the title has some kind of serialization, but the villains are barely interesting. The Mole Man, however, is in top form and Gil Kane does right by him. I can't say the same for Rick Jones, who is unrecognizable.

Joe: Another well-remembered MTU, from the stylized layouts and closeups by Kane to the strange teaming of Spidey and Stretcho that makes perfect sense if not exactly what people were clamoring for. And the wrap-up happens a bit too fast, almost like a WWBN issue except you know the villains will be back. My favorite moment is Mole Man not knowing who Spider-Man was. Don't they get newspapers or TV down there? And if it's really his "greatest accomplishment", can't Moley come up with a better moniker than "Laser Cannon". Paging Dr. Evil!

Marvel Two-In-One 1
The Thing and Man-Thing in
"Vengeance of the Molecule Man!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

In Devil’s Tongue, New Mexico, Ben plans to take a bus back to New York when he is angered by a magazine story on Man-Thing, and detours to Florida to defend his “title.” In a space-time continuum where time moves faster, the Molecule Man—banished by the Watcher—dies of old age; his son uses ion bombardment to duplicate his powers and seeks revenge, having altered his molecules to draw him to Ben. Discovering that only his wand keeps him from aging to death on Earth, he returns both Thing and Man-Thing to their human forms, but after they all reconverge in Citrusville and he turns them back, attempting to pit them against each other, a handful of ooze thrown by Ben knocks the wand out of his hand…with fatal results. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: The hopes of hormonal fanboys everywhere were dashed when it became clear that the “Marvel Two-on-One” in the corner of the cover was just a typo, but it’s a big month for Man-Thing as he not only bows with his own book but also dips his, uhm, slime into the super-hero waters of the mainstream Marvel Universe in Ben’s formal debut. No coincidence that swamp-scribe Gerber takes over for a fondly remembered nine-issue run; he would later use it to create some notable crossovers with his other mags, yet here he follows in Wein’s footsteps by digging up another obscure FF villain, in this case from #20 (November 1963). The only holdover from the strip’s Marvel Feature prototype, Sinnott keeps Kane’s Thing on track after the train-wreck of MTU #6.

Scott: Not the most auspicious start to this long-running team-up title. I'll give Kane credit for doing a great job on the Thing, though. He's not a character every artist can get right. Man-Thing's not so bad either, but the new Molecule Man is ridiculous. Granted, he always was, but this is no improvement. It's interesting to see how Ted Sallis regains his swamp fatigues when he is "cured," which then vanish once he returns to his monstrous form. Ben Grimm, meanwhile, still romps around in his blue diaper. The whole set up of this story leaves a lot to be desired. Would The Thing really care that someone also had "thing" in his name? To the point he has to grab a bus to Florida? A bus? From Arizona? That's got to be a week-long trip at best. Oy. Does this issue have the first use of the word "porno" in a super hero book? At least for Marvel? I wonder what sort of porn stash Ben Grimm has?

Chris: A significant development in the career of Steve G, as he's given the task of launching the Thing’s own mag. Gutsy to propose Man-Thing for the premiere issue – that must have made for a terribly interesting editorial meeting with Roy. If they had it all to do over, you'd have to wonder whether Roy might not’ve preferred to run Starlin’s Marvel Feature Hulk and Iron Man issues as #1 and #2 of MTIO – imagine the sales that might’ve been for Thing vs Hulk, if it were packaged as a #1 of a new series, instead of #11 of an undistinguished bi-monthly. 

I'm fairly certain that this is the only issue that features the words “Marvel-Two-ON-One” in the upper left corner of the cover. That must have made for some red faces in the office once they realized that mistake had gotten past them – “uh, wait, we’re into wholesome family entertainment here, I swear -! Verpoorten! Where the hell is he . . .?!”

The Savage Sub-Mariner 68
"On the Brink of Madness!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Don Heck and Jim Mooney
Cover by John Romita

Namor goes ballistic when he returns to Atlantis and thinks that all of his people are dead, victims of a poisonous gas leak. The Amphibians let him know that the Atlanteans are only in a state of suspended animation for the time being. In order for the Amphibean scientists to help them recover they need to use a lab on the surface world. Dr. Hydro's island is chosen for the location since it is abandoned and already has labs. In order for the Amphibians to get the job done they need a force field to keep other chemical elements from lousing up their project, so Namor heads to New York to recruit a specialist in force fields. During this time, the Zephyrland rebels use magic to contact Dr. Strange. Once on campus, Subby is attacked by a new villain calling himself 'Force,' a former assistant of the professor. Stealing the professor's inventions, Force is out to make a name for himself and goes after Namor. The two briefly fight until Subby gets the upper hand and Force runs off. Namor heads off to locate the professor at his campus while Peter Parker, Spider-Man, plans to investigate after witnessing the battle on campus. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: If ever a series needed to stick to more self-contained, single issue story lines it is this one. It's like the creators combined the worst episodes of The Outer Limits, Star Trek, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea to produce this mess of a story. They should make prisoners read these stories and write summaries for them because after going through that form of punishment, the rehabilitation rate would skyrocket.

Matthew: Not many arguments to be made on the basis of this issue in favor of keeping Namor’s ailing mag afloat, if you’ll pardon the pun, except perhaps for nostalgia, loyalty and/or eternal optimism. The consensus seems to be that by the time the Bronze Age was in full swing, as it is now, Heck was past whatever prime he arguably had, and although the Madman does a creditable job inking him, Don doesn’t give Jim a lot to work with. Ditto Gerber’s script, which expends so much time on breast-beating, recapping, and dithering (not to mention prolonging the agony of that interminable Zephyrland plotline) as to leave almost no room for the villain; that’s just as well because the only real takeaways are the Atlanteans’ status and the shift to Hydrobase.

Amen to that!

The Mighty Thor 219
"A Galaxy Consumed!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Mike Esposito
Cover by John Buscema

Thor and his companions gaze at the approach of the Black Stars, stunned by their immensity. While the Rigelian Colonizers depart, Thor, Balder, Sif, Silas Grant, Tana Nile and the mutant race of her people fly in the Starjammer to it. Approaching the giant scoop of one of the planetary vacuums, a giant humanoid robot appears on its surface, and grabs their ship. After a rough introduction, they realize this robot, Avalon, and his people, are just slaves to the Black Stars, caretakers for the giant scoops. As Thor and Avalon go to the scoops surface they are attacked by a flying approaching robot that calls itself the Protector—designed to deal with the expected revolt of Avalon’s race. It is powerful, but Thor overcomes it. As the tendril of the giant space scoop is retracted back into the planet’s atmosphere, Thor and Avalon witness the real masters of the Black Stars—regal giants on a scale they have never imagined before. -Jim Barwise

Jim: The Black Star saga is proving to be better than some of the recent Thor adventures. The scope reminds me of the Rigelian/Ego epic of Thor #’s 131-133, albeit of a lesser stature. The Protector, who perhaps didn’t live up to his cover promise, is reminiscent of the Indestructible sent to attack Thor, while Avalon resembles a giant Robot Recorder (who, by the way, is where?). John Buscema’s art is stunning, and gives us the grandiose look necessary to carry off a tale like this. And just in case the story doesn’t live up to expectations, we get another teaser to the mystery of Hildegarde’s sister Krista and her magic stone.

Matthew: It’s probably the only thing this has in common with the current Sub-Mariner, but in each case, the villain so prominently featured on the cover isn’t actually seen until page 26, and probably doesn’t merit more space anyway. Which is not to say that he or anyone else isn’t eminently worth looking at, because with Esposito wielding the bush, the Buscema art looks unequivocally like Buscema art. So I’m more willing than usual to let the pretty pictures see me through “an example of escalating threat syndrome where we meet Meanie A, find out that he’s nothing compared to Meanie B, and finally we’re introduced to Meanie C who is just so ultimately powerful that we can’t possibly hope to defeat it,” as SuperMegaMonkey rightly says.

The Tomb of Dracula 16
"Return from the Grave"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

A mysterious walking skeleton breaks into a mansion owned by a wealthy gentleman. A secretary accidentally stumbles upon the menace and it kills her by snapping her neck. The skeletal menace uses its powerful strength to rip open a safe and take some papers just as the mansion owner finds him. The skeleton beats the man unconscious before vanishing into the night. Meanwhile, Dracula has made a cemetery his new home. Two grave robbers are about to become his next meal when the coffin they dig up happens to contain the same skeleton monster. It kills both the degenerates in a quick flash. Dracula, angry that his meals were taken away, tries to punish the skeleton but it crumbles to ashes. The Count ends up crossing paths with his new enemy once again as the immortal skeleton rips a stone necklace off a female victim's neck. Fearing for the woman's safety, a townsman attacks the undead creature, only to have his head crushed for his troubles. Seeking revenge from their earlier encounter, Dracula pounces on his foe. It's not an easy battle for Drac as the skeleton is roughly his equal in strength, something the Count learns the hard way as he is flung through the window of a tavern. 

An irritated Dracula goes back to the original gravesite where he first encountered this strange being and recognizes the name on the gravestone as a practicer of the occult he had met one time in years past. The devil worshipper's corpse is found inside his old abandoned home when Dracula goes there to investigate. On the dead body is a note warning others not to bury him again. During this time, Inspector Chelm, from Scotland Yard, has been tracking this creature's moves. Dracula, the skeleton man, and the cops all collide back at the cemetery where Dracula plans on reburying the cadaver he found. In a violent brawl, Dracula finally smashes the demon to bits. The detectives warn him not to bury the corpse as they have figured out that the Skeleton was originally in that plot, but the occultist had him removed so that he could be buried there instead. Inspector Chelm believes that that the monster only attacked and stole the paperwork from the occultist's lawyer that gave permission to exhume the body. The secretary was only killed accidentally and the woman whose locket (which was made from the gravestone) was taken was the Satanist's widow. The story ends with Dracula agreeing with the Inspector as they all part ways. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: The hits just keep on coming as we get a rare monster mash up where Dracula takes on a supernatural creature that isn't a fellow vampire. Very good action as the Count gets a run for his money against a dangerous opponent. The explanation for the Skeleton's existence was a little bizarre and didn't make much sense but it wasn't enough to ruin the fun of another great issue in this series.

Mark: After last month's scattershot anthology ish, we're back to mainlining the macabre chills & thrills TOD serves up like the delicate neck of a ballerina, alabaster skin exposed and enticing...

We take a break from Harker & his fearless vampire hunters bird-dogging Drac (always exciting but let's face it, they ain't putting him down for the, er, count) for more equal combat: the Dark Lord facing an undead antagonist, the restless skeleton of one Duncan Corley, rudely evicted from his grave by a rich dead douche with a tricky lawyer. And don't we all hate when that happens?

Chris: I enjoy these issues devoted to conflict between Dracula and some other supernatural force. The image of Beare’s corpse, with a Paddington Bearish note pinned to his mac (above), is inspiringly horrific – tip of the hat to Gene & Tom. Also, I would like the depiction of Dracula from pg 16, panel 1, to be reproduced in poster-sized format and sent to my address – perfection, right down to the spidery fingers. (Here’s a small point, but I found Marv’s decision to name a London tavern “Ye King’s Pub” to be the Unintentionally Humorous Moment in this issue; sorry Marv.) Dracula’s respectful handling of his foe’s remains – owing to their shared connection in un-restful death – makes for a satisfying final image.

Mark: How do Corley's remains continually disintegrate into dust only to reform and rise again? Writer Wolfman ascribes in to "some mystic force known only to God or Satan," and in a supernatural title that's all you need, so settle back and groove to the ghouls.

Here's where we heap praise on the Gene Colan/Tom Palmer art. Fluid and fierce, as chilling and rain-swept as the moors on a moonless November night, the graphics are spooktacular. There's an intriguing one page diversion to the inscrutable Dr. Sun and his Fanger Control Team (of which, more to come), but the real fun is the Drac v. Skully smackdown. Corley literally loses his head ("sending the grinning skull spiraling earthward") but continues to give the Count all he can handle until blows "delivered with anguish borne of 500 years of living in hell" take the ex-Mr. Corley apart like a roast turkey in a George R.R. Martin food-porn Games of Thrones feast scene.

Inspector Chelm of Scotland Yard arrives with the backstory after this last dem bones disassembly, prompting the Count to gather up Corley's remains and return them to their rightful home, a gracious gesture of noblesse oblige from one who "understands the peacefulness of eternal rest –even if he can never touch it for himself."

Five fangs.

...and co-starring Broadway Joe Namath

Werewolf by Night 13
"His Name is Taboo"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Cover by Mike Ploog

The Werewolf is transfixed by blonde beauty Topaz, who takes him to her master, Taboo. The strange sorcerer knows the creature is Jack Russell, and is in need of the Darkhold. Flashback to hours before, where Jack is accused by neighbor Coker of stealing his magic books, then drives Clary to a movie set, where he saves an actress from a runaway horse and is offered stunt work on the spot. Driving to a secluded spot before the full moon appears, Jack is tailed by Topaz in a helicopter, who mysteriously knocks him out after the change of First Night. Back to the present, and Werewolf spots stepfather Philip Russell, but can’t reach him due to Taboo’s “mystic screen”. Topaz learns from WW’s mind that the Darkhold was destroyed, and we learn Taboo is behind the conniving Committee. Topaz refuses to slay WW, so the angry necromancer locks him up—in the same cell as Philip! But instead of killing the evil stepfather, WW slashes the prison door! Taboo tells his origin on the warring streets of Punjab, where he met street urchin Topaz and saved her while also using her to gain more power. Yet all he does is done with the hope of releasing son Algon from a half-finished spell—the very reason he needs the Darkhold. As Werewolf goes to attack, Topaz stops him, but then Philip bursts in and gets in the way of another mind blast, which somehow transfers his consciousness to the hulking Algon, who awakes and is ordered by Taboo to slay the Werewolf! –Joe Tura

A very Eisner-esque lady's bottom!

Joe: First Night: Mike Ploog is back! Mike Ploog is back! Aaaarrrroooooooooooo!!!! From the formidable cover to the splash page with the unmistakable gaping jaw of the Werewolf and sultry blonde hussy as only Mr. Ploog can draw them, it’s a welcome sight indeed! Per “Weremail by Night” we learn “Ploog is back, apparently to stay, and the lycanthropic hordes of the world are surely rejoicing in his triumphal return.” Damn straight! I don’t even care what else happens this month! Yet, I must press on.....

Second Night: Jack gets a stuntman job so fast, it’s almost like it didn’t happen! And this Coker joker is cruisin’ for a bruisin’, methinks. Although hooking up with Clary or Sam seems like it needs to happen for our hero. I mean, something has to go right besides getting a well-paying gig, no?

Third Night: Taboo is strange-looking to start, and I love that he tells his origin to Topaz as though it were a bedtime story he’s told 100 times. And he’s an evil one, that’s for sure. Power-hungry, demanding, misguided, odd, and a formidable foe. All in all, this is a pretty good tale for once, if uneven, and we could be in for a nice donnybrook next month—with Mike Ploog at the helm!

and one more for good measure!
Chris: Fans had to have been delighted to see Ploog’s work return to these pages, starting with the dynamic cover (although it’s distracting to me that the action depicted won’t take place until the next issue!). The illustrations alone make this one of my favorite issues of this series. Ploog seems to be applying some of the inspiration that made his Frankenstein work so noteworthy. Chiaramonte’s inks are so well-suited to Ploog’s pencils that, at first glance, I would’ve thought Ploog had inked these pages himself. Petra Goldberg applies a particularly rich palette, which helps set the mood in Taboo’s sanctum, and which works especially well with the variety of skin tones throughout. The cold opening is a solid choice on Marv’s part – as readers, we share some degree of the Werewolf’s confusion, as the setting and circumstances appear to be far removed from where we left off at the end of #12.

Also This Month
Beware! #6
Chamber of Chills #8
Crypt of Shadows #8
Kid Colt Outlaw #178
Marvel's Greatest Comics #47
Marvel Spectacular #5
Marvel Super-Heroes #41
Marvel Triple Action #16
Mighty Marvel Western #29
My Love #27
Rawhide Kid #118
Sgt. Fury #117
Where Monsters Dwell #26


Dracula Lives! 4
Cover Painting by Earl Norem

"Fear Stalker"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Mike Ploog and Ernie Chua

"In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends"
Non-Fiction by Chris Claremont

"Transylvania:Vacation Spot of Europe"
Text by Dwight R. Decker

"When Calls the Vampire!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Joe Maneely
(reprinted from Adventures into Terror #10, June 1952; originally appeared as "When the Vampire Calls!")

"This Blood is Mine!"
Story by Gardner Fox
Art by Dick Ayers

"The Horror of Dracula"
Non-Fiction by Gerry Boudreau

"Of Royal Blood!"
Story Uncredited
Art by Tony Mortellaro
(reprinted from Journey Into Unknown Worlds #29, July 1954)

"Look Homeward, Vampire!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Vicente Alcazar

In our first tale starring Dracula this issue, "Fear Stalker," faded horror actor Louis Belski has just been fired from the studio he's made profitable for years. Deemed a "ham and a wash-up," Belski snaps and takes on the personality of his most famous role, that of Count Dracula. Coincidentally, the real McCoy has been winging his way to Hollywood to look up the horror star as he, too, believes Belski is a really bad actor. Though Louis initially escapes the vampire's wrath, eventually Dracula teaches the thespian a life lesson. Though it's by the same writer responsible for the stellar monthly title, we should, in no way, consider "Fear Stalker" part of the same Drac universe. Marv's clearly got his fangs tucked firmly in cheek. Why would Count Dracula take the time to attend the cinema, judging the various actors who have portrayed him on the silver screen? Does he have the time for that sort of thing? It's an enjoyable bit of fluff but, in the end, inconsequential when compared to the material being presented in Tomb. Favorite line of dialogue from Drac: "You have taken my title and dragged it through the most stinking gutter -- and none may have that privilege." That's a privilege?

"Fear Stalker"

We're graced with the fabulous art of Joe Maneely in "When Calls the Vampire," one of those "everyone thinks she's a vampire, she's not really, but she is doing bad stuff" potboilers that stuffed pre-code horror comics back in the day. Check out that Gale Sondergaard-influenced panel reprinted to the left. Great stuff! The second reprint suffers from lackluster art but has a nice twist climax (well, it would be a surprise if the title of the magazine didn't give it away!). Herr Kroner only wants the best for his daughter so the mutts she keeps bringing round frustrate him to no end and he has to find ways of dispatching them. Finally, a suitor "Of Royal Blood" comes calling and Kroner is convinced that his new son-in-law will be... Count Dracula!

Countess Elizebeth Bathory screams "This Blood is Mine" but Dracula disagrees. Bathory's well-documented siege of young virgins for their wrinkle-reducing blood threatens to throw a damper on the vampire's night life until the two meet and decide to partner up. The Countess reneges on her part of the bargain however, musing that sharing her bath water with a vampire is beneath her, and has garlic placed on Dracula's coffin. Enraged by the double-cross, the Count has Bathory's private journals (containing the names of all the girls she's insanguinated!) made public. The Countess is found guilty of torture and walled up in her own dungeon. Dracula pays one last visit to his ex-partner, draining her of all her blood and leaving her an old maid. Coming off Hammer's Countess Dracula a few years before, "This Blood is Mine" must have seemed a good idea to Gardner Fox when he wrote it: pairing the Count with the Countess. Unfortunately, it's a lifeless and sleazy story made all the more unpleasant by Dick Ayers' downright ugly art. This is a dead ringer for the kind of tripe that was surfacing over in Myron Fass' Eerie Publications reprint/redrawn rags like Tales of Voodoo and Tales from the Tomb, titles featuring work by... hmmm... Dick Ayers (who passed away on May 4th). All "This Blood is Mine" was missing was Ayers' trademark: exploding eye sockets.

Four panels from "This Blood is Mine"
The best Dracula story this issue (maybe by default) is the one with the worst title (ah, pretension, where is thy sting?), Gerry Conway's "Look Homeward, Dracula," a continuation of the chronicles of the Count's early days of vampirism. The ingenious hook Gerry hangs his cape on here is Father Bordia, a practicing but fallen priest given over to vampirism and serving Satan (although how the Father gets away with all the crosses and holy water inherent in the job is not explored). Bordia wages war on Dracula when Vlad dares to stake a claim on the priest's hunting grounds but our favorite Lord of Darkness prevails thanks to a new squeeze he found lying around the castle. Vicente Alcazar's art is very Pablo Marcos-ish, with its full-page panels and lovely lasses, so it's perfectly suited to the genre.

Adding to this week's theme:
Really great derrieres!
Rounding out the 76-page package is the usual dollops of non-fiction, reviews and overviews no one was clamoring for. Chris Claremont looks at Raymond T. McNally's In Search of Dracula, a book-length study of Vlad the Impaler and other vampire legends throughout history. A few paragraphs probably would have sufficed (Claremont finds "its tone breezy and relaxed, not hard reading at all..") but when you're paid by the word, why not 3,000? Gerry Boudreau (not to be confused with Barry Goudreau, former guitarist with Boston) contributes the first in a series of pieces "examining" the Christopher Lee/Hammer Dracula films. Even though his conclusion (that the sequels are far superior to Horror of Dracula because Drac has fewer lines) is stuffed full of Rocky Mountain oysters, Boudreau contributes a thoughtful, legible discussion, blissfully free of Forrest J. Ackerpuns, something we're not used to seeing in these parts. Future installments are written by Doug Moench and Tony Isabella so, after this initial chapter, I've a feeling we're in for one-liners again.-Peter Enfantino

Tales of the Zombie 3
Cover by Boris Vallejo

“When the Gods Crave Flesh”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pablo Marcos

“Mails to the Zombie”

“With the Dawn Comes Death”
Fiction by Chris Claremont

“Net Result”
Story Uncredited
Art by Tony Dipreta

“Warrior’s Burden”
By Tony Isabella
Art by Vicente Alcazar

The Night of the Living Dead Goes
On and On and On”
Text by Don McGregor

“I Won’t Stay Dead”
Story Uncredited
Art by Bill Walton
(originally published as “He Wouldn’t Stay Dead,” Journey Into Mystery #18, 1952)

“Jilimbi’s Word”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Enrique Badia

Tales of the Zombie Feature Page”
Text by Steve Gerber and Gerry Boudreau

In the lead Zombie story, “When the Gods Crave Flesh,” a homeless man finds the other Amulet of Damballah in a New Orleans parking lot. Back in Haiti, humble American filmmaker Bruce Mason and his nagging wife Moira arrive at the home of Anton Cartier, the same house where Garth’s daughter Donna has been staying. During breakfast, Bruce asks his host for help with his voodoo documentary as Moira nags away. That night, Cartier takes his guests to a ceremony deep in the jungle. The celebrants allow the outsiders to watch but forbid any moviemaking. During the sweaty spectacle, Moira sneaks off and starts filming — when she is discovered, the exotic Priestess Katanya transforms her into a zombie. Grief stricken, Bruce offers to take Moira’s place as an undead slave. Katanya agrees to the bargain but before Bruce is turned, the Zombie lurches from the brush, refusing to watch someone else share his tortured fate. Tossing a priest into the bonfire and scattering the rest of the worshippers, the Zombie rescues Mason and drags away the zombified Moira. At a sea cliff, the Zombie strangles the newly undead woman, releasing her from the terrible curse.

As with most of the Zombie stories so far, there’s way too much talk and not enough supernatural action, but I guess that’s par for the course. It’s almost as if the magazine was modelled on the b-movies from the ’50s and ’60s: there was always plenty of filler in those to stretch the running time. Or page count in this case. Marcos’ art is excellent, with the splash page an eerie standout. And boy, does he draw some aggressive breasts. While his plot doesn’t amount to much, I must give Gerber kudos for his commitment as it’s obvious that he researched his subject. He peppers the dialogue with authentic voodoo terms, from houngans (priest) to oum’phor (temple). The apparently indestructible Zombie seems to show more human traits as the series evolves, at one point trying to feed his unquenchable hunger by munching the head off an anaconda that was biting his face. The Zombie’s rescue of Bruce Mason is also partly driven by the recognition that the daughter from his former life seems to have feelings for the filmmaker.

"Net Result"

"Jilimbi's Word"
In the cheekily titled reprint “Net Result,” an obsessed lepidopterist travels to Argentina to find the one butterfly missing from his collection. However, he is captured by the giant insects and put on display himself. I consulted three reliable websites and none had information on the author or original source of this humdrum and extremely dated affair. “Warrior’s Burden” is an interesting 6-page short about Gilgamesh, an eternal warrior who is called from the dead to help the living. This time, he appears as a samurai to kill a dragon in ancient Japan. With a name like Gilgamesh, you must assume that the character is somehow based on the legend of the Sumerian king. However, what is most appealing about the story is the art of Vicente Alcazar, a Spanish illustrator most famous for his run on DC’s Jonah Hex. His superbly detailed illustrations are unencumbered by borders, with a foundational image often spreading over multiple panels. Impressive stuff, the best work of the entire magazine. Another crummy reprint, “I Won’t Stay Dead,” is about a comic killed in a car crash who refuses to believe that he is actually dead. At the end, we get the whole dreary “it was just a dream” twist. Again, my search for an author turned up empty. “Jilimbi’s Word” features art by Enrique Badia who I assume is the Enrique Badía Romero of Modesty Blaise fame. The outstanding art certainly looks similar. Too bad it’s associated with such a well-worn plot about a man giving up his own life to save his loved one — to no avail of course. Heck, Gerber even used that old chestnut in the main Zombie story. Though, it is set in the proper voodoo environment and there is a Night of the Living Dead siege so that was well welcomed. Another great cover painting by Boris Vallejo.
"Warrior's Burden"
“With the Dawn Comes Death” is Part One of Chris Claremont’s prose story about an American woman named Sandord who is searching for her missing brother in Haiti. Police Chief Dureaux takes her to see a voodoo priestess and the disrespectful outsider gets an education in the many branches of the religion. In the process, Bakulu-baka, The Dark One, is unleashed. At only six pages, the decent story doesn’t wear out its welcome — it helps that half of each page is taken up by movie stills, one that looks like it’s from a misplaced Japanese film. In “The Night of the Living Dead Goes On and On and On,” Don McGregor reviews George Romero’s 1968 masterpiece. While he is suitably respectful, Dauntless Don takes the movie to task for its documentary feel and amateur cast: to me, those are two of the film’s most powerful weapons, major keys to its incredible effectiveness. McGregor also compares it unfavorably to Mario Bava’s Carnage (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve/A Bay of Blood). Um, no. On the “Tales of the Zombie Feature Page,” Gerber offers a brief autobiography and Gerry Boudreau gives a positive review for the recent Romero release, Code Name: Trixie (aka The Crazies). A letters page, “Mails to the Zombie,” makes its debut. Nothing much to report but The Gringo Kid from Elmsford, New York, shares my confusion over the pun-filled editorial tone.

I must say that the full-page ads for Marvel’s other black-and-white magazines are just great. Promos for Savage Tales and Dracula Lives are presented side-by-side making for a fantastic spread.-Thomas Flynn


  1. Somehow I always find "Jilimbi's Word" TOO grim as opposed to dull. There's that whole wrong character caught up in the revenge idea, plus the zombified wife makes me think of Karloff's wife and Lugosi's former one in The Black Cat.

  2. It is always astounding how many books Steve Gerber wrote in those days. I never read - or cared - for Namor, so this was a new one for me.

    Compared to today's big editorial offices the workload of the small Marvel crew must have been daunting. They did everything through the post office and basically with paper and glue. You list 36 colour comics and 2 b/w magazines which had to be written, drawn and put together. And still they kept expanding the line.