Wednesday, September 24, 2014

October 1974 Part Two: Hey Bub! Let's Welcome The Wolverine to the Marvel Universe!

Giant-Size Werewolf 2
"The Frankenstein Monster Meets Werewolf by Night"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane, Tom Palmer, and John Romita

Chapter One, “Prisoners of Flesh”, finds the Frankenstein Monster rambling through the streets of NY, until he comes across two hobos talking about Danton Vayla, who claims he can perform the Transmigration of Souls, putting a soul into a new body. This intrigues the Monster, so he hops a train to Los Angeles, eating rats along the way until he’s forced to smash through the train car, falling off a bridge and washing up on a beach. Meantime, Lissa Russell spurns the Brotherhood of Baal, but the evil hoodies break into her apartment, kidnap her and trash the place, just in time for Chapter Two, “To Host the Beast”, in which our hero Jack gets to Lissa’s wrecked apartment, finds a note scrawled on the wall from the Brotherhood, speeds to Buck’s for some info and takes off for Vayla’s Seacliff mansion near Malibu. But the moon comes out, Jack transforms and his car crashes as Werewolf lopes to Vayla’s place—where the Monster is waiting for a new face/body. Chapter Three, “The Flesh of Satan’s Hate” opens with a human sacrifice ceremony with Lissa as the intended. Werewolf smashes in and battles the Monster, who knocks the creature out. But when Vayla tries to kill the hairy one, the Monster intervenes, throwing the heinous high priest into a huge upside-down crucifix, which falls and crushes him. Werewolf and the Monster fight the rest of the Brotherhood as the mansion burns, and Lissa is able to slip away as Buck arrives to see the mansion tumble into the sea…but footprints on the beach tell us both creatures survived! –Joe Tura

Joe Tura: A decent enough monster mash-up, with a fine script that’s sparsely detailed, and thankfully no mention of pasta to be found. The art is about as good as the usual Perlin, but maybe actually a little better to be honest. A nasty villain that’s fine to see dispatched quickly, and no goofy subplots to get in the way. Buck and Lissa make a poor man’s Abbott and Costello, though.

For frightening filler, we start with “Mind Over Matter”, first published in Adventures Into Weird Worlds #16 (March 1953), in which a man returns from India and regales his friend with how he can make objects disappear just by thinking they don’t exist. And when their philosophical discussion ponders maybe the two men don’t exist… they don’t! Epic fail, that.

“The Ape Man” from Strange Tales #85 (June 1961) tells the tale of a prison ship headed towards Lost Island Prison, and prisoner Salty hears the legend of The Ape Man. So he uses that to distract his captors and flee the prison…but The Ape Man corners him! And recounts how he was waiting for someone to take his cursed place—so Salty becomes the new Ape Man! Whah whah whahhhh…

Next up, “The Barefoot Man”, originally from Uncanny Tales #29 (March 1955), sees pauper Pablo pine for a pair of boots, which could make him successful, but is unable to steal enough money, so he kills a stranger and takes his boots. But the federales corner him, thinking he’s the master thief and killer with crosses on his boots that they’ve been tracking! Zing!

And finally (FINALLY!), our last filler story is “The Werewolf of Wilmach” from Astonishing #17 (Sept 1952), penciled by Tony DiPreta. In a town beset by alleged werewolf attacks, roughneck sailor Kessel, sporting a werewolf tattoo (important plot point alert!), enlists friend Fang to rob the town bank. They kill the banker, whose last words mention the tattoo, and they nab a young boy that saw the tattoo earlier, and draw one on the boy. But after Kessel kills Fang, the boy turns into an actual werewolf and kills Kessel! To quote Prof. Matthew: Bob’s your uncle!

 Werewolf by Night 22
"Face of the Fiend"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin and Vince Colletta
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane, Dan Adkins, and John Romita

With the full moon approaching, Jack heads to Buck’s place, hoping his buddy can help lock him up—but Jack brings a gun for Buck’s protection. After the moon, and the transformation, Werewolf forgoes busting through the reinforced bars and smashes through the door, slashing Buck—who can’t bring himself to shoot—and taking off in search of prey on the streets of L.A. Grumpy Producer Simon Kolb is visited in his mansion by Atlas, leader of the pagan Gauls and disfigured actor Steve Rand, who kills Kolb in revenge for his injuries. Lt. Vic Northrup, wondering what happened to Lt. Hackett, heads out to the scene. And so does the Werewolf! Thinking he’s found prey, he attacks Atlas! But the crazed ex-actor uses his jawbone weapon to smash the Werewolf but good, and exits stage left as the sun rises and Northrup appears. The cops find a woozy Jack, who might be accused of murder! –Joe Tura

Joe: “His brain had turned to Jello—of the maniac flavor.” Yeesh. That’s how we start this one, which seems like something out of 1958, between the art and the lettering and the script. Again, like most issues of WBN, it’s not horrible. But neither is it fantastic, either. And best of all, it’s a two-parter! Huzzah!

Joe Alonzo writes in to the letters page with “Issues #17 & 18 of WEREWOLF BY NIGHT really stunk!” Well, pretty close, yeah. Then he bad-mouths both Don Perlin’s art and the very title of the comic, since Jack Russell is a “wolf man”, not a werewolf. Geez, relax, man. Although he does end with “Please think about these suggestions I’ve made.” Then you turn the page and fan Jack Frost exclaims “The art was just incredible!!” What is wrong with these people? More importantly, dig that Bucky Barnes Marvel Value Stamp!

Chris Blake: Average-to-middling issue – I’m not sure what to say about it.  Topaz had given Jack the capability to employ some control over the werewolf; ever since her disappearance, WbN stories have regressed to a reliance on a simple “moonlight = mayhem” formula.  The lack of development by the main character consigns WbN to the lowest tier of the monster titles; you can start with the superlative Tomb of Dracula and Man-Thing, then chart some progress with Ghost Rider and Morbius in Fear, but at this point, you then bottom-out with the directionless Monster of Frankenstein, and sadly, WbN.

Professor Joe neglects to mention the sound effect of the month.

Chris: Doug gives us a few now-routine moments of reference to the werewolf’s state of mind, and some hackneyed cop-talk, and some weird half-attempts at levity (particularly on the last page, as Jack asked which elephant had been “sicked” [sic] on him).  The art offers few highlights, which I attribute more to the stiff, sometimes awkward figures of Perlin, than to the inks of Colletta (although he’s not much help); the gruesome face of Atlas is worth noting, and the action is pretty solid.  Can I go now?  

Marvel Premiere 18
Iron Fist in
“Lair of Shattered Vengeance”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Larry Hama and Dick Giordano
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Jack Abel

Iron Fist faces off against Triple-Iron, a huge costumed brute wielding a triple-nunchaku crackling with deadly energy. After taking a beating, the martial arts master realizes that the very room they are in is the power source of his opponent. Suddenly, the mysterious masked ninja peers from around a corner and hurls a throwing star: the weapon lodges into the wall above the Living Weapon’s shoulder, uncovering the seam of a door. Rand pushes it open, revealing the room that holds the generator that powers Triple-Iron. Iron Fist rips two cables from the machine and electrocutes his combatant. Through the next door, he finally arrives at Meachum’s office: however his target is now confined to a wheelchair, losing his legs to frostbite in the Himalayas and living in terror for the past ten years, waiting for Rand’s revenge. Realizing that Meachum has already paid the ultimate price for murdering his parents, Iron Fist turns away. But Meachum, enraged that Daniel Rand is no longer willing to take him out of his misery, raises a pistol and fires: the bullet grazes Iron Fist’s head and he falls unconscious. The ninja steals into the room and runs his samurai sword through Meachum’s chest. When Iron Fist regains consciousness, the dead businessman’s daughter Joy bursts into the room, accusing him of murder. 
-Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: So after four issues of Marvel Premiere, Iron Fist’s origin story finally wraps up. Basically it’s the tale of a young boy who becomes Gotham’s masked avenger after his parents are murdered. Oh wait, think I’m mixing things up. It wasn’t much of a surprise that Iron Fist would overcome his bloodlust and let Meachum live — or that the murderer would still get his comeuppance. Another disposable villain makes a quick exit, as the completely forgettable Triple-Iron only lasts seven pages. The pesky yet helpful ninja returns and this character will loom large in the loopy issues to come. The quality of Hama’s art varies from panel to panel but it’s a nice touch that he tries to ape Gil Kane’s style in the flashback sequences. This issue marks the debut of a legend for Iron Fist, which appears above the credits on the splash pages and reads as follows:

“You are DANIEL RAND — a man who, like every OTHER man, sprang from his father’s loins. But you are also a being who TRANSCENDS the fragile humanity of Daniel Rand … an indestructible living WEAPON whose genesis was conceived in the DEATH of your father. You have undergone the rigors of TUTELAGE and TRAINING … the CHALLENGE OF THE MANY and THE CHALLENGE OF THE ONE. And you are CHANGED. You are … Iron Fist.”

Hoo boy. What no mention of the dead mom? And the caps seem kinda random.

Scott McIntyre: Iron Fist continues to impress. Writing and art by Doug Moench and Larry Hama are impeccable. The story of Meachum's wasted life and Danny's quest ending are all done very well, concluding the thread while still propelling the story forward. Now an added mystery and a murder set-up to keep things bubbling. It's a lot like Luke Cage's origin, but done in a much more realistic and sober fashion. I can see why they were a natural to team up later.

Matthew Bradley:  Forty years on, this ironic “the worst thing you can do to me is to let me live” conclusion to Iron Fist’s quest for vengeance feels very familiar, but since the only other example I can think of off the top of my head is Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984), I’m not sure who else followed in whose footsteps.  None of which is to say that it’s not a perfectly valid plot mechanism, and in general I think Moench has given a good account of himself so far, the obvious and expected exception being Triple-Iron, who unsurprisingly did not fail to disappoint.  He and his subplot are poorly conceived, developed, and resolved; conversely, our mysterious ninja continues to intrigue, even if he does leave old Danny Boy holding the bag.

Chris: Doug seamlessly guides the storyline away from Danny’s vengeance, and toward the answer of Meachum’s true killer.  We know that Danny isn’t going to kill Meachum, don’t we?  So that means that Doug has to come up with a second assailant, possibly with his (or her?) own agenda; I guess we’ll find out more about that next issue.  The idea that Meachum had spent the previous decade wracked in pain and guilt – and dread over the certainty of his own impending death – is ironic, and fitting.  I hope Danny will be able to exit the building without wandering into any more Spy vs Spy traps.  

The art’s a little better this time, but that’s not saying much.  I had to flip thru the pages again to see if there were any highlights to point out.  I will say that, as we move into the second half of the issue – once the action has largely concluded, that is – the details and shading for the characters improves noticeably.  We’re bereft of backgrounds for most of the last four pages, though, which doesn’t sit well with me – I’m hoping for better things next time out.  This is a title that is riding on the strengths, as they are, in the stories themselves – the art is not contributing enough, over the three most recent issues, to suggest that this title will excel.  

Marvel Team-Up 26
The Human Torch and The Mighty Thor in
"The Fire This Time"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Jim Mooney, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

Following flaming footprints from a sewer, Johnny is mistaken by Molto (see Avengers #5) for an assassin sent by the Lava Men, yet when he reveals that our world is in danger, the Torch summons Thor.  Atop Lady Liberty, they learn of witch-doctor Jinku’s plan to use the Mole-Man’s machines—maintained by his minions since #17—to activate all volcanoes; wounded and left for dead by Jinku, Molto crumbles into dust after directing them to Mauna Loa, where they stop an eruption.  Our heroes fall into a trap set by Jinku, who uses an unliving lava-arm to appropriate Mjolnir as a power source, but it reverts to a walking stick in 60 seconds, and Johnny recruits the “mole guys” to defeat the Lava Men…as They watch in amusement far away. 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I’ve only just tumbled to the fact that they actually did stick to their announced plan of having Spidey vacate this title every third month in favor of its giant-size sibling, leaving Johnny to hold down the fort.  The Torch team-ups are a mixed bag, but in his penultimate issue before turning the mag back over to Conway—whom he will, ironically, succeed on our guest-god’s book a year later—Wein turns in a pretty good yarn, once again reaching deep into Marvel history to excavate the ill-fated Molto, only to kill him off.  Whatever else you want to say about Mooney as a penciler, he’s adept at handling a wide range of characters, making him well-suited to MTU, and here, the Giacoia/Hunt inking pulls him almost up to the level of a poor man’s Sal Buscema.

Scott: Ever wonder what happened to Molto, the Lava Man? Yeah, me neither and once he leaves this mortal coil, the story loses whatever interest it had. It falls back into the standard "hordes wanting to invade the surface world." You know they're not going to win, especially not in a second tier title like Marvel Team-Up. The Lava Men were more interesting when Kirby drew them back in the 60's. Jim Mooney doesn't have the King's knack for drawing weird creatures.

Joe: Needless to say, a Human Torch-Thor team-up didn't excite the Spidey fan in me 40 years ago. But reading it for the first time, it's not half-bad. There's actually a reason for the unlikely pairing of two mismatched superheroes thanks to the ill-fated Molto. And I like that the Torch seems kind of starstruck by Thor's power, even though ol' Goldilocks is showing off at times. A welcome surprise for me, this issue. 

The Incredible Hulk 180
"And the Wind Howls... Wendigo!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe and John Romita

The Hulk heads back to Canada but the government has been waiting for him since his last visit. Picking the Hulk up on their monitor, the military boss orders that Weapon X be deployed to take the monster out. After beating up a pack of wolves, the Hulkster begins to hear a soothing voice that lures him to a cave. The creature known as Wendigo still has a sister and friend that are concerned for him, Marie and Georges. Marie has been practicing witchcraft and pretends to befriend the Hulk. She gives him food laced with a sleeping potion that temporarily knocks him out cold. Georges doesn't approve of her actions, but since the Hulk is already a monster, Marie wants to pass her brother's curse on to him so her brother will be cured. The Hulk awakens just as the Wendigo is returning home and the two beasts renew their rivalry. It's a brutal encounter just like their last one, with both of them evenly matched in their fight. The story ends with Weapon X joining the fray. A stout, fearsome looking hero, Weapon X will go on to be known as Wolverine! -Tom McMillion

Tom McMilion: Who would have thought back then that this issue would become a  collector's item? It's hard to judge this one until after reading the second part of the story. I found it to be the typical Hulk yarn, though Wolverine's first appearance makes for one of the most intense cliff hangers in comic book history.

Matthew: Time to burnish up the old Landmark Issue shield for the first appearance (albeit in the very last panel) of Wolverine, the diminutive Canadian mutant who would, um, grow to become the darling of the new X-Men.  Yet since Weapon X doesn’t really strut his stuff until next issue, perhaps we should focus on the matter before us, i.e., the return of the Wendigo.  I don’t have Wendy’s prior appearances immediately at hand, but I do remember being touched by Hulk’s rapport with and desire to help Marie, which first of all makes me surprised that despite his notoriously porous memory, he doesn’t connect the two, and second renders Marie’s betrayal of Greenskin that much more heart-rending, as author Len presumably intended it to be.

I have both issues in the 1986 Incredible Hulk and Wolverine one-shot, which not only reprints them ad-free and apparently complete (since I believe 18 story pages is now the norm), but also includes a six-page Wolverine and Hercules yarn by Mary Jo Duffy, Ken Landgraf, and George Pérez that some of us never got to see in Marvel Treasury Edition #26.  Last but not least, Peter Sanderson, then writing the super-condensed Marvel Saga, provides an exhaustive essay entitled “Wolverine: The Evolution of a Character.”  While time and memory have evidently blurred the precise contributions Roy Thomas, Dave Cockrum, and Len made to the long-gestating concept, Sanderson does confirm that Wolverine was created with the new multi-national X-Men in mind.

Scott: A landmark issue for the final panel, giving us our first look at Wolverine. Since we only see him for a moment, there will be more to say about him next issue. There's a fun bit about the Hulk’s confusion over being yelled at by an irate farmer who has no idea just who the big green "gorilla" is who just smashed his fence. After that, we meet the Wendigo again, who looks just as goofy now as he did when he first appeared in issue 162. The story is adequate and fairly well drawn. Fans wondering about Wolverine's first appearance and checking it out here in retrospect are bound to be disappointed.

Strange Tales 176
The Golem in
"Black Crossing"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Tony deZuniga
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Marck
Cover by John Romita and Frank Giacoia

Rebecca and Jason pack up The Golem and get him ready for his sea journey to Florida, where they intend to study him. Standing in their path is the Super-Demon, Kaballa (aka "The Unclean"), who sends his army of demons to sink the boat and steal The Golem's power. Knowing the big bad clay man's power is diminished when he's far from land, Kaballa launches a stream of lightning bolts that causes panic onboard the small vessel. Summoning strength from deep within, The Golem fights off the horde of demons and destroys Kaballa. He then rescues his friends and swims for the shore of a nearby island, proving that even a ton of clay can do the breast stroke when needed.  -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: After a one-issue all-reprints hiatus, the scripting chores for The Golem are handed over from Len Wein to Mike Friedrich and Mike really has no idea what to do with this anchor. His prose comes off forced and rushed ("...driven not by a bird's search for food but instead by demon-like concerns, for such they truly are" or "Something mysterious happens inside The Golem! His weakness seems to vanish... His distance from land seems no longer to matter. In short, The Golem gets it together!"). Most of these superhero/monster strips ran the same kind of story (misunderstood beast fights off demonic forces or really big gargoyles and saves the day for the few humans who do understand) and The Golem is certainly no game-changer. Kaballa is introduced and then dispatched in a handful of pages. Some demonic force this guy was. He attacks The Golem at sea but that's where his own Achilles' Heel rests. We get one of those two-page catch ups when Jason calmly explains to Rebecca the unearthly events of the past few days (events that Rebecca was also witness to). I always thought it would have been great if, just one time, the listener would interrupt the narrator with a "Hey! Do you think I'm slow? I was here with you the whole time!!" How is it that Rebecca detects a "twinkle" in the eye of a stone statue? It looks like a straight line of yellow to me. Just one more chapter to go for this micro-mini-saga, one that could have been so much better.

Chris: What happened to ST #175?  There are letters regarding the Great Golly’s premiere in ST #174, but not even the obligatory DDD excuse expressed by Ye Editor.  Not the strongest way to follow up the introduction of a new character, is it?  “Hey, I know – let’s allow four months to pass before readers can see the second chapter!”  There had to have been several mixes-ups regarding this short-lived character, since the LP also asks what fans thought of the art by Luis Dominguez.  Well, uh, if that’s the case, then Luis now is spelling his name “Tony De Zuniga.” 

I’ve never been a fan of De Zuniga’s art, primarily because I didn’t care for his inks for either John Buscema or Walt Simonson on Thor, starting around issue #250.  TdZ’s inks can tend toward the murky and sketchy, but I do think his art works fairly well here.  The Golem retains his massive solidity from Buscema’s rendering, with facial expressions that subtly convey determination and purpose.  The brief glances of Kaballa’s den are a highlight – Lessman’s colors contribute well to the atmosphere here, and in the sea-battle sequence.  If we’d had a full issue’s worth of pages for the story, maybe we would’ve learned more about Kaballa, such as, who is he? and, why has he been waiting for Golem to resurface?  Well, maybe next time.  
Peter: The reprint, "The Man Who Couldn't Be Killed" (from Adventures Into Mystery #8, July 1957) is indicative of the post-code horror pablum Atlas was forced to feed the readers of their horror titles. A convict, faced with hanging the following day, escapes prison and hoofs it to a witch doctor. He makes the medicine man erase all Mondays from his life with a magic potion. Unfortunately for the dimwit, he forgets he was born on a Monday.

Supernatural Thrillers 9
The Living Mummy in
"Pyramid of Peril!"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Val Mayerik and Dan Adkins
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Al Milgrom

On orders from the Elementals, N'Kantu, the Living Mummy breaks into the tomb hideout that houses The Living Pharaoh. Once one of the X-Men's foes, now the Pharaoh bides his time, waiting for the day when his power increases. The scarab the Mummy seeks is within the tomb and, despite breaking the mental bonds the Elementals held over him, something still draws him to the gem. While N'Kantu battles the Pharaoh, a mysterious figure darts in and steals away with the scarab. The Pharaoh, now completely powerless falls to his knees and sobs but the Mummy lets no grass grow beneath his bandaged feet; he heads out of tomb to track the thief. Meanwhile, thousands of feet above, a plane carries Ron, Janice, and Dr. Skarab to Cairo for an inevitable meeting with destiny or bad food. -Peter Enfantino

Chris: Solid issue, as we meet the self-important, but otherwise pheeble Pharaoh (once he finds himself de-scarabed, that is).  At first, I thought that might’ve been Thing from the Adams Family who scurried in from behind the arras to grab the scarab once it hit the floor (and what purpose, exactly, would it serve for Abdol to hang drapes in his inner-pyramid hideaway?).   It’ll be interesting to see who else, now, is after the ruby scarab.  Once Prof Scarab’s plane lands two months from now, we’ll find out how he’s involved (after another very-brief update this issue).  Mayerik’s art continues to perform, although Adkins’ inks leave the pencils looking a bit thin; if Val doesn’t have time to ink himself, let’s hope at least that Dan (or someone else) is able to deliver a stronger result next time.  

Peter: Yep, I'm the guy who's constantly badmouthing Tony Isabella's writing (and for good reason) but, here, Tony doesn't do too bad. Of course, deduct two pages of flashbacks and three pages for a Ditko reprint ("The Secret of the Universe" from Amazing Fantasy #11, April 1962) and there really isn't much writing for me to criticize, is there? If you've got to drag the Marvel Universe into the Mummy's world, The Living Pharaoh is a natural (how is it that Rama-Tut never showed up?) but most of the villain's surroundings only bring to mind Victor Buono. Bodyguards dressed in Egyptian skirts and toting machine guns. Rooms that fill with water to threaten our hero. Sarcophagi that open to hidden rooms. This ain't a bad little adventure but the entire arc is moving at a sluggish pace and I'm afraid when it's all said and done, nothing will have been accomplished. Dan Adkins, by the way, can do nothing to mute Val Mayerik's monstrously good art.

Luke Cage, Power Man 21
"The Killer With My Name!"
Story by Len Wein and Tony Isabella
Art by Ron Wilson and Vince Colletta
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

Luke Cage is the big man around town as his awesome defeat of Cottonmouth has made the front page news. His happiness doesn't last long when he finds out that his lady friend Claire has run off to Los Angeles for undisclosed reasons. She leaves a note telling Luke not to follow her. At the Gem theater, a crowd runs out into the streets in a panic and Luke discovers that the muscle bound villain, Power Man, is inside wrecking the place. The villainous Power Man challenges heroic Power Man for the right to use that name. The two powerhouses use everything inside the movie theater to try to destroy each other. When evil Power Man almost kills a young girl during the brawl, Luke uses his rage to gain the advantage. He knocks out bad Power Man and wins the right to continue using that name as his super-hero monicker!
 -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: The villain Power Man really shows what a little bitch he is when he later goes on to change his name to The Smuggler. The Smuggler/Power Man boasts to Cage that he once defeated the Avengers. Like Luke, I'm skeptical that this guy could even beat the Wasp, but since I don't care enough to go hunt down the Avengers issue and see for myself, I'll take the Smuggler's word for it. As stupid as the plot was for this hero versus villain confrontation, it's better then evil Power Man taking Luke Cage to court over copyright infringement, which is probably what would happen today.

Scott: Ron Wilson's art is a very refreshing change from Tuska and makes this average tale come to life. Reading comics from a decade earlier and encountering the first Power Man on and off always made me wonder if the two "Power Men" would come into contact. I suppose it was inevitable and this isn't a bad story, really. Isabella makes it work by having Cage care about the little girl and showing us, and himself, that there's much more to the business than making money. He's an actual hero, not simply a merc paying his bills. And that makes this issue worthwhile.

Master of Kung Fu 21
"Season of Vengeance..."
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Ron Wilson and Al Milgrom
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Romita, Ron Wilson, and Mike Esposito

Shang-Chi swims ashore, after having escaped Demmy Marston’s casino-yacht.  S-C walks alone in Miami, and finds himself at a marine-animal park.  S-C enjoys the company of a cavorting dolphin – until an assassin’s bullet (meant for S-C) cuts the creature down.  In a sudden rage, S-C flings himself into direct confrontation with the shooters, then chooses instead to dive into a pool to escape the reach of their weapons.  S-C’s next challenge is the shark inhabiting the pool – S-C is able to beat the animal senseless, but exhausts his air supply in the process.  S-C reaches the surface, and is abruptly rendered unconscious by a Marston minion.  S-C awakes to find himself tied to a tree, and is subjected to a beating by Marston, who chooses to blame S-C for the death of his girlfriend (last issue).  Marston’s henchmen are taken by surprise, and routed, by members of the cult of Si-Fan, sent by Fu Manchu himself.  Fu kills Marston (with a bite from a pet viper), and slices S-C free of his bonds, stating “Only Fu Manchu may choose the moment of your death.”  S-C falls to the ground, beaten and exhausted.  -Chris Blake

Chris: A strangely uneven issue, with the whole fish-world sequence feeling forced.  You knew the dolphin was going to buy it, right?  And do we really need a Shang-Chi vs shark fist-fight?  Is there any reason why the gunmen initially were so intent to shoot S-C, and then didn’t bother to fire shots while S-C had trapped himself in the shark tank?  We do get one line about S-C being worth “double” if presented alive to Marston – had all the gunmen been firing in an effort to shock S-C into surrendering, or something?  Lastly, strange choice for Fu to save S-C from certain death.  I admit that I was surprised that it was Fu’s forces emerging from the water, and not those loyal to Sir Denis (and where has he been, anyway – high tea?).   
As for Marston himself – it’s a mistake to bring him back for a second consecutive issue.  His power-grab in MoKF #20 – and the high price he paid for his hubris – had made for a neatly instructive self-contained issue.  If Doug really wanted to do more with this small-timer, it would’ve been better to hold off until a future issue, and give us a sense that Marston had bided his time, plotting; but, in fairness, Marston probably isn’t capable of devising a thought-out revenge scheme, so maybe it’s more true to his character for him to end this way.  In either case, we didn’t need to see Marston again.

Mark Barsotti: Ugh.

After thus far being brought to visual life by two of the best young artists of the early '70's, Jim Starlin and Paul Gulacy, our PJ-clad hero is now delivered into the Five Thumbs of Death embrace of Ron Wilson, an insidious fate we can only suppose was arranged by Fu Manchu. I won't beat up on the no-doubt-doing-his-best Mr. Wilson except to say that if his work must appear in Marvel comics, would that it be restricted to those one page Hostess ads, hawking Twinkies and Ding-Dongs.

Writer Doug Moench's MOKF debut, while not hinting at the intricate Bondian spy epics to come, fares better than the "art." Miami sleazoid Demmy Marston is out for revenge after his girlfriend's last issue demise, and hires all the guns in south Florida to turn Shang into Swiss cheese. After the poignant, collateral damage death of a marine park porpoise, Moench trots out that hoariest of action flix clichés: machine gun wielding hit-men who can't take down the hero at close range. More points off for the Shang vs. Jaws battle, which would have prompted me to close the cover, save for my undying devotion to our students (and the probable loss of my parking space, should Dean P discover me fudging my lesson plans).

Chris: Wilson’s pedestrian art isn’t going to make anyone forget Gulacy, but in fairness, I don’t think anyone expected it to.  S-C’s expressions tend to range from angry to battle-enraged, which is somewhat out of character for our hero, who ordinarily makes a point to remain composed and focused when required to defend himself.   The cover depicts the opening of the previous issue; had it originally been rejected for MoKF #20, and then restored by Ye Editor, who decided not to let it go to waste?  I don’t know.
Nowadays, we might recognize this as sort-of a fill-in issue (since Gulacy will be back for MoKF #22, plus GS MoKF #2), but I can’t help but think that the overall uneven quality of MoKF #21 might have made enthusiastic followers of the still-emerging title more than a little anxious about the series’ future prospects.
Mark: Surfacing after his standoff with Bruce the shark, Shang is cold-cocked by the hit-men, one of whom mentions that Marston will pay double if they bring SC in alive (maybe that explains their myopic machine-gunning).

Tied to a tree on an island in the Keys, Shang is slated by Demmy for a slow, painful death, allowing time for Fu's Si-Fan assassins to make landfall and dispose of the hit-men, leaving Fu to off Marston himself, via viper bite. That he then leaves Shang alive because, "Only Fu Manchu may choose the moment of your death. And that moment shall arrive when it best amuses me," sounds like a credibility-busting, Little-Nell-tied-to-the-train-tracks escape, but it's perfectly in character for the Manchurian madman, who's far too proud to swoop in for Shang-killing sloppy seconds.

The Man-Thing 10
"Nobody Dies Forever"
Story by Mike Ploog and Steve Gerber
Art by Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Various forms of swamp creatures have attacked the Man-Thing, Zeke and his --Dawg. The latest, a Medusa-like creature reveals that it is the pent up hate and resentment in Zeke's wife Maybelle, that has given life to this evil form. While they seek a doctor, Zeke relates how they came to live in the swamp. Initially a life both he and Maybelle desired, she became consumed by jealousy once Dawg came into the picture, and as she is near death from her heart attack, that jealousy has taken on this evil form. It leaves Maybelle, but takes Dawg's life before departing, leaving the two to start anew, as the Man-Thing departs. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Dedicated by writer Steve Gerber to "the memory of Margo's Napoleon" the essence of this story is sacrifice and forgiveness. And in the bizarre world of the Man-Thing, the beast helps Zeke and Maybelle find this. Not exactly a pretty couple, but a life in the swamp wouldn't help anyone.

Matthew: Ploog takes center stage this issue as both penciler and plotter, ably aided and abetted by Gerber’s script and Chiaramonte’s inks.  Zeke’s mistreatment by the aptly punished rednecks is, alas, probably all too common in that neck of the woods, albeit somewhat redeemed by “Truckstop Ed’s” ultimate decency, while the idea of Man-Thing’s entire form being infested with evil serpents is a ghoulishly effective one.  Although the ending is, of necessity, bittersweet, it does bring this two-parter to a dramatically satisfying conclusion, and the basic premise (for which I presume Steve is primarily responsible), of Maybelle’s festering hatred for Dawg manifesting itself physically in her various possessions, is handled well by Messrs. Ploog et alia.

Chris: Call me crazy – I realize I’m reaching when I posit this comparison – but a Steve Gerber-scripted issue like this one has some of the same appeal as a Coen Bros movie; we see odd characters and conversations, unexpected violence, incongruous moments of humor, and sometimes deliberately unexplained plot points (as things simply “happen”).  This issue didn’t follow up with the air of menace that had permeated M-T #9, but clearly Steve wanted the resolution of the story to have a different focus; his purpose this time is to take the bumpkins we met last issue, and develop them as characters ruled by genuine emotion.   I say all this with the knowledge that Ploog is credited as the plotter; even so, Steve’s the one who’s able to weave an unlikely text, yet again, so that it works.  

Scott: I can read a comic story about monsters killing dozens of people and I don't bat an eye. I read one that ends with the death of a single dog and I get upset. I never rooted for a character to survive as much as I did for poor Dawg. This title is full of human and inhuman cruelty and the darkness gets a little wearing. It's still the usually good, chilling stuff from Gerber and Ploog, who apparently never drew an attractive person in his life. That’s no crime, neither did Steve Ditko. Just sayin’.

Mark: Maybe it's because I'm doped up on a variety of cold meds as I plow through "Nobody Dies Forever," all the hacking and wheezing draining energies that might otherwise be spent clucking over Maybelle Tork's unexplained metamorphosis from contended swamp-settler to so pining for "the niceties o' city life" that a heart attack unleashes her evil, Eva Gabor inner-hydra, panting to put Green Acres on the Bayou to the torch. A clear-headed Prof might scold Gerber and Ploog for playing the Old Yeller dead dog (er, dawg) card, shamelessly manipulating our emotions, but none of that tonight as the trash can fills with Kleenex and more Chloraseptic is sprayed down my inflamed gullet.

Shields are down, Cap'n. No critical defenses left to resist this first-rate fractured fairy tale. And with Dawg now cradled tenderly in Maybelle's arms as she asks Zeke, "D'ya think he forgave me?" well, the moisture in my eyes is merely the result of my hacking, wheezing 101 degree temperature.

Sure it is.

Marvel Spotlight 18
The Son of Satan in
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Gene Colan and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Gerge Roussos
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Daimon and Katherine Reynolds attend a party hosted by Wilfred Noble, chair of the Psychology department at Gateway U.  Daimon steps outside (to avoid curiosity-seeking party guests, who crowd the visiting demonologist/exorcist soon after his arrival), and finds Noble’s dog has been killed with an axe.  The following morning, Katherine informs Daimon that Noble’s home was burned down, with Noble badly injured and now hospitalized.  Daimon is angered by the news – he had detected an evil presence at the party, but had not investigated it, even though his feeling had not dissipated after the dog had been killed.  Daimon returns to the house site, and employs his trident to reveal a vision of a possessed girl, gloating over the fire and Noble’s misfortune.   The trident then leads Daimon to the source of the evil, the home of Melissa Manners.  Melissa’s parents, desperate for help, agree to allow Daimon to examine their daughter.  A demon named Allatou reveals itself to be Melissa’s possessor.  Allatou battles Daimon, and then abruptly abandons her host, only to turn – in an instant – to assume control of Melissa’s father, who confronts Daimon with a meat cleaver.  -Chris Blake

Chris: Steve elects with this issue to move away from the prospect of Daimon as a time-travelling reality-saver, as depicted in MS #17, and return to the role of Daimon as demons-bane.  A welcome change, from my perspective – stories like this help to keep Son of Satan distinctive.  Daimon finds himself shocked and revolted by Allatou’s hideous appearance and vile acts.  And just because we have a creepy vibe doesn’t mean we don’t have demon-bashing action too – a nice balance of story components by Steve.  We see Daimon’s abilities continue to develop, as the trident serves to focus his concentration in the vision sequence, and also to draw him, as a “divining rod,” to the source of the evil presence.  We get a brief hint that Daimon might lose his temper (as he’s crowded during the party), but sadly there’s no indication this time that Daimon might lose control over the dark influences inherent in his powers (yes, ordinarily I’m not rooting for characters to lose their self-control).  
Gene Colan is an inspired choice for this title (I took a quick flip thru, to re-acquaint myself with the art after many years, prior to the re-read).  His demon-depiction is truly gruesome, isn’t it?  It was fun for Gene to delve into a horror-based story without having to rely on the artistic tropes we’ve come to expect from Tomb of Dracula.  No, I’m not going to say that Chiaramonte’s inks top Palmer’s, but I hope you agree that, when it counts, the art is at its best: Daimon’s concentration (p 14, pnl 5); Noble’s terror and anguish (left); Daimon’s reactions on p 16; Allatou’s hideosity (above; and p 30, pnl 4, 5).  Roussos ably applies deep shades of red and violet to emphasize Daimon’s emotional states.  
Matthew: The appearance of this issue one month after the last puts the book back on its long-standing schedule, disrupted when #13 slipped into January, and it now resumes publication in even-numbered months through the end of its run (#33) in April 1977.  I had mixed feelings when I saw Colan’s byline, because although his shadowy style would seem eminently suitable for Satanic subject matter, it is also completely at odds with the much more conventional approach to which Mooney has made us accustomed.  Well, it’s different, all right—it’s a vast improvement; with Gene the Dean’s sophisticated look fitting Daimon in general, and Steve’s possession plotline in particular, like a glove, it feels like the grown-ups have taken over.

The Tomb of Dracula 25
"Night of the Blood Stalker!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Tough PI Hannibal King gets himself a new client, a woman who claims her husband was attacked by some type of creature. Adrienne Walters relates to Hannibal how some devilish fiend had broken into their bedroom one night and killed her husband by biting his neck. Neither know that it was Dracula that did the deed. Adrienne herself would have been a victim if some neighbors hadn't barged in and scared Dracula off. Hannibal explains to the skeptical woman that her husband was most likely killed by a vampire, telling her he witnessed a tall, gray-haired vampire slaughter a warehouse full of people not too long ago. Investigating at a tavern, Hannibal learns where Mr. Walters' office was down on the docks. Just outside the office door, Hannibal overhears Dracula telling one of his henchman that Mr. Walters had learned too much of the Count's affairs dealing with the shipping of coffins. Hannibal storms in, shooting his gun at them. Dracula flings him out a window and then leaves after giving his underling some further instructions. When King returns, he beats the underling until he reveals Drac's whereabouts. At a warehouse, Hannibal once again surprises Dracula and four of his vampires as they oversee the coffins that are going to be shipped to different countries. Hannibal fights off their attack by stabbing one of them with a wooden shard and killing another with an axe.  The story ends with Adrienne Walters paying Hannibal for uncovering the truth about what happened to her husband. Hannibal King smiles as she walks away, revealing that he has been a vampire since the warehouse incident when he encountered the tall older vampire. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: Tomb of Dracula continues to entertain as it introduces new and interesting characters.  Just in this issue alone I found Hannibal King to be a more interesting antagonist for Dracula than any of the other vampire hunters.....even Blade.  Hopefully this series will continue to progress and we will see exciting showdowns involving the Vampire Hunters, Hannibal King, Dr. Sun, as well as the new mysterious gray-haired vampire.  Things are shaping up very well both story-wise and in character development.    

Chris: This is the first truly noteworthy issue of ToD we’ve had in a few months.  Now that Marv has established Drac’s renewed presence in London, he’s begun to work in some new characters, and obviously Hannibal King is among his most inspired ideas.  Marv has become so confident of his subject matter that he can offer an entire issue that is not from Drac’s perspective, or that requires him to drive the action, with Marv certain of the results.  
Art highlights: King takes aim (above); Drac’s spooky, all-seeing, beady eyes (below); horrific vampire-battling (p 26-27), and Drac’s devilish glee (p 30, pnl 2), another suitable-for-framing shot.  

Chris: A future letters page discusses the clues Marv and Gene had planted for readers, to tip them off that Hannibal has skills that reach beyond those of the usual private eye (other than a cast-iron stomach and a heart of lead, that is).  It was kinda fun this time to re-read the story and pick up those subtle little indicators.  Splendid job as always, gentlemen!
Scott: Hannibal King is an intriguing, retro style character, the sort of gumshoe with a twist I like. This guy could have walked out of any Noir thriller, right down to the Sam Spade dialog. The final reveal of his own vampirism is well done. None of the regular supporting cast is in evidence, only quickly mentioned by Dracula. We don't miss them at all. I could follow King's adventures quite easily and willingly. I rather hope he sticks around for a while. As an aside, Fred, the murdered husband, looks a lot like Carl Weathers on page three. 
Mark: Nosferatu noir.

Marv Wolfman gets his Raymond Chandler on with "Night of the Blood Stalker," the title a tip o' the bloody stake to The Night Stalker, the classic TV movie and short-lived series starring the great Darren McGavin as dyspeptic, monster-hunting reporter Carl Kolchak.

Hannibal King is a London P.I., cut from classic Philip Marlowe cloth, ("I'm a leg man, understand? And when I take in a pair of dark, slender stems, resting in the doorway of this hovel I laughingly call an office..."). Said stems belong to Adrianne Brown, whose hubby's neck had just been tapped by Drac on their wedding night. King knows about vamps, having encountered the same "tall dude, with long white hair" who killed Blade's mother.

Mark: I first suspected the "surprise" end – our Soho Sam Spade has a thirst for the rich red himself, courtesy his encounter with "that stinking white-haired vampire." – on P. 14, when he shrugs off a lead pipe to the noggin while tracking Drac. I applaud Marv for not trying to trick the reader as he doles out mounting clues: Drac tells Hannibal, "I'm your master...," and expects the dogged gumshoe's return after tossing him out a second story window.

The toothsome final panel reveal isn't a twist so much as satisfying confirmation that we understood the road signs. Like Kolchak, Hannibal doesn't win much in the end, save for answering a young widow's questions. Adrianne rewards him with a kiss. King leaves her neck intact.

And that's the best one can hope for with a lousy case like this, on a Sunday night in Soho.    

The Mighty Thor 228
"Ego: Beginning and End!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler, Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Rich Buckler and Frank Giacoia

After Thor has found and struck Ego's brain, he in turn is struck by the living planet, by a memory beam.  He relives Ego's origin... once a humanoid being known as Egros, he was a brilliant scientist who helped engineer the means to save his world from a nova that would destroy them. They were to be in suspended animation in an underground fortress of sorts, to emerge later unharmed. But alas it was not to be; the sun erupted early, and with no time to close up their vault, he was struck by the solar force, which joined the two billion people and their world into a new being...the living planet. Ever since Tana Nile took a sample from his world, Ego's internal balance has become unstable, thus the madness. And while Thor feels for him, he strikes Ego again, stunning him. Galactus has had time to fetch a giant rocket of sorts from his homeworld, which he has attached to Ego, sending him on an endless journey through space. The Firelord requests his freedom from being Galactus' herald, and once they provide the shell of the Destroyer to replace him, the wish is granted. -Jim Barwise

Jim: There are some unsatisfactory things about this issue, but so many things to recommend it, that we're clearly on the plus side. The art; Buckler and Sinnott, is spectacular. The origin of Ego is satisfactory, and cleverly done by drawing Thor into the world's memories. Sending Ego off into infinite space with a rocket behind him, is undignified to say the least, and perhaps a further joining of Thor's mind and Ego's could have set the planet free. The Destroyer as a herald for Galactus; now that is a cool visual. And it sounds like Firelord isn't going too far away.

Matthew:  “To help Rich meet the deadline before he dashed off to the Caribbean for a well-earned vacation, two buddies named Arvell Jones and Keith Pollard stepped in to help Rich out,” writes Roy.  “If you can figure out what panels they did, you’re ’way ahead of us!”  I leave that challenge to the Professor Blakes among us, especially with Sinnott as the great equalizer, but the artwork is clearly the star of this show as the admittedly impressive Kirbyesque spectacle lightens Conway’s scripting load.  These sole-survivor-of-an-ancient-race origins for Galactus (of whose handling by Gerry and new duds I don’t fully approve), Ego, the Overmind, etc. are all starting to seem the same to me, while Firelord goes on his way without very much development.

Chris: I guess I’m okay with the notion that Ego couldn’t truly be defeated, although I really expected some sort of showdown between Galactus and the Living Planet.  Thor’s reliving of the Ego origin story is well-done, and has a certain logic to it.  I honestly thought that Galactus was using the opportunity, during Thor’s engagement with the Ego-mind, to set up his planetary-energy-absorption-spacemodulator and have him a Big-G feed.  Galactus’ recognition of Ego as a sort of kindred spirit made for a nice moment, even if his speech was completely out of character (Galactus feels shame for what he does?  Since when . . .?).   Arvell Jones and Keith Pollard (future co-artists on Buckler’s Deathlok strip) contribute to the fittingly Kirbyesque feel to the art, with Sinnott on hand to seamlessly weave it all together.  

Scott: Much better than average, the origin of Ego is a little on the typical side, but still engrossing and touching in its way. The "final fate" of Ego lacks import or bite, but I can understand the hesitation in killing the character. He is a sad creature, doomed forever in madness and guilt. Galactus  lets the Firelord go free, surprising since he didn't see fit to give the Silver Surfer the same courtesy. However, Big G does not return him to his original form either. Perhaps that is why the released herald doesn't offer any thank yous on the way out.

Also This Month

Comix Book #1 v
Crazy #7
Crypt of Shadows #13
Dead of Night #6
Journey Into Mystery #13
Kid Colt Outlaw #187
Marvel's Greatest Comics #52
Marvel Double Feature #6
Marvel Spectacular #10
Marvel Super-Heroes #46
Marvel Tales #54
Mighty Marvel Western #35
Monsters on the Prowl #30 (Final Issue)
Night Rider #1 v
Our Love Story #30
The Outlaw Kid #24
Photo News Features #1 v
Sgt Fury #122
Spidey Super Stories #1 v
Two-Gun Kid #120
Uncanny Tales #6
Vault of Evil #14
War is Hell #9 >
Weird Wonder Tales #6
Where Monsters Dwell #31
X-Men #90

"John Kowalski" (from War is Hell #9), an offbeat strip, followed eight issues of reprints and, per Marvel Firsts if not the MCDb, was “conceived and plotted by Tony Isabella, with the welcome aid of Roy Thomas,” yet inaugural scripter Chris Claremont—months before his mutant apotheosis—saw it through cancellation in #15, tying up the loose ends in the final issues of Man-Thing Vol. 2.  Since the dying-a-thousand-deaths concept doesn’t really kick in until the last page, I’ll have to take it on faith that Cheerful Chris (an equally apt moniker for our own Professor Blake) takes the ball and runs with it.  Unfortunately, I found the story here rather murky, and it probably goes without saying that the Ayers/Springer artwork is nothing to write home about, aside from the two-pager. -Matthew Bradley

Night Rider #1 was the company's latest attempt to publish material they had no legal or moral obligation to pay for. Look at that list of "Also This Month" and you'll be shocked to know that 21 of the 26 titles are reprints. Night Rider reprinted six of the seven issues of the original Ghost Rider western series. Of course, the character has been renamed so as not to be confused with the supernatural motorcycle hero. What amazes me is not that we get reprints of a title only seven years in the grave (and not a hit the first go-round) but that Marvel had such a low regard for the Marvel Zombies, they couldn't even squeeze out a seventh issue to complete the reprinting!

Comix Book #1 was Marvel's ill-advised experiment in underground comics, populated by such alternate artists as Howard Cruse, Kim Deitch, Skip Williamson, Trina Robbins, and editor Denis Kitchen (one of the founding fathers of underground). The package was composed of very short, satiric pieces so far away from what Marvel was publishing that the question has to be begged: what the hell were these guys thinking? Even Marvel zombies ignored Comix Book and underground fans wouldn't be caught dead at the newsstand (if they could find the newsstand, that is) purchasing something associated with the four color giant. Subsequently, the experiment died a very quiet death after only three issues. Meanwhile, Marvel stuck its foot into two other new areas: the children's comic book and the history magazine.

 It could be argued that most Marvel comics were written for six year-olds but Spidey Super Stories (in partnership with The Electric Company) was targeted for the youngest of the young. Ironic then that it carried the highest price of the four colors, a whopping thirty-five cents! Spidey was a much bigger hit than Comix Book and lasted 57 issues (until March 1982). As for Photo News Features, I haven't much to work with as I never saw either of the two issues published, but the title was nostalgia-oriented and heavy on World War II coverage (the first cover was given over to Hitler and the second to F.D.R.). Not many of the company's digressions produced much more than landfill. 

For those wondering, it would have cost you the princely sum of $19.75 to buy every comic and magazine Marvel published this month. According to the CPI, that means, with inflation, you should be paying $76.63 for that same stack of Marvels. Phfft! Yeah, right! Considering that the contemporary Marvel cover price is $3.99-4.99, good luck! -Peter Enfantino


The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 2
Cover by Neal Adams

“Black Colossus”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

“Chronicles of the Sword”
Text by Glenn Lord
“Blackmark Chapter II”
Story and Art by Gil Kane

“Beast from the Abyss”
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Howard Chaykin and The Crusty Bunkers

An absolutely fabulous Neal Adams cover welcome readers to the second issue, so we’re off to a great start. And the interior doesn’t disappoint, particularly the main Conan story.

In “Black Colossus,” Shevatas, master of all thieves, steals his way into the domed temple of the ruined city Kutchemes, the first man to do so in thirty decades. Inside, Shevatas discovers a priceless treasure of gold and jewels — and to his ultimate regret, unwittingly resurrects the supreme sorcerer Natohk, also known as Thugra Khotan. Miles away, Princess Yasmela, the ruler of Khoraja, is haunted by nightmares of Natohk, who has assembled a mighty legion of bloodthirsty nomads and fierce demons in a plot to capture both her body and soul. Yasmela seeks solace from a stone statue of the Hyborian god Mitra: the idol answers her prayers and commands the woman to place her kingdom in the hands of the first man she meets: a man that turns out to be Conan the Cimmerian, already a mercenary in the Khorajian army. Yasmela gathers her counselors — Chancellor Taurus, General Malthom and Count Thespides — and informs them that Conan is now in command of her army. At first the counselors protest, but when the former mercenary dons the royal armor, they are impressed by the mighty and regal Cimmerian. The next day the Khorajian forces ride out to confront Natohk’s insidious invaders, finding them camped on a low-lying plain. From the high ground, a wary Conan orders the archers to prepare, but an enraged Count Thespides calls the command cowardly and charges to meet the enemy with his knights. Riding a chariot pulled by a hellish camel, Natohk scatters seeds on the battlefield: when Thespides’ force rides upon them, they are engulfed by a tremendous explosion. Conan rallies his troops and attacks, with General Malthom approaching from the rear. Despite suffering hundreds of casualties, the Khorajians emerge victorious. However, during the battle, Natohk manages to kidnap Princess Yasmela and rides off, with Conan in hot pursuit. The Cimmerian chases the sorcerer and his captive to Kutchemes: before Natohk can perform the sacrifice that will make him unconquerable, Conan hurls his broadsword, impaling the wizard.

Buscema and Alcala!

The burst on the cover does not lie, as this 36-page adventure truly feels like a “novel-length tale.” It’s based on the Robert E. Howard story first published in the June 1933 issue of Weird Tales. Buscema and Alcala make a marvelous team, as Alfredo adds a tremendous amount of detail, shading and texture to Big John’s brawny pencils. If I haven’t mentioned this before, Buscema can draw a hell of a horse. But what makes the story sing is Roy’s rich prose. It’s meaty and musical, a joy to read. While he is eventually dispatched with relative ease, Natohk is a menacing figure straight out of a Lucio Fulci movie, his body wrapped in bandages and the flesh melting from his screaming skull. For a Comics Code-free publication, the sex is basically nonexistent, until the conclusion when the terrified Yasmela throws herself at Conan. The Cimmerian resists at first, the fallen Khoraja soldiers weighing heavily on his mind. But this is Conan, so he gets over that in quick fashion.

In the King Kull story “Beast from the Abyss,” the Valusian monarch is enjoying a boozy and bawdy vacation in the resort city of Kamula. But not all is as peaceful as it seems: when one of Brule’s Pict warriors disappears, the king and his faithful companion find that the Kamulians tend to offer sacrifices to the giant slug god Zogthuu from time to time. While, in my opinion, Howard Chaykin runs hot and cold,  he is ably abetted by Neal Adams and his Crusty Bunkers: Russ Heath, Dick Giordano and Alan Weiss. It’s based on a King Kull fragment by Howard, expanded and finished by Lin Carter in 1967. Englehart is, of course, an old hand with the character, scripting Kull the Destroyer 12 to 15. This one is on par with that uninspiring output.

"Beast from the Abyss"

The adaptation of Gil Kane’s Blackmark continues with “Chapter II,” set in a post-apocalyptic land of sword and sorcery. At the age of six, Blackmark’s peaceful village is invaded by marauding barbarians, who kill his mother and father. The boy escapes, growing strong and agile in the wilderness, vowing to one day rule New Earth. But soon the youngster is captured by slavers and enchained. I don’t know, not really feeling this whole Blackmark thing. I understand its significance as perhaps the very first graphic novel, but Kane’s art is rather bland, the layout unattractive, and the typeface distracting.

“Chronicles of the Sword” is the start of a continuing installment that serializes author Lin Carter’s book of the same name. Well, that’s what the Introduction says: from what I could find, the book was actually titled Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy. Carter, as many might already now, was a posthumous collaborator with Robert E. Howard, the creator of Thongor the Barbarian, and a writer on the Spider-Man animated show of the late 60s. In this work he chronicles the halcyon history of sword and sorcery writing. This chapter covers Lord Dunsany, the Norman-Irish author who many credit with creating the genre. Carter also heavily mentions H. P. Lovecraft, a great admirer of Dunsany. By the way, if you want to read any of Lord Dunsany’s stories, Dover, the publisher I work for, has two collections available. Shameless plug. -Thomas Flynn

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 5
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Two Goals to Seek, One Path to Glory"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Keth Pollard and Bob McLeod
Letters by Tom Orzechowski

"Kung Fu vs. Karate: Which is Better?"

Text by Frank McLaughlin

"And Men Shall Call Him... Samurai"

Film Review by Chris Claremont

"The Casket of Hsien Hang!"

Story by Mary Skrenes
Art by Paul Gulacy and Duffy Vohland
Letters by Annette Kawecki

"K'Ing Kung Fu"

Text by David Anthony Kraft

"The Blitzkrieg of Batroc"

(reprinted from Tales of Suspense #85, January 1967)

On a rare day off from fighting his father's goons, Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu takes in a new Kung Fu flick at one of Los Angeles' finer grindhouses. Shang is astonished to find that the star of the film, Fists of Hate, is none other than his boyhood chum and sparring partner, Kwai Loo, a young man who had a very large chip on his shoulder the last time the two were together. Determined to find out what's behind this sudden change of venue, Shang hops the fence of Ambassador Studios and marches onto the set of Loo's new big-budget Chop Socky flick, Balls of Uranium, to find his old partner still has the moves. The boy has grown up though and seemingly put the past (and his grudge against Shang) behind him. Kwai tells Shang that he tired of being Fu Manchu's servant and, after hearing one final outrageous request from the evil emperor, hoofed it to find greener pastures in Hollywood. Fu has not forgotten though and Loo's set turns into a real battleground, with fists and feet a'flyin'. Shang attempts to aid his old friend but, in the end, the numbers are too much and Kwai succumbs. He lives just long enough to tell Shang that the order Fu gave him was to deliver Shang on a platter. A good, exciting narrative has "Two Goals to Seek..." but the finales of these are starting to blend together in my mind. Fu always gets the last word and Shang walks into the sunset, hating him even more. I like Moench's inside joke, that his Master of Kung Fu lives in an America obssessed with Bruce Lee and David Carradine.

"Two Goals to Seek..."

The only other original strip this issue defies description. In another one of those "we try hard but we can't always give you the original content we charge you for so rather than discount the cover price of the zine we'll soak you by popping in a reprint" editorials by, you guessed it, Tony Isabella, we are told The Sons of the Tiger is a really difficult strip to assign and things just keep happening. But, heck, the non-fiction is so popular with readers, it's been expanded to the inside front cover! Oh, I'm off on a tangent again. I was going to mention "The Casket of Hsien Hang!" wherein another master of kung fu (this one named Ts'ui Shang) becomes the target of an assassination attempt by the corpulent Wu Chow. Wu is hellbent on landing his hands on Ts'ui's miniature casket, a device that seems to have the same powers as the Cosmic Cube. There's a heaping helping of the supernatural here and writer Skrenes pulls it off well. By the end of the story, I wanted to know more about Ts'ui and his magic box. Paul Gulacy's art is as sharp as ever.  Unfortunately, this seems to have been the only appearance of the character and next issue we're back to the Sons of the Tigers and their endless tour of opium dens.

"The Casket of Hsien Hang!"

The reprint is of Batroc the Leaper's second appearance, duking it out with Captain America, included here, I'm sure, because the guy could jump and kick. Next issue: the long-requested reprinting of the origin of The Kangaroo! -Peter Enfantino

Zee original appearance of zee Leaper

Vampire Tales 7
Cover by Jose Antonio Domingo

"Where is Gallows Bend and What the Hell am I Doing There?"

Story by Don McGregor
Art by Tom Sutton

"Sip the Sweet Poison"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Billy Graham

"Devil's Den"

News by Carla Joseph


Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Duffy Vohland

"Agents of the High Road"

Story by Doug Moench
Art Howard Chaykin

Michael Morbius, the Living Vampire and his companion, Amanda Saint travel to the western town of Gallows Bend, where they hope to find Amanda's missing father. What they find is yet another branch of the Demon-Fire club, lorded over by a grotesquerie known as Apocalypse, a shape-shifter who's got a grudge against the duo for bringing down two groups of Demon-Fire in their trek across America. While Morbius is doing battle with the fiend, Amanda is visited in a deserted tavern by her long-lost father, The reunion is short-lived however as the man quickly disappears and Amanda must tend to the wounded Morbius. Knowing the vampire needs blood, the girl gives herself over to Morbius, but he gets a bit carried away. The only thing that snaps him out of his bloodthirsty trance is a scream from the local gallows. Investigating, they find Amanda's father swinging, dead, and Apocalypse in his new guise as a demon on horseback. The creature catches Michael in his deadly noose and looks to add to his tally for the day but the vampire gets the better of Apocalypse and destroys him by dunking him in a water trough. Morbius comforts Amanda as they walk off in the moonlight. Not altogether a success, "Where is Gallows Bend..." is, nonetheless enjoyable thanks mostly to Tom Sutton's eccentric pencils. In the hands of Sutton, everyone looks as though they're infested with maggots or rotting away (though Amanda certainly has a nice caboose). I'm not really sure what's going on with Amanda's father, why he was re-introduced, only to be dispatched so quickly. Don McGregor's prose is as purple as it gets, par for the course ("Fantasy horror is a form of enjoyment. Real horror destroys. If the roller coaster hurtles off its tracks, fantasy horror and real horror clash. Fantasy horror is always the loser") for this series. In particular, McGregor's choice to revolve narrators is especially frustrating and grating. Clearly, Don was hitting his stride with the acclaimed Black Panther series over in Jungle Action and cruising here. No felony.

The remainder of the issue is given over to a triple-threat of Doug Moench-scripted non-series vampire tales that run the gamut in quality from ludicrous to downright good. "Sip the Sweet Poison" is a fun bit of nonsense about Horace, a hospital worker who develops a taste for plasma. The dweeb can't stand the sight of himself in the mirror because his teeth aren't sharp enough but, one night at the hospital, he's attacked by a vampire and he gets his wish. It's never explained why a vampire would crash through a 14th story hospital window, dine on a fella, and then hightail it, but Moench's (obviously Night Stalker-influenced) script has enough humor to keep the interest and Billy Graham's stylized pencils perfectly fit that mood. "Bats" is a ludicrous prose-free experiment that doesn't work on any level. On her way to a tryst with a chiropterist, a woman is attacked by a vampire and her car plunges over a cliff. The scientist is awakened by a knock on the door. It's the CHP, with the body of his lover. Heartbroken, he drinks rat poison and dies but, coincidentally, his body is then drained by the same vampire who killed his lover. The vampire dies horribly but the lovers reawaken as the undead. In what state does the CHP dump a dead body on the kitchen table of the next of kin and forego the autopsy? If the vampire dies a horrible death from the rat poison, why does the professor awaken? One of the worst stories I've read in the B&W line. Doug Moench redeems himself with "Agents of the High Road," a gorgeously-illustrated tale of highwaymen who rob a coach and hear tell of a chest stuffed with treasure aboard a ship in Liverpool. The men travel to the dock but, when they find the chest, they discover it's actually the casket of a vampiress. Yep, I knew what was coming almost immediately upon hearing "treasure chest" (seriously, it's because I'm so doggone smart, not because this magazine is called Vampire Tales) but Doug at least throws in a few twists on the way to unfurling the fangs. Chaykin's art, as always, is first rate.


Marv Wolfman explains that the advertised Blade the Vampire Slayer story this issue just ain't happenin'. Citing the Dread Deadline Doom, our harried editor promises it will show up next issue. I've snuck a peek ahead (for historic commentary purposes only) and can assure you that the story does indeed surface in #8. By 1974, Ralph Macchio was Marvel's favorite letter hack (and Carla Joseph's biggest fan) and the proof is the fact that one half of the entire letter column is given over to Macchio's page-by-page breakdown of Vampire Tales #5 (he liked it). Within a short time of this letter appearing, Macchio was helping out with the black and white line. -Peter Enfantino

"Agents of the High Road"

Monsters Unleashed 8
Cover by Earl Norem

"Fever in the Freak House"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Val Mayerik

"Man-Thing: Several Meaningless Deaths"

Text Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Pat Broderick and Al Milgrom

"Swamp Stars of the Silver Screen"

Text by Don Glut

"One Hungers"

(Reprinted from Tower of Shadows #2, November 1969)

"A Martian Genesis"

Story by Tony Isabella and Doug Moench
Art by George Perez, Duffy Vohland, and Rich Buckler

In a trend we'll see more of in the next few months, Tony Isabella rhapsodizes in his editorial column about all the wonderful changes that will be taking effect in the next few months. Lots of new series characters and heaps of great stuff. "The Tiger" won't see most of these changes implemented (and most will be forgotten as early as next issue's editorial) as he's basically a "dead editor walking" and won't last past #9. All the wonderfulness Tony promises surely could not have begun this issue as what we get here is two new stories, a reprint, and a boatload of text. Editor Isabella claims that "This is Your Magazine!" If so, I think I'll look for another one.

Having witnessed the psychic murder of his only friend, The Frankenstein Monster is, shall we say, a little peeved at his new nemesis, The Master, a really ugly guy who commands a horde of experiments-gone-wrong in a dank and smelly dungeon. The Master tries valiantly to bring The Monster on board his revival of ugliness but the big guy ain't having any so there's a "Fever in the Freak House!" The Master has an ace up his sleeve in the guise of a gas-filled rocket launcher which he uses to halt The Monster's rampage. With the beast out of the way, the freak boss orders his squadron to converge upon Julia Winters, a fine specimen and, it appears, a babe he used to stalk. Once Julia is shackled and helpless, The Master surprises everyone by pulling off his gruesome face and revealing that, under it all, he's actually a pretty boy. This drives his congregation nuts (they so wanted him to be one of them!) and they rip the former Master to pieces. The disagreement gives The Frankenstein Monster a chance to break free of his chains, bust Julia out, and escape the Freak House just before the walls come tumbling down. Outside, a patrol car rolls up and another bad day begins for our patchwork hero. As I've noted before regarding this series, I believe neither Gary Friedrich nor Doug Moench had any idea where to take this series nor what to do with this character. I don't blame them. Aside from teaming him with Dracula or Werewolf by Night, what do you do to keep The Monster interesting? Not this mess. The splash (above) reads that Frankenstein's Monster is "wrenching in horror, utter dismay slicing his consciousness, livid realization laying devastating waste to the newly-found succor of companionship" but you could have fooled me. His expression looks more like boredom, as if he was forced to read the script he was trapped in (or, worse, Tony's editorial). Doug may have been reading Len Wein's Swamp Thing at the time and thought freaks was the way to go. I know this hook, the real ugly guy who turns out to be dashing under the mask, has been played before, I just can't remember where. A Special No-No Prize to the first reader who reminds me where I may have seen it.

There's also a prose Man-Thing story, a look at filmic swamp monsters, and a reprint whose ink is barely dry from its first appearance. Down, down, down slides a title that could have been so much more -Peter Enfantino

When we last left our band of exiles, the Princess Heru, Chak the Wing-man, and First Earthman on Mars Gullivar Jones, they were out to reach the “City of Seth before the season of cold” in order to “rediscover the ancient Martian science that had brought [Gullivar] to the Red Planet.”  As they near the city of Heru’s people, they are attacked by a hybrid creature, part bloodbeast and part Phra, which they defeat as a team.  

The Hither-People, barred from their own city by the Technics Guild, are encamped outside its perimeter.  Heru is disgusted with her own tribe who renew their attempts to make a so-called peace offering of her to the warlord Ar-Hap and his Red Barbarians.  Heru threatens the most vocal one at knifepoint, calling them “nothing but a race of cringing cowards!,” and the rest part to let the trio through.  

They push past a lone robed guard and boldly enter the forbidden “Sacred City of Technological Redemption and Scientific Salvation” which turns out to be a ghost town – that is until they trip an alarm and are swarmed by more hybrid monstrosities, this time winged slugs.  The three hold their own valiantly, until members of the Technics Guild sleep-gas them and take them to the Hall of Science.  There they are charged with trespassing and sentenced to death.  

The Technics Guild’s idea of “perfect beings…capable of future survival!” appalls Heru who judges their handiwork “loathsome hybrids…monsters!”  The Technics Guild’s faith that “this world’s only hope lies in science” is unshaken.  One uncowls himself to reveal what radiation has wrought upon their human form, unlike the “enhancements” that radiation conferred to the “superior” species that they are concocting, like the “Firstborn!...a blasphemous entity belched up on a geyser of flame rooted in the pits of hell…”  Humankind, they judge, is “inferior…and undeserving of life!”  

With the Firstborn unleashed upon them, Gullivar breaks his chains, frees Heru and Chak, and topples the top-heavy tentacled beast.  The Technics Guild scientists despair at its creation’s death.  With the stage all Gullivar’s, he upbraids them for building “tinker-toy mockeries of life!” instead of “search[ing] for ways to save the dying races …on Mars” and gives them a tongue-lashing as only an Earthling from New York can: “Bozos,” “jerks!,” “crybabies,” “turkeys,” “gutless wonders!,” “cretins.”  

Gullivar gives up on his longstanding dream that the secret technology of “the last scientists on Mars” can ever help him return to Earth.  One chapter closes and another opens as Heru declares that hope is still to be found by getting back to basics: “The real knowledge of this city is found in books.  If we can find them, we can use those books the way they should be.”  FIN.  

Back again by popular demand!” opened the Monsters Unleashed #4 Gullivar Jones story “Web of Hate,” and though it was billed on the Feature Page as a “one-shot story,” there was one more Gully tale in the offing – “A Martian Genesis!”  Since Isabella confessed Gully “Bombed” during its Creatures on the Loose run, it remains a mystery how, after a failed COTL pitch for a letter campaign from readers to save it from cancellation, it ever managed to come back in the first place for MU #4.  “If you want more of the mystery and excitement as Gullivar explores his mad prison...well, write and let us know!” is the note on which COTL #21 ended.  Were bundles of unopened letters voting for more Gullivar miraculously found in Marvel’s dead letters office between the time of COTL #21 and MU #4?  Did Gullyphiles, after two years, decide to synchronously and spontaneously barrage Marvel, clamoring for more Gully?  No matter – “Web of Hate” was a hit, and the mail poured in after MU #4, giving us #8.  

But, after all those back-by-popular-demand letters, and after “Web of Hate” won the Readers’ Poll (MU #9), where was any more mail afterwards?  For after #8, Gullivar vanishes from Marvel’s stage, never to be seen again.  Did fans only demand one more installment and nothing more?  True, it did come in fifth – next to last – in MU #10’s Readers’ Poll, and Readers Unleashed! provides a lengthy and detailed disavowal of “A Martian Genesis!”  In their “sad but true tale [of] the story behind the story of ‘A Martian Genesis,’” Marvel comes clean that this Gullivar episode was “the product of five faithful Marvel Bullpenners” after “the original artist/writer team…Rich Buckler and Tony Isabella” fell prey to deadlines.  (Because of Isabella’s “ever-burgeoning editorial duties,” he “pass[ed] the mantle…to the capable Doug Moench, who completed the script from Tony’s plot.”  Meanwhile, Buckler “left [his art duties] to George Perez…to finish penciling the story from layouts in little more than a week” and “Duffy Vohland…who [had] to ink the story over [the same] weekend [as the] New York Comic Art Convention.”  Finally, “complete art tones were added to the already-cursed job – beautiful pencil tones that Duffy had been informed would print…but sadly did not.”  Marvel begged forgiveness and promised “it won’t happen again,” but by that time, thanks to this series of unfortunate events, it was Gullivar who would not happen again.  

Either way, since Monsters Unleashed only lasted three more issues (concluding with #11), Gullivar would have had no place to go short of his own magazine.  Isabella promised in an “editorial epistle” that Gullivar was “slated to appear every fourth issue” – that was the plan as late as this issue, MU #8, even hinting at “his own cover feature somewhere.”  While many readers over the years clamored for this, the Readers Unleashed! section of #10 makes it clear that what turned out to be the final installment, “A Martian Genesis!,” simply failed to make the hoped-for splash.  “…Is one bomb too much to forgive?,” Mighty Marvel asked.  Apparently yes, even for so-called Gullyphiles.  

More Gullivar was certainly in Marvel’s mind judging from this installment.  Heru’s hopefulness in the last panels leaves a door forever ajar for further adventures in the City of Seth, while at the same time “A Martian Genesis!” provides as final a finale as can be wished for since Gullivar finally does reach the goal he set out for after striking out on his own to wander the wastes.  Anything less than reaching the “Sacred City” would have amounted to one big anticlimax, so deadline debacle notwithstanding, the story holds together better than one would expect.  

Now that we are at the end of the Yellow Brick Road – the Gullivar comics are lightly peppered with Wizard of Oz allusions, including a reference here to secur[ing] an audience with the Wonderful Wizard of Oz” – the “man behind the curtain,” or men in this case, are as weak as L. Frank Baum’s Great Wizard, and worse.  More than being buffoonish like Baum’s inept Wizard, the Technics Guild members are genetic engineers, letting this episode double as a cautionary tale about playing God that would not have been out of place in the Edwardian age that produced not only the original Edwin L. Arnold novel, but the Romantic era that birthed Victor Frankenstein (and later, Doctor Moreau).  

These Guild scientists were briefly glimpsed in one COTL #18 panel as Grim Reaper-ish cloaked figures described as “…men…jealous and greedy for power [who] would not help the starving masses…”  They retain the same appearance here, resembling radioactive robed refugees from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, especially when unhooded, or perhaps the vampires of The Omega Man – both Charlton Heston films, come to think of it.  (The Hither folk tents outside the City also receive a one-panel cameo in COTL #16.)  Up till now, Gullivar Jones always looked vaguely like Flash Gordon actor Buster Crabbe, intentionally or not, but come this issue it feels more as though art triumvirate George Pérez, Duffy Vohland, and Rich Buckler modeled the Warrior of Mars after Sam J. Jones from the 1980 Flash Gordon feature film.  The worst part of this new appearance is Gullivar’s newly flowing mane.  It is one thing to be far from his Fort Dix barber back home on Earth, but yet another to compete with Heru for the longest locks.  No matter since it is the Princess of Mars who fights “with the fervor of a Crusader” this time around, “striv[ing] to make an example of herself…and thereby shake her race from its collective fear and complacency!”  

After the climax, Gullivar washes his hands of the Technics Guild and their technology, but never clicks his heels together to go home again.  Are we meant to think he and his companions roam the Dying Planet till their dying days?  One could turn to the source material for a finish, but the third acts of the Arnold novel versus Marvel’s adaptation diverge wildly, making Arnold’s conclusion inapplicable.  Farewell forever, Gullivar, Heru, and Chak.  -Gilbert Colon

Planet of the Apes 2
Cover by Bob Larkin

"The Forbidden Zone of Forgotten Horrors"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Ploog

"The City of the Apes"
Text by Ed Lawrence

"Simian Genesis"
Book Review by Gary Gerani

"Michael Wilson: The Other 'Apes' Writer"
Text by David Johnson

"World of Captive Humans"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito

A cool cover is offset by a skippable intro by faculty whipping boy Tony Isabella, and we’re already going bananas. More so when our original tale, "Terror on the Planet of the Apes" begins. Ploog!

Jason and Alexander escape from jail and sneak into a tree to slip away. Hoping to get to Xavier and talk sense into him, they wait until morning, where they watch Zena’s funeral from a nearby roof so Brutus’ police guards don’t spot them. As Brutus eulogizes Zena and complains about the human problem, Jason gets angry and shouts at him, which starts the crossbow barrage—and one hits Jason in the shoulder! Hightailing it out of there, Jason and Alexander rush the guards and steal a pair of horses, guiding the pursuing guards to Brutus’ hidden camp—where the guards are slaughtered by the gorilla terrorists! In Chapter 2, Jason and Alexander set a gorilla hut on fire, then make their way to the Forbidden Zone, where they find a slew of junk, an ancient gun and swords. But a band of half man/half ape is watching them, one of which leads the friends away, until they spot a crane-like machine that scoops up one of the man-beasts! It leads to a tunnel and a furnace of some sort ruled by nasty mutants. Jason kills one but they’re soon caught between the mutants and the terrorists! -Joe Tura

Joe: This fine second chapter is not only the most exciting of the entire mag (not a stretch), but also a great comic tale that leaves you wanting more! I’m loving this magazine already just for "TOTPOTA" which was one of my faves growing up. Ploog is at the top of his game, Moench is firing on all cylinders, and the readers are rewarded. But then we turn the page….

Scott: Primarily a long chase as Jason and Alexander (no, not the guy from Seinfeld) evade capture. Jason's temper is ridiculously short-fused as he puts his life in dire jeopardy just so he can pop off a rant at Xavier and Brutus. Of course, the troops are lousy shots. Once reaching the Forbidden Zone, our two heroes make pretty much the same discoveries as both Taylor and Brent did in the first two Apes movies. Also mutants. While the story is familiar, Ploog's art and the pacing keep this from being dull.  

Joe: “The City of the Apes” is a long, picture-laden article about the sets of Ape City. Pass. Then we get a seemingly short yet actually long and unreadable review of the POTA novel. Not interested. Next up is a nice interview with Michael Wilson, co-writer of the first Ape film and writer of A Place in the Sun, Friendly Persuasion, 5 Fingers, The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia (with Robert Bolt), among others. He was also blacklisted at one point, which is why he never received screen credit for Kwai or Persuasion. Interested!

Joe: And we end with the next chapter of the fine Moench-Tuska-Esposito Planet of the Apes adaptation. This one takes us from Taylor being captured, through his wounded throat being patched up, to Taylor flirting (kinda) with Zira, to an unimpressed Zaius, to meeting Nova, to the “Bright Eyes” nickname, to Taylor slipping Zira a note. Good stuff, and it makes me want to watch the Blu-Ray to be honest! 

Scott: The story this is adapted from is too good to lose its power under the average Tuska pencils. He handles the apes well enough, but his humans are his usual standard and, again, Taylor looks nothing at all like Charlton Heston. I can totally understand not wanting to pay to use his likeness (or perhaps Marvel was forbidden to), but he doesn't have to look like every other face in the crowd either.