Wednesday, September 17, 2014

October 1974 Part One: Agatha Harkness Switches Teams!

 Doctor Strange 4
"...Where Bound'ries... Decay"
Story by Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner
Art by Frank Brunner, Dick Giordano, and Bob Wiacek
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Frank Brunner

Dr. Strange, trapped inside the unreal realm of the Orb of Agamotto, travels on the horse Aragorn to the center of the globe, there to confront death. There he finds those spirits not dead, but they must relive their demise forever. As he reaches the void at the very center, a meteor touches Aragorn, who instantly dies. Death, taking the vision of a giant skull, coldly tells Stephen he cannot escape. Eventually he surrenders to the inevitable. Once "dead" he sees the spirit of the Ancient One, who gives him the symbol of Ankh, eternal life, that he may not die again of natural causes. Many new experiences await him. -Jim Barwise

Jim: The most striking thing here are the visuals. Frank Brunner's art is beautiful once again, and utterly unique to this title. Even being brought up to date from the last issue seemed fresh; the arrangement of panels always unique. The impossible always is nearly reached often for Dr. Strange, here being no exception. The astonishment at the inevitability of his death only opens the door to a new level. The village that accompanies his arrival at the Orb's center is chilling; the moments of eternal death memorably awful. Bravo!

Mark Barsotti: Behind a stunning death's head cover, Frank Brunner's penultimate effort as the title's co-plotter and artist finds our good Doctor having escaped the surreal snares of unreality to face the ultimate, unbeatable foe, Mr. G. Reaper, Death itself.

Entering the Unknown Country upon the flying steed Aragorn, Strange first encounters a collection of damned souls sentenced to perpetual purgatory, each wishing for the sweet oblivion that is not in the Doc's power to grant. Riding off a cliff in a dark cave – and through some Brunner reality-twisted graphics - Strange and his mount reach "the void," presented as a vision of deep space, where touching any flying matter brings on the Big Sleep. Poor Aragorn is quickly reduced to a crumbling skeleton, and can the Sorcerer Supreme be far behind?

Matthew: It pains me to say this, because of my high regard for Englehart, but I continue to be disappointed with this arc despite the consistently excellent Brunner/Giordano artwork, which in this issue really is quite sumptuous.  When Starlin created his classic “Metamorphosis” head trip in Captain Marvel #29, I was riveted even though it stopped the saga’s overt action dead in its tracks, yet my reaction to this is more like that of Doc himself:  “all my maneuvering amounts to standing still…”  Moreover, we are abruptly told not only that this has all been some sort of cosmic test, but also that our hero will not age, can only die in battle, and may live for 600 years, if not forever; is it just me, or does that reduce the dramatic stakes for future issues a little?

Chris: I had to read this one twice - I wanted to be sure I didn't miss anything.  So Doc has to surrender to death, in order to free himself of any fear of death – ingenious. In terms of pure mind-blowingness, this one rivals Mar-vell's attainment of cosmic awareness, both in concept, and depiction as art. 

Chris: Nearly every page features a Brunner/Giordano highlight – some pages in toto, such as the gloriously uncaptioned p 15 (above), go without saying – but I’ll try to limit myself to a mere select few depictions of Doc’s state of mind thru his ordeal: a sense of pity for a suffering soul (p 10, pnl 5); a classic look of determination (p 14, pnl 2); a progression thru Kubler-Ross, all in the space of a few moments of realization (p 30, pnl 4).  Lessman does her part too, as we’re feasted to a wide variety of bright and dulled shades, as Doc whirls his way back to reality.  

Mark: Death as a grinning skull is an old, but ever apt, archetype, and the Englehart/Brunner version taunts and torments the good Doctor, threatening Clea when Strange takes refuge in an Eternity-shaped safe zone and mulls his diminishing options.

Realizing this is a fight he can't win, Stephen Strange takes the only road left open: surrender. "I fight no longer! I fear death no longer! I am ready to die."

And he does, only to behold the disembodied spirit of the Ancient One, who informs his one-time student that, having faced down man's most primal fear, he shall now live again, "reborn into your realm with no physical fears to arrest your development."

Deep spiritual insight or feel-good fortune cookie metaphysics? The Ancient One would tell us that each conscious soul must decide that question for themselves. But since the Doc biting it would have meant a whole lotta blank pages next ish, and fiction is the only realm we know of where death need not be triumphant, let's split the difference.

Tasty tale. Yummy fortune cookie. And the sinister Silver Dagger, I suspect, is in for a world of hurt.  

Astonishing Tales 26
Deathlok the Demolisher in
"The Enemy: Us"
Story by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench
Art by Rich Buckler and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters  by Annette Kawecki
Cover by Rich Buckler

As Deathlok kicks down a door, an unseen sniper fires at his back, setting off a bomb as the cyborg ducks the shot then collapses the building the sniper is escaping on (!). Flashback to a Ryker interrogation, where Deathlok escaped full of energy, then back to the present as he enters a storehouse of black market meat—packed with black market assassins! Wasting bad guys at a record pace, Deathlok finds Mike Travers, then angrily rips out the computer card in his arm. The two make their way to a helicopter on the roof, with more villain vanquishing for good measure, then head off to the Statue of Liberty. Ambushed by cannibals, they distract Deathlok and his bum knee enough for Ryker’s goons to nab Mike. But the determined Demolisher makes his way to Lady Liberty, where he busts in to find…Ryker has turned Mike into a cyborg named War-Wolf!
-Joe Tura  

Joe Tura: It’s Pogo, the Demolisher! Well, not quite, but that title is a bit odd for a hard-boiled cyborg tale such as this. Loving the repartee between Deathlok and ‘Puter, one of the most charming things I liked about our anti-hero as a pre-teen. And this book is packed with nasty stuff. Shots to the head, disregard for any bad guy, rancid meat, run-on stream-of-consciousness narration, tossing guys off roofs, having rancid meat fall on top of bad guy, funky flashbacks, humanoid cannibals, blatant Tarzan reference, Statue of Liberty insanity and a wacky, slightly-heartbreaking-in-a-way ending. The computer’s last missive is great: “WARNING: DANGER IMMINENT…UNAVOIDABLE.”

In “Astonishing Mails”, we get a special message and responses from IT! The Living Colossus and his “two-ton typewriter”. Um, yeah…..Nice try, guys. But this was one gimmick that fell as flat as a page of Tony Isabella dialogue. Sample “witty” banter: “I’m gonna go lay down and turn into a mountain range!” Yikes.

Hey, I could swear I had those Marvel-Hero Stick-Ons! (page 14 ad) You could put them anywhere! And a money-back guarantee, too! Another bonus that I’ve never seen before, a General Ross Marvel Value Stamp—cool! (Yes, my obsession with Marvel Value Stamps will last all semester.)

Matthew Bradley: Absolutely love the quintessential depiction of Deathlok on the cover, but overall I found this issue a bit of a comedown from his debut.  Much as I admired Marcos’s artwork on the Morbius story in Vampire Tales #1, I don’t think he’s the best choice to polish plotter/penciler Buckler’s vision here, so perhaps it’s just as well that he will be with us for only one more issue.  Likewise, although he is now credited as co-plotter, I have to imagine that as scripter, Moench is solely responsible for what remains my biggest beef, the overbaked “third personality” narration that is supposedly a synthesis of Luther and ’Puter, and in my opinion doesn’t really bring much to the table; I was also a little confused by the jumping around in time.

Chris Blake: Whew – as Rich and Doug pour on the action, we continue to learn enough about the character that the exposition and excitement work well together.  Our tale-tellers, once again, utilize intercutting to overlap the two storylines, which allows us to start in the middle, and work to catch up to the “present” moment.  The effect can be challenging, and I’ll admit that I reviewed the pages afterward to ensure that I got the events in their true chronology.  

Chris: We still don’t know exactly who – or what – Luther/Deathlok/’puter is, but obviously no one expected: 1) Luther to survive the bomb blast (“You never revived, Luther.  You’re . . . dead,” says Mike); and 2) Deathlok to resist his programming.  Ryker knew Luther was all brass, and wanted (part of) him kept alive for a reason, but even he never anticipated this outcome.  Favorite line: “Luther, I don’t know how you got your own head back –“  

I’ve been very supportive of Buckler/Janson as an art team, whether it’s here, or Jungle Action, or elsewhere, but if you could ask for a better option than Janson for this title, it would be hard to top Pablo Marcos.  I’m not that familiar with Marcos’ work on monster titles – I know him as inker par excellance in settings like this, and other mainstream titles.  Marcos retains the texture Janson can offer, while providing more consistent clarity, when you want more detail.  He’s always been one of my favorites, so I’m going to savor the art from this issue and the next.  

Mark: More Dystopian death and destruction served up by the ex-Luther Manning, most notably a shoot-out in a black market meat locker. Iconic Rich Buckler cover and grim, groovy graphics inside. Buckler and scripter Doug Moench serve up a story that flashes forward and back in time between Deathlok's escape from Major Ryker's lab and subsequent hunt for his army buddy Mike. As some of the scenes are similarly staged in side by side panels, the sense of dislocation created must be deliberate, at times leaving the reader unsure of exactly where/when we are. If not completely successful, the willingness to experiment is admirable.

Similarly, I disagree with esteemed Professor Matthew, who finds the hybrid internal dialogue between Manning and his "'puter" annoying and "over baked."  [Actually, I'm fine with the Luther/'Puter dialogue, which I think is one of the strip's best assets; what I said was that the "third personality" bothered me.  --Professor Matthew] It's rare to find a comic experimenting with language, so I applaud stream of consciousness spew like, "swivel-socket ball joints pumping...bullets blistering air whipping frenzy facing racing bullets whining shrieking..." that capture the dual-thoughts racing clashing bashing in Deathlok's head.

The creative team is aiming high, pushing the envelope, so even if not everything works (Mike's final page transformation into the War-Wolf seems much too fast), Buckler and Moench have already earned the benefit of the doubt.

 The Avengers 128
"Bewitched, Bothered, and Dead!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton
Colors by Steve Englehart
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

The Avengers and the Fantastic Four, along with Agatha Harkness, step out of their landing craft and into an assault of freak lighting. Agatha warns Thor that this is no natural phenomenon, which is proven when he fails to stop it while Agatha can. She explains that this was a mystic attack she was actually expecting. Now that Franklin Richards is no longer a powerful mutant threat that Sue Richards can easily take care of, Agatha resigns as his Governess and offers to help Wanda achieve more with her own mutant abilities. Wanda happily agrees and Agatha takes the guest room at the mansion, not allowing The Vision to speak with her until the next morning. Agatha seals the room off from all outside influences just when a mystic attack begins again. A small man named Necrodamus appears, vowing to take Agatha's immortal soul. He attacks and Agatha send his bolts back to him, which was his plan. They transform him from a weak little troll into his former, muscular glory. He strikes the elderly witch down, leaving Wanda alone to fight, with no hope of help from outside. Meanwhile, Mantis tells the Swordsman she's just not that into him and he throws a tantrum. She approaches the Vision and makes a play. He rebuffs her nicely with a "let's just be friends" line. Meanwhile, Wanda finally defeats Necrodamus. Agatha is suddenly okay. It was just a test to bring out Wanda's powers. All is great until the alarm goes off. Kang the Conqueror has returned! -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: Great art and a decent story for Wanda are soured a little by the "it was just a test" chestnut used far too often. While there is some doubt left for the readers, it is hinted pretty strongly that all of this was an elaborate set up. At the very least, it expands Wanda's powers more and puts the Vision on the side of "decent guy" by not taking the bait and macking on Mantis. Her rejection of the Swordsman is a predicable development since he was always too much of a pansy for her. He's defined by his hen-peckery and is honestly the worst Avenger ever. Not even a douche, the guy is simply a dud. His tantrum is hideous and worthy of Johnny Storm. This would have been a stronger issue without his emotional explosion. I've read worse, but also much better in these pages. Kang's appearance comes out of nowhere and feels tacked on to get me to purchase the next issue. How about you make the stories less crappy and I'll keep reading? Oh wait, I have to keep reading because I have to cover this title. Damn you all to hell!

Matthew: As Englehart noted on his site, “I was seriously considering coloring this series on a regular basis [as he did this and the prior issue]—I enjoyed exercising different creative muscles—and then we decided to add Giant-Size Avengers.  Never mind...”  Staton’s sophomore effort brings his game up a little, presumably aiming for the high standards of Steve and Sal as they set the scene for the Celestial Madonna saga with their cliff-Kang-er.  Normally I’d consider it a mistake for Stainless to emphasize the limitations of Wanda’s powers, but it’s necessary in the context of striving to improve them, a laudable goal even if I’ve never found Necrodamus (a Defenders holdover) very interesting, and I cheered the Vision’s reaffirmation of his love for her.

Chris: This “Avengers Spotlight on: The Scarlet Witch!” issue is long overdue; for issues uncounted, Wanda typically has been limited to a few frames per story.  We’ve come to expect that her in-battle contributions will involve the ever-unpredictable (read also as “poorly-defined”) hex power to cause a plummeting bank safe to covert itself to, say, a mound of shaving cream, or something.  In place of any development of her character, or her powers, we’ve had months spent on pointless distractions such as her groundless hatred of homo sapiens, or her involvement in the needless love quadrangle.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Madame Agatha’s involvement (as she neatly moves over to Avengers Mansion from the Baxter Building – it helps that she travels light) will finally bring about some new dimension to the Scarlet Witch.

I toldja you’d like the Sal + Joe art, right?  Was I right -?  Spooky frame of Agatha on pg 11 pnl 3 (I look at that panel, and I hear Yoda’s voice stating, “You will be . . . you will be.”), plenty-good action with the Witch, and a solid payoff on pg 30.  Steve’s hand on the colors is, yet again, a welcome contribution, especially as we eavesdrop on private conversations in the mansion’s single-sex dorm area (various panels on p 27 and p 30).  

Kang’s back?!  Cinders and ashes!  What’s a do-gooder gotta do to get an undisturbed night’s sleep around here?!

 Conan the Barbarian 43 
“Tower of Blood”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chua
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

Chased by bounty hunters into a hidden valley swirling with blood-red mist, Conan and Red Sonja come across a crumbling tower: inside they are ominously greeted by Uathacht and Morophla, sister and brother, each tall, thin and grey skinned. Morophla, the male, informs the wandering warriors that they once lived in the sorcery-filled domain of Stygia until they were banished by the all-powerful Thoth-Amon and cursed to live the rest of their days as vampiric creatures. When Conan attacks, Morophla uses magic to control the Cimmerian’s movements. The bloodthirsty wizards take their reluctant guests to the dungeon, a cavernous sprawl inhabited by bat-like Afterlings, formerly human fodder for the vampires, now hideously transformed by the impurities in the dank air. Against Morophla’s wishes, Uathacht pushes Red Sonja into a bone-strewn pit holding the sinewy mutant Dromek, a towering beast originally used to breed with the humans until it developed a taste for flesh. Conan leaps to Sonja’s defense and is almost overpowered by the brainless brute until he drives a pointed thighbone through its gaping maw. Using his powers, Morophla guides the barbarian and Sonja to their cell — there the two prisoners will mate, creating new sources of blood for the vampire siblings. -Thomas Flynn

Tom Flynn: A top-notch issue all around. Spooky, exciting, sexy and everything else you might want from a Conan the Barbarian. Synergy between Conan publications takes root with this tale, which picks up after the main feature in August’s The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #1. And the bounty hunters at the beginning are pursuing Red Sonja because of the price put on her head after she killed the Hyrkanian king Ghannif in a back-up story from the same black-and-white magazine. I loves me some bounty hunters. We get a Thoth-Amon mention which makes me hope that Conan’s arch-enemy is soon to make his first real appearance — well arch-enemy in the comics at least since Conan and Thoth-Amon never actually met in any of Robert E. Howard’s originals. I’ve always loved Big John’s version of Red Sonja as it makes me recall the delectable Raquel Welch. Uathacht and Morophla are supremely sinister, the Afterlings are gruesomely pathetic and Dromek is a drooling, deformed nightmare. Now call me a kook, but not sure I’d mind being locked in a cell and forced to mate with the She-Devil with a Sword. Of course I’m not the man for the job. If there is one. Roy freely adapts from a story by David A. English, whoever that is, no offense intended.

Mark: Red Sonja redux!

While I've always loved the crimson-haired firebrand, her second adventure with Conan in the color comic sparks an internal conflict over that teeny-weenie chainmail bikini. At some level, all men are eternal adolescents and, as such, one of the eternal verities is – in any form of entertainment – the more female flesh on display,* the better.

On the more mature, credibility-loving other hand: a frickin' chainmail bikini? No protection in combat, broiling hot in the summer, freezing in the winter. Barry Smith's original Sonja garb was believable and sexy, and is there no level of numb-skull, blue-balled titillation that the vaunted House of Ideas wouldn't stoop to in a crass effort to shake a few more shekels from the pockets of their pimply-faced, sticky-fingered target demographic?

Apparently not.

And with outrage appropriately vented, yes, I went ahead and enjoyed the view. And the story - Conan and Sonja captured by horny, age-old vampires - was pretty good too.

*adjust for whatever preference polishes your sword.

 Captain America and the Falcon 178
"If the Falcon Should Fall--!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson, Frank Giacoia, and John Romita

The Falcon sits on a rooftop feeding Nightwing when he is attacked by the twin Lucifers. After a tussle, a fallen power line separates the villains from Falc and they take off. Falcon seeks solace with Leila who tells him she doesn't need that "funky white cat" Captain America (which is a good thing, because Steve Rogers is still determined to give up his star spangled identity). He works out at the local gym and chats with young Roscoe who works there about how Captain America stepped down. His retirement has left a gap that others see a need to fill, such as pro-baseball player Bob Russo the "highest paid third baseman in history." Russo announces in the team locker room that he is going to be the new Cap. After donning a costume, he goes for a swing and breaks his arm. So much for that guy. Meanwhile, Morgan the crime boss rails at the Lucifers for failing to kill the Falcon. They explain that only Lucifer's strength remains when he is split, but they go off to remedy the situation. They go to Lucifer's old lair and find his ultra-robots he never had a chance to use before. What a stroke of luck that they're still operational. They use them to attack the 'hood. The Falcon tries to defend the population, but is struck down by a beam. Steve slips on a makeshift mask and goes into action. The robots are defeated, as is Lucifer whose life force is sent back to Limbo. The Falcon comes to and is sorely pissed to find Steve can't be bothered to be his partner, but will come play hero to make Falcon look like crap. So, get this Cap, from now on, the Falcon "fights strictly alone! Dig?" -Scott McIntyre

Scott: The next chapter in Cap's "retirement" isn't all that. It feels a lot like stalling, but I see the point in showing Steve is really unable to not help people. However, this does nothing for Falcon's self esteem issues as he begins to realize that the Falcon is "Cap's creation" as much as his own. That's actually an interesting admission. The Lucifers are pretty boring and the whole "return to Limbo" thing feels too much like The Space Phantom for my taste. The art is good and I still enjoy Vince Colletta's thin lines. We're still a few issues from Frank Robbins, so enjoy it while you can.

Matthew: I know I should have more to say about this issue, because Stainless is still pushing the envelope with his ongoing “Cap without Cap” arc, yet it bespeaks how unengaged I am by the whole Lucifer fiasco that my initial response was, “Is Rafe Michel really gone forever?”  Not that the Falcon’s recurring militant gadfly was a nice guy or an especially well-rounded character, but he had been around for three years (since #143), and felt like a fixture in Luke’s Harlem milieu.  Colletta proves problematic as usual, with some scenes looking perfectly acceptable and others, most notably Cap’s workout in the gym, betraying the scritchy-scratchy style that, for some of us, has made Valiant Vince’s name synonymous with mediocrity.

Mark: More Cap-less Cap, Falc fighting a Z-grade villain (doubling lame-o Lucifer does not double your fun), and stale soap suds failing to churn up interest over the Steve Rogers-Sharon/Peggy Carter triangle make this issue another black hole, of interest to star-spangled completists only.

The one amusing bit is basebaall bone-head Bob Russo, "the highest-paid third baseman in history" retiring to become the new shield-slinger and promptly breaking his arm on his first crime-fighting fiasco.

Later, the semi-retired Steve (after seeing a ski-mask sales sign, no less) reluctantly joins Sam to take down  the Lucys' "ultra-robs" (fifth-rate Red Skull sleepers) before Sam indignantly demands that his ex-pard, "...leave the Falcon strictly alone!"

On his website Steve Englehart, no modest, shrinking violet he, calls this arc " of the most honored sequences in comics' history."

At least his mom said so.  

 Daredevil 114
"A Quiet Night in the Swamp!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Bob Brown and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

DD is unconsciousness and, just as the Gladiator prepares to finish him off on orders of the mysterious Death Stalker, salvation comes in the form of the Man-Thing. The Gladiator is lucky to get off alive himself; but even Manny can't seem to stop the Stalker. DD awakes, but finds this mystery "man" to be formless and icy. He renders DD unconscious again with his touch. He and  Richard Rory are set to die by fire, lit by the Gladiator, while the Death Stalker leaves with Candace Nelson. The smoke awakens Matt and he gets them both out, to find the Gladiator didn't get far, courtesy of the Man-Thing. Matt sets it up to look as if he, Rory and the Gladiator were mysteriously delivered in Rory's van to the edge of the swamp. While the Black Widow wonders on DD's whereabouts, a call to Matt from Foggy Nelson manages to secretly tip him off -- Candace and Foggy are now the prisoners of the Death Stalker, with DD/ Matt as the prize. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: In the tradition of many DD issues, this one brings together some wildly different elements and pulls it together. The Man-Thing is a curious guest, making the Gladiator look pretty boring. The Death Stalker adds to the supernatural element, and is enough of a mystery to make you wonder if he's real or what?

Scott: Bob Brown's art works well with Coletta's inks. Apparently, Coletta worked poorly with Kirby in particular since most of his embellishment with other artists has been just fine by me. Steve Gerber's story is involved and complex and a bit of a step up from recent issues. It's always good to spend time with Man-Thing and Rich Rory, but I still twitch a little when they're drawn by anyone other than Ploog. Foggy is less of a worm than usual with his quick thinking hopeful tipoff of Matt on the phone, leading us into a decent cliffhanger.

Matthew:  Once again, Brown’s presumed shotgun marriage to Colletta neither distinguishes nor embarrasses itself, although Battlin’ Bob does a creditable job with Manny (also nicely depicted on that nifty, albeit somewhat misleading, Kane/Adkins cover); I admire both the close-up of DD in page 2, panel 6 and the atmospheric final full-pager.  Gerber has been wise to make the Death-Stalker—whose relationship with the cowed but usually arrogant Gladiator in this well-paced issue is interesting—so misterioso right out of the gate.  As his tenure on the book winds down, Steve makes an extraordinary mea culpa in the lettercol for his perceived early mishandling of the character, although I think he’s being unduly hard on himself.

Matthew: “I was absolutely in awe of what Gerry Conway had done with the book during his tenure on it.  Those issues (#72-96) were, in my opinion, the best in Daredevil’s history [God forbid!  —MRB], and I was determined to equal them.  I blew it.  You see, it sometimes takes a while for a writer to begin thinking of a strip as ‘his.’  And, for me at least, it’s even harder when the book has as long and colorful a history as Daredevil.  So I set all the wrong goals for myself.  I was trying to do Gerry’s D.D., or Roy’s D.D., or Stan’s D.D., and basically fighting my own instincts about where the strip should go….Several long, involved discussions with editor Roy Thomas helped clear my head [and now] it all seems to be coming together,” but only until the New Year.

 The Defenders 16
"Alpha, the Ultimate Mutant!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane, Frank Giacoia, and John Romita

Magneto has unveiled to the Defenders the "ultimate" mutant he has created with the technology of a long gone race. The plan is for this creature, whom he has named Alpha, to assist him in assuming rule of the world. Alpha does seem unbeatable, a force field around him protecting him from the Defenders' efforts. Magneto then causes the only exit from the underground lair to cave in, and uses his abilities to transport his fellows with him to the Earth's surface. The Defenders dig their way out, and Professor Xavier uses his mental powers to locate Magneto's crew, heading to the United Nations building. As the Defenders follow suit, Magneto has already demanded rule of the planet be given to him, at threat of Alpha's attack. When the Defenders arrive, they try in vain to stop the super mutant whose abilities are growing. When force doesn't prevail, Professor X and Stephen Strange try another tack. Not only are Alpha's powers growing, his intelligence is too; in fact he is evolving at a stunning rate. They challenge him to look deep and see whose intentions are evil. When he sees the reality, he ceases any battle, transforms the evil mutants into children, and returns humanity to its prior state. He bids them farewell as he seeks his destiny in space. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Sal Buscema's art may not be the best Marvel had to offer, but he has a distinct style. I like it, and it suits the Defenders well. The evolution of Alpha was predictable, but evil mutants becoming children wasn't. Having the United Nations building floating above New York is a nice touch; it has certainly been host to much super hero action over the years. Nice to see concern over the Hulk's potential demise under the rocks, especially Val shedding a few tears. Not a great issue, but a fun one.

Scott: Alpha is an interesting character in an otherwise standard slugfest. The climax is a decent one, and important enough to keep Magneto on ice until the X-Men return All-new and All-different in a few months. Otherwise, it's the same over the top shenanigans as always.

Matthew:  I usually prefer the first halves of two-parters, but Mighty Mike turns the tide on this one single-handedly as his brush scrubs Sal’s pencils clean of the muck with which Klaus encrusted them last time, and their Professor X is conspicuously good.  I must stop thinking of Len as just a placeholder between the Two Steves, because Magneto’s return to the U.N. is a nice nod to Marvel history, while his being “infantized” by his own ever-evolving creation, Alpha, is an interesting idea.  For a guy who couldn’t stay an Avenger more than two issues, the Hulk is turning into a real (non-) team player; I love the alacrity with which he bounds to “Magician’s” aid, and Val’s relief at his surviving the cave-in, which for my money could’ve been even bigger.

Giant-Size Spider-Man 2
Cover by Gil Kane, John Romita, and Tony Mortellaro


Story by Len Wein
Art by Ross Andru and Al Milgrom
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza

"... To Become an Avenger!"
(reprinted from The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #3, November 1966)

Spidey swings by the Guggenheim to thwart an art robbery by a band of would-be kung fu masters, but after he dispatches them, they blame Shang-Chi, who wants to destroy the 59th St. Con Edison power plant. Then they’re all zapped by their costumes and killed! Meanwhile, Fu Manchu watches from a monitor, gloating about his ambitious scheme. Shang-Chi walks the streets and comes across a trio of hoodlums with Spidey masks and shirts attacking an old man. They use their lackluster skills to attack the martial arts master, and he drives them off after they blame Spidey for being their boss and masterminding everything.

Chapter Two “Cross... and Double-Cross!” starts with SC visiting Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Black Jack Tarr with the old man, Lu Chang, who tells of Fu Manchu’s alliance with Spider-Man then dies. SC goes to the power plant, arriving as Spidey does, and the two battle instantly! A powerful, agile fight ensues, until the two drop to the basement and Spidey tries to talk some sense into SC. They both realize they’ve been conned and we go to Chapter Three, “Pinnacle of Doom!” The pair defeat a hitman and head to the Empire State Building to stop Fu Manchu, who plots to put up a TV aerial that emits mind-control radiation! Spidey battles the tubby Tak, while SC goes to the roof to battle his father’s minions. Black Jack arrives via copter to help, but FM slips away during the confusion. Trying to beat the elevator down, Spidey and SC jump 86 stories down (!), saved by a trusty webbing net, but the elevator is empty! A disbelieving Spidey swings away before the cops arrive. -Joe Tura

Joe: The cover exclaims: “Super-Powers vs. The Martial Arts! The Battle Royal Your Letters Demanded!” Oh yeah, not this 7-year old, because I didn’t even own this one! Al Milgrom, although a decent guy (met him at the Grasshopper Comics Holiday Party two years ago), is not the inker for Ross Andru. He seems to fatten up Andru’s sinewy characters and make close-ups slightly pug-nosed. And the script is fine, maybe a bit overlong. Some pretty good moments here overall, from the excellent fight between Spidey and S-C to Spidey quoting the Thing’s battle cry, to Fu Manchu being a nasty individual as usual, to the disbelief of our wall-crawler that Fu Manchu is actually real!

Joe: For filler, we get a reprint of “…To Become an Avenger!” from Spider-Man Annual #3, written by Stan and drawn by Romita, Heck and Mickey Demeo whoever he is [A long-established pen name for Mike Esposito, and back to Marvel 101 for you, sir!  --Professor Matthew], which is fun foreshadowing for many moons later when our web-swingin’ hero actually does become an Avenger. But they send him up against the Hulk as a test? Geez, what senses of humor those old Avengers had!

Favorite sound effect: I like “SKAKT!” as Shang-Chi smashes the wall, which could have been Spidey’s chest, with a perfectly executed right cross, but luckily our hero has the proportionate speed of a spider. Man, I need to get back to training at Tiger Schulmann’s real soon.

Matthew: Again, we cross-pollinate Spidey’s Amazing artist—whom Milgrom might as well have embellished with invisible ink, so clearly does Andru’s action-packed style shine through—and his MTU writer.  I’m familiar with Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu books, which I love, but not with Master of Kung Fu, so I can’t comment on Wein’s handling of Shang, and was saddened to learn that he was apparently duped into killing Dr. Petrie just as he was into tackling Spidey in this issue’s externally imposed MARMIS.  I do know that I disliked the metafictional aspect of Spidey being familiar with Fu as a literary character; meanwhile, the requisite reprint is of our hero’s energetic encounter with the Avengers and the Hulk (from Spider-Man Special #3).

Chris: A significant improvement over the first installment of Spidey’s giant-sizer.  Action throughout, with an acceptable basis for a MARMIS, topped by the audacious choice to have our heroes deliberately crash thru an 86th-floor window in a race to the pavement below!  Two plot points that don’t work, though: 1) as Shang-Chi and Spidey are falling thru a grating and into an air vent, S-C spouts off a whole paragraph outlining his suspicions that Spidey wanted to destroy the power plant – now, we all know that S-C doesn’t waste time or energy talking while he’s fighting – is he really going to talk this way as he’s falling in the dark?  It seems that Gerry couldn’t think of any other way for Spidey to determine that he and S-C had been had; and 2) how in the wide, wide world do Spidey and S-C wind up saving Sir Denis’ agent in the street?  So Gerry didn’t know how else S-C could learn of Fu’s Empire State Building-based plot, either.  Oh well – still a fun issue, overall.  

I realize there are those of you who are not fans of Andru, but I think the art works well this time.  Milgrom is, strangely, the right choice for inks, as he brings some of the look of a MoKF comic to this issue.  The result ties together many of the elements that we have come to expect from both lead characters’ respective titles.  I was so satisfied with the art that I had to wonder why Milgrom wasn’t signed up to ink a few issues of AS-M (and I don’t typically ask for more inks by Milgrom).    

Fantastic Four 151
"Thundra and Lightning"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Rich Buckler

Ben and Johnny are having a little time on the town when energy flowing from the supposedly vacant Baxter Building draws them home. The Torch gets there first, finding a savage warrior who calls himself Mahkizmo--and he seeks Thundra. While Ben joins the fray, Thundra is in fact conversing with Medusa, who she accidentally met. Thundra indeed has a problem. She explains she is from an alternate future where women are the powerful sex, and she most of all. Her people, called the Femizons, are merging with another reality, that of  Machus, ruled by vicious men. In order to prove the Femizons' superiority, Thundra was sent back into our present to defeat Earth's most powerful man (i.e. the Thing), and thus prove to those of Machus the Femizons are more powerful. Having been here for some time, she now questions the wisdom of her race in ruling by power, and seeks the help of Reed Richards to deal with the Machus situation. They head to the Baxter Building, where the chief warrior of Machus seems to have defeated Ben and Johnny, and has tossed a returning Reed Richards out the window, perhaps falling to his demise! -Jim Barwise

Jim: First time I've heard the origin of Thundra, certainly  better than many others. The social interaction opening with Ben and Johnny was fun, and to see the beginnings of friendship between Medusa and Thundra likewise. Rich Buckler does as good a job here as anywhere. He draws Mahkizmo as his name would suggest, and a lovely Medusa and Thundra as well. It looks like any holiday is a short one for the Fantastic Four!

Mark: Wouldn't ya know it?

As his run on the book winds down, Gerry Conway seems to finally be getting the hang of the FF, e.g., Johnny & Ben's clothes-buying bonding (alas, the new threads don't survive P. 6) and newly-reconciled with his wife Reed flying ain't life grand loop-da-loops on the sky-cycle. These character touches invoke the Kirby/Lee familial vibe that underscored the book's glory days, and that's an element Kid Conway has been largely tone-deaf to through much of his stewardship.

Better late than never, Ger.

Matthew: Okay, it’s admittedly been a while, especially with the Professor Matthew Time Paradox, but I was sure I remembered that according to the modest research I did for my comments on Savage Tales #1, the Femizonia depicted there either was not, or might not be, the same one from which Thundra came.  Yet here we get her origin, complete with a footnote citing that very story, and I am now unable to find any supporting evidence to the contrary, so I guess we’ll take it as an established fact that it is.  The whole separate-worlds-for-separate-genders shtick seems as old as the hills (Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, anyone?), and will be better done by Gerber with the Badoon, while Mahkizmo scarcely merits those full- and double-pagers.

Scott: Oh my God. Everything was going great until page 7 when, for a full page feast we get the worst FF villain ever created by far: Mahkizmo! How Johnny and Ben didn't simply start laughing at the reveal of this jackass is beyond me, with his hairy chest, rock star hair and winky eye. Awful. At least we get to see Medusa without her mask and in a scandalously short dress. Thundra's origin is hardly worth the effort of sitting through this mess. Mahkizmo (I hate even writing that) is barely a one-issue wonder, but we have to sit through this turd for a multi part "epic." Kill me.

Mark: We finally get Thundra's origin/backstory. Alas, it's the moldy-oldie SF idea of male & female dominated societies in conflict, but, here again, characterization elevates the cliché, in this case the scenes between Thundra and Medusa that somehow managed double-duty: getting teen boys panting over the red-headed hottie in a tight miniskirt during a rare, important discussion between female protagonists.

It's yummy pro-ERA cheesecake, deliciously whipped up by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott, prompting the question of how much the excellent art bumps up the grade. The answer - as with any comic - is a lot. Buckler continues to invoke Kirby, while aping him less. There's an added dash of Buscema now, and Buckler's maturing synthesis of Jack and John is a treat.


Chris: So, wait a minnit – Thundra had been sent back into the past (our present, that is) to battle and defeat a mighty male, so that “men will learn their lesson – for all time!”  But wait – how would Thundra’s assumed victory over Ben prevent the Femizon and Machus worlds from drawing together and merging?  Isn’t that what’s at the root of the problem here?  Mahkizmo (whose name is downright snicker-worthy) is about the most one-note opponent this team has ever seen – Mahkizmo smash!  Hey Mahk, hold up brother – how’re the FF supposed to tell you where Thundra might be, if you’re knocking them out and throwing them off buildings?  Medusa has so little to do, that she doesn’t even appear in costume this time – what, Gerry, are you afraid she’s going to get hurt, or something?  Pretty patronizing of you.  The only moment that I truly liked in the whole issue was Thundra’s declaration that she had developed an admiration for Ben, and did not feel she should combat him (well, after all, he is the ever-lovin’ idol a millions, awreddy).  

What is the problem with keeping count of the number of floors in the FF’s Baxter Building HQ?  Okay, now say it with me:  the FF occupy the top FIVE FLOORS of the Baxter Building.  FIVE floors.  Why is it so difficult to get this right?  Buckler is so wrong that he loses count mid-issue, first giving us three floors (three?  Good God) on p 3, then adds another floor by p 32.  Plus, Rich’s self-inked cover looks, well, unfinished – was he expecting someone else to go over the cover and touch it up before it went to the printer’s?  

Mark: As for the story, Ger brings nothing fresh to the X vs. Y chromosome conflict, and the plot alone would prompt only zzzzzzs. What gives me hope (scant 4 sure, but honestly extant) for a rousing next chapter is badass Amazonian Thundra, even more intriguing now that she's conflicted and not just spouting Femizon cant & picking fights with The Thing.

Mahkizmo is a dim-bulb bore, if vividly rendered by Buckler as an overgrown Uber-savage (see P. 7). I didn't get his in-joke name as a kid, and it's the best thing about the hairy-chested lunkhead.

Adventure Into Fear 24
Morbius in
"Return to Terror!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Craig Russell and Jack Abel
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Jean Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

The creature known as "I" leads Morbius to the one remaining spaceship on the world of Arcturus, which will pilot them back to our Earth, there to stop the war between science and sorcery. After a skirmish with the local barbarians, it does just that. Sadly "I" has fallen victim to Morbius' bloodlust on the journey. The mission doesn't get far, however, as Morbius has to deal with Blade, an Earthly vampire slayer, who uses his strength, skill and wooden weapons to destroy vampires and keep others safe. Finally the vampire escapes after a heated battle; all of which has been observed by the Caretakers. -Jim Barwise

Jim: I enjoyed the brief bit on Arcturus more than the battle with Blade; the sense of a long space journey was exciting. There's a lot on the twisted sense of truth here, who's really in the right? Promise of more to come!

Chris: I felt like there was a scene missing from last ish to this one, since we open with Morbius and “I” approaching a rocket that they’re going to take back to Earth, which had not even been hinted at inFear #23.  Steve includes a thorough recap of the last few issues, and while it’s clear that Morbius feels he must confront the Caretakers (hence the flight back to Earth), Steve does not indicate what Morbius hopes to accomplish once he’s back.  Nice twist to have Morbius kill “I” on their trip – well, “I,” whaddja expect would happen, when you get yourself locked into a rocket with a vampire for a few weeks?  He wasn’t kidding about the lack of a self-preservation instinct.  The cover-advertised Blade-battle sells copies, but it doesn’t advance the overall story.

The art takes a step back this issue.  Abel is not a good fit for Russell here, as the art looks stiff and flat, with the faces frequently unexpressive, or under-expressive.  Dare I say that Colletta did a better job on Russell’s pencils in Fear #23?  I’m reasonably certain that Russell is not back for another issue (after having been on the title twice as long as any of his predecessors), so the promise of the previous issue is not followed-up; we’ll never know what else Russell might’ve been able to accomplish with this title.

Matthew: Gerber and Russell (the latter well-inked by Abel, a veteran of this strip’s first installment) bid adieu to our living vampire with an issue that’s a bit of a hodgepodge, bringing him back to Earth but reminding us—with that full-page montage—that a complex story is still underway.  Since I never read Tomb of Dracula, I know Blade better as played by Wesley Snipes, and can’t comment on their handling of the Wolfman/Colan creation, yet his brief dustup with Morbius feels random, like something done perfunctorily in response to popular demand.  Hard to believe that Joe Maneely’s three-pager “The Two-Faced Man” (World of Suspense #1, April 1956) either represented a significant cost savings or drew in a lot of readers, but there it is.

 Ghost Rider 8
"Satan Himself"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Jim Mooney and Sal Trapani
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

Johnny Blaze is confronted by Satan himself, who demands Blaze's soul. But the Ghost Rider must give it up, and while Satan can't take it without Johnny's consent, he can make life very miserable for him. He transports Rocky Simpson to visit him in Hell, where he tortures her with visions of her father; turns out the Messenger who told Johnny her father was going to her final rest was Satan in disguise. Johnny is aware of Rocky's disappearance, and seeks Daimon Hellstrom to lead him to her but is sidetracked by the latest foe sent against him. The former demon Slifer has been transformed into Inferno the Fear Monger, who turns the city crowds against Johnny. Satan offers Rocky a chance to save her father's soul: release Blaze from her protection of purity! -Jim Barwise

Jim: Covering different titles for MU, the many crossovers of the '70's are very apparent; not so much in the 1960's. Daimon Hellstrom must be helping the Defenders about now. Ghost Rider presents Satan as more of the temptations that torture all of us, though his physical presence is hardly subtle. We all know Blaze will defeat or escape Inferno, but what will happen to him if Rocky is tempted to lift her protection? The colorful antics are loads of fun.

Matthew: The personnel will remain consistent through the Mooney/Trapani team’s swan song next time, yet this nevertheless feels like a transitional issue that doesn’t advance Isabella’s plotline much, except to signal a promotion of sorts for the erstwhile Slifer and a new initiative targeting Rocky.  Between the shot of her on page 6 and Zhered-Nah last month in Spotlight (where Gentleman Gene Colan now begins a Son of Satan double-header), Jim and Sal obviously enjoy drawing well-endowed women floating around.  It was interesting having them working on both Satanic sister strips, whose mirror-image approaches the lettercol contrasts, calling SOS “a mystery book with a few superhero overtones [and GR] a superhero mag with occult overtones.”

Chris: It’s a solid issue overall – I feel us gradually emerging from Friedrichian influences.  “Satan” you lament – “not again!”  Well, fans, at least this time the PoL (ie Prince of Lies) has come up with a new angle, which could serve to gain him the soul of Johnny Blaze, and probably Rocky as well, while undoubtedly retaining his hold over Crash (y’know, he’s a wily devil, that, uh, Devil).  The story moves briskly along, with a minimum of attention diverted to the business of cycling and such (There’s a marathon cycle race comin’ up?  And we could save the cycle show?  Is the race next to the ol’ mill – will Lassie be there?).  

Mooney’s art is back in the “on” column, after letting me down somewhat the past two issues; Trapani’s inks work well, too.  I wish Mooney could’ve maintained the ferocity he brought to his depiction of Satan in the first few pages.  Satan also should’ve looked more physically imposing, when he’s engaging Rocky.  These are not major criticisms, I hope.  I’ll end on a supportive note: Rocky beset by visions of monsters (p 6, pnl 2); Rocky witnesses Crash in hell (p 11, pnl 4); the weird ugliness of Inferno himself, which looks like something Trimpe would invent as a Hulk menace (p 23).  

 Giant-Size Defenders 2
"H... as in Hulk... Hell... and Holocaust!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane, Klaus Janson, and John Romita

After getting away from a needless skirmish with the military, the Hulk is heading home when a young child offers to take him to a safe place. He trusts her, but it's a trap. The staircase she takes him down leads to a cave, where she transforms into a demon. Hulk is confronted by a bunch of ten-foot Bruce Banners, who seem strong enough to handle him! Meanwhile, a spirit appears to the rest of the Defenders and tells them the Hulk is essentially bait, to bribe them into serving his master. After they fail to find any trace of the Hulk, Dr. Strange calls on the assistance of demonologist Daimon Hellstrom, aka (though not to many) the Son Of Satan. He can and does lead them on the correct trail, straight to the outskirts of Hell, where each of them faces their worst fear: Stephen, the patients he failed to help; Val, her lack of identity; and Nighthawk, the dilemma of the person he was before. Eventually they realize these are illusions (the Banners too) and shake them. It is the work of Asmodeus, who has made a deal with his master ( you guessed it): his freedom in exchange for the souls of the Defenders. He seems to have the power to back up his words, but not so against the Son of Satan, immune to the forces here. Defeat, and the loss of any hope for his soul's freedom, face Asmodeus, who is pulled back into the bowels of the Earth. Hellstrom departs, pleased at this new friendship. -Jim Barwise

Jim: I confess I had to get past Gil Kane's art, which I've never been a big fan of, but that said this is a colorful tale. The Defenders facing their biggest fears is a nice touch, and we never really see the big boss of below, except for the giant hand at the end. Three reprints fill the rest of the issue, featuring earlier Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange and a Black Knight tale.

Matthew: With this mag featuring a full-length new story for the first time, and the retitling of GS Creatures (now Werewolf), the line has stabilized in the quarterly rotation that will remain fairly consistent through July.  Any merits of Gil’s pencils are, alas, submerged in Klaus’s mire, and Len’s script seems padded—when in doubt, insert lengthy and pointless Hulk vs. military sequence—but he does well with guest-star Daimon, and especially with the central conceit of each Defender’s own private Hell.  An untitled Fred Kida tale from Black Knight #4 (November 1955) is bracketed by Everett’s Namor and the Lee/Ditko Doc, represented here with reprints respectively from Young Men #25 (February 1954) and Strange Tales #119 (April 1964).

Chris: Len establishes the private-hell scenarios quickly enough that we aren’t stuck in any of them so long that we forget what’s happening with any of the other characters.  It must be challenging for a writer to have to devise a scenario where the Hulk would legitimately seem overmatched – after all, Hulk is Hulk, and Hulk is the Strongest One There Is.  I like Kane’s art paired with Janson for a story like this, although in too many instances – particularly the first few pages, featuring the Hulk’s battle – the art looks spare and rushed.   The art begins to turn around in Chapter 2, and is especially effective at moments such as Daimon’s transition to the Son of Satan.  

Daimon Hellstrom is a natural for this team, with its frequent run-ins with supernatural opponents.  We’ll see Daimon again in a few issues, but I’ll never understand why he never stuck as a regular during this stage of the Bronze Age – after his appearance in Defenders #24, Daimon isn’t back for another 70 issues or so.  That, to me, is a missed opportunity, especially after Doc leaves the team in issue #46, since Son of Satan’s presence would have allowed for a different take on stories built around encounters with evil.  

The Amazing Spider-Man 137
"Death Trap Times Three"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane

The Green Goblin attacks a truck on a New Jersey highway and steals a strange cylinder. A sleepy Spidey swings around town looking for Gobby and subconsciously ends up at the hospital to visit the recovering Mary Jane, where he meets a hotsy-totsy Liz, a “where’s Harry” Flash, a “where were you” Robbie, a “let’s bury the hatchet” JJJ and an “oh, Petey” Aunt May. Hearing a radio story about the truck robbery on the news in MJ’s room, Peter bolts out to “take pictures” and at the scene, discovers bits of orange pumpkin bomb in the truck. Off to an old Osborn townhouse, where Spidey crashes in, trying to talk sense into Harry, but the villain fights on, until he’s able to show Spidey three view-screens of Flash, MJ and Aunt May, each strapped to a chair with a spider tracer attached, but one, the person “most dear” to Spidey, has a “small shaped-charge clean fusion nuclear bomb” above their heads—set to go off in six minutes! Smashing Harry, Spidey swings off, has a “eureka” moment, then realizes he’s out of webbing! Running across rooftops to the building near his ruined apartment where he ditched a fake costume, he recovers a new web cartridge and tracks the tracer to Grant’s Tomb, where Aunt May is inside! He tosses the bomb into the lake and it blows up—he guessed right! Back at the townhouse, he knocks Harry out again, but later his wacked-out ex-roomie tells the cops that Peter is Spider-Man! But when Harry says he’s the Green Goblin, they cart him off to the loony bin, leaving Peter to ponder his pal’s perils. -Joe Tura

Joe: A decent issue, if not a slightly disappointing follow-up to last month. And when I say that, I mean it’s still good, but maybe I didn’t want the Harry Goblin tale to end so soon, and this one ends sorta abruptly. Some decent suspense, but it just zips along and May is saved and Harry is defeated and that’s it. But the art is terrific, all knees and elbows. And it’s still better than any other book I read this month, that’s for damn sure.

Some random thoughts: What the heck is that outfit Liz is wearing? That’s about as ‘70s as it gets, right down to the mint leaves on the pants. Peter smacking JJJ’s hand off his jacket is priceless. Why is everything “seventy-two minutes” later? Is that Gerry’s lucky number? Love Mary Jane’s shrug when Peter leaves. And I forget Peter always teased Aunt May about playing sports, I think that’s where I got my teasing older ladies about the same thing from. Spidey must be tired if he actually needed to see chunks of orange plastic to know it was the Goblin, after hearing the description from the truckers.

Favorite sound effect: I loved “FA-ZOOM!” when Harry hits the control board and short-circuits it, helped by an attacking Spidey. It gave me a chuckle!

Matthew: In terms of story chronology, this modest personal milestone is my last issue from Marvel’s waning Bronze-Age reprint line, courtesy of Marvel Tales #114 (April 1980).  In 1982, they would reset the clock with MT #137, eventually enabling me to catch up on Amazing #21-50 and fill the huge gap following Pocket’s three beloved volumes of late-’70s full-color mass-market reprints.  Six years was a long time to wait in between installments of this two-parter—obviously to the detriment of the nostalgia-free conclusion—so a lot of the excitement has dissipated, and while Giacoia and Hunt do right by Ross’s pencils, the death-trap is pretty hokey; think they’d have a little better security for a nuke? 

Mark: After the long Harry going cuckoo for Goblin-puffs incubation period, this one - while not a salt the earth disaster - fizzles out like a soggy pumpkin bomb. Start with inexplicably amnestic Spidey forgetting that Harry O. ka-boomed their apartment then randomly arriving at the hospital in time for a full cast Mary Jane visit (highlights: Aunt May's rose-rimmed, retro-Ditko hat and va-va-voomy Liz Allen in skimpy top, bell-bottom hip huggers and cork-heel platform sandals), add nuclear bombs transported by teamsters in a semi (the better for Harry to hijack), Gerry Conway playing the empty web cartridge card twice in three months, and Gobby Jr. derided as "an amateur" when he was supposedly faster than papa Norman last ish, and we have a gentlemen's C ending to an arc that coulda/shoulda been longer/better (particularly with the mind-numbing Mindworm up next).

Scott: Spidey's searching powers are amazing. He's been looking for Harry for "two nights in a row," but hasn't thought to return home to sleep in "two days." So if he's only been looking for Harry at night, what has he been up to during the daylight hours? Working for Jameson? Going to class? Sitting in the hospital? Maybe that last one is it. Yeah. That's it. We all know how considerate Peter Parker is. Nope, wait, he arrives to visit and is surprised to see so many people waiting, with Joe Robertson mentioning they had been there most of the day. So, maybe class then? At any rate, Harry grabs his three hostages in record time, bring them each to a separate location, rig them up to explosives and then get back to his own lair in time to taunt Spidey. It's good to have Gobby back, better that it's Harry and not Norman returned to life or a clone. Andru's art is excellent here, and this is a HUGE admission from me (biblical -Dean). He does fine work, hardly relying on his usual tricks and crutches. Very straightforward and pleasant. The problem's resolution is satisfying enough and I can't help but think Christopher Nolan got his "split the hostages" idea for The Dark Knight from this story. Or one similar.  

...and co-starring Elton John as Liz Allen/Allan

Peter: Wild that Spidey needs further evidence ("... bits of orange plastic. That does it. I've seen this sort of thing before--") to convince him of The Goblin's presence after hearing the truck drivers rant about a glider-riding green guy who throws explosive pumpkins. Yeah, could be just your average truck-jacking terrorist but probably not. In the spirit of Liz Allen/Allan, Artie Simek can't seem to make up his mind whether it's Osborn or Osborne. The big battle scene is nothing more than a retread of last issue's showdown:
Spidey: I don't want to hurt you, Harry, you're sick and you're not over your father's... blahblahblah
Harry: Don't you dare bring up my father's... blahblahblah

The entire story reeks of sloppy seconds, in fact, except for the welcomed climax when Harry outs Peter and himself with hilarious results. So nice not to see Harry slip into some amnesiac stupor and question where he's been for the last few days. 

Mark: The one highlight was the clever ending. Instead of the expected Harry-conked-on-the-head-and-loses-his-memory cliché, he actually tells the cops that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. How does he know?

"That's obvious, officer. I'm the Green Goblin!"

And off to the tender embrace of Nurse Ratched Harry goes...thus ending the threat of the Green Goblin forever! 


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