Wednesday, October 1, 2014

November 1974 Part One: Who Is The Celestial Madonna?

Amazing Adventures 27
Killraven/ War of the Worlds in
"The Death Breeders"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Craig Russell and Jack Abel
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Jim Starlin

Travelling over Lake Michigan in a hoverboat, the Freemen see something shatter through the ice—a sea lamprey, which attaches to Grok, much to Carmilla’s chagrin, and frightens Hawk. Carmilla and Killraven free Grok with some high-flying derring-do as they sail into Milwaukee. Meantime, at the Death-Birth citadel, we meet a couple called Adam and Eve, whose child may be born into sacrifice. The High Overlord, with lackey Skar in tow, vows to nab Killraven and sends his crony to do his bidding. At the pier, the Freemen are met by the red-tressed, ultra-confident telepath Volcana Ash, who mind-taps Killraven, sharing secrets of the citadel and the torture going on there. A tripod approaches, and Killraven tosses a Death Breeder into a vat of decades-old “ale”, which explodes and topples the tripod!
Mmm…beer….- Joe Tura      

Joe Tura: The cover raves: “This is it! The most widely-acclaimed science-fiction series ever!” But they neglected to add “published by Marvel that features a red-headed angry future guy” because I’m not sure how they can make that claim, even at the time. Maybe the editors were lucky enough not to read the book? Unless acclaim is measured by the word, because McGregor is at it again. Imagine how many typewriter ribbons he went through! Russell’s art is an improvement, and his run is known as the most famous artwork of the Killraven saga. I’ll let you know what I think, since it will all be new to me. Maybe that’s where he picked up the P.

Filler! “The Strangers”, reprinted from Journey into Unknown Worlds #47 (July 1956), sees an alien ship fire upon Earth, whose Air Force battles back to no avail, until two robots arrive in tubes to settle things down. The ship lands, two “masters” come out, but they’re the robots and the “robots” are really the masters! D’oh!

Matthew Bradley:  Not sure if Professor Joe was hinting at this or not--although I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt--but that's also the final twist of the 1940 Harry Bates classic "Farewell to the Master," a twist that was dropped when the story was filmed as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), but presumably retained when Marvel adapted it in Worlds Unknown #3 (September 1973).  Where's Professor Gilbert when we need him?

Mark Barsotti: A poster-worthy cover signals the arrival of Craig Russell as regular WOTW artist, so while the jury's still out on writer Don McGregor, Killraven and krew will be graced with consistent, first-rate graphics for the rest of the title's run.

Mark: "The Death Breeders" references the Martian program of breeding the conquered earthlings, the resultant offspring served up as "human delicacies" for the red planet invaders. All this, Killy learns via a trance-like "mind-tap," an apparently random and uncontrolled psychic power that McGregor first referenced a couple issues ago but thus far hasn't explained. One hopes it's a well thought out, slowly revealed component of KR's personality and a key plot-driver, and not Donny randomly making sh*t up on the fly.

Chris Blake: A decent issue, with the clairsentience sequence making it interesting, and also pointing towards future activity for the Freemen.  The issue ends abruptly (due in part, no doubt, to length constraints), with the battle feeling cut off just as it had gotten into gear.  One death-breeder fell in the vat – what happened to the rest of them?  And, to have the deadly tripod done-in by explosive, rancid old PBR is kinda silly, isn’t it Don?  

Russell’s initial installment is inconsistent, with the overlord in particular not looking as menacing as perhaps he should (and why does he appear so terribly tiny in the middle of P. 11?).  The Freemen are not as well-defined as they could be either, which I could blame in part to Abel’s inks.  Two art highlights: the super-creepy look of Atalon (below), and the drawn, desperate expression of Eve (above).

Mark: McGregor introduces another strong, sexy female, the unfortunately named Volcana Ash, whose long red hair seems alive, not with Medusa-like powers, but constantly wind-blown like a rock video vixen's. And Don, unfortunately, is still on his product placement kick, this time working beer ("The vats of golden malt, ancient holders of gusto and barside revelations...") into his at times self-intoxicated narration.

But the return of Skar and the armored High Overlord gives the title a recurring rogue's gallery; the breeding program, an infants-on-the-menu Big Atrocity for our heroes to battle. And Craig Russell arrives as a Big Time Talent. Now can the new creative team deliver an entire issue and do away with the cheesy reprints?

And no, Don, that's not an invite to run a Cheetos riff next ish...

The Avengers 129
"Bid Tomorrow Goodbye!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Al Milgrom

Signaled by a "star" he positioned during a previous encounter, Kang returns to subjugate our era, with the Avengers vowing to stop him. This time, Kang brought backup in the form of "macrobots," robots that counter every force the team throws at them and the Avengers are swiftly defeated. Kang's reason for being drawn to the 20th century is to mate with one who is a "Celestial Madonna" and they will give birth to the most powerful man on Earth, with Kang ruling through him. He does not know the identity of his mate, but the fact that the star appears over the Avengers mansion tells him the mother is to be one of the three women there: Mantis, Wanda or Agatha Harkness (ewww). Kang sends all of the male Avengers away except for the Swordsman, whom Kang considers too ineffectual to bother with. Swordsman takes this continual blow to his ego badly and vows to prove he's worthy of a beating. To assist in this, he receives a mental communication from Agatha who is guiding him to help save the girls. Swordsy takes the Quinjet to Egypt, to the pyramid of Rama-Tut (Kang's previous/future identity) and crashes after fighting off the Egyptian Air Force. Agatha's assistance is discovered by Kang and she is subdued. While waiting for Swordsy to arrive, Kang regales the captured Avengers with his origin (as Rama-Tut, the time traveling Pharaoh) while explaining that he needs the male Avengers to inhabit and power his macrobots. Suddenly, Swordsy is faced with an older version of the Tutster! -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: This was a little on the overly complicated side, with far too much space given to the Swordsman and his incessant whining. This guy is as useful as a third knob on an electric sliding door. Kang's plot is straight out of the Outer Limits TV series (where's Marty Landau when you need him?). The art is excellent, though, as it was in the previous issue. I'd love to say I enjoyed the hell out of this one, but honestly, it was a chore to get through.

Matthew Bradley: Englehart notes on his blog that this and the concurrent giant-size issue “are one storyone of my all-time favorites,” and despite its massive length, I don’t see an ounce of fat on it.  GS #1 “had been a stand-alone story by writer emeritus Roy Thomas.  When I got started with #2, I wanted to integrate the new series with the old one, since I was spinning such a complex web in Avengers that stand-alones would never be able to compare.  This then became, every three months, another ‘bi-weekly run,’” like the Avengers-Defenders War.  Staton still doesn’t wow me, but Sal does his usual fine job and, more important, Steve’s plotting, characterization, dialogue, and narration are uniformly excellent; the REH stuff was a nice touch. As an aside, I don't recall Kang ever claiming that he had "positioned" the star over Avengers Mansion.  I think he was merely following it, like the Magi, but in any event, we will learn its true origin in Captain Marvel #39.

Chris: This title continues its sure-and-steady improvement.  The action moves steadily along, plus the notion of a “celestial madonna” is intriguing.  I liked how Kang (and Steve) dissed the Swordsman – based on what we’ve seen from Sappy Swordsy in the past few months, you’d have to think that Jarvis would pose a far greater threat to Kang’s plans of conquest.  Still, I appreciate Swordsman’s gumption, as he dusts himself off and seeks to prove he’s not the useless “fop” (nice one, Kang!) he’s proven to be of late.

Sal & Joe continue to deliver (and how long has it been since we had the same art team for three straight issues?), well-complemented by Mantlo’s colors.  I particularly liked Bill’s choice of the dark blue hues for Swordie’s interior-pyramid fight with Amenhotep, who himself was daubed a deep, dark crimson.  There are a number of Swordman’s postures that remind me of Byrne’s early work with Marvel (soon to come).  Well, Byrne could ask for few better examples to follow than Sal, right? 
How about the little sign on P 2, pnl 1, reading: “Nixon’s the One!”

Giant-Size Avengers 2
"A Blast from the Past!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Dave Cockrum
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson, John Romita, and Frank Giacoia

"Prisoners of the Pharaoh!"
(reprinted from Fantastic Four #19, October 1963)

Picking up from the current issue of The Avengers, Hawkeye is foiling the robbery when he sees the glowing star over Avengers Mansion. He arrives to find only Jarvis there, who gives the archer the full skinny on Kang and the rest of the team, when the Swordsman arrives with Rama-Tut, both eager to help the captured Avengers. Hawkeye, who knows Rama-Tut (albeit in younger form) is really Kang, goes along with him to protect the Swordsman (who seems "really out of it" to Hawkeye). Meanwhile, Kang plans on using the Avengers-as-macrobots to assassinate the US Secretary of State, which will cause a chain reaction of confusion, allowing him to place a hidden Neutron Bomb which, once detonated, would bring down all of the major powers (or something). After that, Kang will mate with one of the captured women and their progeny will be the most powerful man on Earth. Kang parks his time sphere outside the UN and the Vision-controlled macrobot goes on its mission of chaos. At that moment, Hawkeye, Swordsman and Rama-Tut materialize (thanks to Tut) and fight the 'bot. Tut doesn't do much of anything, giving Swordsy doubts, but he is so desperate to prove his worth, he makes himself believe the Pharaoh has a "deeper purpose." Tut, for his part, stands musing over his wasted life, for this is the Kang of the Future. The Kang who never saved his one true love and realized conquest was just a drug to him, a substitute for that missing piece. Upon realizing that, Kang retired from his campaign of evil and traveled back in time to lord it over the ancient Egyptians. Snapping out of his reverie, Tut gives Hawkeye the info he needs to bring down the macrobot and free the Vision. Emboldened by this victory, the four teleport away to do the same with the other macrobots. As Kang activates the Iron Man 'bot, Wanda and Mantis argue over the Vision. Meanwhile, Vision and the others free Iron Man and then tackle Thor's 'bot. In the battle, Vision frees the women. Wanda, furious over the argument with Mantis, uses her rage-boosted power against the 'bot which has the strength and power of Thor. Their combined skills defeat the 'bot and free Thor. Kang sees Tut revealed and they battle one another. During the time paradox, it is revealed that Mantis is the Celestial Madonna and Kang realizes he and Tut are one and the same. Seeing the plan fall apart sends Kang into a rage and he tries to kill Mantis. Swordsman steps in front of the ray to save her and takes the full force of the blast. Kang and Tut struggle and are disintegrated in a blast, but since Tut has to exist, obviously Kang survived to fight another day. The Swordsman dies, having finally proven his worth not only to the Avengers but to Mantis as well. -Scott McIntyre

Scott: Long and complicated, but still managing to be fun and even moving, this Giant Size story finally feels like something important is happening. The Swordsman was never a strong character and actually proved an annoyance more than anything else. However. His loosening grip on himself was fascinating as everything he tried to do kept leading to failure. It's nice to see Hawkeye back working with the team and once Swordsy bought the farm, it made sense. As old friends, it was proper for Hawkeye to be there when his old mentor died. Surprisingly, for such a lame-ass character, the Swordsman's death is very moving. He never wavered in his love for Mantis and gave his life for her. He died feeling like a failure even though his final actions were quite noble indeed. I have no idea if he is ever resurrected, but his death is a good one. It also shoves Mantis back in her right mind, which is great because the triangle was getting tiresome. Dave Cockrum's art is really quite good here. Overall, like the Swordsman, this story is finally worthy.

Matthew:  For once, the “Death of an Avenger!” tagline is no hype, and if it may not come as a huge surprise to those who have been following the Swordsman’s hard-luck story of late, I still found it quite moving; amazingly, despite the apparent closure for his character, the saga of the Celestial Madonna is really just getting started, and will weave in GS #3-4 as well.  Although I liked both parts of this segment, Stainless really hits his stride here, while Cockrum, no stranger to the Assemblers, inks his own pencils and provides a distinctive style that is both robust and nuanced (love that splash page!).  The thematically apt reprint is of Rama-Tut’s origin from the Lee/Kirby FF #19, whose inker, Dick Ayers, died on May 4, shortly before this writing.

One thing I love about this blog is the big-picture perspective it provides, and I’m sad to say that although I’ve always loved Hawkeye, he—or rather his handling—has been a bit disappointing thus far.  To me, it’s the writer’s fault if there isn’t room among the Assemblers for a guy who brings something besides brute force to the table (six Thors would be boring); is confident that his unique abilities have earned him that berth without being plagued by self-doubt; and can be a brash upstart without being a jerk, because nobody wants their super-heroes to be jerks, or at least I don’t.  His colorful costume and the poses he strikes while plying his trade also make him visually dynamic, so I welcome him back and will watch with interest what Steve does with him.

Chris: Avengers #129 + G-S Avengers #2 is quite the antithesis to Av #127 + FF #150, isn’t it?  Instead of a colossal letdown, this issue delivers a fast-paced conclusion to the story elements laid out in the previous chapter.  The results place this two-parter in the all-time Bronze Age Top Five Avengers stories.  

The Avengers arguably will make better overall use of the giant-size format than any other Marvel title.  This story easily could have been cut down to fit two regular issues, or padded out to fill three, but instead, the 2 ½-issue space proves to be just right.  As an added bonus, we don’t have any interruption of the battles with Kang’s macrobots – the excitement builds throughout the issue, until the double climax of Mantis’ reveal as the CM, and Swordsman’s death.
Steve does an admirable job of inspiring us to care about the Swordsman, here at his end, especially after Ye Author had gone to such great lengths in recent issues to cut him down.  It’s especially tragic that, as Swordsman checks out, he’s still thinking of himself as a loser; in fact, his actions over the past two issues showcased him at his best, right up to the final moment when he absorbs the death-bolt intended for his former love.  Extra credit to Steve for not pulling a Thor-quick-change-to-Don-Blake for some emergency miracle surgery on the ground in Peking.  

Cockrum delivers some outstanding self-inked art.  Action-packed layouts, expressive faces, and fine details throughout.  Kang’s furious reactions are priceless; I also enjoy Wanda’s stand-by-your-man look (P. 22, pnl 2), and the good fun behind the foom (P 27, pnl 4) and ba-womp (P 31, last pnl) she delivers to the last macrobot (although we all will agree that it’s all-too-silly to suggest that a meteor impact would do anything less than crater a significant portion of the city – I’ll allow it, in the interest of good times).  Much of Cockrum’s action is Bucklerian-solid, until we reach the Celestial Madonna moment (above and below), which – dare I say – is downright Starlinesque.  Three – no, five! – cheers for Dave Cockrum.
The FF reprint featuring Rama-Tut is good fun, in classic FF style, and almost makes up for the fact that Roy welched on his assurance that he would serve up “two full-length Avengers epics!” for the second giant-size issue (his words, not mine).  

Captain Marvel 35
"Deadly Genesis!"
Story by Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich
Art by Alfredo Alcala
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

 Trapped in the Negative Zone, Rick is under attack by Annihilus, whom he drove off in Avengers #97, when the three-hour time limit switches him with the comatose Mar-Vell, now safe from the effects of the gas, “since everything’s in stasis in the Neg-Zone.”  Rick passes out en route to the airbase with Carol, Mordecai, and Dandy as the Supreme Intelligence enables him to control Mar-Vell’s body, stolen by Annihilus to probe the secret of dimensional transfer.  Visiting a hospitalized Rick, Ant-Man and the Wasp “kill” the Living Laser—revealed to be a “cyborg” (i.e., android) agent of the Lunatic Legion—before Annihilus makes explosive contact with Mar-Vell’s photon trail, and Rick brings Marv back to Earth to receive the antidote. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: According to Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Starlin had chafed under editorial meddling with Shang Chi, turned down the Fantastic Four, and walked following an “inking substitution” on Mar-Vell.  Englehart notes on his website that after dialoguing Starlin’s last two issues, he plotted this “one issue bridge,” scripted by Thanos War veteran Mike Friedrich while Stainless relocated, “and then began a run with Jim’s best artist friend, Al Milgrom.  Al and I were determined to do what I’d done with Frank Brunner on Dr. Strange—co-plot—and it worked for our first six issues.  But during that time I moved to California so I couldn’t do what I’d done with Frank, which was talk things over face-to-face, [and later it] became mostly Al’s.”

Scott: Without Jim Starlin, this book just dropped a few notches. Alfredo Alcala does his best imitation and Steve Engelhart is a damned good writer, but neither of them possesses the knack of cosmic grandeur Starlin had in abundance. And does Rick really have a belt buckle with his initials on it? Like Billy Batson had a "BB" on his red shirt…. A definite disappointment.   

Matthew: Pinch-hitting as both penciler and inker is Filipino artist Alfredo Alcala (1925-2000), a big favorite of our august Dean Enfantino whose work for Marvel, DC, and Warren is mostly outside my purview.  The best adjective I can come up with to describe his style is “dreamlike,” which is presumably well-suited to the horror/fantasy material for which he is better known, and although I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it here, it perhaps would have been unwise to follow Starlin directly with anything too conventional. Unfortunately, the story is a bit of a hodgepodge, albeit an eventful one with a sly allusion to Howard the Duck, while the interpolation of the Pyms—whose misadventures Friedrich had written in Marvel Feature—feels almost completely random.

Conan the Barbarian 44 
“Of Flame and the Fiend”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and The Crusty Bunkers
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Buscema

Morophla visits Conan and Red Sonja’s prison cell: he informs the warrior woman that she will soon become his mate and, under the vampire’s control, Conan is forced to breed with ghoulish half-human women. Days later, a vision of Uathacht appears before the captives: Conan promises to become her lover if she sets them both free. Uathacht agrees and casts a spell that temporarily binds Morophla’s powers. But when the alluring bloodsucker opens the cell she attempts to kill Red Sonja: however the She-Devil with a Sword manages to slay the curvy creature. As the warriors try to find their way out of the tower they encounter the bat-like Afterlings, but the mutations let them pass in peace. Conan stumbles across a cask of flammable liquid and soaks some tapestry. A vision of Morophla suddenly appears and he conjures up monsters from the barbarian’s past: a fanged, golden ape (issue #28), a grotesque octopus (issue #12), and a huge serpent with the head of a man (issue #7). After slaying them all, Conan and Red Sonja manage to light the liquid and the black tower bursts into flames, engulfing Morophla. The warriors' only escape is to climb down the sheer, outside walls. Both the Cimmerian and the Hyrkanian slip and fall, but two winged Afterlings swoop in and fly them to the ground. When Conan’s horse approaches, Red Sonja knocks the barbarian out with a rock and rides off, refusing to let a man endanger himself over her. -Thomas Flynn

Mark: More Red Sonja and - the credit box informs us - inks by the Crusty Bunkers, meaning we'll get some Big John pencils, finished by Neal Adams. Crom smiles on us this moon, brothers, so into the breech!

Or rather, into the cell, prisoners of ghoulish, centuries old siblings, Morophla and Uathacht, who plan to have their carnal way with Conan and Sonja and use them as breeding stock to improve the "subhuman dregs" upon which the sinister sibs feed. Splashed with a vial of old school Viagra, our hero is put to stud service, but given his bevy of "blushing brides" would lose a beauty pageant to the Mole Man's Subterraneans, its a blessing that Morophla's happy juice has a narcotic effect as well.

Thomas Flynn: The two-parter based on David A. English’s story “The Tower of Blood” wraps up in fine fashion. I had a hard time finding anything about the source material when I reviewed last issue but I managed to hit paydirt this time: it was first published in the fifth issue of Witchcraft and Sorcery Magazine in 1970. From what I could find, Thomas follows the original pretty closely, even using the name Morophla and Uathacht. Roy paid tribute to Cromek, the name of English’s hero, by calling the sinewy mutant from last issue Dromek. The inks this time are by The Crusty Bunkers — Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Larry Hama and Ralph Reese — and I wouldn’t mind if they handled the chore every issue. It was a bit goofy that you don’t actually see Morophla killed, just disembodied word balloons that say things like “But I am engulfed with flame — I die — I die…” I will say, the bickering between Conan and Red Sonja gets a little tiring. But the She-Devil reveals a bit more about her character: it’s deeper than just refusing to lay with a man, she has no feelings at all for companionship or love. Hmmm, I’ve been accused of that on a few occasions. 

Mark: The art is gorgeous, as expected, but the plot resolution, while satisfying, isn't among Roy Thomas' best. Our randy Hyborian promises to make nice to Uathacht if she'll free them. Uathacht jumps at the deal and puts a spell on her brother, but why, since Conan and his savage sword were at her service anyway?

Having leapt this illogical chasm, the rest is bloody good fun. Sonja puts Uathacht down with her own treacherous knife. Conan battles Morophla in a variety of guises, plucked from the barbarian's memories, then he and Sonya put Mo to the torch before being rescued, as they fall from the high tower, by the bat-like "Afterlings," grateful for their freedom.

And then Sonja conks the Big C on the head and rides away, alone. Won't Conan ever learn not to turn his back on her at the end of an adventure?

What do you expect from Crom, miracles?

Creatures on the Loose 32
Man-Wolf in
"Moon of the Hunter!"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Jan Brunner
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by John Romita

Man-Wolf sits in an alley, watching Kristine who ponders what’s become of her fiancé, John. Man-Wolf starts towards the fire escape to kill Kristine, when he’s grabbed from behind by Kraven the Hunter! As they battle, Kristine spots the ruckus and begrudgingly calls the police. When they arrive, Kraven hightails it out of there, pontificating all the way, and Man-Wolf bounds off also, turning into John in the morning and stumbling back to his apartment. He calls Ralph “Rocks” Sarson from NASA, hoping to get info on the pendant but instead is told he’s AWOL, which he would have known if he checked the last three weeks of mail, which he smashes! He passes out from going postal (yes, I went there!), missing Dad JJJ’s call. That night, the moon transforms John into Man-Wolf, and Kraven is right there to gas him and take him to a secret chamber that absorbs the moon’s radiation and turns him back into John—which the Hunter knew all along –Joe Tura

Joe: I had this one too! And it might be the only Tony Isabella comic I did own. With good reason! Actually, for a T.I. effort, it ain’t half bad. And Tuska actually draws a decent Kraven, although one with a permanent weird smile like he’s posing for a Pepsodent commercial. The Spidey cameo is odd but welcome, but he has no dialogue, probably because that way they didn’t have to pay Peter Parker to be in the comic, and could only get a stuntman. Ha. Ha. A decent issue all around really, setting up for a two-parter and maybe some answers, and hopefully more action than some letters being tossed about. P.S. Great Romita cover! Plus, dig that Mr. Fantastic Marvel Value Stamp!

Matthew: However chagrined Dean Enfantino may be to hear that Isabella ever kicked anything up a notch, and however low Moench has set the bar in this particular case, pitting the Man-Wolf against Kraven the Hunter is an inspired idea; it’s just a shame that the issue itself doesn’t live up to that solid premise.  Tony continues the trend of squandering too many panels on recapping the recaps, while the Tuskoletta team—dicey at the best of times—seems to reserve its very worst for this strip, with the proportions on the full-page reveal of Kraven (shocker!) looking all wrong.  In the inevitable three-page reprint, future production manager Sol Brodsky shows his penciling skills in “A Matter of Life or Death!” from Strange Tales of the Unusual #9 (April 1957).

Joe: Filler! “A Matter of Life or Death!”, noted by Prof. Matthew, sees gardener Tom Baker buy a new brand of insecticide that shop owner Mr. Parris finds out may have issues. Parris and the police can’t find gardener Tom, who can’t open the can with anything, not even a pneumatic drill or a steamroller. So Tom tosses it into his dump, just as Parris arrives and it blows up—because it was filled with nitroglycerin! Then we find out the narrator was the Grim Reaper! Hi-yoooooo!

Captain America and the Falcon 179
"Slings and Arrows!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

Enjoying his retirement, Steve Rogers indulges in a shopping stroll with Sharon when he is attacked by a guy calling himself the Golden Archer, who apparently knows Steve was once Cap. Since the Space Phantom wiped out everyone's memories of Cap's dual identity, Steve is at a loss to explain it. Meanwhile, the Falcon vows to bring down Morgan the crime boss. Steve is working out at his gym, talking to Roscoe, the kid who works there, when the Archer launches a sonic attack but escapes after goading Steve. Later, Peggy shows up and Steve finally lets her know they aren’t lovers anymore. Over in California, a biker named Scar decides to be the new Cap, but gets his ass handed to him when he tries to take on a gang by himself. Finally, the Golden Archer attacks Steve one last time and allows himself to be beaten. Finally, all is revealed; Goldy is really Hawkeye in disguise. Hawkeye spotted Steve changing into Cap previously, but kept his mouth shut about it and, in gratitude for being so good to the archer, Hawkeye decided to show Steve that being a hero is in his blood. Perhaps Steve should consider taking on a totally new identity to fight crime. Steve agrees that it's a fab idea… -Scott McIntyre

Scott: That was fun, if a little contrived. The usual "fool the hero into learning something about himself" is quite the chestnut. I had to chuckle out loud when Hawkeye pulled off the disguise. Not only was the "Golden Archer's" face a full on latex mask, with "Robin the Boy Wonder" style mask over that, he was wearing his own costume mask under it! With the jutting eye pieces included. That doesn't even resemble the configuration of a human head. It's cool to see Hawkeye paying it forward for a change and finally Steve has some progression. Again, we are introduced to a guy who wants to be Cap and who is ushered out of the story too quickly to justify his introduction. He's played up to be a major character and is booted out a few pages later. I know what they're trying to do; laying the groundwork to have someone really get something while trying to take over as Cap, but this is ridiculous. Not only that, this dude was in California. There are no major heroes out there, so why do they suddenly miss Cap? Everyone is concentrated in Manhattan. If they don’t need a Captain America normally, there's no reason to require one now that the guy at the other end of the country stepped down.

Matthew:  True to my pro-Avengers bias, I generally prefer Englehart’s Bronze-Age work there to here, excepting the false-Cap arc, but concede that the upcoming Nomad issues are historic, so these post-Cap stories are clearly a means to an end.  Given their history, it’s neat that Clint shows Steve the way forward, and for those of us whove missed ol’ “Br’er Hawkeye,” Stainless brings the golden—er, purple—archer back to the fold in this month’s GS Avengers.  The Squadron Supreme analog of Green Arrow, to whom Roy gave the highly original name of “Hawkeye” in #85 (when Clint was in Goliath mode), inexplicably used the G.A. persona when Englehart revived him in #141; had said bowman slyly been reading CA&F?

Mark: The book regains a pulse after effectively flat-lining the last two issues. Yeah, I know Englehart was setting-up Mr. Rogers' nomadic adventure, but that doesn't excuse the deadly dull double Lucys.

"Slings and Arrows!" serves up more "new Cap" comic relief, hopefully the teary-eyed exit of Peggy Carter, and the Falcon calling out pudgy crime czar Morgan. These sub-plots nicely spice our entree, Steve stalked by the mysterious Golden Archer (the Space Phantom flashback filled me in on why Cap's real identity is again a world wide secret). It's apparent that the Archer isn't really trying to kill Cap, and ex-teammate Hawkeye coming up with the notion of Steve as "a whole new super-hero" is a clever and emotionally satisfying solution to Mr. Rogers' angsty-identity crisis.

Too bad the whole Archer revealed gambit looks ludicrous, thanks to Clint wearing his pointy-Hawkeye mask under his Mission Impossible G.R. face. If memory serves, Steve knows who Clint Barton is at this juncture, so maybe the thinking was the readers wouldn't recognize him without the big H on his forehead. If so, problem easily solved by – as happens anyway – having Steve exclaim, "Hawkeye!"

A minor issue, perhaps, but it's a needlessly ridiculous, points-off ending to the best issue in months.

Daredevil 115
"Death Stalks the City!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Bob Brown and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane, Marie Severin, and Frank Giacoia

Daredevil arrives just in time at the apartment of Foggy Nelson to surprise the Death Stalker, who is about to apply his touch of death to Foggy and sister Candace. The villain departs with DD in pursuit. A policeman's gunfire prevents anything more than an icy grip from harming Daredevil. He returns to Foggy's office as Matt Murdock, pretending to be surprised and freeing them from bondage. They figure a New York hotel would be an inconspicuous hideaway, and Foggy leaves them there. Matt then feigns an excuse to leave Candace alone and sets out as his alter ego in pursuit of Death Stalker. He finds him in a former  chemical plant of the late Norman Osborn, and takes up the fight again, trying to avoid the touch of the villain. Death Stalker falls into an acid vat, along with the papers Ted Sallis had written on transforming humans into pollution-thriving creatures. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: The mystery of who or what the Death Stalker is is maintained in this issue. I find it odd he takes off whenever his murder plans are interrupted; his power seemingly supernatural, finishing the job should be easy. I suspect he's more vulnerable than he seems.  A brief appearance by the Black Widow tells us she's not out of the picture just yet.   

Scott: Death Stalker was always one of my favorite DD villains, but he has yet to live up to his potential. While I'm not normally the biggest fan of Bob Brown's art, the combo of Brown and Vince Colletta works for me. It's very neat, clean and easy to look at. It's not the most dynamic in the way of layouts, but it's very attractive. Matt's excuse for leaving Candace in the hotel is lamer than Don Blake. How long does it take to go to the front desk? And how long does it take to swing across town and fight some villain to the alleged death? Better talk fast when you get back, counselor. Decent story otherwise. Steve Gerber is a talented mo-fo.  

Matthew: Colletta notwithstanding, the Gerber/Brown team remains solid, and I’ll be sad to see it break up in a couple of months, but not, I hope, before Steve can tie up his plot threads satisfactorily.  It’s probably naïve of Hornhead or the reader to assume that the copy of the Sallis Papers we see dissolved in acid is the only one, especially when it comes to government work, so it’s probably a given that the secrets of Project Sulfur have been no more conclusively destroyed than Death-Stalker himself.  I love the aura of mystery with which Gerber continues to surround him, but I’d be more pleased with the sly allusion to Amazing Spider-Man on page 22 if Steve or letterer Charlotte Jetter hadn’t made the all-too-common mistake of misspelling “Osborne” (sic).

The Defenders 17
"Power Play!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Sal Buscema and Dan Green
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Annette Kawecki
Cover by Ron Wilson

The Defenders have a new headquarters: a secluded horse riding academy. Nighthawk gives it his best to ride Valkyrie's horse Aragorn, but fails miserably! The fun turns serious when Val makes good on her word to depart and learn about the girl Barbara whose body she inhabits. Hulk leaves in a temper (hurt feelings?), leaving Kyle Richmond and Stephen Strange to confront the next mystery, namely who's been destroying all of Nighthawk's (aka Kyle's) buildings (save one under construction). The two go to investigate and find the building under guard by Luke Cage, Power Man, who doesn't get he's fighting the guys who hired him to watch over the building! A battle ensues, until the collapse of the building  reveals the true cause of the recent destruction: the self titled Wrecking Crew consisting of the Wrecker, Thunderball, Piledriver and Bulldozer. -Jim Barwise

Ummm... No, you don't
Jim: Despite the rather silly looking Wrecking Crew (isn't the Wrecker bad enough on his own?), this issue has enough twists and turns to keep us going. Perhaps the more personal opening scenes are the most enjoyable. Even a tycoon/superhero like Nighthawk can't handle a horse with a temper! Valkyrie's determination to explore her inner workings promises to be a short departure --we hope-- but wow, what an outfit she picks for her new adventure! Hulk's thinly-veiled rejection (anger) is good for a touching moment.  Looks like Luke Cage will be a temporary Defender, whether he likes it or not.

Matthew: Wein continues to solidify our non-team’s core with the establishment of Kyle’s Long Island riding-academy H.Q., while still varying the mix with temporary departures (e.g., the Hulk, who leaps off into Len’s current Marvel Team-Up, and Val) and arrivals, in this case of guest-star Cage.  As Sal’s inker, Green provides a palatable alternative to Colletta or Janson, yet on the negative side, the Wilson/Milgrom cover is not only hideous, but also misleading even by comic-book standards. Worse, it reflects the MARMIS that is at once this issue’s raison d’être and its biggest flaw, for even without revealing his secret i.d., Nighthawk could have made it clear much sooner—as Doc eventually did—that they represented the interests of Mr. Richmond.

Scott: The splash page is great. I've lived on Long Island my whole life, right by the Nassau/Suffolk border, and I have to tell you; we don't have mountains. We have hills, but not the snowcapped peaks seen here. This could have easily instead been an hour upstate of Manhattan and avoided this entirely. I guess most people wouldn't notice, but you'd think the Marvel guys, who worked 40 miles away from the location, would know a little something of the geography. Otherwise, a solid issue, although with a little too much reliance on the MARMIS. Poor Luke Cage is always misjudging heroes. The Hulk's reaction to Val leaving is sweet and I'm really liking Nighthawk. For a "non-team" they sure do act like, well, an actual team. They have a fancy HQ, regular members, and when they leave, they "always have a place" in the group. I've asked this before, but how are the Defenders any different than the Avengers? Just another group of squabbling heroes who respect each other but come and go. The Wrecking Crew arrives and they're going to be a nice collection of bastards. I remember them fondly from my teen years reading Marvel Comics Super-Heroes Secret Wars. Hey, it was lame, but it was a big deal then. 

Fantastic Four 152
"A World of Madness Made!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rich Buckler and Jim Mooney
Colors by Jan Brunner
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Rich Buckler and John Romita

Thundra and Medusa return to the Baxter Building just in time for the former to catch Reed in his fall to the ground. While Medusa checks on her teammates, Thundra takes up the battle with Mahkizmo, as the combatants disappear into the brute's world. When Medusa explains Thundra's situation, Reed sets about adjusting Dr. Doom's time machine to travel crossways in time, to other dimensions. It takes them to the world of Machus, where they see Mahkizmo and his men conquering Thundra and her fellow Femizons. The F.F. suffer defeat however, and witness the sad sight of a subservient Thundra. Medusa presses the advantage of Mahkizmo's attraction to her, and escapes, but rather than free her fellows, she uses the time machine to escape... or so it seems. -Jim Barwise

Reed Richards stars in "My Left Foot is a Hand"

Jim: Clearly not all is as it seems. If Thundra could be a match for Mahkizmo on Earth, what power does he hold over her in his world? And Medusa clearly has a plan, referring to "time as the answer." We'll have to wait on that one too. Thundra's rescue of Reed is memorable. As they point out at the end of the issue, the rush job to complete this issue, minus Joe Sinnott is evident in the decent but not outstanding art work, as well as a lack of character motivations that were touched on more last month, i.e. the reveal into Thundra's reasons for coming to our time.

It was the best of times...
Mark: The sole virtue of this four color calamity is to indelibly illustrate the oft-overlooked but invaluable role of the inker, particularly a prodigious talent like Hall of Famer, Joltin' Joe Sinnott.

Rich Buckler's dynamic layouts are still (mostly) visible, but in Sinnott's absence, we get finishes by Jim Mooney, and the results sure ain't pretty. Witness horse-faced Sue, P. 10 (below), the sub-Archie visage of Johnny, P. 16, and the misshapen thin-to-thick pizza crust brow of the Thing in the last panel (far below), to shame-walk just three of the most egregious examples of Mooney's miscarriage. In Jim's defense, the final caption suggests he was called in for a Deadline Doom rush job, perhaps completed at three a.m., eye glasses forgotten in a dash to the Marvel offices...

Chris: Better –well, at least it’s better than most of the past several issues.  The ridiculous Mahkizmo is still here, so I’ve had to put some thought into why this issue seems better to me.  Here goes: Medusa’s neatly-succinct summary of last ish (all in three panels!); the team’s admiration for Thundra, and her apparent “sacrifice,” as she allows herself to be abducted to Machus; the time-sideways trip on Doom’s platform (featuring the Atlantic reclaiming New York – coming soon to an eastern seaboard near you); the battle with Mahk’s femme-hunters; Medusa’s fake-out of Mahk (another concise sequence – only five panels of them in the boudoir, without us having to overhear any stupid male-superior sweetish-talk).  So, some sound choices by Gerry, and solid pacing overall.  

...and it was the worst of times.
The box at the bottom of the last page offers a hasty apology for the less-than-stellar art, which I appreciate, but which wasn’t completely necessary – except for a few odd looks for Ben’s head (which, I recognize, can be difficult to get right), I think Mooney’s inks for Buckler are fairly good – this one time, that is.  It’s always a relief to know we’re never more than an issue or two removed from the return of Joltin’ Joe.  
Matthew: The last page notes that “if the art looks slightly rushed this ish, it’s only because…Jim Mooney saved us at the last minute,” which may explain the notorious three-hand splash page (check out Reed’s left “foot” reprinted far above).  Perhaps not surprisingly, the results look more like Mooney than Buckler, which is a bit of a letdown, but the story is all Conway, with everything that implies, and left me wondering if this three-parter had one part (or more) too many.  The “traveling sideways through time” business sounds like the premise for an episode of Doctor Who, and Mahkizmo continues to be a “grate” villain, while the brief reappearance of Sue, who has been ignored since she and Reed were reunited, makes me wonder why Gerry even bothered.

Scott: We continue the creative abortion that is the saga of Mahkizmo. My hatred for this character continues unabated. It's not a bad story, overall. Time travel yarns are fun and this one is no exception. It's action packed and beautifully drawn…it's just that this guy sucks. Obviously, Medusa isn't really turning traitor, but it makes for a serviceable cliffhanger. But why does Ben look like someone else drew him in the final panel? Someone with no talent whatsoever…

Mark: The story's better than the sub-par pix, just barely. After catching thrown-from-the-Baxter-Building Reed four feet from the asphalt, Thundra scales the BB like Queen Kong and starts duking it out with Mahkizmo before both mysteriously vanish (in a burst of what should be Kirby Krackle, but three a.m. Jim merely dribbles on ink blobs). A page later, Reed concludes Big T "allowed herself to be captured" to spare our time line. Sure, Reed, Thundra signaled submission by punching Kiz in the face.

The real problem is Mahkizmo, a baddie so broad, he gives Neanderthalic misogynists & head-butting NFLers a bad name. So while the time-travel and fight scenes are competently executed, Kiz as the big bad is a black hole, over-powered and under-interesting. Kid Conway should have focused on Thundra instead of giving her a cameo.

Take solace in Sinnott's promised next ish return, FF faithful. As for the rest? Well, everyone says the famous Kizmo trilogy is ranked right behind "The Coming of Galactus."


Giant-Size Fantastic Four 3
"Where Lurks Death... Ride the Four Horsemen!"
Story by Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman
Art by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott

"The Hate-Monger!"

(reprinted from Fantastic Four #21, December 1963)

An ancient race once came to Earth (the nexus of civilized worlds from which conquest of others must stem) millions of years ago to claim it as their own. A mightier race eventually beat them, banishing them to their homeworld, where the four warriors (the mightiest of their race who had come to Earth) were exiled, for their failure, by their fellows. All this time later they have returned to reclaim Earth and their good standing. They are the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse: Pestilence, War, Famine and Death. The Fantastic Four battle them in this order, hearing their tale from Pestilence first. Although it appears that the Four Horsemen are far more powerful than they, the F.F. manage to overcome them, seemingly by the unexpectedness of their resistance. Pestilence in New York, War in Africa, Famine in Cambodia, and Death atop Mt. Everest. The Four Horsemen have little trouble turning human against human, but Reed reasons from what Pestilence said in the beginning that there must have been a safeguard in place by the race that defeated them eons ago to prevent them from returning to conquer our world, activated by the F.F.'s resistance. -Jim Barwise

Jim: Kind of a symbolic tale about all the cruelties humanity inflicts upon itself...
The adventure sure looks good, Buckler and Sinnott doing their usual on-target job. The Four Horsemen seem like they'd have a clear victory, but after battling the likes of Galactus the F.F. don't scare away easily. Still it makes sense it was really the safeguards of the Horsemen's enemies that routed them.

Matthew: For continuity freaks like me, this follows #154 of the monthly book and uses its regular Buckler/Sinnott art team; the script is by future FF regular Wolfman, with lame-duck Conway as co-plotter.  It looks good, in that Big John Faux-scema way, but the pretentious premise—which was overly ambitious even for a giant-size issue—is so bunglingly conceived, introduced, and developed that the writers should be regarded more as partners in crime than as collaborators.  In what might conceivably be the world’s weirdest indirect promo for Marvel’s Photo News Features #1 (more adventurously touted on this month’s Bullpen Page simply as Hitler), the Hate-Monger rears his Adolf-lookalike’s hooded head in the reprint of #21.

Scott: Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott really know how to make a beautiful comic. From the splash page on, especially the next "double page spread," it's gorgeous. Otherwise, this Giant-Size story feels like one of those "annuals" where there's a lot of battling and noise, but nothing is tied to the main run of the book. Thus, it feels inconsequential. Thus, I was somewhat bored. It's not bad, just obvious I didn't miss anything having never read this story until now.

Chris: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come storming in, with grand statements about their power, and their ability to subjugate our fair mudball.  The FF defeat them all too easily – the initial promise of the story comes to very little.  The next time the 4H have a few millennia to plan their next invasion, maybe they could devote a few minutes to figuring out how to circumvent the “ancient curse” that the mysterious earth-protecting race had set up, expressly for the purpose of foiling these selfsame Horsemen.  
The Buckler-Sinnott art exceeds even the usual standard.  Pestilence is particularly grotty, and Death is fairly spooky; the deaths-head FF doubles also are well done.  The impressive mid-air destruction of an FF vehicle award for this issue goes to P 19, Pnl 2, as Johnny and Medusa scramble from the flying debris.  
Johnny’s taken a shine to Medusa, hasn’t he?  Gerry – read your letters page – FF fans don’t want this.
Quote of the month: “What is it with this everlovin’ mudball that all you creeps want to rule it?” –B. Grimm.

The Frankenstein Monster 13
"All Pieces of Fear!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Val Mayerik and Jack Abel
Colors by Jack Roussos
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ron Wilson, Mike Esposito, and Frank Giacoia

After a long and tiring journey, held up in the cargo bin of a plane heading to LaGuardia from Los Angeles (and his adventure told in Giant-Size Werewolf #2), the Frankenstein Monster debarks his flight, sans luggage, and hits the Big Apple. His first mission is to break into a bookstore and steal a copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and the second, which we're not privy to, is waylaid when our "hero" is attacked by a gang of street thugs. One of them, Ralph Caccone, sticks up for the big lug and is pounded into the ground by his fellow Jets for his trouble. The Monster, knowing a friend when he sees one, puts the gang leader in the dust and then convinces Ralph that he's the titular character of the book he's just jacked. Coincidences being what they are, Ralph's pop happens to be something of a junior Frankenstein himself and Ralph asks his new friend home to dinner. Unbeknownst to all, a drama of marital inadequacy has been playing out at the Caccone residence. Sickened by what she considers a deadbeat dad and lazy husband, Janice Caccone has just dumped all of her husband's research into a giant vat holding a "mannikin" that Steven Caccone has patched together and the swirling chemicals unite to create a very deadly mutant, one who awakens the slumbering Steven with a quick death. Enter Ralph and his new buddy. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: First thing that has to be said is that Jack Abel does everything he can to ruin the creepiness of Val Mayerik's penciling. The Monster now just looks like a big pale guy wearing a horsehair coat. Second to be said is that Moench's flowery prose really sucks:

Enter a shadow-swirled  realm of gloom and dark despair, an inner world where stark terror and bleak tragedy form the very breath of life.... Pause now, here in the murky dimension of reasoning... pause and contemplate the brackish threads of sentience...

Peter: Say what? Doug, can you forget for 15 pages that you've been possessed by the spirit of Sylvia Plath and concoct an adventure we all want to ride along on? Which brings me to third... this series has long been stuck in the mud, devoid of anything resembling a path. Now, sometimes that's a good thing as it can lead to interesting byways (see Man-Thing for proof) but I've no evidence that this series is heading anywhere near the signpost marked INTERESTING. The Monster stumbles from city to city (or state to state) and manages to find some mutant or fellow monster to do battle with and then moves on. What are the chances that he stumbles onto crazed scientists who want to be Frankenstein when they grow up in every port? How long has Steven Caccone been working on this precious cloning experiment, surviving failure after failure, only to see his outraged and filthy-mouthed wife stumble on the secret to reanimation when she plays "one cup o' this and one cup o' that" with Steven's toxic chemicals (and which chemical spurs tusk growth?)? I can't wait 'til next issue when Doug explains why the Monster felt the need to bust into a book store for a copy of Frankenstein. If this was written in the '80s, I betcha it would have been a video store.

Chris: A female member of the household registers her complaints to the man who keeps himself sequestered in his lab.  The man is experimenting with a method to generate life; once the experiment goes unexpectedly awry, the man is killed.  So, which issue is this, #13, or are we still stuck in #11 somehow?  Do you mean to tell me that this title is so crapped-out that they’re recycling a storyline from earlier this same year?  

Chris: The issue opens with another scene-missing, as readers somehow are supposed to know how the monster has found himself in New York.  Nice way to alienate readers even further – “I know we threw you for a loop last issue, when we inexplicably transported the monster to a new era, but now you can go and pick up a different comic to find out what’s happening at this point!”  The monster gets to toss a few people around, and possibly make a new friend (as opposed to his earlier, painfully failed efforts at romantic contact), but otherwise the title character is called on to do precious little.
I’ve already written more than this slender issue is worth, but I will say that Mayerik’s “jigsaw” creature is pretty gruesome.  
Peter: Our reprint this issue, "Six Strange Words" from World of Suspense #6 (February 1957) is a weird little tale about a man who stumbles on an old sorcerer who can make anyone disappear with just six words. Of course, the stranger decides he can become the most powerful man in the world with the sentence but, also of course, it doesn't work out for him in the end. Confusing climax and by-the-numbers art by Syd Shores sink this one.

The Amazing Spider-Man 138
"Madness Means... the Mindworm!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt
Colors by by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Annette Kawecki
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

As Peter sits in his ruined apartment, the landlord knocks and angrily rips up Parker’s lease. With nearly nowhere else to turn, Peter calls Flash Thompson, who readily agrees to let him share his pad near the beach in Far Rockaway. Upon his arrival, a strange neighbor called The Mindworm senses the power and complexity of Peter’s emotions, then appears to be “feeding” with his oversized brain. After a nice conversation between the two new roomies, Flash falls asleep and Peter goes for some Queens web-swinging, where he spots a plethora of people sleepwalking, including Flash! Spidey is also drawn towards the abandoned shack of the maleficent Mindworm. His freakish origin: born to a family that lived near an experimental government compound, the only surviving birth. The parents got more haggard as the years went on, his mind powers causing the mother to collapse and the father to run and get hit by a car. (No, really!) Sent to an orphanage, he built up his mental and physical strength until he ended up here. The cops show up, radioing the oddness in before they also fall victim to the Mindworm’s madness, which then tells the citizens to kill Spidey! He breaks free and confronts the big-headed baddie, but his will overcomes the mind control. Mindworm gets greedy for Spidey’s emotions, but our hero smashes him on the ears, and he’s left to pout outside as the authorities arrive on the scene. Mindworm saga over. --Joe Tura

Joe: Whatever Gerry was ingesting this month, the faculty demands a taste! That’s the only reason I can think of for the creation of the Mindworm. I had never read this one before, one of the few holes in my post-1972 Spidey collection, and now I know why. It’s thankfully a one-shot, coming off the past two emotional Goblin issues, that deserves a half-shot. Not that it’s bad, it’s just kind of there. You would almost expect to have a guest artist since this story is so off the beaten path, but at least Andru is around for some continuity with the continuing perils of Peter Parker. No supporting cast, other than Flash, is odd, like Gerry thought so much of his creation that he wanted to focus on him. Quite the tale, this one.

Joe: Favorite sound effect has to be “KRA-KOW!” as Spidey boxes the maddening Mindworm’s ears and puts an end to his nonsense, which is appropriate since he’s still just a child really, on many levels. I mean, what’s with that outfit?

Scott: The Mindworm is easily the least appealing character created for this book to date. Really, this turd is an ugly mother fracker in a muscle shirt who sits "crisscross applesauce." While last issue showcased Ross Andru as his best, Mindworm is an example of the artist at his most dire. The subplot of Peter moving in with Flash is quite nice and a good step forward in the lives of these characters. Still, no word from Flash's apparently "one and done" suspicion regarding Peter and his sudden unexplained appearances and disappearances during the last encounter with the Tarantula. All in all, an issue I'd rather forget. 

Matthew: The Mindworm could be a distant relation of the Sorcerer, against whom Ross previously pitted Spidey way back in Marvel Super-Heroes #14, with his high forehead and mental powers; they both look like something out of the woodcuts with which Fritz Eichenberg so memorably illustrated the stories of Poe.  A frequent faculty punchline, he’s not Conway’s most inspired creation, but by gum, I’ve seen far worse comics written by Gerry and others, and I liked that splash page of the despondent Peter (reprinted far above).  On a personal note, I was tickled to see him relocate to Far Rockaway, Queens, out beyond the warm hospitality of Professor Flynn’s Ozone Park digs (the A Train, the local staff’s current conveyance to Paradise, elicits a mention).

Mark: I'm pretty sure NYC's strict renters' rights laws prevent the heartless eviction of bombing victims, but no matter. Pete getting the heave-ho gets him out to Far Rockaway with new roomie, Flash Thompson, and into the clutches of the misshapen Mindworm, sort of the evil Professor X of Thalidomide babies, who offed his own parents and then whined about being an unloved orphan.

Kid Conway doesn't explain the purpose of Wormy's lotus position "feeding," a hypnotic summoning of all neighbors within psychic radar range, but it does provide a convenient crowd to attack Spidey (Webs himself being conveniently immune to Wormy's mind-meld). Ross Andru gives Flash some stylin', striped purple bell-bottoms, and Mr. A's balding, bulbous-domed Mindworm is effectively creepy. One imagines Conway wanted the misshapen misanthrope to have a sympathetic side, lending some poignancy to Wormy's last page turf-pounding tantrum. Too bad Ger forgot to write said sympathy into the script.

But this one is better than I remembered. Will the same be said regarding another least-loved foe, the ferocious, flea-bitten Grizzly?   


  1. An open question to anyone that cares: why are the issue titles of many Marvel comics different on the cover than what’s on the splash page? They are usually so similar, so why bother? For example, on this month’s Conan, it’s “The Fiend and the Flames” on the cover, while the splash has “Of Flame and the Fiend.” With Killraven, it’s “Day of the Death Breeders” outside, simply “The Death Breeders” inside. Daredevil has both “Night of the Death Stalker” and “Death Stalks the City.” Fantastic Four goes with “World of Madness, World of Doom” and “A World of Madness Made.” Anyone have a reason or theory? Yes, I know that the covers and interior pages were on different schedules, but they could have just stuck with whatever was produced first. (This is even worse in the black-and-white mags where sometimes the titles listed on the TOC are different than those used on the stories themselves.) I’m probably the only one that gets bugged by this, but it sets off my OCD! Whaaaaaaa!

  2. I haven't the foggiest idea about why Marvel so often had differing story titles on the cover and the actual story. Most likely the cover was produced first with a title created by the editor based on a the gist of the story, while the writer came up with the title he wanted to use later on, when it was too late to change the cover copy and which the writer was disinclined to use for the story itself. It seemed to happen less often when Lee was coming up with both blurbs for the covers and the titles for the stories (but to my memory it still happened more than a few times in the Silver Age).
    Any how, due to not having enough cents to my name when these were all brand new at my favorite comics source, I wasn't able to get Giant-Size Avengers #2 until many years later, but my 12 year old self was fascinated with the developments with the Swordsman -- a man desperately trying to be a hero, while experiencing emotional and physical decline, disdained by the woman he loves and even by the villain but still striving to do his best. Yeah, he was whiny, but I could still empathize with his situation. And then he died, trying to prove not only his ultimate devotion to a woman who scorned him but also to show that he really had reformed. However pitiable he was, he at last proved himself deserving of being an Avenger.
    Over at Spider-Man, Mindworm wasn't much of a villain but it was interesting to see Peter wind up moving in with Flash, an event that would have seemed unlikely in the extreme even about 4 years previously.
    In this months CA&TF, I wonder if it was Sal's decision to have Clint wearing his Hawkeye mask under his Golden Archer rubber mask or if that was directed by either Steve or Roy out of fear that readers might not otherwise recognize the guy who just a couple of years previously didn't wear a mask at all. It was one of the silliest moments in an otherwise stellar run by Sal and overall a rather fun story.