Wednesday, November 12, 2014

February 1975 Part One: Frank Robbins Brings His "Magic" to Captain America and 13-Year-Old Boys Weep

Introduction by Professor Matthew Bradley

In the first of this year’s seismic shifts, Roy steps down as editor in chief, although the details of the succession will not be revealed until next month.  With typical upbeat spin, Stan asks, “how lucky can you be?  You’ll be seeing more sensational stories than ever from ol’ Roy Thomas from now on.  Yep, the Rascally One has been itching to devote more of his time to writing, and he’s finally decided to take the plunge.  Hence, from this day forth, our award-winning editor becomes Editor Emeritus, a title he so richly deserves, as I hereby announce (and not without a twinge of envy), that he’ll be scripting more Marvel masterworks than ever before.  So here’s to the youngest titleholder in all of Emeritusdom—long may he reign!,” as he raves in his Soapbox.

Certainly Roy had lots of wonderful scripts still in him, and many an EIC has chafed at focusing on the managerial end at the expense of his creative side, although the decision to let Roy edit his own books thereafter had unforeseen consequences.  “Basically, I’m not a person who’s very interested in business or, God forbid, working my way up the corporate ladder….[T]hings were becoming a little bit strained.  I just wasn’t enjoying the job.  I felt that I was wasting too much time on things that I really hated spending time on….I only wish I’d stayed just a little longer.  Then I would at least have had my name as editor on Giant-Size X-Men, which became such a classic,” he told Les Daniels in Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics.

Not surprisingly, though, Stan omits the proximate cause, per Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which relates a litany of corporate machinations, including a challenge from short-lived rival Atlas Comics (the namesake of Marvel’s 1950s predecessor), resentment among the old guard, and “the threat of an industry-wide artists’ union...The final straw came, at last, after a freelancer was caught trying to drive up his Marvel income by lying about his page rate with DC.  A seething Stan Lee went out to lunch with DC president Carmine Infantino and hammered out an agreement to share information about how much each freelance writer or artist was getting.  When [Roy] heard the news, he was appalled—this was collusion, and he wanted no part of it.”

In other Bullpen Bulletins, Frank Robbins will “team up with Roy the Boy on a brand new 50¢ title due to debut early in ’75.  Its title?  The Invaders!  (Who’s going to be in this newest, most exciting super-group?  We’ll leave you guessing for a month or so, pilgrim.  Suffice it to say that we think the lineup of this liltin’ legion is going to catch nearly everybody off-guard, and that…Frank will definitely have his hands full!)….And this month sees Giant-Size Chillers [Vol. 2] #1, with art by Alcala, Alcazar, and right on thru the alphabet with Marvel’s greatest mystery artists.  What’s more, [March] will herald the way-outest new mag of all—Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up, co-starring (just for starters, mind you) Dr. Doom and the savage Sub-Mariner!

“How’s that for an off-the-wall blockbuster announcement! (Well, if that doesn’t hold you, how about this? The X-Men are coming back, in brand new tales, in a giant-size mag due to debut just a couple of short months from now! We could’ve held back on that one, but we wanted to give all you mutant-boosters a chance to start saving your radioactive sheckels.)” Finally, with Gene Colan’s much-ballyhooed return to Dr. Strange, “Doc’s previous artist, Far-out Frank Brunner, [is] keeping busy on one of the most-requested back-up features of all time. Yep, we’re talking about none other than Howard the Duck, who’s now appearing regularly in the pages of our quarterly Giant-Size Man-Thing mag”...or not, but we’ll have more on that elsewhere this month.

And now... February 1975!

The Avengers 132
"Kang War II"
Story by Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema and Joe Staton
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

Kang’s Legion of the Unliving marches forth in spite of the protestations of the captured Rama-Tut and Immortus. While Kang takes his group below to destroy the Avengers, the Frankenstein Monster, who is not truly dead, leaves to pursue his own destiny. Thor is trapped in an unbreakable corridor and feels perhaps Donald Blake can escape where a stymied Thunder God cannot. As soon as he transforms, the Frankenstein Monster emerges. The creature lunges and Blake lashes out with his cane, only to be throttled. Becoming Thor, he fends off the creature and decides to follow him. Meanwhile, in Saigon, a mysterious hooded figure eludes the police, but not the ghostly specter of the Swordsman, who says the hooded figure is looking for Mantis, who, as we recall, is to be the Celestial Madonna. Back with Kang, his minions attack the Vision, who initially recoils when he sees Wonder Man. After a momentary battle, the android escapes through a wall with the Ghost in pursuit. He stops when he sees Mantis, saying he can’t attack her because of the Celestial Madonna thing. While the rest of the team is defeated by the Legion, with Iron Man apparently killed, the Vision is beaten by the Ghost, leaving only Mantis, who arrives to see the Vision on the floor, dying.
-Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: Good art and well-paced action don’t mask the fact that returning these characters from the dead isn’t exploited for maximum effect. It winds up being just another villainous team of wacky characters. Only the Frankenstein Monster is close to being unpredictable. The Celestial Madonna storyline is teased at, but nothing new is learned. This story gets dragged out to the interminable Giant-Size Avengers.

Matthew Bradley: This and the current GS issue again form a single super-epic drawn by Buscema and Cockrum, respectively, of which Steve—credited with “plot & title” (“Kang War II”), while editor Roy handles the scripting—says on his site, “Guess what?  This was a lot of darn work.”  The covers are a curious study in contrasts, both busier than I normally like, yet although Ron Wilson’s work on #132 grabs me with its harmonious hues, the Gil Kane effort on GS #3 seems blah in the extreme, especially with its modified early-Bronze “frame” constraining the image.  Staton’s perfunctory finishes fortunately don’t do major damage to Sal’s art, and the story offers an interesting take on matters of life and death, examining who really is or was alive and/or dead.

Chris Blake: This issue, featuring the Avengers wandering the hallways of the limbo office building, is not my favorite.  I was afraid that Roy was prepared to adopt an incongruously playful tone, but my concerns were unfounded.  Still, the action gets very choppy, as we switch away from various characters, and there isn’t time to return to them – for instance, we don’t see Thor again once we’re past the top of p. 10.  Pages 6-7 are disappointing and ridiculous, as the Monster has been reduced from being voiceless, now to being nearly mindless, as he needlessly attacks the harmless Dr Blake (who apparently has somehow traded in his MD for a PhD – poor choice, Doc).  I thought the Immortus and Rama-Tut tete-à-tete might lead to some suggestion of a cunning plan, but that goes pffft.  Iron Man and Vision certainly seem to be in some trouble, but the only tension arises from the effort required of Roy to write his way out of this corner.  The art maintains its standard, but it’s a bit too bright for me, considering we’re supposed to be trapped in some endless catacombs –there aren’t enough shadowy moments to suit me.  

The notion that Iron Man could be dead is a bit of cheap drama – c’mon Steve, we know he’s not dead.  Knock it off.  

Conan the Barbarian 47 

“Goblins in the Moonlight”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Dan Adkins
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Conan and Stefanya stand over the lifeless body of Zoqquanor: the woman claims that the sorcerer is still alive since he weaved a spell that would cause her death if he perished. She also insists that they take him along on their mission to deliver the protective amber cube to Themas Herklar, the regent of Phalkar. As the reluctant Cimmerian builds a travois, Stefanya changes her tattered rags for clothing found in Zoqquanor’s razed castle — the warrior notices a star-shaped birthmark on her hip. On the way to Phalkar, the duo stop for the night among a ruin of crumbling pillars. Conan is jarred awake by Stefanya’s sudden screams: a horde of bloated, slobbering hobgoblins is making their way towards the helpless Zoqquanor. Conan attacks, his plunging sword drawing no blood, but still killing the deformed imps all the same. With the bloodless creatures dispatched, the mercenary and his companion continue their quest. -Thomas Flynn

Thomas Flynn: Roy continues his well-worded adaptation of Gardner Fox’s 1970 novel Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse. At only nine pages, this installment ends abruptly — an editorial tells the reason way. It seems that the rest of the pages were lost in the mail and Big John didn’t have time to redraw them all. So there’s really not much more to say on this one. Adkins doesn’t add much to Buscema’s pencils so the artwork is rather plain if not still well formed. I am assuming that Stefanya’s birthmark will come into play at some point. To fill up the rest of the comic, Wally Wood’s “Sanctuary” is reprinted from Tower of Shadows #8, 1969. I’d swear I’ve read it before, but not during my MU tenure. Set during the medieval times, the story delivers the usual twist ending but man oh man, Wood’s art is simply masterful, almost photorealistic. To protect himself from a vengeful demon, a king builds an impenetrable fortress, locking himself inside with his trusted court magician — who, of course, is the demon in disguise. There’s also a one-page article, “Conan’s Parents,” by Fred Blosser, reprinted from Glenn Lord’s Howard Collector. Howard didn’t write much about Conan’s youth, so Blosser makes a few educated guesses. He compares Cimmeria to a strict Calvinistic society, attributing Conan’s boisterous and boozy attitude to his mother, who he deduces was a “gentle wench” born of the Viking-like Aesir. Sounds fair enough to me. To top off this odd issue, a terrific full-page illustration of a youthful Conan (reprinted above) is supplied by Tim Conrad, who was clearly channeling Barry Smith.

Captain America and the Falcon 182
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Frank Robbins and Joe Giella
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Ron Wilson, Frank Giacoia, and John Romita

Nomad tries to foil a shootout between the police and the Serpent Squad, but the cops don’t know the hero and stop him from taking action, handcuffing him to a squad car. The police are killed and Nomad breaks his bonds and enters the run down tenement where Cobra and Viper are staging their stand-off. More police arrive, firing a tear gas cylinder that explodes next to a ruptured gas line, starting a blaze. Cobra panics and sees an image of Mr. Hyde in the smoke while the Viper vows they will not be caught alive. Nomad tries to reason with them. Viper shoots and wounds Cobra and a perfectly timed powerful spray of water from a fire hose shoves Nomad from the building as it finally collapses, apparently killing Viper. Cobra is still alive and the Serpent Crown is washed into the sewers. Later, the Falcon and Roscoe (as Cap) are on patrol when they spot a bank robbery in progress. Roscoe acquits himself well enough for the Falcon to be impressed. However, once the job is done, a hat-wearing trench-coated figure emerges and fires a stun blast at the heroes. Once unmasked, the villain is revealed to be the Red Skull! -Scott McIntyre

Scott: From the splash page, you know something shifted. Frank Robbins is one of those artists with a very unique style, but for the most part, it’s pretty ugly. Just the weird positioning of Nomad’s body, head, and where his eye line is makes no real sense on the first page. The Nomad story reaches an apex here and the Red Skull’s reveal is well done. He’ll put into play a storyline that will rock the Falcon to his core. The Serpent Squad story is disposed of in a perfunctory manner. There’s a truly laughable moment when Nomad insists on making a pointless speech as the building burns down around them. Steve Rogers could be quite insufferable sometimes. Weird art or not, this will be an intriguing few issues and, as a kid, I quite enjoyed it. I’ll still take Frank Robbins over Dick Ayers or the Tuska Teeth.

Matthew:  In discussing this issue (which, with the current GS Avengers, is among a handful of Marvel inking credits for Joe Giella, a veteran of the Timely Cap), one must address the elephant in the room, so for the party line, let’s go to the Bullpen Page’s request to “roll out the red carpet for Free-wheelin’ Frank Robbins, Marvel’s newest artist and bon vivant!  As many of you know, Frank’s the artist and writer of the newspaper comic-strip Johnny Hazard, and is considered by his peers to be one of the finest craftsmen in the business.  Now, after cutting his incisors [guffaw] on a Morbius tale or two in the pages of Adventures [sicinto Fear, Frank has stepped in to give our pal Sal Buscema a well-earned rest from the pages of Captain America…”

After 39 years, my dislike of his work—which I first encountered a few months later—has not noticeably moderated, although Englehart was commendably tactful.  “I loved working with Sal Buscema, who drew almost all of my Cap stories up to the ‘Nomad’ tale.  I was also a big fan of Frank Robbins over the years, but I didn’t think….Their styles were very opposite approaches to a story.  Having myself, and the readers who’d had Sal Buscema artwork to look at for years, have to switch to Frank Robbins was kind of tough. It took getting used to….I wish that Sal had been able to complete that story and have Frank start an entirely new storyline.  But that’s just the way comics are.  That’s the kind of thing that can happen,” he said in his Alter Ego interview.

I’m going to have far too many opportunities to hammer on the visual stylings of Frank Robbins in the days to come, so for now I’ll restrict myself to a single example (page 17, panel 4, reprinted above), which depicts the Nomad in a pose that, to the best of my knowledge, no human being this side of Reed Richards could attain.  Adding insult to injury, the hectic but handsome Wilson/Giacoia/Romita cover offers no hint of the horrors inside, yet sadly, even Stainless is not impervious in this issue.  Roscoe’s relentlessly ham-fisted “Brooklynese” is no less annoying than the faux-French accent often attributed to Cap’s sometime foe, Batroc, while SuperMegaMonkey’s description of Dave Cox as “a one-armed Vietnam vet that [sic] looks like Jesus” is all too apt, and suggests trouble ahead.

Mark Barsotti: Viper (she'll always be Madam Hydra to us) wanted to rule the world; failing that her backup plan is nihilism & annihilation, a.k.a. goin' out in an Uzi-blasting blaze of glory. Here Englehart nails the sick psyche/aggrieved agenda of terrorist true-believers of every stripe: our God commands us to install the Kingdom of Peace & Righteousness and we'll kill anyone who doesn't grok the Word Revealed.

Enough Deep Think & burying the lead, i.e. the arrival of one "of comics' most dynamic talents," Frank Robbins. At the risk of my esteemed MU colleagues snubbing me at the holiday mixers (and Secret Santa coal-lumping my stocking), I think Frank's debut is a hoot. There's a dynamism & rubbery bodies-in-motion over-amped energy that just screams comics. Yes, Robbins' worst – the sweaty close-up of screaming Madam H, p.15 (above)- is painful, but so is Steve's Bowery Boy Roscoe.

Daredevil 118
"Circus Spelled Sideways is Death!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Heck and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Karen Pocock
Cover by John Romita

Daredevil stops a robbery in progress; his actions witnessed by the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime on TV. They plan to stop him before he does likewise to them. They see him enter a building (where Matt and Foggy Nelson are conversing), and follow. Matt slips out, DD returns, and routs them. The Ringmaster's plan is to hypnotize his captive audience at tonight's performance, along with everyone watching on TV. He does, then Blackwing`s bats (he`s the circus`s latest member) fly and return with piles of loot. At which point DD appears, having suspected something like this.  Between him and the police soon after, the day is won, except Blackwing has escaped. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: The Circus of Crime have never been one of my faves, although they fare as well here as they can. Something of a filler issue, with a few interesting touches. Don Heck`s art always brings me back to the sixties, and the idea of having a bunch of bats stealing the loot of New York is kind of funny.

Scott: Whew, nothing spells “boredom” like The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. Having Don Heck at the pencil certainly doesn’t help. Immediately forgettable.

Matthew: Explaining the delay in Isabella’s announced takeover of the book, the lettercol reveals, “this tale was originally prepared for a fill-in issue some time ago, but for reasons we can’t recall, was never inserted into the schedule.  Since Tony wanted to reread his DD collection in preparation for taking the scripting reins, we figured now was the time to spring the Ringmaster on ya, to give the Tigerish one time to do his research.”  He will ultimately run with the seemingly inauspicious Blackwing, but for now, DD vet Conway’s script is as disposable as the Heckolletta art; the question of why Hornhead addresses the obviously Italian Gambonnos in French pales beside the folly of their oh-so-conveniently expository dialogue in page 18, panel 3.

The Defenders 20
"The Woman She Was...!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Romita

Valkyrie and Ben Grimm have defeated the Enchantress and Executioner in battle, in an effort to learn who Barbara Denton (the girl whose body Val inhabits) really was. Unfortunately, Barbara's father Alvin has died, and much-needed answers die with him. Val wants to deal with the rest alone, and she carries "her" father's body back to the Cobbler's Hill, Vermont sheriff's office, where the undertaker handles Alvin's body. The sheriff, and everyone else in town, think Barbara has returned. She plays along, learning that Barbara had been married, and her father's house is there for her to see when ready. The sheriff drops her there but, although it seems comforting, danger lurks. Dr. Strange sensed this, and had the Thing remain to assist him and Nighthawk in going to Val's aid. A key ingredient in the mystery has been a magic harmonica, with the name Celestia engraved upon it. Earlier Alvin had come in possession of it and thought it could cure the madness that had engulfed Barbara before she became the Valkyrie. It had a different effect, wreaking havoc with the Earth, and things only being put back to normal when Ben had played it, reversing the damage. Alas, a heart attack overcame Alvin at that time. Back in the present, Val, in the house, has been struck by Van Nyborg, a sorcerer who plans to drain her and Dr. Strange's magic to release the evil Nameless Ones. Stephen is soon captured, and the sacrifice is set to go--made possible by the spirit of Barbara's mom Celestia, snatched from death by the Nameless Ones! The events of  Barbara's madness, and the subsequent creation of the Valkyrie, leading to this time, had all been orchestrated to free the Nameless Ones. What couldn't have been forseen, and saves the day, is when the Thing grabs the harmonica, which unleashes the universal destiny force, and destroys it, setting things once again, back to normal. Now... who is Barbara's husband? -Jim Barwise

Jim: A rather complex chapter in the journey of Valkyrie's discovery of her identity ties in some previous story mysteries; Barbara's use by the Nameless Ones as a pathway to domination of our world, and the reason for Val's being infused with the Enchantress's powers. I think everyone got more than they bargained for with Val, and her own strength of will will play a part in her place in the world. Nice to see Ben Grimm adding his humour to the scene. It's unclear whether it is just Celestia's state between life and death that is the reason for her evil, or if she always was.

Chris: I like Steve G – I trust him.  But, I have to admit that, the first time I read this story, I was so baffled about the whole Harmonica of Destiny thing, that I set the comic aside – I removed it from my collection, with the intention of selling it, or something.  Either way, I figured I wouldn’t ever read it again.  So now, thanks to our esteemed University, I figured it was time to give it another chance.  I still don’t quite follow what Steve was going for with the harmonica, how it affected other people’s destiny, or how Barbara’s mother’s life-essence was contained in it, or whatever – I’m just as confused as Ben Grimm (“Well, I wish ya’d clue me in!”), without Doc on hand to explain it all to me over a cuppa coffee at Alice’s diner in Cobbler’s Roost afterwards.  

I get that there might’ve been a “being who could reshape destiny” who anticipated Barbara being infused with Asgardian power, and who could maneuver Val and Doc to Barbara’s home, so that the followers of the Nameless Ones then could channel their power to enable the Namelesses to arrive in our dimension.  If I don’t have that part right, then please don’t even bother trying to explain it to me.   My take-away from the story this time is entirely about Val, and her search for knowledge of Barbara, and of understanding of herself.  The scenes of Val on her own, meeting with the townsfolk, were very touching, so for that alone, I’m glad I took this one for another spin.  

Colletta, for some reason, continues to do his best work on Sal’s pencils (both here and in CA&tF, I mean).  If I hadn’t seen it for myself, it would’ve been easy for me to dismiss it, and simply assume that it would look lousy – instead, it looks pretty okay throughout.  Pages 30-31 get a little murky, but that might’ve been to a purpose – I’ve come so far that, in some cases, I’m able to give Vinnie the benefit of the doubt.  I’m not sure whether that means I’m making progress, or slipping the wrong way (deeper into Marvel Mania -?  Maybe not such a bad thing).  

Scott: Better than average for this title, which has been plagued by some really bland and monotonous stories. We learn more about Val’s history as Barbara, which is fairly interesting. Ben Grimm’s snarky attitude with Nighthawk is at once in character and annoying. Ben has a nasty habit of showing such immediate disregard for his fellow heroes. Watching Strange scold Nighthawk is always fun, too. Good, if not great.
Matthew: Gerber’s first issue of the monthly mag finishes the arc he began in Marvel Two-in-One #6-7; sadly, it’s the rare trilogy that peaks in the middle, the comedown from Esposito to Colletta as Sal’s inker being only part of the problem.  Despite the story’s length, its conclusion feels rushed and unsatisfying, as though with the Van Nyborg/Nameless Ones plot elements he’d inherited from Thomas and Englehart, Gerber bit off more than he could chew, or at least within the confines of this issue.  It’s not bad by any means, with Sal’s usual strong layouts and the Ben byplay that made MTIO Steve’s favorite book to script (per this month’s Daredevil lettercol), but it leaves a lot of loose ends and, as Professor Gilbert’s father would say, “should’ve been more.”

Fantastic Four 155
"Battle Royal"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John  Costanza
Cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott

The FF shrug off an attempted mugging while walking in Central Park, when they face a much more serious threat: an attack by the Silver Surfer. He apologises for what he has to do--kill them! Just when it seems he may succeed, the Surfer stops, and offers an explanation. Recently he had determined he would build up enough speed to break the barrier Galactus had put around Earth to imprison him--and succeeded; only to age suddenly, lose his power and fall to Earth! His powers returned, and he found himself in Latveria, the home of Dr. Doom. He also found that the queen of the village, and the new wife of Doom was his beloved Shalla-Bal, who does not remember him! Victor says he will return her memory, and free her, if he agrees to destroy the Fantastic Four. Feeling he has no choice, the Surfer apologises again, and renews his attack. -Jim Barwise

Jim: A lot of this issue came back to me as I read, even down to some of the dialogue. The cover has a little similarity to 100 issues ago, unintentionally I think. Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott give us some outstanding art, which is especially fitting for a character of the Surfer`s scope. The Shalla-Bal mystery is interesting; I don`t recall its outcome. If we get anything like the Doom/Surfer saga back in 57-61...

Matthew: Between last month’s Stan-hybrid and next month’s Roy-surgence, this is Len’s only solo effort of the period, and being but the start of an ambitious trilogy, it is perhaps difficult to assess on its own merits.  The Surfer is still being used sparingly at this point, so one might be wary of seeing him handled by relative newcomers (excepting the rock-solid Sinnott, natch), but Rich, at least, gives a good account of himself with the epic grandeur in general and Norrin in particular, providing lots of nifty layouts.  I’m a little less patient with Wein as he falls into the “first I’ll attack you and then I’ll explain why” trap, but I suppose you’ve got to break the proverbial eggs, and with another Surfer/Doom donnybrook shaping up, I can be forbearing...

Chris: Whoa – how’d Doom escape that exploding rocket at the climax of FF #144?  Beyond that, how’d he get Shalla-Bal from Zenn-La, and then clear her memory of Norrin Radd?!  For the first time in untold months, as I closed out this issue, I was expectantly looking forward to the next one; for too long, I’ve closed an FF ish with a low sigh, muttering to myself, and thinking about how to limit the causes of my dissatisfaction to less than three paragraphs.  Instead, now I’m willing to overlook Len’s involvement in the framing sequence for last issue’s debacle, and move ahead into what promises to be an intriguing new storyline.  If Len can return the FF to must-reading status . . . come on Len, you can do it.

Matthew: Professor Chris, the answer to your first question is not only found in, but also the very raison d’être of, Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1.  Stay tuned and all will be revealed.

Chris: Buckler/Sinnott continues to deliver; I may not be surprised anymore, but I still appreciate it (Prof Mark has observed that Buckler channels both Kirby and Buscema, but I think this issue owes more to Buscema alone).  Another impressive use of the two-page spread, as the Surfer happens upon the Doomsoldiers’ training exercise (strange choice by Doom to design his doppelganger-Four with personalities to match, isn’t it?).  “Doom triumphant” (p 30) is very effective as well.  
Quote of the month: “An’ ya jest leaped at the chance, huh, ya back-stabbin’ space-skunk!”  To think that Ben might ever put the Surfer in the same class with them dad-blamed Yancy Streeters – sheesh!

Scott: A fun beginning to a solid Doctor Doom/Silver Surfer epic. Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott continue to impress, giving the series Kirby-like energy. Anything is better than Mahkizmo, but Doc Doom’s return, as winningly illustrated as it is, is a thing to behold. Yet, for all the goodness, I find little to comment on. It leaves me a tad cold. So, let’s move on, shall we?
Mark: Buckler/Sinnott evoke the graphic heyday of Kirby/Sinnott, and since the FF ceased being groundbreaking long before Jack left, successfully riffing on past glories is now the gold standard. The original Doom/Surf mash-up (FF 57-60), a stellar synthesis of best characters/big ideas, is arguably Jack & Stan's Glory Years grand finale. Foolish to expect D/S II to scale similar heights, but the hook here sinks deep: Surfie's long-lost heartthrob Shalla-Bal is Doom's wife? 

Add points for the Ben lamppost-twisting mugger takedown opening. Subtract double points for club-footed plot delivery: SS attacks FF. Stops. Apologizes and declares, "The Silver Surfer cannot kill!" Explains must-kill-FF-so-Doom-frees-Shalla-Bal backstory. Then, apology & murder ban forgotten, attacks again!

Kilimanjaro heights? Nope. 

Intriguing? Yep.

The Amazing Spider-Man 141
"The Man's Name Appears to Be... Mysterio!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru, Frank Giacoia, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by John Romita

Spider-Man zips around the streets with the Spider-Mobile, trying to track down the Jackal, but chased by the cops he ends up driving into an alley that's really a pier—and his web wheels are lost to the river! Falling asleep in class the next day, an exhausted Peter gets a pep talk from Prof. Warren plus a visit from Mary Jane that ends in hand-holding and pondering if he can ever replace Gwen. At a private club with Joe Robertson, J. Jonah Jameson gets an odd phone call that pleases him a bit too much. After Web-Head swipes a passerby's Big Mac, his Spider-Sense goes nuts, he nearly wrenches his shoulder out of his socket saving his neck, and then is surrounded by a mist from which emerges the deadly Mysterio! Noting some differences in the illusionist's tactics, Spidey goes after him and sees the vision of a Mack truck, then nearly a dozen of his ghostly enemies come through a brick wall that he starts punching, ruining his hands! Vowing to kill Spidey, Mysterio vanishes, leaving Peter to go back to the Bugle where he learns from Ned that Mysterio has actually been dead for a year! -Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Ah, the John Romita cover featuring a mini rogue's gallery of Spidey enemies. Talk about a perfect start! Thankfully there's no Grizzly or Tarantula like on the inside, 'cause I'm not sure how Mysterio would know about these recent villains. Hmmm….Andru is at the top of his game here, with lots of multiple panel sizes to get the action going, especially during Spidey's hallucination pages. Conway keeps the story moving nicely also, bringing in some romance with MJ, deceit with JJJ, thievery with Spidey grabbing some poor slob's burger on page 16 which was fairly incredible to be honest, pathos with Peter thinking he's cracking up, and some downright tragedy with the supposed end of the Spider-Mobile. I still love those hubcaps! All in all, more reason why this is the best comic book ever. Yeah, I'll keep saying that, too!

Favorite sound effect: "FOIT!", because nothing could be worse than a water-logged web-shooter! And of course, we get the ever-popular "BUNT!" also, with a big Mysterio kick to Spidey's chops.

Matthew:  Never thought I’d say this about an issue with the Spider-Mobile on the splash page, but there isn’t a lot to complain about here, and I’m not even a big Mysterio fan.  Enhanced by its unusual color scheme, Jazzy Johnny’s cover gives us—in the immortal words of General Jack D. Ripper—“the best kind of start,” even if it proves how completely Ross (again well-inked by Giacoia and Hunt) made the Jackal his own, and further encouragement is offered by seeing the flivver wind up in the drink almost immediately.  With his who’s-got-the-fishbowl routine, Gerry continues to ring the changes on Spidey’s rogues’ gallery while he simultaneously serves up red meat for character buffs, especially vis-à-vis the burgeoning Peter/MJ relationship.

Mark: Hard to believe old fishbowl head has been absent since ish #68Mysterio's mind-games were always an enjoyable change-up from rock 'em sock 'em action and this installment's no exception, with the usual gas grenade hallucinations topped off by Spidey's wall-punching, hand-busting crescendo. Well-executed: the Spider-Mobile's East River arrivederci, clingy Professor Warren buddying up to Pete, sparks flying with MJ, and a hungry-Spidey-steals-food gag. Boo to new J. Jonah machinations. Conway gets too little out of Jameson, reducing him to anti-Spidey schemer/dyspeptic blowhard. Andru's art continues to mature - slightly less goofy, slightly more super-heroic – into the definitive look of Seventies' Spidey (that's not an endorsement, Ross-busters. Just the facts, Ma'am). Ned's last panel reveal - "Mysterio died in prison almost a year ago!" – was twist enough but Kid Conway can't resist piling on the ham: "It's finally happened...Peter Parker is insane!"

Sure, just like his last panel resignation from the Bugle a few months back.

Scott: The Spider-Mobile rears its ugly head again, taking a dive into the drink. It’s a fun sequence, but really just a waste of pages. Once more, Andru’s obsession with food is revisited, only now Spidey is reduced to thievery for the sake of..what? “Humor?” He never pays the guy for swiping his Mickey D’s. It’s a douchy thing to do, honestly. Jeez, just wait 20 minutes, put on your civvies and go get your own if you have money on you. Ass. Speaking of, where does Spidey keep his wallet? He was never able to carry money before. Considering how completely Mysterio’s helmet conceals the man beneath, does it make sense for Parker to assume he’s going nuts first and not consider there’s someone else under the fishbowl if the original Mysterio is dead? I don’t get why fans consider this run some sort of high point. Like most of the early to mid-70s, this title is stuck in a creative quagmire. Giggity.  

Astonishing Tales 28
Deathlok the Demolisher in
"Five to One, Deathlok... One in Five... 
No One Here Gets Out Alive!"
Story and Art by Rich Buckler
Colors by Linda Lessmann
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Pocock
Cover by Rich Buckler 

Anguished by his inability to end his half-human life, Deathlok freaks out, tears the American flag from his chest, then walks the rubbled city, watched by the overconfident Ryker, who reminds us he is also a cyborg, project Alpha-Mech's first failure! Deathlok picks up a book—a real book—but ironically it's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein so he rips it to shreds. But that gives Deathlok the idea to track down the remaining scientist who operated on him, wiping out a squad of cannibals along the way as he's trailed by a tank car. Quick cut to a hostile Mike in Ryker's cell, then back to a determined Deathlok, who gets a groovy sidekick, then to Ryker who hooks up his former assistant to control the tank! Ryker's goons destroy the copter, and as Deathlok is trapped with an electric barrier, the tank approaches, and the sidekick runs at it…then an explosion!—Joe Tura

Joe: I like how the normally-ignored eyebrow copy above the logo on the splash page plays right into the image below, acting as a "PROLOGUE: Go on, Luther Manning. Pound your armored fist against the earth in frustrated rage. You have good reason to. For where once you shared your life with a wife and child, now you share your 'life' with a machine. Where once you were a man of flesh and blood, now you are only a cyborg, a half-human mechanism programmed solely for destruction…yet unable to destroy YOURSELF!" See, this stuff works here, yet why is this tone always on the pages of Werewolf By Night?

A nice issue all around, packed with lots of character study of our humanoid hero and some nifty artwork. Some quickie observations: Like Prof. Matthew, I dig the sideways spreads that let Buckler show off a little. Any comic book that quotes The Doors is OK by me! (See pg 11, panels 3 & 4, below) Unlike the cover, Deathlok's rifle never jams, but without peeking I'll take a stab and say it happens next issue. Once Deathlok hits the streets, the comic book turns into a futuristic Bruce Lee's Game of Death, but without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an apartment building. This unnamed sidekick guy has to be a plant, but it appears he sacrifices himself at the end, but then again who knows. Look, it's a Dr. Doom Marvel Value Stamp!

Matthew: Setting aside a credit for “inspiration and encouragement [to] just about the whole blamed Bullpen,” writer-artist Riotous Rich has achieved Starlinesque one-man-band status.  The unfiltered result exemplifies David Hogan’s observation in the lettercol:  “It’s nice to…see Buckler doing Buckler, instead of Buckler doing a Kirby act, as in Thor and the FF” (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Deathlok declares his independence in this issue, with his symbolic ripping off of the flag heralding a change in his appearance and armament, and Rich’s cinematic style bursts forth equally free from restraint, most notably in a stunning sideways two-page spread; as much as any, this strip can truly be said to fulfill the promise of the Bronze Age.

Chris: Buckler scales back some of the intensity, as Deathlok aimlessly walks around the ruins of midtown New York.  It’s not clear at all to me what he’s looking for – maybe he’s satisfied to pick a fight with someone, to work out some of his frustration?  “I’ve been programmed for destruction,” he observes to ‘puter – “so why not enjoy a little of it?”  Ryker’s motivation is harder to figure out – on p 6, he states that he no longer needs a destructor, but a “saviour machine” – meaning what, exactly?  And then, by the end of the issue, he’s talking (to himself) about using his girlfriend’s brain to direct a tank to “scatter Deathlok into a million shreds;” so, we’re moving on from the saviour idea, then?  Tryin’ to keep up.  

Speaking of drastic changes to Deathlok’s anatomy, we get a suggestion of a future story thread as Deathlok and ‘puter discuss the one surviving surgeon who participated in Deathlok’s construction.  That, and a possible anti-Ryker revolutionary group, give us some clearer expectations about what the next issue could bring.  I still like Buckler’s art, but more so for the layouts than the finished product, which I think turned out a bit stronger under Marcos’ inks over the past two issues.  

Mark: We get a title from the Doors; most everything else is the Full Buck, as Rich writes, draws, and inks his cyborg anti-hero to fine effect. Enjoy it, class, for it shan't happen again. Next ish is a reprint, then we get co-writers, tag-team art of varying quality, and a half-Watcher reprint before Rich ends 'Lok's AT run in #36 with a full script & pencils finale. This installment finds an on the run DL discovering a resistance movement has emerged during his five years on ice, discovers & shreds a copy of Frankenstein (no fan of irony, our ex-Mr. M), rips the American flag from his chest (earning a one-way ticket to Guantanamo) and hooks up with a brother of the revolution, all while being chased by Ryker's laser-wielding goons and a remote-control tank. As 'Lok says to his seemingly-doomed new ally, "Well, soldier, welcome to the war!"

Giant-Size Avengers 3
"What Time Hath Put Asunder!"
Story by Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas
Art by Dave Cockrum and Joe Giella
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

The Vision, injured by the Ghost’s attack, speaks to Mantis, believing her to be Wanda. She is suddenly confronted by ninja-star throwing baddie Midnight. She battles and defeats him, but not until after the mêlée does Mantis realize the Vision has vanished, abducted by the Frankenstein Monster. Hawkeye sees the creature carrying the android. He resists the impulse to attack the creature and instead goes to muster up as many Avengers as he can in order to wage a final battle. Back at Avengers Mansion, Jarvis receives a plea for help from the police commissioner, and when the faithful butler tries to summon Wanda from her room, the witch responds in an alien voice, threatening his life. Back at the battle site, Kang sends the original Human Torch and Wonder Man off to find the Vision while browbeating Zemo into submission. Thor, still lost among the labyrinthine corridors comes across Iron Man’s corpse and vows vengeance. He and Wonder Man face off in battle while Hawkeye finds Immortus and Rama-Tut held captive. Before he can free them, Zemo arrives. More battling ensues until Zemo traps Hawkeye with Adhesive X. Meantime, the Torch finds the creature with the Vision and deduces that his body and the Vision’s are the same. Kang disposes of Zemo as Wonder Man and the Vision throw hands. Thor arrives and beats the crap out of Kang, who retreats into the time stream.  The battle over, Immortus repairs all the injuries resulting from the battle, including restoring Iron Man to the world of the living and sending the Legion back to their own times, with Zemo turned into a slop of protoplasm. The Vision and the Torch reveal that the Vision is actually the same android as the hero from the past, leaving all to ponder just how that came to be. -Scott McIntyre

Scott: The art takes a huge step backward here. Dave Cockrum has his fans, but I’m not one of them, sadly. This story churns on and on, with Iron Man pronounced dead and, naturally, revived by the end. The only real progress anywhere is the revelation that the Vision is actually the original Human Torch android. Otherwise, this seemingly endless issue only taxes the patience.

Chris: If I ever need something conquered, I don’t think Kang will be at the top of my call list.  The walking-around-in-the-catacombs plan makes even less sense as it drags on into a longer second chapter.  All the characters – Kang included – are simply moseying around, waiting to bump into one another.  Quoth Kang: “I grow weary of this marching to and fro, thru endless tunnels . . . the mindless monotony . . .” Well, hear hear!  There’s an awful lot of pointless discussion among Kang’s manipulated minions (the Monster excepted, of course), which doesn’t help.  And then, as soon as Thor brings the heat, Kang pulls the panic button and pops away.  And you call yourself a conqueror!  Thru it all, there’s been absolutely nothing to propel the story – it’s not as if the Avengers are aware of, or suspect, some means of escape that they’re trying to locate, before the undead legion can find them, or something.  

One good piece of news is that we’re about to distance ourselves permanently from the love quadrangle/triangle, and instead begin an extensive discussion about the Vision’s origin, and his connection with Simon Williams, and the implications of all of this regarding the Vision’s humanity.  
Cockrum’s art isn’t as strong this time, but I’ll lay the blame on Giella.  The layouts still are up to Dave’s standard, but they aren’t finished as well as Cockrum himself would’ve done them.  Joe Staton also would’ve been a worthy choice, if only to provide some continuity with the monthly mag.  
Matthew: As climactic revelations go, this offers two certifiable biggies, even if at least one has been hinted at for years I don’t know if Stan and Jack had it in mind when they introduced Immortus in Avengers #10 that he would turn out to be yet another part of the whole mind-boggling Kang/Rama-Tut/Scarlet Centurion/Irving Forbush continuum (“Have you not guessed…?”), but I do know that the idea of the android Human Torch having served as the raw material for the Vision dates back to the Kree-Skrull War.  Giella’s sketchy inks are far less felicitous than Cockrum’s own in the prior issue, yet still allow much of his powerful pencils to shine through; the team’s truncated first encounter with the Space Phantom from Avengers #2 (November 1963) wraps it up.

Doctor Strange 6
"Lift High the Veil of Fears!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Gene Colan and Klaus Janson
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Frank Brunner

Stephen Strange and Clea enjoy a sunny November walk through Central Park, a luxury for them. An addict who asks them for change is an agent of Umar the Unrelenting, sister of Dormammu. Umar soon appears, and they drive her back with a spell. Umar's defeat is part of a plan however, which has Stephen journeying to her realm to see if she or her brother are awaiting him with more bedevilment. Clea curiously declines to join the journey, and Stephen accepts this, although wondering why. As Clea walks to clear her thoughts, she is appealed to by the spirit we would call Mother Nature. She warns Clea of a danger deep within the Earth, which Clea's astral form goes to investigate. She fends off the attack of demons who try to capture her, but they prove to be merely paving the path for...Dormmamu! -Jim Barwise

Jim: The tough thing about reading Dr. Strange is where to start bestowing kudos! Let's start with Gene Colan's return to the mag. While it would be untrue to say Colan's work is better for this title than that of Frank Brunner (who does the cover), it is rich enough to make me think he must have been somewhat bored with the lesser visual challenges of say, Daredevil the last few years. The opening walk through Central Park is a delight, and gives us a glimpse into both the development of their relationship and Clea's powers. Umar's attack; is it to fulfill a plan of her own making, or in hijinks with her brother, the dreaded D? Perhaps this issue really belongs to Clea though, with her mystery reason for not accompanying Stephen on his journey--clearly something serious--and her subsequent journey inside the Earth to face Dormmamu. 

Matthew: When…Brunner turned out to be too painstaking to keep regular deadlines,” per Englehart’s site, “the extraordinary Gene Colan replaced him as artist, but not as co-plotterGene puts all his talent into his art.  So I felt it was incumbent upon me to maintain the level of magickal wonder Frank and I had had on my own, and it seems to have worked out because we went monthly with #13the only time this title has sold that well.  It fell back to bi-monthly as soon as this run ended.  I consider Gene second only to Ditko as Doc’s artist, and prefer Steve’s solo plots, so as much as I admire Brunner’s art, I’m okay with the trade-off (yes, even Janson’s well-suited inks), and tickled with Umar’s and Dormammu’s return and Clea’s self-actualization.

Mark: Given that I'm a huge admirer of both artists, I found the passing of the mystic pencil from Frank Brunner to Gene Colan inexplicably jarring. The Dean is still at the height of his considerable powers, but I compared the new offering with Gene's last run on the Doc, circa '69. Simpatico stable-mate Tom Palmer is a better fit then current inker, the eminently-talented Klaus Janson, but that's not it because the weird sense of dislocation doesn't spring from any dissatisfaction with the graphics. It's probably just that Brunner to Colan is an abrupt shift of stylistic gears, akin to reading an absurdist Tom Robbins novel and having the final chapters end in a Stephen King bloodbath.

Chris: There are plenty of Marvel titles that, following the completion of a multi-issue storyline, might sit back and take an issue off, and present a self-contained story featuring the lead character in a straightforward meeting with – and dismissal of – a second-tier opponent.  But would Steve E. do that with Dr Strange?  By the dark dimension, no!  Now that Stephen has tangled with Death, who else could Steve E. throw at him, but – the dread Dormammu!  

I enjoyed the expanded role for Clea this time, especially since she had been limited to Helpless Captive for most of the Silver Dagger story.  Of course it’s great to have Dean Gene back with this title; I’m sure most fans would like to re-unite Gene with Tom Palmer, but I appreciate the fact that Colan/Palmer bring a unique look to Tomb of Dracula, and I wouldn’t want there to be any blurring of lines into this trip.  Janson has proven himself capable of inking this sort of material, so I think he’s a fine choice.  Plenty of highlights, with many of them coming from the last four pages; but, if I’m required to limit myself to one art-highlight choice, I will insist on having two: the clever illusion-drop as Doc re-enters his sanctum (p 15, last pnl); and Doc’s slow dissolve, as he and Clea part (p 17). 
Mark: Great title: "Lift High the Veil of Fears!" Middling content: mostly set-up for the next installment. Enjoyed Stephen and Clea's saunter through Central Park (complete with bunny wabbit callback to issue #1), but Umar's long con with junkie panhandler and faux old lady is little more than opening act plot mechanics to gin up anticipation for the last panel/next issue arrive of Umar's big brother and our headliner, the dread Dormammu.

The art gears are shifted, the stage dramatically set.  

Messrs. Englehart and Colan: bring it on.

Adventure Into Fear 26
Morbius, the Living Vampire in
"A Stillborn Genesis!"
Story by Frank Gerber
Art by Frank Robbins and Frank Giacoia
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by June Braverman
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Morbius is overcome in his battle with Daemond the evil priest, and is set to be the sacrifice to allow his foe to release the evil minions that will enable Daemond to rule the Earth. The Caretakers witness this, and send their warriors of science to battle Daemond's helpers, themselves concurrently fighting the priest. Morbius awakes, to find Tara the young girl he thought dead, alive. She explains she is the first of the "Children Of The Comet" the Caretakers are creating to save the Earth. She is also the orchestrator of the whole conflict, as she needs to feed on the life energies of those that die. But she offers Morbius an answer: feed on her blood; she doesn't enjoy the senseless killing that gives her the energy she needs to survive. He does, ending the entire situation. -Jim Barwise

Jim: If I was Morbius I think I'd be confused beyond belief here. Just when you think you know who's good and bad, the tables are turned and another surprise hits home. I'm thinking the chances of his beloved Martine having survived the disaster at the end are slim to none. Interesting way for the story to have developed.

Matthew:  Dracula and his lupine pal aside, 1975 was not a good time to be a Marvel monster; Man-Wolf, Man-Thing, and Morbius will all feel the axe—in that order—by year’s end.  How Gerber would have ended this elaborate arc he’d developed is anybody’s guess, but Moench apparently felt he’d been painted into such a corner that the only way out was to wipe the slate clean by killing off everybody except Morbius in a frenzied orgy of destruction.  Putting the best possible spin on things, the presence of the obligatory reprint, Jim Mooney’s Twilight Zone-ish “A World Gone Mad!” from Adventure into Mystery #3 (September 1956), spares us another four pages of eye-gouging Robbins artwork, again flummoxing Giacoia’s heroic salvage efforts.

Chris: The absurd insta-truce between Daemond and the Caretakers gave me a chuckle – “I shall destroy you!” “We shall – hold on, time out time out!” The reveal of Tara as ender-of-all-things also makes no sense; wasn’t she the one who conveyed Morbius to the Caretakers in the first place (Fear #21)? Why would they have kept her around if she had such a dangerous capability? And at the end, she wants Morbius to destroy her? It’s messy, and it just goes to prove that Steve Gerber often would dive into a story without necessarily knowing where it would take him – left to pick up the pieces, Doug tries to cobble something together, but it’s beyond him.

Small point: the Caretakers attack with “genetically-cloned androids,” which struck me as oxymoronic, until the last mention of Tara’s thin, synthetic blood reminded me that Morbius had had a similarly dissatisfying experience when he first arrived at Arcturus, several issues back, right?

We have our first-ever art-team repeat, and the results aren’t pretty. However Frank Giacoia held Robbins’ pencils together last time, it didn’t carry over to this issue. Daemond looks ridiculous, more like a piqued Cloris Leachman than a demon lord. Some of Daemond’s demonfolk look like they’re wearing masks from the Charlie Brown Hallowe’en special. Mantlo’s background colors don’t help, as his choice of pink, orange, and light blue contribute nothing to the mood of the would-be battle-for-everything. I will acknowledge that the transformation scene is well done (p 15), and warrants a nod as a highlight.

Ghost Rider 10
"Origin of the Ghost Rider"
(reprinted from Marvel Spotlight #5, August 1972)

Chris: The Hulk found some kind of coupon, or something, so now he’s taking Greyhound to meet with GR, which means we all have to wait an extra two months until they get together. “Stupid bus stop every 12 miles – Hulk growing increasingly impatient!”

Matthew: Despite some of my colleagues’ attitudes, ranging from apathy to antipathy, I consider SuperMegaMonkey a superb source of information, complementary but not competing with MU.  F’rinstance, a comment there led me to a Tony Isabella interview that explains the reprint of GR’s origin in this issue:  “Sal Buscema had done very tight layouts from my plot for ‘The Desolation Run’ (which ended up appearing in Ghost Rider #11).  I had scripted the issue and it had been lettered.  That’s where the problems started.  The finisher was supposed to be [DC veteran] Bill Draut…He came to Marvel and we all thought his style would work well on Ghost Rider.  What I didn’t know was that Draut was going through some serious personal problems.

Something those of us who bought
Ghost Rider #10 without cracking the cover would like

Matthew: “I won’t speculate on the nature of these problems, but, whatever they were, we never received even a single page of finished artwork from him.  Worse, he didn’t return any of the penciled and lettered pages either.  Out of desperation, I grabbed the biggest assistant editor I could find—Scott Edelman—and took a taxi to where Draut lived….[which] was some sort of enormous welfare hotel in Hell’s Kitchen.  The cab driver refused to wait for us.  He said he would circle the block for ten minutes and then he was out of there.  I was usually too stupid to let stuff like that scare me, but, this time, it did.  When Draut refused to answer his door, we returned to Marvel empty-handed. I figured a reprint issue was a small price to pay for [our] lives,” he said.

Giant-Size Fantastic Four 4
"Madrox the Multiple Man!"
Story by Chris Claremont and Len Wein
Art by John Buscema, Chic Stone, and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott

Ben and Alicia are heading to a football game on the subway, when the train screeches to a halt. Ben climbs out to see who's the bozo blocking the way. It turns out to be a man in a green suit of sorts, glowing with energy. He calls himself Madrox, and is confused why the Thing doesn't welcome him as a fellow who is different. Madrox doesn't appreciate Ben striking out at him, and hits back--and makes multiples of himself in the process! They get the better of Ben, who is knocked out. He comes to with his teammates in the Baxter Building, and explains what happened. This seems to jibe with the mystery of why parts of the city are losing total power, and it's happening in a direct line to them! Madrox drains power from the city's energy, as he is drawn towards the Baxter Building. When he gets there, Johnny reacts, and sets Madrox off again. As a kid,  a certain James Madrox was born with the ability to duplicate himself. His parents Joan and Daniel moved to a Kansas farm with him, and unfortunately died in a tornado, leaving Jamie an orphan. He was fifteen, and had never learned from his parents why he had to wear this green suit all the time. He was able to run the farm for a time, then one day absorbed electrical energy through the TV. This started his ability to absorb power, and he eventually wandered to where he is now. His duplicating and energy-draining abilities make him too much for the FF to handle. The X-Men's Professor Xavier arrives, and between him and Reed, they reason that the suit was designed to stop Jamie from duplicating, but is malfunctioning. As Xavier mentally shuts down the duplicates, Reed is able to wrestle the original until he can deactivate the suit, leaving Jamie Madrox powerless. Professor Xavier takes him into his care. -Jim Barwise

JB: An interesting tale, perhaps most notably because of the loneliness Jamie has endured. For once, it's not Ben feeling like an outsider; he gets to be on the other side. The opening scenes, of Ben and Alicia going to the football game, and Ben ripping off the subway door, offer a nice lighter start. Haven't seen much Alicia lately so welcome back! The mixture of Chic Stone and Joe Sinnott's inks give artist John Buscema a somewhat changing look through the course of the issue.

Matthew:  The presence of rising star Claremont—who will later incorporate Madrox into his mutant mythos—as co-writer naturally got my antennae up, but they quickly became, shall we say, flaccid.  Sometimes less really is more, and a Multiple Man isn’t exponentially interesting despite Buscema’s art, with its curiously off-model Xavier and inevitably uneven Stonnot inking.  Part of writer/editor Wein’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it first FF stint, this is their last original GS issue (no great loss, in my considered opinion) and a bit of a rip-off; the new story is barely longer than a monthly outing, padded out with reprints of yet another rogues’ gallery (from Annual #1) and, aptly, their first set-to with the X-Men (from #28, July 1964).

Scott: I never took Madrox seriously. Mostly for his ridiculous costume and that his name sounds like “Hydrox.” The art team does a mediocre job here and Professor X looks literally like an egghead. This could have been stuck in any average issue, since the rest is padded with a superior reprint from the bygone days of Lee and Kirby.

Chris: It’s been awhile since I enjoyed an issue of the FF – and I’m still steamed about FF #154 – so the latest giant-sizer was a welcome entry in the series.  Ben provides most of the fun, starting with the visual of him wearing his Namath-inspired fur coat (although, you know those Jets tickets are going to waste), and continuing as Ben accidently rips the 7-train door off.  Speaking of property damage, why does Johnny burn a hole in the ceiling to reach the roof?  I’d be surprised if Reed has any time at all to conduct his experiments, what with all the repairs and cleaning up around the headquarters.  I don’t remember Madrox having a power-absorption angle, or a charged defense-field – I think his powers are simplified, or at least clarified, by Claremont when Jamie returns in the pages of X-Men.  

Chris: The problem with the story is its length; a 21-page original was not the reason for introducing the G-S line, was it?  It’s hardly longer than a regular story, and the reprint story is longer by two pages.  And don’t bother printing (sorry, re-printing) a rogues gallery to pad out pages – I’d almost rather see a previously-unpublished fragment of an inventory story, or something, but no, not more filler.  Can you imagine paying twice the usual cover price for so little new content -?

1 comment:

  1. Of this batch, I only got 6 when they were brand new on the racks -- in this case from the Navy Exchange of the base in Treasure Island, San Francisco. My haul was Avengers, DD, Defenders, FF, Astonishing Tales (the only issue featuring Deathlok I got when it was new); and Ghost Rider. Most of the others, I never saw on the racks at the time (the Exchange never got any of the Giant-Size mags, and they would've been out of my limited 12 year old self's budget anyhow). I missed several issues of CA&TF in a row, so my intro to Robbins was delayed until after a Herb Trimpe fill-in. I actually enjoyed the Avengers' yarn, even if I had to miss seeing Iron Man brought back to life and Vizh repaired -- yeah, great idea but rather poor execution of bringing back dead characters in this manner, but I still found it fun. And of course, I knew there was no way Iron Man would remain dead. As for the G.R. reprint, well as I'd missed the origin story it didn't bother me (but I can understand how more long-time readers who already had that tale would've been peeved!). Artistically, the best of the bunch IMO was Deathlok. Yeah, Buckler doing Buckler comes off much better than Buckler mimicking Kirby.
    'Twas interesting to read the real reason Thomas stepped down and easily understandable. Rather disheartening to realize what a harsh business comics could be and the foibles and failures in management and the artists and writers that resulted in talented creators quitting or screwups that necessitated reprints just to fill up space. Also, did it really make sense for them to keep making the Giant-Size mags when too often the new mateiral wasn't all that great and a lot of padding was required to make the mandatory page count?