Wednesday, December 17, 2014

April 1975 Part Two: Please Welcome to The Marvel Universe... The Black Goliath!

The Incredible Hulk 186
"The Day of the Devastator!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe 
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe

Subdued after his defeat at the Hulkbuster Base, the Hulk floats around in a specially-created water chamber unit that keeps him unconscious. Things are grim around the base after the deaths of Colonel Armbruster and Glenn Talbot. Scientists do autopsies on the men to make sure that everything is as it should be. Thunderbolt Ross does his best to reconcile with a hysterical Betty, distraught over her husband's death. In the midst of all this drama, a secret Russian agent, portraying himself as an American military boss named Captain Kirkman, has been smuggling pieces of a power suit onto the base. With all parts assembled, the Russian spy dons his new costume, and calls himself the Devastator. Armed with power bracelets that get their strength from a satellite orbiting the earth, the Devastator begins to blow the Hulkbuster Base to smithereens. During the rampage, the Hulk's containment unit becomes ruptured, freeing the Green Goliath. It doesn't take long before the Hulk and the Russian Super-Villain begin to mix it up. After a good back and forth,  the Hulk realizes that the gauntlets attached to the Devastator’s wrists are where his power blasts come from. The Hulkster weathers the powerful energy blasts until he gets close enough to crush the gauntlets. When he walks away, the Devastator becomes highly insulted, and tries to use his wrist blasters anyway. It turns out not to be the best idea he ever had, as the damaged weaponry burns him to a crisp. The story ends with the lab scientists running up to Ross and revealing that the fingerprints attached to the Talbot corpse have fallen off, leaving everyone in doubt that it was the Major. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: This was the Devastator’s only appearance in the Marvel Universe. He wasn't a great commie villain, but there have certainly been far worse. The expression on the faces of the lab scientists, when they get their computer results from Talbot's autopsy, made it seem like he was really Thanos or something equally as startling.

Matthew Bradley:  At least the Hulkster had the good sense to stay unconscious until page 23 of this morceau de médiocrité; it didn’t even commit to being awful, which might’ve been more fun to read and/or review.  My guess is that Devastator was their second choice for villain-name, after they’d decided “Big Strong Boring Guy” didn’t have quite the right ring to it, and if your “true mission is to preserve [your] master’s secret—at all costs,” then maybe it would be a good idea not to blab about it.  I had a half-dozen questions or so about that special “sub-zero fluid” in which Greenskin was napping, and did we really need a replay of the “My God, man!” reaction to yet another computer analysis of “Talbot” (without silencing said shockee this time)?

Chris Blake: General Ross can’t catch a break, can he?  This latest Hulk-bust seemed sure-fire.  One question, though: when the Hulk is asleep, doesn’t he turn back into puny Banner?  Wouldn’t he then freeze to death and drown?  Don’t tell me that the breathing mask also is feeding the Hulk atomized cortisol, to keep him green.

Scott McIntyre: “Captain Kirkman?” Was anyone else looking around  for “Mr. Spockly?” The fallout over the death of Armbruster and Talbot includes Betty’s total meltdown. Is there a more unstable chick in the Marvel Universe at this time? Of course, Kirkman is a spy. Not just any spy, but a Russian with a swanky costume to boot. Of course the final reveal is that it was really Talbot who died and, considering he’s a regular and had a faked death already, I wasn’t really surprised. Decent story, but the Devastator is so obviously on steroids. Good lord, Trimpe overstuffs his super-powered peeps.

Chris: Howcum the Rooskies are so determined to destroy Gamma Base?  Are they piqued because they don’t have one of their own – is it just for badness-sake?  Who – or what – was beaming near-limitless power to the (aptly-named) Devastator?  I suppose we’ll find out more next ish, as the hunt for the Real Glenn Talbot will ensue.  
The Devastator’s rampage (above) is Kirbyesque, and the Hulk’s befuddlement upon his rude awakening (p 23, pnl 4) is cleverly done.  Missed opportunity: when the Hulk crushes Devi’s gauntlets (right), couldn’t Herb have given us a dented knuckle or two?  I mean, if the Hulk’s going to fight thru a power beam to deliver a mitts-mash, how could the ‘Stator’s fingers not have been twisted as well -?  
An amusing lettercol entry plays on all the Z’s in “Zzzax,” but raises a good point about how Hawkeye had employed water to defeat Zzzax in #166; so, why no harm from the rainstorm in #183?  Ye Editor puts on his top hat and tap shoes, suggesting that Zzzax might’ve been wearing “a big invizzible [sic] yellow raincoat”!  Good stuff.

Master of Kung Fu 27
Story by Doug Moench
Art by John Buscema and Frank Springer
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson

Shang-Chi’s peaceful conversation with a Hare Krishna in Times Square is cut short as the man is caught in the back by a dragon-headed knife.  S-C identifies the knife as one employed by Si-Fan assassins, enlisted by his father, Fu Manchu.  This latest atrocity enrages S-C, and he is determined to confront his father.  S-C uses a downed transmitting antenna to cross from an adjacent rooftop, and penetrates Fu’s headquarters from its roof, finally kicking in the wall at the bottom of the elevator shaft.  S-C interrupts Fu’s meeting with his Council of Seven, and when the council challenges him, S-C systematically defeats them.  Throughout the fight, Fu sits still, conveying no emotion.  S-C renews his demand – he and his father will speak about the senseless murder of a harmless man.  
Fu describes himself as a man who has lived so long that he no longer is affected by emotion, or concerned about death – “the value of life [is] beneath the value of [his] goals.” Fu sees himself as a man who can restore the world to “the glory of its past,” and that is all he cares about; S-C’s “betrayal,” as he has accepted Sir Denis’ account of Fu as evil, removes S-C as a possible collaborator in Fu’s plans.  Fu does not categorize himself as evil – in fact, he reports that there has been a division among the Si-Fan, and the dragon-knife bearing killer had to have been sent by none other than Fah Lo Suee, Shang-Chi’s sister.  Fu predicts war between the Si-Fan factions, but S-C cannot follow thru on Fu’s invitation to kill him as a way to interrupt this conflict, as S-C wishes only to destroy evil, but not Fu himself.  S-C leaves his father’s headquarters, sure of only one thing: his father has lied to him.  -Chris Blake

Chris: Doug had to have been reading his letters, and appears to be responding to fans’ requests that he revive some of the introspective aspects that have been missing from this title.  The civil exchange between the estranged family is illuminating, as we’re provided some of Fu’s justification for himself and his actions; it’s also interesting how Fu feels the need to pass judgement on Shang-Chi’s actions, and to challenge his son to see the possible evil in himself.  Of course, the value of these insights into Fu is diminished as S-C reflects on the likelihood that his father is trying, yet again, to deceive him.  
I checked, and found that Buscema penciled only one other Shang-Chi story (for the 1974 Deadly Hands Annual); still, it’s no surprise that Big John is able to maintain the standard of action and atmosphere we’ve come to expect from this title.  That should provide some consolation to fans who have seen five different principal pencillers on this title since #20 (and I’m not even including the Diverse Hands approach to #24); Gulacy will settle in and pencil six of the next eight issues, so there will be some continuity to come.  
For this issue’s highlights, I’ll go with Fu’s bony hands throughout (maybe the elixir doesn’t wash all the way out to Fu’s extremities -?), and I’ll focus on p 32 (reprinted far below), as we get a rare expression of emotion from Fu, followed by his return to eerie stillness, and then a wordless panel that conveys S-C’s sense of conflict, and resignation.  Springer isn’t a bad inker, but he’s not the right fit here – it’s distracting to me how he chooses not to finish faces, and instead sometimes leaves them looking like they have bits of string stuck to them.  
Mark Barsotti: The "Confrontation" - sparked by a street preacher taking a dagger meant for Shang-Chi (that the preacher was standing directly in the dagger's path makes one question the assassin's proficiency) - finds S-C breaking into Fu's Manhattan stronghold for a father-son confab. Moench's script and middlin' John Buscema art (Springer's inks don't help) depict Shang with near-super powers: toppling a TV tower, applying a Vulcan neck-pinch, breeching a thick stone wall with a single kick - feats more Steve Austin than Kwai Chang Caine. Shang earns Fu face-time by taking down the current Council of Seven, but the crafty despot plays the moral relevancy card: "To me, you are the villian...and I the hero," then blames the dead preacher on daughter Fah and offers Shang his life, knowing full well his "sanctimonious hero" son won't take the bait. 

A decent installment, if the equivalent of running in place.

The Man-Thing 16
"Decay Meets the Mad Viking!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson

Eugene "the Star" Spangler is giving a performance at Radio City Music Hall; something of a mad show, after which he declares a year's absence to create his ultimate play--on decay, depravity and decadence! He and his crew have made themselves at home in the swamp, in the very rebuild of the shack where the Death Stalker recently resided, now dubbed the "House of Murder." It is here that  a young girl named Astrid stumbles upon The Man-Thing, who rescues her from a huge alligator. Manny doesn't follow her, as she wanders, as he is accosted by a man wielding an axe who calls himself the Mad Viking. When Astrid tells Spangler and crew she is fleeing from the Viking, she also relates his story. Josefsen is his name, and he was a longshoreman in San Francisco, possessed of unusual strength. When he was forced to retire he went essentially mad, and left his granddaughter--Astrid--vowing revenge on humanity for its loss of manhood. The Viking catches up to the showbiz bunch and a battle ensues. Man-Thing is close behind, and in what happens next, both the Viking and "Star" are rendered helpless. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: A tale about what madness is.Something like a crazed Odin, Josefsen looks like an Asgardian gone bad. If I don't get his motivations, they make clear sense compared to Spangler and his obsession with self-destruction. Man-Thing is almost the beacon of reason here, although this is far from one of his better adventures.

Scott: What the hell was that?  I never thought this book would be as weird as it was under Ploog’s pencils, but this one was just totally around the bend. I’d go back and try to make heads or tails out of it, but my head hurts. Good art, though.

Matthew:  Big John returns for his penultimate Manny outing (he’ll be represented in the round-robin GS #5), and although I’ve had my quarrels with Palmer’s inks over the years, I think this time the team lives up to its rep, the fight with the gator being especially felicitous.  Here we get a pair of offbeat Gerber creations—not coincidentally “two sides of the same worn, tarnished coin,” as he puts it—who, while exaggerated, probably reflected a real debate at that time over what makes a man.  Whether we’ve progressed past that at all is a separate issue, if you’ll pardon the pun, but Steve also slips in some satire on avant-garde “art,” as well as engaging in a spirited lettercol discourse over the merits, or lack thereof, in #12’s “Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man.”

Chris: I’m inclined to give Steve G the benefit of the doubt on Man-Thing, because I enjoy where Steve’s imagination takes him, and us – most of the time.  The plot elements of the story went a little too far-afield for me this time, though.  Astrid must be in incredibly good shape – her mad grandpa has chased her all the way from San Francisco?  There’s a man with tireless dedication to his cause (ah yes – I can see him now, trekking across the trackless expanse of Texas, with his battleaxe and horned helmet, muttering to himself).  Also, the saved-at-the-last-minute-by-an-outstretched-muckarm motif is wearing thin, especially when Manny has been largely absent from the story.  I could buy the notion that fear is underlying Josefsen’s crazed behavior, but I don’t think Steve had done enough to develop this idea, and it feels tacked-on here at the end.

Chris: I appreciate Steve’s skewering of the excesses and vacuity of Eugene.  It would’ve been interesting if Manny had been drawn to the shack earlier, if only to check out the odd mix of emotions emanating from the structure.  There might have been an opportunity for “Star” to interact with Manny – the mud-immersion exercise might’ve come in an effort to connect with the “pure” depravity of Manny’s muck-essence.  A real kicker might’ve been if Manny approached Eugene, and found no emotional content – not even fear – to react to.
The art is great.  Buscema & Palmer – we should be this lucky all the time (in Ploog’s absence, I mean).  The mud-wallowing sequence must’ve been fun to do.  They get Josefsen just right, as he’s stocky without being grotesquely oversized.  Also, he’s Scandinavian, but we’re not going to mistake him for Odin, are we?  Check out his mad ferocity on p 31, and contrast that with Eugene’s voyeuristic glee (both reprinted above) as he takes notes.  I like the glimpses we get of the title character – Buscema has him moving fast enough that his nose-noodles are waving (p 6); the alligator fight is well-done, but we’ve danced to this tune a few times already.  Overall, I wish Manny’s presence could have been woven more organically into the story. 
Mark: Through the Gerber glass darkly, and the wonder isn't that Man-Thing will soon be cancelled, but that – even in the inmates-run-the-asylum ethos of mid-'70's Marvel – Steve's black-hearted, nihilistic nightmares saw print at all.

Line up decadent rocker Eugene Spangler (whose "1999: A Space Parable" evokes Ziggy Stardust/Diamond Dogs-era Bowie) on one side, ax-wielding, aggrieved white male Grandpa Josefsen (eerily predicting the Dittohead/Fox News demographic, rendered by John Buscema as Thor's unhinged uncle, by way of St. Nick) on the other, for "...the last battle between the ultimate perversion of the old values and the new values of ultimate perversion." 

The cartoon caricature rock star is a (literally) mud-wallowing libertine; Greatest Generation Grandpa a homicidal loon; both equally odious. Toss in a gratuitous Nazi sub commander and Spangler's on-all-fours mama barking like a dog for a thoroughly unpleasant wallow in Gerber's Amerika as cesspool Zeitgeist.

I need a shower.   

Marvel Team-Up 32
The Human Torch and The Son of Satan in
"All the Fires in Hell...!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

When Ben’s desert odyssey (see below) reminds Johnny to contact Wyatt, he reaches the Keewazi by communicator and first sees Wyatt acting crazy, then learns from Silent Fox that his grandson is possessed.  En route to Oklahoma in the Fantasti-Car to help, the Torch stops in St. Louis to recruit Daimon Hellstrom, yet while Wyatt is quickly cleansed with his trident’s soulfire, the Son of Satan warns that there is a greater evil afoot.  An attack by an Indian mob unleashes Daimon’s dark side, but he regains control in time to stop him from strangling Johnny, whose nova-flame exposes the demon as Dryminextes, a member of Satan’s court seeking to curry favor by killing Daimon, and the touch of his trident dissolves the demon in a sudden flash. 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Sal does double Daimon duty—take that, Professor Joe!—this month, although not surprisingly, Colletta is conspicuously the lesser of his two inkers.  It’s interesting, if probably intentional, that Gerry juxtaposes two encounters between members of the FF and co-stars wielding otherworldly flame, this one (the other being with Ghost Rider in Marvel Two-in-One #8, natch) almost as ineluctable as the fire-and-ice match-up in #23.  The story is average, but the continuity with Daimon’s strip is sloppy:  he calls Dr. Reynolds (whose first name is misspelled) “Kathy,” which I think is unprecedented, and Len’s footnote in page 4, panel 4 seems to suggest that this follows Marvel Spotlight #20, but that being the start of a seamless trilogy, this couldn’t take place until after #22 at the earliest.

Joe: Another non-Spidey MTU I didn't have, and had no clue my beloved Pal Sal was at the helm. But Colletta's inks ruin half the book, making it muddled and dark, when it's obvious they're going for "moody". Conway lays it on a little thick also--I'm talking to you, flaming fence--and I don't completely buy the angry Hellstrom bit either. Maybe I should pay more attention to Prof. Blake's curriculum? All in all, not horrible (to use one of my Mom's favorite phrases), but how dare they possess my comic book man crush Wyatt Wingfoot!

The Mighty Thor 234
"O, Bitter Victory!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Dick Giordano

Thor and two Earth agents appear to breach the guards of Loki's camp, finding they were expected. Loki encases them in a diamond force bubble, leaving the military to plan an atomic attack. Elsewhere, a statuesque elderly man named Orrin converses with a lady named Judith. But who is he? With immense strength he rescues her from an approaching drunk driver, tossing the car aside. On a distant planet Hercules and Sif arrive. It is the homeworld of Kamo Tharnn, where they hope to find the Runestaff that may save Jane Foster's life. Back on Earth, the tide is finally turned when Firelord breaches the barrier around the Avengers mansion. He attacks Loki long enough for the barrier around Thor to be broken. Thor challenges Loki to a hand-to-hand combat, which he wins, freeing his fellow Asgardians from Loki's spell. -Jim Barwise

Jim: A lot of storylines running here, all benefitting from the Buscema/Sinnott visuals. We see Orrin, obviously Odin with an amnesia of sorts. Kamo Tharnn promises to be interesting. Surprise! Loki agrees to a fair fight and loses; this Earthbound camp battle has been interesting. A nice touch: Thor sheds a tear for his brother.

Matthew: As with Iron Man Three (which I now know to be its correct onscreen title), I had the somewhat disorienting experience of reading this around the same time I watched Thor: The Dark World, which coincidentally also features Loki; while I enjoyed both Thor movies, I think it’s best to consider the cinematic Marvel Universe as separate from this one, rather than get too hung up on the differences.  [Insert much rejoicing from selected fellow faculty members.] Buscema is reunited with my favorite inker, although the latter gets a slap in the face from letterer Costanza, who misspells his surname “Sinnot.”  But a rose by any other name makes Big John’s pencils look as sweet, and even if this issue doesn’t reach the heights of the last one in my opinion, Gerry & Company are in there punching with a lively yarn.

Scott: You know it’s got to be Opposite Day when Thor is one of the better titles of the month. Odin’s subplot is actually interesting and it was refreshing to have Thor and Loki finally square off. However, it’s a bit too much of a coincidence that Loki’s enchantment began to wear off at just that time.  The art is excellent and there’s a sense of conclusion to a big part of this arc, something all too rare.

The Tomb of Dracula 31
"Ten Lords a Dying!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by Ray Holloway
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Dracula is out to strike fear into a stalwart member of Parliament who is hesitant to go along with his plans. Within a short period of time, Dracula has killed Lord Arthur Singleton's wife and daughter in an attempt to make him comply with his demands. However, Inspector Chelms is on the case, and has been conferring with Quincy Harker to help stop the rampaging vampire. When Dracula sends out a crew of his brainwashed Parliament members to reel Singleton in, Chelms and his fellow Scotland Yard officers come to the rescue. After the Parliament members are arrested and led away, Dracula decides to pay Lord Singleton a visit. Singleton has some secret files that could lead to Dracula's doom. Drac tears them up and tries to use hypnosis to get Singleton to talk but, thanks to training from Quincy Harker, he is able to fight off Dracula's control. Deciding that he will have to make Singleton a vampire, to get the information he needs, Dracula is about to put the bite on him but Chelms and the law bust in again to save Singleton. Armed with a gun packing silver bullets, Chelms is about to shoot Dracula when Quincy Harker's voice comes on over a radio transmission. He urges Chelms to shoot Drac, and also boasts that he knows the Count's secret, and why he will eventually perish. Seemingly amused, Drac flies off as a bat to confront his old nemesis. Meanwhile, in India, Taj wrestles with the hard fact that he must kill his son, since there appears to be no cure for the boy's vampirism. Just when he is about to do the deed, some of the villagers burst into his home and demand the boy's death, causing Taj to reconsider. And, in Brazil, Frank Drake continues to work with old friend, Danny Summers. -Tom McMillion

Scott: A fun issue. Harker’s automated phone is hysterical in its outdated technology that we’re supposed to marvel at. It’s nice to have the old man play a part in the story for a change. Gene Colan makes this easy to take, but the mystery is intriguing as well.  

Mark: Back to our slowly percolating plot after the "Dear Diary" detour, with the Count collecting hypnotized members of Parliament for unknown, nefarious purposes. He kills the wife & daughter of recalcitrant MP Lord Singleton, while Harker is hipped to the Drac attacks by Scotland Yard. Elsewhere Dean Gene employs a split-screen panel layout as we check in on Taj gearing up to stake his son and Frank Drake about to be betrayed by his presumptive biz partner in Brazil. Drac's coffin call on Singleton is foiled by the cops, and we're left wondering about the mysterious report the vamp-resistant Singleton shared with Drac as a taunt.

Chris: I had thought, based on the cover, that we might reach a conclusion in the heartrending tale of Taj.  Well, I must not have been paying close attention all this time, since I should’ve realized that the covers rarely have much of anything to do with the interior story.  Point is, the son-of-Taj story has been strung along for a while now, a page or two at a time, and it’s beginning to wear on me.  The Lord Singleton story seems to be a device to bring Drac into a confrontation with Harker, which (as I recall) will be pretty great.  I wonder how those proposed pro-vampire laws would read?  How exactly would you present something like that to the gallery at Parliament -?  There might be more than the usual share of razzing and hooting, right right?  

We can always count on Gene & Tom to slide us some nifty visuals of Drac’s imperious, nasty face, so I was gleaning the issue to locate a different art highlight this time, but I really can’t help it – the expression on p 16 last panel (below) is priceless (with extra points to Tom for the queasy purple coloring).  I always enjoy it when Mister-I’m-calling-the-shots Drac gets crossed up, so that special moment can be found on p 23, first panel (above right).

Werewolf by Night 28
"The Darkness from Glitternight"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

Two weeks after the battle with Glitternight, Jack ponders what will happen on Lissa's 18th birthday, when the curse might take hold, and asks Buck to keep the day low-key. But goofy Glitternight has other plans, unleashing a horde of half-bat, half-hair worm flying thingies on our merry band and shows up warning Topaz she has two weeks to find Taboo…or else! Nine days later, with the full moon coming soon, Topaz tells the group she dreamt Taboo was alive, calling her to a castle on an island—Russoff Manor, the Russell ancestral home. Thinking it would be good to isolate Lissa, Jack has the team investigate the castle, and they find the reincarnated essence of Taboo waiting! Turns out good ol' Glitternight ripped the psychic embodiment from Taboo's corpse, hatched an egg with his "Stygian light", and the revived sorcerer fled after battling to a draw, not willing to help the diabolical Doctor murder everyone on Earth to create an army of demons. As lightning strikes and the moon turns full, Jack transforms and Glitternight attacks! The two sorcerers battle and Werewolf quickly enters the fray, dodging light-bursts as Lissa begins to feel different. Topaz gets Taboo to help suppress the change as they duck into another room, but the moon's power is too strong—and when Glitternight blasts Werewolf out the window and smashes through the door, Lissa is in the way of the evil black light, which helps transform her into a hellish demon-wolf! --Joe Tura

Joe: Sorry for the long recap, but there was actually a lot going on in this issue. And maybe I'm just getting too used to these characters, with the usual OK art and wordy, semi-hokey script, but I didn't think it was too bad. I like getting some answers in this title, and here we get plenty. Lissa's curse finally appears, in quite an unexpected way. Taboo is brought back to life sorta, and we get some answers as to what Glitternight is after. And most importantly, we learn Buck makes awesome pancakes!

In between the quick action and wacky witchcraft, the best line is Jack's caption on pg 10 panel 6, after Topaz stutters "He…He's mad--!", he mutters "Mmph.", while thinking to himself "An understatement, to put it euphemistically." What the hell does that mean, anyway? I mean, it sounds near brilliant and funny at first, but reading it again while typing it, I think it might be completely idiotic. And when the ugly flying minions attack the castle, why is the sound effect "SPEESH!" as they crash through the window? Doesn't sound right to me. Cause, you know, I've heard that a hundred times…

Chris: Wow – Doug and Don both ate plenty of bowls of Wheaties before they started this one.  I’m not being facetious, either – it’s easily the best issue of WbN I’ve seen since this creative team took over.  I enjoy the way they establish, and sustain, an atmosphere of dread as the household awaits the coming of Lissa’s birthday; the four characters stay close together, and their expressions are drawn and preoccupied, grim at times.  Glitternight’s spooky appearance contributes to this effect, as he’s shown floating menacingly above the house.  It’s a far cry from the “Oops – it’s nightfall – better hit the town and see what kinda trouble’s waitin’ for me!” stories that we’ve had for the past 8-10 issues.  (I’m truly looking ahead to the next issue – haven’t had that thought in a while!)

Curious decision to resurrect Taboo – not sure why Glitternight thought he’d be powerful enough to aid in his mad scheme to absorb the souls of all the earth’s people.  At least there’s a resurrection story, instead of some lame excuse, like: “The statue that fell on me was only gold-plated, so once you’d left me for dead, it took only a few minutes to wriggle my considerable bulk free!”
I’m never going to be a huge fan of Perlin’s art (Ploog really spoiled us, didn’t he), but his Colletta-free depiction of the Werewolf has gotten better; page 31, last panel, is fittingly fierce.  The resurrection sequence (p 18, p 22) has a bit of a Ditko vibe to it – in a good way, I mean.  

Giant-Size Werewolf 4
Cover by Gil Kane

"A Meeting of Blood"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Virgil Redondo
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Marcos Pelayo

"When the Moon Dripped Blood!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Yong Montano
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Marcos Pelayo

First Night: The Werewolf howls in rage and stalks the streets angrily, maiming hooligans, as across town, a young woman walks in confusion, watched by Morbius! She is Morbius' fiancée Martine, under the spell of Daemond (from Fear #26), but his Reader's Digest recollection of their lives snaps her out of it. He holds her tenderly and almost gives in to the blood-lust, only to meet the livid Werewolf! The two creatures battle until Martine intervenes and a mad Morbius bites Werewolf, who transforms into Jack with the sunrise. The next night, Martine gives Morbius a key to a P.O. box found in her pocket, just as Jack wakes up in a hospital bed, is turned by Second Night and smashes his way free. Morbius finds a biochemical formula in the box which may be the key to a cure, but is tracked by the Werewolf to the La Brea Tar Pits. During the melee, Morbius loses the formula, kicks Werewolf into a pit, but Martine asks him not to commit murder and as he runs off, she hands WBN a rope so he can climb out. –Joe Tura

"A Meeting of Blood"

"When the Moon..."
In "When the Moon Dripped Blood!" Clary pays a surprise visit to Jack's family mansion with a job offer to work for stunt man Brad Wrangle (!), who wants to film an old script of Buck's. The film crew travels to the mountains, where the natives are acting very odd and there's no electricity. That doesn't stop Brad, who sets up a big stunt near a cliff and Jack goes soaring off when his rope is shot and lands in the river. He washes up downstream and soon enough it's First Night! Buck and Clary can't find Jack but realize the film crew's gone; when they find one of them, he dies and they find strange protuberances coming from his chest—then they're knocked out! Werewolf kills a deer, finds a skeleton in a cave and walks until sunrise, where Jack finds no one in town but a clue to their whereabouts. Back at the cave, he's knocked out, coming to only to discover Brad and the film crew ready to sacrifice him, Buck and Clary! Second Night transforms Jack again, and we soon learn Brad is a strange being and has slimy tentacles coming from his chest that attack the Werewolf! As the cave walls start to crumble, Buck and Clary slip away and Brad becomes fodder for the giant tentacled "Father of All Worlds" he was going to sacrifice them to. Finally, the mountain collapses and Werewolf lunges to safety. –Joe Tura

Joe: First Tale: Moench teams with Filipino artist Redondo on a monstrous battle between two of Marvel's most well-known creatures of the night. The result? Not too bad. I can't think when Werewolf has been angrier, and Morbius is his usual pompous quasi-vamp until Martine sets him straight at the end. Decent work by Redondo, who was a contributor throughout his Marvel career on Planet of the Apes, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction, Solomon Kane, Tales of the Zombie and more. Moench has a lot to say, it seems, but mostly handles the Morbius character faithfully.

Second Tale: And we get our second Filipino artist, horror comic vet Montaño, from Monsters Unleashed, Tales of the Zombie and Marvel Chillers. Again a nice job, adding elements of horror not seen in a Don Perlin-drawn WBN and fascinating crumbling mountains. Another wordy Moench script zips by quickly, and there's never really an explanation for why these guys have tentacles coming out of their chests other than the "Father" giant tentacled thingie "reshaped" them all in his image. Yuck! Nice to see Clary back in the supporting cast, as the story's catalyst, but all in all it's a one-and-done. But we've seen worse.

"When the Moon..."
Filler! "The Return of the Brain" from Adventures in Terror #6 (October 1951), and it's a doozy of a Cold War tale about the disembodied head of an executed Nazi scientist war criminal that manages to make its way to the lab of American scientist Gilda Spears. The Brain brainwashes (hahaha) her to write letters to the Iron Curtain divulging American secrets, until skeptical FBI agent Steve Manners arrives—and the Brain tries to convince Gilda to kill him, which leads to an odd fight and the lab in flames. But Manners is too quick and they escape… yet the Brain bounces on! A strange story, yet lots of fun at the same time. Certainly better than any other filler we've seen in GSW so far.

Matthew: At last I learned what happened in between Fear #26 and 27 - thanks, Professor Joe!

Chris: The first story is more a Morbius tale than Werewolf, isn’t it?  If you hadn’t read the lengthy, recently-concluded story in Fear, you’d probably be a bit confused about all this talk of Daemond and Caretakers (I read them, and I’m still a little uncertain).  Any time I turn to a page that’s filled with captions – and there are several of these in the first story – I have to stop, close my eyes, and take a deep breath before I’m ready to continue.  Why, oh why, does Doug feel the need to provide lengthy description of the action unfolding?  Can’t there be times when we might have only a line or two to fill in a detail that isn’t plainly there before us, instead of a comprehensive blow-by-blow?  

"When the Moon..."
There are times when we do need captions, such as at the beginning of the story, when Jack expresses concerns about possible damage the transformation might be causing him over the long term, and whether the change might one day become permanent.  These are two intriguing ideas, which I don’t recall Doug having broached before, and which would’ve been worth exploring at greater length in the monthly mag; we’ll see whether Doug even brings these thoughts up again.
The second story was a bit more to my liking, if only because of the supernatural trappings, plus I think the ol’ Wolfie was well overdue for a good romp in the forest, after having searched for it so long.  
Redondo draws Morbius and the Werewolf as well as, if not better than, the current artists on these characters’ regular titles, so you have to wonder why he wasn’t assigned to continue with either.  Page 44 (far above) is pretty great, because of not only Montaňo’s interpretation of the Werewolf, but also the way he depicts him on the prowl.  At least we’ll see more of this artist in the next (and final) GS WbN, because apparently Perlin is good enough to provide all the art for the regular monthly mag (in other words, I have no idea what the explanation might be).
Joe Tura after reading a full run of Werewolf By Night

Marvel Spotlight 21
The Son of Satan in 
"Mourning at Dawn!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Sal Buscema and Joe Giella
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo

Daimon escapes execution by the cult of nihilists, and summons his trident to fly away under soulfire-power.  Back in St Louis, tarot-reader Madame Swabada has returned to offer help to Katherine Reynolds and her student Christine.  Dr Reynolds rejects the fortune teller who, in response, walks off to a nearby alleyway – and disappears.  The two women meet up with Daimon at Gateway U, and the three proceed to Daimon’s hotel so that he can consult his texts to find some clue to the Madame’s power.  Daimon discovers that the hotel clerk has been executed by the nihilists, whose body is positioned so that it resembles the illustration on the Ten of Swords from the tarot.  Daimon flies away to elude the police, since he senses that he is somehow responsible for the “deadly menaces on the loose.”  Katherine and Christine confer with Detective Quinn at police HQ.  Quinn discovers that Christine’s father is the publisher of a sensationalist weekly called the National Eye, which recently had run an exposé of “occult phonies who want to gyp you;” the father confirms (by phone) that Swabada had been mentioned in the story.  Daimon meets Swabada again, this time atop the Corinthian column in St Louis.  Swabada suggests that she might have died following publication of the Eye story; Daimon refuses to accept that he is speaking with an apparition.  Swabada calls down a lightning bolt, and after Daimon employs soulfire to ease his fall from the tower, he has the unpleasant realization that he might have been possessed by Swabada’s spirit.  Daimon is subdued by police, but as they drive him away, Daimon simultaneously is standing on the sidewalk, watching the cruiser pull away with himself in the backseat – unwittingly, Daimon is matching the pose of the last tarot card – the Fool.  -Chris Blake

Chris: About midway thru, it occurred to me that this is the first SoS story that has some of the feel of a Steve G Man-Thing tale.  Steve achieves as he puts his characters thru their paces, but offers nothing more than clues about why their stories are playing out this way; so far, nothing has been clearly stated about why Daimon is acting-out his tarot reading, and whether Swabada is manipulating him in some way.  It’s a nifty mystery that we get to solve with Daimon, since Steve has elected not to wink and offer us info that would be unknown to our hero.  
If I have any criticism at all, it’s that the story doesn’t ever imperil Daimon to drop too dangerously toward his dark side, despite all the tight spots he finds himself in.  Rather than confront the police, on two occasions, Daimon chooses simply to fly away.  I’m not saying it isn’t a good strategy, and that Daimon doesn’t have good reasons to bolt; the only detriment is that we don’t have an opportunity to explore his ongoing struggle to control his duality.  
The Sal art is as good as you’d expect.  The one noteworthy aspect is the way Sal incorporates a tarot card into the illustration any time it ties into the story, my favorite example being p 2, last panel, as the three characters appear to be practically standing in the Ten of Swords.  Interesting character interplay as Daimon elects not to return Katherine’s embrace when they’re reunited (p 10, pnl 6); he looks at her, but keeps his arm right at his side.  Swabada continues to be creepily crony.  DC mainstay Joe Giella got the call for the inks, and they’re okay, if a bit on the thin side; I preferred the texture McWilliams brought to Sal’s pencils last time.  
Really cool cover by Kane & Palmer – I wonder where I could find the story depicted there -?  
Matthew: The recently minted Defenders dream team of Steve & Sal continues its simultaneous four-issue collaboration here, helped more than hindered by Giella’s inks, which are smoother than on Cockrum’s pencils in Giant-Size Avengers #3.  This somewhat discursive middle third did make me wonder if our tarot trilogy might have been better as a two-parter, but that may just be because it features more conventional storytelling than the impressive opener, and in any event, I’m willing to have a little faith, as it were, that Gerber knows what he’s doing.  We get the welcome—perhaps inevitable—suggestion in page 10, panel 6 that Katherine’s interest in Daimon has become more than strictly scholarly, and that symbolic splash page is nice indeed.

Joe: There's a couple of things that stand out for me reading this run of Marvel Spotlight. First off, there are few good inkers for my Pal Sal, and Giella make Mike Esposito look like Joe Sinnott squared. There are so many panels where the pencils are just transformed a little too much to annoy me. Second, no one writes supernatural wackiness like Steve Gerber, which is the most obvious claim ever. But when he pulls in the tarot card stuff, he grounds the plot in a way that most writers probably can't even understand, better yet duplicate. Third, it's the little things that made this one better than the three or four issues before it, like the pentacles on the stained glass. Overall, pretty good and held my interest all the way through.

Luke Cage, Power Man 24
"Among Us Walks... Black Goliath!"
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by George Tuska and Dave Hunt
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Dave Hunt, Harry Bulanadi, and Karen Pocock

Luke Cage and his good buddy D.W. take in a carnival visit while out in California. During a rainstorm, one of the trapeze performers almost falls to his death. Cage is able to save him but gets the cold shoulder from the man's brother. Luke shrugs it off and then bumps into his lost love Claire Temple. Even though they embrace at first, Claire still tells Luke that he shouldn't have followed her. Claire has been looking after her ex-husband, Bill Foster, otherwise known as Black Goliath. The former lab assistant to Henry Pym, Black Goliath is stuck at his maximum height of fifteen feet. He needs money to work on an experiment to control his height, but since he is too proud to ask Pym or Tony Stark for money, he has taken up working with this traveling circus. Black Goliath comes upon Cage and Claire while they are arguing. The two hot-headed heroes end up coming to blows over their jealousy for Claire. Power Man seems to get the better of the brawl when he uses Black Goliath's height against him. Out of nowhere, both men fall under a powerful hypnosis. It turns out that the circus belongs to the villain known as the Ringmaster. The story ends with the fiend using the mind control powers from his trick hat to have both heroes at his mercy. -Tom McMillion

Making you turn pages to see
a two-page spread...
Tom McMillion: This issue pretty much shows that Power Man is the top dog of the African American heroes in the Marvel Universe. While the fight got interrupted before he could actually win, it seems like the writers wanted to prove that Cage was the stronger of the two and that Black Goliath's size didn't matter all that much. At least that's the impression I got. Due to the love interest, this "typical misunderstanding battle" between heroes was a little better then most, though not by much.

Scott: Oh God, Tuska’s back. Why won’t he just go away? Gosh Claire, if you started out by calling Bill Foster your ex-husband, wouldn’t that have been less cruel than just “husband?” It’s not a bad issue, per se, just a tad lifeless, not to mention pointless. And , oh look, the Ringmaster and his Circus of Values…errrr, Crime, is back. Goodie.

Chris: How tall is Goliath?  He’s 15 feet tall, right?  Tuska starts us out with the right proportions (p 16), but after that, there are moments when Foster’s head and hands appear to be nearly as large as Cage’s entire body (most noticeably p 26, last panel, reprinted below).  Does Goliath have a Hulk-like capacity to grow even larger when he’s angered -?  The super-brawl makes some sense, unless you consider that Foster no longer has a legitimate claim to Claire’s affection.  If the fight is due in part to Claire not having informed Bill of the new man in her life, then I’d say 10 points off to her.

The Circus of Crime must have had some kind of contractual arrangement with Marvel that had been signed in the early 60’s, which required periodic appearances – there’s no other legitimate reason to drag out this comical bunch (so to speak).  I wonder if Roy or Len ever looked into trading their contract to DC for a Doctor Light to be named later?  And how about the botched page layout that resulted in the final two-page spread being wrapped around from p 31 to p 32?  

... is not very smart.
Matthew: This two-parter comprises my only issues prior to Luke’s shotgun marriage with Iron Fist, acquired years later solely for Black Goliath’s debut, which in my book marks another feather in Tony’s hotly contested cap.  It marks the end of his current stint with Cage, on whose series he probably racked up more credits than anywhere but Ghost Rider, and although Tuska—inked here by Dave Hunt—will be supplanted by Ron Wilson in the second half, he and Isabella will be reunited for Black Goliath #1 come February.  This also continues a trend of the Tiger’s repurposing existing characters (in this case, Avengers vet Bill Foster, introduced almost a decade ago), as he did when turning the Cat into Tigra and, later, in assembling the Champions.

Per the lettercol, “The costume design for the new Goliath was the work of a promising young Canadian artist named John Byrne, whose drawings have graced FOOM Magazine and many other fanzines, and who has recently penciled a story for The Haunt of Horror—an artist to watch,” while who would succeed Tony on BG’s mag but Byrne’s sometime collaborator, Chris Claremont?  Despite some nice continuity with recent events elsewhere, the first part of the story is rather thin, what with all of the exposition and that two-page reveal of the Circus of Crime (shocker!); God only knows why they didn’t put the letters on page 32 and make it a proper two-page spread.  Also notice that the multiple letterers can’t decide how to spell “Noah Bur[n]stein.”

Strange Tales 179
Warlock in
"Death Ship!"
Story and Art by Jim Starlin
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Jim Starlin

Captain Autolycus captures Adam aboard the starship Great Divide, which is transporting various species who refused to serve as slaves after the church “purified” their worlds, and are now to be broken down into usable chemicals. Adam declines to lead the revolt proposed by Pip the Troll, illustrating the perils of power with the tale of cavemen Grak and Bak, yet agrees to help, striking from the shadows to take out the crew.  Against the Magus’s wishes, the Matriarch orders Autolycus to kill Warlock, but when Adam faces death, his Soul Gem frees itself from his subconscious control to steal Autolycus’s soul, flooding Adam with his memories; urging the prisoners to start anew, Adam heads for Homeworld, with Pip a voluntary companion. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Starlin told Newsarama that for last issue’s refresher course, “I used this narratorhe’s basically a sphincter (‘Sphinxor’) from the star system Pegasus, which literally makes him a horse’s ass.  And I decided I was just going to have fun with that throwaway character and use him to explain who Adam Warlock was….Marvel was having financial problems, and they would say, ‘You have to do one page for free.’  So you could either turn a page sideways and make it two pages, or you could Xerox panels from previous books and recap the story.  Most of the time, those recaps were there just to fill in that page I was giving away for free.”  Here, he switches from third- to first-person narration, artfully cutting and pasting panels (some recolored) for the recap.

Chris: The soul gem giveth and taketh away.  Warlock has professed his intention to destroy the false god calling himself the Magus, but now he has discovered that the soul gem gives him influence over life and death: he was able to use the gem (last issue) to revive the “infidel” girl long enough to learn her story, and this time, the gem has absorbed the life-force of Autolycus.  Warlock acknowledges that the gem acted independently – he does not know whether he can control this manifestation.  So, how far will things go before Warlock is forced to consider the legitimacy of this godlike power in himself? 

I won’t belabor the greatness of the art, but I will say that I especially enjoyed the semi-comical Shang-Chi-esque page that features Warlock dispatching the ship’s warriors.  The soul gem sequence also is very well done, especially when Warlock comes to, and we see the empty husk of Autolycus in the foreground, which helps us appreciate the profound impression the gem’s action has had on Warlock.  On the same page, I like how Jim shows us that the toddler Autolycus had a stuffed turkey to play with, and a pet dog, since these details help to establish Autolycus as a person, and not some bloodless villain who deserved what he got.

Proof George Lucas was a
Starlin fan?
Matthew: This issue, lazybones Jim leaves the coloring to Glynis Wein (then-wife of EIC Len), responsible merely for writing and drawing it; hardly seems worth getting up in the morning, but that said, after a necessarily slow start, he is already firing on all cylinders, right from that stunning splash page.  There are two main visual tours de force:  the dialogue-free, Sterankoesque sequence on story page 12 (since I am working from the special edition), in which Adam totals Autolycus’s “well-trained warriors,” and the montage of his battle with the captain on page 14, reminiscent of Captain Marvel or, I presume, Master of Kung FuWord and image are brilliant throughout, however, with effective use of shadows and a defining shot of Adam in the last panel of page 17.

As with Captain Marvel, Starlin quickly builds his own supporting cast.  Pip “was comic relief.  Plushe was…based on Jack Kirbythe cigar jutting out of his mouth, the little guy non-stop talking…he was my tribute to Jack,” as he revealed to Zack Smith.  “And I don’t want to give anyone the idea Jack was anywhere near a degenerate as Pip became.  [laughs]  That aspect of the character kind of got out of control.  He started out as my tribute to Jack Kirby, and then kind of took on a life of his own.  Jack never lived a life nearly as debauched as Pip’s!  He also begins to find new uses for elements that were already present in the strip, in this case—befitting his darkened tone—adding sinister, far-reaching aspects to the gem Adam sports upon his brow.

Mark: Dog-ear that thesaurus, kids, but it's well-nigh impossible to adequately define Starlin's exponentially expanding creativity that crackles on every page. Clocking in at an astonishing 8.42 panels per page (yes, I counted), this is dense, highly-compressed storytelling that's claustrophobic without feeling cluttered. The graphics are more detailed & mind-blowing than ever (the menagerie of alien prisoners are beamed directly from the Id of Steve Ditko, while the haughty Matriarch could have stepped from an Aubrey Beardsley print). The story: Spartacus prison break space opera, spiced with historical/philosophical musings, sympathetic antagonist, a hero now haunted by his own uncontrollable, soul-sucking power, and a cigar-chomping troll modeled after Jack Kirby!

Ladle out the plaudits at your leisure, class. Start with: a visionary tour de force.

Matthew: “We had a lot more creative freedom back [then].  Now, they want concise, detailed plots ahead of time.  When I started on Warlock, I got the assignment, and started drawing it that evening!  So much of it was done on the fly!…[And] when you start doing these things, you have no idea where they’re going to go.  The Soul Gem, Roy threw that in as a toss-away...I think it was originally just to let Warlock focus his cosmic powers; Roy was doing Jesus Christ Superstar, so it was supposed to be a positive thing....I went in a much darker direction...I realized the High Evolutionary didn’t do him any favors, because he basically turned Warlock into a spiritual vampire!  Dracula was more of the inspiration than anything else for that,” Jim told Newsarama.

With its Grand Inquisitors and powerful Matriarch, the Universalite church is obviously a distaff take on the worst excesses of organized religion, while Adam is clearly dealing with some heavy psychological issues as well.  Said Starlin, “I’d read some books [on paranoid schizophrenia], I’d taken some psych classes in community college.  So I had some interest in that, plus all the Catholicism….I’d grown up very Catholic, parochial school, and Warlock was a way of working a lot of things out. It’s interesting that although he has largely moved away from overt Christ-parallels, Adam does teach with a parable this issue (and when he said, “Don’t set up false lords to rule over you!  Rule yourselves!,” all I could think about was Monty Python’s Life of Brian!).

Supernatural Thrillers 12
The Living Mummy in
"The War That Shook the World!"
Story by Tony Isabella and Val Mayerik
Art by Val Mayerik and Klaus Janson
Colors by Bill Mantlo
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane and Klaus Janson

N'Kantu's struggle with The Elementals breaks out onto the streets of Cairo, leaving thousands dead, when the evil Gods throw a dome over the city. The only thing that The Living Mummy and his band of rebels have going for them is possession of the powerful Scarlet Scarab but, unfortunately, they can't seem to get it to work. Foraging in the University's catacombs, one of N'Kantu's comrades, Ron, discovers some ancient parchments that may hold the key to the Scarab but he and the Mummy are attacked by a crazed zealot exiting the school and the parchments are reduced to ashes. Despite the set-back, The Mummy is convinced that right will prevail in the end. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: The staff (in particular, one Prof. Bradley) know I'm not Tony Isabella's biggest fan. Most of his scripts that I've made it through have been fluff, in my opinion, but here's an interesting exception. A powerful chapter to a story I thought was beginning to stall in those deep, deep Egyptian sands, "The War That Shook the World" finally ratchets up the action and propels a tale that should have already moved into epic territory. I loved the doming of Cairo (paging Stephen King) and all-out civil war in the streets between the fanatical pro-Elementals faction and those who see the Gods for what they are (murderous monsters) despite the flaws pointed out by my esteemed colleague below. Isabella manages to pepper the proceedings with several surprising twists and widespread mayhem. I'm on board big time. If there's one problem, it's the art (how's that for a turnaround?) this time out, with Klaus Janson stepping in to Val's inker shoes and making Mayerik decidedly un-Mayerik-like. It seems as though Janson's even given the cast corrective footwear as there's not a crooked limb in sight. One big exception is that stunning set of panels on page 17 (below) that looks, for all the world, like Neal Adams had stopped by the Marvel office and had some free time on his hands.

Chris: The Asp’s end-around attack on Magnum is deceptively effective – I didn’t see it coming either.  As the adversaries part, the stage is set – and then, civil war breaks out?  How did that happen – first of all, how did so many of the people get their hands on automatic weapons – has the NRA opened a Cairo office while I was turning pages -?  

The transition might’ve been far less clumsy if Tony had scripted a moment with the Elementals imparting their vision to the people, so at least we might understand why the citizens are suddenly so fired-up that they’re willing to kill on their behalf.  Instead, Tony simply tells us that “it’s on,” and we’re left to try to figure out how this could be possible, which I can’t say I was able to succeed in doing.  It’s really too bad – a showdown between the underdog Dr Skarab & Co vs the seemingly all-powerful Elementals, with N’Kantu in the middle, should have been fodder enough for a fine story, but instead it’s lost in this ridiculous instantaneous city-wide conflict.  I also want to point out that 3000 yr-old papyrus scrolls are probably not left on a shelf in the Cairo University library for grad students to check out and take home.
We’ve seen Mayerik & Janson provide some noteworthy visuals for Frankenstein (Marvel’s other mostly-mute maybe-monster), and I think their work comes off well here also.  The two-page spread (p 2-3) depicts our heroes, wary and uncertain, but courageously facing the fight; the split panels on p 17 gives us an insight into the adversaries’ positions; N’Kantu disarms a gunman, and strides purposefully on (p 23, last panel).
Two trifling art problems, though; we see N’Kantu agonizingly burned by the flamethrower (p 31), so why are there no scorch marks on his bandages (p 32)?  I don’t care whether Val, Klaus, or even Bill Mantlo has to add shading to his chest, but it should be there.  Also, I won’t say the Asp can’t dance, but the man does have two left feet (check it if you don’t believe me – p6, last panel).

Also This Month

Astonishing Tales #29 (reprint issue)

Crazy #10
Dead of Night #9
Giant-Size Kid Colt #2
Gothic Tales of Love #1
Journey Into Mystery #16
Kid Colt Outlaw #193
Marvel Double Feature #9
Marvel Tales #58
Mighty Marvel Western #38
Night Rider #4
Nostalgia Ilustrated #4
Our Love Story #33
The Outlaw Kid #27
Spidey Super Stories #7
Two-Gun Kid #123
Uncanny Tales from the Grave #9
Vault of Evil #18
War is Hell #12
Weird Wonder Tales #9
X-Men #93 (last reprint issue) >

No one could have predicted just what would happen when Marvel discontinued their X-Men reprint title in April 1975, least of all Marvel. More next week on the event that set into motion the beginning of the company's true dominance of the market and the launch of a comic book that would change everything. -Peter Enfantino


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 11
Cover by Neal Adams

"A Different Lesson in Blood Unchanged!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Vosburg and Jack Abel

"Death as a Loner!"
Text by Scott Edelman

"Verdict on The Trial of Billy Jack"
Film Review by Don McGregor

"Gladiators in the Crypt of Tomorrow"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Perez and Tony DeZuniga

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu happens to be visiting Beserkley University when he happens upon a young man protesting inequality on campus. Interested, Shang-Chi stops to listen and is soon drawn into a melee when the student attacks a teacher. When S-C halts the proceedings and tells the man that violence is not the way, he is attacked. Putting the guy in the cement in record time, S-C leaves in disgust but is stopped by a pretty young girl who tells the Kung Fu Master that Peters, the big-mouth protestor, has told the faculty he has plans to take over the administration building later that day and the National Guard have been alerted. Sensing his special powers of zen and yoga may be needed to quiet the upcoming storm, S-C decides to hang out a bit. Sure enough, the Guard march onto campus very soon afterward and a full-blown riot ensues. Bottles are thrown and shots are fired. During the riot,  S-C is grazed in the head by a bullet and later comes to in a hospital bed. Watching over him are Black Jack Tarr (yep, that's Black Jack) and Sir Denis Nayland. The duo explain to S-C that they got him out of the mob scene as quickly as they realized he was there, thus fending off any international incidents, but were unable to quiet the mob. Three students lie dead, including the girl who had pleaded with S-C to stop the violence. A big surprise to me, this one, as I was humming "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming..." right up to the point where we find out the real bad guy is the rebellious student. Working here with some usually big cajones and avoiding cliches, my usual whipping boy, Doug Moench manages to sidestep the usual pretense and preciousness that infuses most of his B&W work. Instead, "A Different Lesson..." drew me in and kept me held in suspense right up to the tragic climax. Well, okay, there is that dopey title. A rare "Bravo" to Devil-May-Care.

"A Different Title Would Have Been Most Admirable"

The Sons of The Tiger finally get a chance to settle their score with The Silent Ones as they do battle with the evil beings in "Gladiators in the Crypt of Tomorrow." Though The Silent Ones are clearly the most powerful and experienced, Good wins out and The Tigers emerge victorious. Their work done, they head back to Earth and more kung fu tournaments. Hard to know what to make of this one as I'm not sure I really understood what was going on. A bit too trippy for my tastes, as if Bill Mantlo got the order to pen a Guardians of the Galaxy script and then realized there was nowhere to place it. A few name changes and presto! The Sons of the Tiger! At least it wasn't the same old "ninjas at the tournament turn out to be killer assassins just as Bob gets his big break with a Cheerios commercial" crap.


The rest of the issue is given over to analysis, breakdown, and obituary of The Trial of Billy Jack, a film the likes of which I hope never to see again. -Peter Enfantino

Nothing says "Peace, Love and Understanding" more than
a swift kick in the arse.

Monsters Unleashed 11
Cover by Frank Brunner

"An Angel Felled!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

"The Empire"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Rico Rival

"This is the Valiant One, Signing Out!"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham

In his final appearance before a long vacation, Gabriel, the Demon Slayer has twin emotional peaks to climb: he's still having trouble adjusting to losing his wife, Andrea (and further adjusting to the fact that her soul has commandeered Gabriel's assistant, the lovely but mysterious Desadia), and another demon possession requires his attention. Mrs. Ramirez is delighted to find her husband in bed with her one morning but she's a bit puzzled since he died a year before. Behind the trickery is Belial, a particularly ornery demon who uses the dead man to get to Gabriel. The demon-slayer uses all his powers to rid the world of Belial but it takes a showdown in the graveyard before our hero can walk away a victor. If you were to read The Frankenstein Monster #16 (you'll have to wait until next month, kids, sorry) and "An Angel Felled!" back to back, as I did, you'd become convinced that Doug Moench was bipolar. Aside from the usual nods to that flick (the demon, at one point asks Gabriel if it's a "good day for an exorcism" and Gabriel delivers a beating to the creature when it mimes Andrea), Doug delivers a swell read, with lots of background on Gabriel's past and some insight into the intriguing concept of Desadia's inner person. It still makes me chuckle when demons hurl such PG-13 profanities as "I do know about your God... I know how much he stinks! I'm saving up my spit for his bath..." but, overall, this is a series that may have been getting its act together.

"An Angel Felled!"

For decades, publishing mogul Sandor has been stepping on fragile egos (resulting in a few suicides along the way) and trampling creative rights to build "The Empire." As far as his editor, Cortman, is concerned, enough is enough. At the opening of Sandor's skyscraper, Cortman grabs hold of the microphone and tells the audience all about his boss' historic career. At the climax, he unveils a present for his boss: a giant tome titled "Publish and Perish" which falls onto Sandor and flattens him like a pancake. At least I think it does. You can't really tell from the badly-drawn final panel (below) if there's a giant hand attached to the book or if that's the curtain. What egomaniacal boss is going to let one of his employees go on at length about what a rotten guy he is (and insinuating he's a murderer as well)? This is one of those stories written by an edgy funny boo writer who wanted to show there warn't no strings on him. Of course, Gerry Conway was working under a work-for-hire contract at the time and he may have been subtly jabbing the prez of Marvel. At any rate, it's not a very good story.

I'm going to skip the usual rote synopsis for "This is the Valiant One, Signing Out!" and just get down to the nitty-gritty. In his editorial for the final issue of Monsters Unleashed, Don McGregor relates how "Valiant" finally ended up in these pages after a long, strange trip. Rejected in March 1971 at Warren (Don doesn't name names but it would have been Archie Goodwin who did the rejecting) because, Don claims, of the "National Guard element of the story." But then, happily, Don found himself editor of MU and deemed the story worthy for public consumption, if he do say so hisself. If "The Empire" smacks of pretension, "Valiant One" (with its split-screen gimmickry telling two parallel stories that somehow are linked but you coulda fooled me) oozes it from every badly-drawn panel and self-important line of dialogue. I know why this was rejected by Warren, a company that published some really good work by McGregor: because it was a bad story. Rather than wasting your time on this tripe, seek out the classic "The Destructive Image" (from Creepy #57) or "Not a Creature Was Stirring" (from Creepy #59) for proof that McGregor was a very good horror writer when he wanted to be. McGregor foisting "Valiant One" on his readers is like the grocer selling that month-old bread that's gone moldy and stale. And that's as good a segue as any I've ever come up with to a wrap-up of Marvel's first black and white monster magazine. I know the talent was there but, aside from the rare highlight (remember Ralph Reese's "The Roaches" way back in #2?), this was one issue of forgettable pap after another. Good riddance. -Peter Enfantino

The Giant Gila Monster as directed by Stanley Kubrick?

Planet of the Apes 7
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Beneath the Planet of the Apes"
Chapters One and Two
Story Adaptation by Doug Moench
Art by Alfredo Alcala

Our original story of Terror is put on hold for Parts 1 and 2 of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and how do we feel about this? Well, I miss my Jason and Alexander, but I can deal. Skipping past the rambling McGregor editorial, we start with a Lucius "voiceover" that's not in the movie, and a cool splash page that's much better than the Statue of Liberty reveal from last ish. Immediately, we know Alcala's art will be an upgrade. Except for the beard and long hair on Taylor that didn't exist in the movie, or the end of the first film adaptation. The Forbidden Zone looks drippy and ominous, which is cool. And the apes look more simian than Tuska. And some great angles that help tell the story quite nicely. Alcala is a great choice to continue the Apes saga.

Part One takes us through bearded Taylor and Nova's excursion and Taylor's vanishing into the "ice", to Brent's crash landing, following Taylor into the year 3955 through a "Hasslein Curve," Brent meeting Nova and discovering Taylor's dog tag, to the rabble-rousing of General Ursus (James Gregory! Inspector Luger!), finishing with Brent and Nova maybe being discovered.

Then we get an interview with Marvin Paige, the POTA TV series casting director, that has nice picture captions but not much else. This is followed by a thankfully short article on actress Natalie Trundy, who played both human and ape in the saga. Next up, a review of the book Man the Fugitive that's more personal and less detailed than the faculty's commentaries.

After we wake up from our reading-induced nap, we're treated to Part Two of Beneath, which includes a silly simian schvitz, Brent meeting an almost chocolate-icing making Zira and pipe-smoking Cornelius, and Zira covering for Brent when Zaius shows up unannounced, and a great discussion between the three apes, to the apes capturing Brent and Z and C trying to take them for scientific research but "target practice" is more essential, to Zira undoing the lock so Brent can get out of the caged wagon to escape, to a blatant Teddy Roosevelt shout-out, to Brent and Nova ending up in a cave that used to be the Queensborough Plaza subway station. Good stuff overall, with very good art and decent script, but an overly melodramatic beginning of Part One. –Joe Tura

The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 5
Cover Art by Boris Vallejo

“A Witch Shall Be Born”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and The Tribe

“Caravans and Kingdoms”
Text by Robert L. Yaple
“The Kline Conan”
Art by Robert Kline
“Swords and Scrolls”

Unless I’ve missed something, “A Witch Shall Be Born” is the longest single-issue story that Marvel has published to date. At a whopping 55 pages, it adapts the Robert E. Howard novella first published by Weird Tales in December 1934. The story includes one of the most famous scenes in Hyborian history, the Cimmerian’s crucifixion, so memorably reenacted by The Great John Meelius and Ahnuld in 1982’s big screen Conan the Barbarian. I’ll try to be as brief as possible but no promises.

The benevolent and beloved Queen Taramis of Khauran is awakened by her evil twin Salome, thought long dead, abandoned at birth since she bore the crescent-shaped mark of the witch on her left breast. Soon, the villainous Constantius, nicknamed The Falcon and leader of the Shemite army that camps outside the walls of Khauran, also enters the royal bedchamber. Salome tells the mercenary to do what he wishes with her identical sister and toss her in the dungeon when done. The next day, Salome, pretending to be Queen Taramis, orders the Khauranian troops to lay down their arms and open the gates to the Shemites outside. Conan, Captain of the Guards, strides forward, stares down the woman and realizes that an imposter is at work. But Constantius and the invading Shemite army swarm the courtyard, overcome the Guards and capture Conan: the Cimmerian is crucified in the desert a mile away. Near death, and after killing a vulture with only his teeth, Conan is finally freed by the nefarious Olgerd Vladislav, Chief of the Desert Outlaws. Back in Khauran, the pretender Salome and Constantius launch a reign of terror, murdering, raping, and robbing the citizens — but quietly a rebellion brews, led by a young soldier named Marcios, who knows that the queen is a fraud. Meanwhile, Olgerd Vladislav’s legion of nomadic bandits has swelled, lured by the legendary might of Conan, who is now the rich Desert Chief’s lieutenant. Realizing that most of Vladislav’s army now follows his leadership, Conan banishes the humiliated chief from the camp. Joined by a force of refugee Khauranian soldiers, Conan and the nomads march on the city, nonfunctional decoy siege machines in tow. Instead of riding out the siege behind the safety of Khauran’s imposing walls, Constantius decides to charge before the fake machines are dragged into place: in the open, the Shemites are routed by Conan’s well-planned attack. Constantius and the bloody survivors retreat to Khauran. Using his knowledge of the hidden passages beneath the city, Conan and a handful of men make their way to the dungeon and free the real Queen Taramis. Salome appears at the same time and fires blue electricity from her fingers, killing all except the Cimmerian, who is temporarily blinded. Salome drags Taramis to her temple for a final sacrifice to the dark gods — but Marcios leaps from the shadows and drives his sword through the cursed mark on the witch’s breast. Conan arrives and they take Taramis to the courtyard where the Khauranian people have revolted against the remaining Shemites. But with her last breath, Salome summons a terrible and towering beast, an unholy mix of unspeakable creatures. The barbarian’s broadsword proves useless but the relentless arrows of the arriving Khauranian rebels bring down the monstrosity. Conan suggests that Queen Taramis name Marcios her new Captain of the Guards and rides off with his victorious army — but not before crucifying Constantius.

Sorry that took so long, but heck, we’re talking 55 gosh darn pages! And all a treat. As Savage Tales started out as the king of Marvel magazines, Savage Sword now confidently wears the crown. Of course, Conan and Roy Thomas are shared between them. Now this might be the single dumbest thing I have ever said, but perhaps no one, not even Robert E. Howard himself, carried the torch for Conan more than Mr. Thomas. The Rascally One was not only amazingly prodigious with his Hyborian output, he was an undisputed master of the form. And there’s no better example than the extra-large “A Witch Shall Be Born.” I have the text of the original: while Roy remains admirably faithful, he also manages to expand the story in many ways. Along with his partner-in-crime John Buscema, Thomas always adds a sense of cinema to Howard’s writings — as he does with material from those many faux Conan authors. And speaking of torchbearers, Big John is probably #3 on the list, after however you place Roy and Howard. His pencils are well enhanced by The Tribe, a collective of the fabulous Filipino artists employed at the time. Love those guys. You can see the effort put into every panel. Tony DeZuniga is easy to spot. The creature at the end is somehow horrific and hokey at the same time. Not that Roy and John had much to go on since Howard doesn’t clearly describe it in his novella. Robert E preferred to write quick glimpses of terror, a curved claw here, a tendril tip there, leaving the rest up to the reader’s imagination. But there was a clear sense that Salome’s monster was a mix of odd parts. However, not sure that Howard intended something that resembles a mash-up of a scorpion, praying mantis, crab, chicken, ape, bear, and anything else I can type. I will admit though, I would be heading for zee hills toots sweet if I saw that thing shambling my way. 

We also have “Caravans and Kingdoms,” a three-page article by Robert L. Yaple, who contributed another well done piece for Giant-Size Conan the Barbarian #1. This one is about Hyborian trade routes. “The Kline Conan” offers three Robert Kline illustrations from Howard stories, one a double-page spread. No, not the comedian. A significant comedown from the Richard Corben stuff showcased in last issue. On the “Swords and Scrolls” letters page, there is the “first-time-ever photo” of Red Sonja, taken at the costume ball during the 1974 San Diego Comic Art Convention (see above left), the forerunner of ComicCon. She’s done up Barry Smith style. The first recorded instance of, urk, gasp, cosplay? Plus, there’s a neat cover photo of the Japanese edition of a Conan anthology that includes “A Witch Shall Be Born.” Magnifico! -Tom Flynn

Vampire Tales 10
Cover by Richard Hescox

"A Taste of Crimson Life
First Phase: Fast of Blood"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

"A House of Pleasure, The House of Death"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Vosburg and Howard Nostrand

"Second Phase: Temptation"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Virgilio Redondo and Alfredo Alcala

"Third Phase: Feast of Blood"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

Seeking the solitude he needs in order to perfect a serum that will cure his vampirism, Morbius takes a room in a small Pennsylvania town. As is the norm with the Living Vampire, he's actually walking into a powder keg. The town miners have been trying to get Alicia Twain (the woman Michael is renting a room from) to sell her place as, deep below the structure there lies a huge copper mine. The kid gloves come off after many months of negotiations stall and the woman is murdered by the head miner. Furious, and thirsty after three bloodless days, Michael Morbius lets his Dirty Harry flag fly high and he massacres the whole lot of them. Well, it's Doug Moench so you pays yer six bits and takes yer chances, but I have to say it's not among the worst B&W stories I've read (and most of that Top Ten responsibility is held by Doug). "A Taste of Crimson Life" has a very familiar flavor to it (think Charles Bronson) but it flies out of the gate and keeps chugging. Sonny Trinidad's art is creepily effective, especially that panel of Alicia about to take a pick axe in the noggin. But, golly gee, did Doug ever meet an adjective he didn't caress sumptuously? His openings are becoming a bit too rote ("The sky, a vast gray canvas of troubled cloud... The rain, a cleansing wash from the heavens...") in their description of everything we're already being shown and Doug has become obsessed with the "F" word (filth) a bit much lately. Who told editor Marv Wolfman it would be a great idea if the story were chopped into three sections and spread across the issue? And who had the job of finding perfect spots to slice the story in thirds (because the cuts come mid-scene!)?

"A Taste of Crimson Life"

Searching for his father, Zarathon travels to "A House of Pleasure, The House of Death," a bordello stocked high with a bevy of female vampires, all ready to administer any pleasure you seek. Zarathon finds his pop (who turns out to be the local King) but the old man is killed in the resulting altercation and Zarathon finds himself ruler of the kingdom. A fairly routine melodrama is elevated by nice art work by Vosburg (wasn't sure I'd ever be using nice and Vosburg in the same sentence after some of the bad MV work I've endured lately) and pre-code standout Howard Nostrand. The climax, where the new king drops in to demand some time with a busty bar maiden, is a riot.

Unlike Michael Morbius, Sweeney is a vampire who digs being a member of the undead. He loves the power, the fear he instills and, perhaps most of all, the prestige that comes with being a supernatural being. One night, Sweeney picks the wrong prey, attacking and draining a blind man in full view of a crowd. Suddenly, Sweeney's favored existence becomes a nightmare, as the crowd are determined to track down and stake the monster. Back to the wall, the vampire dons a disguise, using the dark glasses and cane of the dead blind man to escape from his apartment. Unfortunately for Sweeney, the dark glasses hide the fact that the dawn has risen and he's quickly reduced to ash. Yeah, it's a pretty hokey ending (how could a vampire not sense that the dawn is approaching?) and I'd have to question how Sweeney managed to nab the glasses and cane when he left the scene of the crime as a bat. Maybe anything a vampire carries disappears when he transforms and reappears on the other end? That doesn't make sense though. Oh, who cares? "Blindspot" is a fun little tale and Redondo's art is cool in spots (there are, unfortunately, no traces of Alcala in there but the combo has a very Martin Salvador look to them). All in all, one of the better issues of VT. -Peter Enfantino


Vampires are notoriously absent-minded


  1. In the single comment for March 1975 Part Two post, medellin 7 marveled at all the awesome Gil Kane covers. It was impossible to disagree, they were all great. But then I thought, heck why hasn’t anyone mentioned his amazing body of cover art before? Kane has been drawing the majority of covers for quite some time now. And man, could Gil draw the hell out of a Marvel Comics cover. He was probably part of the reason we bought them in the first place. So bravo to you medellin 7. Now, I’ll make a similar comment about the entire month of April 1975: look at all that awesome John Buscema art. By my risky count, Big John drew 127 pages this month. Yes, 73 of them were Conan, but he also took on such offbeat series as The Man-Thing and Master of Kung Fu, not to mention his old standby Thor. Not only a consummate pro but an unbelievably talented and prodigious one. To me the Marvel Mount Rushmore is Lee, Kirby, Thomas and John F-ing Buscema. All hail! One more thing, look at all those awesome Gil Kane covers.

  2. For both writing & art, Starlin's Warlock outshines everything else in this batch. I didn't get it when it upon initial publication, having to wait until it was reprinted in an issue of Fantasy Masterpieces (also featuring a Silver Surfer reprint) a few years later. Fortunately, that was the only part of the Magus saga I missed. BTW, I'm pretty sure that aside from Dracula, Starlin must have also drawn some inspiration from Moorcock's Elric (of whom I only became aware of several years later).
    Otherwise, my other fave of this month is Gerber & J. Buscema's Man-Thing. Yeah, it was some whacked out Gerber satire on the culture wars in the guise of a nihilistic Ziggy Stardust stand-in vs. Rush Limbaugh on steroids in a viking get-up (and I know this was about 20 years before Limbaugh became nationally famous; I've no idea if Gerber based the Mad Viking on any person in particular). Of course, old Olaf was bizarre -- an incredibly powerful long-haired old man who hates hippies and is out to destroy anyone he thinks is undermining old-fashioned values of manliness he holds dear. Another mag I missed at the time, only obtaining this (and the next two issues) in the '90s. Oh, and Buscema did some really outstanding art in this issue -- it just somehow strikes me that he had fun with this crazy mix of humor and drama. He and Gerber didn't work together that often, but they did produce some real gems in my estimation, the best being Howard the Duck #3 ("Master of Quack Fu").

  3. It is hard to understand how Buscema did this. And not just once but month for month. An outstanding talent.

    I never realized that Gil Kane did so many covers for Marvel. Never was a big fan of his artwork, but his variety of work on the covers, back when covers reflected the content, is astounding. The amount of work done for a monthly comic selling for 25 cents which even its makers considered as disposable entertainment.

    This must be one of the most iconic SSOC cover of the whole run. A marvelous adaption of an okay novella. Considerung Thomas was such a fan of the super hero it seems a bit strange that he developed such an affinity to Howard. So many writers later did Conan for Marvel or wrote those novelisations, and most got it wrong. He did not. At the height of Conan's popularity peoples perception of the character was the movies and the Thomas/Buscema version and seldom the Howard original.

  4. Roy spent a decade on Conan the Barbarian, writing well over 100 issues. At least at Marvel as of the end of that run in 1980, I think only Lee & Kirby had spent over a 100 issues on any title -- both for the FF and Lee again for Amazing Spider-Man. I know since then several artists or writers have made similarly long runs, although I'm not aware of anyone else matching Dave Sim's 300 issues of writing & drawing Cerebus. Thomas also wrote several superhero comics during his run on Conan, but while he'd give up the FF, the Invaders, and Thor, among others, he stuck with Conan, until apparently he had one too many clashes with Shooter and departed Marvel altogether, almost as much of a shocker as Kirby's departure a decade earlier. At the time, after Stan Lee, Roy Thomas was the writer who seemed most associated with Marvel. Now I suppose his legacy is his long runs on Conan and the Avengers, and his enthusiasm for and revival of Golden Age characters at both Marvel and DC.