Wednesday, December 3, 2014

March 1975 Part Two: Professor Joe enjoys Ka-Zar! Say It Ain't So, Joe!

The Incredible Hulk 185
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Ray Holloway
Cover by Herb Trimpe

After being shot with a tranquilizer gun, Bruce Banner finds himself imprisoned at the Hulkbuster base. Angry about his current predicament, Banner won't talk to anybody, including Betty Ross. Everyone is getting ready for the arrival of the President of the United States to inspect the base. As General Ross and Major Talbot give the President a tour, Colonel Armbruster finds the remains of the scientist who was conducting a background test on Talbot. Armbruster is able to go back into the computer system to see the scientist's results. He learns that Talbot had a bomb implanted in his chest when he was held captive by the Russians. Racing back to where Ross and Talbot are guiding the President, Armbruster is able to tackle Talbot to the side, and he and the Major explode. Seeing her husband blown to smithereens is too much for Betty. She has an hysterical breakdown, causing Banner to turn into the Hulk. Escaping his cell, the Hulk tears up the base. General Ross dons a new, gigantic, body armor suit, designed to defeat the Hulk. The two old enemies battle it out for some time, as Ross is able to use various weaponry implanted in the armor. The story ends with Ross knocking the Hulk out, using a Gamma ray blast. -Tom McMillion

Matthew Bradley: I was gearing up to give this something between “feh” and “meh”—call it “jeh”—but by the end I knew I had to nitpick this cliché-fest to death. I love how the balloon reading “that smell—like something burning” is an inch from Armbruster’s smoking pipe. Why carefully conceal Ford’s face, but only until page 14, when contemporary readers would know who the new Prexy was? Ross’s “ultimate proof” that Hulkbuster Base was worth it is…Bruce sitting in chains. Gee, he’ll never escape that. Talbot’s dead! No he’s not! Yes he is! (Spoiler: No he’s not!) “I’ve waited…to face you man-to-man with nothing else between us,” except maybe a ten-ton robot. “I don’t need arms to finish you, monster!” Thank you, o Black Knight.

Scott McIntyre: Alas, Col. Armbruster, we hardly knew ye. A decent character, sadly underused, but going out like the hero he was. This was chugging along quite well for most of the trip; Armbruster finding the technician’s body, the bomb killing him and Talbot, Banner’s capture and subsequent Hulk-out escape was all very taut and exciting. Then, suddenly, General Ross gets into a giant robot. Seeing his chubby face peering through the face window is pretty hysterical. Speaking of hysterical, Betty (uglier than ever) once again cracks. This chick is too much.

Peter Enfantino: On the Green Skin's Grab-Bag letters page, Kim Thompson waxes poetic about the different eras of The Incredible Hulk. Only a few years later, as one of Gary Groth's henchmen at The Comics Journal, Kim doubtless frowned upon his youthful indiscretions as he ripped Marvel a new one every chance he got.

The Invincible Iron Man 73
"Turnabout: A Most Foul Play!"
Story by Tom Orzechowski and Mike Friedrich
Art by Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, and Jim Mooney
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

In Manila, Tony tells the Hogans of a name change to Stark International and his exploits in Detroit and (in GS Man-Thing #2) New York, prevents a boiler explosion, and heads to Viet Nam, where Kuon Set’s niece, Shara, pleads for the life of her beloved, Marty. Revealed to be behind the experimental city, the Crimson Dynamo learns of Roxie’s capture and leaves his comrades, the Titanium and Radioactive Men, to seek revenge on Iron Man, ordering her freed after a fake struggle to lure Tony there. Iron Man follows her tracer signal and Niven unleashes Dragonfire, weapons based on S.I. designs; as Shara frees Marty, IM saves the people of the city, heedlessly set afire by the Dynamo, and the fleeing Kuon Set perishes in a Viet Cong booby trap. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: According to Steve Englehart’s website, “Mike Friedrich was writing this series and wanted to do a huge War of the Supervillains [sic]. Since Mike and I were good friends, and since I’d written some large epics, he asked me to co-plot this run. It was all uncredited, but these are the issues I had a hand in [i.e., #73-75, 77, 80-81]. For some reason, after I co-founded the Malibu Ultraverse, Malibu kept listing Iron Man as one of my major credits, even though I kept telling them I had never actually written the book. (I have written the guy in multiple Avengers runs and killed him [sic] in my first ever superhero story [Amazing Adventures #12], but that doesn’t count!)” Interestingly, the idea for this issue is credited to letterer Orzechowski—a first, I think?

The boundaries of said war remain hazy, as we are promised “round two” next time, raising the question of just what constituted round one, but it’s nice to tie in with the Titanic Three story in Avengers #130, and to have Marty’s long-simmering plotline brought to a boil. Another cluster issue, another indelible impression: I didn’t get the allusion then, but always remember Pepper’s line (and it’s a little outré reading this while midway through Iron Man 3), “Uh, boss—what’s with this Naked Came the Stranger bit...?” Current Iron Fist penciler Jones augments his ferrous credentials, beginning a brief stint here and teamed up again with Pollard—collectively inked by Mooney—as he was when they pitched in to help the deadline-challenged Buckler on Thor #228.

Scott: Wow, for years I’ve been trying to find the issue where Tony gets changed in front of someone who asks about the “Naked Came the Stranger routine.” I remember seeing this as a kid and swore it was on the newsstand. But I wasn’t reading comics in 1975, so I thought it was much later during my spinner rack days. I figured it was said by his “80’s girlfriend” Bethany Cabe. Finally, only because I write for this blog, I’ve found the issue, but I now have no idea when I saw this page. It is otherwise exactly how I remembered it. Arvell Jones and Keith Pollard aren’t the best art team in the world. Actually, it looks more like Jim Mooney’s work, but it’s still more enjoyable than what Tuska was giving us.

Jungle Action 14
The Black Panther in
"There Are Serpents Lurking in Paradise"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Pablo Marcos

T’Challa has tracked Sombre to Serpent Valley, expecting to be led to Killmonger. The Panther attacks, but his opponent gains the upper hand, and has just begun to bite T’Challa’s neck, when he is distracted by a voice from above. T’Challa uses the moment to his advantage, and flips Sombre into a marsh, where he slowly sinks, as T’Challa is unable to reach him. T’Challa locates the source of the voice – it is a curious small man who calls himself Mokadi. Mokadi responds to T’Challa’s questions with questions of his own, but he doesn’t seem elusive – he appears genuinely interested in the Panther’s pursuit of Killmonger. The conversation continues as the two journey deeper into the valley, to find a river choked with oil. From a cliffside above, they see prehistoric creatures who have survived the eons in this quiet remote place; Killmonger’s minions now have ensnared them, as the oil has turned the water to sludge, and restricted the dinosaurs’ movements. Killmonger is alerted to the Panther’s approach, so he releases a tyrannosaur to meet the prince. T’Challa uses a bent tree as a catapult to fire a rock at the huge beast; once the creature is defeated, he turns to find that both Killmonger – and Mokadi – have disappeared; T’Challa reflects on the meaning of the name, and recalls that Mokadi is translated in a local language as “spirit.” The Panther leaves the valley, to locate herbs that can aid his healing. -Chris Blake

Chris: Don gives T’Challa no choice but to fight on, despite the physical toll of his battles. Don describes new wounds drawing blood from the welts of previous injuries, which have not yet had time to scar, as the Panther’s ragged costume is reduced to “a dark cloth sponge” to absorb the blood. The playful Mokadi is an unexpected bit of levity, whose inquisitive nature allows Don an opportunity to bring late-arrival readers up to speed. I was really sure that either the dinosaur, or Killmonger, would put the hurt on the little fellow, but as Don suggests at the end, it’s likely he was not the innocent pygmy he appeared to be, but most likely a wood-sprite who might easily escape harm.

In a brief appearance of only a few pages, Don shows us more of Killmonger’s character: he’s a shrewd tactician, as he knows to take time to prepare the resources he will require for his assault on Central Wakanda; he continues to be confident, despite recent setbacks – the arrival of the Panther provokes no clichéd reaction (“What?! How could he possibly have escaped the [insert perilous trap from the Batman TV show here]?!”); and, he’s a petty bully, as he continues to enjoy pushing around the feckless Tayete and Kazibe.

Chris: Don also provides a check-in with the crew holding down the seat of government, as he interrupts the Panther’s battle with the dinosaur just as it’s about to begin (which of course succeeds in creating dramatic tension). Killmonger’s prolonged harassment seems to have strained tensions among some (W’Kabi and his family), while creating an opportunity for other divisions to heal (Monica’s improved understanding of, and sympathy for, W’Kabi). Taku checks in with Horatio (aka Venomm), which tells us that Don has plans for this character before the curtain falls.

No back-up feature, pin-ups, Lorna and her mongoose, or other filler; ye editor credits the reading and letter-writing public for drawing JA to its first full-length story. Two comments to pass on: Peter Gillis observes that T’Challa not only is fighting Killmonger, but he also is battling despair (hmmm . . .); and, Roger from Brooklyn states that “comics and intelligence are not mutually exclusive.” Hear, hear!

You’ve heard enough from me already about Graham’s art, with Marcos ably replacing Janson this time. The depiction of T’Challa as jungle predator (far above) is particularly effective; I also enjoy the way Graham presents T’Challa’s leaps as if he were flying.

Matthew: This being the first JA I ever saw, I didn’t know then that it was notable as the first full-length issue, but I might have been dimly aware even at 11 of how the McGraham team’s style varied from that of its contemporaries. Oddly, despite the extra pages and Don’s customarily prolix script, this still seems brief, perhaps because Mokadi’s intriguing presence contributes to an unusually reflective entry that is somewhat short on, well, action—although what’s there is stunningly presented, as always—with some welcome character stuff for Monica. Janson’s absence turning out to be permanent, Marcos is the second of his serial replacements (also handling the superb Gil Kane cover); Billy will ink himself for two issues starting with #16.

Ka-Zar 8
"Down Into the Volcano!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Marcos Pelayo
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

The missing Zabu is the captive of priest Sandratha and his hunters, but Ka-Zar tracks them to the legendary city of Gondora, "a place of such seething evil, such loathsome decay, that no honest man would ever seek it". Two henchmen attack K-Z, but he dispatches them and enters the city in disguise to find Zabu offered to the high priest Ghor-Ha-Klan as sacrifice. Zabu breaks free, but before K-Z can help his friend, he's stopped by old Tul, who takes K-Z to his home and tells of GHK taking over the city with a mystic wand 20 years ago and turning it evil. Four men burst in, seeking to take Tul's wife and daughters, but K-Z takes care of them and leaves, but not before Tul's wife Kamil propositions him. Creeping inside the temple, K-Z is captured and brought to the high priest, who's actually Montgomery Ford, a former scientist who stole the world's "first functional lasar" and used it to rule the Savage Land. But before they can toss K-Z into the lava pit, he angrily breaks free—as does Zabu—and knocks Ford into the bubbling pool. But the "lasar" wand goes off, setting off the ancient volcano! Gondora is destroyed in the eruption, which also kills Kamil, and Ka-Zar walks off pensively. – Joe Tura

Joe Tura: It's hard to dislike a comic that starts off with the order "Pull, you scabrous scum! Pull!" But it's very reminiscent of a Conan issue overall, in both tone and art, all shadows and moody colors and sneaking around and high priests and all that stuff. Alcala is back on inks to add the otherworldly feeling to Big John's solid pencils, matching with Gerry's Roy-esque script for an enjoyable little romp, which is not easy to say about a Ka-Zar book. The Jungle Lord does have some snazzy lines and sage advice for the bad guys here, the best being: "Never wear loose clothing, fool. It gives an enemy something to grab." The high priest is dispatched a little too quickly, but he turns out to be such a schlub that no one in their right mind can truly complain. P.S.: A Red Sonja Marvel Value Stamp? Grrroowwwwlll…..

Chris: So is Gerry telling us that the legend of Sodom and Gomorrah originates in the Savage Land? Well no, I guess not, since Ka-Zar’s stories take place in our present day, right? So, what is Gerry telling us – that the same sort of decadence and corruption that consumed those ancient Biblical towns continues on to today? Maybe so. 
Here are some of the things Gerry’s not telling: the fate that befell Tul’s first wife (the implication is that she died following the arrival of the conquering priest); Kamil’s inspiration to betray Tul and ask Ka-Zar to take her away from all this (K-Z is wise to cast the hussy aside, isn’t he); but more importantly, are we really supposed to believe that a single misdirected blast from a hand-held laser could serve to ignite a volcanic eruption? The third question is the only one that interferes with my enjoyment of the issue; if there had been an opportunity for re-writing, I also would’ve requested a less-immediate dispatch of Montgomery Ward – sorry, I meant Montgomery Ford. My mistake. Otherwise, the tale of the rise and fall of evil Gondora has its moments, ably complemented by stellar art from John & Alfredo; highlights large and small abound, and it will take less time if I only list the more impressive pages: 2, 3, 8, 15-17, 26, 32.

Master of Kung Fu 26
"Daughter of Darkness!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Keith Pollard and Sal Trapani
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Charlotte Jetter, Artie Simek, and Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Sir Denis learns from archaeologist Robert Greville that the daughter of Fu Manchu, Fah Lo Suee, has appeared in Egypt. Fah Lo Suee had left Greville with an emerald ring, which he believes is empowered to guide him to the long-sought golden beetle of pharaoh Seth-Amon. As Sir Denis tries to dissuade Greville from involving himself with this woman, due to her hellish hypnotic powers, Shang-Chi enters and declares that his father is present, in the room with them. Fu does, in fact, rise from a nearby table, as his Si-Fan assassins crash through a plate-glass window. After S-C has dispatched the assailants (and Fu has made his escape), Greville angrily leaves the room, insisting that the “good fortune” he feels tingling in the emerald will bring him success; Sir Denis resignedly commits to staying close to his deluded friend, so that he might protect him from Fah Lo Suee’s “madness.” S-C reflects on his one previous meeting with his half-sister, at which time he did not understand her warning about Fu’s evil. Sir Denis concludes that Fah seeks the beetle for herself, so that she might employ the legendary hypnotic power of the beetle’s ruby eyes (which far exceeds her own ability) to bend Fu to her will. Fah and Greville reach the pharaoh’s tomb, but as Fah reaches the beetle, she is shocked to find its ruby eyes removed. S-C and Sir Denis arrive moments later, and Fah proceeds to attempt to bend all three men (including her half-brother) to her will, so that they might locate the rubies for her. Another crew of Si-Fan attack within the tomb; S-C plunges into the fray, aware on some level that he is obeying Fah’s directive. The battle causes the sarcophagus of Seth-Amon to topple and shatter on the floor; covering the eyes of the mummified corpse of the pharaoh, Fah spots the beetle’s rubies, and quickly gathers them up. S-C spots a metal canister, out of place in the ancient tomb, and concludes it must be a bomb placed by Fu. He quickly carries Sir Denis away, and the two clear the pyramid moments before Fu remotely detonates the explosive. Sir Denis and S-C then discover Greville, dying on the desert floor, his lips coated with poison lipstick. -Chris Blake

Chris: It’s another hectic issue of MoKF – in a good way – as Doug and Keith (this time – we haven’t had the same art team on consecutive issues since issue #19-20) give us the setup, action (with a Fu-sighting!), a little more exposition, single-combat action, a reversal (as the rubies are missing), hypnosis, crazy in-tomb fighting (featuring thoughtless destruction of priceless antiquities), and finally a narrow escape, explosion, and another victim of the fruitless campaign to vanquish the mad evil of Fu Manchu.

There are only two moments in the story that don’t work: Greville speaks with near-fanaticism about the importance of the discovery of Seth-Amon’s tomb, but when he leads Fah there, and tells her where to find the beetle, he admits that he hasn’t “had time to fully examine this chamber” – well, if the beetle is so gol-darned important, wouldn’t you have spent all day and night there, and turned over every item in the tomb until you laid eyes on it yourself? It would have made more sense, dramatically, for Greville and Fah to discover, and enter, the tomb at the same time. It also doesn’t follow that Fu would’ve waited to active the bomb, if his purpose was to destroy his errant offspring while both were within the pyramid. The bomb could easily have been on a timer, instead of remotely-activated. 
Doug seems to prefer to limit Shang-Chi’s adventures to one- or two-part stories, which is fine. I agree that this story probably works best as a one-shot, although I would’ve liked some interplay between S-C and his half-sister, whom he had not seen in close to a decade. Since they both are opposed to their father, it would’ve been interesting for S-C to discuss with Fah her decision to employ evil to fight against Fu’s evil, when she could’ve chosen a different path.

Keith Pollard makes his first of several contributions to this title. He follows the example set by previous pencillers, as he employs small panels at times to speed up the action (most notably on p 17, reprinted above), and also brings some touches of his own, such as the “blur” effect as S-C ably recovers from a rare misstep (p 10, pal 4, below). I particularly like p 27 (last panel, far below), as S-C launches into two Si-Fan, with another brawny-looking fellow looming in the foreground. Trapani’s inks are okay, but don’t work quite as well as I had expected, as some of the faces are left with the sort of wan look that I associate with Mooney.

Mark Barsotti: "...her eyes...the purest jade green and piercingly hypnotic...deep within her unwavering stare I glimpsed everything which is at once depraved and irresistible...every dark sin and bright lust capable of man."

Doug Moench, describing Fu's daughter, unspools these pulp perfect lines on the title page. And it's all down hill from there, the belly flop largely the product of ghastly, sub-Charlton "art," hen-scratched by Keith Pollard and Sal Trapani. Gulacy would have given life to Moench's vision of Fah Lo Suee; P&T make mock of it. The plot's fine: FLS bewitching the son of a Sir Denis chum to unearth jade beetle-eyes from an Egyptian tomb, possession of which would up-power her enough to kill (shocker!) Father of the Year Fu. Nonsense like excavating a pyramid-site overnight would have faded to back-channel static behind Paul's pencils. Pollard & Trappani amplify it.

The Man-Thing 15
"A Candle for Sainte-Cloud"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Tony DeZuniga, Alfredo Alcala, and Rico Rival
Colors by Glynis Oliver
Letters by Marcos Pelayo
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Struggling poet Sainte-Cloud never really got over her brief dalliance with Ted Sallis back in the Summer of Love. He was a fledgling brilliant scientist and she was a protest-happy hippie. The relationship was doomed from the start. Years later, Sainte-Cloud wanders into a candle shop and falls in love with the waxen image of The Man-Thing, the most recent incarnation of her former flame. She takes the candle home and sets off a series of hallucinogenic events, the manipulation of a jealous suitor.-Peter Enfantino

Scott: While it’s good to see Ted Sallis for extended periods of time, since he’s a pretty blank slate, the art of Rico Rival leaves a lot to be desired. Cloud looks like a 12 year old in a mini skirt, jutting her ass out whenever it suits Rival. It’s kind of creepy, actually. The blind guy looks a lot like Matt Murdock or Scott Summers; the standard dude in shades. What was this story about again?

And co-starring Shelley Winters
Chris: Okay, I’ll hand it to Steve – he’s one of, well, probably the only comics writer who would dare to script an issue that would feature the title character appearing solely as an hallucination. Is that how we’re supposed to view Man-Thing in the story, or is there something more? I’ll freely admit that it’s not entirely clear to me what Steve’s trying to tell us with this story – is it that the hallucinogen unlocks Cloud’s understanding of Ted’s true ambition? In other words, Cloud could be correct in judging Ted as someone who would never leave his research, regardless of the possible harm it might cause (and which, ultimately, it does cause to Ted himself).

Why does the Man-Thing apparition shamble after Cloud – are we supposed to understand that Ted felt clumsy, or found himself unable to articulate his feelings; so that, Cloud was right in feeling uneasy around him? Ultimately, this could mean that the form Ted adopts when the swamp transforms him is a natural outgrowth of Ted himself – Ted is drawn to others, he understands and is interested in their feelings on some level, but is unable to speak meaningfully on the subject, and is deeply troubled by intense emotion? This makes his fate to continue to “live” as Man-Thing even more of a curse for Ted, since it reduces his existence to only the most difficult aspects of his interactions with others. Thankfully, Steve doesn’t spell any of this out, as instead he inspires us to take the time to figure it out for ourselves.

And co-starring Aileen Quinn

Rival is a curious choice here; he only provided art for a handful of Marvel titles, and the only other work of his in my collection is Dead of Night #11 (featuring Marvel’s Scarecrow character), which overall is much more effective. The look of Cloud herself is a problem, as she tends to look like a china doll, or a young Ethel Merman, but never as a flower child. The panels featuring Manny lead me to suspect that Theodore Geisel happened to have dropped by the bullpen one day. On the plus side, I like the atmosphere with the candlelight on p 10, and the gritty Village street on p 11, and mostly everything about p 32, particularly Manny’s spooky face (as Rico finally gets it right) in panel 3.

Matthew: Trust Steve to dream up an installment in which the title character is, strictly speaking, not involved, although it does open a nice window onto Ted’s past, making me wonder how much of that Gerber planned in advance and how much he made up as he went along. Boy, if Alcala’s work made me feel like I was looking at a ’50s reprint, how much more true is that of this one-off by another Filipino artist, Rico Rival, making his only appearance in my collection. His Manny is frankly lousy, but obviously it’s Sainte-Cloud—whose name is, incredibly, both misspelled and improperly punctuated on the cover—who is the focus; I couldn’t stop fixating on her “mod” miniskirt, which resembles a pair of pants that Felix used to wear on The Odd Couple.
Peter: Jack Seabrook and I have been discussing Rico Rival's artwork over at the bare bones website. Rival popped up now and then, along with many other Filipino artists, in the DC mystery line. His work is much more suited to those strips rather than Man-Thing (though he had his problems at times with murderous husbands and lecherous hangmen as well) but, for me, it's the script that sinks this one. A rare misfire for Gerber and Manny.

Marvel Premiere 21
Iron Fist in
“Daughters of the Death-Goddess”
Story by Tony Isabella
Art by Arvell Jones and Vince Colletta
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

After battling Batroc, Iron Fist returns to Professor Wing’s brownstone to find the academic and his daughter Colleen missing, along with the dead bodies of seven Kara-Kai cultists. A black woman named Misty Knight bursts into the apartment and demands to know what Rand did to her friends: they match martial arts skills until a well-delivered neck pinch stops Misty in her tracks. Then, the ghost of the Ninja appears and leads Iron Fist down into the subway and to the hidden Temple of Kali, the cult’s headquarters, where Wing and his daughter are chained to a huge cast-iron statue of the Death Goddess. Some Kara-Kai assassins attack but are quickly commanded to put down their weapons by the cult’s leaders, Shaya master of darkness and Ushas master of light, the Living Goddesses. The women reveal that they are now in possession of the Sacred Volume of Kali: when the professor shouts that the book can destroy K’un-Lun, the Goddesses insist they are ignorant of this claim. Iron Fist attacks anyway, determined to protect the lost city, but Shaya thrusts the temple into darkness and batters the martial artist with her glowing nunchakus. When one blow knocks the hero against the statue of Kali, he uses his crackling Iron Fists to free Wing and his daughter. Colleen joins the battle and the cultists are near defeat until one puts a knife to the professor’s neck: however Wing transforms into the Ninja and begins to slaughter the cult members. But when one victim drops the Sacred Volume into a brazier, the Ninja screams and the professor separates from his body unconscious. Enraged, the Ninja turns his deadly blade on Iron Fist. -Thomas Flynn

Tom Flynn: Yeesh, not much to recommend here. I wouldn’t say that Arvell’s pencils are poor, but his characters are too stiff and awkward for a series that calls for grace and fluidity. And again, he can’t draw Asians at all. But in fairness, I guess you have to figure in the Colletta factor. MU’s favorite whipping boy doesn’t disappoint, delivering a story that seems to strives for deadly seriousness but remains seriously boring. It introduces Misty Knight at least. By the way, why would Shaya employ glowing nunchakus? Iron Fist can easily see them in the darkness. Not that it matters, she gives him a pretty good beating as if he can’t. At the end, the Ninja reveals his mysterious and confusing secret: while he has been trying to gain control of the Sacred Volume of Kali to uncover the secrets behind destroying K’un-Lun, beings called the Dragon-Lords actually imprisoned him inside the book because he was the one person to misuse it. A cosmic joke or something. Methinks the joke is on us. Hope you are not on the edge of your seat to see how this mess wraps up: Marvel Premiere #22 doesn’t poop out until June.

Chris: I don’t know what kind of diet or workout regimen Danny was required to follow during his decade-long instruction at K’un-Lun, but clearly it allows him to keep on the go. Who killed the seven cultists at Prof Wing’s apartment? If we’re to assume that the professor, in full possession by the Ninja, dispatched the assassins, then how would Colleen not have noticed the transformation? Speaking of which, Colleen’s needless declaration – “My father! He’s the Ninja!” – is almost too funny for words. Far more laughable is the idea that two chains are being used to secure a thirty-ton statue of Kali – maybe next time, the cultists will check with the zoning board and make sure their midtown underground temple is up to code.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this issue overall is much better than the previous one – for starters, Batroc is gone (literally flying out the door) before the end of page 2. We learn of a new ability of the Ninja’s, namely some sort of astral projection. The Living Goddesses are an interesting pair – I don’t remember whether Claremont followed-up on their promise and brought them back in the pages of Iron Fist, but I sorta doubt it. Jones’ art is better than last time out, but Colletta’s inks are at their scratchiest, so it’s hard to know what might have been. Page 14 is particularly good, as is the battle in the dark (p 17 and 22), with Stan G.’s choice of dark blue hues contributing to the low-light effect.

Matthew: This month marked my first exposure to Iron Fist, here and in Marvel Team-Up, and that may be no coincidence: I would normally never see a martial-arts book, but perhaps guest-starring with Spidey gave him a kind of legitimacy. Back then I had no more idea than Danny did that in Misty Knight (who made her retconned debut—don’t ask—in MTU #1), he was meeting the love of his life, something else for which we must give Tony credit in his solid sophomore outing, marred only by inconsistent coloring on IF’s costume. Strangled by the straitjacket of Vinnie’s inks, Arvell’s pencils are inoffensive yet allowed to display little if any discernible style; note the shout-out to Arv’s sometime partner, Keith Pollard, in page 3, panel 1.

Marvel Team-Up 31
Spider-Man and Iron Fist in
"For a Few Fists More"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Jim Mooney and Vince Colletta
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Seeing Iron Fist thrash a mugger in a diner, Peter follows seeking news, but Drom propels him into IF, causing another fight from which to draw energy. Spidey subdues IF with his webbing and they have a heart-to-heart in the playground of a Battery Park City construction site, where Drom creates a creature from the sandbox that stuns IF. The Backwards Man zaps and kidnaps Spidey, explaining—via translator—that he became elderly moments after birth and has been living (and talking) in reverse for 45 years, sustained by stolen energy; having played possum, IF arrives to prevent his draining Spidey, who breaks the mirror that maintained his identity, and after Drom regresses out of existence, Peter records his memories while he can... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Damn, I knew the premise of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button sounded familiar, although since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary original apparently predates this issue by about half a century, we’ll have to chalk it up to Conway stealing from the best. Forty years in the opposite direction, I’m quite content to admit that this is a very silly story indeed, one on which Gerry has expended little (if any) energy in the interests of logic or plausibility regarding its mercifully one-shot villain, and with Mooney and Colletta once again partners in crime, the artwork is no more than functional. So while I still stubbornly enjoyed this, I make no bones about calling it a guilty pleasure with almost nothing to recommend it, and less chemistry than I’d wish between its stars.

Scott: The old backward aging chestnut is hauled out for a dusting off. Among many other places, it was used in Spidey’s own magazine back when Silvermane drank the potion derived by instructions from The Tablet back in issues 74 and 75 (July and August 1969). Silvermane's fate was the same as Drom’s, right down to the pile of clothing below the shining little star. In this case, Drom, a middle-aged man, de-ages into a young girl before “shining” away. Boring Jim Mooney art coupled with a lackluster Gerry Conway story add up to not much. This was in a Treasury Edition, if I’m not mistaken. I know I’ve been bored by this story before.

Matthew: Very good, Professor Scott; 'twas in Marvel Treasury Edition #18. In fact, it was the only issue reprinted therein of which I owned an original, so I have this turkey in duplicate. Lucky me.

Joe: Yeah, I'm with my colleagues on this one being fairly mediocre at best. Drom is not a very inspired villain, and the team-up gets most of the starch taken out of it with Peter forgetting everything at the end. Just an OK issue for me, which I definitely owned because I remember the whole backwards talking gimmick, although the potential was there for something much better.

Marvel Two-In-One 8
The Thing and Ghost Rider in
"Silent Night... Deadly Night!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

Christmas Eve ’74: In the Arizona desert, Ghost Rider sees three Wise Men trailing a new star being observed by Reed, whom Ben urges to join Sue’s party. After his spectacularly inappropriate tree is lit, Reed tells Ben the star points to the reservation of Wyatt Wingfoot’s Konohoti (sic) tribe, where GR finds a Biblical city and stable populated by Indians, and is whirled away by a shadowy figure. Ben steers the Pogo Plane toward a “flare”—in reality GR’s head—and they investigate, disguised as Wise Men on borrowed camels; the Miracle Man overcame his captors and created a messiah, making himself “absolute,” but the illusion fades as Ben kayoes him and the Wise Men revert to Cheemuzwa, with the fourth an “immaculate” child. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: “Wise guy” yoks aside, this issue helps to explain why my fond memories of Gerber’s inaugural stint on the book, which is still technically winding down, fade out after the grandeur of #7; something even seems slightly off about the Buscemosito artwork. To his credit, Steve is commendably mindful of where guest-star GR is on his life’s journey, making a Christmas story both impeccably timed and typically offbeat, but I think Reed’s pyrotechnic Tannenbaum goes too far with the character stuff I usually enjoy and cuts into the actual team-up, although at least we’re spared a MARMIS. It’s too soon to bring back the Miracle (har) Man again, if ever, and I’d kvetch more about how loopy his scheme is if he weren’t so clearly out of his Arizona gourd.

The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Home Page [], a fun MTIO site that I have been remiss in not mentioning before, also provides this link to an entertaining and considerably more charitable review:

The Mighty Thor 233
"Midgard Aflame!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Chic Stone
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

Loki returns to Asgard, banishing the Vizier to Earth. He recruits the warriors of Asgard, preparing to invade Thor's adopted home. It seems every other superhero has been imprisoned in a force bubble as Loki wishes it to be a personal battle. From one of many dimension-spanning force cubes, the God of Mischief strikes, entering our world with legions in tow. Thor handles the legions but is forced back by his brother. The army gamely tries to help, to no avail. In a period of respite, Thor meets with American military leader General Sawyer to plan strategy. The Vizier joins them, informing Thor of Odin's disappearance, and more...the All-Father has banished himself to Earth as well, but under a spell of forgetfulness to teach himself humility! -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: I'd say it's about time Odin did this, but as usual his timing is awful. There's a kind of cool tension to the humans having the nerve to battle their more powerful foes, even if Loki's motives are tiresome. His green coloured costume seems to have changed on the otherwise effective cover.

Matthew: This is the only March issue of whose cluster status I am not 100% certain; that cover is so damn familiar, but looking at the inside…well, I just don’t know for sure. I mention this partly to prove that I don’t even need my special rose-colored Nostalgia-Vision glasses to enjoy this one as Nick Fury’s WW II nemesis, “Happy Sam” Sawyer, makes his first modern-day appearance, and even perennial wild card Chic Stone rises to the occasion. For once, Gerry’s story attains the sublime level of Big John’s pencils, word and image perfectly choreographed and culminating in that masterful sequence with the empty Arlington Bridge and Washington aflame across the Potomac (left), a full-pager that hit me as few comic-book images have.

Scott: Chic Stone’s inks lend this a pleasantly retro vibe. So does the surprise, understated appearance of Sgt. Fury’s old boss, General “Happy Sam” Sawyer. It’s actually pretty great to have him involved without a single hint otherwise as to who he is. There is some stalling in the beginning as Thor tries to decide whether or not to choose Jane or the Earth when, frankly, he always put others before her. That was one of their core issues back in the day. We don’t even see her in this issue. I was pretty sure the Vizier was obliterated by Loki, but he obviously had an escape plan in mind. It would have been nice if he mentioned it upon his reappearance. There’s also a solid reason why other heroes don’t show up to help when NY is threatened, but it’s still a little convenient. Good art for the most part, but as much as I like Stone, he seems an ill fit with Sal. This book needs Ernie Chua.

The Tomb of Dracula 30
"Memories on a Mourning's Night!"
Story by Gene Colan
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Dracula is feeling melancholy after the death of his former thrall Shiela Whittier. He sits at home, and writes on events in his life in a diary. One such account takes place in 19th Century Germany when a woman named Lyza Strang uses her charms to coerce Dracula into killing her husband, Archibald. Lyza's husband is attempting to become Minister of Germany, and she warns Dracula that he will invade his home of Romania if successful. The Count kills Archibald, but discovers it was a trap as Lyza leads military troops to ambush him. They kill Drac with a spear, then dump him into the river. Lyza goes to her husband's main rival for the Minister position, and offers herself to him. Spurned because of her untrustworthy actions, Lyza eventually falls victim to Dracula, who was able to recover. A few months ago, before his journal writings, Dracula came across a home where a young blind girl was out front, playing. Caught in a rare moment of uncertainty, Drac has no idea how to react to the little girl's kindness. Inside her home, the blind girl's parents have been squabbling over money issues. The father ends up shooting the mother after she slaps him. Angered at the callousness of the man, Drac beats him to death. Instead of being grateful, the blind girl berates Dracula for killing her father. The final story takes place in China circa 1968. Dracula meets Blade for the first time when the young upstart visits him and offers to help in his quest for world domination, under the condition that Drac will allow him and a group of his friends to live. Following Blade into a cave, Drac is ambushed by Blade and three other men with knives and stakes. They kill Drac and leave him for dead. As the crew searches for a spot to bury the vampire, some of Drac's minions retrieve his body. The story ends with Dracula musing how he was able to kill the three men that had helped Blade attack him. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: You won't hear any complaints from me when it comes to a Dracula anthology issue. Were all three stories great? No. None of them were, but at least they went by quickly and were entertaining. Dracula does come off as a bit out of touch when it comes to recognizing human needs for revenge and their hidden motives. Is it stupidity or arrogance? Tough call. Probably both.

Chris: There really would not be a way to match the intensity of Shiela’s death last issue, so the timing seems right for another anthology issue. It’s an opportunity to delve into the personality of this ever-intriguing character; Drac is wise enough to recognize the need to learn from mistakes, yet he lacks the insight to appreciate how he could trace the cause for Shiela’s suicide directly to his interference in her life (and it’s not like we could expect Drac to admit that he might resort to defense mechanisms, right?). While the vignettes are instructive, if I happened to be wearing the Ye Editor visor, I would’ve shortened the first two encounters, and encouraged Marv to provide more substance to Drac’s first-ever meeting with Blade.

I remember the mood to be chillier last time Marv offered a “Drac’s diary” story; although, I’ll admit that it is more than a little creepy to think that Drac could walk away from a crying blind girl, and leave her alone with her two dead parents, and never give her another thought. A story like this, which highlights Drac’s vicious, uncompromising sense of “justice,” also shows how completely he has strayed from his long-past connection to humanity.

Chris: There is a curious – and clearly unintended – parallel between this incident and a moment in this month’s Defenders, as a character is left speechless by a young girl’s sudden pronouncement of her hatred for him (in the Defenders, the Hulk has not felt compelled to mete out an execution of a parent, but he did unintentionally demolish the girl’s house, so I guess it’s hard to be too disappointed with the girl’s sudden reaction).

Scott: An interesting diversion, one I enjoyed very much, especially the first meeting between Dracula and Blade. The story of the young girl was oddly touching. It’s little side trips and details like these that add flesh to the bleached bones of the ancient vampire and make him a thoroughly interesting character.

Mark: After visiting Shiela's grave, mournful Drac flaps home to put quill to paper for Vampire Diaries #2: Blood Bank Boogaloo. Obscure pop cult reference brought to you by sequelitis (Marv used this plot device in TOD #15), a malady in full effect as the trio of batty tales have plot holes you can drive a hearse through. The Count gets revenge on a Prussian femme fatale (circa 1862), but how'd he survive being staked and river-dumped? Drac really thinks a five year old girl will thank him for killing her dad? Is he Dark Lord or Doofus? Blade and his posse track Drac to 1968 Red China? How'd they manage that, posing as the Globetrotters? Palpable nonsense, but at least Colan & Palmer make it look great.

Werewolf by Night 27
"The Amazing Dr. Glitternight"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Karen Pocock
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

First Night: Jack transforms, scratches Topaz and investigates a strange light coming from a cavern on the beach, which contains a cloaked man standing over a glowing shell of Topaz, the light emanating from his body. The shell bursts, revealing a gruesome creature, and the man, named Glitternight, orders it to attack the Werewolf. Thrown from the cavern, Werewolf lands on the creature, but Glitternight saves it with his healing light. Dawn brings Jack back, and Topaz recounts the tale to him and Buck of her trip to India to regain her powers, where she met the sorcerer Glitternight, who she knew as a child, and he sneakily stole her soul as an ectoplasmic being. Glitternight finds the trio and imprisons them in the cavern, sending Topaz's soul back to the egg. But soon the sun goes down and Second Night begins, so Werewolf is able to break free and accidentally smash open the egg—which turns into the nightmarish creature! After a nasty battle, Topaz increases Werewolf's bestial traits and he kills the ghoulish demon, but Glitternight vanishes, vowing to return! --Joe Tura

Joe: Moench starts off the splash page with McGregor disease, filling it with 100 words, and throughout the captions are super long. Overall though, a decent effort, if not a silly name for the villain, as well as a silly look (Glitternight kinda looks like a flying squirrel when hovering in the air). Perlin's creature pales in comparison to the classic Kirby creations, but is certainly disgusting enough that we root for its demise. Lots of mysterious goings-on boost this issue a little, aided by some Topaz back story and pouting. Easily the best line is Buck's: "My eyeballs feel like pancakes after staring through the binoculars all night…" You mean, they're soft and fluffy or they're dry and need syrup?

Also this Month

Chamber of Chills #15
Comix Book #3
Crypt of Shadows #16 ->FOOM #9
Kid Colt Outlaw #192
Marvel's Greatest Comics #55
Marvel Spectacular #14
Marvel Super-Heroes #49
Marvel Triple Action #24
My Love #33
Nostalgia Illustrated #3
Rawhide Kid #125
Sgt. Fury #125
Spidey Super Stories #6
The Human Torch #4
Tomb of Darkness #13
Where Monsters Dwell #34


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 10
Cover by Harold Shull

"Slay Now, Die Later"
Story by Tony Isabella and David Kraft
Art by Frank McLaughlin and Rudy Nebres

The Steel Serpent is a martial arts champion, a giant, and not a nice guy, so when he steps off a plane at JFK Airport in New York a crowd is gathered to see him in person. Leslie Walker makes the mistake of snapping a photo of the Steel Serpent, and the Serpent responds by destroying his camera and killing him with a Delayed Death Blow. His friend Tim Donahue vows vengeance and visits Professor Wing in order to tell his story and ask for advice. Wing’s bodyguard, Iron Fist, overhears Tim’s sad tale and tells the Prof that he will go after the Steel Serpent since Tim’s quest reminds him of his own.

Donahue and Iron Fist arrive at the Steel Serpent’s lair in Lower Manhattan at the same time but unbeknownst to each other. Iron Fist is met by the Steel Serpent and his goons. The Serpent reveals that his goal is to conquer K’un Lun and steal its riches, and he says that he must kill Iron Fist to show that he is ready to succeed in conquering the hidden city. Iron Fist battles the goons and beats them all but succumbs to drugs that were on needles used in the battle. The Steel Serpent tells Iron Fist that, rather than kill him, he had planned all along to capture him to further his ends.

Even 40 years later, Shurikens are still cool!
“The Shaping of Vengeance”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin

The story of Iron Fist’s origin is told from start to finish, rather than as a series of flashbacks spread over several issues.

“Iron and Steel!”
Story by Tony Isabella and David Kraft
Art by Frank McLaughlin and Rudy Nebres

Iron Fist and Tim Donahue are held captive in the Steel Serpent’s basement until Iron Fist summons the power of the Iron Fist and punches a hole through the stone wall. He sends Tim for the police then beats up all of the Steel Serpent’s minions before facing off against the big guy himself. A pitched battle ensues but, when the Steel Serpent attempts to use the Delayed Death Blow on Iron Fist, Iron Fist uses his Iron Fist power to reverse it on him. As the Steel Serpent walks away in defeat, Iron Fist explains to Tim that he will soon keel over from the effects of his own Death Blow.

This issue of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu is missing something that has been the hallmark of every issue before it—Shang-Chi! A note in the letters column explains that the 34-page Iron Fist story “originally scheduled for the first issue of a now non-existent mag” forced out this month’s Shang-Chi story as well as all of the usual text features. The story itself features smooth art by McLaughlin and Nebres and some purple prose by Dave Kraft, but it is entertaining in its own right. The middle section is a retread of Iron Fist’s origin and the two-part story that surrounds it follows the usual formula of Iron Fist beating up numerous minions before using his special power to beat the big bad guy. I really loved this series (and this magazine) when I was a kid in the Kung Fu-obsessed 1970s, so it’s fun to revisit it. I know that Roy Thomas says Iron Fist was suggested by Five Fingers of Death, but other obvious influences include Brigadoon (the city that only appears every so many years), Lost Horizon (the trek through the snowy mountains looking for a hidden land) and, less obviously, the classic 1971 Kung Fu flick The Chinese Professionals, with Jimmy Wang Yu, which really started the martial arts craze. Check out the flick here and, at about 57 minutes in, you’ll see Jimmy go through a ceremony to strengthen his fist by plunging his hand repeatedly into hot coals. This scene has stuck in my head for 40+ years and I bet it influenced Roy Thomas and Gil Kane when they created Iron Fist.

George Perez goes all Starlin-y on us
“They Who Dwell Within!”
Story by Bill Mantlo and George Perez
Art by George Perez and Mike Esposito

The Sons of the Tiger have figured out that Lotus was under the control of the Silent Ones by means of a gizmo implanted “deep within her brain.” Lin Sun gives a karate chop to the back of her neck and manages to remove the gizmo intact without hurting her. The Sons drop Lotus off to stay with Mrs. Dalwoody and then join hands and recite the Tiger Oath. They are transported to another plane of reality where they do battle with three guardsmen upon the Field of Dharma. They finally realize that the Guardsmen are manifestations of themselves and stop fighting. This leads them to be transported to the Stronghold of the Silent Ones, where it looks like another battle is about to begin.

The Sons of the Tiger series doesn’t hold up as well on paper as it does in my memory. The jive talk of Abe Brown is particularly embarrassing, as is the Brooklynese of Mrs. Dunwoody. The stories seem to be episodes in a continuing soap opera, based on this one, and the battle with the Guardsmen comes off as Starlin-lite.—Jack Seabrook

For some reason, this is really funny!

Dracula Lives! 11
Cover by Steve Fabian

"Agent of Hell"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tony DeZuniga

"Dracula Chapter VI: If Madness Be Thy Master...!"
Story Adaptation by Roy Thomas
From the Novel by Bram Stoker
Art by Dick Giordano

"Nobody Anybody Knows"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Bob Brown, Frank Chiaramonte, and Pablo Marcos

T-Minus three issues and counting, Dracula Lives! continues to stumble its way to an early death. "Agent of Hell" is the unfortunate second part of last issue's exemplary "The Pit of Death," wherein villager Lupescu sought vengeance for the murder of his wife at the hands of Count Dracula. Here, Lupescu gets his satisfaction after staking first his undead wife and then the other five brides of Dracula. In the end, he gives himself over to the Count but only after making sure the vampire could never again touch the six women (he aligns their bodies as a cross). As predicted right here on this page in January 1975, Doug Moench ends his one-issue moratorium on smelly prose and poetic jib jabs and returns to the writing he knows best. Inexplicably, I think I may be fonder of Doug "The Poet" than Doug "The Storyteller." Certainly, I look forward to deathless sentences such as "He is almost sickened by his former wife's display of frenzy... by the stench of her blood-sour breath... by the wickedly curved fangs sprouting from her mouth like extensions of depravity..." or turning the page to find seventy more blood-soaked, marbleized, cacophonous, incendiary and birdbrained adjectives (at times I wonder if Doug didn't misread his work-for-hire contract and write under the assumption he was being paid for adjective count rather than word count) than wondering why Dracula should be bothered by the staking of his brides when there are so many more fish in the sea. The always reliable Tony De Zuniga does what he can with such drivel as "sheer gowns slither across satin... the women emerge from their coffins as though performing some perverted ritual of resurrection" (Hey, Doug! It is a perverted ritual of resurrection!) and we can dwell on the pretty pitchers, I guess.

"Agent of Hell"

Chapter Six of Roy Thomas' adaptation of Stoker's Dracula introduces Renfield and hints at events that will change Mina Harker's life very quickly. Giordano's art remains impressive but the sheer weight of Stoker/Thomas' prose can become tedious at times. I remain impressed that the boys tackled this project but I think a little bit of editing might have allowed the entire story to be told within the confines of Dracula Lives! rather than relying on a continuation decades later.

"Dracula Part VI"

Steve Gerber to the rescue! "Nobody Anybody Knows" continues what might be the best of all the Black and White series, the "Lilith, Daughter of Dracula" saga. In this installment, Lilith's alter ego, Angel O'Hara, gets a job at a free press and has a heck of a first day on the job. While manning the want ad lines, she is contacted by a man who promises widespread murder. That threat becomes reality when he guns down one of Angel's co-workers and then launches a sniper spree through the streets of New York. When Lilith emerges to confront the madman, he hurls himself from a tall building, leaving the vampiress to contemplate life and its frailties. I really like this strip despite (or maybe because of) its rampant goofiness. Angel might as well be Millie the Model for all her bounciness and optimism amidst the squalor of the city and that hat on boyfriend Martin's head hasn't been seen since witch-burning days. The pregnancy sub-plot (It's not Martin's little vampire!) and eccentricities (how can Lilith jump off tall buildings, become a bat, and overpower huge men but a simple conk on the head can disable her?) keep me turning pages in a way that the B&W tales centering around Lilith's old man don't. Can't wait to see if Lilith shows in her second trimester. The art is passable but I'd give up my Lilith inflatable doll to see this strip illustrated by Tom Sutton. -Peter Enfantino

Planet of the Apes 6
Cover by Bob Larkin

"Maleguena in a Zone Forbidden"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Ploog

"Planet of the Apes Chapter 6: The Secret"
Story Adaptation by Doug Moench
Art by George Tuska and Mike Esposito

"The Cataclysmic Conclusion" (sayeth the fine Bob Larkin cover) of the first Apes movie awaits the lucky readers of this month's mag, filled with "Simian Fiction Films and Fantasy in the Mighty Marvel Manner." Past the TOC, we get Ape-Line, featuring some fine letters, including one from future Marvel scribe Mark Evanier (mostly cartoon stuff like Dynomutt, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear), also future award-winning writer of Groo the Wanderer and the book Kirby: King of Comics. He thinks Chris Claremont is dead by the description from his article in ish #3 of how he took the San Diego Freeway—quite the nitpicker Mark is! By the way, when this book came out, Evanier was working not only for DC but also TV series such as Welcome Back, Kotter and The McLean Stevenson Show. Go figure! Well, enough of that, let's get to the good stuff…

After the McGregor editorial, we get the continuation of "Terror", starting where we left off at the funeral of Shaggy, and young Jason is holding in his anger and sadness, thinking only of Brutus and death. On Gunpowder Julius' skiff, the travelers are attacked by mutated river slugs, and Jason breaks from his trance to save the Lawgiver. Going ashore, they come across a gypsy camp and are welcomed by the strange band. Back to the baddies, and the ape city is dealing with unrest, as the mutant leaders want to maintain the search for the fugitives. Back at the gypsy camp, wine is flowing and sultry Malagueña flirts with Jason—and jealous ape boyfriend Grimaldi is pissed! Leader Mama Lena intervenes and orders Jason and Grimaldi to settle their dispute with "the knives". [I remembered this fight vividly upon re-reading it nearly 40 years later—exciting stuff!] After a heated battle, Jason manages to win when Grimaldi is disarmed, but he hesitates to slay him "as the ritual demands", and the evil Brutus kills Grimaldi with a mutant scorch gun! This great chapter (after one issue off) features fun action, mutant creatures, ape vs. human mentality, a gorgeous gypsy woman as only the awesome Mike Ploog can draw her, and a cool cliffhanger. Well done all around!

Next, Chris Claremont treats us to a nice, but typically long interview with Mark Lenard of Star Trek fame, who plays nasty Urko on the POTA TV series. Then, in "Ape for a Day", Samuel James Maronie gets to be made up as an extra on the 4:30 Movie fave Battle for the POTA and we're treated to every single detail of his day. Literally.

Finally, we get the last chapter of the Moench-Tuska-Esposito adaptation of Planet of the Apes, starting in the Forbidden Zone cave with Zaius' disbelief, through Taylor's "reconstruction" of a life, to the shock of a talking human doll, to Taylor using Zaius as cover then tying him up and leaving on horseback with Nova—but not before kissing Zira. Zaius lets them go (with a warning and a heated discussion) and has his crew seal the cave. And we end on the iconic image of Taylor discovering the Statue of Liberty, with a super two-page spread taken from the other side than what we remember from the movie. Another nice chapter with fine art and a very readable script that keeps us interested all the way. Bring on Beneath! – Joe Tura

Terror on the Planet of the Apes picks up again after a month off and it’s still fun, but feels more and more like an episode of the TV series than the movie franchise. It’s a standard “fight to the death” story common in this sort of sci-fi adventure. There’s not much else to it. Mike Ploog’s art continues to be enjoyable.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the final part of the adaptation of the first movie. Thankfully, Tuska won’t be penciling the Beneath adaptation. Doug Moench changed the final tortured lines from Taylor in the climax and it’s not better by a long shot. -Scott McIntyre

Savage Tales 9
Cover by Michael Kaluta

“Lo, This Savage Scourge”
Text by Gerry Conway

“Dark Island of Doom”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Steve Gan

“The Golden Blood-Beasts of Daka-Jur”
Story by Gerry Conway & Carla Conway
Art by The Tribe

In “Dark Island of Doom,” Ka-Zar and Zabu find themselves in the unfamiliar north of the Hidden Jungle after stalking and slaying a man-eating Teratosaurus. Lost and hungry for food, they come across a scantily clad beauty being terrorized by flying lizard-men. After the winged creatures are killed, the woman tells Ka-Zar that she is Omell, Queen of a yonder island called Palandor, “The Timeless Land.” While the nobility live in splendor, the common people suffer in squalor, so she levied a tax against the rich to help the poor. This angered her brother, Prince Sann, and she was exiled. After a convincing bit of the old in-and-out, Ka-Zar agrees to help Omell regain her stolen crown. Telling Zabu to stay outside, Ka-Zar and the queen sneak into the royal city, disguising themselves in expensive and stolen clothing. The deposed queen guides the jungle lord to a tavern run by some of her supporters: but it is a trap and Ka-Zar is knocked unconscious. He awakes in a dungeon chained next to Prince Sann, who tells the savage that Omell is a liar: she is the actual tyrant and he is the real savior of the Palandorian people. Soon, Ka-Zar and Omell are brought to the vast throne room where Omell sacrifices a slave girl to a carnivorous Brontosaurus living in a large pool. After the bloody spectacle, the defiant captives are returned to their cell. Meanwhile, Zabu, concerned for his missing brother, tracks Ka-Zar’s scent to Palandor, the tavern, and finally the dungeon, slaughtering anyone he encounters. Together, all three make their escape, find their way to the throne room and attack the royal guards. Suddenly, the Brontosaurus emerges from its watery home and Ka-Zar leaps on its flaying neck, plunging a dagger again and again. The huge dinosaur collapses in death, crushing Omell. Ka-Zar and Zabu stride away as Sann, now the King, smiles nefariously.

"Dark Island of Doom"

At 35 pages, the only thing that “Dark Island of Doom” delivers is length, offering nothing that resembles originality or excitement. However, Steve Gan does a fine job with the art, so for the most part it’s nice to look at. Gan does particularly well with the dinosaurs and Zabu. Don’t ask me about the Brontosaurus though: for some reason Gerry decides to make it not only a meat eater but an amphibian as well. Just use some other species for gosh sakes. And I guess we’re meant to understand that both Omell and Sann were not to be trusted. Yeah, yeah, ultimate power ultimately corrupts. Woo hoo.

"Dark Island of Doom"

Next up is Shanna the She-Devil and “The Golden Blood-Beasts of Daka-Jur.” While swinging through Africa with her leopards Ina and Biri, Shanna spies turbaned assassins attacking the camp of her friend Kakuna Singh of India. The She-Devil and the cats rout the thugs but a huge golden Brahman bull suddenly crashes through the thicket, tramples Singh and vanishes without a trace. Before he dies, the Indian tells Shanna that this is the work of the nefarious Raga-Shan and that she might be the only person who can foil his plan of world destruction in sacrifice to Kali. The jungle queen jets off to India with her cat companions but all three are soon captured and caged by agents of Raga-Shan. When they are brought to the despot’s Bengal temple, Shanna breaks her bonds and frees Ina and Biri: but Raga-Shan transfers the cats’ life forms into a ten ton gold elephant and it lurches to life, attacking the woman warrior. Shanna leaps on the magical pachyderm’s back and manages to blind the beast — mortally wounded, it rampages, destroying the temple and igniting an inferno that engulfs Raga-Shan and his followers. However, as the golden elephant dies so do Ina and Biri: a bruised Shanna grieves her fallen friends.

While few Marvel characters are as groan-worthy as the mysteriously over-exposed Ka-Zar, Shanna gives him a serious run for the money — and, in my book, tops him when she’s solo. So it’s a dismal double dose. At 15 pages, the story is told in flashback form, so at least that breaks up the misery. It seems that The Tribe is actually Tony DeZuniga: certainly looks like him but another unnamed Filipino artist — or artists — might have handled the inks. A useless shame that Ina and Biri would have to give up the ghosts for this uninspiring story. Let’s face it, the cats are the best things about both Ka-Zar and Shanna.

I was actually hoping that some entertainment would be found in Conway’s editorial, “Lo, This Savage Scourge”: as the majority of black-and-white magazines begin the old dirt nap, there are usually some hindsight chuckles to be found in the usual “things are terrific but wait until you see what’s next” hyperbole. But this one, disappointingly, just credits everyone involved in “the ever-burgeoning, ever-masterful Marvel Magazine Group”: Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman, Don McGregor, Dave Kraft, John Warner, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita. OK, I take it back, “ever-burgeoning, ever-masterful” is a pretty good one.

I don’t want to be totally negative, so let me say some nice things before we wrap up: Michael Kaluta delivers a crackerjack cover; there’s an excellent pin-up by Mike Zeck (below), perhaps the earliest Marvel work by one of my faves; and only two issues left. -Tom Flynn

Tales of the Zombie 10
Cover by Earl Norem

“Mails to the Zombie”

“The Partial Ressurrection Of A Voodoo-Haunted Editorial”
Text by Don McGregor

“The Resurrection of Papa Jambo”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tony DeZuniga

“Eye for An Eye, Tooth for A Tooth”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Virgilio Redondo & Rudy Nebres

“Malaka’s Curse”
Story by John Warner
Art by Vicente Alcazar

“Grave Business”
Story & Art by Tom Sutton

"Papa Jambo"

"Papa Jambo"
The first chink in the over-extended armor of Marvel’s black-and-white magazines, here lies the final issue of Tales of the Zombie — and it doesn’t even include an appearance by the title character.

In McGregor’s “The Partial Ressurrection Of A Voodoo-Haunted Editorial,” he details how the Gerry Conway/Rico Rival Zombie story originally planned for this issue was lost in the mail and ended up in Guam. Yes, the misspelling of “resurrection” is editor Don’s, extra lazy since the main story gets it right on the very next page. Jeez, goofs like this seemed to happen on a regular basis during early 1975. At least in the books I’ve covered. See this month’s Conan the Barbarian. But since Rival was located halfway around the world in the Philippines, guess it’s somewhat understandable in this case. No worries promises McGregor, since it will appear in the next issue. Yeah right. There are no details about whether the Brother Voodoo replacement was just lying around or hastily assembled, but we’ll have to deal with it just the same.

"Papa Jambo"
In “The Resurrection of Papa Jambo,” Brother Voodoo receives a letter from his old Haitian friend Sarah De Jejune saying that she just saw her husband — a man dead for six years. Along with his manservant Bambu, the Brother jets off to the Caribbean island. When they arrive, Sarah has been murdered and her daughter is missing. The man formerly known as Jericho Drumm follows the trail to a graveyard and spots Dramabu the Death-Lord raising an army of zombies so that he can rid Haiti of all western influences. The voodoo priest needs to resurrect one corpse in particular to gain the ultimate power he needs: Papa Jambo, the houngan who was Brother Voodoo’s mentor. When Jambo is resurrected, Dramabu will command him to sacrifice Sarah’s daughter and the ceremony will be complete. Drumm leaps into action and battles with the zombies: during the monstrous melee, Dramabu makes his escape with Jambo and the young girl. After Brother Voodoo uses his purifying fire to engulf his undead enemies, he rushes off in pursuit. Just as the rotting Jambo is about to plunge a ceremonial dagger into the girl, the Brother sends the spirit of his dead twin Daniel to possess the living corpse, halting the sacrifice. But more zombies arrive and Brother Voodoo is overwhelmed: Dramabu picks up the dagger and vows to finish the dark deed. But Daniel’s soul now enters Sarah’s daughter and she fights off the evil priest. Brother Voodoo uses his unearthly fire once again and frees himself — he lunges at Dramabu, pushing the villain off the edge of a cliff.

What to say? How about "meh." Moench ratchets up the mumbo jumbo and there’s quite a bit of dopey dialogue about the nature of evil and whatnot. As I understood it, Dramabu needed to reanimate Papa Jambo because only the dead houngan was “worthy” of sacrificing the girl. But at the end, there’s Dramabu still trying to finish the job himself. No idea why, Dramabu already said it wouldn’t work without Jambo. By the way, I saw a band named Dramabu Jambo the last time I was in Jamaica. Jamaica, Queens, that is. Nice art by DeZuniga though. He has a good grasp of action poses and a nice light touch.

"Eye for an Eye"
In “Eye for An Eye, Tooth for A Tooth,” Dr. Harris comes face-to-face with a living corpse tied to a gurney in his hospital’s emergency room. The zombie has no identification, only a business card advertising Nostradamus Personnel Agency: Special Projects Division. After the zombie manages to wander off, Harris is fired, accused of trafficking in black market organs by his superior, Dr. Cummins. Seeking revenge, Harris visits Nostradamus, and the goateed owner agrees to help the good doctor if he can provide a new “subject” in return. Soon, Cummins is killed by one of the agency’s zombie, um, agents. Later that night, Harris is attacked by yet another undead creature and taken to the agency — for, you see, the doctor himself is the “subject” he agreed upon.

Boy, didn’t see that coming. Didn’t help that the head of the agency looked like a cross between Dracula and the Mad Magician. Conway must have rattled this one off during a bathroom break. Because it stunk. Rim shot. Again, the art is the best part.

Malaka's Curse"
“Malaka’s Curse” is the story of hanging judge Henri Raveneau and his sinister sister Paula, warden of the local prison. Regardless of guilt, Henri sets them up and Paula quickly knocks them down with an electric chair. When yet another innocent man is sentenced to Old Sparky, his wife Malaka raises the corpses of the Raveneaus' victims and the judge and the warden are soon given the shocks they deserve.

I think there was something about how the judge lived on the souls of his electrified victims somewhere in this seven-pager, but I certainly wasn’t gonna read a third time to find it. The worst art of the lot as Alcazar puts little or no effort into his backgrounds: they are either all white or all dark. Too bad, I’ve seen him do much better. And don’t ask me why there’s a panel of the aged Paula removing her shirt in front of her equally elderly brother in a locker room. Um, terrifyingly tasteless titillation? Incredibly icky incest? Ohh, my head hurts.

Thankfully, we have something special in the very last story in the very last issue of Tales of the Zombie: Tom Sutton’s “Grave Business.” Now the plot is fairly standard. Two grave robbers meet a man who has the secret of making their jobs much easier: reanimating the bodies so that they can walk themselves to the operating tables of practicing surgeons. But of course, it’s all a trap: the living corpses take revenge on the men that defiled their dead friends and the grave robbers end up on the scalpel’s edge themselves. Again, standard stuff, but Sutton’s art is really remarkable. It’s totally experimental, all scritchy and scratchy, with dark blacks and brilliant whites. Looks like he was going for a woodblock effect, but he far exceeded the limitations of that ancient art. Now, I’ve run into Sutton a few times since he was adequately illustrating The Beast in Amazing Adventures, but this is a whole new artist. The drugs must have been tasty. And he comes up with some humdinger character names: Hoag and Loathtode for the cretinous grave robbers and Dr. Shrewsbury for the evil old man with a copy of The Necronomicon. Yes, yes, all very Lovecraftian. So there we have it my friends, the first of many dominoes to fall. (Because dominoes are black and white. Yuck, yuck.) In all, a consistently mediocre series, one that seemed doomed from the start. Guess there’s only one thing left to say: RIP Tales of the Zombie. -Tom Flynn

Make sure to tune in this Sunday for a Special Dissection of 

by Pulp Professor Extraordinaire Gilbert Colon!

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