Wednesday, January 7, 2015

May 1975 Part Two: The Politics of Man-Thing!

The Incredible Hulk 187
"There's a Gremlin in the Works!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Herb Trimpe

Bruce Banner and General Ross are barely able to survey the destruction caused by the Hulk's last adventure at Hulkbuster Base when they get a visit from head S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Nick Fury. Accompanied by fellow agent Clay Quartermain, Fury informs them that Glenn Talbot is still alive. Major Talbot is being held by the Russians in Siberia. Fury arranges for them to rescue him by using a camouflage craft. Ross orders Banner to stay behind so that he can watch after a hysterical Betty but Banner decides to stow away inside the missile-carrying section. The villainous commie Gremlin spies the craft when it flies over the Russian airspace. When the craft is attacked by missiles, the crew unloads their own missiles so that they can lighten their load and fly away faster. This causes Banner to drop from the sky, with his resulting panic turning him into the Hulk. Eventually, everyone converges on the fortress where Talbot is being detained. The Gremlin unleashes his new and improved Super Troopers upon the Hulk. As in their last encounter, the Super Troopers barely stand a chance against the Hulk's onslaught, that is until they knock him down with their electricity rifles. When Ross, Quartermain, and their allies rescue Talbot, he turns a gun on them, declaring himself to be Gregori Kronski. An apparently brain-washed Talbot takes the men captive to turn over to his master, the Gremlin. -Tom McMillion

Chris Blake: Glenn really can’t get a break, can he – who knew that marrying the boss’s daughter would be the cause of so much trouble?  Nice character-moments for puny Banner and stormy Ross, as they both express their heartfelt thoughts for other characters in the title – in Ross’ case, I’m referring to his considerate treatment of overwhelmed Betty, as he’s preparing to rescue the hapless Glenn.

I was appreciative of the fact that Len gave the SHIELD team a means to locate Talbot’s likely holding area, so that we could be spared one of those “We’ll never find him in a place this size – hey wait, he’s right over there!” moments.  Those Siberian fortress scale-model interpreters really know their stuff.  
Solid action throughout, as Staton’s inks smooth out some of Trimpe’s edges without diminishing the art’s overall effect.  Regarding the stowing-away-in-the-landing-gear-of-aircraft-cruising-miles-above-the-earth-at-speeds-greater-than-sound plan, maybe the next time this idea is proposed, the artist might be inspired to take it one step further and show us that there already is a built-in seat in the wheel well.  I for one would like to see that.
Hey Ross – before you leave Russia, you might want to check with the Gremlin about the Hulk-busting properties of the “electro-stasis rifles,” whatever they might be.
Matthew Bradley:  One last mini-cluster before the dam busts in September, comprising this and Daredevil (once again, I’m not certain about Thor), both of which coincidentally excavate venerable elements of S.H.I.E.L.D.-iana—in this case, Clay Quartermain, who will be a regular through the ’70s—and use Fury’s “ramrod” handle.  My disappointment over Staton’s work on Avengers is well documented, but inking Herb is a unique challenge, and I must say Joe’s two-year Hulk stint, bridging the Trimpe and Buscema eras, is off to a fine start.  Len wisely lets the assault on Bitterfrost take center stage, resulting in some solid storytelling, admittedly enhanced by 20/20 Nostalgia-Vision, and highlighted by some surprisingly good character stuff with Ross.

Scott McIntyre: One of my favorite storylines of this era kicks off. Clay Quartermain joins the cast and the Gremlin arrives in earnest. As Prof. Matthew mentioned, Fury is again being referred to as “Ramrod” of SHIELD. This is an excellent issue, with lots of action and suspense. It’s all motivated by character, with Ross and Banner making their best and worst choices based on their love for Betty. The Humanization of T-Bolt continues as efforts are made to make him a real person rather than simply a straw man. It works. Clay will grate on the old nerves after awhile, though. He complains about the below zero chill of Betterfrost, but doesn’t wear a hat. Try some headgear, fella, it helps. The Gremlin is one of the Hulk’s better villains and one of the most memorable of this period. Good times are here again.   

Peter Enfantino: Green-Skin's Grab-Bag features a letter from an old friend of mine, writer Norm Partridge (author of several very good horror and mystery novels), who opines that lately the title has been slanting more towards science fiction and he likes it!

Jungle Action 15
The Black Panther in
"Thorns in the Flesh Thorns in the Mind"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Dan Green
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Gil Kane

T’Challa crouches by the water, cleansing his multiple wounds, when he is attacked by bow-wielding Salamander  K’ruel and his two underlings.  The Panther dispatches the minions, then grapples with the pustule-covered K’ruel, only to discover that he carries thorns in his skin.  T’Challa’s flesh is pierced in dozens of places, and he collapses in agony.  He wakes to find himself lashed to two large thorn-covered shrubs, as Salamander promises death to T’Challa, via either the creatures that crawl within Serpent Valley, or the pterodactyls that seek prey from overhead.  T’Challa endures a day alone in the heat, and is powerless to rebuff a newt, as it climbs all over his trapped form, and samples T’Challa’s slowly draining blood.  The pterodactyl waits til the coming of night.  The prehistoric creature swoops in and swipes at T’Challa’s restrained self – the Panther blocks out the pain as he twists out of the way, simultaneously digging parts of himself deeper into the thorns, but succeeds in positioning himself so that only his restraints are torn away.  The pterodactyl returns, wrests T’Challa away from the thorns this time, and bears him aloft.  The Panther fights off the creature’s talons, only to fall toward the thorns, far below – the pterodactyl regains its prey, except this time, the Panther is able to grab hold and climb onto its back.  On foot, K’ruel realizes too late that the pterodactyl above is being guided by the Panther.  He fires an arrow that pierces the creature’s skull, but not before T’Challa has leapt from its back and directly onto K’ruel.  T’Challa proceeds to spend the next two days and nights dragging his opponent back to Central Wakanda, and then collapses on the front steps of the palace – at home.  -Chris Blake
Chris: This chapter effectively brings “Panther’s Rage: Act II” to a close, as T’Challa’s quest for Killmonger has brought him little more than a series of vicious trials meted out by his adversary’s lieutenants.  I might be almost as relieved as T’Challa that this period has concluded.  After a while, all of the punishment the Panther is forced to endure begins to have a corrosive effect on the reader – I can only imagine what the experience of writing of T’Challa’s sufferings might’ve had on Don himself.  Was it difficult for him to get into the right frame of mind in order to devise the particularly nasty circumstances that T’Challs finds himself in, thru his long dark week of the body and soul?  Don presents an existential challenge for T’Challa, as he contemplates the true nature of cruelty, and the mindlessness of the inhuman treatment he’s been forced to endure.  He doesn’t even seem to have the energy at this point to direct these questions back to Killmonger – but, ere long, Killmonger should have much to answer for.  
The art continues to hold up its end, and doesn’t suffer as much with the substitution of Green for McLeod that I had feared it might.  It’s difficult to imagine being afraid of a newt (“She turned me into a newt!” “A newt -?” “Well … I got better.  But she’s a witch!”), but to view it slithering over T’Challa’s helpless form earns a few cringes (above right).  Effective choreography of panels as we peer into W’Kabi and Chandra’s ongoing domestic discord (far below).  On page 11, we get an uncharacteristically weary look from T’Challa (pnl 4), but it’s an expression that fits exactly with Don’s captions (well-written, not over-written in this case); on the same page, I also appreciate the subtle touch as we see the shadows change thru the course of the merciless day, as T’Challa has been trapped in the same position.  It should go without saying that there are a lot of neat moments with the pterodactyl grappling as well. 

Matthew:  I always enjoy Professor Chris’s fine coverage of this series, although seeing Green in the credits, I know we often agree to disagree on him. Meanwhile, Marvel keeps it all in the family with new bride Karen Mantlo (née Pocock) and Frau Wein lettering and coloring, respectively.  In this textbook entry, McGregor subjects T’Challa to his ritual scourging by agents human and inhuman; the former has the requisite grotesque deformity and symbolic name; the latter encompasses flora and fauna; Killmonger underestimates his foe; the supporting cast waxes eloquent on matters philosophical; any victory is borderline pyrrhic at best; and Graham visualizes the prolix script with creative and compelling layouts, utilizing a variety of cinematic techniques.

Master of Kung Fu 28
"A Small Spirit Slowly Shaped..."
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Ron Wilson, Ed Hannigan, Aubrey Bradford, and Sal Trapani
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Artie Simek
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Black Jack and Reston inform Shang-Chi that Sir Denis has been abducted; Fu Manchu is the likely suspect.  S-C discovers a note that indicates a different culprit: Shang’s half-sister, Fah Lo Suee, who apparently has taken control of Fu’s Honan fortress.  S-C flies to China with Black and Reston, avoids customs, and proceeds alone to Honan.  Fah Lo Suee describes to S-C how she has used the ruby eyes (worn by her now as earrings) to entrance a significant number of Si-Fan to abandon Fu and join her – now, she extends the same invitation to her brother.  S-C declines, stating that she is no less evil than their father.  Fah Lo Suee summons the assassins, who are led by the formidable Shadow-Stalker (recently featured in G-S MoKF #3).  Shadow-Stalker surprises both siblings when he announces that he will fight beside S-C, not against him.  Together, they rout the Si-Fan, with Fah departing in the meantime.  The Stalker makes the same proposal to S-C, that they lead the Si-Fan together, but S-C expresses a preference for peace over power.  The temporary allies separate without rancor.  S-C locates Sir Denis in the dungeon, and kicks the iron door off its hinges.  Black and Reston burst in, to find no one left on his feet to combat.  Prior to their departure, S-C reveals that he had removed the ruby eyes from his sister during the battle; he slams the gems together, which reduces them to powder, and states that the ruby eyes will cause no further harm.  -Chris Blake

Chris:  So we can conclude that Fah hadn’t had time to convert the ruby eyes to pierced earrings, right?  We should accept the idea that they were simply hanging on clips to her earlobes – is that so?  Well, we’ve learned plenty about Shang-Chi’s unique capabilities, but that really is a bit much.  No one could possibly be so quick that he could nip something right off another person’s head without her even noticing – could they?  No, it’s simply too much of a stretch.  
I realize that Doug is trying to respond to readers’ wishes that MoKF incorporate more thoughtful, cerebral moments, and that’s fine, but we really aren’t learning anything new here about Fah that we hadn’t already heard in the previous issue; as a result, some of the talky sequences (particularly pages 15-16) don’t amount to much.  It was clever for Doug to have the Stalker turn and elect to join with S-C; it’ll be interesting to see what might come of a third encounter between the two.  
The art works well enough, despite the “many hands” handling; unfortunately, the Grand Comics Database offers no specifics as to who penciled which pages.  As with MoKF #24, Trapani is here to pull it together, so at least the art has some coherence.  The shadows and use of perspective make p. 27 a highlight; I honestly can’t tell which artist might’ve done it, but since it doesn’t appear to be Wilson, I think I’ll assign the credit to Hannigan.  (I know next to nothing about Aubrey Bradford, except that his contribution here constitutes his only pencil work I know of for Marvel; if the name looks familiar to you, it’s because he inked a recent issue of Marvel Premiere.)  
A thoughtful letter from Michael K. (from Shelby Township MI) observes that Marvel’s efforts to meet demand for kung-fu content has resulted in Shang-Chi having as many as 28 appearances per year, between color and b&w publications, which is six more stories than Conan.  As a consequence, you wind up with an issue like MoKF #24, with its four different pencillers (and, while you’re at it, this issue, with three pencil-pushers).  Michael encourages the editors to emphasize the quality of Shang-Chi stories over their quantity – well, with Gulacy settling in for a mini-run starting next issue, Michael might feel that Marvel is delivering. 
Mark Barsotti: Weird hybrid art: pages by Ed Hannigan (who?) and Aubrey Bradford (who x 2?) that effectively mimic Gulacy doing Steranko (far above), interspersed with some Sub-Sal Buscema Ron Wilson (below), but overall the trio deliver the goods, if in clashing styles, page to page. 

In a variation on Father Fu trying to kill our high-kicking hero, Shang-Chi's sister tries to kill him, after failing to enlist her sib in plotting against their old man. One twist: the Shadow Stalker - he of the sore neck & two-headed mace woven into his top knot – switches teams, joining S-C against sis' assassins, but only to try enlisting Shang against sis and the old man.

Effective B-grade chop-fooie, but we're in for a major upgrade next month.

The Man-Thing 17
“A Book Burns in Citrusville”
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Jim Mooney
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

After the horrific events of the past few days, Citrusville is in a state of emergency, armed vigilantes on the hunt for both Man-Thing and the mad Viking that killed pop star Eugene Spangler. While the Viking is wounded by a bullet through his arm, he escapes. The Man-Thing, overwhelmed by the memories of those he has met, friend and foe, collapses and is captured by a group of men, brought to a chemical plant and dumped into a vat to dissolve. At a town meeting to discuss the terror gripping Citrusville, Mayor Orville is interrupted when an elderly woman named Olivia Selby, head of the Mothers’ March for Decency, shouts that the true danger is the smut-filled textbooks used to teach the children. Suddenly, the Viking bursts in, echoing Olivia’s inflammatory remarks, adding that only he had the courage to kill for his convictions. As the audience cheers, Olivia and the Norseman stand on stage, raise their arms in victory and begin burning books. When Richard Rory, covering the event for WNRV radio, objects, calling them Nazis, the Viking knocks him unconscious. The incensed townsfolk follow Olivia and the Viking out of the auditorium and towards Citrusville High. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: OK, let’s talk some politics. You could say I tend to lean to the Left. Plus, I’ve worked for two of the most liberal publishing companies around. So while I feel Gerber’s message about censorship and whatnot, this whole issue left me rolling my eyes — as did this month’s Giant-Size Man-Thing for that matter. I just picked this series up so admit that I haven’t read issue #16, but the Viking is wanted for murder right? And Olivia seems to be the town nutjob. Even her henpecked husband doesn’t take her seriously. Are we really supposed to believe that the residents of Citrusville are going to chuck reason out the window and follow these two weirdos? Gerber does have Rory reference the Nazis, so I guess someone could say “Well Professor Flynn, the Germans followed Hitler didn’t they?” Why yes they did, but Adolf wasn’t goose stepping around with fur shorts and cape and a horned helmet. I find this one to be a big load of hooey. Never a fan of Mooney but will admit he did a particularly fine job illustrating Man-Thing himself — so wished that the main character showed up on more than just a handful of pages.

Matthew:  Gerber takes a leaf from Englehart’s book (as it were) by integrating the current giant-size issue with the regular monthly mag, yet he deftly does so in such a way that GSMT #4 could also be read as a stand-alone story.  Given the parade of colorful characters we’ve had penciling this strip, not to mention a certain Big John, I was apprehensive when I saw Mooney credited—especially inking his own work—because his style, for better or worse, is usually quite conventional, which seems counterintuitive for Steve’s quirkiness.  But on the basis of this entry, at least, the Madman has nothing to be ashamed of, and in fact becomes Manny’s permanent penciler, bridging the title’s cancellation in October and the debut of Volume 2 in November ’79.

Scott: A lot going on here, almost too much. Rory and his job woes, Manny’s “death,” the crazy lady with the sex prejudice and the Viking dude. Coupled with the (bland as shit) conventional art, this is kind of a slog. Unlike Prof. Tom, I have no political leanings whatsoever. It just bored me.

Mark: Hail the return of Richard Rory, intrepid overnight DJ for WNRV, Citrusville! While Steve Gerber's most out there work is always interesting, M-T is much more enjoyable when there's at least one sympathetic character around to root for (Astrid Josefsen, the generic frantic female on the run, doesn't count). Gerber has grown Rory from a woe-is-me slacker, boo-hooing about life in his hippy van, to a woe-is-me slacker with backbone enough to Fight the Power, even, as in this case, when it gets him cold-cocked by Thor's crazy uncle Josefsen.

Mark: Much-maligned Jim Moody delivers the swamp-gooey goods, even serving up a great double page spread (above), while Crazy Unka J being embraced by Old Biddy Olivia's book-burning bluenoses rings with perfect satirical pitch: it makes you laugh, but with an edge of flop sweat hysteria as the buffoonery veers uncomfortably toward real life. 

Chris: Compelling look at groupthink by Steve G.  The Mad Viking is at the root of the town’s problems, but he, along with Man-Thing, are commodities from parts unknown, come to plague the populace.  How can they hope to combat these perils?  Then along comes Mrs Olivia Selby, with a tangible threat – the garbage being spooned into the schoolchildren’s heads!  “Protect the children!” cry the townspeople, as they gravitate towards something they feel they can effectively control.  Steve then ups the ante, as he has the Viking arrive in time to call out “That’s what I’m trying to tell ya!” And now, everyone’s on board, and the Viking is a hero.  Amazing!

Man-Thing is not so lucky.  Interesting angle by Steve, as he shows us how the recent emotional turmoil finally has caught up with our muck-monster, to the point where he’s paralyzed by it.  Manny’s miry mind has endured quite a lot in these pages, but I don’t know how well he’ll come thru water-processing.  I’m looking forward to Steve’s next step for His Bogness.
I think of Mooney as an ordinary inker, so I’m never quite prepared for anything more than average work when he’s providing both pencils and inks.  Mooney’s work is surprisingly good in his M-T debut, as he employs several different techniques to keep things interesting.  Let me point these out: 1) the small, mostly wordless panels (thanks to Steve for the lack of cluttering captions) during the pursuit of the Viking (p 6); 2) a few instances of panels canted at odd angles, as if to suggest that matters have turned askew (p 27, last panel); and of course 3) the parade of the sources of Manny’s emotional confusion (p 14-15), as they appear to march thru his eye, and right into the place where his brain would be (if he had one).

Marvel Team-Up 33
The Amazing Spider-Man and Nighthawk in
"Anybody Here Know a Guy Named Meteor Man?"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Nighthawk surprises a thief who steals a meteor specimen from his study and escapes, but when he identifies the culprit as the Looter and seeks information from Spidey about his old foe, the latter lashes out—bemused by his current troubles—until Nighthawk gets a chance to explain.  They agree to cooperate, and Nighthawk visits the prison from which Norton G. Fester escaped, learning that the goading of his cellmate made the Looter realize he still had his power.  Spidey finds Fester’s old lab inhabited by the Innocents of God, a religious group led by Jeremiah; Nighthawk saves Spidey after he is bested by Fester, the self-styled Meteor Man, yet they disagree over how to handle him while Jeremiah sends his “children” to capture Spidey. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: In Marvel Two-in-One #6-7, Gerber teamed the Thing with Defenders Dr. Strange and Valkyrie; now, Conway—also aided by Buscema—will up the ante with a third Defender and a third issue, toplining the Torch, although whether Jeremiah truly merits a trilogy has yet to be seen.  At least we’re spared the frequent abruptness of the done-in-one, but resurrecting as minor a villain as the Looter (who didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he met Spidey in Amazing #36…exactly nine years ago) doesn’t bode well, even if you do upgrade him to the Meteor Man.  Colletta provides finished art over Sal’s layouts, so with the (mercifully brief) MARMIS, obscure older villain, questionable new one and typically lumpy Conway script, this is an average issue at best.

Scott: This is getting fairly tiresome. Spidey, again, just loses his cool and lashes out against a friend. More than once. Yeah, he’s going through some bad times, but he really is the most self-absorbed prick in the MU. He's getting very hard to root for. The return of the Looter as Meteor Man is kind of fun and the art is okay, even if Sal makes Spidey look a little fat.

Joe Tura: Oh, why oh why didn't they see Colletta was not the right inker for the scintillating Sal? Spider-Man looks beefy and out of shape at times, kind of like I did the year I rented a Web-head costume for Halloween. (Sorry, I never found my pictures of said event.) Although civilians look fine, which makes no sense really. All in all, a well-remembered Team-Up that is more of a Nighthawk tale than Spidey or more of a dust-up, but still enjoyable, although not exactly action-packed, years later. Looter/Meteor Man gets a nice prison escape, and we're left wanting more at the end. There's plenty of cross-promotion to the regular storylines in Defenders and Amazing Spider-Man, so the reader isn't lost. And if that happened, get thee to the newsstand!

Marvel Two-In -One 9
The Thing and The Mighty Thor in
"When a God Goes Mad!"
Story by Steve Gerber and Chris Claremont
Art by Herb Trimpe and Joe Giella
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Charlotte Jetter
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

The Thing, Wundarr, Nita, and Annie attend a children’s matinee where puppeteer “H. Deuty” (!) reminds Ben of the Puppet Master, and with good reason:  Masters was saved from his apparent death in Marvel Team-Up #6 by a mysterious radioactive figure, whose added power enables Masters to seize control of Thor and set him against the FF.  In the nick of time, Thor regains his senses, so Ben returns to the Baxter Building to find Dr. Blake caring for his teammates, yet he leaves before Ben can explain his “possession.”  Turning back into Thor, he is once again subject to control, but the Thing/Thor battle is ended when Wundarr arrives to drain the power of Radion, the Atomic Man—who promptly flees—and deck the Puppet Master. 
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: As in Daredevil #117, Claremont scripts Gerber’s final plot, replacing a scheduled Iron Fist story due to his recent MTU appearance and ending a run that gave this title the best possible kickoff, often showing Steve at his finest; it’s clearly rushed, but at least Wundarr’s presence is justified.  This is one of only two MTIO gigs for Trimpe (the other being a reunion with the Son of Satan in #14) and a rare Marvel credit of any kind for Giella, who leaves surprisingly little trace of Herb’s distinctive style.  A footnote advises, “stay tuned to upcoming issues for the answers…about our mysterious atomic man,” but while he does not reappear here until #55 (September 1979), Chris—never one to waste a character—repurposes him as an IF villain some nine months hence.

The Mighty Thor 235
"Who Lurks Beyond the Labyrinth!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

As Thor rages over his inability to help Jane Foster, he doesn't see Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man, lurking in the shadows. Creel waits to reveal himself until later when he can touch Thor's hammer and gain its power. Meanwhile, Hercules and Sif find Kamo Tharnn, whose magic Runestaff holds the key to saving Jane's life. Of course, he doesn't want to give it up and strikes at Herc with force beams from the staff. They manage to overcome him long enough to "steal" it and return to Earth. The unfortunate dilemma is that in order to try and use the staff's spell to save Jane before Kamo Tharnn comes looking for it, they have to leave Thor to fight Creel alone. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Put together one of Thor's classic foes with an intrguing new one ('Sorby and Tharnn) and what do you get? In this case a pretty cool story. What is the secret of Kamo's power--a power that cost him his sight and the lives of his people? Some of the Buscema art, as in Tharnn's world and the memorable opening scene, is spectacular. 

Scott: Another fairly solid action issue, with a lot packed into these pages. It’s almost too much with the return of the Absorbing Man feeling a little rushed. He finds Thor pretty easily, touches his hammer just as easily and the battle begins. The Herc/Sif subplot to save Jane Foster is a little more interesting, although Herc’s deafness isn’t played up for maximum effect and is shaken off too quickly. They either spend too much time with multi-part epics, or they speed through adventures like this. For my taste, this could have been fleshed out a little more. Still, it’s better than being a dull slog like so many other issues.

Chris: Takeaway from this issue: why does Sif expect the Runestaff will restore Jane to health?  The characters refer to Kamo Tharnn as if he’s a known commodity, but the official Marvel database tells me that this is KT’s first appearance.  KT certainly presents as an interesting character, sitting alone in his moldering temple – maybe next issue, we’ll find out why Sif and Herc were willing to incur his wrath.  

Crusher Creel is always a welcome baddie, especially as he’s not overused, and not easy to beat.  Nice plan to use the might of the mallet against Thor – and although Creel told us earlier that he had a plan, I think Gerry could’ve built in some suspense if he’d taken half a page to show us how CC traced Thor to Jane’s hospital room.  It’s a pretty brisk issue, so maybe Gerry didn’t think he had space to fit in this expository moment; although, he could’ve trimmed some of the stuff with Creel threatening kids in the street (as, in the process, his hostile action draws a crowd of uncharacteristically involved New York sidewalkers).
You already know how great the art is, so I’ll simply say that I enjoyed chapter 2, with John & Joe’s depiction of seedy old Kamo Tharnn, and Herc’s desperate battle for the mysterious Runestaff (p 18, 27).  Creel’s needlessly showy entrance (above) was neat, too – c’mon CC, get over yourself. 
Matthew: I don’t know what it is about Thor, but this is another case where the cover alone, especially with its reference to Kamo Tharnn’s runestaff, had me sure it was a cluster issue, while the interiors leave me uncertain; well, it will be academic soon enough.  Although it’s not stated here, this must take place just after the current Marvel Two-in-One—which ends with Thor resuming his rudely interrupted journey to Jane’s bedside—yet the two issues couldn’t be more different.  The artwork is by my very favorite penciler/inker team, Buscema and Sinnott, who are in top form, and Gerry has kept his rampant subplots sufficiently in check (even eschewing the expected check-in with an amnesiac Odin) to develop the two parallel storylines very effectively.

The Tomb of Dracula 32
"And Some Call Him... Madness!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Across the globe, a couple of vampire hunters find themselves in some hairy situations.  The mute, Taj, finds himself fighting off citizens in his village who want to stab his vampire son to death.  Frank Drake has been set up by his former business partner and finds himself surrounded by zombies.  This has all been orchestrated by Dracula so that he can kill Quincy Harker without interference. Harker has secret files that Drac wants but the old vampire slayer isn't so helpless when the Count invades his home.  Dracula must avoid countless booby traps that involve garlic cloves, crosses, and holy water.  Undeterred, Drac corners Quincy in a room, only to be struck by a barrage of arrows that just miss his heart.  Near death, Dracula has Quincy call a phone number where it is revealed that Rachel Van Helsing is being held captive by some female vampires.  The story ends with Harker facing the dilemma of whether he should kill Dracula or save Rachel's life. -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion:  This story featured a pretty good game of cat and mouse between the long-time enemies, Dracula and Quincy Harker.  I was hoping for a bit more of a conclusive ending, which we will hopefully witness next issue.  The usual splendid artwork is on full display as Dracula gets tortured throughout the book.

Scott: Zuvembies! God bless the Comics Code for forcing Marvel to use that hilarious word in place of the verboten “Zombie.” That is the only speed bump in this outstanding issue. Harker vs Dracula at last and it’s a hell of a fight! Since Dracula is the star of this, there’s no real suspense. He’s not about to be conclusively defeated, so the final page isn’t much of a surprise. However, that does not diminish the joy I had in reading this. It’s grand watching the two old enemies face off and to have Harker gain such a momentous upper hand. Somehow this will end in a stalemate, but until then, it’s a nail biter.

Mark: Lots to sink our teeth into, so let's crack the coffin lid, class. Sub-plot updates: the mob storms Taj's house in Jajpur, even as we learn that his toothsome tot wasn't tapping the local livestock for a quick pint; it was one of the Count's minions. In Brazil, meanwhile, slow-on-the-uptake Frank Drake finally realizes that dead eyes among the (slave) labor pool are never a good sign.

With that three page throat-clearing disposed of early, we settle in for our main event, the Drac v. Quincy showdown in Harker's well-booby trapped manse. Colan & Palmer are (as usual) atop their game, as Q's dog Saint, protected by a silver cross-studded collar, viciously attacks Vlad, a spring-loaded pool table transforms into a cross, poison darts fire from Harker's wheelchair, and garlic cloves drop from the ceiling, with our two antagonists verbally sparring all the while.

Harker finally gets the upper hand, thanks to a flurry of remote control arrows fired in his pitch black office, but the Lord of the Damned always has another card to play, in this case it's captured Rachel on the phone, ripe for slaughter by fanged harpies, should Drac go down for the count!

Four and a half empty graves for this one...and Happy Holidays!

Chris: We saw a similar “Office O’ Death Traps” involving Iron Fist a few months ago, and while Harker’s House of Horrors can get a bit over the top, I’m not surprised that I enjoyed it more than the IF story.  The circumstances make all the difference; Harker’s right in the room with Dracula, not remotely observing his progress on CCTV.  As Dracula foils some traps and survives others, Harker’s options – intended simultaneously to kill Dracula, and for Harker himself to survive – continue to dwindle.  Dracula draws ever closer, becoming ever more enraged, to the point when Harker can feel his fetid breath on the back of his neck.  The drama has built up throughout the confrontation, until we reach a stunning reversal when Drac plays his trump card, as he counts (so to speak) on Harker to be unable to take Drac’s (long sought-for!) death at the cost of Rachel’s.  Masterful.  

Ordinarily, I devote part of my comment space to a rave review of Gene & Tom’s art, and in most cases, I’m praising them for their chilling depictions of the Undead Master.  So this time, let’s look at what the artists are doing with our co-protagonist, Quincy Harker.  We’ve grown accustomed to Harker sitting still, not betraying any emotion – possibly due to resignation or fatigue from the endless conflict, or perhaps a need to maintain calm in the face of danger.  Harker does keep composed most of the way, but the pain from his eyes causes him to succumb to pressure toward the end, as we get a few striking frames of Harker feeling desperate and overwhelmed, with p 26 pnl 4, and p 31 (last two panels) providing noteworthy examples.  

Werewolf by Night 29
"A Sister of Hell"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin 
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane

Picking up from last issue's big reveal, Werewolf battles Were-Demon Lissa as Glitternight tussles with Taboo and Topaz. Lissa-Demon gets the upper tail as Buck tackles Glitternight—then suddenly she shoots flames from her eyes and tosses Werewolf into the blaze! Cut to Lt. Northrup, whose werewolf story is shot down by his boss, but still goes to Colden House to look for Jack, who Sandy tells him has vamoosed, and Raymond Coker has also left, gone to Haiti, where we see him meet gypsy "Jeesala of de Thousand Years." Back to the action and as Buck smashes Glitternight's head into a wall, Werewolf and Lissa-Demon battle on the edge of the castle parapets, and as she lunges at Topaz, Werewolf lunges back and the two sail to the ground. Werewolf takes off for the forest, where he turns back into Jack at dawn, stumbles back to the castle to see Glitternight bound and Lissa recovering in bed, with no memory of changing into the Were-Demon.--Joe Tura

Joe: A quick chapter in the Werewolf saga, in that the story zips along nicely, even with the cutaways to Northrup and Coker. Nice action drawn (incredibly) quite well by Perlin. He really is the best inker for his own pencils, which still are average, but for a month it's a little above average. Love the splash page, which won't sell any posters but still sets the mood. I chuckle that Lissa's flame eyes actually light up the fireplace. That's a handy power in the winter months! Also it's good that Werewolf knows "stop, drop and roll" to smother his hairy flaming back (with a "RAI-EEE" and a "RII-EEE"). Must have learned that in grrrr-ammar school. My favorite line of the ham-fisted fun that is Moench's script comes on pg 10 panel 5: "So Buck decided to join the fray, armed not with the powers of flittering sorcery…but with the simple memory of glory on the college gridiron." We get Buck backstory and purple prose at the same time!

Chris: After the promise of WbN #28, we seem once again to have slipped back a step.  Just when the Werewolf vs Weredemon fight has taken a fur-singeing turn, we get a too-long aside with Northrup and Coker (and I had thought this character had been safely released from this title).  The captions form nearly-impenetrable roadblocks to a steady increase of the battle’s tempo, especially in places like p 11, which tend to needlessly recount the action in the panels.  I will say that Jack’s reflection on childhood play-fighting with Lissa (p 7) is well done, especially as it contrasts with the savagery of the present conflict.  Buck’s decision to tackle Glitternight is surprising, and somehow effective, kinda like Doctor Strange slugging Mordo if the spells don’t work (note: all similarities to Doc’s title end right here).  The ending feels like a cop-out, as if Doug changed his mind at the last minute and decided that the Weredemon would not have been killed in the bone-crushing fall – instead, now Lissa’s mind is reduced to that of a 10 yr-old -?

Chris: Don’s art doesn’t capture the atmosphere he was able to establish in WbN #28.  Page 7 includes nearly all the art highlights, although a Roussos goof mars pnl 3, as he somehow mistakes the Werewolf’s left arm (slashing across) for that of the Weredemon (which should be out of the frame, right George -?), and colors the Werewolf-arm blue.  I guess we’ll have to blame that on the DDD too, right?  Missed opportunity on the very last panel, as the characters don’t seem concerned and confused by Lissa’s condition – rather, they all could easily be waiting on a supermarket check-out line.  

Iron Man 74
"The Modok Machine!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Arvell Jones, Keith Pollard, and Dick Ayers
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Following Giant-Size Avengers #4, Iron Man trains in his own Danger Room; Colonel Sin-Li puts the Titanic Three under house arrest for the experimental city’s destruction; and MODOK accepts the Black Lama’s challenge—rejected by Dr. Doom, the Red Skull, and Fu Manchu—while Magneto and the Leader have vanished. Warped visions torment the Lama, and a meteorite hits a Midwestern prison, freeing Firebrand as well as the Mad Thinker, who go their separate ways.  As Roxie warns Tony about her brother, the Thinker offsets the advantage A.I.M. affords his opponent, seizing control of I.M.’s armor and using him as a weapon, but MODOK traces the control beam and breaches his base, clutching an I.M. the Thinker has rendered inert… -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: “The War of the Super-Villains has begun,” roars MODOK on the cover; I still wonder what the heck we’ve been seeing since #70, but I believe this is the first time the WSV, as I just decided to start calling it, has been named.  Interestingly, Pollard is credited as a “pencil assistant” to Jones, and if the results seem cramped, we can’t blame Ayers—celebrating his twelfth anniversary as a Shellhead inker—for their surfeit of small panels.  Even those relatively large shots of MODOK have a “mini-jumbo” feeling.  I can’t recall how often we’ve seen the “bad guy controls I.M.’s armor” routine so I won’t call it overused, yet it doesn’t feel fresh.  Most Embarrassing Moment:  MODOK, huh?  Wonder why…”  Uh, could it be that WSV, of which you were already aware?

Scott: This issue follows Giant Size Avengers, which doesn’t come out until next month. Can you say “spoilers?” Iron Man swipes the X-Men’s Danger Room idea, which actually is something I would think he’d suggest to the Avengers. Especially since a couple of them tend to sit around doing nothing between crises. Why not hone the skills in the meantime? We spend a lot of time on this room of his and it feels like padding, which is weird, since the rest of the issue feels really overstuffed with tiny panels and lots of dialog. Why not drop the training session and spread the love? The title goes monthly now, which considering what we got this time, doesn’t feel like the best news.  

Matthew: I believe GSA #4 was originally scheduled for this month.

Also This Month

                                                        Arrgh! #3

Chamber of Chills #16
Crypt of Shadows #17
Giant-Size Chillers #2
< Giant-Size Fantastic Four #5 (all-reprint) 
Giant-Size Marvel Triple Action #1 
Kid Colt Outlaw #194
Kull and the Barbarians #1 (all-reprint)
Marvel's Greatest Comics #56
Marvel Super-Heroes #50
Masters of Terror #1 (all-reprint)
Monsters of the Movies #6
My Love #34
Nostalgia Illustrated #5
Rawhide Kid #126
Sgt. Fury #126
Spidey Super Stories #8
The Human Torch #5
Tomb of Darkness #14
Where Monsters Dwell #35

I realize the contents of this issue already have been discussed by the faculty (when it was originally published as FF Annual #5), but I still wanted to take a moment to weigh in.  Plenty of good fun, despite a few fundamental plot holes: why is Psycho-Man’s critical component shipped to Alicia’s apartment – Psycho-Man probably couldn’t sign up for a PO Box, so he selected Alicia’s address at random?  (I guess he might also have picked “Navin R. Johnson”); and, what could possibly have brought the Panther and the Inhumans to the same remote Caribbean island?  On a separate note, why didn’t Crystal accompany Ben and Johnny to the island (I can see her pictured on the cover) – are she and Sue already picking out wallpaper for the nursery?   I’ll pose the question again: doesn’t Crystal have a super-power?  Well, reservations aside, good fun with this makeshift team, which turns out to be Inhumans & Co, with panel after panel of dumpster-filling debris by Kirby. 

Based on the uneven quality of the original material for this title (first issue excepted), I wonder if Giant-Size Fantastic Four might’ve been better off with an all-reprint format right from the start.
-Chris Blake


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 12
Cover by Neal Adams

"Blood of the Golden Dragon"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rudy Nebres

"The Man with the Golden Gun Shoots Blank!"
Film Review by Don McGregor

"The Crack of the Whip"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Perez and The Tribe

In his first public speech as the incoming editor of Deadly Hands, Archie Goodwin (one of the great funny book editors of all time, in my opinion) takes a few shots at the previous administration and the sub-par work that was allowed to be published in the title ("...we hope to avoid the sort of loose and meandering story line that seems to run on forever, such as SONS OF THE TIGER...") and promises that quality will return to both fiction and non-fiction ("...much of the early movie coverage leaned too much on plot synopsis, becoming almost flack pieces for whatever was being covered."). To that end, Archie promises six-part serials for Master of Kung Fu and solo stories for The Sons of the Tiger ("... in an effort to expand a bit on the personalities of our three protagonists.") So, if you put a dress on a pig, is it still a pig? In other words, does giving Shang-Chi a 120-page story more effective than a one-and-done? If the first chapter of "Blood of the Golden Dragon" is any indication, we'll just have to wait and see. Taking in an evening magic show, Shang-Chi witnesses an attempted kidnapping of the magician's sister. S-C breaks up the shenanigans but is drawn into a mystery involving the magician, Cho Lee, and his sister, Shareen. The duo own a priceless artifact known as The Golden Dragon, a solid gold statue with a ruby at its center. Fearful that the bad guys are heading to the locker at the Manhattan Port Authority where the Dragon is hidden, Shareen asks Shang to accompany her. Along the way, S-C learns three things: Shareen is not Cho Lee's sister but, in fact, his lover; Shareen may just be more dangerous than the baddies who are after the Dragon; and the Dragon is really not what's been advertised. In the end, S-C fights a deadly ninja at the Station and, when his foe is unmasked, is surprised to learn his identity is Cho Lee. Shareen swears she's on the up and up and that Cho Lee is the bad guy but S-C is understandably confused. As is the reader. Long, meandering stories are the soup du jour for Doug Moench but usually you can follow his purple prose to the logical conclusion but, with Chapter One of "Blood of the Golden Dragon," Doug seems to be thinking, "Hang on, I've got another 100 pages of this freakin' story to tell? What the hell am I gonna do?" Truth to tell, I'm afraid to find out. Nebres would go on to do some nice work for Warren a few years later but his Shang-Chi looks goofily elated throughout every knife fight, lie, and betrayal (but Rudy draws Shareen as a scantily-clad hot chick so you takes the good with the bad sometimes). Archie, you got your work cut out for ya, buddy, but I'm pulling for you.

"Blood of the Golden Dragon"

Real Nasty Honky Chick
In his FIRST SOLO STORY EVER!, Son of the Tiger Abe Brown watches in horror as two paid assassins gun down a woman in cold blood on 42nd Street. Before she dies, she hands a folder to the man comforting her and Abe soon learns this man was her bodyguard. The woman was Miss Black (and, yes, she was black) and the man was her bodyguard, Nathaniel Byrd (aka Blackbyrd... seriously). A worker at a nuclear plant, Miss Black had become contaminated and decided, before she died, to tell the world the truth about the oil company-owned plant. Now, Blackbyrd becomes just as determined to deliver the word and asks Abe to tag along. Lots of physical mayhem ensues before the duo see that truth, justice, and the American way prevail. To the ranks of angry young Marvel writers, we do welcome young Bill Mantlo, a very white man who seems hell-bent on convincing the world that there may just be a division between races circa 1975. Not only does Young Bill see the plight of the African-American, he can hear their speech patterns perfectly. For instance, every black man ends his sentence with "bro" or "you dig?" Every white cop is turning a corner, hoping to find a "boy" to beat on; every white pedestrian is mean-spirited and suspicious; every white businessman (and woman) is corrupt and evil. I grew up in the 1970s so I know there was more than a fair share of this hatred going on but Mantlo amps up every emotion and cliche to 11 to the point that it almost becomes parody (much like the famous "I speak jive" scene in Airplane!) So, political "enthusiasm" aside, how is "The Crack of the Whip"? Well, there is no story beside the racial elements. At one point, Abe  contemplates striking his wristbands together and screaming "SHAZAM" but I thought all three Tigers had to be together for the super powers to kick in.  George Perez's art is getting better every issue so that's a plus but if Archie's plan, with these solo stints, is to fill in all the characterization that's been lacking in previous chapters, I'd say dump the plan and get back to mindless action. This is grating. Don McGregor spends entirely too much time reviewing the Bond Film, The Man with the Golden Gun (which had some martial arts action, thus the coverage), but the bright side is that this is the first time I've ever found myself agreeing with one of these Marvel quasi-critics (McGregor, Moench, Wolfman, etc.). But then dissing a Roger Moore Bond doesn't exactly make you a member of a minority, does it? -Peter Enfantino

Don't trust the Man!

Dracula Lives 12
Cover by Ken Bald

"Parchments of the Damned!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Sonny Trinidad

"Parchments of the Damned!"
Part Two-"The Stealer of Dracula's Soul!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Yong Montaro

"Parchments of the Damned!"
Part Three- "Paper Blood"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Steve Gan

"Christopher Lee: Hammer's Hero of Horror"
Text by Doug Moench

"The Sins of the Father"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Tom Sutton

In the 16th Century, the small village of Snagov is terrorized by a fiend known as Dracula. What is not known about the blood-sucking monster is his weaknesses. A shrewd businessman named Durenyi promises to break into Castle Dracula and discover the Count's Achilles' Heel for the princely sum of one thousand gold coins. The folk of the town eagerly agree and Durenyi makes his way to the Castle. Once inside, the bumbling burglar alerts the vampire to his presence and is attacked, escaping only when he pulls down the drapes to expose the dawn's light. Returning to the village, Durenyi claims he has destroyed the vampire and points to his facial scars as proof he has engaged the enemy. The town will pay the man his money after one night of vampire-free bliss. Before leaving the castle, Durenyi somehow managed to grab hold of Dracula's private journal (where he writes all his thoughts!) and is alerted to the fact that Dracula has decided to attack a different village in the future, that of Biastritz. Smelling even more gold, Durenyi travels to the neighboring community and sells them the secrets of Dracula's weaknesses for three thousand gold pieces. Meanwhile, Dracula has discovered his diary is missing and heads back to Snagov where security has become a bit lax. Putting the bite on two beautiful bar maidens, the vampire gleans the information needed to turn the tables on Durenyi, but not before the man sells Dracula's diary to a bookseller bound for London. Three hundred years later, that diary is sold at "a second-hand stall in Sheepshead Row" to one Bram Stoker. A few points are evident from the jumbo-sized "Parchments of the Damned": Dracula likes to dress like a certain DC Superhero, complete with a cape and a big bat across his chest (hmmm. wasn't that copyrighted at the time?); the vampire writes just as pretentiously as Doug Moench in a diary that is laughingly embossed "Diary of Count Dracula" (certainly the equivalent of the Off/On switch on the mad scientist's gizmo); and (unless they're written by Marv Wolfman) Dracula stories should not be 34-pages long. "Parchments" starts out strong with its quasi-Yojimbo-esque storyline and has the interesting hook of being illustrated by three different artists (Montaro has a definite Pat Boyette vibe to his art) but eventually sinks under its own padding. Not a total failure, mind you, but nothing more than a decent time-waster. Oh, and Dracula writes in his journal (at a desk with a giant bat carving, surrounded by human skulls) how much he hates being a vampire and then spends the rest of the story wading in the glory of being a "specter of death."

Yong Montaro's art for "Parchments of The Dark Knight!"

Kicking butt and taking names even back in 1466 (six years after the night he became a vampire, according to Gerry Conway), Count Dracula pulls a Michael Corleone and takes out the capos of three kings. Bored of life in Transylvania, the Count decides to travel a bit before... becoming bored of that as well and heading back home. In the process, the self-proclaimed Prince of Vampires (so who's king?) makes a number of enemies along the way, including a young man named Hans who witnessed his beloved sister slaughtered by the bloodthirsty monster. Hans heads to Transylvania to stake his claim and finds love and a one night stand with a gorgeous tavern wench named Rachel. The next morning, the brave young man heads off to Castle Dracula to finish the job he's begun but, only a few short hours later, Hans' body is dumped in front of her tavern. The girl swears she'll continue Hans' battle and so will the son she's confident is growing in her womb (yep, just a few hours after the dirty deed), sure as her name is Rachel Van Helsing! These Marvel writers play hard and fast with chronologies but I'm too lazy to keep track so I'll just take Gerry's word that 1460 was the year of Dracula's coming-out party. The "twist" climax of "The Sins of the Father" is a little too cute and the story meanders a bit too much (and the title makes no sense) but, hey, when you're graced with Tom Sutton artwork, stumbles are forgiven. Clearly, one hundred years before the events dramatized in "Parchments of the Damned," Count Dracula had yet to find that flair for the dramatic in his wardrobe yet, opting simply for the classic three piece suit and cape.


Doug Moench contributes a long and tedious Christopher Lee career overview that probably should have been dumped over in Monsters of the Movies. -Peter Enfantino

Savage Tales 10
Cover by Boris Vallejo

“Requiem for a Haunted Man”
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Russ Heath & The Crusty Bunkers

“The Running of Ladyhound”
Story by John Jakes

“Blood Purge”
Story by Carla Conway
Art by Ross Andru & Vincent Colletta

Amazing cover but there’s no editorial this issue. Which is a shame, since they are usually the most entertaining aspect of recent Savage Tales. So we swing right into “Requiem for a Haunted Man.”

Ka-Zar and Zabu are cornered by a congregation of alligators. But a white-skinned archer appears and unleashes a volley of arrows at the ravenous reptiles. The bloody tide turns and the jungle brothers emerge victorious. However, the mysterious bowman disappears without a word. A week later, Ka-Zar comes across the village of the river-forest people, under attack by barbarian horsemen. Suddenly, stampeding dinosaurs crush the invaders and the villagers are saved. The jungle lord comes across the cause of the stampede, a fire started by the long-gone archer. During the ensuing celebration, the leader of the villagers tells Ka-Zar that the stranger is from a distant land called Bell Fast and that his name is Edward Culhaney. The leader of a band of IRA rebels, Culhaney panicked during a police ambush and cowardly fled the massacre, leaving his men to die. Brokenhearted, Culhaney tried to commit suicide by throwing himself off the deck of a merchant ship — but his unconscious body washed up on a small iceberg and he floated to the shores of the Hidden Jungle. Searching for the Irishman, Ka-Zar and Zabu find the surviving barbarians attacking yet another small village. Rushing to their rescue, the savage heroes are once again joined by Culhaney’s deadly arrows. The barbarians are finally defeated — the mysterious archer sacrificing his life in the process.

This one is as blah as you can get, so lucky that it was only 21 pages. I guess Gerry was going for some type of “the cost of salvation” sermon but the story was just too uninspiring to resonate. And the art is way too plain for something set in a lush jungle. Most backgrounds are pure unadulterated white so “Requiem for a Haunted Man” could have easily been set on the plains of Kansas. There was zero character development for Culhaney, with only his IRA background providing any interest. Let’s check this one off my list and move on.

Sadly, we move on to the 10-page “Blood Purge,” which picks up from last issue. In the Himalayas, Shanna the She-Devil is tracking Raga-Shan, the villainous Kali priest responsible for the death of her beloved leopards Ina and Biri. During her quest, Shanna comes across the young and inexperienced Prince Telmah of Nel-Ireso doing battle with soldiers of his uncle, King Aculdi. The jungle queen manages to kill the leader and the rest retreat. Telmah tells Shanna that Aculdi murdered the true ruler, his father Akaman, and that his traitorous mother joined in on the reign of terror that followed. As the She-Devil is about to take her leave, the defiant little prince comments that Raga-Shan is his uncle’s guest. So Shanna eagerly accompanies Telmah through the secret tunnels underneath the palace: but they are soon captured since the prince’s mother also knew of the passageways. King Aculdi tells the captives that Raga-Shan left the day before. Plus, being a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, Aculdi has also constructed a pit and the pendulum: Shanna and Telmah will be the slicing contraption’s next victims. When the swinging blade gets close enough, Shanna manages to raise her arms and the ropes binding her are severed. Hiding behind the swinging pendulum to avoid the arrows of Aculdi’s archers, Shanna tosses a sword that impales both the king and Telmah’s treacherous mother.

The best thing that could be said about “Blood Purge” is at least it’s shorter than “Requiem for a Haunted Man.” Sorry, I thought that Raga-Shan was killed last issue but I’m sure nobody really cares. And yes, Carla Conway is Gerry’s first wife. Spelled “Andry” on the obviously typed credits, Andru does a fine job as does the much-maligned Colletta, also misspelled on the splash page as “Colleta.” Sheesh, if they couldn’t bother to get the artist’s names right I won’t bother to waste anymore time on “Blood Purge.”

We wrap things up with “The Running of Ladyhound,” a very lengthy text story by John Jakes, creator of Brak the Barbarian and eventual author of North and South and other bestselling historical potboilers. We also might know him as the co-plotter of Conan the Barbarian. At 17 pages, most three columns of tiny type, it’s much too long to detail here. Basically it’s of the wandering minstrel Duncan who gets mixed up with the evil King Lor. Besides other despicable deeds, Lor has transformed his unfaithful wife into a much-abused hound. Needless to say, comeuppances are involved. The story is highlighted by average art by Mike Whelan and Rick Bryant. Not sure who is responsible for the illustration on page 32 (left), but it’s the first true example of nudity that I’ve come across in a black-and-white Marvel magazine. So that’s something. -Tom Flynn

We here at Marvel University believe that a woman's body
is not to be exploited but to be stared at.

Planet of the Apes 8
Cover by Earl Norem

"The Planet Inheritors"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Ploog

"Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Chapter Three: The Warhead Messiah"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Alfredo Alcala

We start off with a Don McGregor editorial where we learn Archie Goodwin will be taking over as editor starting next issue. This way Don can have more time to write 20,000 word prose pages of Killraven and Jungle Action….But let's turn the page and off we go with the return of our excellent original story.

Brutus and his goons are at the camp, the gorilla leader having just killed gypsy ape Grimaldi, but during an argument with Jason, Steely Dan jumps him, and with help from little Trippo, the good guys win. Gunpowder Julius challenges Brutus to an awesome donnybrook that's certainly not held under the Queensberry rules, and eventually Brutus collapses in a heap. Our heroes travel down the river towards the Inheritors, with gypsy leader Saraband aboard. Jason and sultry Malageaña flirt while Saraband and the Lawgiver compare notes, then they get to the smoky mountains. Sneaking in through a ventilation tube, the band makes its way to the big brains, where Brutus realizes he's been tricked by the mutants and yells—which starts the little mutant drones shooting! A wounded Saraband takes two drones with him and destroys one of the globes, while Jason and Alexander take out another by tossing a drone into it. But our heroes soon vamoose with more drones on the way, mourning Saraband but headed towards the city on the riverboat.

"The Planet Inheritors"

Soooo many "burst" word balloons signifying anger at the start that you'd think this was a WWE standoff. Oh wait, back in '75 it was still the WWF! But, oh man I remember the Julius-Brutus brawl and it's still as fun as it was when I was 8. The Ploog artwork. The simian soap opera story. The memorable characters. Yeah, this is the good stuff for us Marvel Zombies whose parents let them buy an expensive magazine. Good thing Dad loved the Apes too! Seriously, a great chapter in "Terror" that really makes you want to get to next month already!

Instead, we get a long look at Roddy McDowall's makeup transformation into Galen, then a look at the class structure of the apes in the movies. Both ok, but certainly skippable. Finally, the next chapter of Beneath, with drippy Alcala art to kick things off. Queensborough Plaza has never looked so good! Here the seemingly short chapter takes us from Brent and Nova discovering the underground city, through humming vents and sterile corridors and water fountains and mind control that almost sees Nova being snuffed out. We also see some fast Ape City drama with Zaius/Ursus, but end on a mutant worshipping the bomb and taking Brent to a tribunal. All in all, a decent chapter, with fine art and a sparse script that's certainly welcome to keep the story moving. – Joe Tura

Kull and the Barbarians 1
Cover by Michael Whelan

“Hail the Barbarians”
Text by Roy Thomas
Art by Neal Adams

“A King Comes Riding”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Ross Andru & Wally Wood
(reprinted from Kull the Conqueror #1, June 1971)

“The Shadow Kingdom”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Marie & John Severin
(reprinted from Kull the Conqueror #2, September 1971)

“The Valley of the Worm”
Story by Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway
Art by Ernie Chan
(reprinted from Supernatural Thrillers #3, April 1973)

“King Kull” 
Text by Fred Blosser

Heard in the Marvel hallways circa 1976: “Hey Stan, can I do a new magazine featuring Robert E. Howard characters besides Conan?” “Sure Roy, that Conan stuff sells like hotcakes!” “Do you mind if the first issue is all reprints?” “Do what you want Roy, I’m late for lunch at the 21 Club!”

Even though many of their black-and-whites were dying on the vine, Marvel once again charged into the fray with Kull and the Barbarians, an 84-page, $1.00 magazine that was designed to spotlight other Robert E. Howard characters besides the big boy, Conan. Roy Thomas lays out the backstory in his three-page editorial, “Hail the Barbarians,” which features tremendous art by the great Neal Adams.

"A King Comes Riding"
According to the Rascally One, after stepping down as Editor-in-Chief, he had the itch to create more Howard-inspired titles. First he would bring back King Kull, no matter that his first series was cancelled back in August 1974. Following that would be the Puritan fanatic Solomon Kane, Red Sonja, and the Pict warrior Bran Mak Morn. The plan would be to give each a two- or three-issue “mini-series” — a common practice today, but probably the first mention of this format in Marvel history. If any of the limited-run series found an audience, the title would be continued. Sounds fine so far, and Roy even did an interview about the projects with Jim Steranko for Mediascene magazine. However, it seems that Thomas and Steranko got their signals crossed, for when the interview appeared it announced that all four characters would be appearing in a new $1 black-and-white magazine. Instead of panicking, Roy thought that a new mag would actually be a good idea. So whether or not we buy the whole story, here we are.

"The Shadow Kingdom"
With all the hoopla and hype, what does the inaugural issue of Kull and the Barbarians actually deliver? Three. Stinking. Reprints. Seriously? In the editorial, Roy even mentions that there is a complete Solomon Kane story illustrated by Alan Weiss sitting on a shelf! Why the heck not use that at least?  Even though all-new stories will begin next time, not a very auspicious start. No wonder this thing only lasted three issues.

We begin with reprints of both Kull the Conqueror #1 and #2. While these still stick in my craw, whatever that is, as mash-ups of the Howard stories “The Shadow Kingdom,” “By This Axe I Rule,” and “Exile of Atlantis,” they at least represent a solid origin story for the Valusian monarch.

Reprinted from Supernatural Thrillers #3 (April 1973), “The Valley of the Worm” was based on the Howard story of the same name, first published in Weird Tales in 1934. We never covered it in the halls of MU, so a quick recap: a warrior called Niord and his wandering tribe are attacked by a gang of marauding Picts. They emerge victorious, with Niord sparing the life of a particularly fierce savage named Gorm: the two become fast friends. When a group of Niord’s compatriots decide to go exploring on their own, all are devoured by the mysterious monster living in the Valley of the Worm. Niord vows revenge. First, the warrior traps and kills the giant snake Satha, dipping his arrows in the reptile’s venom. Then, he enters the valley and eventually slays the huge worm monster with the poisonous arrows, losing his life from the many wounds suffered during the hair-raising battle. This 21-page story has a pretty good reputation and the original is considered one of Howard’s best. The art is certainly impressive, with loads of Kane’s trademark action poses and nice inkwork by Chan. But again, reprint. By the way, “Valley of the Worm” was also the basis for Richard Corben’s 1976 Bloodstar, a work that billed itself as “a new, revolutionary concept — a graphic novel, which combines all the imagination and visual power of comic strip art with the richness of the traditional novel.”

The first issue of Kull and the Barbarians wraps up with Fred Blosser’s article “King Kull,” a review of the 1967 Lancer paperback King Kull. This short one-pager first appeared in the pages of the 1970 fanzine The Howard Collector. So that actually makes it four reprints. Grrrr. -Tom Flynn

"The Valley of the Worm"

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1 comment:

  1. Although Gerber took things over the top in Man-Thing #17, I don't think it was all that far-fetched. After all, a lot of horrid things happened in Florida, most notoriously the destruction of the mostly black community of Rosewood in 1923, including the murder of several residents, for which none of the perpretators were ever held accountable. Ok, that was over 50 years before, but then the southern Bible Belt remained a bastion of violence and hatred, with local law enforcement often taking part in the crimes, well into the 1960s, with people claiming to have god on their side while they committed acts of violence. BTW, while I mostly grew up in California, I've now been living in Florida for most of the last 25 years, and my parents were both from northeast Texas, and most of my relatives are southern. I actually enjoyed M-T #17, even with Jim Mooney's less than spectacular art. BTW, the Nazis were responsible for thousands of murders even before Hitler was named Chancellor in 1933 -- most times the very conservative German judges sympathized with the Nazi thugs and murderers and let them off with a slap on the wrist. Even Hitler got off easy after attempting an armed uprising against the local government in Bavaria. Yeah, he wasn't dressed like a viking, but the Nazis were already doing a lot of vile stuff and literally getting away with murder even before Hitle took over and changed the laws to make their crimes "legal".