Wednesday, April 1, 2015

November 1975 Part Two: Torn From the Loincloth of Conan the Barbarian! Red Sonja!

The Invincible Iron Man 80
"Mission Into Madness"
Story by Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich
Art by Chic Stone and Vince Colletta
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Ray Holloway
Cover by Jack Kirby and Al Milgrom

The Lama is King Jerald of Grand Rapids, a mini-state in his dimension’s North America, where Princess Susan reigns as regent and her advisors, Baron and Baroness Rockler, plot to overthrow him.  His emergence from the sphere with Firebrand and Iron Man sparks open revolt and forces them into an alliance with Jerald; after his predecessor abdicated, he had sought to escape the pressure via an experimental interdimensional transporter, yet its side-effects are an infectious madness and a cosmic imbalance he hoped to rectify by finding a substitute with his “war.”  Iron Man destroys the baroness’s Nulatron robots, and agrees to help suppress the revolt, although Jerald fears his and Firebrand’s continued presence will only exacerbate the imbalance. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley: Okay, we now know why the credits offer “belated thanks” to Englehart (whose website refers to “Jack Kirby [and Al Milgrom] doing a knock-off of a classic Neal Adams Superman cover”), but I can’t explain the “apologies to Poul Anderson.”  With the first part of Friedrich’s explanatory swan song seeming only to make things more confusing, though, I am prepared to allow that apologies are definitely in order for this ill-fated arc, touted in the lettercol as “one of Iron Man’s most acclaimed storylines,” which I’m sure some of my colleagues would call very faint praise indeed.  I never think of Chic Stone as a penciler, yet to bestow on him equally faint praise, and bearing in mind that he’s being inked here by Vince Colletta, he doesn’t totally stink up the joint.

Chris Blake: I’ve been looking forward to joining the Iron Man conversation, since he is among my favorite Marvel characters, and this title was one I followed steadily during my late-Bronze collecting days.  Once I realized that MU was about to catch up to the start of my collection – IM #80, that is – a little ahead of time, I dug out the issue, soaked in the Kirby cover (Jack is back!), and prepared to settle down and re-acquaint myself with the storyline.  Then, I opened the cover, and realized that I didn’t even have Tuska/Espo on the art – it’s Chic Stone (on pencils, even) and – Vinnie Colletta.  So.  I guess I can wait another month.

(pause – ok, now I guess I have to read it – here goes)
Remember those three-page writing assignments, from school days? "The Battle of Fort Ticonderoga," or "Igneous Rocks," or "Whales." And what would you do -- you'd write to the bottom of the third page, and then stop, practically in the middle of a sentence. Well, that's kind of how this issue felt to me -- recap, fight, exposition, fight, talk, then onward to #81! I realize that the reveal of King Somebody (his name escapes me) is supposed to be important, but since I don't own any of the previous issues in the storyline, the significance doesn’t register for me. Otherwise, I don't feel like Friedrich provides a whole lot of story development -- after checking off some boxes, we get to the bottom of the page, and we're done!
There’s a mea culpa on the letters page that discusses how DDD had struck IM, and ye editor reports that having Chic Stone on board will allow them to catch up.  First off, could you imagine in 1975 that signing Stone as artist for your favorite title would be good news; and second, could Tuska really have been that busy -?  (No mention of Colletta’s key contribution to the look of this issue . . . feh )

Matthew:  Professor Chris, welcome to the,  Always glad to have another voice, especially one that's not reflexively anti-ferrous, and although there's not much to defend here ("feh," indeed), it gets better, as you know.  Hang in there.
Scott McIntyre: I should hate the cover, credited solely to Al Milgrom and omitting the real artist behind the inks: the King Himself. However, it has such power and energy, even in latter day wonky Kirby style, it just explodes off the paper. So, for that alone, I actually kinda like it. 

Ka-Zar 12
"Wizard of Forgotten Flesh"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Russ Heath 
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Jack Kirby and John Romita

Dino-hunters Ka-Zar and Tongah are interrupted by two zebra-men from the Swamp Tribe, Charn and Sharka, who have been driven out by the shaman Zaurai and his followers. The two friends agree to help these strangers from the power-hungry shaman, who is seen addressing his captives, but what role does the mysterious woman Sheesa play? The good guys lasso a triceratops and ride it for two days with Zabu trailing, until they're ambushed in a marsh by lizard-men. But Ka-Zar and friends use bow and blade to savagely defeat the attackers. Meantime, Zaurai dons the Ritual of Afterlife headdress and awaits Sheesa's power of the priestess. The good guys enter the mountain home of the Swamp Tribe and Ka-Zar tosses a rock into the wooden cage to free the zebra-men, and they all travel down a tunnel as the ritual begins, hoping to join lizard and man. Ka-Zar and the tribe come to a giant skull, the crypt of the swamp people, where they hope to stop Zaurai. And as they swiftly defeat the bad soldiers, Sheesa uses her powers to raise an army of the dead, which she threatens to use to kill everyone who doesn't join her warriors!--Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Two months in a row of Ka-Zar? Oh, the humanity! Because of this monstrosity in the schedule, I'm not going to spend a lot of time pontificating about Lord Plunder, but will just say after the classic Kirby cover, the art this month by Eisner Hall of Famer Russ Heath (a rare superhero-based appearance by the famous western and war story artist of the 50s) has some softness to it that seems otherworldly at times, and the colors are a bit washed out like an old-time serial almost. So there's some mood going on, but yet it's all just OK thanks to Moench's political diatribe in the form of a Savage Land tale. Sheesa is a hot mama, but boy is she a nasty one! Bonus: we get not one, but TWO full-page panels of "Ka-Zar goes ape and kills everyone in sight". Hide the kiddies!

Chris: Veteran artist Russ Heath turns in an incredible-looking issue; this is one of only a handful of individual issues he contributed to the Bronze era.  Check out these moments: Ka-Zar and his fellow hunters hidden in the shadows, awaiting the approach of the triceratops (p 7, 1st panel); the four travelers silhouetted by moonlight as they move along the river, while the warrior party awaits them (p 11, pnl 2); the frantic, merciless action of the battle itself (p 11, p 14), and the bloody scrapes across Ka-Zar in its aftermath (p 15); a masterful look at moonlight shining on the water above, as Ka-Zar & Co swim to the tunnel entrance (p 16, last panel), and of course the ghoulish sight of the army of the dead rising from the ground (p 30).  And you know what – Sheesa looks pretty fine, herself.  

Marvel Premiere 26
Hercules in
"The Games of Raging Gods"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta
Colors by Irene Vartanoff
Letters by Gaspar Saladino, Annette Kawecki, and Karen Mantlo
Cover by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in Marin County, CA on the way to UCLA, Hercules and friend/agent Richard Fenster stop to investigate a raging forest fire, which the Olympian stops by creating another wall of fire with a giant redwood. Watching from the shadows are the outcast Titan named Typhon and witch-woman Cylla, both of whom escaped the dungeons of Hades, only to have Typhon's hand bound to the hilt of an axe by the flames of Prometheus. The axe grew in power such that they were able to leave Olympus and plummet to Earth, where only "the blood of his worst enemy", namely Hercules, can free Typhon from the axe curse. He ambushes Fenster's car, which plummets off a cliff and Hercules wages battle with the evil duo, with help from Fenster, who smacks Cylla with a stick, freeing Herc from the quicksand spell she had just cast. The Herc and Typhon battle rages on, until they fall into the Pacific, where the demi-god bests the banished one. But a drop of blood from Typhon's cheek falls onto his cursed hand—freeing the axe and breaking the spell, since he was his own worst enemy (ba bum kisssshh). Zeus appears to send Typhon and Cylla back to Hades, while Herc and Fenster head to their lecture sans automobile. – Joe Tura

Joe: Boy, turn in one late assignment, and look at the not-ready-for-summer-school class they make you teach around here. I mean, Hercules, who's either cool or insufferable with no in between, drawn by the team not-so-supreme of Tuska and Colletta, and written over the top by Mantlo just on the splash page, it's going to be pretty hard even to turn the page. Let's take another look at the Kirby cover. Oh wait, the figures' heads all look like badly used Mego figures whose cabezas are about to fall off for good. Oh man, what did I do to deserve this….But trudge on we must, and inside we are treated (tongue-in-cheek alert!) to a somewhat goofy and mythical romp through the hills of California, with the art turning out to be more passable than the horrible splash page threatened, the script a lesson in old school Olympian bravado and "gee willikers" exclamations like "Holy Joe!" by agent Richard Fenster (wasn't he Roseanne Roseannadanna's pen pal? Oh, Richard Feder, close enough). Of course, that doesn't mean I really liked it, but I'm glad ol' Herc is moving on after his one-shot pilot episode, headed to the lecture circuit of all places! Well, if his agent has his way…

Matthew: The book morphs into a true try-out title, with a one-shot story that retrospectively feels like a Champions spin-off (despite the fact that the group, currently between its first two issues, has yet to be officially formed or named).  This is due to the presence of both likable supporting player Fenster and the creative team, whose members will reunite on Champions #3 and work, singly or in combination, on every subsequent issue but #5.  Even with the quotidian Tuskolletta artwork, and Bill’s sometimes ponderous Faux-lympian dialogue, a forgiving reader such as I finds much to like here, e.g., the worst-enemy gimmick and the return of Typhon, recalling—if admittedly just a pale shadow of—those glory days of Avengers #49-50.

Marvel Team-Up 39
Spider-Man and The Human Torch in
"Any Number Can Slay!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Sal Buscema, Mike Esposito, and Dave Hunt
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo
Cover by John Romita

As Spidey befriends Manuel Arguelles on a rooftop, an unseen gunman leaves one of “Mosquito’s” beloved pigeons dead; hours later, the surviving Enforcers, Montana and Fancy Dan, and their boss, the gunman, knock out the Torch to bait a trap.  After deducing that the ambush was a set-up, Spidey sees a coffin with air-holes being carried into an abandoned warehouse and is astonished that the Big Man, who reformed and died in Amazing Spider-Man #52, has convened this gangland meeting to auction off the captive Torch.  Impersonating a prospective bidder, Spidey frees Johnny from the glass case preventing him from flaming on, but the ensuing melee is interrupted by the Crime-Master—dead since ASM #27—and the Sandman.
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: The start of my regular readership coincides with that of what I consider this title’s first period of sustained greatness, via some changes enumerated in a lettercol devoted partly to comments on a LOC by some guy named Barsotti:  “Bill…and Sal will be moving MTU towards more continued stories, the development of new villains and the reappearance of all your old favorites.  We’re also gonna take you readers up on the suggestion that we use the same heroes (and guest heroes) throughout our continuing stories.”  Whether that’s in response to any sort of justified backlash against the Jeremiah fiasco, I don’t know, but I always found it enjoyable that some of those continued stories had enough guest-stars to let them headline different ones in every installment.

That conveniently brings us to this extravaganza, which—not content with two super-heroes and no fewer than five villains—will soon throw the Sons of the Tiger into the mix with their four-color debut.  Without getting ahead of myself or including any spoilers, I’ll simply say that this relentlessly fun two-parter epitomizes all of the changes listed above; it seems utterly appropriate that in addition to digging deep into Spidey lore to dredge up the Big Man and the Crime-Master, and mercifully returning the Sandman to his original costume, Bill gets back to basics with the inaugural Spidey/Torch pairing.  The sadness of Pepita’s loss is offset by some satisfying comic relief with the hoods, and Esposito once again proves his worth, providing Sal with solid support.

Scott: It’s very satisfying to have Spidey and the Torch together again in the same story. Props for bringing back The Big Man to lead the Enforcers. That’s a great tip of the hat to the old days. The art is pretty standard. Not bad, but Sal was always the weaker of the two Buscema brothers. Decent action issue, but oddly disconnected from Spider-Man’s main continuity, unlike prior issues where they were more closely tied together.

Joe: Oh yeah, this is the good stuff! A crackerjack ish from start to finish--I mean, just check out page 27 and you'll see what I mean. Sal and Mike are in superlative form, and Mantlo does a nice job with the script, pouring on the mystery and the mayhem, leaving out the hokum, so much so that we'll need a second part to fill it all in! Remembering the ending, it's almost a cheat to see The Big Man and The Crime Master and not know what's going on, but hey, I'm still gonna enjoy the ride!

Master of Kung Fu 34
"Cyclone at the Center of a Madman's Crown!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Dan Adkins
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane

Reston pilots a rocket-plane to Mordillo's private island, with Shang-Chi accompanying him on the mission to rescue Leiko.  The plane crashes into a copse of trees, but Reston and S-C are unharmed.  Shortly after they have set foot on the ground, they are met by an oversized red toy train that speaks to them, and offers to bring them to Mordillo's HQ. In the castle, Mordillo badgers Leiko for information about the solar-chute; Mordillo reveals that he has constructed the weapon, but lacks the technology required to operate it. Leiko insists that she has no knowledge of this, which may be true, since the information had been hynotically encoded in her brain, with no means available to her to retrieve it.  Outside, S-C and Reston have a brief battle with mechanized toy soldiers, then re-board the train and continue on to the castle.  As they approach, the drawbridge rises to deny them entry, but the train chugs merrily forward.  S-C and Reston leap to grab the drawbridge as the train plunges into the moat.  They then are met by a mime, who beckons them to follow him to a row of seats in a theater.  Reston and Shang-Chi are trapped in their seats, as the curtains part to show Leiko imprisoned in an oversized hourglass (its sand rapidly filling the lower chamber, where Leiko will surely be buried), and Mordillo himself arrives and proceeds to set aflame the seat nearest to S-C!  -Chris Blake

Chris: It's surprising to me that Reston and Shang-Chi would follow the bread crumbs planted by Mordillo. I expect that S-C would be willing to play along until required to act, but I see Reston as an agent who would recognize a trap for what it is, and elect instead to do the unexpected.  Could it be overconfidence on his part -- does Reston feel that he will be able break away from Mordillo's game at a time of his own choosing?

Readers who wanted some distance from stories reliant on the lurking evil of Fu Manchu now find themselves in a place that portrays a different extreme, as we are immersed in the bizarre trappings of Mordillo’s world.  Is it too much?  It’s a little hard to believe that a man could be a master assassin and a certified nut.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it; on the one hand, once again I will give Doug & Paul credit for trying something new.  The other hand reminds me that we’re getting further and further from the patiently observing character of Shang-Chi, whose quoted text for most of this issue serves as little more than redundant captions for action we already see unfolding on the page.  S-C reflects on this being an “experience,” that “would seem amusing” under different circumstances; but, I’d much prefer to see S-C take in his unusual surroundings, and reflect on it to afford him insights to his adversary.  This way, Doug might’ve clued us in to S-C’s mind working on a completely different level, not seeing the island as filled with distraction, but instead, as providing valuable information for him to apply to the mission.

Mark Barsotti: Moench and Gulacy liked their madman-on-an-island trilogy (as did we all) so well they re-run it immediately, as absurdist farce: whereas drug lord & would-be nuclear terrorist Velcro had a pit of leopards, Mordillo's island has a giant pink shoe (the kind an old lady lives in). Okay, Mordy wants to fry people selectively with his Freon-powered solar whatsit after prying its secrets from ex-lover Leiko's brain, but he's also got a cute little blue robot with googly Howard the Duck eyes!

Where are the Brynocki action figures? I want the one with a chef hat!

Chris: My favorite art-bit plays out in the dining room scene between Leiko and Mordillo (p 18-23).  First, the intercutting between the two opposed faces; then, the way Paul plays with the cliché of the long table (which ordinarily would have the two parties sitting on opposite ends, as far away as possible, right?), and instead has the mirrors opposite Leiko drawn away to reveal the impressive-looking Deadly Weapon.  Leiko looks immensely hot throughout the issue, by the way; can’t say I blame Reston for flying to the far end of the world to try to save her – wouldn’t you -?

Mark: Shang-Chi and Reston ride the jolly little red train of death. Father Fu puts in an appearance, if only out of a jack-in-the-box. Our hero barely co-stars in his own mag, with luscious, bad-ass Leiko and her kooky-ex getting half the pages and all the good dialogue. S-C trades his robe for a skin-tight cat suit - dig the high-heel boots! – and is more laconic than usual. There's an obnoxious mime and a Humpty-Dumpty assassination attempt. Sadly, the mime survived.

Brynocki – boy, is he adorable – greets our heroes in a theater, last page, with Leiko onstage, trapped in a giant hourglass right out of goofy, late-Fifties Batman, perfect for Mordy-Land.

Some of my colleagues have grumped that MOKF is now far afield from contemplative, fish-out-of-water Shang. Yep. One can only do so much navel-gazing and Fu fighting before striking out for new territory. That Shang-Chi is the least interesting character this month will be a problem if it continues, but for now world-saving covert ops against Mad Mordillo - equal parts Doc Doom, Walt Disney, and Michael Jackson at Neverland – works for me. And Brynocki.  

The Mighty Thor 241
"The Death-ship Sails the Stars!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia

Although he believes he is Atum-Re, father of the Egyptian gods, Odin acknowledges some unclear recognition of his son Thor, and even Jane Foster/Sif. After an initial hostility, Thor agrees to help Horus, Isis and Osiris fight Seth, realizing evil won can spread everywhere. They enter the pyramid and find themselves in the realm of the Egyptians, on a golden bridge complete with giant statues. Seth's first attack comes in the form of skeletal warriors behind horse-drawn chariots. A more impressive threat comes when Seth himself appears, and appears to have no problem sending his parents to an age close to death. Thor holds him off for a time, but it is Jane Foster's tears and appealing to Odin for his son's life that move him into action, and he strikes. Seth has no response, and is left at the mercy of his Egyptian fellows; they have little. Goodbyes are said, and although Odin still doesn't recall much, it is a reunion of sorts. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: I always loved how Marvel felt just in mixing the Pantheons, as in this Egyptian tale, which is here concluded nicely. I don't know why they couldn't have asked for help from Odin and Thor first, but such is the way of gods. The conflict brings Odin a little closer to regaining the full measure of his mind, and to his family as well. Jane Foster, as Sif might have done, appeals to Odin's heart to spur him into action. The Egyptians have an impressive version of Bifrost, this time gold, complete with giant statues. Seth is pretty much Loki, if not as impressive.The attack of the skeletal chariots is a highlight for me for sure, kind of Jason and the Argonauts in space! Notably, we have the return of Jack Kirby to the Thor title, if only for the cover art. It is impressive, even if pretty average by the King's standards.

Chris: Good choice by Mantlo to make the Egyptians benevolent – their greatest fault might be that they’re opportunistic, but we can’t see them as being truly evil.  This way, we can buy that Osiris would call for Odin to break off his attack on Thor, and for Thor himself later to join the fray in opposition to snakey Seth.  Solid action throughout, but of course, with the hell-born hordes of Harryhausen a heckava highlight.

So now that Jane is the picture of health again, and Odin has been safely restored to his family (good thing he had that note pinned to his tunic before he wandered off), I have to wonder what the future might hold for this title.  A return to life in Asgard for awhile, perhaps?  But might Jane be welcome, this time -?  
Matthew:  Once again, I find myself in the unusual position of being surprised to enjoy an issue of Thor so much, but we’ll see if the 2½-year Wein Era that begins next month changes my tune.  If pressed to find fault, I would say only that Bill’s script is not as smooth as last time; as in his concurrent Hercules yarn, his quasi-classical dialogue seems somewhat stilted, and he belabors the rocky relationship between the pantheons a bit much.  Certainly nothing to complain about on the visuals as those tag-team Buscema boys switch off again, with Big John and Joltin’ Joe reunited in my favorite art pairing, while the entire lettercol is devoted (without comment) to a single lament about Gerry’s high-handed treatment of Sif, with which I’ll admit I largely concur.

Scott: A good action issue with beautiful art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. Odin’s memory crisis is still with us, but for the most part, this was an enjoyable ride, if not anything special. The art makes it seem better than it is.  

Matthew: It usually does.

The Tomb of Dracula 38
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

The hack writer known as Harold H. Harold sneaks into a blood bank with his co-worker Aurora; they steal blood samples for Dracula.  Dr. Sun uses a hologram to lure the vampire hunters to a house.  Waiting for them is Sun's henchman Juno.  The large, horribly scarred Juno takes Rachel Van Helsing, Frank Drake, and Quincy Harker to Dr. Sun's hideout where the evil brain, connected to computers, is waiting for them.  Sun explains how he has been using his machines to siphon Dracula's powers, so that he can use them himself, to rule the world.  Quincy uses some explosive darts, shot from his wheelchair, to destroy Sun's machinery.  Juno attacks them, but Dr. Sun orders that they be spared.  He wants Quincy to be around so he has someone to talk to, and bask in his glory, once he has Dracula killed.  Back at Harold's crib, the Count thanks the couple for boosting his strength with the blood they stole for him.  Juno barges in, and orders Drac to come with him - Dr. Sun wants to see him.  Drac is more than happy to follow as he would like to have some words with Dr. Sun himself.  The story ends with Dr. Sun promising Dracula that he will never leave their meeting alive.
 -Tom McMillion

Mark: Perhaps it was the death-spiral of Marvel's monster mags (addressed on the letters page) that inspired Marv to add an element of humor to TOD; regardless Harold H. Harold injects fresh blood (couldn't resist, class) into the proceedings as the hapless writer is led on a blood bank heist by his boss' secretary Aurora, who tramp-vamps an infatuated intern while Harold skedaddles with an armful of the rich red.

The restored Count is so grateful that he deigns to be quizzed, saving Harold's hack writer gig. Alas the interview with the vampire (is that a light bulb going on over Anne Rice's head?) is interrupted by the door-splintering arrival of Juno, Dr. Sun's spike-handed, Franken-stitched henchman.

Sun has already arranged the attendance in his lab of Quincy, Rachel, and Frank, honoring their years of Drac-hunting service with an opportunity to witness the Count's demise. The cast now assembled, grab some popcorn – or a pint of B + - and settle in for the grand (Guignol) finale!

Scott: A mixture of gripping storytelling and goofy silliness and I’m not sure it’s all that an effective mixture. I could have done without the comedy styling of Harold and Aurora. Doctor Sun is a great villain, but the hokiness of keeping Harker and the others alive was a tad eye rolling. “I’ll keep you alive so I can gloat” is as hoary a device as one could ask for. The art is gorgeous, as usual, but the tap dancing needed to keep the main villain, who is also the title character, alive, along with the supporting cast, is growing a tad weary.  

Chris: This issue sorta whizzed by; not because I found it at all suspenseful – I think I was in a hurry to find any part of the story that involved, or directly impacted, our featured character.  Marv keeps the shenanigans with Harold and Aurora effectively amusing, but the longer the comic relief carries on in a title like this one, the more it seems to wear thin and feel out of place.  

I’m not buying Dr Sun’s reason for drawing Quincy, Drake, and Rachel to his lair; he wants them there to hear him gloat over successfully killing Dracula, when Quincy’s group had failed -?  Seems thin – but is it because Dr Sun has some other card to play that he hasn’t shown yet, or simply because Marv hadn’t thought this all the way thru?  Plus, Braincase offers to convince Quincy & Co to join him, but on the final page, we see all three of them bound up; I’m thinking that’s not going to encourage me to sign up for membership in the Dr Sun Global Conquest Scheme Club, ya know?  “Look, Juno – I checked the ‘no bondage or confinement’ box on the application, see – right there -?”

Werewolf by Night 35
"Evil in Every Stone, No Longer Hiding"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Debra James
Cover by Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson

Jack grabs onto a nearby tapestry as the werewolf goes to attack Topaz and Elaine, but Jack is able to swing over and subdue the beast, then is saved by Topaz, whose powers turn the creature back to Ectoplasm Jack-Man, who in turn is burned and vanishes with only the evil Marcosa around to share an evil laugh. Suddenly, Lissa screams from upstairs—she's being hanged by an image of Philip Russell, and goes mad with fright! After they sedate Lissa, the trio wonders if these visions are real or merely hallucinations, then the front door opens, they discover the limo is gone and the gargoyle falls, nearly crushing them and revealing a skull inside. Elaine tells of Belaric Marcosa, a supposed faith healer and master of hypnotism who became a soul eater in his evil house. Going to check on Lissa, Jack turns to find the women gone, and the skull emits black ectoplasm that turns him to the Werewolf! Hands clutch at him, flames threaten to engulf him, yet he makes his way through a closed door, only to see Elaine stabbing someone to death! The gargoyle appears, a black bubbly ooze that turns Jack back, then he realizes the dead woman is Topaz! He carries her outside to the main hall, where a laughing Marcosa stands in from of Buck, dangling from the end of a noose!--Joe Tura

Joe: A pretty damn cool Starlin-Wrightson cover kicks things off, and inside our brains are turned topsy-turvy like a Gerber tale on acid. (Redundant, I know…) Really, what the heck is going on in this house? What a bad idea this turned out to be for our heroes, especially poor Jack, who sees his lady slain, his sister driven to madness and his best friend presumably dead at the end. Not a good night for Mr. Russell. So much wackiness going on, with decent art by Perlin and an insane script from Moench, you don't get to stop and take a breath until the end, which has a powerful double shock that actually has me wanting to see next month's issue! And let's face it, boys and girls, that doesn't happen very often in these parts.

"Weremail By Night" features two letters of the many received after WWBN #31, the mauling of Buck issue. One from Bruce Connelly of Wallingford, CT, aka R. Bruce Connelly, who wrote in on Godspell letterhead—after all, he was starring as Jesus in the musical around this time, and has gone on to much greater fame as an actor, his biggest role being Barkley the Dog on Sesame Street. The other missive is from good old Fred G. Hembeck of Buffalo, NY, before he started sending his letters in with illustrations, that is.

Chris: Okay – I swear to you – I was not a college roommate of Doug Moench, and I was not a volunteer fireman with Don Perlin.  I’m serious – I never met either of these guys.  And, I’m not under the depraved evil influence of Belaric Marcosa either.  But I am thoroughly enjoying these creepy Werewolf stories; effective employment of atmosphere, mystery, and suspense for these two most recent issues (and if you don’t believe me, then check out Fred Hembeck’s lengthy laudatory letter on the fanpage appearing in WbN #39!).  

Topaz sums up the situation well – our characters don’t know whether there are genuine supernatural entities at work, or possibly some scientifically-verifiable manifestation of electromagnetic energy, or if all that has been happening in the house is the product of hallucination.  And, things have gotten pretty hairy, with Lissa seemingly hanged by Philip, Topaz stabbed by Elaine, and now Buck somehow transported from the hospital and hanged by Marcosa himself!  As a reader, I can’t be sure of what’s happening either, since Doug has wisely chosen not to let us peek into Marcosa’s machinations, or to wink and suggest “all’s well, true believers – turn the page and see for yourself!”  We’re strapped in for the ride, with no hints of the outcome we should expect next issue; I will continue to be unguardedly optimistic.  

Iron Fist 1
"A Duel of Iron!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by John Byrne and Al McWilliams
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

After finding a Stark International security card on Angar the Screamer, Iron Fist breaks into the corporation’s New York office, convinced that Tony Stark himself is behind the kidnapping of Colleen Wing. Inside, he encounters Misty Knight, Wing’s partner in the private investigation firm, Nightwing Restorations, Ltd.: she’s there to meet Stark’s Chief of Security, Donald Cauley, who claims to have information about Colleen’s disappearance. Together, they find Cauley murdered. Tony Stark watches the pair standing over his friend’s body on a visi-screen: he dons his armor and flies off as Iron Man to encounter the intruders. At Kennedy Airport, Colleen is being loaded on an airplane by Hassan and his cronies: when Wing escapes and rushes away, she is caught by a mysterious man who has a similar chest tattoo as Daniel Rand, except missing the dragon’s wings. The stranger returns Wing to Hassan and the plane takes off for Halwan. The tattooed man calls Ward Meachum on a payphone and tells him that he wants Iron Fist. Back at Stark International, Iron Fist and Iron Man battle, even the Living Weapon’s powerful Iron Fists proving useless. Just as Iron Man is about to deliver the coup de grace, Misty intervenes: Cauley is actually still alive and is part of a group of sleeper agents planted in Stark’s company who are working for someone in Halwan. The two iron heroes part friends. 
-Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: Compared to many of the new titles that debuted in the tail end of 1975 — oh, let’s say the Isabella/Heck The Champions  [Bradley to Flynn: "Dig, dig, dig!"]— Iron Fist’s new monthly solo series is in capable and talented hands. Claremont and Byrne continue from Rand’s final appearance in Marvel Premiere and will remain until this comic is cancelled with issue #15. Just like Marvel Premiere 25, it looks like there’s still some leftover art by Pat Broderick mixed in. Check out pages 8 and 9: the art is a serious step down from the rest of the issue. Have no idea who the tattooed stranger is but it looks like the Meachum name is back to torment our hero. It always a good idea to include an established character in a premiere issue and Iron Man makes a suitable MARMIS foe for Iron Fist, even though, in my humble opinion, his ongoing series is one of Marvel’s most dreary. Whack! [Bradley to Blake: See what I mean?] Kinda chuckled when Misty Knight made her appearance in what is basically a superhero costume: must be tough to go undercover in that thing.

Matthew:  I honestly can’t recall if I got Champions #1 off the rack, so if not, this might be the first Marvel mag I bought from the get-go.  Love the splash page, with Danny dwarfed by the letters that are, in turn, but a fraction of the huge S.I. sign, and the creepy “Angar-Vision” in pg. 6, panel 4, as the Byrne/McWilliams balance shifts in John’s favor.  The story recalls Amazing Adventures #12—which isn’t a bad thing—yet Chris is obviously thinking long-term, planting seeds like the effective introduction of the as-yet-unidentified Steel Serpent, no relation to the one-shot villain from a story that (as we know from Professor Emeritus Seabrook) was intended for the first issue of the abortive B&W Iron Fist, and salvaged in Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #10.

Scott: Any issue drawn by John Byrne is a treat, even if the inker isn’t a perfect match for him. Al McWilliams is a damned good artist in his own right. Only a small amount of his style comes though. The art is dominated by Byrne’s clean lines and realistic eye. Chris Claremont’s wordy prose serves up a good story, laying out more mystery. I give Claremont credit for providing us with strong women who can kick serious ass without having outlandish powers or warrior armor. A really well done first official issue for Danny Rand.

Matthew: Does a bionic arm count as an outlandish power?

Chris: You are Iron Fist.  Who – me?  No – you, you there, you are Iron Fist.  I beg your pardon – I believe you’re mistaken.  Uh, yeah, sorry . . . okay, you are Iron Fist.  Que -?  . . . (sigh) You are Iron Fist.  Well – all right, if you say so.  It’s your quarter, sailor. 

So, we still don’t know why Colleen was kidnapped to Halwan.  We do know why Danny was duped into thinking that Stark Industries might be behind the crime: to set up a premiere-issue-length economy-sized MarMis!  Well, it’s not like Marvel wasn’t in business to sell comics.  
The other thing we don’t know is how Cauley was able to convincingly fake his own death, simply by playing possum on the office floor; it’s kind of a moment out of Scooby-Doo at the end, when he’s hauled out as the Real Crook.  Note to self: don’t hire Misty or Danny as RNs, EMTs, forensic detectives, and certainly not as coroners or undertakers.  They called Cauley dead faster than you could say Leonard McCoy MD!  

Jungle Action 18
The Black Panther in
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Billy Graham and Bob McLeod
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Dave Hunt
Cover by Jack Kirby and Klaus Janson

T’Challa has spent the past two months helping his people rebuild their home, following Erik Killmonger’s devastating campaign against Central Wakanda.  He and W’Kabi leave the capital to search for “mysterious corpses” that had been reported by shepherds.  They find two dead men, hanging from a tree, with hyenas about to try to tear them down; W’Kabi uses a sonic disruptor, now built into a mechanical arm that has replaced his left arm, to disperse the scavengers.  T’Challa has taken the bodies down, when he and W’Kabi are attacked, and overcome, by a mute giant.  The Panther awakes to find himself the prisoner of a woman, together with a pack of leopards, who calls herself Madam Slay.  Slay states that she and Killmonger had been “close,” and that she will seek T’Challa’s death as payment for Killmonger’s.  The Panther is tethered by his wrists to two leopards, who then are set loose to run over a sun-baked field of rocks and bones.  T’Challa is scraped raw as he is dragged along, but just as he is about to be impaled on a sharp outcropping, he gains his feet and vaults onto the beasts’ backs.  Confused, the cats race back to Slay’s lair, where the Panther catches both she and her mute muscleman by surprise.  Slay recovers, and catches T’Challa in the back with a sharp spike, but before she can finish him, W’Kabi (still in chains, against a nearby wall) frees himself with a sonic burst, then shoots Slay’s feet from under her, taking her out of the fight as her head strikes the ground.  The mute lifts up his fallen mistress, and under T’Challa’s direction, they turn toward the fading sunlight, to return again to Central Wakanda.  -Chris Blake
Chris: Does T’Challa have any intact Panther suits left?  Maybe if Reed Richards could fashion him one out of unstable molecules, they might last longer.
We’ve witnessed some extraordinary feats by T’Challa over the previous twelve issues, but somehow his leap onto the backs of both running leopards seems too much of a stretch, a feat best achieved with the help of CGI.  Don himself acknowledges this to be a bit of a longshot, as T’Challa pulls off this trick in his only attempt, with no second chance for recovery should he miss his footing.  I don’t mind that the Panther is able to accomplish this, but there should be 1-2 panels to set it up, some opportunity that T’Challa is able to recognize in order to improve his chances for success, instead of him suddenly being able to leap, and land, right where he wants to.  
Don succeeds in wearing out the word “pastel,” as he uses it the following ways: “woodland sombre is treacherously pastel” --?; “pastel foliage;” “pastel surroundings;” and probably another instance that I can’t find right now.  The only time it seems to make sense is on page 11, when Don refers to “pastel death,” since it is mirrored by a panel in silhouette by Graham (lavender-colored by Glynis Wein), which creates the impression that we are witness to the same sight as T’Challa and W’Kabi, as they spot the two hanging bodies, threatened by circling hyenas, through the haze of the afternoon heat.  

Despite the latest physical insult to T’Challa, he returns to Slay’s lair, tattered – but unbloodied – on page 30.  This has to have something to do with the CCA, right?  Was there some provision at the time against depiction in four-colors of someone bleeding from wounds?  One touch Graham is able to include is T’Challa quivering in pain after being stuck by Slay’s horn (p 30, last panel), and then quietly struggling to regain his feet after W’Kabi has defeated her (p 31, pnl 4).  The beat goes on.  
There is an “Epilogue” motif, as the word appears on the title page, but then can be seen in part on page 2, and again seemingly formed from clouds on p 31 – as if to say, we know “Panther’s Rage” is supposed to be over, but when is it ever truly over for T’Challa?  He can tell by the sun and the clouds in the sky that the next day will bring new challenges, and new heartache.  
Matthew: Except for that one glorious cluster issue (#14), I came to “Panther’s Rage” just in time for the epilogue, graced by another of the many covers the resurgent Kirby did this month before taking over any books, as he will do in January.  McLeod remains one of the most satisfying “discoveries” I have made while working on MU, and the McGraham team upholds what I now know to be its customary standard, both of excellence in general and of balancing well-presented action scenes with strong character stuff.  The latter is, of course, quite notable here as Don depicts the varying emotions and fates of those left standing in the wake of Killmonger’s death, and it’s typical of his nuanced writing that there are no easy answers given...

Marvel Feature 1
Red Sonja in 
“The Temple of Abomination!”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Dick Giordano
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Cathi Ann Thomas
Cover by Gil Kane and John Romita

Riding through Darkwood, the haunted Nemedian forest, Red Sonja comes across a ruined temple. Inside, she is attacked by a satyr: the woman warrior manages to slay the man-goat. Walking onwards, Sonja nearly falls through a trap door into an endless pit, an unearthly stench rising from the dark abyss. Soon, she comes across a half-dead priest of Mitra chained to a wall. After she takes the tortured man out of his misery, even more bloodthirsty satyrs rush forward, led by one playing a pan flute. The Hyrkanian heroine smashes the instrument with her blade and the rest of the woodland creatures become motionless. Red Sonja trades sword thrusts with the leader until she causes him to fall into the pit, making him the latest victim of the slither-things that lay waiting. -Thomas Flynn

Tom Flynn: Originally cancelled in November 1973 — after launching both The Defenders and Marvel Two-in-One — Marvel Feature returns with the adventures of Red Sonja. I’ll say it one last time and finally move on: Red Sonja is not a Robert E. Howard character. He had Red Sonya; Red Sonja was created by Roy and Barry Smith. Just like the premiere issue of Marvel’s other recent Howard publication, the all-reprint Kull and the BarbariansMarvel Feature #1 is a bit of a bungle. The new “The Temple of Abomination!” is only 8 pages long, so a reprint of “Red Sonja” from The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #1 (August 1974), is also included. Why Marvel would launch a new series in such a half assed manner is beyond me. I assume it’s because the black-and-white magazines were hard to find so perhaps they thought that material was actually new for most people. Still, far from an auspicious start. The source work of “The Temple of Abomination!” is Howard’s tale of the same name, featuring the Viking pirate Cormac Mac Art, first published in 1973 in the anthology Tigers of the Sea. It was unfinished and completed by the volume’s editor, Richard L. Tierney. Here, it is an unmemorable affair, almost a throwaway, with nothing to hang your hat on: Sonja simply walks into a ruined temple, kills a few satyrs and moves on. Dick Giordano provides some nice artwork: you can really feel the bloody sting of Sonja’s sword. But this is it for Giordano on Marvel Feature: Frank Thorne takes over next issue and would become perhaps Red Sonja’s signature illustrator.

Matthew:  Glad I bequeathed you the first few issues of this mag that I inexplicably bought back in the day ("inexplicable" save for the babe in the chain-mail bikini); I could never have done them justice.  Nice work! 

Skull the Slayer 2
"Gods and Super-gods"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Steve Gan
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Tony San Jose
Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer

Scully wakes from the conking on the noggin he received (last issue) to find he's the captive of a tribe of cavemen. More alarming is that they seem to be cannibals and they've set Scully down next to some very large potatoes and onions. When next he wakes, he's surrounded by Ann, Jeff, and Dr. Corey, Skull's companions in the prehistoric world. The trio had also been captured and brought to this camp by the cavemen. As they are plotting their escape, a herd of dinosaurs stampedes the area and Skull is forced to hop aboard the back of one when Anne falls into its path. Once the ruckus is passed, the Cro-Magnons show the quartet deep into their cave where a most unusual sight awaits them: a dead alien being seated on a throne, bathed in a beam of electricity. When Scully takes a shine to the alien's belt (Marvel Coincidence Alert: the belt is shaped in the image of a skull), he manages to pierce the electric beam and nab the prize. Once he dons it, Skull's strength magnifies and the alien crumbles to dust. This comes in handy when the cave dwellers object to the way their God was treated and attack our heroes. Safety comes in the form of a handy river but, as they are crossing, Ann is (once again) put in danger's path and Skull has to save her, killing a dinosaur with his bare hands. Jeff lets the bemused Skull know that he seems to be glowing and it may be the work of his new accessory. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Though I'm not yet jumping up and down and proclaiming this "the best new title featuring dinosaurs published by Marvel every other month," some parts, as Euell Gibbons used to say, are edible. Marv seems to be floundering, looking for some possible way to separate this from every other Burroughs' rip-off pumped out since the 1920s, but that may be to our benefit. There's some really loopy but enjoyable stuff thrown in here... and there's some really dopey stuff as well. Discovering that alien is tantamount to the castaways finding that hole in the ground on Lost (was JJ a Skull the Slayer fan?). Skull's dialogue, as he's riding irritated thunder lizards, can come off as cliched and eye-rollingly bad:

Skull to Styracosaurus: Sorry to leave you friend -- just when we were getting to know each other -- but, frankly, I don't think we have much in common! Y'see, there's this basic religious difference! You're an atheist and I'm a devout coward!

Has anyone ever heard a person anywhere, at anytime, in real life, mouth the words, "That cuts it!" I grew up in the 1970s and I never heard anyone use that exclamation and yet, there it was in all those Marvel Comics. Peter Parker used to say it all the time. So, if not a full-blown success (let's remember, after all, this thing only has another six issues of life left), at least Skull #2 is a mild distraction.

Marvel Two-In-One 12
The Thing and Iron Man in
"The Stalker in the Sands!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Ron Wilson and Vince Colletta
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Karen Mantlo
Cover by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia

 In Israel’s Negev Desert, the test-launch of Stark’s Pattycake One goes inexplicably downward into the silo built to dissipate its exhaust beneath the sand, and when Iron Man investigates a cavern below, he soon joins pilot Ben, who—drawn to a blinking light—was enthralled by Prester John.  Wandering after he lost the Evil Eye in Fantastic Four #54, Richard the Lionheart’s erstwhile knight was honored as a god and given a gleaming stone of power by Bedouins.  Under its influence, he destroyed the tribe with a maelstrom that entombed him under the desert, but was revived and freed by the crash; shocking each other out of their immobility, our heroes separate him from the stone so that Ben can hurl it into the stratosphere, freeing John. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Over the years I’ve had various axes to grind with the late Dan Curtis, so I always take perverse glee in pointing out that at least one name is invariably misspelled in the credits of his films I analyzed ad nauseam in Richard Matheson on Screen.  I’ve long wondered how Bullpenners felt at suffering the same indignity at the hands of their own damned colleagues, as Vince “Colleta” did in this issue from the scripter’s wife, who aptly billed herself as “Karefree Karen Mantlo.”  Just before writing this, I was proofing our second post for April, where I’d said (regarding Thor #234), “Buscema is reunited with my favorite inker, although the latter gets a slap in the face from letterer Costanza, who misspells his surname ‘Sinnot’”; per the Tick, “Quelle coincidence!

Sadly, that’s one of the more notable aspects of this blah issue, which I can’t even say was a big disappointment, because although I got it off the rack, I didn’t have specific fond memories of it, just a generally favorable impression of its team-up (reuniting the stars of the strip’s sophomore entry in Marvel Feature #12) and yet another of the month’s Kirby Kovers.  My biggest problem is that in spite of his venerable history in both Marvel and medieval legends, and especially his connection with the Evil Eye—the raison d’être of my beloved Avengers/Defenders War—I don’t find Prester John very interesting.  The same may be said of the artwork, as Valiant Vinnie makes inauspicious the MTIO debut of Rampaging Ron, who pencils a whopping 46% of its run.

Scott: Okay, so that is Kirby doing certain covers at this point, yes? That’s exciting to me. Others find his art to be weirdly off at this point, and I’m not saying that isn’t the case, but it’s still better than the Ron Wilson/Vince Colletta mash up inside. Add the uninteresting villainy of Prester John and you have a trip barely worth taking.

Peter: I love this cover. These two superduperheroes are looking over their shoulders as if to say, "Seriously? We have to deal with this guy?" And if Prester wanted the upper hand, wouldn't this be the best time to strike? These dopes ain't payin' attention!

Matthew: That cuts it!

Also This Month

Adventures on the Planet of the Apes #2
Chamber of Chills #19
Crazy #14
Crypt of Shadows #21 (Final Issue)
Giant-Size Spider-Man #6 (All-Reprint)
Human Torch #8 (Final Issue)
Marvel's Greatest Comics #60
Marvel Spectacular #19 (Final Issue)
Marvel Tales #63
Marvel Triple Action #26
< Monsters of the Movies Annual #1 
My Love #37
Rawhide Kid #130
Ringo Kid #24
Strange Tales #182
Vampire Tales Annual #1
Vault of Evil #23 (Final Issue)

Those Marvel-ous Magazines

The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 18
Cover by Nick Cardy

"Secret of the Dragon"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Rudy Nebres

"Fists of Darkness, Fists of Death!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Pat Broderick and Terry Austin

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu fights to the death in the heart of the Golden Dragon against... Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu! Actually, it's light against darkness or some such deep nonsense and the real S-C is able to achieve the upper fist and defeat his dark side, emerging from the heart with a new souvenir... The Golden Dragon statue! Heading back to the Crimson Pagoda Curio Shop, he finds his entire supporting cast waiting for him. Each one of them wants the statue for their own selfish reason and the first to swipe it from S-C's Kung Fu grip is priceless art collector Lionel Stern. In the tussle, the statue is smashed, revealing the "Secret of the Dragon," the red ruby within. Black Jack Tarr whips up the ruby and reveals it for what it really is: cheap glass. He smashes the bauble and fumes over what he finds inside: an ancient proverb. All involved realize they've waged a bloody war for nothing. That final sentence  is a good analogy for how I feel reading all 105 pages of this mind-dulling epic. I'm not sure if it's because of the lack of Paul Gulacy artwork (and maybe PG "presence"), but this S-C black and white series just seems to meander, not contributing one bit to the Master of Kung Fu mythos. If there's one good thing to be taken from this episode at least, it's that The Moenchster keeps his Moench-isms to a bare minimum. Nebres continues to dazzle and baffle at the same time; when Rudy confines his art to panels, it's dazzling, but when he lets the message spill over the entire page (as he does for the opening battle sequence), it's a little hard to tell just what's going on. This marks the final solo S-C story in Deadly Hands until the last issue, #33 (though he'll pop up as guest star here and there). No more Moench for me to kick around (sad face emoticon).

Huh? Wuzzat?

A fracas in the New York underground brings The Sons of the Tiger and Iron Fist together for the first time. When the bad guys have been apprehended, the heroes (and private dick Alexander "Blackbyrd" Byrd) head over to the local pub to grab a pint and discuss superhero stuff. Seems like trouble is always just around the corner though and this little pub turns out to be the hideout of super-radical Snake Eyes and his "Black Hand" henchmen. Snake's plan to rob a local hospital of its life-saving isotopes rubs pour Kung Fu practitioners the wrong way and they engage in fisticuffs and bone-breaking martial arts. Snake Eyes, though, is a bit more than advertised; after an accident during a prison breakout, a "doctor-friend" of his rebuilt him, housing his damaged innards in a near-impenatrable metal casing. Well, near-impenatrable until he dukes it out with Danny Rand and discovers just what kind of power comes packed in that iron fist. Once the threat of Snake Eyes and the "Black Hand" has been shut down, it's back to the pub where Danny uses his Iron Fist to clutch a frothy mug of ale. World, hear me out! I liked this story! Never saw that coming. Aside from the Superfly TNT dialogue we've grown accustomed to from The Angry Young Man-tlo, the whole thing just kinda flowed like a good funny book story should. It's got a wild opening (that serves no purpose other than to join the superheroes together... and that's okay), a great villain (part Deathlok, part Luke Cage) who dresses like Captain Marvel and says enlightening things like "I'd kinda enjoy watchin' some o' those fat cat honkies kick off!", and a lot of well-choreographed action. That finale sees Danny killing Snake Eyes in a nasty, brutal way and that's a good thing. If I wanted these crooks to go to jail, then by God, I'd buy the color titles! Broderick and Austin make a good team. This bodes well for our next issue, when Iron Fist steps into Shang-Chi's vacated lead-off spot. Cross your nunchucks we get this kind of enjoyable nonsense from here on in.  -Peter Enfantino

Planet of the Apes 14
Cover by Michael McN

"Up the Nose-Tube to Monkey-Trash"

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Ploog

"Trouble in Paradise Lost"

Escape From the Planet of the Apes
Chapter 3
Adapted by Doug Moench
Art by Rico Rival

With a moody Michael McN cover (his first of many POTA covers to come) leading the way, we are right into our next chapter of Terror. Which skipping ahead slightly, we learn won't appear for four more issues. You damn dirty apes!

Jason, Alexander and Malagueña travel with Lightsmith up into the Lincoln head of Mt. Rushmore, re-named by Lightsmith as Lightning Smith's Lost Mount Mug-Face, as Gilbert watches the Wonder Wagon. Up they climb, and finally behold electricity, a soft couch, the Presidential seal and moonshine. Back in the Forbidden Zone, Brutus and his goons skulk into the mutant caverns to demand of the three remaining brains of the Inheritors that they hand over their war-machines or "wallow in the dust". As night falls, Lightsmith reveals his plan to our tipsy heroes—to "find the Psychedrome, and to use its stored wisdom for the betterment of our world." But first Assimian chief Maguanus brings his apes to the camp to attack. Gilbert warns Lightsmith, who tosses some "berry bombs" aka hand grenades down on the evil ape tribe, then the group parachutes down the "nose-tube" to join the battle. A fire rages, but they escape on the Wonder Wagon, with Jason following on mutant horseback, only to later spot some dust in the distance…Brutus is on the march with the mutant war machines!

Well, this is more like it! Showing why Mike Ploog is one of the best artists around, and perfect for this far-out futuristic tale, Terror rolls on in style, with tons of references to the 20th century, action, mutant massacres, and evil afoot. Too bad we have to wait so long for the next chapter. And enjoy Ploog on this strip while you can. Sigh…

Next up, we skip quickly over "Shaping a Simian World!" because it's after midnight and it's a boring interview with Art Director William Creber about the Apes movie sets, yada yada yada. Then we can get on with Part 3 of our Escape adaptation and the expressive art of Rico Rival. This time around, "Trouble in Paradise Lost" takes us from Zira and Cornelius' revelation about the doomed future, to slick Hasslein appearing on TV to explain "infinite regression" to explain the talking apes to Americans, to the public embracing the married simians, to the pair attending museums, boxing matches and more public appearances, to a pregnant Zira fainting, to slimy Hasslein getting her blotto with champagne to learn more secrets about the future, to the diabolical doctor convincing the President to interrogate the chimpanzees further with "the full works".

This eventful, talky and dramatic middle chapter moves us through some jokey parts to get to the heart of the film (and the adaptation). That is, how do we weigh the future against the present? How do we trust a pair of visitors who say the Earth is doomed, no matter how intelligent and well-meaning? How do we trust this power-hungry and jealous doctor who sweet talks the POTUS into helping him get his way? What's this have to do with the price of tea in China anyway? Stay tuned for the second half, which gets us to the exact middle of the entire 5-film Apes saga. Best of all, a note on the letters page tells us POTA is now only 75 cents, but there will be fewer pages now, as well as all the ads in the back of the book. And still no Apes Glossary. Darn! -Joe Tura

Be with us this Sunday for Professor Gil's dissection of 
Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #6!

1 comment:

  1. Kirby certainly made a big splash upon his return with all those covers. Even after an absence of 5 years, Marvel appeared to be acknowledging his significance to the company's history by having him do so many covers on mags he wasn't drawing. Certainly DC wouldn't have had him draw covers for a bunch of mags on which he wasn't also the interior artist, particularly in an era when most of their cover artists who weren't Neal Adams did their best to imitate Neal Adams' style (at least that's my perception of early to mid-70s DC).
    As a kid, my favorite of this batch was the Marvel Team-Up -- I wasn't familar at all with either the Big Man or the Crime Master, although I did get a Marvel Tales reprint of ASM #53, which made reference to Frederic Foswell. Anyhow, the MTU tale wasn't really great shakes but it was still a fun read and I enjoyed the referencing back to a part of Marvel's early history that was still relatively unknown to me at the time.
    Otherwise, my fave is the MOKF issue, a keen mix of drama and absurdity, as well as that lovely Gulacy art.