Wednesday, March 2, 2016

November 1977 Part One: Could Jim Starlin's Avengers Annual Be the Last Great Masterpiece of the Bronze Era?

The Amazing Spider-Man 174
"The Hitman's Back in Town!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Ross Andru, Jim Mooney, and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia

The Punisher swoops down and halts the robbery of an armory by members of The People's Liberation Front, ending by starting to "question" a female terrorist. Meantime, Spidey returns to his apartment, exhausted by the battle with Molten Man, and as he goes to crawl in the window, Mrs. Muggins throws a bucket of "filthy ammonia water" in his face, stinging the bullet wound on his shoulder. We next go to Brooklyn, where The Hitman is hired by the People's Liberation Front to kidnap J. Jonah Jameson. 12 hours later, Flash and Harry meet up with Peter, with Harry beside himself because Liz has left him, even attacking Flash, so they go to Dr. Hamilton, who gives Harry a sedative then ponders about Peter, saying "he doesn't look a bit like I imagined he would."

JJJ and Dr. Madison head to the Bugle, where The Hitman is waiting in the publisher's office. Marla slips on the intercom, so Glory, Robbie and the gang hear what's going on. As security arrives, Peter slips off to change into Spider-Man—at the same time The Punisher arrives to stop Hitman. The two burst in through separate windows, with security coming in the door, but Hitman slips away with JJJ after a short but claustrophobic fight he ends with a tear gas bomb. Heading to the roof, Hitman is able to halt Spidey's attempt to save Jameson and take off on a two-man copter he stashed up there. But can Punisher take him down before he escapes?--Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Walking by the spinner rack, we spy one of Spidey's best covers of the year, packed with action, The Punisher, The Hitman aka Punisher Lite, and JJJ getting threatened. Is there any doubt we are in for a sweet ride this month? The insides do not disappoint, at least story-wise. Len gives us intrigue, kidnapping, suspense, action galore, Punisher being ruthless (yet surprisingly in the background during the office fight—maybe no room to shoot?), Hitman being nasty yet professional, Spidey being hopeful, and some supporting cast mystery, including more sleaziness from Dr. Hamilton. But it's the art that disappoints slightly. Ross is excellent, but a lot of shots feature odd looking faces, almost out of focus. Definitely missing Mike Esposito this month. Still, a quite well done issue for the most part.

Favorite sound effect: The sloppy "SPLOOSH!" on page 6, when our hero gets a close range bucket full of stinky water after his landlady does her cleaning in his apartment. Ewwwww.

Our new incredible, there-are-no-words Hostess ad stars Captain Marvel, who looks marvel-out (ahem), but he goes up against a big mouth. Literally, a big mouth. Just a mouth. But with hands. And he's called "Mouth". He's stupid. Like the dumbest thing ever. Then has a change of heart so he can get some Twinkies®. Yeesh….

Matthew Bradley: So far, Len hasn’t succeeded in making the Hitman too much more interesting than his creator, Archie, did, and juxtaposing him with his obvious role model may not be the best idea, since it risks emphasizing his derivative nature, but the last page suggests there will be some revelations in that department (“So you’ve recognized me, eh?”).  Meanwhile, the multiple inkers give Andru’s art a commendably consistent look, although the Punisher’s face in panel 3 tips us off that page 22 is where the MooneZuniga transition takes place.  The two-part structure—which in most cases seems to me ideal—permits both a satisfyingly measured build-up and the chance to check in with Marvel’s A-team supporting cast.

Chris Blake: It’s a pretty good issue.  I can’t get too excited about it.  Maybe it’s because, between Spidey saving Jonah’s bacon, and Jonah trying to squash Spidey’s sausage, and now Spidey again having to prevent Jonah’s ham from being cured, I feel like we’ve been spending a lot of time in the same smokehouse.  Now, if Harry is getting a bit stretched-out, maybe a little frayed around the edges due to Liz’s departure, we’ll see if any of those threads – if they are yanked on and snapped, instead of carefully snipped away – produce a garment of a decidedly different shade (after all, didn’t the Goblin write to the mag, and tell us he’d be forcing his way free of Harry’s mind -!).

The art continues to be fairly good; Andru had set a high bar in recent issues with his location-shots around the city, so I miss those touches in issues like this one.  The finished art isn’t nearly as mixed-up as I expected, considering the unusual mixture of Mooney and DeZuniga.  Espo was pretty busy with a few other titles this month, so I can see how they needed a relief inker; I guess Andru’s pencils weren’t ready in time for the Madman to finish all the pages (since Mooney didn’t have any other assignments this month, as far as I can recall).  DZ really doesn’t do badly here; in fact, I like the way he finishes Jonah, particularly on p 23, as Jonah desperately searches for an escape.  DZ’s murky look really isn’t right for the amazing Spidey-mag, but it was worth trying him out. 

Matthew: The Madman also penciled this month's Invaders.

Mark Barsotti: While appreciating a "Parker luck" moment like Webs taking a bucket of "filthy ammonia water" right in the mug as he window-enters apartment what kind of fleabag building manager provides weekly maid service? That Mrs. Muggins has a heart of gold, and a couple  of screws loose elsewhere. 

And what kind of "People's Liberation Front," concerned about their image, has upscale lawyers on retainer to hire a kidnapper? Hopefully, Len has wheels spinning within sub-plot wheels here, i.e., the PLF's a front for some dastardly mastermind.

And while I'm not hip to the Hitman, if he's just an acrobatic gunsel in mustard-colored duds then no way he beats Spidey in a fistfight (p. 30), bum shoulder or no.

With the nits thusly picked, class, this one's still thumbs-up, good time Spidey, largely because from Flash and Harry (verging perilously close to a mental meltdown, thanks to Liz splitting) to J. Jonah and the Bugle gang, the long underwear action is not just mixed with, but largely springs from Peter Parker's life and supporting cast.

It's a simple, winning formula, Len. Don't try to reinvent the wall-crawling wheel. 

The Avengers 165
"Hammer of Vengeance!"
Story by Jim Shooter
Art by John Byrne and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by Jim Shooter and George Perez

Fifth-tier baddie Count Nefaria tries his darnedest to convince the Avengers that he's the most ominous force they've ever had to deal with. He may be right since the "World's Mightiest Heroes" are falling like ten-pins during a battle royale outside the Avengers Mansion. After dropping a building on the team, Nefaria wings away to enjoy life and super-duper powers. After kidnapping a gorgeous innocent bystander and hustling her up to a roof, Nef is confronted by the aged Whizzer, who gives the villain some sage advice: enjoy the toppled buildings and mangled corpses while you can as you're only on earth for a finite amount of time and, pretty soon, even super powers fall before age and poor sales. Taking the advice to heart, Nef zooms back to the massive rubble he'd buried the Avengers in to search for Thor (who, he seems to think, will show him the secret of eternal life), only to find Iron Man has dug his teammates out. Shellhead has a go at Nef but even his double-powered repulsor rays are no match for this guy and, yet again, it seems as though our heroes are doomed. Just as the Count is about to deliver the final blow and make off with Jarvis as a hostage, he finally gets his wish: an audience with the more-than-slightly-pissed Thunder God! -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Good action this issue and, despite my belligerent feelings about John Byrne and his immense ego, I liked the art quite a bit but am I the only one scratching my head at that title? The weapon in question makes one appearance and that's in the final panel. Shooter manages to pack in as many cliches and silly dialogue as he can but, give the guy some credit, he can tell a story when he wants to. Are we really to believe then that Trivial Pursuit Answer Count Nefaria is the most powerful villain our squad has ever faced? Thank goodness we didn't have to spend any more time with the over-looked, put-upon Beast this issue as he seems to have gotten his mojo back after being romanced by several street urchins last time around. No, no time wasted on that asinine sub-plot. Lucky that, since we're subjected to Wonder-Man's endless self-loathing and cowardice instead. Earth's Whiniest Heroes, anyone?

Joe: The one thing that bothers me about this issue, which is for the most part one you can read over and over and over, is page 2 (above). There are about 4,000 words on that page in about two minutes of action. Would a bouncing Beast really have that much time to yell at Nefaria, and the Count enough of the same to give a long explanation back? Well, that's comic books, kids. Some excellent battles, solidly drawn by Byrne, and a decent Shooter script that's packed with words for some reason, and includes arrogance from Nefaria on a Dr. Doom level. Except let's face it, Doom would never be caught dead or alive in that costume. Nice to see him taken down a peg by the Whizzer, who knows plenty about growing old, but that just gets him pissed enough to want Thor and no one else. But the real villain might get his debut on page 16, where we get our first look at the red-headed surly guy who most Avengers fans will come to hate, this fan included.

Matthew:  To paraphrase Apocalypse Now, “Shooter…sh*t.”  Here’s a textbook example of the Bradley Principle:  I always prefer a well-written yet indifferently, or even poorly, drawn comic to the reverse.  Sure, John and Pablo do a fine job, but, well, lipstick on a pig, y’know?  #158:  A nothing villain wipes the floor with Earth’s so-called “mightiest heroes!”  #161:  Various Avengers are killed in battle!  Oh, no they’re not…  #165:  A hitherto nothing villain wipes the floor with Earth’s so-called “mightiest heroes!”  Various Avengers are killed in battle!  Oh, no they’re not…  They do, alas, squabble in out-of-character ways.  My beloved Vision is in a tank in “Avengers’ [sic] Mansion.”  Buildings topple, defying the laws of physics.  And so on...

Chris: Nefaria shrugs off attacks, throws aside Avengers, and pulls down buildings with unsettling ease.  Well, that is, until he begins to experience doubts: first, when he finds he’s unable to crease Cap’s shield (an observation which Iron Man later uses to his advantage); then, when the Whizzer offers his priceless dismissal of Nefaria – he might conquer the world, but in a few decades he’ll be dead anyway, so what difference does it make?; lastly, as Iron Man pulls out the stops and briefly battles Nefaria to a standstill.   Nefaria regains his moxie long enough to think he could require Thor to “surrender the secret of his immortality,” but once Thor crashes down on Midgard, we can tell Nefaria’s confidence still is a bit shaken.  Will he pull together well enough to defeat our heroes?  Stay tuned…

A few other noteworthy moments: we finally see where the Vision has been, still in recovery from the clash with Ultron (p 7); Wonder Man rallies, despite concerns regarding his death, or maybe re-death (p 7 and p 30); the team confronts Iron Man regarding his recent absences, with Wanda really dishing it out (p 22), and T’Challa fittingly offering a voice of reason (p22).

Byrne hits the big moments well, as the building collapse (despite Wonder Man’s efforts, p 11) and Thor’s arrival (p 31, in case you missed it…) both are Big Team Book spectacles.  For smaller moments, I’ll nominate Wanda massing her energies as she prepares to strike (p 26, pnl 4), and of course, Nefaria’s look of dismay as the Whizzer feeds him a mouthful of ashes (p 16, last pnl).

The Avengers Annual 7
"The Final Threat"
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin and Joe Rubinstein
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Jim Starlin

Traveling billions of miles to a small planetoid, Warlock finds Gamora left for dead by her master, and learning that Thanos plans stellar genocide and fears only him, Adam absorbs her soul into his Gem, vowing vengeance.  As he heads back to Earth, Iron Man, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Thor, Captain America, and the Beast “just happen to be present” in Avengers Mansion late one stormy night, experiencing a sense of foreboding, and soon joined by Captain Marvel and Moondragon, summoned by “the same siren call of fate…”  Their premonition is fulfilled as, a few hundred light-years away, a craft fires a beam into a star, causing it to explode, whereupon Moondragon feels “the psychic screams of unbelieving millions—dying suddenly…”

“It has begun,” she whispers, and as if on cue, Warlock arrives, “seeking aid…against a mutual adversary,” bringing them up to date on Thanos’s quest for an offering to win back Death, who had abandoned him after the Avengers’ victory (in CM #33).  “On a scroll from a dead world,” he learned of “six beautiful and deadly Gems whose origins were only vaguely and fearfully hinted at,” yet after acquiring five of them, he feared to pursue Adam’s own Gem, because of its power to steal souls.  So, posing as his ally against the Magus (see Warlock #9-11), he siphoned off the elements he needed, unbeknownst to Adam, then transferred the properties of all six “into a single large, synthetic Gem” with which “he plans on blowing every star out of the heavens.”

Adam learned most of this from the soul of Gamora, who after escaping from Drax the Destroyer (a largely unrecorded encounter, briefly glimpsed in Warlock #15) had discovered Thanos’s plan and tried to end his madness with an insufficiently strong blade.  Meanwhile, a small shuttle craft docks with Sanctuary II and disgorges Pip, but while he “thought it’d be a kick seeing the old gang,” he finds only Thanos, no longer obliged by his alliance with Adam to be civil to the troll.  The orbital tracking station Starcore warns the Avengers of an invasion fleet that has just passed Pluto, en route to Earth; discovering that Warlock has vanished, the octet boards Moondragon’s space cruiser to repel the armada, each lost in his or her own thoughts as they speed to the battle.

Thor and IM run interference as the others try to knock out the “star-burster” aboard the flagship, where they fight their way through an army of aliens, enabling Moondragon to turn its weaponry against the fleet.  Mar-Vell finds Warlock with Pip, whose soul he absorbs, but before destroying his mind and leaving him for Adam to find, Thanos had boasted of an exact replica of Sanctuary II on the other side of the sun.  Mar-Vell knocks himself out by smashing into Thanos’s ion-laser projector, and Adam is struck down by the Titan, yet the Avengers followed them, and after IM destroys the synthetic Gem, Thanos teleports away; Marv awakens to witness Adam’s “strange death,” which leaves him at peace in his Gem...  (Concluded in Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2.) -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: X-cepting the X-Men, I’d recalled Starlin’s cosmic two-parter as the last true masterpiece of the Bronze Age, or at the very least of the 1970s, thus making it all downhill after this, although I’ll have more to say on that subject next month.  Bear in mind, too, that all of that Infinity Gauntlet/Watch/War/Abyss/Crusade/Aftermath/Cordless Vibrator/Whatever jazz is way outside my frame of reference, so as far as I’m concerned, this is also the final (har dee har har) farewell to the characters and concepts that represent my personal Marvel pinnacle.  I prevailed upon our august Dean to cede the honor of taking the point on the Assemblers’ half, and it’s sobering to think that given the politics we wish had been absent from the Bullpen, it almost never happened.

“I was going to carry on with Warlock,” Starlin related in his Newsarama interview, “and then I had serious editorial issues with Gerry Conway his first week in office there.  And I left Marvel [after #15], and I didn’t come back to Marvel until Archie Goodwin was there [as EIC], and I ran into him at a party and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come back and finish up that Warlock stuff, you can do it in Avengers Annual.’  So I did that, and there was more story than the single annual could handle, so we did Marvel Two-in-One Annual right after that.”  Jim delegates the finishing and coloring on both to Joe Rubinstein and Petra Goldberg, respectively, and, in classic Starlin fashion, is credited here with “other manual labor,” aside from Orz’s letters and Archie’s editing.

Certainly, closure was called for, in light of all the plot threads left dangling when Warlock was struck down—only some of which were tied up so beautifully by Bill Mantlo during Adam’s guest shot in Marvel Team-Up #55, which helps set this up—but how much Starlin already had in mind, or what he planned for the abortive #16, I don’t know.  “It wasn’t all planned…there was that plan for Warlock to kill himself as part of the storyline I had already done, the scene that repeated itself in Avengers Annual.  But most of the time, I don’t like planning out too far ahead.  I like to be spontaneous, make decisions, and go, ‘Hey! That inspired me! I want to do more with that!’  But when I started Warlock, I had no idea where it was going,” Jim told Smith.

Revisiting part one, I was slightly disappointed, in a worst-sex-I-ever-had sort of way, and I now theorize that despite being the equivalent of four issues, this two-parter offers a much smaller canvas than Jim had for his Thanos War or Magus Saga, which I think had an adverse effect on its pacing.  This awareness of the clock ticking, as it were, made me somewhat impatient to get to the “good stuff,” however one defines that; paradoxically, the quieter moments are often those I prize most highly, especially in a Starlin story.  Indeed, some of my favorites are the “gathering of eagles” stuff, although we might not have needed almost two pages devoted to their pre-battle reflections—and as much as I love the Beast, I’m really not too sure this is a suitable gig for him.

Matthew: Not surprisingly, my other favorites are anything involving Warlock, even if I expected a little more from this historic meeting between “the two cosmic guardians,” and yes, I cried at the last page.  Starlin is scrupulously faithful in replaying the scene from #11 of the dying Adam’s soul being absorbed by his past self to prevent its becoming the Magus, which Jim has redrawn while using the dialogue verbatim; it’s interesting to note that although most of the sad events foretold in #15 did occur (“Everyone I’ve ever loved now lies dead”), one key element—that he would cause the High Evolutionary’s death—has not.  The Rubinstarlin team achieves some very nice moments, e.g., Moondragon aghast in page 10, panel 1, and the mindless Pip in page 36, panel 3.

We now have a full complement of what would become so prominent in the post-Bronze era, when they were rebranded as the Infinity Gems.  This marks the debut of those later known as the Space (purple) and Time (orange) Gems, which Thanos “freed from a prison satellite of an alien civilization [and] slew a monster named Xiambor to gain,” respectively; of the remainder, two were last seen in MTU, the Reality (yellow) Gem stolen from the Stranger and Power (red) Gem found on the moon, abandoned by the Gardener.  Inexplicably also colored orange here, the Mind Gem located on Deneb IV was green when first glimpsed in Captain Marvel #41, red when last seen in CM #45 and, as I understand it, eventually blue, so I guess that’s a work in progress...

Chris: Warlock fans by now surely had given up hope there ever would be a conclusion to the budding Thanos epic.  And then, here it is, and in one of the highest-profile venues you could ask for: Avengers Annual 1977.  This one epitomizes my highest standard for an annual: 1) the story fits the regular title’s continuity, but doesn’t require strict placement within an ongoing storyline; and 2) it’s presented by a writer and/or penciller who’s capable of top-quality work, but who isn’t ordinarily associated with the monthly mag, thereby providing a variation in tone and/or appearance for the usual characters.  The presence of top-tier inker Josef Rubenstein (and, this marks his full-length in-color debut for Marvel, doesn’t it?) seals the deal, as it places this annual alongside Avengers Annual #10 as the two best of this series in the Bronze era (and yes, that means I’m excluding both annuals illustrated by Pérez from the highest ranking!).

Avengers purists might quibble that the assembled cast doesn’t truly represent present membership.  Starlin’s selection – which excludes Wasp, Yellowjacket, Black Panther, and Wonder Man (who you’d think would be especially useful in this fight …) – tells me two things: 1) he wanted to cherry-pick members with certain skills that might best be applied against Thanos and his armies, and 2) it’s possible Starlin began plotting this prior to events of Avengers #151, when the Pyms re-joined, and Simon Williams busted out of a big box, and started shouting about brains, or mind-theft, or words to that effect.

I share Thanos’ surprise that Warlock would appear to give up, that “life abandoned him casually” (p 42).  It’s also somewhat disturbing that Warlock might think of his life as a “failure;” that is, until you consider how Warlock’s connection to his (very few) companions had become so important – to have failed to protect them could’ve been fundamentally disheartening.  The other factor here could be Starlin’s desire to address Warlock’s fate first, so he could roll up his sleeves (and pants-legs!) and dive into a Thanos-bashing free-for-all in our next chapter. 

Starlin art = art highlights: a classic Starlin Iron Man pose (p 7, pnl 3); Moondragon, aghast! (p 10, 1st pnl); Pip, in the icy grip of Thanos (p 18, last pnl); a wordless page-full of Starlin critters, all getting an Assemblers-bashing (p 30, which conveniently also serves as the splash page for issue #6 of the Warlock Special Edition reprints); the Beast stays clear of exploding alien armor (p 35, pnl 3); Warlock falls, as a death’s-head shimmers in the background (p 39, last pnl); the last page is worth noting, too, as Warlock is welcomed to a land of peace (within the soul gem), while Iron Man, Thor, and Captain Marvel stand over his prone form.  

Mark: As a Starlin aficionado who's never read this before (although it's been in my collection for several years), it was a pure joyride from cover to cover. I've heard Jim was lured back to Marvel with the offer to tie up Warlockian loose ends (Prof. Matthew doubtless has more details) and he does so like a master seamstress. Sure, the Starman (with all deference to the late, great David Bowie) has tenuous ties to the Avengers, at best (Jim introed the Destroyer and Thanos in Shellhead's mag, and he's an Avenger so...), but it's a perfect fit nonetheless, what with the Assemblers' experience with Kree-Skrull level threats, and who doesn't want to see Thor tangle with the Big Blue Death-lover (although they only get a couple panels to mix it up; ya can't have everything, kids)?

But Adam Warlock is the featured star (Captain Mar-Vell, the first middlin' Marvel hero to be Starlinized, gets a supporting actor slot), from the glorious, desolate splash to a warm & fuzzy last page Valhalla reunion with friend and foe alike. In between, Jim proves nimble at juggling Avengers, offers the complete set of the soul gems (more impactful than ever, in the current Marvel U), plus Pip and Gamora, gorgeous art, starship armadas vast enough to make Darth V wet himself, a piggly-wiggly warrior, and more assorted delights than you can shake a Cosmic Cube at.

I could go on, class, but I'm afraid more fan boy drooling on the keyboard will short out my computer. I'll close by noting that my lesson plan for the FF Annual lamented the lost, glory days of the early '60's, when the yearly specials "were the comic book equivalent of blockbuster summer movies fused with late Autumn Oscar-bait."

"The Final Threat" is a worthy addition to that pantheon.  

Matthew:  The strongest tie between Adam and the Assemblers is, of course, "mutual adversary" Thanos, as Warlock points out, since they were on the front lines of the original Thanos War, and Avengers #125 was a similar (I might even say superior) battle with a Thanos-led fleet.   

Joe: There's proof in the glowing pudding that Prof. Matthew routinely stirs up for this two-part Starlin epic any chance he gets, especially when you realize a Prof like me can remember just about the whole comic without actually re-reading it. Of course, the second part was my fave, as we'll see when it comes up, but when you throw in the Avengers with Thanos, Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock, with Starlin at the helm, you have comic gold.

 Black Panther 6
"A Cup of Youth"
Story by Jack Kirby
Art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer
Colors by Sam Kato
Letters by Mike Royer
Cover by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia

When he's attacked by Akiro, a Ronin warrior, the Black Panther defeats and disarms his foe, unwittingly setting off a dangerous chain of events. Since losing a weapon is seen as a disgrace in the eyes of his comrades, the warrior begs T'Challa to run him through with his own sword. That ain't happening. Instead, the Panther convinces the samurai that his honor should be given back to him by his own king. T'Challa, Mr. Little and the Ronin set off to find Akiro's boss, Shinzu. Meanwhile, back in Wakanda, a coup is pulled off by T'Challa's half-brother, General Jakarra, a particularly nasty and diminutive military leader. He believes the great ore in the Vibranium Mound will help him become a world conqueror! Back at the palace of Shinzu, the honorable samurai explains that the only way Akiro keeps his Ronin status is for T'Challa to defeat the most experienced warrior in the kingdom, a particularly large gentleman with fists of iron and a steel jaw. As the battle rages, Mr. Little takes advantage of the situation and sneaks down to the basement, where the fabled water-skin rests next to a pool of youth. Little is discovered and hightails it back to T'Challa, where the duo must face off against the full contingent of warriors. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Here's as good a place as any to 'fess that I've taken my eye off the prize; I have no idea what the hell is going on here but I suspect I'm in good company (like maybe even the King himself was scratching his head at this point). Something about the fountain of youth via the frogs and samurais. This voyage has done gone on too long and we need Jack to bring us back to civilization. Hell, I'll even take a "Black Panther vs. the Circus of Evil" right about now. Only two moments here woke me from my stupor slumber: when Mr. Little bursts through a door, Ronin on his tail, interrupting the battle between the Panther and his gargantuan tormentor, belting out a rip-roaring, "Forget that silly, brawl, T'Challa! Let's get out of here!" Oh, and the other? The mighty Wakanda king, a hero who has faced cataclysms and intergalactic foes alongside the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, admitting "That's the largest gong I've ever seen!"

Matthew: For anyone who may deplore my sometimes snarky spelling when discussing Jack’s current oeuvre, I’ll just point out that this issue’s lettercol is headed, “Kirby Kontroversy Kontinues,” lest you think I pioneered that stylistic peccadillo.  In fairness to the King, whose resurgence proved transitory, these issues may be goofy, yet they’re rarely dull, even if the Kirbyer spectacle has been toned down a little this time (what, no two-page spread of Samurai City?) in favor of a slightly meatier story.  T’Challa’s insistence on helping Akiro to restore his dignity seems more in keeping with the noble monarch we’d come to know and love, and I don’t recall for certain offhand, but is this the first time we’ve “visited” Wakanda during Kirby’s run?

Captain America and the Falcon 215
"The Way It Really Was!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by George Tuska and Pablo Marcos
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott

Having recovered his sight, Captain America visits the observation floor of the Empire State Building. While the Falcon deflects celeb hungry civilians, Cap takes some time on his own to think through his past, including his origin, his World War 2 exploits, as well as what went on while he was in suspended animation for two decades. After Falcon snaps him out of his reverie, Cap is forced to wonder just who he really is aside from a symbol of America. Who is Steve Rogers? -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: As with any title that suffers a change of creative force, this first issue following the departure of Jack Kirby is a placeholder rather than a stirring adventure. Since this month is a quick summing up and next issue is a Strange Tales reprint, obviously Kirby’s leave-taking wasn’t planned in advance and nothing was on deck. This one is a capsule summary of the career of Captain America, which touches on a few of the high points of the decades leading up to where he is at this point. The writing by Roy Thomas is much more natural and real than anything Kirby came up with, and even George Tuska’s art is made palatable when he teams with Pablo Marcos. The brevity of the synopsis tells the tale: there’s really nothing to this one. Next month is even worse.

Chris: On the first page, Roy describes this as a “turning-point tale,” but that’s not quite accurate.  After a long stretch of Kirby-madness, Roy holds down the big Reset button, and reminds everyone who Cap really is supposed to be; you’ll notice that Roy’s issue-long recap makes no mention of any of Cap’s exploits during Kirby’s creative tenure.  It’s cleverly done, as Roy weaves in parts of his What If  #4 story to help explain how there could’ve been a Captain America after Steve Rogers fell into suspended animation; Roy also is sure to recap Steve Englehart’s storyline about the 1950s Cap-fanatic, who had been the last to serve in this role during Cap’s deep freeze.  No, the turning point, as Cap searches for his past, will arrive next issue – uh, I mean, the issue after next, since CA&tF #216 will offer an unwanted reprint.

Tuska does a solid job, having provided pencils for a few Cap stories in the past.  The two-page spread on p 2-3 is ambitious, but a bit odd, as the various images – the Empire State and the Chrysler Building, among various other landmarks, offset by admiring faces and a small group of kids playing stickball – are strangely disconnected; there isn’t a sense of these NYC snapshots working together as a coherent whole.  Tuska depicts the characters well, though, and serves up plenty of action along the way; it helps to have Marcos’ well-textured inks to pull the art together, further proof that Tuska is better served by an inker who works heavier, rather than some of the thinner-handed finishers Tuska has been paired with, too often, in the past.  Suffice to say, we’ll not see these paired again on this title.

Matthew: I’m sure that as kids, we all hated it when these full-length recaps, sometimes emblazoned with the dreaded words “Album Issue,” interrupted the regular storyline, yet today I regard them with a certain nostalgia as part and parcel of the period.  There seems to be more justification for this “turning-point tale” than most, since it not only marks the seismic shift from Bronze-Age Kirby back to the “real” Marvel Universe, but also signals an intended change in direction…although in the event, “new writer & editor” Roy hung in there for just two more issues—one of them a reprint!  Guest artist Tuska, inked here by Marcos, had ironically embellished Jack’s own “Album Issue,” #212, as well as working with him on Suspense #70-74.

Captain Marvel 53
"The War of the Three Galaxies!"
Story by Scott Edelman
Art by Al Milgrom, Terry Austin, and Bob Wiacek
Colors by Ellen Vartanoff and Irene Vartanoff
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gil Kane, Frank Giacoia, and Mike Esposito

Rick revives and exonerates Mar-Vell, ending the standoff, and after they have assured a chagrined Bishop that Minerva—actually trapped in the wreckage—escaped, the police and troops disperse.  Freeing her, Mar-Vell bids Rick farewell and flies off to question her, but before he can do so, he is snagged by Medusa’s hair and confronted by the royal family of Attilan, among whom Minerva recognizes former council member Falzon.  Apologizing for her actions, she explains her opposition to the war they intend to wage against the Skrulls, with the Inhumans as cannon fodder and “a third galaxy—the Earth’s—as a strategic battleground”; Marv-Vell realizes that the Supreme Intelligence sought Rick’s hidden powers to ensure victory.

Lockjaw transports Black Bolt, who orders the others to stay behind, and Mar-Vell to the moon, so that the matter transmitter in the Watcher’s home can carry them to the council’s chambers on Hala, where the hawkish Por-Bat is poised to push the button irreversibly launching their attack.  Black Bolt battles the Supreme Guard to buy time as Mar-Vell learns that Phae-Dor plans to use the Truth Chair (seen in #7) to force strategies out of him, and his cosmic awareness reveals the reason.  In the mêlée, he throws Por-Bat into the chair, exposing him as a “specially conditioned” Skrull impostor, planted years ago to spur them into an ambush, but while the Kree stand down, Phae-Dor vows to the grimly departing Mar-Vell and Black Bolt that they will ultimately prevail. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Okay, they still can’t get this straight:  what was being referred to as of last issue as the “War between [originally “with” in Inhumans #3] the Three Galaxies” is here called “The War of the Three Galaxies” in the title, and then loses the second “the” on the cover, so you can see why I suggested that we just call it the “3G War” and have done with it.  Of course, that’s par for the course when Doug Moench’s Inhumans storyline is taken over by Scott Edelman.  “What I remember most about this issue isn’t averting the War of the Three Galaxies, but how cool it was to get a chance to write about Black Bolt and the Inhumans, more Marvel characters who dazzled me when I was a kid.  And oh, what a killer cover from Gil Kane!,” Edelman exulted on his blog.

Some sort of crossover-closure may have been intended all along, and the admittedly handsome twin montages on page 10 literalize the strips’ allegedly parallel plotlines, although the notion that the 3GW motivated the Supreme Intelligence’s recent machinations, which date back to the Englehart era, feels arbitrary.  Yet however logical and/or unavoidable it is, transposing the Inhumans arc here means that it devolves from Moench and Pollard—inconsistent as they may have been—onto the consistently inferior Edelman and Milgrom (inking himself, with Austin and Wiacek, while he hits the bricks).  Even if said war is averted rather than waged, the curtain plunges down with unseemly haste:  “Abandon the Earth sabotage project!  Recall the Pursuer!”

“Tearful Crowds Bid Milgrom Farewell,” reads a strategically placed Daily Bugle headline on the splash page.  Maybe they did, but to me, he’s still aspiring to average, and only sometimes succeeding.  Who’ve we got on tap for next ish?  Tuska?  “Al.  Al!  Come back!  Bye, Al.”  Scott seems to have contracted a severe case of Hearts and Flowers Disease.  Last issue’s Big Dramatic Cliffhanger is briskly dispensed with on…page 2 (“There is no need to apologize for friendship”).  Minerva, who was ready to “liquify” (sic) Rick, is calmly accepted as having her race’s best interests at heart (“We only differ in our methods”).  And, as Mar-Vell takes pains to recall, “When I knew you long ago, you seemed to be a rational and honorable man, Phae-Dor!”

Chris: The so-called War of Three Galaxies, a few years in the planning stages, turns out to be nothing more than – A Clash in the Conference Room!  After all this build-up in the Inhumans, Scott Edelman might’ve had the courtesy to play-out its resolution in a longer span than this issue’s final 10 pages.  Ya know Scott, these Inhumans are going away for awhile – you at least could provide them the courtesy of a decent battle opportunity before they get packed into mothballs, rather than consign them to a cameo on a midtown rooftop.

I freely admit there are a number of things I enjoy about the story: the use of the matter transmitter to reach Hala; Marv’s attunement to cosmic awareness, rather than reliance on brute force, to discover how the Kree are being driven to war; and an old Kree device like the Truth Chair as a key to victory.  Edelman foreshadows the reveal well, as Marv states to Por-Bat “you play your role well,” and shows us Marv trying to work the crowd closer to the chair o’truth.  But why then, once he’s reverted to his true form, does the former Por-Bat have to state aloud: “I am a Skrull!”-?  Why, yes you are – we can tell.

Speaking of Por-Bat’s true face, the art is as uneven as you might expect, when you consider the drastic difference in style (and ability) between Wiacek and Austin.  Austin tips his pen to his former art-partner, as he provides a headline to the Daily Bugle (visible on the ground on the splash page), which reads: “Tearful Crowds Bid Milgrom Farewell.”  Well, that’s very kind of you, Terry; but, crowds -?  Tearful  crowds ..?   (Speaking for myself, I’m counting down the weeks until Pat Broderick gets here.)

Matthew:  The use of the matter transmitter would have been cooler if it didn't raise the question of why Lockjaw could transport them to their precise destination on the moon, but not their precise destination on Hala.

The Champions 16
"A World Lost!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Bob Hall and Mike Esposito
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by Gil Kane

 As seen in Super-Villain Team-Up #14, Dr. Doom has gained control of the entire world with his neuro-gas, but for his own amusement has relinquished it over Magneto and his chosen ally, the Beast, who have come to L.A. seeking aid from Hank’s former teammates, Angel and Iceman.  Told by the controlled Avengers that Hank has turned traitor, the Champions disbelieve his story, although Bobby hesitates to hurt his friend.  Overhearing a news report that President Carter is welcoming Doom, the outraged Magneto interrupts the battle to whisk Hank to Washington in a magnasphere, the Champs following in a second sphere created by Darkstar; their arrival in D.C. is preceded by that of the Hulk, obeying Dr. Doom’s holographic projection.

Old foes since Tales to Astonish #79, he and Hercules square off, oblivious to all else, yet Ghost Rider is surprised when the other Champs attack Magneto at the behest of Doom, deprived of his two strongest pawns; since he does not breathe in his demonic form (did we know that before?), GR never, uhm, inhaled the gas.  Hank having found the ally he sought, they battle Bobby and Warren while Magneto imprisons Tasha and Laynia with his powers and faces Doom.  Hoping to break the control, Hank forces Warren to drop him directly on Doom, and in order to save him from being throttled, GR sets Doom’s mask on fire, forcing him to remove it and inhale his own gas, and as all parties return to normal and disperse, Doom is left “incapable of ruling himself!” -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I enjoyed the first half of this Mantlo/Hall crossover between underdog favorites (comprising the final and penultimate issues of SVTU and this mag, respectively) despite its deficiencies, which I think are more prominent in the conclusion, although by no means disliking it.  The only major change in personnel is that Bob, reunited with Bill and the Champs after Byrne’s five-issue stint, is now inked by Esposito, and as much as I respect Mighty Mike, I don’t think it was especially for the better.  My main concern, though, is with Mantlo’s script, which—to use poor Professor Gilbert’s overworked phrase—feels like a lot of running around, and I’d have called throwing the Hulk into the mix an utterly shameless promotional ploy…if he’d been featured on the cover!

Chris: Bill & Bob do a number of things right: they maintain the standard of wall-to-wall action we’ve come to expect; they find a way for Doomsy and Magnets to tangle mano-a-mano; they cleverly anticipate the “Hey – why doesn’t Magneto simply crush Doom inside his own armor” question, as Doom states he’s reversed the armor’s magnetic polarity (good planning!); they find a pivotal role for Ghost Rider (the team-member whose presence seems most widely-questioned among letter-writers) – clever decision to make him immune to Doom’s gas.

Here comes the other shoe, as other aspects of the story don’t make me as happy: so, once Doom regains his senses, does the nerve gas that still circulates in the atmosphere allow him to reassert his control over literally everyone?; it seems fairly obvious the only reason why the Hulk is here is to keep Hercules occupied; why is President Carter depicted with an open-collared, black shirt?  Was he on his way out to Studio 54 when Doom dropped by -? 

The art overall is adequate, not much to be excited about; Byrne certainly can be a very hard act to follow.  I will give Hall + Espo credit for realizing the Beast well, for most of the issue (and notably, p 14 last pnl, left); as we’ve learned thru hard experience, he is one character that – in the wrong hands – can look terrible.  The optimistic armadillo informs us that Byrne will be back next issue to ink George Tuska (what -? how -?), prior to the arrival of a new artist, following Champions #17; so, at this point, there is reason to expect the series is in good shape, and likely to continue …

Conan the Barbarian 80 
“Trial by Combat”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Howard Chaykin and Ernie Chan
Colors by Phil Rache
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by John Buscema and Ernie Chan

The beauteous Bardylis presents Conan to Ptolemy, king of Attalus, a city carved out of stone in the lost valley of Iskander, founded eons ago by a time-travelling Alexander the Great. Standing at nearly eight feet, the giant Grecian ruler informs the Cimmerian that if he is lying about being an emissary of Harakht, he will die a horrible death. As darkness falls, Bardylis offers the barbarian shelter in the house of her father, Perdiccas — Conan stashes the Eye of Set behind a loose stone in the wall of his room. During the night, a trio of blond Attalusians led by the Stygian thief Ablah, steal into the outlander’s room, knock him unconscious and carry him off. Conan awakes, his arms tightly bound. Ablah boasts that he is working for Hun-Ya-Di, the duplicitous High Priest of Harakht, and demands the large jewel. But the mighty warrior bursts his bonds and kills his captors — the Stygian escapes however. Conan returns to Perdiccas’ house: Bardylis swears that she knew nothing of the kidnapping. Royal soldiers appear and demand that Conan report to the throne room. There, Ptolemy, with Ablah whispering in his ear, accuses the Cimmerian of murder. Conan stands defiant, sarcastically boasting that he is here to deliver the Eye of Set but wonders if his mission is worth the effort since Ptolemy is so dense. Enraged, the gigantic king leaps forward and a vicious fistfight ensues. After trading huge blows, the barbarian knocks the massive monarch cold. Suddenly, Aristo, a soldier who was guarding the pass leading into Attalus, bursts into the throne room with an arrow protruding from his back — 300 Stygians have stormed the valley. Bardylis turns to Conan: since he defeated Ptolemy, the barbarian is now king and must tell them what to do. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: As moaned about last time, this is part of a fill-in that was originally planned for publication in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian: poor Big John was just too swamped with Tarzan and a half a dozen other assignments. While I’m a bit peeved that the assault on Luxor continues to be delayed, I am somewhat relieved that this three-parter was not published as a whole in the pages of Savage Sword: it’s just not very good and it would have been a tough task to work through in one sitting. I lay most of the blame on the art. I’m usually a fan of Howard Chaykin, but it seems more Ernie Chan to me. Now I love Chan’s inks, but his pencils leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps Chaykin had only finished rough sketches before this stuff was plucked off the shelf and put into play? And don’t ask me about the whole time-travelling Alexander the Great subplot: it was in Howard’s original El Borak story so perhaps Roy felt obliged to keep it in. It could have, and should have, been dropped. Plus, the Attalusians look more Roman than Greek. Also confused why Ptolemy is so massive. Thankfully this detour wraps up nest issue so that this series can get back on track.

Chris: Conan’s been known to sow his fair share of disruption into a municipality if said confusion suits his purposes.  I don’t think he could’ve been prepared for this degree of chaos, though.  I mean, come on, saith the Cimmerian; alls I gotta do is deliver this eye, see, and then bring back the other one, okay?  Can’t a brother get a break, for once?  I’m sure Conan also wouldn’t mind an uninterrupted night’s sleep – that is, unless those were Bardylis’ tender feet creeping into his bed chamber, and not some guy with a club.  No way – instead, Conan faces a midnight abduction, false accusations, and a hand-to-hand death-grapple with a descendent of Alexander!  Once Conan bested Ptolemy, I was honestly intrigued to see how Roy would leave the story; it’s a given that Conan might have won himself a crown, but on his first day as king, he has to organize and lead an army, against a better-equipped opponent?  Aw, for cryin’ out loud, exclaims our hero!

 Daredevil 149
Story by Jim Shooter
Art by Carmine Infantino and Klaus Janson
Colors by Klaus Janson
Letters by Denise Wohl and Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

Daredevil races across rooftops in a driving rain, desperate to reach Heather Glenn’s apartment.  Once he arrives (as Matt Murdock), Heather expresses her disappointment that Matt has not been available to her since her father’s arrest.  Matt wants to tell Heather how her father could be proven innocent; as Daredevil, he knows that Killgrave, the Purple Man, had hypnotized business executives into committing profitable crimes for him.  But, he stalls as he realizes he can’t disclose too much without revealing his secret identity.  Frustrated and hurt, Heather tells Matt to leave.  He switches back to DD garb, and tries to distract himself from his problems, until he’s attacked by a bruiser who calls himself the Smasher.  DD discovers that this is a new Smasher; the previous one had been dispatched by his creator, Death-Stalker (pssst: Death-Stalker has it in for DD because he had foiled D-S’s crime plans in our previous issue).  DD advises his opponent to avoid dealing with Death-Stalker, but the Smasher insists that “after I crush you, the Stalker will reward me!” DD avoids his muscle-headed foe and proceeds on to his office; he finds Foggy, with a newly-acquired .38.  Foggy appears to be plotting revenge against Maxwell Glenn, due to the psychological harm caused to Foggy’s ex-fiancée, Deb Harris; Deb had been kidnapped, purportedly on Glenn’s orders, to force her father into illegal deals.  Matt finds himself in the same situation he had been with Heather – he can’t disclose the truth to Foggy, either.  Matt becomes increasingly irritated; he blames himself both for not having devoted more time to locating Deb while she was kidnapped, and for his inability to locate Killgrave, who is responsible for Glenn’s present troubles.  At this moment, the Smasher spots DD and renews his assault.  DD is in no mood; he avoids the Smasher’s attack as well as he can (slowed now by a possible ankle sprain, after having leapt from a movie marquee), and uses his hypersenses to locate vulnerable pressure points in the Smasher’s body in order to bring him down. -Chris Blake

Chris: Jim Shooter drops Matt into a thorny predicament.  I'm sure he and Foggy will be able to talk about Matt's harsh words (Matt even recklessly grabs Foggy's tie at one point; Foggy doesn’t have time to consider this might be hard to do, unless Matt has some way to compensate for his inability to see it ...).  Regarding Heather, though, there is no easy remedy; she's genuinely hurt, with good reason, and there's no useful help for Matt to offer.  Best of all, Shooter doesn't ruin the moment with stupid comments, as we’d seen all-too-often under Wolfman's watch ("I shoulda stayed in bed!" "Ah, what's the use – do other heroes really have problems like this?"); instead, we have a single wordless panel, as Matt walks off in the rain, alone (p 6).

DD beats himself up for not having committed to a search for Debbie; now, he's aware of a need to re-direct his energies to the search for Killgrave.  In our previous issue, I didn't mind that DD couldn't turn up any useful information about KG's whereabouts; it makes DD's search more realistic, and more meaningful, when he's got to dig deep to unearth his foe.  Now, though, we're into a second consecutive issue, with even less attention devoted to the search, which has me concerned that this plot-element could become another afterthought, much like the non-search for Deb.  Of course, DD has to be more personally invested in the need to locate KG, in order to clear Glenn, so hopefully next time we'll have a sense of a clue or two to keep DD on track.

I'm not a fan of Carmine Infantino – at all.  I realize he was a pioneer in the medium, yes, I get it.  The problem is that his style, while energetic, also tends to be too loose, at a time when trends have been turning comics art toward a more detailed, and realistic, depiction of characters, objects, etc.  I also don't like his sometimes impressionistic approach to faces, when they appear to be little more than a few squiggles and dots – it's hard to read much emotion in that, you know?  Fortunately, Klaus Janson – who now has become a mainstay on this title, having provided inks for Brown, Kane, Sal B, and Colan – provides embellishment that maintains continuity, as most of the pages appear consistent with the heavier, darker look we've come to associate with this title.

Matthew:  Shooter.  Infantino.  Janson.  Shameless cover plug for The Deep (ironically, one of my favorite films).  Suddenly, I feel that 60 days is not enough time between issues.  It still baffles me that Carmine, who as recently as the Superman/Spider-Man crossover was Stan’s opposite number at DC, turns up this month as “guest penciler” here, the new artist on Nova and, you guessed it, the illustrator on The Deep.  The Infanson team isn’t actually the worst thing I’ve ever seen, since Klaus seems to cancel out some of Carmine’s deficiencies, but in a classic Infantino absurdity, Matt—whose rainy costume-change-on-the-run defies credulity—appears to be doing some kind of bizarre 1930s dance step in page 22, panel 6…and Smasher 2.0 just sucks.

Speaking of DD, when I was 14, my parents took me and my older brother Stephen (of Warlock fame) on a cross-country train trip.  We departed from Penn Station, which was a novelty for me, since our Metro-North day trips to Manhattan were always via Grand Central.  The day we left, August 11, I wrote in my diary, “Wow I’m so excitd [sic; the youthful exuberance of my handwriting cannot be recreated here, but may be imagined] I found a store in Penn. Station that sells back issues!  Got Daredevil #143, Dr. Strange #21, Invaders #14 and Marvel 2 in 1 [sic] #25.”  I still get a little frisson when I see that nice Cockrum cover of Hornhead being mauled by a almost subliminal reminder of the unique circumstances under which I’d acquired that.

The Defenders 53
"The Power Principle Part One:
The Prince and the Presence!"
Story by David Anthony Kraft
Art by Dave Cockrum, Keith Giffen, Mike Golden, and Terry Austin
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by Joe Rosen

"Clea, the Mystic Maiden!"
Story by Naomi Basner
Art by Sandy Plunkett and Tony Salmons
Colours by Marie Severin
Letters by Joe Rosen

Cover by George Perez and Bob Wiacek

Prince Namor, along with current Defenders members the Hulk, Hellcat, and Nighthawk, descend in a vessel to Atlantis. There is a great threat to his realm, and indeed ours as well. The team arrives in the golden underwater city, and meets with members of Namor's High Council, to discuss plans. The Sub-Mariner has had his fill of outsiders trying to engage his people in war; he wants peace and a chance of growth for his people.  They depart the next morning, through an underwater cavern that leads to the source of radiation and power emissions. The destination is somewhere under Russia, where the mysterious man known as Sergei conducts his experiments. Power and riches are his, but so is boredom. He has tremendous scientific resources at his disposal, and a nuclear bomb that will bring about the "nuclear transmogrification" of Earth, both on water and land. Already his powers have bent the spirit of Defender the Red Guardian, aka Russian Tania Belinsky to his will. Now, though aware that something is wrong, she cannot free herself, and is set to be his partner in crime and life. Elsewhere, fellow Defender Valkyrie waits with Clea at the home of Dr. Strange, unaware of her fellows' mission, as Clea often is of her partner. Val sets off to register at college (not in her usual attire). Namor and company don't reach their destination in time to stop the incredibly powerful bomb. It creates massive shock waves that destroy their ship, and cause earthquakes around the world. It also transforms Sergei, prepared by measured exposures to cobalt radiation into something even more powerful, who calls himself the Presence. But Tania, similarly prepared... what of she? -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: Well, I can see our anti-hero team has undergone a few changes since I was last here! Glad to see Namor back in the mix. I'll have to check back to catch up, but for now...Yet another transformation at the hands of nuclear radiation (or gamma rays, or cosmic radiation); it's all good, a good go-to comic standard. Sergei has an ego the size of a nuclear bomb (sorry), even by super-villain standards. I enjoyed the interaction between Clea and Val; two very notable female (sometimes supporting) characters. The latter I hear, will be joining us for a little Thor Ragnarok soon. The Red Guardian is in a tough spot here; she almost  reaffirmed her will, but not quite. A safe bet, I'm sure, to have survived the nuclear transmogrifi-whatever, although if so, she's going to be powerful enough to put her at serious odds with her friends. The cover questions this (with an event that as of yet hasn't happened) however. Some hit and miss for me on the art front, certainly impressive at times--as in the arrival in Atlantis. The short take after the main story, "Clea, The Mystic Maiden!" is an interesting and welcome addition, with her kidnapped by wanna-be Stephen, Nicodemus. Clea is a strong enough character to deserve some extra development.

Matthew: You have 12 pages of new material, three of them squandered on full-pagers (and nobody noticed that the “killer quake” was caused by an effing nuclear bomb), so what do you do?  Well, if you’re Dave the Dude, you have your myriad “artisans,” aka Tout le Monde, cram your story into the remaining half-issue with teeny-tiny eye-straining panels as you descend deeper into the Lunatik fringe, render Kyle as a monosyllabic yes-man, and turn the refreshingly empowered Tania into a male-dominated puppet. Is it in compensation that the ephemeral five-page back-up tale—created by three people I hadn’t heard of and, to be blunt, won’t dignify by looking up—features Clea, a woman but, ooops, not a Defender?  Does that really beat a reprint?

Chris: Strange little issue, isn’t it?  It’s a good story, with a nice buildup, especially p 16, as we simultaneously see the Defenders approach the site of the radiation source, and watch the countdown to the impending release of a whole lot more radiation.  Okay, now we’re just past the half-way point, we’ve reached the letters page – so now we’ll have more stuff happening, and – wait, that’s it -?!

We’ve all seen our share of the “many hands” approach to last-minute inking, but how do you coordinate the art when you’ve got three different people on the pencils?  Fortunately, Austin’s crystal-clear inks capably tie the look of the issue together.  Michael Golden is a curious choice to fill-in three of the pages; I’m fairly certain this is his first color work for Marvel.  “Hey Mike,” comes the call from John Romita; “I’m really enjoying your recent work on some of the Batman titles; would you be free to pick up some work on the Defenders for us?  No, I don’t need a whole issue – just three pages will do.”  Well, what’s a slightly-starving freelance artist going to say -?

I’ve always enjoyed the way Golden depicts characters, as both substantial and fluid.  I also appreciate all the extra details (which we’ll see plenty of, once Golden begins the Micronauts in another year or two), such as the helmeted heads in the foreground of p 6 pnl 3, and the swimming dancers to the far left of the same panel.  He places heavily-armored sentries in no fewer than six panels, each one bearing a hefty-looking weapon, held aloft by the right arm.  Lastly, he obviously relished the opportunity to draw the Hulk stuffing his face (p 6, pnl 4). 

The five-page Clea feature isn’t bad; I’m not familiar with either of the principal creative people, but they managed a decent effort.  It’s no substitute for five more of the Sergei story. 

The Eternals 17
Story by Jack Kirby
Art by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Mike Royer
Cover by Jack Kirby and Frank Giacoia

Zuras, Ikaris, and Makarri, face the deadly creation of the Deviants, Dromedan. Unearthed from its rest by a recent explosion, this creature can bend the minds of anyone to its control, even an Eternal--thus the problem! The helmet that can stop its mind from controlling its environment is at hand, but Dromedan doesn't want it on. A direct attack fails when Makarri and Ikaris are stopped in their tracks. Zuras melts the ground around Dromedan, burying him up to the neck in molten rock. He is about to put the helmet on, his foe renders mental spikes that cause imaginary pain, halting the supreme Eternal. Makarri is willed to blast the rock away, freeing Dromedan again. Sersi comes on the scene, her powers different enough to distract the Deviant creation and allow the others to regain their strength; good thing, as their foe has absorbed some of those powers also. Sersi has some deviant ideas of her own, as she creates duplicates of Ikaris to attack Dromedan. After they have been dispatched, the mind controller is about to reduce the Eternals to micro-particles. But Sersi's plan tricks him. The real Ikaris is still at hand, and quickly blasts his disintegrator beams at the Deviant. The resulting explosion brings the cavern down in flames--Dromedan with it--as the others fly to escape the holocaust. At the pole in the north, the polar Eternal Druig finds from his servant Sigmar, of a mighty weapon kept secret for ages. He demands it's resurrection, but what will be the cost? -Jim Barwise

Jim: Trust a lady to do what three men could not--find the solution to the problem. The concept of mind control is about as new as time travel, but almost as intriguing when done well. It certainly works here, the false Ikaris idea would have taken me by surprise too (except for the cover spoiler). Zuras, it is revealed, might have been able to blast Dromedan into submission, but sought something more merciful for the creature. Ikaris, a polar Eternal, is more pragmatic, and has no such qualms. We see the nature of his branch of Eternal at the story's end.

Mark: As the title winds down, so does Kirby's ambitions for The Eternals (while your humble prof has read extensively about Kirby's career, when Jack knew Eternals was headed for the chopping block remains unclear), or it certainly seems so in retrospect.

"Sersi the Terrible" is mostly four of the most prominent titular titans (Sersi, Ikaris, Zuras, Makarri) battling the mummy-like, mind-controlling Dromedan in subterranean caverns. The action is spirited but let's face it, Jack could crank out sock-o action while lighting a cigar. And what exactly makes Sersi terrible? Who knows?

We do learn, for the first time, that Ikaris is a "Polar Eternal," and get a new character from that same chilly clan, Druig, who threatens another character into spilling the beans about an abandoned weapons system while sucking down a flagon of wine.

Still no sign of the Celestials, but the final blurb threatens to kill one, next ish. Call me skeptical, but then what were the odds of my Broncos holding the "mighty Panthers" to a measly ten points?

Matthew:  For the record, the introduction of Druig and the establishment of Ikaris as a Polar Eternal both occurred in #11, during the gathering preparatory to the formation of the Uni-Mind.

Chris: Each month for MU, I whip thru my lesser titles first, and stack up my favorites to save them for last.  It’s probably exactly the opposite of how I used to read comics – I’m sure that, the moment I‘d paid for a new issue of the Avengers, I probably started reading it right then, and finished it before I got home; I’d probably give it a second read-thru after dinner.  As I approach the Eternals each month, I plan to read it right away, write up a comment, then put it back; but, I’m finding it hard even to do that, so the Eternals are put off until the end of the month, most of the time.  The stories now offer so little, I’m sort of resigned to reading each issue.

I mean, wasn’t this one supposed to be all about Sersi?  That was what we read in the coming-attractions box last issue (“A Woman Scorned!” or something), and it’s even hawked on the cover.  Sure, we get a few pages, but nearly all the action is driven by Zuras, and Ikaris.  

So, I tried to approach this issue by focusing on Jack’s vibrant art.  It’s very good.  There are things shimmering with energy, and bathed in fire, and there’s plenty of good sturdy debris.  

Matthew: Perhaps reflecting that the book is not long for this world, they’ve now misspelled the main character’s name on two consecutive covers—man, they’re not even trying at this point.  Seriously, self-editor Kirby and “umpire” Archie were completely overpaid this time out.  On the splash page, “Ikarus” says, “This legend, newly risen from his crypt, can shake one’s mind as one would a dog!”  Uh, you guys been doing a lot of dog-shaking lately?  I know I haven’t.  How ’bout that One-Track-Mind Dromedan?  Page 10, panel 1:  “Though you cannot die…”  Page 17, panel 1:  “You cannot die physically…”  Page 23, panel 5:  “Eternals can’t die!”  Are we seeing a pattern here?  As for the story, it’s just one big mess of a slug-fest; that’s really about it.

Fantastic Four 188
"The Rampage of Reed Richards!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by George Perez and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by George Perez and Joe Sinnott

The Molecule Man may have taken over Reed's body, but as our tale opens Reed's mind fights back, distracting ole lightning bolt mug (although, technically, Molly's bolt are now etched on Reed's mug) long enough for the Thing to destroy the Psi-Amplifer, and with it Molly's means of making his body-snatching permanent. Enraged, MM traps the three other Fantastics + Impy in an Adamantium cube and takes his leave. Johnny asks big sis if she "can make your invisible force-shield heat-resistant enough to protect the three of you?" 

"I'll do my best, Johnny."
Satisfied with that less than (orange)rock solid assurance, the Torch goes nova and - since Adamantium won't melt but super-heated air will force it to expand to "the bursting point" (or some such) - blasts the box off them with such force that it's embedded in the ceiling, a bit of Bax Building demo-redecoration normally reserved for the Thing.

Then the Watcher appears, normally bad news since he ain't delivering candy-grams, but refuses to say a word. 

The F3 and Impy break out the long-unused jet-cycle (the Fantasticar, totaled awhile back, is still in the shop) and take flight after Molly. Their prey's on a Manhattan street, having a mental standoff with Reed that tilts in MM's favor when he turns an apartment block into Brikk* the Living Building, dramatically rendered in a George Perez splash.

Our airborne heroes spot the lumbering Brikk, but the Watcher gets there first, still silent and scowling. Reed yields and MM restores the building, but parks it in the middle of the street, like he's a UN diplomat or sumthing.

The Fabs attack but are quickly thrown on the defensive. Impy steps up - his Poppupian form impervious to Molly's powers - turns his hand into Thor's hammer and readies a haymaker, but Sue's force field saves MM; its still her hubby's bod, after all, and Reed can no longer make like the Michelin Man. Feeling unwanted, Impy stalks off in a huff.

The Watcher scowls, silently.

The battle resumes. MM literally rolls up the street, snags the Torch with an asbestos lamppost and throws a steel shell around Sue's f-field, trapping her inside. But Ben batters through the street-roll, and a flying fragment hits Molly in the back, knocking him senseless. He quickly recovers, takes flight on a flying slab and tries to turns the Fabs into "cosmic dust," yet he's suddenly wracked with pain that causes him to drop his wonder wand...directly into a smoke stack. He's also suddenly out of Reed's body, back in the wand, and is promptly incinerated.

Leaving the helpless Reed plunging earthward! But a Torch-Thing combo catch saves Stretch, who soon explains it was the unstable molecules of the FF unis that "virtually short-circuited" MM. 

Back at the Bax, our team's greeted by, you guessed it, the Watcher, still making like Marcel Marceau. Turns out Big Baldy has been hanging around to witness the still-powerless Reed's abrupt resignation from the FF. 

And Sue, standing by her man, follows him out the door, leaving Johnny and Ben pondering possible replacements. -Mark Barsotti

(*The living building is actually unnamed, Len missing a chance to channel Stan's early '60's monster mag mojo.)

Mark: This high energy adventure, served up in the slick, masterful Perez/Sinnott style, gets mostly high marks as Len caps an effective two-parter with a potentially (temporary) game-changing ending. Having abandoned the FF at this point back in '77, I've no idea how the big takeaway - Reed and Sue quitting the team - is going to play out, but that's a hooky question for next month, class.

Here, Wein proves nimble at handling a Genie-level baddie like the Molecule Man, who can basically bend reality to his will. Mollie's ongoing mind-battle with Reed keeps him from simply willing our heroes' demise until the end, where the unstable molecules of the FF's uniform flip the script. It's an elegant, unexpected solution, if one that reduces the FF's victory to mere happenstance. But life's like that, and it's still goes in the win column, kids.  

The biggest problem here is the Watcher, or rather Len arbitrarily re-writing Big Baldie's rules of engagement. Yes, Uatu's race has a non-interference pledge (violated a time or ten, as cosmic threats demand), but Wein inserts a no-talking sub-clause, turning BB into an outright mute, as if even an offhand, "How 'bout them Yankees?" would violate the Prime Directive. 

Or maybe 'tu just had a sore throat, from all the jabbering he does in What If. Either way, the Watcher has so little impact on the story, none really, that you have to wonder why he appears at all. 

This will all be forgotten next ish, of course, overshadowed by what our no-longer-teammates have to say. Stay tuned. 

Matthew: Here’s another issue I feel I should have liked more, or at least had some stronger reaction to; I mean, my Lord, the Pérez/Sinnott artwork is simply gorgeous, if somewhat cramped.  Yet am I the only one who feels that Len’s “ah, the power of the Molecule Man was ineffective against your costumes’ unstable molecules” resolution is not only a bit of a deus ex machine, but also a total rehash of the “ah, the power of Salem’s Seven was ineffective against your auto-extensors’ artificial powers” ending he used just two short issues ago?  The stuff with the “I can say no more” Watcher was already tiresome when Ben bopped back to World War II, and now it’s really worn out its dubious welcome, plus I’m not thrilled about the break-up, natch.

Chris: Well, it was a great run – I’ll miss the old FF.  Wait, what am I saying?  The announcement of the team’s breakup is really no different than contracting a nasty cold, or a semi-serious infection – it’s rough for awhile, but with the passage of time, it gets better, then you move on and continue like it never happened.  Once we get past the next two issues (a reprint, and then a fill-in – sheesh), we’ll see what happens with the team’s latest Fleetwood Mac moment.

Len creates a thorny problem for our team, doesn’t he?  The FF have a nearly impossible task as they try to defeat the Molecule Man without killing Reed; Len wisely provides an out, as he makes it clear that Reed won’t give up his non-stretching body without a fight.  Good decision by Ben to “skrash!” the psi-amplifier, which kinda squishes the Molecule Man’s plans a-borning (shouldn’t be a problem, either – Reed should have that device psi-amplifying again before Sue calls everyone for dinner). 

Okay, art time.  Page 11, as the Molecule Man creates a building that can smash other buildings, as it’s bathed in coursing energy and breathing smoke, is truly inspired – this page alone outclasses every other page, and the cover as well, which in itself isn’t shabby.  More moments: Reed’s face, far larger as it’s visible behind the posturing Molecule Man (p 16, pnl 2); the Impy slide, as Impy is having a ball (p 16, pnl 5); Impy conjures up Thor’s hammer again, and gleefully anticipates the FUN of smashing Reed with it (p 19); Ben’s outrage when he realizes he’s unintentionally harmed Reed (p 23, pnl 6).

Hey Watcher – see yerself out, why dontcha.  You’re about as welcome as Jacob Marley.  Don’t forget to write. 

Fantastic Four Annual 12
"The End of the Inhumans... and the Fantastic Four"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Bob Hall, Keith Pollard, Bob Wiacek, and Marie Severin
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Marv Wolfman titles this one "The End of the Inhumans... and the Fantastic Four," but doesn't add the expected exclamation point; he doesn't punctuate the title at all, 'cause he doesn't buy it and neither do we. An inauspicious beginning.

Crystal and Lockjaw pop in (literally) on Johnny as the Torch tests his experimental race car (best design feature: the backseat, 'cause ya never know when your ex and her jumbo, dimension-hopping slobber dog might come calling). Crys says Johnny's needed at the Great Refuge and off they go, leaving to "Jet Streak" to crash and burn. Let's hope the pit crew had insurance.

Reaching the GR, Johnny and Crys are attacked by Thraxon the Schemer. Never heard of 'em? Neither has anybody else, (although 'rax seems to have copped his red hair & beard from the Thinkers' android that recently appeared in the monthly) but he battles Johnny and Crys to a better-call-in-the-rest-of-the-FF standstill.

Said Fabs are involved in Hollywood shenanigans involving an FF movie project and the Gong Show. I'll pause a moment, class, to let that sink in...

Now, since I had to continue at risk of my faculty parking space, so shall we all. The full team and Crys get the boring backgrounder on Thraxon and soon take him down, discovering 'rax was a mere catspaw for the real baddie, awaiting them in space!

It's the Sphinx, a second-rater Marv revives (from his own Nova), to ill-effect, and after some cluttered space station brawling, the ancient Egyptian is blasted out into space by Black Bolt. 

And Johnny gets an "I love you as a friend" peck on the cheek from Crys and makes nice with Quicksilver. Yuck. -Mark Barsotti

Mark: Remember when Marvel Annuals were the comic book equivalent of blockbuster summer movies fused with late Autumn Oscar-bait? Epics like Namor's full scale invasion of NYC and Spidey's first tango with the Sinister Six?

Those days are looong gone.  Oh, there's lots of frenetic, crowded-panel action throughout, rendered pretty well by Bob Hall and Keith Pollard, but it's all sound and fury, signifying meh.  
I'll confess a personal touchiness, class, for Johnny's not the only one with a Crystal-shaped hole in his heart (if the Dean wants to post old Sunday Special links, interested students can find out why - for possible extra credit), but much like Johnny, seeing Crys made me glad and sad but not mad, and the soapy triangle between her, Johnny, and Pietro plays out more effective than anything else here (he types through clenched teeth).
But who cares about an unknown Inhuman firing an ion gun, and all I want to know about the Sphinx is how he survived - before he got any powers - wandering in the desert for ninety years. There's other unforced errors like the Torch flying so high while distracted that he flames out on the edge of space, and, similarly, I sure don't want Marv staging my blasted-out-of the spaceship rescue, what with the wise but limited advice to try not breathing in a vacuum.
In sum: a thirty-four page would-be epic, and the most entertaining moment involves Chuck Barris?
Arte Johnson, hand me that gong.

Matthew: Boy, Marvel sure is tying up its cosmic loose ends this month:  my orphaned Inhumans not only resolve their primary dangling arc in the current Captain Marvel, but also tackle a secondary one in this annual, and Marv himself—the Kree, not Wolfman—guest stars in its Avengers counterpart, helping Warlock to put his affairs in order.  The human Marv dips into his Nova cast for our surprise villain (admit it, you breathed a sigh of relief just like I did when you realized that “the other one” wasn’t Maximus) while warming up for his imminent stint as the FF’s regular writer.  Ironically, Wolfman will eventually be forced to tie up his Sphinx-related loose ends in that very capacity when the Human Rocket’s mag bites the dust.

Lately, I feel as though I’ll be increasingly tempted to start some of my reviews with, “Well, it’s not terrible, but…”  This one isn’t, either, but it’s far from trouble-free.  I’m hardly opposed to leavening our Marvel drama with humor, yet these attempts seem to me particularly ill-advised.  Others may find it hilarious that poor Ted’s work went up in smoke just because Crystal couldn’t be bothered to give Johnny the time to stop the Jet Streak; I do not.  Far worse is the ham-handed parody of Dino De Laurentiis and the expensive mechanical gorilla built for his King Kong (1976).  They already dipped into that well in this year’s Spidey annual, and it’s no funnier here (even if it does eerily anticipate the ill-fated real-world attempts to produce a decent FF movie).

There are also significant continuity concerns.  The monthly issue shows the FF breaking up due to Reed’s long-lost stretching powers, and since the team is intact here in every sense, this must take place far earlier or later than their current storyline.  As for the Inhumans, it appears that after tangling with the Hulk in their last issue and Spidey in PPTSS #11—SuperMegaMonkey places Captain Marvel #53 between those, which I can’t immediately dispute—they returned from New York to “Attilian” (sic) and ran afoul of Thraxon.  His behind-the-scenes manipulation by the Sphinx, which feels totally retconned (I seriously doubt that’s what Moench had in mind), is said to have begun after Nova #11, yet rebuilding the Great Refuge took months.

Otherwise, not too bad, even if the plot is a bit rushed and sloppy—with a pretty cavalier attitude toward explosive decompression and survival in space—and I certainly appreciate the effort to give Sue a modicum of dignity and efficacy with the force-field sequence on page 22.  Man, Pietro must get awfully sick of being used as a hostage, as he also was by Maximus in their own book, which I’m sure has done nothing to improve his usual sour disposition.  No major complaints artwise, with Wiacek achieving a consistency that, to my untrained eye, prevented any jarring Hallard transition; the MCDb reports that Bob H. penciled pages 1-22 while Keith (whom Bob W. inked on Inhumans #12) drew the remainder, and I have no reason to doubt that.

Chris: It’s a real missed opportunity, as the FF’s first meeting with the Sphinx – with the Inhumans on board as well – should’ve been much better than this.  There’s a fair amount of wasted space with Johnny taking on Thraxon himself (when surely, Crystal knew from the start she’d need to gather the whole FF), and the team’s travails on the movie set (although, I admit that the skimpily-clad Invisible Girl, the written-out Torch, and the oversized “Thing” are the sort of abuses to source material we have come to expect once a creative idea goes La La).  Don’t get me started on the disregard of basic science facts, as the Sphinx’s satellite has its hull breached – not once, but several times – and doesn’t decompress all its occupants out into orbit. 

Reed – whose stretching powers inexplicably have returned – doesn’t come off well here, as he’s constantly fretting over Sue (“I knew you should have stayed behind with little Franklin,” again; p 30), and dishonorably slugs a powerless opponent in the head (p 25).  I much prefer the well-honed version as Roy and Len have presented Reed, the swift-thinking leader who arrives in a new environment and immediately begins to assess if for an advantage in the developing battle; Marv, please read up on this depiction for the next time. 

The art doesn’t come off much better.  I don’t dislike Wiacek’s inks as much as I remember, but he certainly does little to raise up the finished product; the work he did with Pollard on the Inhumans turned out much better.  Speaking of which, I have trouble believing the GCDb, which tells us Pollard pencils all the pages from p 23 to the end; the only pages with Pollardian appeal are p 31 (the reveal of the Sphinx!), with traces evident on p 34 and p 44, but that’s really it.

Lastly, how about the Inhumans; they only get a few panels toward the end, with Black Bolt – once again – required to step in and save the show.  Too bad Doug Moench didn’t have the opportunity to provide the script; based on his work with this team’s recently-cancelled title, I’d like to think he might’ve done a better job incorporating both teams into the action.  

Godzilla 4
"Godzilla versus Batragon"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Tom Sutton and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Phil Rachelson
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Herb Trimpe

The winged creature Batragon attacks an oil tanker in the North Pacific, which brings Godzilla to the surface, injuring the monster, who flies away as a second tanker appears, siphoning the remaining oil off the first. Dum Dum and Gabe search for Godzilla with a squadron of Dragonfly copters, with the two men at odds about how to deal with the Big G. Meanwhile, a call to New York sees Dr. Takiguchi leading the charge to build something that will "prove to be a match for Godzilla." The G himself stalks Batragon to a dormant volcano, where the injured monster joins other creatures under a force field, the product of "the bizarre" Dr. Demonicus! His Lifestone heals Batragon, while on the inland side, Eskimos work on Demonicus' giant boat—until some of them talk back and are killed for their troubles. Godzilla attacks, then climbs towards the creatures inside the volcano, killing the rejuvenated Batragon and going back for the others—when SHIELD strikes, leaving Demonicus to await the victor, who he plans to destroy with his other creatures!--Joe Tura

Joe: Sutton does a fine job as guest penciler this month, in an issue that actually features another giant monster, an original Marvel creation. Makes sense they would finally throw in another kaiju, zipping by any origin story by having it created by Dr. Demonicus, who is an ornery cuss for sure. A pretty good issue for the most part, with some very good panels from the art team, and a nice philosophical discussion between the two former Howling Commandos. Not much more to say, really, except we'll have to wait until next time to learn the origin of Demonicus, as we're left with a cliffhanger—or is that a volcano hanger?

Matthew: Okay, we’ve had Atragon, the titular Kaitei Gunkan (Undersea Warship) from the 1963 Toho film that introduced Manda.  We’ve had Baragon, the daikaiju first seen in Toho’s Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965).  We’ve had Barugon, pitted by rival studio Daiei against Gam[m]era in his first sequel, War of the Monsters (1966).  And now we have Batragon.  So much for originality.  Yet the very familiarity of the title and premise “Godzilla versus Batragon” is comforting, and except for their gaudy garb, are Demonicus and his men that far removed from Toho villains from Planet X or the Red Bamboo?  The Suttoniga teaming is surprisingly effective, and my only complaint is that, at least to me, Gabe doesn’t look like Gabe.

1 comment:

  1. Story from the creative team on Defenders goes, Giffen left in a unhappy dispute (I remember it as being over rates). KG thought it'd be devilishly funny to pencil random pages- I want to say every other one. How he figured that out? He's Keith Giffen.
    Left scratching his head, Kraft worked with the other two pencillers to fill out these crazy issues, and the two back-up strips were hastily commissioned. He still says Keith is one of the most gifted, fun artists with whom he ever collaborated.
    Meanwhile, Mike Golden's first Marvel work actually appeared in a comic outside the U's cirriculum: Marvel Classics Comics #28, in 1977.

    Really dig George's cover; seems an homage to X-Men #101 the year before.
    GP seems to have left social media today 11/9/16- I didn't see what happened and will attempt no tales out of school (not at MU!), but I hope things'll turn out cool. Anyone with that many Hawaiian shirts and gorgeous cosplayers seems like a chill dude.

    They are just people, after all.

    I know y'all have your fun with former paste-up production assistant Bill Mantlo, but he seemed to have a very sweet 65th birthday yesterday. The Dire Wraiths share his b'day in ROM so it's easy to remember. I've bagged on his dialogue in private, but I'll never forget how his ROM issues entertained my newlywed bride on our honeymoon- they were the first stack of comics she ever bought, herself, all in color for a dime each. I put it in my novel Anywhere With You.