Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May 1978 Part Two: Fabulous Fifth Anniversary Issue!

FIVE Years ago this week, Jack Seabrook, Tom McMillion, John Scoleri and I launched this lovely madness. Five years! 

That's 260 weeks and 330 posts, covering approximately five thousand issues, somewhere north of three million words.

From its humble beginnings (just four of us) to the massive staff and facility we command now, Marvel University has always been an eclectic mix of personalities and backgrounds. We've had clashes (oh, lord, we've had clashes) and some of us still defend Tony Isabella but, at the core, I think we all have a respect for one another and, more importantly, the readers. 

So, as we move into our final year of elation, criticism, and snark, I would like to personally thank this incredible staff: the (sadly) departed Noel Cavanaugh, Tom McMillion, and Jerad Walters; the ever-dependable Mark Barsotti, Jim Barwise, Chris Blake, Gilbert Colon, Tom Flynn, Scott McIntyre, and Joe Tura; and my two right-hand men, who do a hell of a lot behind the curtain to get the posts looking as good as they do, Matthew Bradley and Jack Seabrook. 

By my calculations we've got 38 more weekly doses of nostalgia to throw your way and I guarantee the best is yet to come. Well, from us at least -- I make no guarantees what Marvel will throw our way! - Dean Pete

The staff listens enraptured as The Dean
plots the next year

The Invaders 28
"Calling the Kid Commandos!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Frank Robbins and Frank Springer

With the inevitable “Okay, Agent Axis—here we come!,” Cap & Co. smash into his underground lab, pleasantly surprised to be aided by now-empowered strangers Gwenny Lou and Davy, and skirmish with his henchmen.  Holding Sabuki at gunpoint, Axis escapes, but the Torch’s heat-sensitivity enables him to track the iron mole underground, so when it emerges in a reservoir, Namor retrieves the hostage Axis tosses overboard, while Cap hopes the third time will be the charm with his repeat-offender opponent.  Sure enough, he is dragging a captive Axis with him when the adults return to the lab just as Bucky, Toro, and the newly christened Golden Girl and Human Top have put the kibosh on his thugs, and then announce they have more work to do.

With Sabuki in tow, they take Namor’s flagship back to Sandy Flat, costuming the newbies from a stash of outfits under the back seat (yes, really), but have no sooner told a livid Simms that the Sabukis are not being returned to captivity than that damned mole pops up again.  After they put Axis down, and Toro seals up the mole “till the Army boys get a chance to look at it,” Sabuki announces that while he will stay to care for the sick, Gwenny Lou will join her teammates and “carry our cause to the American people.”  When the contingents reconvene, “Axis” unmasks as Namor, who’d calibrated his strength to simulate a legitimate victory and increase leverage with Simms for the youths, who dub themselves the Kid Commandos and plan to remain in the States. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley: Between the mortifying Black Musketeers and insufferable Kid Commandos, Marvel has a lot to answer for this month, although I gather the latter were a way to hustle the sidekicks offstage, so perhaps they’re not all bad.  It may be that having introduced two British adult Invaders, making the team more reflective of the overall Allied effort (up next:  Captain Croissant!), Roy felt that a septet was unwieldy, and soberly decided that the kids were the most expendable.  Speaking of exits, there’s no lettercol to announce the fact, if they knew it when this was published, but it’s the end of the line for Fightin’ Frank Robbins, and after he’s penciled virtually every non-reprint ish, even his flintiest detractors might be allowed a little nostalgic regret; your mileage may vary.

As for the issue itself…well, having said that about Frank, I seriously doubt his ugly cover drew in too many non-compulsive buyers, and I don’t get why Roy felt the need for the faux-foe bit, which would’ve pissed me off as it did the kids.  Why not simply contrive to let the perennially slippery heavy resurge legitimately instead of undercutting the KC in their baptism of fire, which just cheapens everybody—and gimme a break with Namor’s Might-O-Meter (“I used precisely as much power as the true Agent Axis could have”).  As for Sandy Flat, where only dumb luck prevented a guard from ventilating his disguise, all they did was force the C.O. to give Golden Girl her liberty, grudgingly, “since it looks like the Invaders will vouch for your whereabouts...”

Mark Barsotti: Another rah-rah actioner and that's Yankee Doodle Dandy by me. The first ten pages, opening with the grown-up Invaders crashing Agent Axis' party, are a Blitzkrieg Blur (and Blitzkrieg Bop-ish, too, unspooling at early Ramones scattergun speed). Scowl if you will over the Gumby 'n' Pokey aspects of Frank Robbins' take on human anatomy, his frenetic layouts and pacing churn like Hoover Dam hydroelectric pistons, creating an uncanny sense of motion, of characters zooooooming along, barely contained within the panel. And check out his keen composer's eye on p. 11, quick cutting between Agent Ax on the ground and Cap's aerial assault. 

Lest you think, class, that I'm a complete shill for the  Rubber Band Man, let me clarify. As a tot and up to putting together this very lesson plan, I hate(d) seeing Frank's work in anything Marvel except this very title. A bit schizoid, sure, but having explored a fair amount of Golden Age comics, particularly WW II flag-wavers - when Simon & Kirby's Cap and Boy Commandos looked a lot more like Robbins than the slabs of heroic, square-chinned granite the King would be serving up by the late Silver Age - trust me when I tell you that Frank nails the over the top, almost hysterical storm-the-beaches verve and cartoony crackle of that era.

His style helps, as I think even his haters would agree, to mark off The Invaders from the rest of the '70's Marvel U. That it's anachronistic, certainly for Roy Thomas as well as your humble prof, only adds to its "out of time" appeal. Robbins was the perfect choice for Invaders

But Roy makes full use of era-hopping as well, going all in on period atmosphere (what some might call goofiness) on p.2, with Gwenny Lou shooting "golden starbursts" out of her hands and Cap opining, "I don't know who your are, miss, you either son, twirling away like that - but I'm sure glad you're on our side. Keep 'em flyin'!" as Frank draws Cap making the OK sign and winking.

Such high fructose corn had no place in '70's Marvelville, not even whatever small town Nova was from, but fits just fine in Roy's boyhood homage. He's a good enough writer to wink just enough at a modern audience (be it in '78 or '16) to signal he's in on the send-up, while still treating the heroes, not reverently, but with all due respect. 

And the best accolade of all? He and Robbins produce comics that a kid, say a 18 year old Marine on a ship bound for Iwo Jima, surely would have loved.

Iron Man 110
"Sojourners Through Space!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Keith Pollard and Fred Kida
Colors by Mary Titus
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Bruce Patterson
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Terry Austin

The “egg” is revealed to be a transporter as Iron Man and Jack of Hearts beam aboard a Rigellian starship, where the Colonizers’ defenses—e.g., a photon-coagulant ray—seem to be insufficient, until they unleash the Punisher (i.e., the alien cyborg, not the human vigilante).  It subdues our heroes long enough for Fleet Commander Arcturus to paralyse (sic) them with “a simple mind-thrust,” and explain that the Colonizers found the Punisher and the Growing Man aboard ships abandoned by, respectively, Galactus and Kang after FF #175 and Avengers #69.  They are held captive aboard the command ship of a Rigellian fleet, poised for “the final battle in the war of colonization with the resisting inhabitants of the world called…Wundagore II!”

Meanwhile, back at the lunar ranch, the Soviets repair their communications equipment, and are ordered to stay put while “Tony” coordinates a détente-style S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, since the alien egg could threaten all of Earth.  A “viviscan probe” reveals the secrets of IM’s armor (blowing his i.d. yet again for those who care to notice) and Jack’s origin, showing that they pose no threat but merely traced the Growing Man, “whose scouting mission was begun accidentally—before he was even programmed...”  A Wundagorian blast knocks out the restraining rays, allowing IM to ponder why this fleet is still wandering after the Colonizers found a new homeworld (in Thor #256), whereupon the Knights of Wundagore attack in force, with hover-sleds and power-lances. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I applaud Pollard’s four-issue return after the Infantino Ordeal, yet his interior art—although an improvement by definition—looks a little sketchy under Kida’s inks, which I guess Professor Chris would call “loose,” and certainly can’t hold a candle to that nice Cockrum/Austin cover.  And I won’t deny that the two-pagers on 22-23 (a creatively laid-out montage of the bio-scans) and 30-31 (depicting the onslaught of the New Men aboard their “atomic steeds”) are impressive, but they eat up a lot of space without moving the story along too much.  Combined with a page-and-a-half recap of last issue, that leaves this one feeling like a lot of set-up, even though Mantlo actually throws a good deal of exposition at us along the way, so, like the Soviets, I’ll stay tuned.

Chris Blake: The two-page spread of Iron Man’s Rigellian deep-scan inspired a “Wow!” when I turned to it; this issue doesn’t date from my peak collecting period, so I don’t have memories of this visual from that impressionable age.  Bill & Keith do a thorough job of cataloging all of Iron Man’s nifty doo-dads; now, if only we could count on future creative types to consult this attractive display before they try to tell us Iron Man has always had a host of other gadgets in addition to these (no, he does not have an umbrella that sprouts from the right wrist-gauntlet …).  

As attractive as the two-page spreads might be, neither one does much to advance the story.  Now, I realize you’ve just finished reading a scintillating synopsis by our esteemed Prof M R Bradley – and I seek not to diminish his efforts – but the action in the story basically boils down to this: Iron Man and Jack of Heats have passed thru the energized egg, and find themselves in the company of the Colonizers of Rigel; the Colonizers send the Punisher (no, not that Punisher) to defeat them; our heroes are freed as the Rigellian craft is attacked by the New Men of Wundagore II.  Mantlo really should have arrived at this last point a lot sooner, I’d say as early as the close of IM #109, if we’d spent less time with the Growing Man (please help me), and if we dispensed with the Punisher.  
And how exactly do the Russian heroes figure in the story?  There are three pages here that amount to little more than a recap of last issue.  You realize, Mantlo, that even though, they’re communists, we’re still required to pay them union scale, even when they’re only sitting around in the blue area, waiting to be summoned back into the proceedings.  
The Pollard/Kida art doesn’t coalesce as well as it had on their previous pairing, in Iron Man #107.  I’ve already mentioned the two-page scan-spread is impressive; I’ll add to that and mention Pollard’s one-panel reference to the fight with the Soviets (p 15) is better than anything Infantino did in our previous issue.   

John Carter, Warlord of Mars 12
"City of Skulls"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Carmine Infantino and Rudy Nebres
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by George Perez and Rudy Nebres

Risking her father’s displeasure, Sola sets off to visit Tars Tarkas, who returned home from Helium to stay with his people as long as needed; accompanied as far as Jangor by Dejah, she is proceeding to Thark when she hears music in the desert, and is beset by skeletal hands emerging from the sand as she seeks its source.  Several days after Dejah has safely returned from her treaty mission, Carter has just bested Kantos Kan in a practice fight when she asks him to take a flier to Thark to check on the overdue Sola.  After he learns from Tars Tarkas that she never arrived, the two friends retrace her trail until Carter’s flier is caught in a sand-storm that carries them away to a skull-shaped monolith more than ten thousand feet high.

Barely surviving their crash-landing, after they are able to make the flier carom off its surface rather than smashing into it headlong, they enter the structure, “built entirely out of bone and skulls,” which Carter is convinced must have happened recently, or he would have heard of it before.  Tars Tarkas is uncharacteristically frightened by its evil aura, so when Carter ascends a stairwell in search of Sola, he remains on the ground level, through which a rotting corpse arises and renders him unconscious with its eye-beams.  Above, Carter is attacked by an endless army of skeletons, and as he is held fast by hands reaching from the very walls, “a mindless and mad Tars Tarkas slowly stepped toward me, bandying [sic] a heavy stone axe” with which to kill him. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Another Wolfman original, this three-parter is penciled by one of my bêtes noires, Infantino, which may actually give me a reason not to lament the persistent presence of the inker credited here—if not subsequently—as Rudy D. Nebres.  Carmine’s angular style is not always mitigated by this Rudification:  Geppetto never created a little wooden boy with a pointier nose than Dejah and Carter in the last panels of pages 10 (below) and 11, respectively.  But he cuts loose with a double-spread on 16 and 17 that shows the storm-swept flier approaching the “stark-white monstrosity highlighted by the scarlet and purple streaks of night and the reflected glory of [Martian moons] Cluros and Thuria,” the lack of human figures offsetting Infantino’s most conspicuous limitation.

Chris: An issue like this provides me some understanding of Carmine Infantino’s following among comics readers.  The art is acceptably ordinary for the first half, but once we get to the sandstorm (p 15), and John and Tars Tarkas’ arrival at the skull-castle (an impressive p 16-17), the visuals really take off.  Check out the bone-furniture on p 26, but wait -!  There’s a bony arm reaching out of the ground!  Then, John finds a skeletal hand on his shoulder, as he is beset by skeletons (p 27)!  And grabbed by arms coming thru the wall (p 30)!  When a reader can focus on the imagination behind the art, it’s easier to see its value.  Thankfully, Rudy Nebres still is here to provide continuity, but also to apply his heavy style to the pencils, thereby obscuring elements of Infantino’s loose (and terribly distracting!) technique.  

Master of Kung Fu 64
"Deadly Lesson: Like Father, Like Son...?"
Story by Scott Edelman
Art by Mike Zeck and "The Tribe"
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Annette Kawecki
Cover by Paul Gulacy

Shang-Chi is walking the streets of New York, when he unexpectedly encounters Shoh Teng, an old friend from the court of Fu Manchu.  Once he recognizes S-C, Shoh Teng flees to the subway; S-C pursues, jumps the turnstile, and leaps for the departing subway train.  As he holds on to the rear of the car, S-C can see Shoh Teng thru the grease-smeared window.  His thoughts drift back to when they both had trained under Cho Lin; S-C had bested Shoh in a fight, and held back in order to demonstrate how Shoh could’ve been vulnerable to a death-blow.  Their training had been interrupted by the arrival of Fu Manchu, who chastised both S-C as he showed mercy to an opponent, and Cho Lin for permitting it during training.  Shoh later sought out S-C, and led him down a corridor that (unbeknownst to S-C) had a trap door; S-C fell thru, landed on his feet, and was confronted by armed thugs, and a Chinese man calling himself Death-Dragon.  Death-Dragon’s group stated its intention to hold S-C for ransom to be paid by Fu.  Fu himself broke into S-C’s holding area, and defeated Death-Dragon in single combat, ending the contest by breaking the other man’s neck (one moment earlier, S-C had thought Death-Dragon was about to identify Fu as his master …).  Fu instructed his son to learn from having been betrayed by his friend Shoh Teng, and to trust no one but his father; ever after, S-C had thought Shoh to be dead, until now.  Once Shoh steps off the subway, S-C confronts him on the platform.  Shoh expects S-C to desire revenge; as they battle, S-C insists he does not seek Shoh’s death.  S-C subdues Shoh, then listens as Shoh relates how Fu had used him to orchestrate S-C’s abduction, as part of a plan to trick S-C into deeper trust of Fu.  S-C (who might’ve suspected this all along, knowing what he has learned about his father) insists he has “no quarrel” with Shoh.  He begins to leave the station, but whips around as he’s alerted by the whistling sound of a knife cutting thru the air.  S-C catches the knife, and as he completes his turn, he witnesses Shoh Teng’s plunge onto the tracks, where he is electrocuted by the third rail.  S-C recognizes the knife as one belonging to the order of the Si-Fan.  He concludes Shoh was not legitimately concerned that S-C would seek revenge; if anything, Shoh had completed his training as Si-Fan, and had been sent now to exact revenge for Fu’s death.  -Chris Blake

Chris: Naturally, I’m going to complain about this being a fill-in.  We had a fill-in and a reprint less than a year ago, and yes, I agree a fill-in is preferable any time to a reprint.  The problem comes from the already-rolling multi-part story taking place in Hong Kong.  I can’t remember the last time S-C was hanging out in New York; it’s hard to read this story and imagine it transpiring within the S-C continuity.  The next point involves the writer; this is the first time in ages we’ve had a Shang-Chi tale penned by someone other than Doug Moench.  Scott Edelman does a solid job, as he clearly gets how Fu could orchestrate a cross/doublecross game; it also should be no surprise that a pre-planned means for revenge would follow his death.  So, points to Edelman for taking the time to recognize how to tell a Fu Manchu vs Shang-Chi story.  

This is another turn for eventual full-time penciller Mike Zeck.  The art never really pops this time, as it had in numerous occasions in Zeck’s previous outing (the brain-bending two-parter in #59-60); the best-looking pages are in the flashback sequence with Big Daddy Fu.  The lack of brilliance could be due to the many-hands approach due to the Tribe on inks, but it also might involve the material itself; Zeck had a field day with the fantastical elements of the Doom mind-game story, but this straightforward tale doesn’t lend itself to the same sort of inspiration.  You might recall when Sal Buscema turned in a similar, somewhat ordinary effort under similar circumstances (an untold tale of Shang-Chi’s youth) for a fill-in, in MoKF #41.  (Outstanding Gulacy cover, though, right?  Oh well.)

Mark: The good news: a killer cover by Paul Gulacy.

The bad news: Deadline Doom rears its ugly snout (Jim Craig falling behind schedule isn't surprising, after his surely Herculean effort drawing & inking last month's installment, but Doug Moench is also absent, I believe for the first time since taking over the book several years back), derailing the Hong Kong-based Cat/Juliette saga for a fill-in issue...but at least it's not a reprint.

The okay news: writer Scott Edelman and artist Mick Zeck serve up tasty enough sausage, as these street vendor sub-ins go, if one lacking any spice of originality (which they, admittedly, weren't paid for). 

So enter, no dragons, but Shon Teng, another never-heard-of-before bud from Shang-Chi's youth. Do I need to tell you, class - well, maybe Forbush - of the chases, flying feet, and flashbacks to come, before Shon-T is last page dead in the subway. This is a variation on a story the title's told a time or three, and why not since we know little of S-C's youth? It could actually be fertile ground, save that not just sub-text but the frickin' text itself remains the same: Fu Manchu was a really bad father.

And I think we already knew that.

Mike Zeck's art is fine, save for being eclipsed by Craig's career-best effort last month, and Edelman wisely has Shon Teng be a member of Fu's Si-Fan (still out for S-C'S blood, even though their master is - allegedly - dead), thus eliminating the lotto-like odds of them randomly running into each other on the New York streets.

In sum: a tasty street sausage (urp!), but nothing that's gonna stay with you after the greasy napkin hits the trash can. 

Ms. Marvel 17
"Shadow of the Gun!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Jim Mooney and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Terry Austin

One arm incapacitated by a force beam, Ms. Marvel battles a faceless foe clad in body armor, who boasts of a S.H.I.E.L.D. “targetting [sic] computer,” but just as he finishes her off with a disintegrator beam in a posh restaurant, she awakens from a recurring nightmare that may be a seventh-sense warning.  Carol’s scream summons Arabella, to whom she divulges during their heart-to-heart that “I’ve loved two people in my life, with all my heart.  Both are dead.  One, I think, I might have saved…but I didn’t.”  Meanwhile, in Washington, we learn that the mystery-woman bent on her destruction is…Nick Fury?!  No, it’s a shape-shifter named Raven (perking up all my fellow Monday-morning quarterbacks), who has assumed Nick’s form.

Raven penetrates the Helicarrier’s armory with Ballard (about whom Frank dug up so little that his assignment is cancelled, whereupon he shares a brainstorm with Tracy) and pilfers Centurion, an experimental “personal weapons system” comprising a jet-pack, battle computer, and gun that fires, well, you know.  Narrowly avoiding an encounter with La Contessa Valentina Allegro de Fountaine (sic), who would surely spot the imposture, they get away as Frank hatches his plan:  a Valentine’s Day snowball fight with the Woman staff, intended to relieve Carol’s tension.  While they cavort, Ballard hunts, his sensors keyed “to the unique molecular structure of Ms. Marvel’s Kree costume,” and as she changes in order to fly home, the precognitive pieces fall into place... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Demerits for Arabella’s “Like the Bogey-Man once said, all ya gotta do is whistle,” when all true cineastes know it was Bacall; to Archie for bollixing S.H.I.E.L.D.’s acronym, as in Spotlight #32; and to everyone for screwing up Val’s name.  But Chris pulls off the neat trick of giving us an issue that consistently engages despite the utter absence of any real (i.e., non-dream) action involving MM herself, and begins bringing long-simmering subplots to an aromatic boil.  Like Infantino, Mooney really benefits from the returning DeZuniga’s inks—most notably on Carol in page 3, panel 6 and page 26, panel 2—while the lettercol forecasts big changes, from “a whole new direction,” and a reunion with X-Men partner Cockrum, as of #20 to likely bimonthly status.

Chris: Claremont starts out well – the imminent threat of certain death has a way of grabbing my attention – but then, after Carol’s testy confessional with her helpful neighbor, the story gets caught up in too much magazine business, and loses momentum.  There should have been a way to build some tension on Carol’s side as we switch back and forth to the fake Fury’s efforts to swipe the Centurion suit; that way, the carefree snowball fight would’ve gone even further to give Carol a false sense of relief.  

Another questionable move by Claremont, as he glosses over Raven’s effort to talk her way out of Ballard’s stupid ill-advised play with the Centurion weapon.  That scene should be in there, especially since we’re well-aware this Fury isn’t the genuine article; how long can the imposter maintain the charade?  Speaking of this Fury; this isn’t the LMD last seen in Defenders gone rogue, is it?  That one certainly couldn’t adopt other forms.  This must be some new threat; but why so intent on offing the affable Ms Marvel?  I’m sure we’ll find out. 
Once again, we have a different art team.  I’ve kind of gotten used to DeZuniga’s embellishment; while he’ll never be a favorite, he has his moments.  Not this time, though, as the art is fairly weak and thin throughout, mostly resembling Frank Springer’s watery finishes.  To find the art highlight, look no further than the Cockrum/Austin cover.  

Marvel Team-Up 69
Spider-Man and Havok in
"Night of the Living God!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by John Byrne and Ricardo Villamonte
Colors by Mary Titus
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Dave Cockrum

With Moira MacTaggert and Jamie Madrox in Edinburgh, Alex Summers and Lorna Dane have Muir Isle to themselves, and are recovering from their recent X-Men trials when Egyptian-garbed agents of the Living Pharaoh attack, binding Havok with a “stasis-tape” bolo that neutralizes his power and blasting the stunned Polaris from a cliff, leaving her for dead.  Shortly after, Peter is calling it a night in the ESU chem lab when he notices the lights on in Professor Craig’s office, hours after he left, and webs up the door while changing into Spidey.  Yet after replacing “the master’s mystic ankh” with a perfect copy, the intruders depart via the window while Spidey, improbably snagged in his own web, is able to plant a tracer on their craft.

Lorna survives but, getting no answer at Xavier’s school, reaches the Beast, who was on Avengers  standby alert with Thor and leaves in a Quinjet without explanation (readers are referred to X-Men #111).  Following his tracer to an embassy, Spidey sees a figure carried from an ambulance; realizing it must be Havok, of whose kidnapping he’d overheard, he frees Alex, and the tide seems turned in their favor until the Pharaoh steps in, blasting Spidey out the window.  Immobilized by the ankh, Havok is placed in a casing that will absorb, amplify, and broadcast his cosmic-ray power to the Pharaoh, with whom he is inextricably linked, and although Spidey reappears, his battle with the Pharaoh pulls down the webbing holding the casing open, turning the Pharaoh into the Living Monolith...  -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: X-Men #55, in which the future Havok has no sooner been introduced than he discovers his powers while squaring off against the Pharaoh’s henchmen (I believe “You, Alex Summers, are a mutant!” is the exact line), was one of the first back issues I ever owned, and it still gives me a thrill.  So I expected and wanted to like this better, especially given its patrimony, yet I don’t think that in this one-off, Villamonte really does justice to John’s pencils, nor am I completely satisfied with Chris’s script despite its inter-title connections, particularly how he depicts Spidey.  “Aw, for cryin’ out loud—!  How could I be so dumb?” he asks during the web-fiasco, and two pages later, “What’s the matter with my mind, anyway?!  I should have realized this ages ago!”

Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in our hero, does it?  Now, damned if that odd stance adopted by Havok in page 16, panel 1 didn’t ring an almost subliminal bell, making me think John might be making a subtle homage to a vintage X-Men issue, possibly by Neal Adams—not that I have time to dig through my collection to confirm it.  In fairness, no story ending with a Pharaoh-into-Monolith cliffhanger is gonna leave me too cold, and despite my reservations regarding Ricardo, there are undeniable art highlights, particularly those involving Havok (e.g., 16, panel 3; page 22, panel 1), but also including the well-delineated Beast on page 11; the shadowy Spidey in page 26, panel 1; the Pharaoh in page 26, panel 5; and of course that totally spectacular last-page shot.

Joe Tura: The quick aside on page 11 with Beast made me look for a synopsis of X-Men #111, (a fantastic comic), then look up the next 20 or so issues in the same title, realizing this is about where X-Men started to become the best book Marvel was publishing, surpassing MTU by a web strand and going on by the time we hit 1980 to blow by it like a web-parachute in Chicago. The common denominators are of course Claremont and Byrne, but let us talk about this title before the sidetracking gets too out of hand. It's another super-solid team-up chapter filled with little things that make it so memorable, firing up the old synapses to bring the smile of an 11-year old Marvel Zombie to light. Everyone talking out loud soooo much to explain what they're doing, almost as if they were on the radio—it's a bit annoying now, but was awesome in 1978. Lorna's hand grasping the rock on page 6 as she survived the attack. Peter quoting Alice in Wonderland on page 6 panel 5. Soon after, Spidey getting caught in his own webs and realizing he's a knucklehead. Beast roasting marshmallows on page 11, but quickly getting serious—and Thor's summary of his actions in panel 6. The Spidey super close-up on page 14 last panel, and calling himself Captain Crimebuster on the next page. Havok's rage against the Pharaoh's phlunkies. Pharaoh smashing Spidey through the window ("Me an' my…big mouth"). Spidey keeping the casket open, then blasting Pharaoh so he causes it to close. And the Pharaoh's paranoid and power-hungry growth spurt with a mighty SKA-THAMM! Oh yeah, that's the ticket!

Chris: Claremont already has used this title to tie-up loose ends, as Iron Fist was here in #63-64 to conclude a storyline from his now-folded title.  This time, Claremont finally acknowledges the existence of Havok & Polaris, who have been consigned to the shadows of X-Men since shortly after the debut of the new team.  The circumstances that led to their control by Eric the Red have never been adequately explained; now, we’re past all that, so Claremont turns his attention to the present, and Alex & Lorna’s plans for a peaceful recovery.  I’m sure it looked good on paper, until the Egypto-goons arrived.  

Claremont allows Spidey to carry most of the highlight moments: Spidey traps himself in his own webs (a blunder beyond Spidey’s usual capacity), but still manages to attach a “trusty-dusty” spidey-tracer to the hovercar (p 10); in his attempt to free Havok, Spidey apologizes to the bonked henchmen, and observes “I could have been Godzilla.  Or the Thing, even” (p 15).  Once the Pharaoh makes his pyrotechnic entrance, Spidey asks Havok, “Is he for real?” (p 17).  
Villamonte is a curious choice as inker; the results still are fairly strong, but a bit thin at times, which leaves this issue trailing the art-standard set in the previous ten issues.  The Byrne art highlights include: Alex & Lorna’s clash with the Pharaoh phlunkies (p 2-3), as both mutants get to cut loose; the Beast, roasting a marshmallow by the Avengers mansion fireside (p 11, 2nd panel); Spidey defenestrates his way into a surprised young woman’s apartment (p 17, pnl 4); clash of cosmic titans (p 22, pnl 2); Spidey, hiding in the shadows, on the wall above the power-conducting coffin (p 26); an awe-inspiring full-page illustration, as the Living Monolith rises again (p 31)!

Matthew:  I see I’m the only one who didn’t go for the “Pharaoh phlunky” yoks.  Odd man out, as always…

Marvel Two-In-One 39
The Thing and The Vision in
"The Vision Gambit"
Story by Roger Slifer
Art by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Peter Iro
Cover by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos

Sensing his approach from the next room, Daredevil deduces that “The Kid” followed Ben from prison, admits he is psychic, asserts that they are threatened by a leak in Ben’s poison-gas system, and “foresees” the boy’s entrance.  Sufficiently persuaded, the Thinker shuts off the gas, but has one of his androids imprison the Kid (eliciting a de rigueur “Sweet Christmas!”) as he reveals that his evil plan centers on the Vision, whom he has duplicated with specs gleaned in Avengers #134.  The copy lacks the original’s density-altering abilities, yet if he can capture and analyze the Vision—using DD’s “clairvoyance” to offset the X-factors that are his eternal downfall—the Thinker can create an army of Visions and, that’s right, rule the world.

Worried that the hypno-lenses he uses on Ben (first seen in FF #68) might impair the “psychic,” the Thinker holds the Kid hostage in explosive shackles and sends our heroes to Avengers’ (sic) Mansion, equipping DD with a rifle designed to subdue the Vision and Ben with a monitoring device.  Holding down the fort with Yellowjacket, Vizh is trying to understand a hockey game when YJ answers the doorbell and is knocked out with a flick of Ben’s finger; as a battle ensues, Vizh unwittingly plays into the Thinker’s hands by becoming intangible.  The Thinker’s weapon first traps him in that state, and then surrounds him with a blinding, impenetrable ionic field, but the guilt-ridden DD is already scheming as he retrieves the containment module from their craft.

Finding no leak, the Thinker realizes DD was bluffing, so upon their return he orders Ben to kill him and return to the gas chamber, but in his bear hug, DD’s uniform collapses, vacated by YJ (whither his wings?) as DD, clad in BVDs and Hank’s mask, pastes the Thinker, who ensures the Kid’s safety by dropping the detonator.  He had revived YJ by locating his “pulse centers” (yeah, right); changed places, with YJ’s presence simulated by filling his suit with ants (yeah, right); and hidden in the module, shielded by the glow (how convenient).  They free Ben and Vizh with, respectively, goggles and gun, and the quartet mops up a passel of faux-Visions before the Kid is revealed as the “psychic,” predicting the hockey game’s unexpected outcome with gut reactions. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: As I feared, even my beloved Vision is barely able to nudge this one up a notch on the Quality-Scale, despite a welcome callback to the Englehart Era; throw in an extra raspberry for mangling Arnold “Shwarzeneger.”  Slifer perpetrates an impossibly convoluted and contrived jumble of a story, even if he gets points for having the mesmerized Ben act as though everything is normal, rather than as a mindless automaton, allowing for such choice bits of dialogue as his reference to the “ironic field.”  The art devolves into the usual Wilson/Marcos mediocrity (epitomized by the amorphous Thinker in page 2, panel 4)—although their cover is admittedly both handsome and unusually accurate—with the odd flash of quality inside, e.g., a pensive Vizh in page 11, panel 5 (above).

Nova 19
"Blackout Means Business, and His Business is Murder!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Carmine Infantino and Tom Palmer
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Carmine Infantino and Tom Palmer

Zooming to school, Nova is zapped by a black and gold-clad curiosity named Blackout, who uses black light beams to freeze-choke the hero, then encases Nova in a cube of solid light for good measure and takes off. Quickly running out of air, Nova is able to crawl out of the cube in mid-air and zip to school with a minute to spare, where he meets gal pal Ginger, who spills that his Dad went to "some kind of business meeting in the city" which raises Richard's suspicions. Meanwhile, Blackout uses his powers to crumble a steel window, cross over on a light bridge, and decrease the temperature on a safe to absolute zero, then is spotted by Croit, who recognizes the villain as Marcus Daniels. After some cryptic conversation, Blackout turns Croit and his assistant into black light and destroys the lab, making off with the stabilizer and recounting his origin to no one in particular: he was Croit's research assistant, and was framed for stealing secrets, but was able to escape jail time in exchange for being Croit's guinea pig. Alas, the experiment, harnessing the power of a black star, instead made Daniels a walking generator, but he escaped and learned to harness his powers.

Cut back to Truman High, where Richard and Ginger are watching a basketball game (where the hoop looks like it's 5 feet high, or the players are 10 feet tall, or it's a Nerf Hoop) and flirting/talking about studying. After study time, it's darker than usual earlier in the afternoon, which Nova rightly realizes is caused by Blackout (and he's flunking science? No way!), and he saves a girl from getting hit by a car in the rainstorm that follows. Blackout, who did in fact create a lightning storm by "seeding the clouds" with his black light power (ain't he clever!) vows to use the stabilizer to focus his energy on Manhattan and cripple the city—because if he can't correct his body's shifting metabolism, his "atoms will merge [with] the light spectrum!" Nova flies up and begins the battle, incredibly breaking through "Blacky"'s solid light shield twice, but getting too close, and allowing Blackout to charge him with black light energy, forcing his atoms to split…but the hero manages to bust Blackout in the bean, causing him to fall on the stabilizer and destroy it. When he's struck by lightning, it spreads his atoms apart into the light spectrum, leaving Nova with more questions than answers. -Joe Tura

Joe: Another month, another one-and-done villain. So why waste a couple pages on his origin? I guess it's better than another ho-hum chapter of "As The Riders Turn," but maybe not that much better. Especially since the unstable scoundrel will be back in Avengers #238 in 1983, per the Marvel Universe Wiki. Great. The battle scenes here are OK, and the rain scenes are well done, but if you think about it, it's mostly just more lines for Infantino to draw. One great moment, that every reader was thinking but didn't have the time or energy to say, comes on the bottom of page 23, last panel, where Nova flies up to Blackout, who has been storming at the storm, and says "Y'know something, Blacky—you're not playing with a full deck. I heard you screaming all the way from Forest Hills! Who are you shouting to? There's no one here but us rain-soaked super heroes." Of course, like 90% of all Nova dialogue, it's Spidey-lite ("Blacky"? Yikes.), but it's still good stuff.

Worst art panel is bottom of page 10, panel 7, where teenager/superhero/supposedly in shape Richard looks like he has my body. Mind you, he has a costume and a long sleeve shirt and a sweater on, but three layers shouldn't give him that much of a beer gut. Unless that explains why Ginger seemed to think Rich's dad was a "cutie." One panel above that, Marv gets clever, throwing in a Flash reference for Infantino, when two students passing by Rich and Ginger have this exchange: "So I said, Barry, you're slowing down my action." "You didn't really, Wally, did you?" Hardee har har. (But honestly I missed this the first read and only spotted it after noticing the horrible Rich gets a gut panel. Lucky me!) Boy, for an issue I dislike more and more as I prattle on and on, I sure have way too much to say about it!

Ah, our silly Blue Blazes counter is back in full swing, as Nova gets blasted by Blackout on page 2 panel 3; then a colorless "Blazes" on page 7 panel 3 as he escapes from the goop box; and another full phrase on page 26 when Nova jets into a "solid light shield" with a "WHAMMO."  A little better than the last couple of issues—hey, something has to hold my interest!

Chris: Wolfman turns me off from the very first page, as he opens with Rider’s prattling about his grades, the possibility of being left back, etc.  So basically, Marv, we’ve seen absolutely zero development with this character, as we near the end of the second year of his title’s publication.  Al S. of Nashville TN writes in, and observes how these non-super-hero-business hassles, “hassles just for hassles’ sake [are] merely irritating.”  Listen to your fans, Marv, or pretty soon, you won’t have any.

Chris: The art is loose and messy, with Palmer not a solid choice to make sense of it all.  I had to laugh out loud, though, as Nova and the Black Light Guy have time for a conversation during the fraction of a second it should take for Nova – the Human Rocket, you know – is cracking thru the black light barriers (p 27).  I guess he was rocketing along very slowly.  That last part isn’t on Infantino, though; it’s Marv’s fault, as once again he finds it necessary to clutter-up a potentially fast-moving action sequence with plenty of word and thought balloons.  The sequence from pages 2-7 suffers the same fate, as we are privy to every single thought of Rider’s as he’s breaking thru walls and being imprisoned in a black-light rectangle.  “So far, everything’s been a total bummer,” Rider muses; yeah, tell me about it.  
Matthew: In case anyone didn’t know it—assuming they would even care, here in an institution dedicated to the competition—page 10, panel 6 is an homage to DC’s pioneering Silver-Age Flash (“Barry” Allen) and his sidekick/successor, Kid Flash (“Wally” West), both co-created by, you guessed it, Carmine Infantino.  Alas, some twenty years later, his artwork here just looks hopelessly passé, and with that stupid lightning-bolt thing across his face, Blackout comes across as a duller, dumber knockoff of Electro, not exactly the coolest of villains to begin with.  Neither Palmer’s inks nor Marv’s story improves the situation at all; Blackout’s origin and plan are the worst kind of technobabble, making it ironic that Rich chastises himself for not understanding  it.

Spider-Woman 2
"A Sword in Hand!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Carmine Infantino and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Dave Cockrum

Spider-Woman searches thru the British Natural History Museum, alone in the middle of the night, in the hope of discovering clues about her father, John Drew, who had worked in the museum after Jessica’s mother died.  She touches the hilt of the copy of Excalibur, fashioned by Morgan Le Fay to undo her brother, Arthur Pendragon; immediately, Jessica is flooded with knowledge about the artifact, despite never having read the Arthurian legends.  Spider-Woman has no time to reflect on this surprising development, as London police have discovered her in the museum; she chooses to fly away rather than leave quietly with the bobbies, much to their surprise.  Her departure clears a path for career criminal Slapper Struthers, who grabs the same sword-hilt.  Struthers’ contact has a different result, as a voice declares he is about to be placed under control by the sorcerous power of Morgan Le Fay herself.  Struthers is transformed to a powerful being, and identifies himself as Excalibur; he clashes briefly with S-W and escapes the museum.  The following day, Jessica undergoes another fruitless day of job-hunting, until she is drawn to a curio shop by its proprietor, who calls himself Magnus.  Magnus knows Jessica’s name, and states he understands her present search for identity; however, she will not find the knowledge she seeks here in Britain.  Jessica returns to her flat, anxiously reviewing the conversation she had had with Magnus, and finally resolves to seek him out once more.  Once out on the street, she spies Excalibur, now on horseback and heading towards Magnus’ shop.  She changes to her S-W garb and tries to defend Magnus, but her venom-blast somehow has no effect.  She overhears Excalibur demand that Magnus release Morgan’s book of black magic to him, and Magnus’ refusal.  S-W’s frontal attacks fail, but a different tack – a well-thrown spear from the wall of Magnus’ shop – disarms Excalibur of his enchanted sword.  Without his weapon, Excalibur reverts to Struthers, and is quickly defeated.  Magnus suggests he accompany Jessica to America, since they are “no longer needed here,” so that they might search together for her destiny.  -Chris Blake

Chris: We all have a lot more to learn about Jessica Drew – including Jessica herself – so it’s a good idea on Wolfman’s part to provide her with a knowledgeable guide.  It also will help provide companionship; it’s hard to get too excited about a super-type whose default mode is to mope about being lonely.  This issue is significant as it introduces Morgan Le Fay as an ongoing thorn in Jessica’s side.  When Excalibur first encounters S-W in the museum, Morgan observes S-W has “incredible power,” and that Excalibur should “finish her – and be off!”  I don’t remember offhand how this develops into a full-blown feud, but since Morgan is involved, she might be satisfied to harass Jessica strictly from a For Badness angle.
I completely omitted from my synopsis any mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jerry Hunt, who is inexplicably fascinated with Spider-Woman.  There’s a hilarious moment on the very last page; Hunt arrives at the site of S-W’s clash with Excalibur, and finds Struthers with a Paddington Bear-like note pinned to his jersey that reads “America – Spider-Woman,” which prompts Hunt to state “Book me on the first flight to America.”  Sure thing chief!  One flight coming up, to – Houston?  Spokane?  Nashville?  Stop me when I’m getting close, right mate -?
The art is a bit better this time; mostly, the improved effect appears to be due to clearer finishes from DeZuniga.  The second half is stronger than the first, starting with Magnus’ appearance on p 14.  Page 19 also is noteworthy, as we have an opportunity to credit an imaginative bit from Infantino: Excalibur is pictured astride a horse, galloping thru the city streets with his enchanted sword held high, while an image of Morgan’s head dominates the background (p 19).  If Infantino & DeZuniga could maintain this standard, it’d be realistic to expect the art to continue to improve in subsequent issues.  
Matthew:  I hate to sound pedantic (actually, I don’t, but let’s pretend I do), yet it sure would be nice if the self-edited Marv could decide among Excalibur, Excaliber, the Excaliber—since if there’s any rhyme or reason to those usages, he doesn’t bother to explain it—le Fay, and le Fey.  And, while we’re on the subject, I’ve mercifully blocked out much of where Wolfman is headed with all of this Arthurian stuff, which seems like an aggressively poor fit for a super-hero book, but I hope to hell he’s not ultimately going to ask us to believe that after Jessica had hobnobbed with Darkhold-meister Modred, it was a coincidence that she was around when [the] Exaclibe/ur came looking for Ms. le Fa/ey’s book.  Again, DeZuniga helps to mitigate Infantino.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man 18
"My Friend, My Foe!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Sal Buscema and David Hunt
Colors by Bev Beveridge
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

At the Champions Building, Spider-Man and Angel zip down the hall to escape the irate Iceman, still under Rampage's mind-control, and manage to sift through the faulty wiring to lower a security door "tested by Hercules." Angel has time to recount what happened: after the Champions broke up, Iceman went to visit the comatose Clarke/Rampage (injured in Champions #8) in the hospital, where the crippled criminal awoke and gassed the hero, putting him under hypnosis! Back at the now-empty HQ, Angel discovered his friend in the Rampage costume, bringing us back to the present, when Iceman breaks through the door! He sends a giant spiked ice ball at Spidey, then grabs his fellow mutant by the throat and starts freezing! The ice ball smashes through a faulty window towards the why-the-heck-aren't-they-moving citizens below, but Spidey saves the day with some timely webbing, then swings back up to save Angel. Next he takes the battle with Iceman to the streets, as Angel gets a ridiculously untimely visit from representatives of the awful construction company. The quick-thinking (as always!) Spider-Man swings into a car wash, which halts Iceman's hypnosis (and iced-up form), but when they get back to the building, Angel is whipping up a windstorm against the woebegone reps, who wipe away Warren Worthington's debts and repair charges. Angel plans to take Clarke to the hospital, while Bobby Drake walks off alone, and Spidey finds his belt camera was ruined by the car wash gag. Oh, well… Back in New York, new lovebirds Flash and Sha Shan walk the campus of ESU, oblivious that Hector Ayala (aka White Tiger, since Mantlo can't go one issue without throwing in one of his creations) saves them from being flicked by a Frisbee. As Peter flies home, the jet is nearly struck by a bolt of lightning—from the ground! Some super-powered villain has escaped from prison! -Joe Tura

Joe: A decent, well-remembered issue brings the Iceman saga to a happy (?) ending, as our hero (unlike in MTU) takes the forefront on saving the mind-controlled mutant. Mantlo does an OK job, even setting up next issue and beyond with the final three pages and a look at our supporting cast of characters. And since it's Mantlo, there's always time to figure out a way to get a White Tiger sighting in. Sal B & Hunt do fine work yet again, especially with Iceman's rampage (see what I did there!) and Angel blowing off (literally!) the suits from the construction company. Maybe Peter's face on page 31, panel 4 is the only misstep, as he looks more like a young Martin Short, I must say…Still, all in all a fine chapter in our sister Spidey book.

A mighty "KRASHTAM" gets this month's best sound effect, as Iceman's powers break through the security door and he rejoins the battle with Angel and Spidey. But come to think of it, I know the door was tested by a demi-god, but could it just be shoddy workmanship like the rest of the building? Will this give Iceman false bravado for the rest of his career?

Chris: Mantlo handles this story in a similar manner as his Champions stories: action, more action, followed by some action, with a little room on the side for characterization and such.  I’ll admit I hung in there to see just how Spidey and the Angel expected to defeat Iceman without harming him, and without resorting to knocking him out.  The car wash idea is … different; can’t say I saw that coming, for good or for ill.  The bit with Warren and the construction company execs – who somehow appear mid-battle – was fairly random; I don’t see how it was necessary to tie up Champions business right at that moment.  The Buscema/Hunt art is much closer to their usual standard this time, as Dave’s finishes for Sal’s pencils are stronger and clearer than they had been in our previous chapter. 

Matthew: Considering all the reasons I should’ve liked it (e.g., the creative team and Champions connection), I must reluctantly rank this two-parter as an overall disappointment, although far from a total loss.  I appreciate that Bill made some attempt to resolve the long-standing matter of the substandard construction in the Champs’ H.Q., even if it is a fairly mundane one, when I was expecting something more sinister, while Clarke’s background as an engineer and entrepreneur makes it seem highly unlikely that—with chemicals pilfered from a hospital dispensary—he could whip up a hypnotic miracle-gas.  Once again, Sal and Dave do a creditable but far from inspired job, and we know that the pair is capable of better.

Star Wars 11
"Star Search!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Carmine Infantino and Terry Austin
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Tony DeZuniga

Han and Chewie have left Aduba-3 and reflect on their adventures when they are once again intercepted by the stolen Imperial Star Destroyer commanded by Crimson Jack. Once on board, Han and his Wookiee friend are brought to their old friend and Jack shows off his captive: Princess Leia, who was caught while trying to find Luke. Jack wants her to tell him the location of the rebel base and is about to kill Han and Chewie slowly to make her talk when Han gets hold of a blaster and threatens to fry Jack before anyone can get the drop on them. He plays a bluff, one that Leia picks up on, and she tricks Jack into thinking the Rebel treasury is in the Drexel system. Jolli, Jack's man-hating first mate, returns Leia to her cell as the princess confuses the young girl with talk about men and how well Han kisses. As Han wonders what awaits them in Drexel, one of the few systems he's never visited, and a place every smart space hopper avoids, we join Luke on the surface of one of the planets in that system. It is a water world and Luke, Artoo and Threepio find their ship dead in the water and attacked by a giant sea monster. They jet out in an escape pod which gets them safely away from the monster when Luke sees the strange sight of another sea beast rising from the depths to attack the larger creature. What makes it strange is the smaller serpent... has a rider! -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: Carmine Infantino takes over the art chores and the result is, well, interesting. There is absolutely no regard for likenesses here. Nobody really looks like the actors they are based upon. Leia looks vaguely Asian. Actually, they all look kind of "Manga" at times. The story is pretty good and the Terry Austin inks are exemplary. Lines are clean and smooth. Tech has great details, especially in the Luke sequences. The first few pages are padded with a lengthy flashback recapping the previous storyline. At least here we finally get to see what happened to Hedji the Spiner. Last issue, his death was hard to make out and nobody mentioned it after it happened. Now, finally, we get to (briefly) see him struck down and have Han actually acknowledge it. Better late than never. Oh, and Chewbacca looks awful and will continue to look awful until Infantino leaves the book.

Matthew: Offhand, I can’t recall seeing any issue so stuffed with in-your-face house ads—a full seven pages’ worth, more than half the number of story pages—so my guess is that Marvel was counting on Star Wars-mania to draw in people who weren’t regular readers, and then luring them back for more.  They certainly wouldn’t be drawn in by Infantino’s artwork, which actually makes me nostalgic for Chaykin, and now that we’re being bludgeoned with a regular dose of Carmine here as well as on Nova and Spider-Woman, it really is a bit much.  In his first of five consecutive issues, Austin’s inks are like a Band-Aid on a disembowelment, while with her beret and anachronistic cigarette dangling from her lips, Jolli seems to be from the French Resistance...

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle 12
"Fangs of Death!"
Story Adaptation by David Anthony Kraft and Roy Thomas
Based on Jungle Tales of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Art by John Buscema and Rudy Mesina
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Joe Rosen and Tom Orzechowski
Cover by John Buscema and Neal Adams

Desperation drives Numa, the lion, to attack Kerchak’s tribe and kill Mamka as she tries to protect her balu, but unlike the Mangani, Tarzan refuses to let him feast, reasoning that if undeterred, he will become a constant danger.  Leading by example, he has the tribe pelt Numa with branches and rocks; recruits Taug to act as a decoy, so he can deprive Numa of his kill; and convinces the apes to post guards, forestalling further attacks.  Spotting a ceremonial lion-skin in the village of M’bonga (sic), Tarzan purloins it to trick the apes—whom he is certain will have forgotten his orders—yet the tribe assaults the faux predator as one, and only Manu, the monkey, can persuade Taug and a few others to protect the unmasked Tarzan from the wrath of the elders. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Between longer arcs, Marvel adapted three more of the Jungle Tales of Tarzan, although in a taste of things to come, this first one is credited to Kraft, who will succeed Thomas on #15, with editor Roy contributing only “additional dialogue.”  Messina (sic), last seen in #8, returns to embellish Big John, and like Alcala—who inks this issue’s “poster pin-up page”—puts more of his own stamp on the finished art than, say, DeZuniga.  These stories, of which “The Lion” is the eighth in book-publication order, are eminently suited to the purpose at hand; while often linked, like the Bukawai “trilogy,” they also work as stand-alones, rather than as chapters in a novel, and are just the right length for a single issue to do justice to the story without Procrustean tampering.

Chris: Sound decision by Roy, to follow-up a multi-part arc with a single-issue story in a lighter vein.  I didn’t buy these jungle comics for the stories, though – my sole consideration is the Buscema art, especially when Big John is able to convey emotion on the faces of our wild-living creatures.   Highlights include: Numa’s angered response, as he is pelted by sticks (p 10, pnl 3); Taug in a full-speed retreat (p 14, pnl 4), and Numa in a full-rage charge (p 15); Tarzan’s contented sleep by moonlight (p 23, pnl 6); Manu’s panicked defense of Tarzan (p 30, pnl 4).

The Mighty Thor 271
"... Like a Diamond in the Sky!"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Walt Simonson and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Walt Simonson and Joe Sinnott

Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. have come up with an option to defeat the machine Faust, now transformed into a deadly fortress orbiting the Earth. Thor discusses this with Fury and a handful of fellow Avengers. Powerful missiles, designed to destroy anything, or almost...  are launched. Faust blows them out of the sky, and its adamantium hull is impervious to the impact of any that get through. The last resort is Project 13, which involves a doomsday device that could be as deadly to the world as Faust. Another barrage of missiles serves as a distraction as Thor uses Mjolnir to create a vortex that transports him and Iron Man inside the enemy craft. They are met by a slew of defensive drones and other weapons that are tough to defeat directly, so Thor confuses them by transforming into Don Blake and escaping into the ship's vents. He eventually finds his way back to Iron Man, who is very weak from the attack. Blake transforms into Thor and uses his  hammer's energy to revive Tony. They bash their way to the ship's control room, where they address Faust, who launches a laser beam attack on New York City. Luckily, it dissipates before making contact, and Tony and Thor press their attack, destroying enough of the ship before they leave so its self-destruction is irreversible. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: I found this to be a little anti-climatic after the build-up of the last couple of issues, but it's not bad. The team-up with Iron Man is entertaining, and actually Thor might not have won the day without him. We don't actually learn what the doomsday weapon Project 13 involves, as it wasn't used to defeat Faust, but the banter with Fury and some members of the Avengers is refreshing in the pages of the Thunder God's own mag.  

Matthew: You know me and my floating-heads covers, so of course I loved this one, especially since said heads include some of my favorite characters, and even if it makes me wish Joltin’ Joe could have inked Walt inside as well, Simoniga has some nice moments, e.g., shadowy Don in page 17, panel 1.  The lettercols have all been pretty mum about Wein leaving, but the last page tells the tale with its all’s-right-with-the-world final image (mirroring this month’s Spidey sign-off) and its “So Long Len—Good Luck!” sign, somewhat undercut by the matching “Swill Shooter’s—a Mellow Brew.”  The story, alas, is a mess, since FAUST’s nature, m.o., and goals are boring and poorly-defined, while that ending is the most howling of literal deus ex machinas.

Chris: If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that you can defeat a seemingly indestructible, unstoppable semi-sentient machine thru doubletalk; if you are able to employ twisted logic to cause the computer-brain to question some aspect of its functioning, it will get all twisted up, and short out, thereby Saving the Day.  I couldn’t remember how the Problem of Faust wound up being reconciled, so I was all set for another of these “outsmart the computer brain” moments.  Instead, Iron Man tells us Thor’s lightning-strike of the box (as seen last issue) caused an alteration in the composition of the adamantium, thereby “destroying its invulnerability!”  Well, that may well be true; but tell me, Tony, how did you know this change in the Faust-satellite’s casing would also nullify its weapons system, thereby reducing its city-incinerating ray to nothing but a spectacular lightshow, hmm?  What does Faust’s (presumably) impenetrable exterior have to do with the components of its laser cannons -? 

This is another one I remember well from repeated readings in my early collecting days; I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but this will be Walt Simonson’s final appearance in these pages (exception being Thor Annual #7, on sale later this year) for over five years, until his seismic return in #337 (featuring the debut of Beta-Ray Bill, and some drastic, long-overdue changes for this title).  Art highlights this time include: Iron Man’s lightning-fueled resurgence (p 18); serious debris (p 22, 1st pnl); a small moment, as Thor shields his eyes from Faust’s glare (p 23, pnl 4); a framing-worthy final page, as Thor flies toward us and then presumably into the sunset (with a billboard that reads: “So Long Len – Good Luck!”

Tomb of Dracula 64
"Life After Undeath"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Francoise Mouly
Letters by Denise V. Wohl
Cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Dracula and Topaz must fight to stay awake as Satan continues his unending monologue about why the two must die. Topaz discovers she possesses powers that will increase with her impending 21st birthday; Dracula learns he must die so that Janus will vacate the premises, leaving Earth, once again, hunting ground for Satan. The big red guy explains to the Count that he will be cursed with his own deepest fear. Just before Satan can destroy Topaz, the girl unleashes a firestorm upon the giant and he is forced to flee. Back on earth, Rachel Van Helsing spots Dracula in an alley and prepares to fire a crossbow when the vampire turns around and Van Helsing discovers that the Count is no longer a vampire!
-Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: I must have started and finished this one three times before getting through the entire  snoozefest. This is literally My Dinner With Satan, a three-character play (save for a few pages wasted on Domini and the vampire hunters) exploring the pros and cons of Hell and the different personas of the Devil. The shock ending would have been anything but had the reader read the bullpen page where the beans were completely spilled: "The Lord of the Vampires has lost his vampiric powers! He's suddenly human and vulnerable, but all his many enemies are still as hard on his heels with stakes in hand as ever." Thank goodness this particular Bullpen Bulletin scribe wasn't around when The Amazing Spider-Man #121 hit stands! Gentleman Gene does his usual bang-up job though there are a couple of rough spots here such as the panel (pg. 7 pnl. 5, right) where Drac looks a bit more like Rondo Hatton than Jack Palance.

Chris: It’s the most interesting exchange we’ve witnessed in some time involving Quincy Harker & Co (thank God – no Harold to spoil the moment).  Quincy, Rachel, and Frank are so steeped in hatred for Dracula, so certain of the need to destroy him, it’s impossible for them to appreciate how a different person – who, admittedly, has lost only one loved one to Dracula, not multiple family members as had Quincy and Rachel – could have felt loved by Drac, and shares this love in return.  It’s hard to agree with Domini’s view that Drac doesn’t deserve to be de-fanged; it’s kind of impossible to justify allowing him to continue to walk around with those things.  But it does beg a question: if Drac is no longer a vampire, and can cause no further harm to anyone, does he still require destruction?  Does the need for vengeance outweigh the idea that the public no longer requires protection from the (slightly less deadly) entity Dracula appears to have become?  (Separate question: how did Rachel get outside and find Drac so quickly, once he was zapped back to our plane of reality [p 31]?  I think you might’ve left a scene on the cutting room floor, Marv; see if you could include it as a special feature on the DVD.)

Mark: Unlike Dean Peter, I didn't need three double espressos and a box of NoDoz to make it through "The Satanic Monologues... or Seventeen Pages in Hell (Seems Like Seventy)," but his point is taken. Satan (who, is a nice touch, speaks of themselves as a collective "we") does tend to natter on like a coked-up auctioneer.

"Do not make demands of your master, or your destruction will be increased ten fold in its horrible destruction! Observe yonder throne ablaze with our glory! It comforts us in our thoughts. Yet with a mere gesture, the seat becomes frigid ice...orincineratedash.Yet,itstillexists.Thethroneisstill

And there's a page and half of over-inflated word balloons ahead, all the same speech. Now, I have a higher tolerance/appreciation for Marv's wind-bag nether region theology & plot delivery device than our Dashing Dean, so I can only offer this solace: if it wasn't for your three read-throughs, Peter, you might not have nailed Rondo Hatton.*

Chris: Marv presents some interesting points: about evil as an option offered by Satan; how Satan has a task to tempt people to make the wrong choices; and that evil continues to exist to provide a counterbalance to the “ultimate good.”  I understand Satan’s position about Janus upsetting the balance between good and evil influences on the human populace, and how Drac’s removal should allow for Janus to depart the mortal coil as well.  I’m still not entirely sure how Topaz fits into all this; as Satan writhes under Topaz’s counterattack, he suggests God might’ve duped him into thinking Topaz could be defeated in time, when she could not.  Could God have tricked the Great Deceiver -?  You devil – ah, oops!  Sorry.

Thank God we have Colan & Palmer to provide Satan-illustration for us (wait, what – thank God for Satanish illustrations -?!).  We’ve seen some fairly underwhelming presentations of the Embodiment of Evil over the past few years, but this one: an oversized, horned, hollow-eyed, long-nailed, fire-breathing Satan, is one I can believe in – eh, if you know what I mean.  
In a letter of comment, Commander Q. of Minneapolis MN states this issue contains “more thought, more insight, more sense of cosmic awe than you can shake a pitchfork at.”  We’re at issue #64; I’m aware of the sand spilling from the top globe, and into the bottom.  After an issue like this, I don’t want it to run out too soon -!

Mark: If Satan speechifying is a bit of a bore, Gene and Tom's fire and brimstone graphics certainly turn up the heat. Ogle that awhile, class, should you also need a break from Big Red's spiel. In the couple of subplot pages, I liked how Domini grokked that her hubby was having a devil of a time, and maybe the Dean nodded off during the seemingly significant three panels of a bereaved parent hiring what sure as shootin' looks and talks like a cowboy to get the vampire that killed his daughter. 

Kid Colt, Vampire Hunter? 

Even the Dean would stay up late for that one. 

*Speaking of bad renderings, check out Domini in the last panel of p.14 (right); she looks like a half-bald, beetle-browed drag queen!   

Red Sonja 9 
“Chariot of the Fire Stallions”
Story by Roy Thomas and Clara Noto

Art, Colors and Letters by Frank Thorne

Cover by Frank Thorne

Attending a feast in Suumaro’s tent-city on the hills of Argos, Red Sonja suddenly grows weary of the drunken revelry and seeks solace in the outlying forest. Suumaro soon tracks her down and makes romantic advances towards the fiery Hyrkanian — she rebuffs him with her blade, reminding the warrior-prince of her vow to never lay with a man unless he has defeated her in battle. Suddenly, Suumaro’s mother, Apah Alah, the Mistress of the Forest, appears from within a strange mist. The witch, outraged that Sonja raised a sword to her son, paralyzes the woman and they both float down through the earth to her subterranean lair, a flaming lake at its center. There, Apah Alah frees the She-Devil from her spell and shouts that she must prove her worth in a contest. The sorceress summons her champion, a grotesque being named Amparo, a nightmarish brute with two faces on either side of its head and a multitude of muscular arms. Meanwhile above, Suumaro  drapes himself with his powerful Golden Robes and begins an incantation taught to him by his mother. Back below, Apah Alah directs the combatants to two ornate chariots tethered to a pair of mighty stallions each: Sonja and Amparo must race around the volcanic body of water until one is killed. The She-Devil has the inner track and as they charge around the hellish lake, the monster slowly pushes her chariot towards the molten abyss. Tired of the abuse, the swordswoman leaps onto Amparo’s ride and begins to hack at the demon — her blade slices easily through the beast’s plant-like flesh, separating arms from torso, and eventually torso from legs. To Sonja’s dismay, the slaughter drives the horses into a frenzy and they begin bucking towards the lake and certain death. But Suumaro’s Golden Robes magically appears in the air above the stallions: they burst into flames and fly safely to the other side of the hellish pit. The Robe floats down upon the horses, returning them to normal. When the She-Devil touches the cloth, it wraps around her and she is transported to Suumaro’s royal tent. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: There’s been a running theme whenever I read the latest issue of Red Sonja. I seem to fall into a hypnotic trance, happily dazzled by the weirdness on every page. But when I’m finished, I snap out of it and think “Wait?!? What happened?!?” This one is not an exception. Now I usually chalk that up to the sticky resin of Frank Thorne’s artwork and lettering. (He’s actually credited as “cartoonist, colorist, and calligrapher” this time on the splash page. Much better.) But at this point, I think I have been selling Roy Thomas and Clara Noto short. They have been the ones serving up all of the bizarro situations that Frank has embellished. In review, let’s look at what basically happens this issue: 

• In an underworld dimension, Red Sonja has a chariot race around a flaming lake against a deformed demon with ten or so arms and a face on the front and the back of its head. 
• After she hacks the thing apart like a Saguaro cactus, a magical comforter floats down and sets the horses on fire and they leap over the inferno to safety. 

Uh, OK. Don’t ask me how it works but it does. Have I said that before? I’m starting to wonder if Noto is doing the heavy lifting on this series. Heck, I loves me some Rascally Roy, but none of his Conan scripts have been so … well, batshit crazy. Then again, perhaps Thorne had a major impact on the plots. Freaky Frank exits stage left after only two more issues: we’ll see if things take a turn for the more normal. Let’s hope not, by Crom. Or, in Sonja’s case, by Tarim.
By the way, if you are a Frank Thorne fan, his fragrant fingerprints are all over this month’s The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian as well. 

Also This Month

Crazy #37
Devil Dinosaur #2
Dynomutt #4
<Human Fly #9
Kid Colt Outlaw #224
Machine Man #2 >
Man From Atlantis #4
Marvel's Greatest Comics #77
Marvel Classics Comics #29
Marvel Superheroes #71
Marvel Tales #91
Marvel Treasury Edition #16 
Marvel Triple Action #41
Rawhide Kid #145
Sgt Fury #146
Spidey Super Stories #34
Yogi Bear #4

In Human Fly #9, Mantlo takes some ludicrous license with New York City geography.  He’s able to create an extension on the subway that reaches over to 5th Avenue, that’s fine; but then, he tells us Copperhead filled the tunnel with water from the Hudson River, which is about a mile away!  That museum restoration expert is some engineer, isn’t he?  Wouldn’t it have made a little more sense, Bill, to use water from the reservoir, just a short distance to the north of the Museum?  I know, I know, it’s a comic book; I’ll stop now.  At least, we can’t blame this gaffe on Bill serving double-duty as his own editor.  
There’s plenty of action, and of course that’s fine.  The only concern involves the Human Fly’s role as a non-crime-fighter, meaning he protects the civilians while the heroes battle Copperhead and his would-be accomplices; this effectively relegates the Fly to a second-tier role in his own mag, and that’s a problem.  Nice job by Mantlo to bring back Copperhead without trying to tell us, somehow, he was not electrocuted by lightning in Daredevil #125; far better idea to have a new guy wearing the spare Copperhead suit.  Clever moment also as the “gunsels” decide to protect their reputations, and go back to defend the unarmed captives against Copperhead.  
Since we’re working with Frank Robbins, we’re sure to find an instance of crazy contortion; here it is on page 15, 1st pnl, as the White Tiger is at risk of kicking himself in the back of the head with his right foot.  I bought this for the Byrne/Austin cover; you knew that, right?  Who would think the second cover ever to appear from Byrne & Austin would be for Human Fly #9, right?  That’s a bar bet you could win. 

Machine Man #2, along with MM #1, gives me a sense of the indignities Kirby must have suffered as an Army regular back in his youth.  No matter where these soldiers go, or what they’re doing, there always seems to be someone yelling “Lift your feet!” or “Keep going!” or “Don’t waste time!” or “Can’t you goof-ups shoot straight?!”  Worse yet, a higher-ranking officer might show up, and ask “What have you done about it?” and then shout “So let’s get on with it!”  Wearisome, I’m sure.  

I don’t know whether this series is any good or not, but it certainly is loaded with nostalgia-appeal.  The moment with Aaron making diamonds out of coal is, um, priceless (p 10), although the critic in me thinks that super-heating his hands and then deep-freezing his arm would cause his metal skin to crack; must be some new super-alloy.  The bit with the bikers is clever, as Aaron doesn’t seem to appreciate how the sight of him can be unnerving for some (p 22-23).  Lastly, extra points to Jack for the nightmare sequence on p 1-2, as Aaron’s face literally is peeled off, and he’s confronted by mechanized gargoyles; I’m still very impressed by the way their faces appear to be empty and leering at the same time.  -Chris Blake


The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 29
Cover Art by Ernie Chan

“Child of Sorcery”
Story by Christy Marx
Script by Roy Thomas
Art by Ernie Chan
“Conan’s Ladies”
Art by Bruce Patterson and assorted inkers

“The Bullpen’s Robert E. Howard”
Art by assorted illustrators

“Presenting: The Hyborian Players!”
Text by Frank Thorne

“The Wizard of Red Sonja”
Story and Art by Frank Thorne

"Swords and Scrolls"

If last issue was a departure — a single 60-page story with only one brief text piece — The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #29 comes completely out of left field. It seems that Christy Marx, the eventual creator of, gulp, Jem and the Holograms, suggested to Roy that he write a Conan story from the perspective of the female protagonist. So that’s just what he attempted with a “Child of Sorcery.” Key word: attempted. This one also offers a text piece and comic pages about Frank Thorne’s Hyborian Players, an acting troupe that features five different Red Sonjas. So, we’re heavy on the girl power in this issue. But let’s not think that Marvel has fully embraced feminism: there’s a wealth of pin-ups included as well, each displaying a plethora of pointy bits and cleavage.

“Child of Sorcery” begins with an unnamed, middle-aged woman — the All-Mother of a clan of white witches — meditating in her royal chamber. She is suddenly interrupted by the calculating Kortinea who drags along Râ Morgana, the queen’s daughter. Kortinea bellows that the teen was caught in the embrace of a man and deserves punishment. After the accuser is dismissed, Râ Morgana admits to the offense and says that she loves and desires to go away with her suitor. The High Priestess comforts her daughter and begins to spin a tale of her own experience with the opposite sex.

Twenty years earlier, a wizard from the east arrived at the coven’s castle, seeking refuge from the stormy night. While the other witches refused him entry, the All-Mother took pity and let him in, offering food and drink. But she soon realized the error of her ways as the man began to display a sadistic cruelty in his eyes. That night, the sorcerer, riding a horned pteranodon, burst into the queen’s room and borne her aloft to his tower. Exhausted by the effort it took to create the winged creature, the wizard chained the woman to a bed in a well-appointed room and promised to return tomorrow — to take his carnal reward. 

After his exit, the witch invoked the Draga trance, releasing her spirit from her body. She floated back to the coven’s castle for help but her captor had encircled it with an impenetrable mystic barrier. So, she began to search the countryside for a champion, eventually coming across a wandering Conan. She appeared before the startled Cimmerian, and offered him a rich reward if he came to her rescue. Intrigued by the allure of gold — and the spirit’s attractive form — the barbarian agreed.
The All-Mother returned to her body and the wizard soon arrived to take his pound of flesh. But she shouted out and pointed to the window — her barbarous rescuer was approaching. The villain dashed to the window and conjured a horde of hellish demons to curtail Conan’s progress. But the Cimmerian managed to slay each one before their forms could become totally solid. With the sorcerer distracted, the witch twirled together three strands of hair that magically elongated into a rope long enough for the barbarian to climb the tower. He then killed the wizard after hacking through his protective spells. Conan and the thankful All-Mother made love in the woods soon after — the Cimmerian pleased enough by this prize to refuse any payment of gold.

Her tale finished, the queen reveals to her daughter that Conan is actually her father: she had deceived her sister witches by claiming to have been impregnated by a god of fertility. The All-Mother then grants Râ Morgana her wish — the young woman leaves with the man she loves.
First of all, I have no idea why Roy decided to not give names to the All-Mother and the wizard. Conan is also unnamed but we all know who the big galoot is. A warmed over version of Rapunzel with demons and swordplay, this is a totally forgettable waste of paper. I’m sure that Savage Sword fans would have hated it back in the day — I’ll have to remember to check out the “Swords and Scrolls” letters page reaction when this one is covered in a future issue. As I’ve said before, Ernie Chan is a hell of an inker but doesn't impress me much as a penciller. The art is not actually bad but looks like a cut-rate John Buscema. Thankfully, Big John wasn’t wasted on this mistake. Easily Savage Sword’s low point so far.

The rest of the issue is surrendered to the hippy dippy mind of Frank Thorne. Freaky Frank starts things off with the text and photo piece “Presenting: The Hyborian Players!” In 1978, there were four lovely lasses masquerading as Red Sonja at assorted comic conventions: Linda Behrle, Angelique Trouvere, Wendy Snow and Wendy Pini. There was even a woman — Dianne De Kelb — who dressed as Sonya of Rogatino, the Robert E. Howard character who inspired the She-Devil. So along with a guy decked out as Mikal from Red Sonja 3–6, Frank brought them all together to form The Hyborian Players, “a traveling theater group” that performed before “S.R.O. audiences at Comic-Art Conventions in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and New Jersey.” Frank writes goofball bios that accompany photographs of each proto cosplayer. I must admit, the ladies are a highly attractive lot and their costumes are quite professional and accurate.

Thorne is allowed to entertain himself even further, writing, illustrating and lettering a 15-page comic about the skit the Players perform, “The Wizard and Red Sonja.” Now it’s all too high school-y for me so I won’t go into details, but basically Throne, dressed as the typical pointy-hatted wizard, comes on stage and tells the story of Red Sonja. He then summons the heroine to appear: when all five of the women stride forth, Thorne does his best spit take reaction. He then demands that the actresses prove that they are actually Sonja, one by one. After all are done, Frank proclaims “each of you is a part of the unassembled total!” A bit of Benny Hill chasing around follows and the curtain drops. 
Angelique Trouvere — whose bio implies that she was a dancer at what we would today call A Gentleman’s Club — gets the “best” lines, including “Sure, honey … that old King Ghannif was so crooked, he could’ve used a corkscrew for a ruler!” and “I can resist anything but temptation!” Oh, my achin’ sides.

As I already mentioned, there are also quite a few pin-ups on display. “Conan’s Ladies” is a collection of six one-pagers illustrated by Bruce Patterson — and he knocks them out of the park. Patterson is teamed with different and talented inkers on each: Bêlit (Dick Giordano), Yasmina (Mike Nasser), Valeria (Russ Heath), the Frost-Giant's Daughter and Salome (both Ralph Reese) plus Red Sonja (Neal Adams!). Each is absolutely dripping with sexuality. While Valeria is quite impressive, my fave is Bêlit. Hubba hubba.

“The Bullpen’s Robert E. Howard” is another portfolio by a mix of artists: Solomon Kane (John Byrne and Duffy Vohland), Esau Cairn from the book Almuric (Tim Conrad), Conan (Rich Corben!), and Red Sonja (Rudy Nebres). None are really that impressive but welcome all the same.
While it’s not listed on the Table of Contents, we also have Roy Thomas’ “In Memoriam: John Verpoorten (1940–1977).” Now this is the kind of stuff that makes these magazines so great on occasion: where else could Marvel run a full-page tribute to the publisher’s Production Manager? Not to mention pin-ups of half naked babes. Sounds like Verpoorten and Thomas were very close, except for a year or so when they had a falling-out over something that the respectful Roy does not reveal. Finally, we have a rare cover that’s totally accurate to the main story. Not much of a surprise, since Ernie Chan illustrates both. 

Sad to say, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #29 struck me as a complete lark. But, by Crom, the Rascally One rights the ship magnificently next issue with the help of some fantastic artwork by the one and only Frank Brunner.

Poor Roy can't escape it. It's set in print.
Like one of those "Unfortunate Moment" Birthday cards.

1 comment:

  1. 5 years? Unbelievable. I really don't know when I discovered the University, but it must be 4 years ago. This has become a Wednesday habit for me. Thanks for the great work, guys. It is appreciated!