Wednesday, September 7, 2016

December 1978 Part Two: The Uncanny X-Men Visit the Savage Land!

The Invaders 35
"Havock on the Home Front"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Alan Kupperberg, Don Heck, and Rick Hoberg
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Alan Kupperberg and Joe Sinnott

Summoned home to seek the heavily armored saboteur who attacked a munitions factory, Cap and the Torch are debating the relative merits of Times Square (where they are seen by the furloughed Howlers amid marquees for current films) and Atlantis with Namor when the Whizzer finds them after a frantic search.  He recounts a meeting at which the Liberty Legion debated revealing their secret identities—enumerated in a recap of their history—to Washington to avoid being drafted.  The FBI had asked that they “investigate the loyalty of certain German-Americans in this area,” and Miss America, eager “to prove that most…are 100% ant-Nazi,” flew away to check out the Rhinemaiden, an East 86th Street “watering-hole,” as Madeline Joyce.

As she headed for the Yorkville area, an undetected U-boat fired “a great, near-human shape” toward the coastline; meanwhile, she saw Professor Schneider, who fled the Reich, buttonholed by thugs Karl and Gerhardt, following them to a park by the East River.  There, the Iron Cross arrived, casually flipping over two bobbysoxers in a jalopy, and although giving a good account of herself, Miss America was ultimately knocked out, but not before activating a communicator.  Yet no sooner had her teammates arrived than the powerful figure—who vigorously proclaimed, “I am no Nazi!”—took out Red Raven, Jack Frost, Blue Diamond, the Patriot, and the Thin Man in quick succession, leaving the Whizzer, Madeline’s only hope, to seek the aid of the Invaders... -Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley: Reading this en route to meet the Colons at the delightful annual barbecue our dear friends the Scapperottis host in Merrick, I took great amusement at sharing with Mrs. Professor Matthew, Gilbert’s fellow NYC native and champion, Namor’s line, “The gaudy tinsel of New York City can never compare with the incomparable beauty of fabled Atlantis—!”  Let’s hear it for gaudy tinsel.  The lettercol reveals that “this issue’s tale…combines new art by Alan Kupperberg with pages done by former Bullpenner [!] Don Heck for a projected Liberty Legion title, ’way back when,” thus explaining both the shift in style—which embellisher Hoberg neatly smoothes over, as he does Don’s sometimes angular lines—and the absence of our stars from the bulk of the tale.

Regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that I’m okay with that, as I’d loved the Legion from Day One and would have bought their mag with pleasure; setting aside the hype about “the most important secret of World War Two,” the mere presence of the Whizzer on Alan’s lively cover thrills me, and Joltin Joe’s typically excellent inking just frosts the cake.  It’s a regrettable truth that the deficiencies of Frank Robbins diminished the impact of many an Invaders foe, but I find the Iron Cross visually appealing, especially the color scheme inspiring Miss America’s pun on a German WW I military award, the Blue Max.  The Legion’s repartee is fun (“you walking scrap drive!”), and Roy continues to mine Madeline’s rocky relationship with future hubby Bob Frank.

Chris: Good decision on Roy’s part to explain he’s filling in details that the Whizzer doesn’t have time to relate once he locates the Invaders in Times Square (the Whizzer doesn’t have time?  He must really be in a rush!).  It’s nice to have the Liberty Legion back and all, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Captain America play a significant role in an Invaders story; hopefully next issue will deliver a socko battle that offers a star-quality moment for Cap, our most-principal character.

It’s a decent story, but the most satisfying aspect is the beginning, as the team is met by regular citizens who are hopeful for news of their family members, or a way to get a message to them.  From its outset, this title has been built around righteous resistance of the Bad Guys, so it’s appropriate for Roy to step away from tales of thrilling adventure to remind us how the war itself affected so many families on the homefront.  The splash page is worth a second look, as Kupperberg & Heck fill the frame with numerous period details (even wisps of steam escaping from the manhole covers!).

Mark Barsotti: The Liberty Legion return in all their goofy glory, and this is largely their story, bracketed by the "Big Three" getting the opening couple pages and final couple panels. Things move briskly, no time for the Legionnaires' junior Justice Society antics to really irk, but what sells it is maybe-villain Iron Cross. I throw in the qualifier because IC insists he's no Nazi, and the name-sake symbol on his chest is Prussian and dates from 1813. It's tempting to speculate (having never read the next ish) he's part of an anti-Hitler group - even though he was launched from a U-Boat - and the scientist they grabbed is the real Nazi. That may be way off, but the element of mystery Roy gives to what would otherwise be another assembly-line Ratzi Übermensch  intrigues.

And I dug his "It's a bird, it's a plane" riff.

So, nothing special, but thirty-five coppers well-spent. Overall grade: incomplete, pending what Roy cooks up for Iron Cross.

The Invincible Iron Man 117
"The Spy Who Killed Me!"
Story by Bob Layton and David Michelinie
Art by John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Colors by Ben Sean
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by John Romita, Jr. and Bob McLeod

At 3:00 A.M. in his Long Island H.Q., a shot through the window drills Tony’s skull soon after his return from an ambassadorial reception, the Spymaster having apparently succeeded on his second attempt, but it’s just the LMD, still useful as bait even with its circuits fused.  Observed by the assassin’s unseen employers, Buck and Adam, IM pursues his hoverjet, only to discover that the craft is empty, luring him away from S.I., and flashbacks bring us up to date.  After the “terrorist bombing” of his penthouse, his landlord confronted him with a petition signed by the other tenants (e.g., Fred Hembeck, Richard Burton, Gary Groth, Luke Skywalker, Cary Burkett, Roy Neary, Han Solo, Bud Plant), who feared subsequent attacks, and evicted him.

Offering an easy target, Tony attended a reception at the Carnelian embassy, where he deflected Senator Mountebank’s (!) questions about a defense contract and met Bethany Cabe; now, he follows a trail of fallen “rent-a-cops” through the research annex to the computer center.  Armed with “special anti-Iron Man weapons” (including the electronically augmented nunchakus shown on the cover), the Spymaster even rams him with a jetcart designed for interlab transport, but IM prevails, puzzled that he was stealing records of stockholders.  His employers in Fury’s four-man “crack security team,” believing that S.I. is “too important to leave in the hands of a do-gooder like Stark,” hurry to Nick’s “introductory meetin’ of the N.A.T.O./.S.H.I.E.L.D. Defense Expo!” -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Co-plotters Michelayton plant a veritable garden of seeds for future issues here:  Tony’s drinking (“The only way I’m getting through this—is with a little bubbly!”); the debut of Bethany (about whom all we’re told at this point is that she has “eyes like emerald flame”); the office marked “S. Lang” at S.I.; the rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.  Chronologically, these tales were my first exposure to the Spymaster, who’s never struck me as a great villain—in retrospect, his absence since #36 doesn’t seem like bad thing—but I do dearly love his costume’s color scheme, and he certainly gives Iron Man a run for his money in this battle-heavy issue.  JRJR and Bob have settled into the art chores nicely, with both the action sequences and the quieter stuff looking quite polished.

Chris: The cat-and-mouse with the Spymaster is enjoyable (and, I’d forgotten his previous appearance had been as long ago as #32-34).  Our opponents are well matched, as the Spymaster’s weapons can slow, or even (given time) possibly stop Iron Man; to counter Spymaster, Iron Man calls on an assortment of armor-features, including flame-repellant foam; we even get a brief appearance by the jet-skates (p 15), which, by the way, are on my Christmas list.

Chris: The last page causes us to question the first page.  Nick Fury wouldn’t order a hit on his old pal and fellow international crime-fighter Tony Stark, would he?  That’s far too big a step, in order to acquire info on his stockholders, or even to wrest the all-important Stark International from its rightful chairman’s control – isn’t it?  (Maybe the withered husk of the mind of Midas, after its treatment by Marianne Rodgers, still retains some knowledge of the stockholders’ identities?  Just a thought.)  So, is there something rotten in the state of SHIELD, or do we have a rogue element within its security team?  Either way, it’s intriguing. 

First look at new supporting cast member Bethany Cabe.  It’s obvious Michelinie wants us to know she has Tony’s attention (based on the nimbus we see surrounding her, p 10 pnl 7), but there’s nothing in this introduction to suggest she will figure prominently in storylines for years to come.  It’s noteworthy how Tony tells himself he won’t “get through” his unwanted exchange with the opportunistic senator without a drink (p 10, panels 2 and 3), but we’ve always known Tony to have a few drinks – jet-setting playboy that he is – so right now, it’s no cause for concern. 

I hope everyone took a moment to peruse the list of fellow tenants signing the petition to oust Tony Stark (p 6).  In addition to many names that probably belong to friends and industry people, there’s also Richard Burton, plus Roy Neary, Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, and Fred Hembeck!  Tough neighbors. 

John Carter, Warlord of Mars 19
"The Master Assassin of Mars Chapter 4:
The Valiant Die But Once!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Ernie Colón and Frank Springer
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Rudy Nebres

Two weeks after Carter’s arrival, Gar Karus insists that he attend a state dinner in his honor, but as Chan Tomar arrives with Dejah on his arm—dressed to mimic the wings possessed by most men of Karanthor—the evil Jeddak notices his reaction and decides to bait Carter.  He kisses Dejah, threatening that it is Carter who will be made to suffer if she displeases him, and in his jealous rage, Carter snubs her when she turns to him for comfort as he escorts her to the imperial chambers.  Accosted on a causeway by vengeful relatives of Kon-Dar, he gives a good account of himself despite being outnumbered six to one, and his remaining attackers leave when his friend Garthon, the wingless son of Gar Karus, arrives to even the odds.

Garthon relates how the first Karanthor, “a city of scientists whose might and knowledge rivaled that of fabled Horz,” was destroyed by earthquakes, and the survivors fled to the great rift valley to found the cave city, the men inexplicably developing wings.  He and Carter are summoned by Hira—the slave girl he secretly loves—to the wall, where Gar Karus wishes his son to command the forward defenses in expectation of a Ptothian attack.  Sure enough, just after he has explained to Carter that none have ever successfully flown to the top of the cliffs they call “The Wall about the World,” a wounded scout reports the approach of the wingless Ptothian horde, using flying reptiles as steeds, and without reinforcements, the handful led by Garthon and Carter are cut off. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Assassin?  What’s that?  As this increasingly in-name-only arc continues, Carter finds himself in hot water with friend as well as foe; he’s the first to admit his cluelessness concerning the fair sex, yet even he pushes it with his unworthy dig at Dejah.  Per Carl Carlson, “What a tool.”  Chris contradicts canon when Garthon calls the Orovars “one of the original races that sprang from the Tree of Life to populate Barsoom,” but since ERB’s black-skinned First-Born were, I don’t know if calling the winged contingent the “True Born” is an attempt to, uh, whitewash Burroughs.  As for the art, while I’m insufficiently familiar with Colón to assess the full impact of Springer’s inks, I’ll hazard a guess that they were a decidedly poor match with Ernie’s pencils.

Frank’s finishes look especially primitive on, say, the sketchy Carter seen in page 11, panels 3-4, but fortunately, the scarcely concealed derrière of the slave girl on the splash page is neither the only encouraging sign nor the sole cheesecake on display.  The “incomparable Dejah Thoris” lives up to ERB’s perennial sobriquet—most obviously in page 5, panel 5 and page 6, panel 2—and the battle scenes with the Ptothians on pages 26-27 are admittedly impressive.  Colónger manages to make Chan Tomar exude evil and depravity even without attendant verbiage, while some of the more heavily stylized images (e.g., the faces on pages 30-31), although perhaps disorienting to regular readers, are effective, as is the deeply shadowed Carter in page 7, panel 3.

Master of Kung Fu 71
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Mike Zeck and Bruce Patterson
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Jim Novak
Cover by Mike Zeck

Shang-Chi acknowledges his newfound daily routines, which have freed him from distraction, and allowed him to attend to a unity of “mind, body, spirit, and emotions.”  He observes Leiko across the room, and reflects on the changes in their relationship, as his attraction to Juliette obscured his feelings for Leiko, for a time.  Juliette proved untrue, just as Tarr’s old love, Anna, was exposed as an agent for the Communists (as seen in MoKF #70).  When S-C called to Leiko, she returned to him, and they have found themselves sharing an ordinary, but comforting, existence together.  Shang-Chi concludes it might be best to allow the mind to rest, so that the spirit might heal, and allow genuine emotions to shine in their brilliance, “like lances of blinding light.”  Leiko notices S-C is lost, far away in his thoughts; S-C recognizes his distance, and how Leiko has been “searching” for him, as he affirms he is “here.”  Later (…), S-C and Leiko initiate their evening schedule, as they walk to a training center to exercise and practice their fighting skills (which leaves the other martial-arts students feeling badly outclassed, as they stop to watch these two masters), then take in a movie and dinner.  Back at Leiko’s flat, S-C gently plays with the Siamese cat (yes, the same one that followed him home after his first encounter with Shen Kuei, MoKF #39), and muses again about the newfound value of routines, when there is a sudden crash at the door.  Leiko and Shang-Chi stand ready, only to see the door creak open to reveal a battered Sir Nayland Smith, who reports that – in response to corruption at the core of MI-6 – he has resigned from the service. -Chris Blake

Chris: Not an issue for the casual fan!  As a youngster, my view of the series of pages featuring little more than Shang-Chi and Leiko as they talk, work out, eat, and return home, would undoubtedly result in my return of this issue to the spinner rack.  Now, of course, I appreciate the way Doug revives the concept of Shang-Chi’s spirit on the rise (if you will).  In fairness, the flashback pages would provide a useful recap for any prospective fan who might’ve missed many previous issues, and required a means to get acquainted with our title character and his supporting cast.  Nice job also by Doug to weave the circumstances of the scheduled fill-in (MoKF #70) to the main storyline, as S-C recognizes how both his and Tarr’s lost loves are people suddenly found to have “new faces.” 

Fan response is positive; on the letters page of #77, longtime fan Bill W. of Ann Arbor MI calls this a “sublime success,” as he observes how this quiet episode helps our characters “seem closer to everyday reality,” which strengthens “the impact of their extraordinary abilities when they do appear.”  Cynthia Y. of Champaign IL recognizes how Doug & Mike took a chance by foregoing the usual action, but counts herself among those who appreciates “such refreshing risks.”

There isn’t much for Zeck & Patterson to do art-wise for most of the time, since there’s hardly any action; also at times, the often-reliable Patterson leaves some of the faces looking slightly unfinished and unexpressive (especially Leiko and Shang-Chi, various panels of p 27 and 30).  Zeck plays with the motif of the picture-puzzle, as S-C’s thoughts about connecting the disparate fragments of his recent experiences are reflected in the two-page spread of p 2-3; Zeck continues with heavy borders for the flashback-panels thru p 7, but the pieces themselves aren’t presented as interlocking the way they had on p 2-3.  The workout montage (p 23) allows Zeck to show the two figures in motion.  Doug tells us S-C feels pride, but is self-conscious due to the attention of the students; there isn’t anything in the visuals (a close up of S-C’s face, perhaps) to convey these mixed emotions.

Mark: Very nice jigsaw puzzle cover by Rudy Nebres (with no caption bonus points), a motif Mick Zeck echoes inside. A quick flashback lets us know Shang and Leiko are again an item. Great. I'm rooting for the kids, but enough with the Fleetwood Mac already, Doug. Don't you own another album?

But there's pizza - "...a strange, floppy, oozing food..." - happy fun time on the couch, and Cat demonstrates fine feline sensibility between curiosity and discretion. The Close Encounters shout-out makes me want to start sculpting mashed potatoes.

There's a vigorous workout of another kind, a carriage ride through the park. More pitching woo and we wonder: is Moench really gonna give us an ish with nothing but domestic bliss? 

Well, almost. Then a beaten and bloodied Sir Denis stumbles in, having just resigned from "...rotten to the core..." MI-6.

Hope you enjoyed the day off, kids.

Ms. Marvel 21
"The Devil in the Dark!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Dave Cockrum and Al Milgrom
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by Dave Cockrum and Joe Rubinstein

 Caged with the abducteesincluding Jim, who attacks in a state of “hysterical psychic shock,” and Sharon—MM learns that Harry was looking into “crazy stories” originating uncomfortably close to the White Sands Missile Range, his men knocked out by Haemon nearby.  Summoned by the High Ones, she gasps at the immensity of the People’s cavern city, but while Aracht’yr ponders her fate, Faelar disobeys his orders and strikes her, precipitating a battle that collapses the huge, cobra-headed statue dominating the council chamber.  Haemon is certain the mammal, who saved the lives of his wife and child, cannot have survived, so Aracht’yr goes home to his family, only to be confronted by MM, still hoping they can resolve their differences.

Aware that “we were spawned out of your desire to kill one another more efficiently,” Aracht’yr maintains that secrecy is their only hope, and vows that MM’s attempt to free the captives will be stopped.  Directing them to the egress, she says she will handle the “guardian” inside the tunnel, revealed to be a giant, intelligent cobra, yet with her senses impaired by the effects of its venom, a blow intended to stun instead impales its head on a stalactite.  Barely able to stand, she bluffs Aracht’yr, threatening to level the city but agreeing to keep their secret if the captives can depart, their memories telepathically scrambled by Haemon; back in NYC, Carol finds a baby iguana addressed to her with a note reading, “We have placed our future in your hands.  Do not fail us.”
-Matthew Bradley

Matthew: To paraphrase Auric Goldfinger, the purpose of our “Sergeant Whitmore” is now very clear to me, since the gi-ants in Them! and “The People” were both caused by the first a-bomb test near Alamogordo (misspelled “Almagordo”), which always calls Kiss Me Deadly to mind, although I see from the IMDb that Pat says “Los Alamos” instead!  Despite MM’s umpteenth invocation of “Mickey” Rossi, this somehow didn’t feel like a typical Claremont story to me in some ways, and since I find the Cockrum/Milgrom artwork just okay, I remain not wholly sold on “The New Ms. Marvel.”  Visually, the lizards and their subterranean civilization come off best, with Dave carefully differentiating the People and both cobras—the statue and the live one—looking super.

Matthew: There frequently seems to be an unintentional (I assume) motif running through multiple Marvel comics in any given month, and this time it’s knocking down temples, as the Hulk does with the sword-and-sandal film set in MTIO.  Not surprisingly, given that issue’s pathetically low caliber, a much more impressive illustration may be found on the nifty Cockrubinstein cover here, which is surely intended to evoke Samson.  If you really want to start connecting dots—and I’m totally pandering to my little buddy Professor Gilbert—the Biblical temple was devoted to the Sumerian fish-god, Dagon, the namesake of the creature featured by H.P. Lovecraft in his eponymous short story and “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” although he/it was admittedly piscine and not reptilian.

Addendum:  The title is borrowed from the Star Trek episode with the Horta.

Chris: I can’t remember the last time we had an atomic-testing origin story; it’s a classic!  I’m glad Claremont came up with something, even an old chestnut like this; he keeps me guessing for most of the issue (and had for most of Ms M #20 as well) about who the lizard people are, how they got here, what their intentions might be, etc.  It’s a welcome change that their purpose is to protect their isolation and maintain their secret, instead of there being some lizard-domination scheme, or something.  Of course, Claremont & Cockrum trick us into expecting an evil intent, since the lizards are big, menacing, quick to attack, and capable of wrecking army tanks.  It isn’t until we see humans have been held captive (i.e., not eaten, or turned into cat food), and we hear the lizards appeared to have been taking pains not to kill the soldiers who had been attacking them, that we suspect there might be some other motive at work here.

Ms Marvel is caught in a quandary, as she agrees the lizards’ secret should be protected, but also can’t accept the prospect of remaining in their subterranean city for the rest of her days (plus, she’s already put down a deposit on a shore house rental …).  The battle with the giant cobra makes for an exciting climax, but more importantly, it affords her an opportunity, as she takes advantage of her unintended killing of the cobra, to promise further destruction to the lizard city.  She’s battered and exhausted, and fighting off megacobra venom, so it’s a tough bluff, but it works; nice moment as Aracht’yr poses whether he should refuse her terms, and Ms M responds only, “Don’t.” 

Milgrom’s inks stiffen and flatten-out nearly every page of Cockrum’s rarely-seen interior art (Rubinstein? McLeod? Wiacek? Grainger, Chiaramonte -? sighhh).  Average Al can’t completely crush the Big Moment as the massive cobra sculpture topples down (p 15); Ms M’s grapple with the megacobra also retains most of his energy (p 27).  Highlight #1, though, has to be the cobra’s unseen approach, suggested only by the rapidly increasing size of its blazing-red eyes (p 26, 1st three panels). 

Marvel Premiere 45
Man-Wolf in
Story by David Anthony Kraft
Art by George Pérez and Frank Giacoia
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by Diana Albers
Cover by George Pérez and Bob McLeod

Aboard a crashed spacecraft on the moon, John Jameson, aka Man-Wolf, rips open the door and, protected by the "weirdstone"  that has grafted itself to his neck, is able to breathe. He is drawn to a strange doorway that leads to a bright chamber, where he not only is met by a trio of warriors who bow to him as their savior "Stargod," but also discovers he is thinking like John and is able to "talk" to them! Man-Wolf's fellow travelers Gorjoon, Garth, and the wizard Lambert show up, explaining that the original Stargod left his essence in the "Godstone" that M-W now wears, and he is stronger and smarter than ever now thanks to lunar power. So he agrees to take up the "Sacred Sword of Stargod" to join the rest in battle against the "false god, Arisen Tyrk." Quick zip to NYC, where J. Jonah Jameson and Simon Stroud are puzzled by the disappearance of John and Kristine Saunders.

Back on the moon, where Man-Wolf dons new green and gold armor (with sword and bow & arrow to boot) and takes a flying creature with his new friends through a stone-studded sky, where they are attacked by Tyrk's "Cavalry of the Damned." During the skirmish, female warrior Sashiel is the first to fall, followed by mute brute Barq. Then Garjoon's flying horse is slain and Man-Wolf/Stargod also falls off his steed! As the rest are captured, M-W and Garjoon hit some water and survive, finding the slain Sashiel on the ground, but also recovering the Sacred Sword. M-W takes the sword out of the tree it hit, swearing vengeance on Arisen Tyrk: "The Man-Wolf is out for your stinking blood!"
–Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Last seen in Creatures on the Loose #37 in September 1975, Man-Wolf finally gets to continue his story, right where we left off. Wait, you don’t remember? Did the readers remember? I'll guess not. But luckily in "First Class Mail," our letters page, "Dave the Dude" gives us a reminder and lengthy recap of the last Man-Wolf appearance, for "those poor unfortunate souls who may have missed" it, with the "not-to-be-missed final chapter" set for next issue. Set "several months ago" (like 39!), our tale is set on the moon, but I think maybe M-W travelled to another dimension when he went through that door? It's a little unclear, but luckily we are treated to some fine art by "Pace-setter Pérez" and Giacoia. It's not Avengers or FF-worthy  Pérez, but remember it might have been drawn three years ago. George gets to design some cool armor for the Stargod getup, as well as some fantasy horses and demons. A long setup for next time, and one almost wishes this was one of those 4-issue miniseries that became popular a couple years after this, to flesh out the story even more and give more background to the band of brothers and sisters that M-W has as his backup. All around, much better than I thought it would be!

Matthew: I’m a sucker for magenta, so between that and John’s spiffy new Stargod duds, I was fairly enraptured by this cover despite my total unfamiliarity at that time with his short-lived Creatures on the Loose solo series, and of course it doesn’t hurt that Pérez is blessed here with two excellent inkers, McLeod on the cover and Giacoia on the inside.  Thus, it’s not totally due to my long-standing dislike of Dave the Dude that I say the artwork is the star, with the full- and double-page spreads being the obvious but undeniable highlights; I love the simplicity of 31 as much as the impressive complexity (and, yes, hot female warriors) of 20-21.  There are also two aspects intrinsic to Kraft’s story itself that annoy me, especially in retrospect.

First, they haven’t clarified that Arisen/Harrison/Harrisyn Turk/Tyrk is the guy infesting Kraft’s Defenders; in fact, per Michael’s SuperMegaMonkey comment, this long-delayed wrap-up was only published because Marvel wanted readers to see Lunatik’s backstory.  Then there’s the continuity mare’s nest, and apparently the current thinking goes like this:  after returning from Luna next issue, John was caught up in the von Shtupf fiasco, taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, diagnosed with terminal moonstone-poisoning, and placed in the deep-freeze he now occupies in Amazing.  That contradicts MTU #37, according to which Ludwig plucked him right out of his interstellar plight—although at that point, Marvel probably didn’t foresee these ever appearing…

Chris: It’s more than a little hard to believe it might’ve been possible to revive this orphaned storyline, now over three years since it had been interrupted (at a pretty crucial juncture, I might add) with the cancellation of CotL.  Marvel’s pretty good about picking up pieces of a story, though, if an opportunity presents itself, as evidenced by the recent Savage Land storyline in X-Men (finally putting the wraps on Ka-Zar #20).  Did George Pérez’s ascendance to comics-creative-stardom have anything to do with the return of Man-Wolf, I wonder?  It never hurts to encourage a big star to complete a pet project; “Hey George,” says Jim Shooter, “while you’re here, we’d like to hear your input concerning some ideas for this year’s X-Men Annual, if you have a few minutes …”

Thank the Stargod for Kraft’s Man-Wolf recap on the letters page; I was not about to dig out that old box that houses my Creatures issues.  With some time to think it over, Kraft brings more coherence to the story than I recall from having read the earlier chapters.  In those stories, Kraft had purposely held back some of the knowledge of the Other Realm people, in order to create tension in the story (as we had shared some of John Jameson’s confusion), but at this point, it’s more important for Kraft to ensure his readers (many of whom, no doubt, never saw the Creatures stories) can follow what’s happening. 

I wonder how long Pérez might’ve had this art in the can, waiting for it to see the light.  The style – broader figures, panels not as closely-packed as we’ve seen in recent issues of the Avengers – suggests Pérez’s work on Fantastic Four circa the #160s, which would have followed the end of Creatures.  I have no way to prove this, but I’m willing to bet he had the first thirteen-pages ready, then completed the last four pages (p 26-27, p 30-31) at a later date, since the appearance (i.e. denser panels) is closer to his work for Logan’s Run from about a year ago.  Pure speculation on my part.  In any case, there are highlights on every page (such as the first look at the Stargod armor, p 10), but the carefully choreographed, overlapping action on p 20-21 (an unusual two-page spread from Pérez) is the art that required most of my time and attention. 

Marvel Team-Up 76
Spider-Man and Dr. Strange in
"If Not For Love..."
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Howard Chaykin, Jeff Aclin, and Juan Ortiz
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by Joe Rosen and Rick Parker
Cover by John Byrne and Terry Austin

One Saturday night, a worried Dr. Strange sees Spidey swinging across Washington Square just after he has thrown a layout with an ancient, powerful Tarot deck sent to him anonymously.  As he ponders its meaning (one balance restored, another upset), the Orb of Agamotto begins glowing ominously, unnoticed, while near Abingdon Square, Carol Danvers is shoved by a rude passenger while exiting a bus and collides with Wong, spilling the groceries he carries.  The cards foretell a futile mortal conflict Strange will not face alone, but at the cost of what he holds most dear, and at that moment, Clea sees a demon form erupting from the Orb, its ectoplasmic tentacles attacking as Doc’s spell fails to prevent her soul from being wrenched out.

Carol follows as Wong runs off in response to Doc’s psychic summons and is also seen by Peter, next alerted by a Spider-Sense tingle and a scream; no sooner has he changed back to Spidey and raced upstairs, where they regard the aftermath, than Ms. Marvel appears, reintroducing herself in her new costume.  Doc recruits them to help rescue Clea’s soul from the Orb before its “realm of unreality” drives her to madness or death, his only clue being a New Orleans postmark, so he conveys them to Bourbon Street, cloaking them in civilian guise.  “An astral energy trail” leads to a ramshackle bayou shantywith a grandiose interiorand the deck’s sender, Marie Laveau, the Witch-Queen of New Orleans, who quotes the Count (“Enter freely, and of your own will”).

Doc senses great power but no threat in the sorceress, who reveals the foe as self-styled demon-slayer Silver Dagger, trapped since Dr. Strange #5 in the same Orb that nearly claimed his life.  While its corresponding Eye was being used as the gateway to attempt Xenogenesis (Defenders #58-60), a vengeful Silver Dagger absorbed the “demon race’s eldritch lore,” and now controls the Orb.  Laveau says she warned Doc out of self-interest, knowing she would be the next target, yet while he senses betrayal, he must accept her aid to stop the “witch,” Clea, from being burned at the stake; as Doc’s astral form accompanies Laveau to master the Shiatra Book of the Damned—the only way to enter the Orb—Spidey and MM are left behind, and “unseen skulkers prepare to strike.” -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: In a typical right hand/left hand dichotomy, the lettercol asserts, “this issue and next are courtesy of guest penciler, Mike Vosburg,” yet they are credited to Chaykin and two guys making their sole Marvel inking gigs:  J[eff] Aclin and J[uan] Ortiz, who’d also respectively penciled the Midnight and Nick Fury back-up stories in Iron Man Annual #4 and Defenders #54.  The effective use of the Tarot is a pleasant reminder of the Gerbuscema Marvel Spotlight #20, and while the Byrne/Austin cover of Spidey getting pulled into the Orb—the supporting cast reduced to cards on the table in the foreground—is inaccurate, like, who cares?  It’s amusing in retrospect that Doc’s spell renders this future Captain Marvel as a black woman in New Orleans.

I obviously have no frame of reference for these inkers, nor do I know who did what, but as I’m not a big Chaykin fan, I must say they seem to have had a salutary effect on his pencils, e.g., the aghast Clea in page 6, panel 3; statuesque MM in page 15, panel 1; group shot in page 21, panel 1; and enigmatic Madame Laveau in page 27, panel 4.  As I think I said when Silver Dagger first appeared, you’d want a writer of Claremont’s ability to handle his return, and this is obviously a complex story, throwing a lot of balls in the air to be juggled in the conclusion.  You couldn’t prove it by me if Chris faked all of the Tarot stuff, neatly symbolized on the splash page, yet knowing him, he presumably was conversant with it already, or at least researched it thoroughly.

Joe: I remember the inventive Byrne/Austin cover. I certainly remember the excellent splash page of Spidey in shadow covered by tarot (but no sign of The Pharaoh hardee har har). But for whatever reason, can't remember the rest of this issue, which I'm 99.9% sure I did own in my long-sold-off comic collection. Claremont's story is a curious one, which usually happens when Dr. Strange is involved and writers go for wackiness and hard-to-explain events. Of course, he throws in Ms. Marvel also, who strikes quite the pose on page 15 instead of seeing if the good Dr. is okay or not. I guess there's nothing like making an entrance and showing off your new outfit—so much for Carol Danvers' "women's lib" angle! Once in New Orleans, things get even more mysterious and kooky, especially the getups he transforms Spidey and Ms. Marvel into! And speaking of that art, it's extremely uneven. For one, it doesn't look like the Chaykin I know and love. Plus, I've never heard of the inkers. So much for the excellent splash page! There are some nifty panels here and there, so it's not all mediocrity. One thing really did bother me here: didn't Peter only have one more class to take in order to graduate, according to the main Spidey book? A gym class? Then what's with this quote: "if I read one more page of notes or write one more term paper I think I'll flip out!" Did I miss the announcement that he's going to grad school? Is the continuity off since MTU operates a little off the web-beaten path?

Matthew:  Nope, you’re right—that is a continuity gaffe (and not the only one on that same, uh, subject).

Chris: Claremont isn’t one to rely on formula; in three straight issues, he’s featured a mildly-madcap story set on a late-night TV show, followed by a tribute to New York’s firefighters (script by Ralph Macchio), and now this time, a dire threat to Doc and Clea, courtesy of Silver Dagger (last seen in quiet communion with a Carroll-esque worm, trapped within the Orb of Agamotto).  Additional points to Claremont as he uses the Eye’s role in the almost-arrival of Xenogenesis (as seen by true believers in recent issues of the Defenders – Marvel continuity!) to explain how Silver Dagger could’ve been awakened, now capable of using the Orb’s power against Dr Strange.

If there’s any problem with the story, it’s that there’s hardly anything for Spider-Man and Ms Marvel to do, except sit quietly and not ask stupid questions while Doc does all the talking; I guess we’ll have to wait ‘til next month to see how these other two might figure in the action.  If I remember right, this issue and MTU #77 originally had been envisioned as a double-sized story (possibly an annual?), so that could explain why these two are on the sidelines; in a longer-format story, it’s less problematic for a few characters to drop out of the action for a small portion of the proceedings.

The art works very well for this mostly-Dr Strange story.  I don’t know of Juan Ortiz and Jeff Aclin as a prolific inker-team (I can’t think of any other credits of theirs in the Bronze era), so I can’t tell which artist contributed what to the finished art.  Let me stick to the highlights: the unusual tarot-studded splash page; Clea’s deathly look, as her soul has been parted from her (p 7, last pnl; color-assist by Carl Gafford, who casts Clea in a deathly pall, complete with lips already turned purple); a truly stunning image of Doc and Clea, sprawled and defeated on the floor (p 14), followed by a striking entrance by a smokin’ Ms Marvel, framed by the tattered deep-purple drapes (p 15); effective atmosphere as the mini-non-team meets Marie Laveau (p 23-27, color assist again by Gaff; side note: nice touch by Claremont to give the sorceress a fairly normal name, and not “Madame Orleans” or something).

Matthew:  I’ll have more to say on that subject next time, but the name is apparently a historical one.

Marvel Two-In-One 46
The Thing and The Incredible Hulk in
"Battle in Burbank!"
Story by Alan Kupperberg
Art by Alan Kupperberg and Chic Stone
Colors by Alan Kupperberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Shelly Leferman
Cover by Keith Pollard and Bob Layton

Irate that longtime rival the Hulk now has a TV show, on which Karen Page has been offered $1 million to co-star, Ben blows his top when Greenskin gets the girl, and kicks his brand-new 25-inch set so hard his teammates have to help extricate his foot.  At their suggestion, he flies to Hollywood as stuntmen Steve, Don, and Greg—fired from the show after trying to sell stolen concepts back to the same studio—plot to kidnap Karen.  Natch, the object of the exercise knows nothing about “his” show until Bruce Banner, wandering into Smallvale out of the Nevada desert, sees it in an appliance-store window, where we can extrapolate the cut-off names of Bixby’s guest-stars:  Sonny Bono, Jerry Vale, Charo, Howdy Doody, and editor Sterno.

Indignant that “they’ve turned my tragedy into some sort of…of soap opera,” he Hulks out and, disenchanted with the medium after Dollar Bill’s documentary disaster in Defenders #62, heads for Miracle Pictures, implausibly remembering where Hollywood is from Hulk #4.  Kiddie star and HTD lookalike Uncle Waddles helps direct Ben to the office of producer Joseph L. Jusko, where he arrives just before Karen shows up to sign her contracts.  With gate guard Jack stranded atop his shack after asking Ben for i.d., the three stooges are easily able to slip onto the lot; no sooner has he gotten down than the Hulk follows (interrupting the filming of what is obviously supposed to be M*A*S*H), while in the reception area, the faux telephone repairmen grab Karen.

Busting into Jusko’s office and finding Ben there, Greenskin leaps to the conclusion that “You are responsible for making the Hulk look dumb,” and is in no mood to listen to reason when Ben, knocked through the wall, informs him of the abduction in process.  The Thing tries to put some distance between the two of them while following the kidnappers, and their running battle takes them through the soundstages of both a Western and a peplum, but after pulling down the latter’s temple set, the Hulk is convinced that Ben—who shields the others from the debris—was telling the truth.  The kidnappers are caught; the Hulk leaps off; Karen opts for a safer Delazny Studios soap; and Ben goes home to await the arrival of Jusko’s concept, the sitcom Thing in the Family. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: This is a rare 1970s Marvel writing credit for artist Kupperberg…but if his relentlessly unfunny, one-man-band, metafictional attempt to cash in on the Hulk TV show—with which he apparently had lots more fun than I did—is any indication, that’s a jolly good, uh, thing indeed.  Not that his self-colored artwork is any better, and while Silver-Age FF vet Stone (#28-38) may have seemed like a logical choice to ink a Thing story, he does his future Invaders partner no favors here, with results that are, at times, embarrassingly amateurish, e.g., page 27, panel 3 (far below).  There are repeated references to the FF’s recent Hollywood misadventures, and the level of “humor” is typified by Jusko’s concept, in which an Archie Bunker-clone yells at Ben, “Shuddup, ya orange meathead!”

Note: it has been asserted elsewhere that Uncle Waddles really is Howard, but I’m not buying it, especially since the dialogue then makes no sense:  when Ben gasps, “You…you’re a duck!,” Waddles answers, “Hey, relax, pal!  This makeup ain’t that great!”  Why would HTD say that?

Addendum:  It’s been pointed out that Jusko shares his name with this month’s cover artist on The Hulk!

Chris: Depending on how you look at it, this issue is: a carefree bit of diversionary fun; an inoffensive, mildly successful attempt at levity; or, a complete waste of time.  I think I'm between the second and third responses, since the parts that try to be amusing don't warrant more than a grin.  Probably the only genuinely comical bit is when the battle causes the Thing and the Hulk to bust down studio walls, and the Hulk reacts with confusion at the drastic changes in setting, as if people are simply trying to befuddle him again (p 27).

It's not a bad decision to stage a Thing-Hulk fight that doesn't have life-or-death consequences, but this whole thing simply doesn't add up to much.  It doesn't help that the Kupperberg/Stone art reduces both combatants to looking as if they had been outfitted by the Wardrobe department; I'd swear that Lou Ferrigno looks bigger, and more menacing, than Kupperberg's clownish Hulk.  Stone's inks always seem to leave Ben with that ridiculous goggle-eyed look.

Power Man and Iron Fist 54
"Heroes for Hire!"
Story by Ed Hannigan
Art by Lee Elias, Bob Jenny, and Ricardo Villamonte
Colors by Francoise Mouly
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Jean Simek
Cover by Keith Pollard and Frank Giacoia

Luke Cage busts up a fur hijacking (with the help of Iron Fist) but the fact that his life seems to be going nowhere, and it's getting harder to pay the bills, is weighing on the big man's mind. Luke thinks he may have found the answer in Jeryn Hogarth, a fast-talking idea man (and long-time Danny Rand family lawyer) who sees a bright future in a business called "Heroes for Hire." Now, to convince Danny it's a good idea. Meanwhile, a tenth-tier villain calling himself The Incinerator (no, seriously!) decides to give bank-robbing a try. Luckily, the bank's manager has put Iron Fist and Power Man on retainer. Seeing this as good publicity, the dynamic duo head to the bank to show the bathysphere-bedecked boob the backs of their hands. Though the Incinerator  (can you see the giggles in my font?) proves to be a tough cookie at first, the iron fist of Danny Rand puts an end to yet another life of crime. After their successful team-up, Luke springs the news on Danny with some snazzy new business cards. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: After decent runs from the previous creative teams, this issue feels like a slap in the face to all Power Man/Iron Fist fans; it's tantamount to a cancellation. As if Marvel was preparing the title for the drink; surrender hope all ye who enter. How else to explain Ed Hannigan's simplistic, almost juvenile, plot and script, one that survives only to create an inane villain and then dispatch him quickly? How else to explain the decision to bring in Lee Elias where John Byrne and Sal Buscema had trod only a short time before? Elias' doodlings effectively set this title back fifteen years, back to a simplistic time when Dick Ayers and Don Heck made almost indescribable contributions to The Human Torch and Ant-Man. This issue's art is that bad. Come back, Frank Robbins, all is forgiven.

Chris: The Incinerator serves his purpose, as he demonstrates that the business model can work.  Points to Hannigan for establishing how Cage appreciates the opportunity to learn from Hogarth’s experience, as they complete the steps required to put the business together; the textbook approach would call for the hero to brush off the business stuff and leave it to other professionals.  Also, a welcome character development as Danny walks away from his corporate riches (for now), as he chooses to earn a living; standard handling would be for Danny simply to bankroll the operation (a la Tony Stark), so credit to Hannigan for his decision to handle this differently.

Another variation in theme is the use of the iron fist as a disruptive device (p 23); clever moment as Cage has to prompt Danny to fire up the iron fist (a whisper overheard on p 22, last pnl), just as it’s true to Danny’s character for him to realize he could kill the Incinerator if he were to clock him with the fist-unto-a-thing-of-iron.  The split-second countdown to the fist-strike is a neat addition, although I will observe Hannigan’s descriptive text gets a bit high-falutin’ (“the arc – so swift – so ephemeral that it is eternal, architectural perfection hewn from the stone of time.”  Uh, come again -?). 

Matthew: Every Marvel mag had its ups and downs, but Ghost Rider and the post-Byrne/Claremont PM&IF in particular struck me as epitomizing consistent mediocrity, like this issue’s third-string creative team.  We’ve got Hannigan, who inspires retroactive dread for his Defenders depredations; Elias, a Robbins wannabe whose work on this book goes back to #40—when I avoided it like the plague; Bob Jenny, who…who he?; and Villamonte, who is hit or miss at best.  I was vexed by the “Power-Man [sic]” business card in page 5, panel 3, until I got to the references on page 10 to “Ku’n [sic] Lun,” and realized the hyphen had simply migrated.  Note to editors Hall and Shooter:  whatever you guys were making, it was too much.

The problems begin on the splash with the convenient, uh, power upgrade allowing Luke to brush off a five-ton truck, followed by the return of the questionable “buck” appellation.  The best you can say about the suck-ass villain, the Incinerator, is that he’ll never be seen again, while the painfully amateurish LeeBobRic consortium solidifies Jeryn’s status as one of Marvel’s most inconsistently drawn characters, with Joy, so recently smokin’ hot, now a frumpy contender.  Perhaps the single worst page is 23, with its B.S. about “shards of a split second” and rambling drivel about “the arc”—and what, if anything, does IF’s blow actually hit?  Finally, do we truly believe that all those preparations left Danny ignorant of his planned participation…?

The Spider-Woman 9
"Eye of the Needle"
Story by Mark Gruenwald
Art by Carmine Infantino and Al Gordon
Colors by Karen Raines
Letters by Jim Novak
Cover by Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek

A shadowy figure has been stopping people on night-dark streets (typically, males under age 30), and holding them transfixed while he sews their lips together.  Jerry Hunt is embarrassed to be a victim of this night-stalker, now come to be known as the Needle.  Jerry doesn’t want Jessica to get involved, but she sees this as a wrong she can right.  Jessica prowls the dark alleys as Spider-Woman, and misses her chance to catch the Needle when he strikes again.  Jessica and Jerry agree to work together to try to catch this bizarre figure.  Spider-Woman is drawn by a gunshot, and finds Jerry once again held in thrall by the Needle.  Just as Jerry’s shot had missed, Spider-Woman also is unable to connect with the elusive Needle as her venom blast flies wide.  Her second venom-shot pegs the Needle, but as she closes in on the prone figure, the Needle lashes out and cuts part of Spider-Woman’s glider wing!  As they grapple, S-W finds herself drawn in by the Needle’s one piercing eye (the other eye is shrouded by his cowl).  Now it is the Needle’s turn to approach his victim; as he prepares to apply his instrument to Jessica’s lips, she blasts him at close range, finally immobilizing the Needle.  Spider-Woman speculates that the similarity of their paralysis-powers made it more difficult for each to knock out the other.  -Chris Blake

Chris: The Needle is suitably creepy.  I would’ve been perfectly happy to wonder at the possible purpose of his strange crusade, but unfortunately, Mark Gruenwald (making his color-comic debut for Marvel) carefully lays out the Needle’s back-story, which involves an older tailor who had been mugged by a group of callow youth; while he was laid-up in the hospital, the unnamed tailor’s single-minded outrage somehow became focused in his right eye, which now allows him to hypnotize others.  Why does he choose to sew their lips together?  Uh, I have no idea; because he used to sew pieces of fabric?  I guess so. 

The greater problem involves Grunewald’s continuance of Marv Wolfman’s under-explored suggestion that Spider-Woman projects some sort of repulsive vibe; an anti-pheromone, if you will.  It only comes up twice in the issue, as people passing have a “she gives me the creeps!” reaction.  Now, there’s no reason for the High Evolutionary to have designed Jessica this way, or for Hydra to have imposed this impediment on her; it makes not one bit of sense.  Jerry doesn’t seem to be affected by this, and he’s around her more than anyone; if anything, he’s cheesed off because Jess has a tendency to do things her way, which fits her sense of self as having been a loner for so long, prior to meeting Jerry. 

Matthew:  Quite the contrary, in fact:  Jerry seemed to be immediately and inexplicably attracted to her, just as others are repulsed.  

Chris: The Infantino/Gordon art continues to suit the title, and the character, well.  Clear highlight is the atmospheric moment on p 3, as – from Jerry’s POV – we see the Needle, first in profile with his unnaturally covered left eye facing Jerry, then as he turns, and faces Jerry with his inexplicably hypnotic right eye.  The last panel is unnerving, as the Needle is holding Jerry by the head, but we can’t see what he might be doing to his victim (again, p 3).  Another cool Needle-moment is on p 11, as we see him peeking from behind the corner of a building, a full moon visible over his shoulder (p 11, pnl 4); on the same page is an effective view of Spider-Woman, framed by moonlight as she crouches on a rooftop (p 11, pnl 2).

Matthew: Gruenwald kicks off his year-long TOD on this title with a weird, unpleasant villain (not the last, if I recall correctly), one whose lip-sewing shtick immediately calls to my mind two voodoo-related antecedents:  Edward L. Cahn’s The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (1959), and the genuinely frightening climax of that Night Stalker episode in which Kolchak had to pour salt in the zombie’s mouth and then sew it shut.  Brrr…  And, of course, Ken Follett had just published an unrelated novel of the same name, memorably filmed by Return of the Jedi’s Richard Marquand in 1981.  But I digress.  I know the Needle is supposed to be thin, yet the Infantinordon team makes him look way too skinny to have started out as a normal human being.

Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man 25
"Carrion, My Wayward Son!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Jim Mooney and Frank Springer
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Elaine Heinl and Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Keith Pollard and Bruce Patterson

Big M presides over a meeting of the Maggia, with special guest Carrion there to gloat he can destroy Spider-Man! The skeptical skels attack the rag-wearing rascal, who throws "Red Death" at a couple of goons, while another "underling" is tossed aside after his bullet carries through Carrion (um…). Big M refuses a partnership, lest Carrion challenge his power, but the satchel-toting scoundrel disappears! Spider-Man is swinging around Manhattan, trying to work out his love life, personal issues, and standing as a superhero, while across the boroughs, the White Tiger literally leaps into action again, taking out the Savage Skulls gang as well as a local pusher. Meantime, at the Citicorp Center, a Maggia truck enters the building, led by a very loud "bird-shaped buzz bomb" that gets the attention of Spidey, who mashes some Maggia men until the "Birdroid" blows up the building's vault door! Once Spidey gets there, the "Birdroid" changes into the massive "M-Man" android, aka Tri-Man, tossing our hero aside and heading for the money. Suddenly, the Masked Marauder (aka Big M) enters and blasts the wall-crawler in the face, blinding him! -- Joe Tura

Joe: So I'm not sure what to think of this one. The artwork is fine, as with most Mooney contributions. Including some good action shots and a nice depiction of the creepy Carrion. But the script, from being all over the place to over-the-top, is another story. Lots of "major" characters to deal with in a short span, and lots left to the imagination. Who is this Carrion guy? And what's with the Masked Marauder ("The Masked Marauder, you misbegotten miscreant!") turning out to be the head of Maggia? Did he win an election? Was it a hostile takeover? Did he win the seat in a poker game? And can someone give White Tiger his own book already? Mantlo lays it on thick in some of his captions, but he of course reserves the biggest hyperbole for his White Tiger on page 11, accompanied by one of the moodiest panels in the book: "Pale white against a pale moon, the lithe figure leaps from out of the night! He is silent—spectral—like a hoary ghost out to wreak vengeance on the living!" Hey, Bill—last I checked this is a Spidey book, ya folla?

Fave sound effect in an issue packed with Batman 60s TV series-type words such as "KPOW!", "THOK!" and "ZAT!" would probably be page 22's "VVROARRR" as the "Birdroid" (yikes) heads towards the Citicorp Center with "lightning speed." Probably because I liked the color gradient in the letters. Meh.

Matthew: There are those who may have recognized the Masked Marauder’s rather distinctive headgear when he peeked out of that sarcophagus in Grant’s Tomb, so it makes sense that Mantlo would go ahead and reveal him as the new Big M on the splash page…yet why not identify him by name until the last page, especially having already done so on the cover?  That’s just the first of many oddities in this hodgepodge, which admittedly gets off to a promising start with the introduction of Carrion and the beginning, as I recall, of one of the better arcs in this title’s checkered history.  Speaking of which, if Springer must be allowed to participate, it’s better that he ink someone like Mooney than do it all himself.

When I read, “the Empire State Building has survived other indignities,” I thought, “Yeah, like a giant gorilla,” then we got a Kong hommage in the very next panel with the cameos by "Jack" and "Denham."  Why we did, and why editor Hall felt the need for the “Nova appears courtesy of Nova magazine” Silver-Age throwback or the similar footnote explaining who the freakin’ Human Torch is, I cannot say.  Another head-scratcher comes on page 19.  Yes, it’s an ad, and worse, it’s for that “cosmic adventure epic…featuring almost every character in the Marvel Universe!” (again, we see Shooter planting seeds that will grow into his noxious Secret Wars kudzu), but it alleges that the perps “continue to weave a senses-stunning saga,” when last month we sighed in relief that it was over.

I had a far different response to the first panel on the next actual story page, with its reference to “the new Citicorp Center,” which was one of powerful nostalgia.  When I was fresh out of Trinity College and the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course c. 1985, working at my first real job as a lowly publicity assistant at nearby Macmillan (53rd Street and Third Avenue) and living oh-so-briefly in Park Slope, the future Mrs. Professor Matthew, my high-school sweetheart, was commuting into the City part-time as a graduate student in sociology at NYU, and many was the day she would meet me for lunch at Citicorp.  Funny to think that era was still seven years in the future when this was published in late 1978, and yet is now more than three decades in the past...

Chris: The story doesn’t get going until the very end, as the strange bird-bomb morphs into the Tri-Man.  Spidey’s trying to figure out how to tackle the Tri, when the Big M reveals himself to be the Masked Marauder, and now it’s double trouble for web-head!  Of course, since we already read the spoiler-cover, we’ve had every reason to expect this moment would be coming. 

The cover content isn’t Mantlo’s fault, but I can take him to task for inefficient use of the interior pages.  The issue starts with promise, as Carrion appears to be a challenge; not only for the soundly-trounced Maggia, but eventually Spidey himself, no doubt.  Then we get two pages of Spidey recapping his woes, and wondering whether to prepare for retirement (pages ghost-scripted by M. Wolfman, perhaps -?), followed by three pages of the White Tiger; that’s a total of five pages burned when two would do. 

Springer’s finishes are too loose for my taste, regardless of the penciller; I don’t find him a useful fit for any venue, except maybe a John Buscema Giant-Size Man-Thing story I recall from many moons ago.  Mooney & Springer present a spooky look for Carrion (p 2-3); maybe if the next few issues take place primarily at night, in heavy shadow, we’ll get thru this okay. 

Star Wars 18
"The Empire Strikes!"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Carmine Infantino and Gene Day
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Rick Parker
Cover by Carmine Infantino and Bob Wiacek

As the Millennium Falcon travels through hyper-space, Threepio gives out the alarming news that Luke has “shut down.” Going through Artoo’s memory tapes, they find that Luke recorded his attempts to meditate to gain greater control of the Force. As he drifts deeper into his meditative state, he “sees” something alarming and falls into deep unconsciousness, from which no one can revive him. At that moment, they are approached by a TIE fighter. Han destroys it but, before they can jump to safety, they find the remains of a freighter and a lone, drifting survivor. The ship belongs to the “Tagge Family,” who is attached to the Empire. However, the man they rescue says it was an Imperial attack made to look like an act by the Rebellion. Before they can learn more, another Imperial ship attacks and they give chase. Han finds himself approaching the Wheel, the galaxy’s largest gambling palace and neutral territory. Han races the Falcon inside and takes the Princess into hiding, reasoning that Luke is safe with the droids. In spite of the Wheel’s immunity, Fleet Commander Strom has his men board and look for the rebels. Senator of the Wheel, Greyshade, demands to know what’s going on. Strom explains the “rebels” destroyed a freighter bringing the Wheel’s winnings to the intergalactic bank, so Greyshade allows Strom to hunt them down, but to keep one alive. Strom agrees to Greyshade’s face, but has no intention of allowing one of the people who can cast doubt on the rebel attack to live and destroy the Empire’s plan for the Wheel. Meanwhile, Greyshade sees Princes Leia on the monitor and recognizes her from their days in the senate. He decides it is now time to act. -Scott McIntyre

Scott McIntyre: Back to the regular continuity and art again, which is even more weird than previous Infantino pages. There’s something really Manga about how he draws Luke, he really strikes me as a 1970’s California surfer. This is an interesting start, I like the concept of the Wheel, even if it feels more like something out of Battlestar Galactica.  The mystery of Luke “shutting down” is intriguing, but I am more fascinated by how a huge casino is able to escape Imperial involvement. The title of the story is an interesting, and unintentional, preview of the movie due to hit theaters two years later. Also, the Wheel’s status is similar to the Cloud City in that same film. Also of note is how people generally don’t need space suits to survive in the void, just a good “breather.” Good action, fun start to another long story.

Matthew: “The Empire Strikes!”  Hey, that’s a catchy title; Lucasfilm might want to keep that one in the back of its collective corporate mind, consider possible variations, etc.  Seriously, it is thus singularly appropriate that with this issue, Archie spins a story that—to date—most feels like something that might actually have come out of the original movie, perhaps aping it to a degree.  The Wheel, for example, may not be a “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” but it is a “monument to pleasure, to risk, to greed…to life and death,” not to mention “degrading [and] barbaric,” so it sounds like we’re in the same ZIP code, right?  Infantino’s monthly double-whammy is tough, natch, but for what it’s worth, this is inker Day’s first credit in my collection.

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle 19
Story by David Anthony Kraft
Art by Sal Buscema and Klaus Janson
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Also wounded by the mercenaries’ bullets, the thipdar obeys its homing instinct and lives just long enough to get Ayesha and the still-unnamed hunter to Pellucidar’s moon while the cult attacks the galleon.  The Cid fires his pistol at Abdul Alhazred’s face, only to have the ball vanish into the shadows beneath his hood, and after failing to persuade The Cid to follow him or his crew to mutiny, Tarzan flees the Korsars.  The Mad Arab refuses to pick up Frazier (unseen since entering the portal in #16), who hails them from shore; observing as The Cid finds his gold gone, Frazier reinforces his wrongful suspicion of Tarzan, whom he claims is holding his friends prisoner, and brings his glider as he and The Cid pursue the cult into the Land of Awful Shadow. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I laughed at the generic title, “Pursuit!,” which would fit a sizable percentage of the ERB canon, but decidedly not at the antics of Pierre, who has apparently devolved from a Socialist caricature into comic relief, foolishly asking a native if he speaks French and ending up with his head in a water bucket.  Guess that’s what passes for humor around the Kraft household; meanwhile, Big John is succeeded by little brother Sal, with outgoing inker Janson sticking around for one last issue to provide some visual continuity, such as it is.  It seems a shame that Tarzan’s alliance with The Cid (whose sphere of influence appears to be smaller than that of the virtual potentate alluded to in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core) is disposed of before its possibilities are fully explored.

The Mighty Thor 278
"At Long Last -- Ragnarok?!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Chic Stone
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by John Buscema and Bob McLeod

Balder finally dies and Ragnarok (Sweet Ragnarok) is declared in Asgard. Trolls fight Gods; Brother fights Brother; it's a real mess. Meanwhile, "in another part of the cosmos," Red Norvell, aka "The Other Thor," is trying to talk Sif into becoming his main chick but the gorgeous goddess ain't buyin' what's put in front of her. Sif manages to shame Red into heading back to Asgard and putting Mjolnir to work. Loki is freed and promises death to his hated brother but, before he can get to it, the Midgard Serpent arises to wreak havoc. Thor's sword is no match for the unending serpent but back-up, in the form of the newly rehabilitated Red Norvell, arrives just in time. The combined might of two Thors sends the serpent back into its big hole. Unfortunately, it drags Red back with it. At that moment, both warring factions find themselves isolated on a rock in the middle of the universe, far from Asgard. Up comes the serpent again; Thor begins his beat down yet again. The serpent disappears and Hela tells her army that this is not their day; time to pull up camp and head back to Hell. Seeking answers from his father, Thor is shocked to discover that Odin had put into effect the entire event to fool Hela into believing she couldn't win her war. The Mighty Thor is mighty upset; he denounces his father's actions, including the deaths of two innocents, and proclaims he cannot walk Earth again without guilt. That's just fine with Odin and he tells his son he can never go back to Earth but Thor has other plans and rockets off to his second home, promising never to return to Asgard again.
-Peter Enfantino

Peter: This is one big hellacious hunk of junk. Roy (ostensibly, wanting to wrap this up quickly) manufactures Ragnarok and then tries to explain it away lamely with a few "Well, actually, here's what happened... Faux-Ragnarok, Balder wasn't really dead, Loki wasn't even Loki." A really bad issue of What If? says I. I'm not buying that Red Norvell went from power-mad killer to teddy bear in the span of a few pages and, just as we now know that the promised Armageddon didn't come as advertised, we're 100% sure that Thor will return to Asgard fairly soon. Oh, and you gotta love that last panel where the God of Thunder suddenly remembers that Earth is about to end (again) because of events that transpired in this year's annual and he has to hop to it quick. This is one busy guy.

Matthew: Waitaminnit—what’s this I see shining through Stone’s inks?  Yes, it’s actual Buscema art!  Hard to believe the same Chic was Kupperberg’s unindicted co-conspirator on the concurrent MTIO, but washing away the Pal-merde has also cleansed the scales from my eyes, enabling me to ENJOY this issue without reservations.  Oh, I’m sure there are those who will carp that Roy’s “False Ragnarok” epic is a cheat or a cop-out or whatever, and I won’t even argue the point.  I’ll just say that I found the ending satisfying, if loopy, and was reminded why Big John is my favorite penciler.  Dig the Hela Squad and enraged Thor on page 2; panel-busting Loki and ominously shadowed throne on 3; unleashed Mjolnir on 22; wolf-flanked Odin on 27…

Chris: Hey, Thor – seriously man, thanks for getting me back.  I mean, it’s a long cab ride from Asgard, you know?   Well anyway, now that we’ve got Joey and Red here on the rooftop, it’s all right if you take them to the police, okay?  And kind of explain what happened; you know, tell ‘em I didn’t kill them, right?  Granted, if I hadn’t talked you into taking me to Asgard, and if I hadn’t smuggled Joey and Red along inside our equipment, they wouldn’t have been killed; yeah, well, if I had it all to do over … .  Anyway, so you’re okay with – what’s that?  You’ve got to go check out who, the Celestials?  Could you wait, maybe an hour til after we’ve taken care of the two dead bodies -?  Hey man – where ya going -?!

I’m glad Roy was privy to Odin’s plan to stage a Ragnarok dress-rehearsal, so that the Volla prophecies could be safely dispelled.  It’s a classic bit of Odin-machination for him to have it all figured out from the get-go – he even planted a Thor-seed years ago, we’re told, in case of emergency.  We also have some insight into Odin’s character, as he (perhaps, unsurprisingly) dismisses the cost of two mortal lives (p 30) as part of his grand Asgard-saving scheme.

Thor fans who didn’t favor Tom Palmer might welcome the arrival of Chic Stone, who will put down roots and become a semi-regular inker for this title.  I admit Palmer’s finished look for Buscema’s pencils can be murky at times, but I will miss the dense shadows and heavier look to some characters when the story called for it.  Stone’s finishes are clear, but thin, so don’t expect much texture; if you prefer a balanced approach, re-view the cover and see what Bob McLeod could do for Buscema, if the two ever appeared together to provide interior art (spoiler alert: not happening).  Stone’s approach doesn’t impair the look of the straight-ahead battling, starting right from the scene-setting splash page.  Other highlights: the battle is begun! (p 6); Jormungand melts a hurtling boulder in mid-air! (p 11, 2nd pnl); Thor smash! (p 22).

But seriously, Roy – the Celestials?  How did they suddenly blink into Thor’s mind (in the very last panel!), and jump right to the top slot of his to-do list -?

What If? 12
"What If Rick Jones Had
Become the Hulk?"
Story by Don Glut
Art by Sal Buscema and Bill Black
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Bruce D. Patterson
Cover by Sal Buscema, Marie Severin, and Joe Sinnott

During the famous Gamma Bomb test that turned Bruce Banner into the Hulk, trespassing Rick Jones tosses Banner into the protective trench first, and the teen is the one who get blasted by the gamma rays, all of this taking place on "one of countless parallel Earths," per the ever-observant Watcher. At the base hospital, Rick starts to feel strange…and turns into some kind of green monster! ("Get off my back…unless—unless you want to rumble!") Smashing through the wall, the so-called "Hulk" evades Thunderbolt Ross and the soldiers on the grounds ("Soldiers…uncool!"), then Banner finds him, the sun comes up, and he changes back to Rick. Dr. Banner helps Rick by locking him up in a subsea chamber at night, while trying to find a cure. General Ross is stuck at a Pentagon desk job with no Hulk to chase, but the imprisoned Loki reaches out from Asgard to somehow turn Rick into the Hulk during the day. When Banner zaps Rick with gamma rays to transform him back, the trickster turns the tables again, causing Hulk to smash the machine ("No way machine's gonna change Hulk back to low-rider Jones"), break free ("Nix! Hulk ain't no murderer! So better split!"), demolish the train tracks with Loki's hologram TNT, fight Thor and friends, and become a charter Avenger ("Then Hulk will join the gang. Hulk needs a place to hang out."). 

Banner works on a portable version of the gamma ray machine, courtesy of Tony Stark, and gets to use it just as the Avengers defeat Space Phantom on the roof and Hulk goes to leave ("So why should Hulk hang out with you lowlifes?")—and it looks like it works! Months pass and Rick leads a new life, although still "freaked out by once bein' the Hulk" when suddenly he comes upon Captain American fighting a horde of Hydra goons! After Rick saves Cap from being shot in the back with "one perfect tackle," the appreciative hero, who likes Rick's "fighting spirit", trains him to become the new Bucky. Months later, during a fight with Hydra again, Rick's anger gets out of control—and he turns into the Hulk! ("So Hydra wants to rumble with Hulk, huh? Groovy! Then Hulk gets to bust some heads!!") Hulk jumps off, and days later he sees what he thinks is Cap, but it is an illusion that leads him to the famous Nega-Bands that take him to the Negative Zone, swapped with Captain Marvel.

And this time he tells his partner about his other self, and all goes well until he meets Annihilus in the Negative Zone! Rick is able to fight off becoming the Hulk, then the Kree/Skrull War ends like it did in the Avengers run. Rick is done with swapping with Mar-vell, but when Megaton attacks his girlfriend's uncle's lab, Rick secures some Nega Bands and gets CM to save the day. Girlfriend Lou Ann contacts Banner, who goes to Reed Richards for help, and they build the Gammatron as Mar-vell is knocked out, Rick is attacked by Annihilus again, and this time there's no one to save him! With one last-ditch effort, Rick concentrates, and forces himself once again to become the Hulk! ("Don't jive Hulk with fancy lingo, Bug-Man! Hulk doesn't dig it!") Before he can pound on "Bug-Man," Hulk is sent to Earth, as Mar-Vell reaches the limit he can stay on Earth—but a quick-thinking Hulk ("Hulk ain't no sissy—won't wear bracelets") smashes them together, then starts smashing Annihilus again! Richards and Banner, having found the two combatants in the Negative Zone, fire the Gammatron, which separates Rick and Hulk! Mr. Fantastic stretches to the limits to grab Rick and bring him out of the Zone. Hulk, meanwhile, is battling Annihilus ("Ha! You gonna pull switchblade on Hulk?"), who fires a Negato-Gun at the "man-monster," but it doesn't work and Hulk tosses a rock at the winged villain, then smashes him so hard, Annihilus is literally annihilated! Mar-vell ends up liberated, Rick ends up happy with Lou Ann, and Hulk is incredibly happy showing off for the denizens of the Negative Zone. --Joe Tura

Joe: "Perhaps the most awesome offbeat Hulk saga of this or any other year!" screams the cover, but wouldn't you want to think "Hulk smash, dude!" or "Hulk is the grooviest there is!" OK, maybe not, but it's better than the mutant face on Rick Jones on the cover. And the mutant faces continue on the inside, especially page 3, where Rick looks like he either can't open his eyes, or really has to poop. I don't think inker Bill Black, in his last Marvel credit according to the Marvel Database, is the right finisher for my beloved Sal B. because his stuff has never looked this bad. Luckily it's an uneven inking job so not every close-up is like a funhouse mirror and Sal shines through, especially in the fight scenes. The story is long, and packed with hilarious 60s teenager slang, so I apologize for the way too long recap because I just had to write some of the dialogue on the chalkboard for the class.

The happy ending, with no needless deaths (unless you're an Annihilus advocate that is) and only one career that didn't happen (General Ross), gives this issue a different spin than the usual. It's not as offbeat as the hyperbole on the cover, though it comes close. Many more hopped-up Hulk tales appeared later in Marveldom, such as Joe Fixit, Planet Hulk, Doctor Doom separating Hulk and Banner, the list goes on and on. All in all, besides the art issues and goofy at times script, I enjoyed this one quite a bit, for once just as much as 38 years ago.

Chris: At first, I thought Don Glut might recount what Rick had for breakfast before Captain America #110, and which records he listened to between Captain Marvel #33 and #34.  It’s fine to try to be thorough; but, the consequence of revisiting so many of these old stories is that the narrative becomes slow to develop.  The other problem is there is no difference in the outcome of many of these early stories – the Hulk still is duped into destroying the railroad bridge, the Avengers still join together, the Hulk still takes off right after the contracts have been drawn up and await his signature (lawyers still bill for their time, of course); Rick’s story remains the same as well, as he still travels to the Neg Zone, and still plays a valuable role in deciding the Kree-Skrull War.  The only change is Rick’s would-be beatnik patter, which seems extra strange coming from a set of jade jaws.

In order to have a legitimate What If? story, there has to be some point of divergence, and we finally have one during Cap and Rick’s battle with Hydra.  The story really takes off, though, once Rick is under threat by Annihilus; his change to the Hulk not only saves his life, but it also saves this issue.  The prospect of a Hulk vs Annihilus battle is very enticing; I can’t recall whether it ever happened in the mainstream Marvel universe, but I kinda doubt it.  We don’t even get an attempt at pseudo-science to explain how the Hulk persona could be separated from his human side; but, the notion of an unfettered Hulk at play in the fields of the Neg Zone is just as appealing as Don (& Roy) would hope it might be. 

Sal does his usual fine job; the fill-in for the Hulk’s monthly title might’ve been necessitated in part by Sal taking this longer-format assignment instead.  Bill Black does an adequate job as embellisher, although Annihilus certainly doesn’t look as menacing as he ought to (such as p 30, last three panels).  The lack of nasty facial details doesn’t lessen the impact of p 31, as Rick Hulks out on the Neg Bug. 

Scott: I loved this issue as a kid and it was a favorite for a long time. It inspired me to create my own, long gone, comic book called The Barbaric Hulk Boy. Len Banner, teenaged nephew of Bruce Banner, stumbles into Banner’s lab and is hit by Gamma Rays and deals with High School problems while turning green whenever he gets pissed. It’s as good as it sounds, considering it was written and drawn by a 5th grader. This issue hasn’t aged well. Rick/Hulk’s dialog is awful and frequently annoying. The overwrought and stereotypical slang grates. “Unless you wanna rumble!” “Don’t jive Hulk with fancy lingo!” Not to mention Rick’s own “FAN-tastic” every few minutes. This twisted Cliff Notes romp through Hulk history has good art, but that’s about it. The final panel is cornball city.

Mark: "Soldiers uncool! Soldiers don't fight fair...use shivs...heaters!"

Hulk/Rick's pseudo-JD jive-talkin' is just so wrong coming out of the Jade Giant's mouth, it leaves one's own mouth agape. Sure, it's funny, in a Plan 9 From Outer Space kinda way, but Rick was more Riverdale High than Blackboard Jungle back in '62. Six pages in and we're already goin' off the rails...

"From now on Hulk does solo gig...", p.15. Oh, god, I hope it's bongos instead of guitar!
Don Glut and Our Pal Sal hop-scotch haphazardly among Rick's checkered past (what, no Teen Brigade?) - a little would-be Bucky with Cap, a lotta bracelet-clanging switcheroo with Mar-Vell, the latter leading to more sparkling dialogue: "Hulk ain't no sissy - won't wear bracelets!" 
None of which sheds any new or poignant light into any nook or cranny of the Myriad Multiplying Marvel Meta-Realities. But since we narrowed our expectations for WI? down to Ant-Man-sized crumbs long ago, class, we're little the worse for wear. 
And just when we're beaten down to the point where we expect the "epic" to end with, oh, Rick Jones & the Mean Green headlining at Madison Square Garden, lo, an unexpected sunbeam at the finish line.
Hulk/Rick is a hero to the "little weirdoes" of the Negative Zone - having squashed Annihilus - and so, it's a Hulk-a-delic happy ending, after all.
But where's he gonna find some bongos?   

The Uncanny X-Men 116
"To Save the Savage Land"
Story by John Byrne and Chris Claremont
Art by John Byrne and Terry Austin
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by John Byrne and Terry Austin

The Savage Land is beginning to freeze over. Ka-Zar and Zabu take the X-Men to the source of the weather change: a giant metro-complex created by Garokk, the Petrified Man. He covered the geothermal source, which kept the Savage Land warm, and is using it to power his metropolis and keep himself energized. Suddenly, riders on flying prehistoric beasts swing down and capture Cyclops, Ka-Zar, Colossus and Banshee. Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler track them to the center of the temple and mount an attack. Cyclops and Garokk fight at the top of the dome as the Sun God draws power from the center of the Earth. Their battle upsets the delicate ecological balance and the dome collapses. Garokk and Scott fall into the possibly bottomless pit, when Banshee swoops down and rescues Cyclops. Storm goes after Garokk. She comes within inches of grabbing his hand but, because of her claustrophobia, she hesitates and is hit by debris and she loses him. Two weeks later, the X-Men leave via boat and sail right into the worst winter storm the region has seen in over a hundred years. -Scott McIntyre

Scott: One of the moments in this outstanding issue that always brings a smile is the scene between Wolverine and Zabu. He calmly and rather sweetly sits down and explains the situation to the tiger. He caps it off with a great wisecrack after Storm says there is more to him than meets the eye: “at my size, babe, that ain’t hard.” Then, just three panels later, after all this lightness, Wolverine kills a man in cold blood. To him it’s nothing, but to Storm and Nightcrawler, it’s shocking and sickening. Such fantastic characterization. There’s a reason why Wolverine became so popular. He’s fascinating! You really want to learn more about him. If there’s any real weakness here, it’s the villain. The Petrified Man is neither here nor there. He’s merely dull, firing off his speeches and mounting his grandiose plan but with no real dimension to him. He barely registers as a threat until the final Battle of the Optic Beams. However, his death is great in how it impacts Storm. She is no killer. Wolverine would have let him fall to his death, but Storm ignores her own phobia in an attempt to save her enemy. She fails and that failure hits her hard. The wordlessness of her reaction, the expression on her face, tells the story more than a monologue or soliloquy ever could. The final cliffhanger feels tacked on and unnecessary, but it’s all good. Not the best issue in the Claremont/Byrne run, but it falls short only in comparison to their earlier and later work. It’s still the best comic Marvel was publishing at the time.

Matthew: Zabu’s tête-à-tête with Wolverine was so exquisite, I had to read it several times.  My other favorite moment epitomizes what the ANADX-Men are all about.  Asked if he can teleport the entire distance to the dais in one go, Kurt thinks, “I’ve never tried it.  The strain could leave me weak as a kitten.”  But he just says, “Watch me,” and then does it.  I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the cityscape on pages 2-3; it clearly required a lot of work by John and Terry, yet perhaps its monochromatic nature blunted the impact.  Love the title-as-mountain-peak, the “snikts” and “bamfs” that give the strip its own lexicon, Peter’s “will I melt?,” Logan’s leadership—and the first we’ll hear of his healing factor and unbreakable bones.

That’s a good cue to return our attention to Peter Sanderson’s “Wolverine: The Evolution of a Character,” the exhaustive essay in the 1986 Incredible Hulk and Wolverine one-shot that I cited when reviewing its affordable reprints of his debut in Hulk #180-81.  “I consider my greatest contribution to Wolverine as a character to be the fact that he’s still around,” John Byrne related.  “Both Chris and Dave wanted to get rid of him, and I said, ‘No, no, no.  You’re not going to write the only Canadian out of the book now that you’ve got a Canadian drawing it!’  I have a habit of adopting one character in any book that I do and working the most on that particular character, and in this case I said, ‘Well, it might as well be the Canadian,’” as he told Sanderson.

Chris: We see two sides of Wolverine, as he quietly takes command of the city-infiltration unit in Cyclops’ absence, while retaining his savage nature (which apparently extends to a capacity to confab with Zabu – who knew?).  This follows an ironic moment, as Cyclops calls out to the team to watch each others’ backs, one second before he’s clonked out and carried off by a warrior on wingback (p 6).  Wolverine, who’s had his share of clashes with Cyclops over the team’s approach to a battle, or whether to avoid the fight altogether (as recently as XM #115, you’ll recall) could bask in the glow of leadership, and tell himself how he’ll prove to Cyke (and maybe, to Jean -?) that his decisions can be good ones; but instead, Wolverine is focused on the task at hand of “bustin’ our buddies free.”  He directs the effort, but doesn’t object when Storm washes out the lizard creatures – the ones that hadn’t already gotten a set of claws opened in their mouth, that is; you’re right, Wolverine, “he ain’t gonna try this trick again” (p 11). 

Pretty obvious art highlight on p 2-3, as Byrne & Austin covey the awesome scale of Garokk’s valley-spanning city.  So, I’ll move on to others: Nightcrawler, seen in the moment of his simultaneous disappearance and reappearance, delivering a blow to the face of a mounted warrior (p 5, last pnl); Wolverine, slashing the air in frustration as the riders head off into the distance (p 7, 1st pnl); Wolverine stalks the unsuspecting guard, followed by Kurt’s and Ororo’s revulsion (p 10, pnl 5 and 6); another effective depiction of an oversized object, as the tiny figures, and smoke plume – possibly a half-mile away – reinforce for us how large the arena is (p 14, last pnl); Cyclops fires a pin-point optic burst to knock the cover from Banshee’s mouth, Banshee then uses a focused sonic scream to break a guard’s spear, while Colossus, emitting a visible corona of heat, takes the fight to the guards (all on p 21!); Garokk, a super-fast rock-man, already is disappearing at the top of the stairs as Cyclops arrives at the bottom (p 22, pnl 4); the panels grow narrow around (claustrophobic) Ororo as she plunges down the shaft in pursuit of Garokk (p 27); Ororo stands alone, as Wolverine knew she would, after losing Garokk (p 30, last pal).

Mark: Maybe it's because I think weird "gods" with unpronounceable names should stick to Conan, but the best part of the first ten pages is Wolvie giving cat noogies to Zabu (didn't it use to be Sabu, or am I having another memory "episode?"). 

Matthew: You’re probably thinking of Indian actor Sabu, who appeared in The Thief of Bagdad and as Mowgli in The Jungle Book.

Mark: Sure, Garokk (a name straight outta the Stan Lee phrase book) looks cool, but where did an ancient "petrified man" get the technological wizardry to whip up a city that looks like Isaac Asimov cover art? Shut up, kid, and gawk at the Pterodactyls... 

But The Eye-Zap war is effective if convenient, and Claremont gives character-depth to Garokk (who's doing right by his lights: "I have seen death and suffering enough to make God himself despair. And I have sworn to see it ended!") unusual among the Ancient Deities Reborn set. There's more angst for Storm, and a long-form story continues to unfold, serial-like, as the X-ers sail from the Savage Land into savage storm.

Rock on, boys.

Also This Month

Crazy #45
Devil Dinosaur #9 (Final Issue)
Flintstones #8
Human Fly #16
Kid Colt Outlaw #227
< Machine Man #9
Marvel Classics Comics #36
Marvel Super-Heroes #77
Marvel Super Action #11
Marvel Tales #98
Marvel Triple Action #45
Scooby-Doo #8

Machine Man demonstrates how he survived the A-bomb blast that destroyed the Corporation facility where he had been held prisoner (basically, he used his hand-blaster to instantly carve a protective silo into the ground below his feet).  The Corporation won’t rest, as they recruit Konik, their high-tech weapons thief, to acquire the one-and-only Machine Man.  Konik masquerades as a lawyer preparing to act as defense for Aaron Stack, but Machine Man detects an unnatural metal object in Konik’s pocket.  He disarms Konik of his sonic pistol, but isn’t prepared for a plastic device that fires shock blasts, or for a solar lens that turns Dr Spaulding’s office into an inferno!  Machine Man creates a vacuum with a blast from his hand weapons-system, only to find Konik has escaped the conflagration via a waiting helicopter (hovering outside the window, perhaps?).  Machine Man recognizes the Corporation likely will try again to snatch him, so he vows instead to destroy the nefarious organisation.

The cover hawks a “dramatic turning point in the living robot’s career,” and it doth speak truth, since this is the final issue by creator Jack Kirby; Machine Man’s anti-Corporation crusade will continue in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.  Kirby has brought his typical enthusiasm to this character; the visuals have been fun to pore over, even though the fun has involved battle-action and fanciful gizmos, rather than the grand scale that typified his Eternals tales.  (Note: our armadillo promises this series could be revived, based on fan support, sales trends, etc; in fact, Machine Man #10 will arrive in 1979 with an August pub date.  Reserve your copy today!) -Chris Blake


The Hulk! 12
Cover Art by Joseph Jusko

“The Color of Hate”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Ron Wilson and Ernie Chan
“Embassy of Fear”
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Keith Pollard, Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito
“Green Muscles”
“Readers Rampage”

Before we dive in, spend some time with Joe Jusko’s amazing cover — it’s all downhill after that. Well, except for maybe John Romita Jr.’s pretty cool frontispiece.

The main plot of the 28-page “The Color of Hate” is so flimsy it can be covered in just a few sentences. After last issue, Mr. Torrance was arrested for abusing lil’ Todd Gregory and his traveling carnival has been seized and shuttered by creditors. The now unemployed strongman Bruno finds an ad in a Chicago newspaper calling for prime physical specimens to take part in exo-biology experiments. He heads to the Windy City, hooks up with Dr. Cranston and is fitted with the scientist’s exo-skeleton, gaining incredible strength and leaping ability. When Bruno hears that the circus-smashing Hulk is in town as well, he tracks the green goliath to Soldier’s Field. (Note to Doug Moench: it’s Soldier Field.) Their violent battle is fairly even at first, but, as we know, Jade Jaws gets stronger the angrier he gets, so Bruno’s suit is soon smashed and he is knocked unconscious. When the strongman finally comes to, the Hulk has turned into the exhausted Banner: but before he can beat Bruce to death, the Chicago PD shows up and guns Bruno down.

I’ve always turned my nose up at stories where the villain is a normal slob who gets his amazing powers from some type of scientific doodad: they’ve always struck me as a cheat. And this one stinks like a marked card. There are a few pages of Cranston running the suped-up Bruno through his paces. One panel has him easily hefting 8000-pound dumbbells. Well, at least I think they are 8000: they could be 3000 pounds since the number is obscured by the clumsily placed word balloon. Anyways, I’m no Joe Weider, but where the heck do you get 8000, even 3000 pound barbells? The Sports Authority on Skull Island? It’s ridiculous. And the flimsy-looking exo-skeleton offers the protection of a tutu, so now matter how strong Bruno is, he wouldn’t last two seconds in a tussle with our hero. Not that it’s much of a battle, but it’s still stoopid. Plus, quite the coincidence that the Hulkster happens to stomp into Chicago at the exact same time that Bruno is getting his upgrade.

But that’s not what Man-of-the-Downtrodden Doug is ultimately after with “The Color of Hate.” No, my friends, it’s time for a little soapboxing about racism. Now that’s all well and good, but in this context it’s about as ham-fisted as it gets. When the leaping Hulk lands in Chicago, he comes between a couple of beat cops hassling some young black teens who were just chillin’ on the front steps of their tenement — the goliath tosses their patrol car and the pigs hoof on outta there. What’s weird about the whole sequence is that Ron Wilson and Ernie Chan unmistakably draw the policemen as white crackers but they are colored as African Americans. Huh? Our next lesson comes from the other side of the fence as Banner is nearly killed when the ubiquitous “Uncle Tom” character tries to sneak him past a black street gang. See kids, racism works both ways. Moench did actually surprise me: since we’ve had white-on-black and black-on-white abuse, I was bracing myself for the moment when Bruno insulted Hulk’s green skin. But it never came, thank Jebus. Ron Wilson’s pencils are, as usual, clumsy and uninteresting — but with Ernie on the scene, things look professional at least.
Doug Moench returns with the 20-page “Embassy of Fear,” continuing the needlessly convoluted “Graven Image of Death” tale from last issue. Swinging through a front window of the mansion owned by the recently murdered Joel Luxor, Moon Knight comes across the crazed museum curator Fenton Crane standing over his associate Marlene — he has already wounded her in the arm with an antique musket and is preparing his next shot. Crane rants that Luxor had offered to buy the priceless Horus Statuette from him after he stole it from the Natural History Museum. But the millionaire double-crossed the curator and stole it himself, cutting out the middleman. After the hero pummels Crane, he smashes the fake statuette found in Luxor’s den and discovers the business card of Alphonse LeRoux, the Chilean ambassador, inside.

Days later, Moon Knight takes on his jet-setting Steven Grant persona and crashes a party he knows LeRoux is attending. There he approaches the diplomat and, on a hunch, offers to buy the Horus icon. The Chilean tells Grant to meet him at his embassy at midnight. The Knight arrives at the private fortress 20 minutes early, traps the guard dogs in their kennel and steals inside the grand building. He quickly finds the real Horus Statuette and overhears LeRoux on the phone in the next room: the shady character says that his men will rough up Grant before the sale to make sure that he doesn’t know too much.

The ghostly vigilante returns outside and is confronted by LeRoux’s guards: after a pitched battle, the goons are incapacitated. Alerted by the ruckus, the ambassador arrives on the scene to find Steven Grant standing among his unconscious guards. Grant offers a half a million dollars for the statue. But he will choose the courier to deliver the money to LeRoux’s terrorist friends — the Moon Knight.

Like part one, this chapter is far too complicated. But at least last time we could enjoy the dark and moody art of Gene Colan and Tony DeZuniga: here, the team of Keith Pollard, Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito offers bland illustrations that are much too bright. Sheesh, even the midnight assault of the Chilean embassy looks like it takes place at high noon. Where are all the shadows that a Moon Knight tale requires? And Moench has our hero making out-of-left-field assumptions at nearly every turn. When Moonie finds LeRoux’s card in the fake, he leaps to the conclusion that the ambassador has the real statue. Why? Even more, why would the diplomat incriminate himself in the first place? And LeRoux never mentions terrorists during his phone call — but that’s who Grant decides he was talking to. Again, why? Couldn’t it have been the mafia? Dr. Doom? Plus, I groaned when Marlene says “it’s about time, lover” when Moon Knight leaps through Luxor’s front window. She’s on the floor right in front of Fenton Crane and actually calls him “lover?” A little loose with the whole secret -identity thing, no? While Moench will continue to script these Moon Knight backups, Bill Sienkiewicz makes his debut next issue. Now it will take some time until Bill rounds into form, but he will soon make the character his own and become one of the most uniquely stylish artists this side of Frank Miller. I can already hear Professor Bradley sharpening his knives. 

The Hulk! #12 also includes an uncredited text piece, “Green Muscles,” subtitled “Lou Ferrigno tells all about his strength, his career, his new identity.” In the three-page interview, Big Lou claims that he was an avid Marvel reader for years and originally got into bodybuilding because he wanted to look like a superhero. Plus, while filming The Incredible Hulk CBS show, he arrives at 5 AM and doesn’t get home until 10 at night — and that includes two hours of gym time each day to keep in shape. That’s about all I found halfway interesting.

The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian 36
December 1978
Cover Art by Earl Norem
“Hawks Over Shem”
Script by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala
“A Gazetteer of the Hyborian Age: Part V”
Text by Lee Falconer
“Swords and Scrolls”

The last month of 1978 was a banner one for Marvel fans of Robert E. Howard’s immortal barbarian. In the December issue of the color comic, Bêlit’s long-gestating revenge on the king of Asgalun, her uncle Nim-Karrak, came to a magnificent conclusion — even though his death was basically at the hands of Zula. And here, in the black-and-white pages of Savage Sword, The Rascally One has Conan returning to Asgalun two years later in an adaptation of “Hawks Over Shem,” originally published in the 1955 issue of Fantastic Universe magazine. For “Hawks,” L. Sprague de Camp modified Howard’s “Hawks Over Egypt,” changing the setting and main character from Diego de Guzman to the Cimmerian. 

But there is some bad news in the mix: Savage Sword #36 marks the last time that the name Alfredo Alcala will be appearing in the magazine’s credits during the Marvel University curriculum. So let’s have a Savage moment of silence for the most talented inker of the period.

At this point in Conan’s life, he’s the sole survivor of the army of King Sumuabi of Akkharis, a city-state in southern Shem. After Sumuabi’s forces were wiped out due to the treachery of General Othbaal, the vengeful warrior tracks the traitor to Asgalun, the capitol of the Shemitish region of Pelishtia. Now this is a highly tricky proposition: when he was known as Amra, the Cimmerian pillaged the shores of Shem with Bêlit and her Black Corsairs. So, if he is recognized, the gallows will be waiting. 

Under the cover of night, Conan strides through the city’s dark alleyways, coming across a bearded solider named Farouz. The Hyrkanian mistakes the Cimmerian for an assassin and a violent misunderstanding ensues. However, the men actually stalking Farouz soon appear, a gang of black Kushites. Conan and the Hyrkanian quickly form an alliance and manage to slay all four, dumping their bodies in a ruined well — but not before Farouz relieves one of them, Keluka the Sworder, of his ornate ring. 

In thanks, the soldier takes the barbarian to a well-hidden tavern and provides the lay of the troubled land. After Conan and Bêlit rode off two years earlier, the She-Devil left the simpering fool Uriaz in charge. But days later, Uriaz’s insane brother Akhîrom stormed into the capital with Othbaal and his army of Anakim warriors, murdered the new king and took the throne. Since then, the populace has suffered under the current monarch’s iron fist: among other random rules, candlelight is prohibited as are wine and games of chance. And Akhîrom himself prowls the night to ensure that his mad laws are upheld.

Besides the unhinged monarch, others wield power within the beleaguered city. In addition to Othbaal and his Anakim army, Imbalayo and his menacing Kushites remain. Plus, General Mazdak commands a legion of Hyrkanian horse soldiers. And there are two calculating women in the deadly mix as well. A dark Stygian witch named Zeriti has the king’s ear while Othbaal is influenced by the beauteous slave-girl Rufia, won in a poker game from Mazdak.

His tale told, Farouz asks Conan his intentions: when the Cimmerian states that he is here to take revenge on Othbaal, the Hyrkanian responds that he too seeks the general’s head. Through a secret passageway, they steal into Othbaal’s palace, formerly Uriaz’s pleasure-house. They soon find Othbaal in his bedchambers, the ravishing Rufia at his side. While the woman escapes through a hidden door, Conan kills the Anakim leader — Farouz places Keluka’s ring by the corpse and they escape through the same exit as Rufia. As they race to safety, the Hyrkanian remarks that the Anakims will now think that Imbalayo’s Kushites are responsible for their leader's death. Conan laughs, answering that he knew that Farouz was actually General Mazdak all along.

Meanwhile, in violation of the curfew, the shaken Rufia wanders the deserted streets: she soon encounters the deranged Akhîrom, on patrol for rule-violators — his Kushite guards drag her to his palace. Knowing that she will soon be killed, the resourceful slave proclaims that the king is now on par with the gods. The deranged Akhîrom gleefully agrees, naming himself the One True God of Pelishtia. Next day, the ruler executes Abdashtarth, the High Priest of Pteor, in the city square, igniting the highly flammable crowd. They erupt in rebellion: the Anakim and Kushites join forces and try to hold the overpowering crowd at bay — even though their already fragile treaty is threatened by the murder of Othbaal. 

Back at the throne room, Akhîrom comes to the decision that a true deity does not need sexual gratification and gives Rufia to the leering Imbalayo. As he carries her to his chambers, the Kushite is approached by the witch Zeriti: furious that the blonde-haired slave usurped the attention of king, she offers to buy the woman from the warrior, adding that she could easily wipe any doubt from the minds of the Anakim that his men were responsible for the death of their general. Even though he protests his innocence, Imbalayo reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, Conan, smitten by Rufia’s beauty, realizes that the Stygian sorceress might be a useful pawn to steal her from under Akhîrom’s nose — after beating the directions out of a Hyrkanian, he heads to Zeriti’s house.

As the rebellion reaches a fevered pitch outside, Zeriti tires of whipping Rufia in her chambers and conjures up the coup de grace: a black, billowing cloud with glowing eyes in its center. But Imbalayo bursts into the room, demanding the return of the slave-girl. The Stygian witch leaps forward with her dagger but the Kushite easily runs her through with his scimitar. Conan arrives at the same time and attacks Imbalayo — the black man recognizes the Cimmerian as the legendary Amra. During their brutal exchange, the barbarian’s sword, weakened by dozens of notches, snaps: but before the Kushite can press the advantage, he is swept up by Zeriti’s demon cloud. The dark phantom pulverizes his bones and innards and the agonized Imbalayo collapses to the ground like a deflated sack of skin.

General Madzak then appears. Panicked, he informs Conan that the populace has revolted and the Anakim have joined them against the Kushites. The Cimmerian suggests that Madzak join the revolution and overthrow Akhîrom — with Othbaal and Imbalayo dead, he will be the only general left standing in Asgalun. The Hyrkanian agrees to the plan and heads out to marshal his troops. Suddenly, Zeriti rises from her falling place with a croak: still hanging on to life she vows to reveal to the Asgalunim that he is the pirate known as Amra. She creates a wall of fire and makes her escape. Conan, realizing that his life is now in danger, gathers up as much treasure as he can carry from the Stygian’s coffers and rides from the city with Rufia at his side.

Back in Asgalun, the citizens — led by Madzak and his Hyrkanian soldiers — storm the palace as Akhîrom flees to the roof. When he is finally cornered by the bloodthirsty mob, he vows, as a god, to show his divine powers and fly to safety. He leaps off the ledge and plummets to his death below.

Even if this weren’t one of the best Savage Swords in recent memory, I’d rank it very high on the all-time list. I’m simply tickled that Roy followed up this month’s excellent Conan the Barbarian with an epic tale that continues many of the same plot points and features a handful of the same memorable characters — but set two years down the line. It’s hard not to be super impressed by Thomas’ amazing sense of timing and the way he crafted the perfect sword-and-sorcery synergy. At 51 pages, the complex and interlocking story dramatically unfolds until the rebellion takes hold: then the breathless action ratchets up and keeps its foot to your throat until the boffo conclusion. Now while Conan initially risked his neck and returns to Asgalun to take his revenge on General Othbaal, he starts thinking with his nether regions when he lays eyes on the sexy Rufia. Hasn’t he had enough trim at this point that he could have exited stage left after killing his prey? But I guess that’s just part of the big guy’s charm. Though he does beat feet instead of hanging around and milking Madzak for all he’s worth after the dust settles.

As I’ve mentioned, this is sadly the last we’ll see of the great Alfredo Alcala in the pages of Savage Sword
 — at least those within the Marvel University time frame. I’ve heaped praise on the Big John/Alfredo team at every opportunity and I’m not gonna put down my shovel of love at this point. Fabulous, wonderful stuff. Tony DeZuniga handles the majority of the inking for the last eleven issues I’ll be covering. Rudy Nebres and Joe Rubinstein chip in as well. 

Things wrap up with Part V of the long-running “A Gazetteer of the Hyborian Age including The World of Kull and An Ethnogeographical Dictionary.” This installment runs from “L” to “M,” covering “Lake Ho” to “Mu.” No, not this website — though at this point, we have earned an entry — but “a land of pre-Cataclysmic times.”

For some reason, Savage Sword
 skips next month so we’ll see you next time in February 1979.

Marvel Comics Super Special 6: Jaws 2
Cover Art by Bob Larkin
“From the ‘Jaws’ of Disaster by the Skin of His Teeth”
Text by Steve Swires
“Jaws 2”
Story by Richard Marschall
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by Irving Watanabe
“An Editorial”
Text by Richard Marschall
While I think the movie is perfectly fine, it’s rare to come across someone who really champions 1978’s Jaws 2. But let’s not forget: plenty of people paid for a ticket since it was the most successful sequel ever made — at least until The Empire Strikes Back rolled around two years later. And it did spawn one of the most famous taglines in history: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”

It seems like much of the cast and crew were lukewarm on the movie as well. Steven Spielberg flatly refused the assignment and the original director, the little-known John D. Hancock (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
), was fired when MCA executive Sid Sheinberg wanted his wife Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody) to jump in a boat and help rescue the kids during the shoot. Producer Richard D. Zanuck laughed at the request and Hancock was somehow the casualty of the power play that erupted. Plus, star Roy Scheider (returning from Jaws as Police Chief Martin Brody) only signed on to complete his three-film contract with Universal. And while most of the filming took place at Navarre Beach in Florida, some scenes were filmed in Martha’s Vineyard like the original: but at this point, many of the residents took to wearing “Universal Go Home” t-shirts.

After Hancock was fired, another relatively inexperienced director, Jeannot Szwarc (Bug
), was roped in to direct. Production designer Joe Alves had worked with Szwarc on the Night Gallery television show and recommended him for the job. Super Special #6 kicks off with “From the ‘Jaws’ of Disaster by the Skin of His Teeth,” a three-page interview with Szwarc — and he comes across like a complete blowhard. At one point he states “I’m capable of extraordinary intellectuality.” Sheesh. He does admit that “Jaws 2 is not a picture that’s going to be studied in film schools for years to come.” But then he shoots himself in the foot by adding “and that applies to the first one as well.” Oh really?

As for the adaptation itself, Richard Marschall worked from an early script by Dorothy Tristan and Howard Sackler — instead of the final draft by Carl Gottleib and Howard Sackler — and it’s actually missing some of the best scenes from what ended up on screen. For example:

• The jump scare when Chief Brody stumbles across the burnt corpse on the beach

• The sequence where Brody mistakes a school of bluefish for the shark

• The development of the photograph that confirms that a Great White is on the loose once again

Sadly, we do get an overdose of the kids. It seems that the original tack was to make the sequel appeal to the teen set, always a bad choice — perhaps not for the box office though. If I remember correctly, a lot more of them get chomped in the magazine so that’s a check in the positive column.

The art is of the high quality you would expect from the legendary team of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer — obviously with a more sunnier setting than the dark Tomb of Dracula. But I’d wager that Super Special #6 spills more blood than 15 issues of Tomb. Bruce II is not satisfied with a dozen or so gory human kills, the shark devours a killer whale, assorted big game fish and a helicopter. Plus, Colan’s Great White might as well have wings since it completely leaps out of the water on not one, not two, but ten different occasions — including the fatal electrical cable jump at the conclusion. It’s hard to tell if Gene and Tom tried to capture the look of the cast: sometimes Roy Scheider’s trademark schnoz makes an appearance but he often resembles Robert Mitchum. The annoying Brody kids look accurate as do the sleazy suit jackets of Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton). The hamstrung Ellen Brody appears in a few panels and she’s a generic blonde.

In all, Super Special
 #6 is fairly blah, much like the movie that inspired it. But the big takeaway — at least according to Marschall’s brief, one-column “An Editorial” — is the introduction of Marvelcolor. In a regular comic, the pencils are completely inked and then filled in with color, like a coloring book. But with the Marvelcolor technique, Palmer half-inked Colan’s art and then, using a brush, let the colors do most of the heavy lifting. This month The Hulk! magazine gets the same treatment. I must admit, you can tell the different. The artwork has a much more painterly feel.


  1. I still love the MoKF of this month, a perfect breather between the action. At times overwritten and so purple on the prose it seems to stain the fingers. And still it humanizes our characters.I don't mind the Mac. Doug constantly grounded the book with the inclusion of pop-culture in reality.

    Same goes für Iron Man. Suddenly Tony as a playboy and a no-nonsense industrialist became more real with Micheline/Layton. Even if the first appearance of Beth is terrible; she looks awful. The plot with the failed take-over of Stark International by Fury is the reason I never could get into Marvel's Civil War. Stark taking the pro-Government side? Um, no.

    It is remarkable how big the quality in the books differs now. On the top you get X-Men, Conan, Dracula and SSoC, then there is a big heap of mediocrity, of middle of the roads writers and artists who never reach the long term success of Thomas, Starlin, Gerber or Englehart. And still it was better than DC.

  2. i loved the stargod manwolf comics.
    cosmic manwolf made an appearance in the ultimate spiderman cartoon too