Wednesday, October 26, 2016

April 1979 Part One: The Astonishing Ant-Man!

The Avengers 182
"Honor Thy Father"
Story by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne and Klaus Janson
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Diana Albers
Cover by Al Milgrom and Bob Layton

When Dr. Donald Blake informs the Avengers that it seems as though the very souls of Wanda and Pietro have been stolen, the group is stymied. Fortunately, Jocasta picks up an "organic energy flux" and the team is able to trace it to a rooming house in the Bowery. Meanwhile, in that aforementioned rooming house, the old man holding Wanda and Pietro's essence in two small puppets explains his origin to the baffled heroes. His name is Django Maximoff, a European gypsy (with magical powers thanks to a talisman known as the Nivashi Stone) who had a wife and two very special children, Mateo and Ana. People of the village torched Maximoff's camp and killed his wife after the gypsy stole food; the children fled. Years later, still searching for Mateo and Ana, Maximoff read of the adventures of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver and is now convinced they are his long-lost children. The Avengers arrive and Maximoff animates man-size puppets to battle them but the heroes make quick work of the wooden dummies. When the last mannikin has been reduced to a pile of balsa, the group turns their attention to the old gypsy. The Vision destroys the Nivashi Stone, returning the souls of the Witch and 'silver to their bodies. Wanda requests a leave of absence from the super-group, explaining that some of what the old man had told her was intriguing and needs investigating. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Much better than its opening chapter, this story feels so much like what I suspect it is: a landmark story (I'm only hypothesizing that based on the twins' surnames in Avengers: Age of Ultron - No-Homework-Pete) that will resonate for years to come. Of course, I could be wrong about that (not having read any Marvel funny books since the mid-70s save Miller's DD) but what I'm not wrong about is the feel and flow of this adventure. I was expecting just another return of the Puppet Master but Michelinie gives us so much more. The art of Byrneson is firing on all cylinders, especially with the almost horror-story-esque depictions of the puppets. Wanda's desire to dig up info on her roots is the best plot device this zine has seen in months (maybe years) so I'm ready to read more. Then I get to the banner announcing that next issue sees the return of the Absorbing Man and I sigh, realizing it's all been a tease. Do you think that cover is busy enough?

Joe Tura: One thing's for sure: nobody draws "voluptuous robots" like John Byrne. Seriously, he makes Jocasta look like the Avengers will all think Ultron's one lucky evil SOB. And she flummoxes Gyrich by asking about regulations, which give us another reason to praise the metal moll. But that's just the beginning of a fine chapter that explains a little more of Wanda and Pietro's back story. Maybe. Who knows actually? Do we believe Ana and Mateo are real, or is this old puppeteer controlled by the powerful stone he yields? Meanwhile, Hawkeye and Beast are competing for the title of "Wisecracking Avenger," but Beast is much more jovial in his normally intelligent barbs, while Mr. Barton couldn't get that chip off his shoulder if he shot an arrow at it. One thing bothers me, though: how can a puppet eat a cookie? That's some magical puppet—or a damn good cookie.

Matthew Bradley: In the waning years of the Bronze Era, we take our satisfaction where we can get it, so as a continuity freak, I found mine for this issue when Michelinie confirmed that it was indeed ol’ Django—the second of at least three fathers for our mutant siblings—who facilitated the Mr. Doll/Brothers Grimm fiasco revealed in Spider-Woman #12.  Byrnson is not a pairing I’d consider advisable, and murky moments like page 14, panel 5; page 22, panel 7; and page 27, panel 5 demonstrate why.  However, John rarely seems to be completely defeated by any inker (unlike, say, Earth’s Most Easily Humbled Heroes), and that reality-bending shot of the metallic Assemblers entering Maximoff’s digs in the “scruffy rooming house” is really pretty impressive.

Chris Blake: It’s a curious issue, as it answers some questions, but opens up a batch of new ones.  How much of old Mr Maximoff’s story is true?  How are Wanda and Pietro supposed to reconcile their memories of having been the Franks’ children with this new information?  I admit to reading this issue with some regret this time, as I realized I probably wouldn’t be seeing Wonder Man, Yellowjacket, and Hawkeye again in these pages for awhile.  On a different note, I’m reasonably certain this is the first time we’ve seen Jocasta take an active role with the team.

The art doesn’t quite work; there are very few instances that call for pairing John Byrne with Klaus Janson, and an Avengers story certainly isn’t one of them.  If the team had been fighting the mannequins in an alleyway on a foggy midnight, then Janson would conceivably be a perfect choice; for a mid-day clash, his selection is harder to understand.  During my peak Marvel-mania, I recall having developed a fairly strong dislike for Janson’s embellishment, and the ill-defined faces and objects here went a long ways toward inspiring my bias.  The problem is similar to Janson’s inks for Sal Buscema in Avengers #172, which left us with indistinct, murky finishes.  This isn’t quite as problem-plagued as that one had been, but it’s close.
 It's not all Janson’s fault though, as sad to say, this is hardly Byrne's best effort; Byrne seems to have rushed thru a few pages, such as 15-16, leaving them virtually devoid of backgrounds.  Well, since we’re talking about Byrne, it would be unfair not to identify a few highlights, so here goes:  hmmm … the Toad swallowing Hank & Jan is cleverly done (p 23); clever moment also when the team clears their heads and finds themselves all together in one room, still back in the flophouse (p 26); and, cool look at the Vision (well, how could it not be) as he rises from the ground and arrests Maximoff’s flight (p 27).

Conan the Barbarian 97 
“The Long Night of Fang and Talon Part Two”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chan
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by John Buscema and Ernie Chan

Answering the call of Ajaga the Beast King, scores of ravenous animals crawl, slither and lope towards Conan, who is tied to the altar of Jhebbal Sag and soon to be the latest victim of the Bloodmoon Ritual. Bêlit and the mighty black lion Sholo arrive and leap into the fray — the She-Devil’s boot catches Ajaga in the chest and he falls, knocked unconscious when his head smashes into a jagged rock. The jungle cat, however, is held at bay by one of the ancient symbols of Jhebbal Sag — the original Beast King — carved into the ground. Ajaga’s warriors, led by brothers Krato and Beeya, launch their spears as Bêlit rushes to untie her lover.

As the Cimmerian is freed, Ajaga slowly rouses, horrified to see that the creatures he has summoned — cheetahs, baboons, alligators, snakes and others — have gathered around him. He tries to speak their tongues, but is still too dazed to form the correct words: his former subjects pounce and tear him to pieces. After Ajaga is devoured, the animals turn on one another in a ferocious melee of slashing teeth and claws. Ignoring the carnage, Conan, Bêlit and Sholo charge the Beast King’s confused warriors. When Krato gets the jump on the barbarian, the jungle cat leaps to his defense: the ebony warrior is killed by a vicious bite to the face but still manages to run his spear through Sholo’s belly, fatally wounding the fierce feline. Vowing revenge for his brother, Beeya rallies the remaining men but M’Gora and a force of Black Corsairs suddenly appear and the Beast King’s men are slaughtered — Beeya does manage to escape. After burying Sholo, the Cimmerian and Bêlit free the captured Corsairs and the kidnapped Black Coast princesses. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: The Rascally One wraps up the four-part saga of Ajaga the Beast King — who doesn’t even manage to make it through half of the fourth and final chapter. I never felt fully engaged with this storyline, perhaps still buzzing from the ending of the Luxor epic in issue #93 and unable to gear up for another fairly lengthy arc. The return of Sholo was the highlight, but I had a sense that the big cat wouldn’t make it through to the end. Conan’s grief over the death of his furry friend was touching and a rare moment of raw emotion for the somber Cimmerian. 

There are quite a few panels devoted to the animals tearing one another apart after they are freed from Ajaga’s spell. It’s rough stuff, with Big John not shying away from shocking images of bloody biting and slashing. It’s probably the first and last time you’ll see an alligator chomping down on an eagle’s wing. The survivors basically disperse after things calm down and leave the fighting to the humans. I was a bit confused to see that M’Gora led the charge of the Corsairs: I thought he had left with Zula in #94. Maybe I read things wrong — but it is his first appearance since that issue so something was up. Roy delivers another one of his masterful touches with Beeya: he returns two decades later to threaten the barbarian’s life in the dungeon of Tsotha-Lanti in the amazing The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #30. He’s basically a throwaway character in both instances, so it’s borderline genius that Thomas would take the time to connect the dots. 

Chris: If Conan can be said to be wise, it’s in his ability to live fully in the moment, while he also recognizes how circumstances and fortunes can change with little warning; the right degree of forethought affords him the chance to take advantage of any change in fortune’s whiles.  Roy, playing omniscient narrator, peers ahead as – in sharp contrast – he considers Ajaga of Abombi and his narrow opportunity to seize control of the Black Coast; but, having failed in his attempt, Abombi instead is destined “to pass from the scene, and into the fragile memory of man.”  Another very effective moment is Roy’s observation that the attack of the beasts might be fodder for legends, but the stories could never match the ferocity of the seminal event itself.  

Buscema & Chan do everything possible to sell this moment.  First we witness the unnatural, inexorable approach of the predators and scavengers (p 2), then see as Ajaga appears in complete command of the situation, and the deadly creatures he has summoned (p 6).  But, the timely arrival of Bêlit and Sholo upsets the balance, and turns fortune’s wheel back onto Ajaga, as his moment of confusion gives way to panic, and he is undone by his own plot; “the Feast of Bloodmoon will be held, indeed, this night” (p 15).  Big John & Ernie aren’t through yet, though, as they make the situation even more horrific when the blood-crazed creatures turn on one another; the chaotic sight of crocodiles biting eagles, and snakes crushing hyenas and panthers, reminds me of pre-Renaissance imaginings of some beast-infested level of Hell, or perhaps the end of the world itself. 

Captain America 232
"The Flame and the Fury"
Story by Roger McKenzie and Jim Shooter
Art by Sal Buscema and Don Perlin
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Elaine Heinl
Cover by Keith Pollard and Al Milgrom

Though it appeared she was blowed up real good in a car explosion (last issue), Peggy Carter is thrown clear but sustains life-threatening injuries. Cap manages to overpower the two National Force goons and gets an ambulance for Peggy. While interrogating the thugs, Cap watches in horror as they both commit suicide by spontaneous combustion. In an effort to track the kidnapped Sharon Carter, Cap visits the Commissioner of police in the cop uni he hasn't worn in "months." Unfortunately, the Commish can be of no help and Cap is on his own. A stoolie tells the Avenger that the only man who might be of help finding the NF is ghetto crime king Morgan, so Cap pays the big man a visit. Though Cap tells Morgan it's to his benefit to reveal all about the hate group, Morgan insists he ain't playin' with no damn superheroes. Just then, one of Morgan's thugs bursts in and informs his boss that the NF is marching on Harlem. [How convenient. --MRB] Cap heads out and Morgan orders his men to "blast that National Force scum off our turf!" and, should the honky mofo America get in the way, "gun him down!" Meanwhile, across town, the leader of NF, the Grand Director, seems a bit confused as he takes orders from the real NF head honcho (to be unshadowed at a later date). Back at the Harlem riot, Cap is a little perturbed to discover the NF have brainwashed Sharon and she's leading the marching marauders. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Cap thinks going in to the commissioner's office dressed as Steve Rogers, cop, won't turn any heads. How does that work? He hasn't moonlighted since (Editor Roger Stern notes) issue #152! Oh, no one should notice! And I'm not really sure what was to gain by the visit anyway. In the end, Steve dumps his uni on the Commish's floor and leaps out the window in his Cap gear. So subtle. Though the story seems to be meandering and not a lot of questions answered, I'm still intrigued by all the subplots and drama. Who is the shadowy head of NF? What's with the confused monologue from the Grand Director ("I am cleansing the weaknesses which threaten to destroy America... eliminating discordant elements... purifying her essence... and all that stuff!") who, previously, seemed as if he knew exactly what road he was traveling down and how to accomplish his goals? Is Cap still on the police payroll? And, perhaps most importantly, can Cap ever have an inner conversation without resorting to self-pity ("The world has moved on without me... again!")?

Matthew: This is a seriously sorry-ass issue, with the Wad-Shooter throwing his weight around as co-scripter and “boss”; wouldn’t boast about that if I were you.  They appear to be going for another one of those stock-taking/back-to-basics dealios—not entirely unwelcome after all of the Post-Kirby Kaos, albeit a bit belated—but the execution is an epic fail, giving Sal and Don so little to do that they presumably shrugged their shoulders, punched the clock, and picked up their paychecks.  “The Flame and the Fury!” is a great title…as it was when Stan used it for Silver Surfer #15 (April 1970), and I hope nobody expects us to be surprised at the identity of our red-haired, cigarette-holder-using mastermind…who has his lackey lie down on the couch.

“Hey, Sarge, what is this?  We don’t work for that glory-hunting—”  This seems to come completely out of left field, given the respect we’d expect from cop to Cap, until you get to page 14 and realize that McKenz-EIC were setting up an artificial contrast with the grateful cabbie/vet on page 10:  “Only old men call me ‘hero’ today!  Young folks think I’m a ‘glory hunter’!”  Cap cavalierly walks into Steve’s apartment, forcing me to ask again, is he trying to blow the world’s worst-kept secret i.d.?  On the next page, he thinks, “We haven’t been too secretive about our relationship,” which he suddenly frets is less real than his wartime fling with Peggy, and Carl’s phonetically stuffed-nose dialogue makes his already overlong two-page scene quite unbearable.

Morgan caps it all off:  “Figures you’d run into friends of yours under those hoods, honky!”  Um, am I wrong, or was Cap/Falc the first interracial super-hero partnership, and probably the only one for some time?  But the “best” part begins on page 14 as Steve pulls his police uniform out of mothballs, thinking, “It’s been months since I used this…”  If the footnote is to be believed, EIGHTY months.  The Sarge (no, not that one) rants, “You’re lucky you still have your job, Rogers!”  That’s a neat trick without showing up for more than six years, even allowing for the real-/Marvel-time conversion, and does he really still qualify as a rookie?  Then, after chatting with the useless Commissioner, he abruptly dumps the outfit—leaving us right where we started!

Chris: McKenzie & Shooter leave us with an exciting cliffhanger, but they take too long to reach this point.  Cap makes a useful observation when he realizes he can move around without drawing too much attention, and gain access to the Commissioner’s office, if he’s dressed in his old patrolman’s uniform.  Once the Commissioner admits his hands are tied by higher-ups, though, I thought Cap had bounded out the window in search of this corrupt official, not some petty drug fiend.  We then might’ve followed Cap in a failed effort to discover the identity of this official; in the process, though, Cap might’ve discovered “word on the street” pointing to an emergent threat to the people of Harlem.  It would make more sense for Cap to turn to Morgan to try to enlist his help against the Front; it doesn’t add up that Morgan would be able to help Cap locate the Grand Director (“Hah!” he snaps, “it’s my people he’s after!”).  So, the lengthy middle part doesn’t work as well as it should; the three pages squandered in Steve’s run-in with his old captain (p 15) and craven Carl ( p 17, 19) could’ve been put to far better use.  

As for the Grand Director, our one page with him is intriguing, as his single-minded confidence (briefly seen last issue) is replaced here by concerns and regrets for the bloodshed to come, and doubts regarding the legitimacy of his message, if mind-control is required to keep his followers allied to his cause.  He’s reassured by the large man at the desk, who appears to have red hair, and is that a long cigarette holder I see in his right hand -? (p 27).  
This is probably the most consistently solid Buscema/Perlin art we’ve seen for this title.  Page 7 is probably the art highlight, as we witness the two Fronters go out in a blaze of fanaticism.  

The Defenders 70
"Catch a Falling Lunatik!"
Story by Ed Hannigan
Art by Herb Trimpe and Mike Esposito
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by John Costanza and Rick Parker
Cover by Herb Trimpe and Joe Rubinstein

Returning from their "epic" battle with Omegatron, the Defenders splinter into two groups, with Nighthawk, Val, and Hellcat heading back to the Riding Academy and Strange and Banner staying at the Sanctum. Strange ominously tells Bruce that he must talk to him about something of the utmost importance. When they get inside, Stephen asks Banner if he can summon the Hulk so that they may save the world yet again. Banner nods and Stephen does his magic; the Hulk appears. Meanwhile, back at the Academy, the trio arrive to find a couple of Feds looking for Nighthawk, insisting that the government wants to talk to him about "tax evasion, stock manipulation, fraud..." and the matter of NH's reported death (back in #67). 'Hawk blows his cool and runs the feds off the property. Val is pleased to find an invitation to a "midnight mixer" at Empire State University. She and Hellcat attend and, just after they arrive, one of the students (Ledge, who was attacked and almost killed by Lunatik) fingers Professor Turk as Lunatik (who's been absent for, what, weeks?). Turk, in a huff, leaves the building but Val, suspicious, tags after him with Patsy in tow. Sure enough, the girls run right into Lunatik and Hellcat heads off to call Nighthawk for help. A huge, lyric-laced battle ensues between Val and Loonie, with Val gaining the upper hand. On her way back to the fray, Patsy runs into another Lunatik and the two duke it out. In another meanwhile, Nighthawk flies to the Academy, only to run into yet another Lunatik! All three battles end in favor of the Defenders and once they meet in the middle, the trio realizes something weird is up. Just then, Professor Turk scampers up and claims he's the real Lunatik! -Peter Enfantino

Peter: And I thought Thor #280 was the pits. This meandering, bumbling, stumbling, odiferous mass of feces makes no sense whatsoever and rings the inane bell several times over the course of its seventeen pages. First up, I just love how Doc Strange takes Banner aside and nonchalantly explains that the world is about to end unless he and the Hulk attend to matters (shades of the Eternals nonsense going on over in Thor). When did this thought occur to him? In between issues? I'm not that familiar with Lunatik and his "greatest hits of the radio" schtick but it wore out its welcome in his second panel. We used to run together words from songs in sentences, but that was in grade school. Hannigan shows just how vast his record collection is by quoting the Stones and Meat Loaf (man, this Ed is hip!) in the most awkward of sentences. The art by Trimposito looks rushed and unfinished although I will give a shout out to the Patsy paddling. Where the hell was Wertham in 1978?

Matthew: In the current Marvel Premiere lettercol, devoted to the recent Man-Wolf issues, Larry LeShan asks, “Is this Arisen Tyrk/Harrison Turk the same demento who’s been appearing in Defenders?”  The reply (“Yes and no…er…that is to say, in a way he is, Larry.  We think.”), in which Hannigan simply directs readers to this mag, isn’t too satisfying, but I think it’s the first time the matter has actually been addressed.  For me, the “surprise” ending with its multiple Lunatiks—blown on the cover, as usual—just accelerates the downward trajectory, and despite a fondness for Trimpe’s quirky stint on the Hulk’s own mag, I think he has no business drawing, for example, Nighthawk, who looks completely godawful in page 2, panel 4 and page 6, panel 2 (above).

Chris: The return of Lunatik isn’t bad; the pop-culture patter is a bit distracting, but it’s not a deal-breaker.  We’ve already been led to believe Prof Turk (not a member of the MU faculty, by the way) is Lunatik, so it’s a clever idea on Hannigan’s part to show us three Lunatiks, with none of them Turk himself (as he’s seen in the last panel, sans whiteface); as Val observes, “the mystery has just begun!”

Speaking of mysteries – we have yet another bold-facedly misleading cover.  Doc and the Hulk are in the issue for all of one page, which finishes as they disappear to somewhere else (without a word to poor Clea about their possible destination; she just finished preparing a nice plate of canapés for them …), and have nothing at all to do with the Lunatik chase.  As long as there’s a recognition that Doc and the Hulk help to sell the Defenders, why limit their appearances to the covers, when they could be more involved in the stories?  Well, I guess I’ll get my wish next issue, since, looking ahead, I see the Hulk is on the cover of Defenders #71 – oh wait!  That doesn’t mean a thing.  
Trimpe & Esposito turn out an above-average issue; I don’t think Esposito necessarily is the best choice as finisher for Trimpe, but the inks are clear and solid here.  The nighttime setting for the three Defenders’ pursuit of the three Lunatiks is realized well, with a color assist from Bob Sharen.  

Doctor Strange 34
"A Midsummer's Nightmare!"
Story by Ralph Macchio
Art by Tom Sutton and P Craig Russell
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Rudy Nebres

During a well-deserved slumber, Doctor Strange is transported to the world of Nightmare, where the fiend reveals that his latest cohort in devilish dealings is none other than Cyrus Black. Cyrus has an axe to grind with Stephen since his several defeats at the hand of the Sorcerer Supreme sent Cyrus spiraling into a deep depression. Only the coming of Nightmare brought his spirits up and launched him into a new campaign of revenge. Unfortunately, Cyrus Black is still no match for the Master of the Mystic Arts and, despondent, he commits suicide. Disgusted by Black's lack of spine, Nightmare sends Strange back to his Sanctum but cautions that there will be a rematch soon. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: P. Craig Russell sits in for one issue (he had previously co-written and drawn Doctor Strange Annual #1 in 1976) and, though I liked Russell's later work (in particular his Elric for First in the mid-80s), here it just looks like unfinished Brunner or Ditko (except for the bits where Sutton shines through, which I like a heck of a lot). Lots of arthritic fingers, jangly bolts of psionic energy, and tons of yellows. Black's suicide is powerfully portrayed but the rest of the story seems nothing but filler designed to stall until we get to that powerful ending. One of the big problems with Doc Strange is that the Rogues' Gallery is not stocked full and that necessitates yet another voyage to the realm of Nightmare or Eternity or Dormammu pert near every other issue.

Chris: The conclusion and its aftermath remind us of a fundamental fact about Doctor Strange: a sorcerer supreme is more than simply a collection of well-learned and carefully-honed spells.  As Strange himself puts it, “the true mystic is not ruled by the tawdry trappings of power … he is moved by the sublime stirrings felt deep within him.”  And, before we close the issue with admiration for Strange as a superior being, scripter Macchio gives us a quiet moment of Doc’s reflection, as he recollects his dark, embittered past when, prior to his fateful meeting with the Ancient One, Strange too “embraced illusion when the pain of truth was too much.”  Solid issue; early efforts show that relative newcomer Macchio is demonstrating a firm grasp of Strange the sorcerer, and the man within the costume, behind the spells.

The Sutton/Russell art is tailor-made for Doctor Strange; beyond that, these artists are so well-suited to each other, as Russell’s style is among those few whose efforts could result in a look similar to Sutton’s distinctive self-inked art.  I don’t know where Russell has been; we’ve hardly seen him in the color comics since Killraven’s adventures wrapped up.  Well, whoever’s idea it might’ve been, it’s a masterstroke to bring them together, even if it only happens to be for this one issue.  
For highlights, I’m almost tempted to reserve my praise solely for Nightmare’s far-out throne, with its spindly tendrils reaching from two circles (one within the other), plus a pair of dragon-headed arms, and a base composed of wailing gargoyle heads (p 6-7).  But of course, there are other highlights, which include: Nightmare recoiling from Doc’s immense hand reaching for him (p 7, 1st pnl), then striking back, seen from his POV (pnl 2); Cyrus Black drifts in front of the confined Strange, as his cape turns to wisps at the bottom, curling around a shaft of green light shining down from Nightmare’s throne in the background (p 14, pnl 4); really vicious and determined Vipers of Valtorr, which gain the advantage very quickly over Doc (p 19), only to be contained in a clever Crystal of Cytorrak, which I don’t recall having seen before (p 22, 2nd pnl); Black appears to crumble to dust under the light of Agamotto (p 26), which anticipates his self-demise on the following page.  

Matthew: Upon recognizing below-the-tiers villain Black on the interesting Nebres cover I thought, à la that beeyotch Violet, “Oh, no, we’re doomed,” reinforced by an origin involving comparable lowlife Xandu, yet damned if Macchio doesn’t add value to Cyrus, a suitable patsy for Nightmare.  First, said backstory was omitted on his debut in Defenders #6, and second, his apparently actual death gives his return some heft.  Of late, this mag has thrived on unusual art combos, with Sutton and Russell (sans P.) providing a fantastically ornate look commanding the eye to linger, and in general, there’s just a lot to love here, e.g., the HPL tome on Doc’s floor, Wong face-time, mystical beefcake, “vermin” pun, contemplative ending, sophisticated dialogue.

Fantastic Four 205
"When Worlds Die!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Jim Novak
Cover by Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott

Class, a little free-form educational experiment this week (it is the late '70's, Marvel U time). I'll be lesson planning in real time, batting out instant observations - unhindered by contemplation or reflection - as we go, page by page, through Marv Wolfman's latest attempt to raise the ghost of what once was "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"  

First line beneath the title mentions, "...a world split in four parts..." Uh-oh, Wolfie's spacin' out already. It was four cities that survived when Adora's world got demoed last month, not the whole planet being drawn and quartered.

Same box, a mention of Reed and "...his wife, Sue..." Expected that to be followed by, "...the Professor and Mary Anne." All hail the patriarchy, eh, Marv?

Same box, same line: "..and the monstrous, orange-hided Thing..." What is this, FF #2?

And...oh sh*t! 140 words and we're still in the first word balloon. Kids, there's an instructive lesson here: most experiments in the '70's failed. So let's hit fast-forward.

The Fabs (minus Johnny) and Adora return to her planet via ion beam, arriving as the Skrulls are attacking (nicely rendered in a two page spread by Pollard & Sinnott). Ben and Reed take down a couple ships, driving off the attack.

CUT TO: Skrull Emperor Dorrek ranting it's "not fair" that "...the earth scum who have always resisted our overwhelming power" have arrived to give battle. Even worse, Skrull scanners pick up another earth ship heading their way. Dorrek orders an attack on the ship (which we'll have to buy the Marv-penned Nova #25 to witness), then we segue to the Watcher lamenting that, yes indeed, he did violate his oath last issue (shocker, right?). And then he laments that "...while the galaxy dies, I can do nothing..." 

Because, ya know, his "oath." 

CUT TO: Johnny settling into his dorm room at dubious Security University. Torchie isn't even creeped out by a security camera in his room because, "They're here for our make sure we'll all be safe." 'Cause we all know what a nervous Nellie Johnny Storm is.

Then we check in with the Monocle and learn that the girl who dissed Johnny last month had done so under Mono's hypnotic sway, all - somehow - to induce the Torch's enrollment. Then M checks in with his unknown employer (face - natch - hidden by shadows), who informs the D-lister that, if shadow-man doubted him, he'd already be dead. 

Back to Johnny as he crawls into bed, wondering what his teamies are doing. Uh, fighting the interstellar war you promised to join, last ish. He dozes off but half an hour later, the Torch and all his fellow students are rousted from their beds. "Mindlessly, Johnny falls in line with hundreds of other somnambulistic students, their mission to be revealed another time." 

We return to Xandar, where Adora's partner, Tanak, who got blasted by the Skrulls, clings to life in a cryo-chamber. As Adora thirsts for revenge, Reed asks the chief scientist, a.k.a. Prime Thoran, what the Skrulls want with the gerbil-tunnel linked Quad-Cities. Thoran explains the green meanies are losing their war with the Kree and want to tap the power of "...the Living Computers of Xandar!" Pollard provides a splash page of same that produces a nice pang of vertigo, if little of Jack Kirby's gonzo grandiosity. The Thing dismisses it with, "Bah. I've seen better in Forbidden Planet"

The Living C stores the minds of all Xandar's dead, although how this would helps the Skrulls is unclear, but no time to sweat it as the green meanies again attack. The Fabs are gifted with flying belts to take to the skies, along with several unmentioned members of the Nova Corps, obviously thrown in to promote that mag. The five fight pages are somehow both vigorous and generic, the latter underlined by the FF's (the F3, actually) issue-ending capture, and has all the excitement of week-old tuna salad.  -Mark Barsotti

Mark: Much like the esteemed Prof Matthew, my opinion of Marv Wolfman's work for late-'70's Marvel sinks lower each week. I'll continue to champion Marv's long run on Tomb of Dracula as his signature contribution to the House of Ideas and one of the best books of the decade. But Nova never did much for me (nor does the half-hearted almost crossover shoehorned in here), and his work on FF (the Doc Doom run-up to the 200th issue anniversary largely excepted) and Spidey have been...uninspired.

That unfortunate trend continues here. Not that Marv's jaking it; in fact, one can almost hear him huffin' and puffin', but WideScreen Space Opera just ain't his métier, as his near-incoherence regarding the Watcher painfully demonstrates.

Yet the real sore thumb here is the really STUPID Torch subplot. Let's us count - just a few - the ways. (1) Johnny's completely forgotten the mystery of how Security U suddenly recruited him.(2) The old Casanova hothead becomes the anti-Ed Snowden, welcoming peeping tom security cams in his bedroom (one of his stated back-to-school goals is co-ed companionship) so he can feel "safe," a sentiment unworthy of Forbush-Man. 

But those are mere flies, buzzing around the turd. As unbelievably out of character as it was to have Johnny fink out on a Skrull fight to decide what he wanted to do with life, he has, opting for Joe College, ver.2, Marv now (3) forgets Matchhead's promise to join the fray, post-decision, then goes for broke with (4), having Johnny completely forget his family is battling aliens on another world as he snuggles into bed in his jammies.

"Wonder what Reed and the others (you'd think his sister might get top billing) are doing right about now?" indeed.

Have you no decency, Marv Wolfman?

At long last, have you no decency?

Matthew: Kudos for a rigorous and richly deserved takedown.

Chris: The Doctor Doom story seemed to have required a fair amount of work for Marv, with his careful attention to the characterization of Doom; there also were other moving parts to consider, such as Doom’s clone, and the Latverian resistance movement.  By comparison, this issue seems like the first time in a while – maybe since Marv took over – that he’s having fun with the high-adventure this title can offer.  It’s not “must” reading yet, but this could be an indication we’re headed back that way; the loyal armadillo takes this a step further, as he expects this issue to begin a storyline to “reconfirm the FF as the ‘World’s Greatest Comics Magazine.’”  We’ll see.  

It’s too bad we lose time and momentum with Johnny’s aside, as he’s falling into a trap set by Doctor Faustus; oh wait, it’s someone calling himself the “Monocle”?  Well, are they cousins, or something?  I mean, with the facial hair and similar tailoring, it’s hard not to mistake one for the other.  I’m willing to bet Faustus is wearing the monocle as a clever disguise, to throw everyone off; wait until he (dramatically!) pulls that lens from his eye, and a gasp goes up from the crowd, as everyone exclaims “Wha-a-a – it’s not the Monocle – it was Dr Faustus, all along!”  
If there still are Pollard detractors out there, then I invite you to turn to these pages: p 2-3, where the action definitely is FF-worthy; the HAL 900,000 computer on p 17 (and how long did it take poor Joe to ink all of that -?); a three-ring circus of battle action, contained in four packed panels (p 23).  Take that, naysayers!
Matthew: Guess that would be me. Am I alone in finding it weird that our first overt acknowledgment of a connection between this storyline (starting with Quasimodo in #202) and Nova is a throwaway footnote in page 10, panel 5?  Or maybe not, considering how sketchily Marv has handled this whole arc, and I’d have said the Pollard/Sinnott art deserved better, yet even that is flawed.  My eye-rolling at the splash-page hype about “a world of wonders the like of which you’ve never seen before” was justified by a double-spread that aims for Kirby/Buscema spectacle, but falls short with a mishmash where nothing is differentiated; then, Ben took the words right out of my mouth when he said of page 17, “Bah!  I’ve seen better in Forbidden Planet,” its obvious model.

Ghost Rider 35 
Story by Jim Starlin
Art by Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, Steve Leialoha and Michael Netzer
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Bob Budiansky and Bob Wiacek
[Note: this fill-in takes place between issues #13 and #14]

Letting off some steam by cruising through an isolated desert, Johnny Blaze inexplicably transforms into Ghost Rider as black thunderclouds approach — he soon comes across a solitary, skull-headed cyclist who claims to be Death. The Death Ryder challenges the Spirit of Vengeance to three races, with Blaze’s life hanging in the balance. Reluctantly, the flaming stuntman agrees. The first race is to a stranded motorcyclist in the distance. They tear off neckbone to neckbone, but Death’s satanic bike proves to be much more powerful and he reaches the man first. A simple touch of a boney finger and the innocent crumbles to dust.
The next challenge is to reach a lost little girl named Anna Devere, four miles to the north. At the last moment, the Rider jumps his bike off a rocky ledge, leaps forward and manages to win this leg. The frightened tyke runs off and reunites with her parents. Death informs the Rider that the final race will be for his very soul: the only way to survive is to reach a distant mountain range first without being touched. Before they start, Blaze blasts his deadly opponent with a burst of hellfire and rips the throttle of his iron horse — the Death Ryder easily shakes off the flames and quickly catches up, deadly hand outstretched. But the flame-headed hero kicks out with his left foot and strikes the front fork of Death’s bike: the demon hurtles off the mountainous path and explodes in a hail of sparks and metal below. -Tom Flynn

Tom: Ghost Rider could not be a more dire series, so I perked up considerably when I noticed that Jim Starlin was on this month’s curriculum. Surely, Mr. Starlin could finally deliver an entertaining and engaging issue. Sadly, he only partly succeeds. The plot is far from original. Heck, Tony Isabella already gave us “The Salvation Run” back in #18. And breaking the race into three parts didn’t really hold water: the Death Ryder was basically dicking around with the stranded biker and little Anna Devere until getting down to brass studs with the last challenge. Everything was all really about Blaze’s soul wasn’t it? It would have been a much more challenging script, but Starlin could have made the choice of having a single race that spread across all 17 pages — perhaps Death Ryder could have killed everyone they came across until Ghost Rider managed to save the day. Johnny accuses Death of cheating on a few occasions, but he was quite underhanded himself with the hellfire blast that started the third race. Now, since this is basically a flashback issue, Blaze is in much more control of the Rider compared to the contemporary stories. And he can’t yet form his Skull Cycle with hellfire — he’s riding his regular bike, which takes quite a beating. I’m going to go out on a ledge and guess that this stuff was shoved in a drawer somewhere and just dropped into the publishing schedule. The jarring splash page, illustrated by Al Milgrom, might back me up on that: the captions attempt to link to last issue 

So, our hope lies with the art. Again, not a home run, but a solid, two-run double — which is obviously far superior than Don Perlin grounding into his usual double play. Now Starlin only provided layouts so the heavy lifting fell to Steve Leialoha and Michael Netzer — who I only knew as Mike Nasser. You can see touches of Starlin’s magic but not enough. The art is quite dramatic in many places but rather plain overall and relies heavily on the use of solid blocks of black ink. Which, I guess, is fitting. The close-ups of the combatants' boney visages are the best parts. So, in all, Ghost Rider 35 is a bit of a disappointment — but a breath of fresh air from the usual noxious exhaust fumes.
Matthew: “Presenting a very special issue of Ghost Rider,” blares an oxymoron-defining lettercol ad in the concurrent Captain America (with which this book recently shared a writer; a logrolling Cap ad appears here).  “You never saw anything like it!!”  If by that you mean Blaze looking like he has an afro, as in page 2, panel 2, then I’m inclined to agree, so it’s a bit of a relief when he transforms.  Excepting the mechanics of said change, which Starlin could easily have written around, I see nothing intrinsic to this fill-in—with otherwise effective, skull-heavy finished art by “Leialoha and Friends” over his layouts—requiring it to take place between #13 and 14, as stipulated, although it’s ironically reminiscent of that era’s “Salvation Run”-type tales.

Chris: This is not the Starlin/Leialoha art we remember from their work together on Warlock; so, why does it look so different?  First of all, the title page clearly describes Starlin's contribution as "layout," with finishes by Leialoha "and friends;" from the get-go, we know Starlin had only roughed-out the pencils (leaving details to others), and that Leialoha is one of (possibly) several finishers.  So, considerably less hands-on involvement by the old Warlock team.  That aside, I'm sure their intention was not to produce Warlock-looking art for Ghost Rider; I expect they wanted a darker, murkier look suited to the main character and the subject matter.  If Starlin & Leialoha wanted clear, finely-detailed art, I'm sure that's exactly what they would've produced. 

The other consideration, though, is timing.  On page 2, Roger Stern informs us the events of our story took place between issues #13-14; on a bi-monthly publishing schedule, we're talking almost four years ago.  Why is this only seeing the light now?  If I had a story idea and layouts from Jim Starlin, I think the Isabella/Robbins issue scheduled for that month would've been pushed back to make room for this one, don't you?  
As for the story itself, I can't say I was excited by yet another race, or chasm jump, or whatever.  So, credit to Starlin for finding a surprising, very satisfying conclusion, as Death gets not his due -- if Death isn't playing by the rules, why should Ghost Rider?  And I do mean Ghost Rider; I don't expect Johnny Blaze would ever resort to kicking out a fellow rider's wheel, to send him spiraling down a cliff.  Even though the thought balloon is in Johnny's voice, it's safe to say ol’ GR's Satan-spawned influence is at work.

The Incredible Hulk 234
"Big Monster on Campus!"
Story by Roger Stern
Art by Sal Buscema and Jack Abel
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Ernie Chan

Finally arriving at Berkeley, Fred is shocked to see that Trish Starr and Hulk know each other. She tells Fred all about how her life has gone since they last saw each other, including her dalliances with the Defenders, losing her arm, and finally making her way back here with their old friends. She invites them both in to eat and relax. Back at Gamma Base, Marvel Man is debriefed by Senator Hawk and Clay Quartermain and tells them the next time they see him to use his new code name: Quasar! In Mexico City, Betty and Glenn Talbot talk about their marriage crumbling and resolve to remain friends. Back at Berkeley, Hulk is calmly trying to eat, but the others in the commune protest his being there. Hulk goes all smashy again, but Trish is able to calm him down and get him to sleep. One of the old hippies makes a phone call to a Corporation Agent, who contacts Jackson, and a plan is hatched that will dispose of the Hulk, as well as Machine Man. While Hulk sleeps, the commune is attacked by the agent in a Machine Man costume. A paralyzing gas is used and the Hulk can only watch as Trish is taken by this bogus Machine Man, who tells him to meet him in Central City and be prepared to fight. An hour later, Hulk wakes up and is mad as hell, vowing to go all smashy on Machine Man! -Scott McIntyre

My grandpappy once told me,
"There's nothing sadder than a one-armed Solitaire player!"
Scott McIntyre: There are times I feel like I only like certain issues because of nostalgia. The Hulk comic is proving that feeling correct, as this particular episode ain’t so great. The guys in the commune are dull as dishwater, and we don’t spend nearly enough time with the supporting cast to make a dent in their subplots. Betty and Glenn have the most boring, sulky divorce going. General Ross is still stuck in a hospital bed and Marvel Man changes his name to Quasar. And Machine Man? I’m still surprised he got his own title. Jack Abel’s inks are a very poor fit for Sal’s pencils. At the very least, they address why Hulky doesn’t change to Bruce Banner while he’s sleeping; he’s sleeping but far from relaxed. It’s a crummy reason, but whatever.

Matthew: This is a veritable old-home-week issue, with Abel briefly returning for the first time since his unbroken stint on #167-81, yet if the artwork is strictly meat and potatoes—with Jack now inking Our Pal Sal instead of Happy Herb—it’s no less tasty and nutritious.  And Sterno gives us a nice summation of Trish’s checkered past, more welcome than most because her appearances since debuting as Egghead’s niece in Marvel Feature #5 have been rather desultory; her congenial relationship with Greenskin is a welcome contrast to his portrayal in the downward-spiraling Defenders as a one-note pill.  We also look ahead, connecting the dots to Marvel Man-Boy’s new moniker (Quasar) and posting, at Project Pegasus.

"Not Quasar-Boy nor Quasar-Man.
Just Quasar!"
Chris: There isn't much for the Hulk to do except eat, get enraged, break furniture, and sleep.  Since he has time, Roger makes the curious choice to devote his attention to the attitudes and behaviors of the commune members.  Is Roger trying to demonstrate a sentiment voiced by Trish, that the idealists of the '60s didn't try hard enough to achieve a significant impact in the '70s?  (I thought the whole point had been to "drop out," not "apply ourselves!," but I take his point.)  Clever moment as one of the commune members calls The Man to report the Hulk's present location; the caller justifies his actions as he tells himself “that beast is a dangerous creation of the bourgeoisie!" which I’m sure I didn’t realize was so humorous when I first read it.

You can't keep a good evil multinational conspiratorial-conglomerate down, can you?  The Machine Man costume is a ruse that would work with few other opponents but the Hulk; unfortunately, we can see it working perfectly in this case, and it should make for a whale of a MARMIS, which is always a bit trickier to unravel when the rage-filled, concrete-thinking Hulk is on one end of the misunderstanding.  Nice work by Roger to weave Machine Man into the Marvel mainstream; one question though: how is the Hulk supposed to find Machine Man in "Central City"?  Might we need DC to send us a roadmap, perhaps -?  (note to faculty and students: shame on me for having forgotten the FF's fateful first flight originated from that very same fictional address.  I hereby surrender my key to the faculty washroom.)
Buscema and Abel remind us how Trish Star built a career in modeling.  She looks pretty fine on page 1, but later in the issue, it's easier to see her full lips and cool blue eyes (mmmmm –oh, excuse me).  I'm sure she's adjusted to having lost her left arm, but I'd still feel better if some capable Marvel science-hound could rig up a replacement for her; maybe Misty Knight could put Trish in contact with her arm guy.

The Invaders 39
"Back from the Grave!"
Story by Roy Thomas and Don Glut
Art by Alan Kupperberg and Chic Stone
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Alan Kupperberg and Joe Sinnott

Arriving at their rendezvous with the Kid Commandos, Cap and the Torch fail to stop U-Man from escaping with Golden Girl, in whom (as Davy’s thoughts reveal) Bucky and Toro have rival unvoiced interests.  As the Torches try to pick up his trail, Meranno brings her to the warehouse lair of Lady Lotus, who reveals that she supplemented her inborn psychic abilities with “magic phrases [and] mystical finger signs,” convincing her curio-shop customers that she was Chinese once Japanese-Americans began to be “relocated.”  Citing the Sabukis’ internment, she invites Gwenny Lou to join her freely “against the persecutors of our race” as the Torches, having spotted a suspicious plane parked on the nearby beach, return to fetch Cap and the others.

In a splendid showing, Golden Girl declines the offer, resists hypnotic enslavement, feints U-Man into a wall, and defeats the Japanese soldiers with her martial-arts skills; just then, the male contingent arrives, so Lady Lotus orders the revived Meranno to take her to the waiting plane.  An over-exuberant Bucky embarrasses Gwenny Lou with an embrace, but after Cap says they cannot hope to match the craft’s experimental engine, her furtive glance suggests that her own interest lies with Toro.  Meanwhile, on the Falsworth estate, Brian and Jackie investigate another airplane, only to find more Japanese sent by Lady Lotus to retrieve Baron Blood, and although the troops are defeated, the vampire—who thinks Union Jack his brother—is freed in the melee... -Matthew Bradley

MU presents this image in the
interest of holistic medicine only
Matthew: I don’t recall Golden Girl’s age being established but the, um, superstructure featured far more prominently on Kupperberg’s cover than on his splash page, depicting the same scene (Sinnott’s inks on the former, like Orz’s lettering, enhancing everything they touch), amply justifies Bucky and Toro’s growing attention, easily outstripping Robbins.  They’re not alone in showing a more than professional interest, so I’ll risk the wrath of certain well-meaning colleagues—with eyes for no Marvel blog but their own—by quoting SuperMegaMonkey; he hilariously accompanies a series of scans, culminating in the last panel of page 7, thus:  “Lady Lotus’ powers seem to include telepathy...precognition…mind control…and homoeroticism.”  Dang, I knew I liked this!

Now that I’ve gotten that (mostly) out of my system, Cap continues to fare conspicuously well at the hands of Alan and Chic—e.g., page 3, panel 4; page 26, panel 3—and this arc being the first time we’ve seen the Kid Commandos drawn by anybody but Fightin’ Frank, our multi-culti new members resemble actual human beings rather than caricatures.  With both Baron Blood and U-Man back under the auspices of our Asian femme fatale, it looks like the stage is being set for an eleventh-hour return to the glory days of the book’s earliest and arguably best issues, while next time, we learn, “Two surprise super-villains return!”  A quibble:  Gwenny Lou’s teammates are remarkably insensitive with their frequent references to “Nips,” so Lady Lotus may have a point.

Mark: Even with Don (he-sure-ain't-Roy-Thomas) Glut at the controls, "Back From the Grave!" is the briskest, most entertaining Invaders in months. I had to page through the mag several times before the reason struck me: not a single panel was wasted on those D-list dullards, the Liberty Legion. Some of my esteemed colleagues dote on the LL, class, but even Einstein was wrong about the universe being fixed and eternal. I'll grant a small dash of the Legionnaires gives the title some '40's Timely flavor, but they've been massively overexposed of late, underscoring all their Brand Echhian awfulness. This is a classic case of addition by subtraction.

And to give Don his due, his nimble effort here not only delivers sock-o action while toggling between two different plotlines, but intriguingly develops Lady Lotus, (including some almost overt flirting with Gwenny Lou), and works in some wholesome romantic teen tension between Bucky, Toro and G-Lou. 

Of the two plotlines, U-Man is reduced to mere muscle under sway of the more textured villainy of Lady L (whose Buddhism is overridden by Nippon nationalism; plus she has a good case against the Americans, in re: interment camps). Across the pond, the Falsworth sibs (Union Jack and Spitfire) fail to prevent the de-stalagmite stalking of the now-awake 'n' hungry Baron Blood. I hope the fact that it was far-from-home Japanese soldiers on the vamp-revival mission (rather than much-closer Nazis) to England means Lady L has a loooong reach that will merge both plotlines.

Alan Kupperberg has more wonky moments than normal, but his art remains largely effective. And as for the simmering hormone teen triangle, Bucky gets in a blush-inducing clinch with G-Lou, but apparently she has the hots for Toro.

The Invincible Iron Man 121
"A Ruse By Any Other Name..."
Story by Bob Layton and David Michelinie
Art by John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
Colors by Carl Gafford
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Bob Layton

As Iron Man sinks into unconsciousness and the Atlantic, Rhodey and Bethany find nothing at the coordinates from the mayday, but while trying to land at the nearby island, they are fired upon by Capt. Jonas Hale, despite her invoking “special security clearance J-792!”  After Rhodey is hit, she brings the chopper down and they are taken at gunpoint; meanwhile, IM awakens to find that Namor has saved him, just as Dobbs saved the Atlantean’s life days earlier, when he was overcome by the “toxic petro-chemical wastes” that he had discovered and buried beneath an undersea mountain.  Hiram, who found Namor washed ashore and nursed him back to health, refutes Hale’s assertion that the army has been disposing of nuclear waste there for years.

As Hale reveals to the captives that his team is stealing the island on behalf of Roxxon Oil for its vibranium foundation, IM recharges with Hiram’s generator and hears how he and his late wife, Mary, chucked the rate race in Indiana 20 years ago to live as hermits.  Realizing they’ve been duped but not knowing why, IM and Subby are skragging the ships when “the real Navy” is seen approaching, so Hale activates the explosives he’d planned to use for excavation, forcing IM to tow the remaining ships out to sea (yeah, right).  As it shatters, the vibranium core absorbs the sound of the blast; in the aftermath, the Naval officer reveals that with Hale having vanished, his men clammed up, and the command room reduced to ashes, there is no way to link it to Roxxon. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: I’m sorry, but I just don’t think this two-parter hangs together at all:  if Namor truly felt that IM has “e’er been a noble foe in the past,” then why didn’t he listen when Shellhead said he was there to help, not attack, Dobbs, and where did ol’ Hiram get that high-tech weapon he turned on Iron Man?  The involvement of Roxxon (Stainless, we hardly knew ye) would otherwise be a welcome callback, but I find it hard to believe that an entire Special Forces team could simply take itself off the grid like that—and did all of its members collude knowingly with Hale?  There’s clearly more to Ms. Cabe than meets the eye, and she notices when IM pulls the classic super-hero boner of calling her “Beth”…although she and Shellhead have supposedly never met.

As with the current Captain America, the cover tagline, “The Prince and the Power!,” is good, as it was when they used it on said prince’s appearance in Defenders #52, while the formal title, “A Ruse by Any Other Name…,” is a nice pun, but it doesn’t really make much sense—what else would a ruse be called?  Sloppy Stern/Shooter editing has transformed last issue’s 747 into a DC-10, as well as confusing “affect” and “effect” in page 31, panel 4, yet Hiram’s devastation at the loss of the island that represents both Mary’s last resting place and their dream is poignant.  The Romita, Jr./Layton artwork is very nice as usual, with highlights including the splash page of IM in extremis, colored by Carl Gafford in such a way as to emphasize that Shellhead is underwater.

Chris: Plenty of ship-wrecking action, as Iron Man and Namor deliver a black eye to Roxxon, the new corporate bad guys (after all, especially in the energy-crises-fraught ‘70s – or even today, for that matter – who’s ever gonna sympathize with an oil company?).  Pretty cool idea that there could be vibranium deposits on other parts of the globe; future discoveries should result in similar sneaky-dealings and heroic corrections.  Also, clever touch from Michelinie (and co-plotter Layton) to have Dobbs’ Isle – and the dreams that lived with it – disappear without a whisper, as the vibranium cancels out the sound that should accompany such a catastrophic loss.

Romita Jr and Layton continue to gell.  Highlights include: IM gradually returns to the land of the living, as Namor’s trademark head swims into view (p 7, 1st four panels); IM rolls up the deck’s steel plating, as the trapped Roxxon flunkies can do nothing but make Stooges faces (p 23, 1st pnl).  Points also for the tastefully-topless Bethany; she appears extra enticing (as we catch a peek), without her exposure being exploitative either, as John ‘n' Bob resist the urge to give us a close-up of her slightly-clothed breasts.

Matthew: We'll just have to get our thrills from Invaders.

John Carter, Warlord of Mars 23
"The Master Assassin of Mars, Chapter 8:
The Man Who Makes Murder!"
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Mike Vosburg and Ricardo Villamonte
Colors by Ben Sean
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ernie Chan

Taken aboard the guild’s ship, Carter battles the assassins and takes the “hostage” Dejah—masquerading as Daria—atop the mast to gain vital intel; he tells her to fake a fight and think in English, which he’d had the foresight to teach her, of what led them there, forestalling other attempts to read her mind.  We learn that in Daria’s chambers, she and Sola found evidence of a conspiracy infiltrating even the Jeddak’s guard, planning to wipe out the entire ruling family in one blow and replace them with a puppet ruler loyal to the guild.  But after he accidentally learns something he wasn’t meant to know, his plan to send her back to Helium to warn Tardos Mors is scuttled when Carter is brought down with non-explosive bullets.

It’s an interesting sequence, but raises the obvious question of why she wouldn’t have told him all of this during some downtime on their four-day ascent of “The Wall about the World,” and a lack of clarity mars the next scene in Helium, as Tardos Mors and his wife, Tharia, are visited by their children and grandchildren.  A woman identified as “Tara” asks the Jeddara for a report on the coronation of Gahan as the Jed of Gathol, yet Tara of Helium—the future wife of Gahan and mother of Lana—does not yet exist; even her older sibling, Carthoris, will not be born for years.  Tardos Mors confides to Mors Kajak that with Carter, Dejah, and Tars Tarkas (unseen since he answered Barak Sol’s challenge in #18) missing, prospects for peace with the green men are dim.

Summoned before the guild-masters, Carter is led in chains past men and women being trained in every type of armed and unnamed combat (“walking” across the top of page 17 in a clever series of horizontal panels).  “Daria”—who, judging by page 22, panel 3, seems to have had a boob job as part of her imposture—is sentenced by guild-master Akai to trial by combat for failing to kill Carter, but although she succeeds in slaying her four female opponents, clad in body armor while she wears only leathers, her victory is brief as master assassin Tal Mordin returns from Helium and instantly identifies her as Dejah.  Lord Mordin says, “The princess has survived the test of the many—now let her survive the test of the one,” a masked green Martian who begins to laugh. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Much as I admire Chris and selected prior chapters, “Master Assassin” has problems beyond the protracted absence of assassins, e.g., the main mast so lovingly depicted on Ernie’s cover, which seems inconsistent with the interstellar milieu (as in Star Wars #12) and the “flying dreadnaught” shown on the splash page.  Even if I buy the physical resemblance allowing the guild to accept Dejah—you’d think it would’ve been worthy of mention before now that they “were alike enough to be twins”—a lack of Daria’s knowledge should be a dead giveaway.  But colorist Ben pays commendable attention to the proper skin tones, while the V2 team brings home the bacon with the flashback framed by John and Dejah’s faces on page 7, and her impressive battle scenes.

Chris: It’s hard to believe we’re on our eighth chapter of the “Assassins of Mars” storyline; now that Carter and Dejah are eight miles removed from Karanthor, it seems like a good time to get back into it.  Clever device by Claremont to use Carter’s rarely-seen telepathic ability to introduce new readers to the earlier plot line, and to re-acquaint continuing readers with circumstances that had started the whole process in motion (p 7).  Claremont also sets us up well regarding Dejah, as she comfortably inhabits Daria’s role (and her wardrobe, and living quarters).  Dejah has some misgivings about being exposed as an imposter, which she seems to dispel when she bests the four armored “instructresses”; that moment, when she seems most assuredly in the clear, is (of course!) when Carter overhears Mordin declare: “That isn’t Daria.”  I can understand Carter feeling he should hang back as Dejah battled the four women, but now a thark?  And if she survives that, Mordin himself, a name from children’s nightmares?  Claremont once again leaves us eagerly anticipating further developments in our next chapter.

And if I’m looking forward to the next issue, it’s not because I’m drawn-in by the art.  Carter’s clash with the guild soldiers (p 2-6), and Dejah’s arena trial (p 22-26) both have their moments, but nothing really noteworthy.   If anything, I have to point out two strange choices by Vosburg, both on p 27.  Carter notices Tal Mordin, so our view of the 1st panel of p 27 is roughly from his POV; why then do we see two figures, one facing in our direction, the other further away and in a shadowed profile?  I had to ask myself whether the bland-faced figure facing us is Mordin; if so, then why all the excitement?  My first impression was that super-bad Mordin might be a common guard, or something.  In any case, it’s an introduction that should resonate as a Big Moment, and instead amounts to little.  It’s a smaller gaffe later on the same page, as Mordin reaches Master Akai’s shoulder, pulling a Mr Fantastic as his arm stretches out nearly six feet from where his left shoulder should be (pnl 5).  I can laugh about it now.

Marvel Premiere 47
The Astonishing Ant-Man in
"To Steal an Ant-Man!"
Story by David Michelinie
Art by John Byrne and Bob Layton
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Bob Layton

[OK, instead of falling victim to the Dreaded Deadline Doom this week, due to a nasty paper cut that occurred while grading term papers ("The Psychological Machinations of Ka-Zar and How They Influence the Savage Land's Atmosphere"—really???), I'm handing off Marvel Premiere this month to my intern and daughter, Cassie. I will say that this issue and next issue were two of the books I sought out after college, when I started collecting comics again and was neck deep into my Byrne obsession. Take it away, Intern!—Prof. Joe] (I think I speak for both myself and MU editor/proofreader/goofspotter Professor Matthew when I thank Ms. Tura for stepping in for Joe this week. It meant quite a few less punctuation errors to correct!- The Dean)

Ant-Man battles some bad guys in a hospital room to stop the doctor from saving the patient, but when things start to go wrong, he shrinks out of sight. Next he thinks back to months before, when he was ex-criminal Scott Lang (that's right, this isn't the original Hank Pym!), who gets a job at Stark International but life turns sour when he finds out his daughter Cassie (same name as me!) has a rare heart disease that could kill her! He goes to visit Dr. Erica Sondheim, but she has another client who knocks Scott around. He tracks the car to Cross Technological Enterprises and breaks in that night, reliving his criminal past to get something expensive. And he finds the Ant-Man suit in a panel that opens up! Taking the suit back home, Scott tries it out, learning the cybernetic helmet and belt canisters work just fine, taking a flying ant back to CTE. Ant-Man enters through a vent, with a bunch of ants to help him out, and we're back to the operating room where the story started. In the present, Ant-Man goes back in the operating room through a sink drain, keeps changing sizes to keep the goons off balance, and asks Dr. Sondheim to come with him to save Cassie. But the patient wakes up, and it's a giant muscle-bound pink guy who
looks strangely like the Incredible Hulk, Darren Cross, who wants to destroy Ant-Man "rather utterly!" -Cassie Tura

Cassie Tura: Now before I start to comment on this comic book, let me just say it is very exciting to finally get the opportunity to be on Marvel University! Now to the important stuff. The cover of this comic book looks very cool, with Scott Lang riding on his pet ant highlighted by a magnifying glass so you can see him. The comic starts with an awesome fight scene that sets the comic off to a great start. Lang finding the Ant-Man suit and taking it for a spin is going to be a pivotal part of this story. We then learn his daughter, Cassie, is dying so he decides to take up the superhero mantle to get her a doctor that will save her. The issue ends with a hulk-like thing getting up and saying he will destroy Scott (now Ant-Man). Overall this issue was a great introduction to the character of Scott Lang and I can't wait to read the next one!

Matthew: Sorry to have to start with a correction, and one that I've also made on another blog (no, not that one).  But for the record, the location into which Scott breaks, and where he finds the Ant-Man suit, is not the CTE complex but Henry Pym's house, which makes much more sense. I know the point is obscured in the actual issue, having experienced the same confusion myself. Yet a close second reading clarifies that, thinking he'd need money to get into CTE, Scott then returns to his burglar-mode, and enters a private residence.

Strange to realize this two-parter is the same story that, 36 years later, would evolve—or perhaps I should say mutate—into the Ant-Man movie, which I surprised my colleagues by loving.  In another classic cross-promotional effort, we get a lettercol ad for the current issue of Iron Man, the mag wherein the name, if not the likeness, of “S. Lang” first appeared in #117, and the Michelinie/Byrne/Layton team had assembled in #118.  As a known Pym-fan, I resented this guy as a pretender when he debuted, particularly with founding member Hank having just been booted out of the Avengers by Gyrich, but I no longer feel a reflexive negativity towards him, and I notice he’ll make quite a few future appearances in my collection.

So, how is this issue, seen from the perspective of alleged maturity?  Pretty damn good.  Naturally, the father-daughter thing has a resonance for me now that it didn’t at the time, with the added fillip that young Cassie shares the name of Professor Joe’s Marvel-loving offspring. It may seem like a small thing, ha ha, but since they spend so much time on-panel, I really appreciated the cool design of the CTE guards’ uniforms, particularly after those dopey flat-nosed National Force getups in the current Captain America arc.  John’s ire over that Hulk Annual notwithstanding, I think Bob does a fine job inking him, especially the sensational action scenes, and of course Orzechowski automatically kicks everything up a notch.

Chris: Okay, strictly speaking, this isn’t a new superhero, since we all know Ant-Man dates back to the earliest days of the Silver Age.  I seem to recall that, when I first saw the cover, I asked myself, “Wha – why would Hank Pym abandon the cool Yellowjacket – complete with flying power and built-in bio-energy disruptors – and go back to being relatively-simple Ant-Man?”  Little did I know I was about to partake of an optimal use of the Marvel Premiere format; this is not a spotlight of an existing character (as we’d seen recently with Man-Wolf, Jack of Hearts, Paladin, Tigra, or the Torpedo), but rather the premiere of a new person in the hero’s role.  

Why bring back Ant-Man?  Except for a few times when Hank Pym broke out the gear for old time’s sake (or was compelled to do it by Ultron), we’ve seen little of anyone named “Ant-Man” since Dr Pym established the Giant-Man/Goliath identity.  You could argue there’s been good reason to leave the chrome helmet and antennae in mothballs, since Ant-Man’s powers are pretty thoroughly outclassed by most other Marvel characters who’ve come to the fold since then.  To their credit, Dave Michelinie and John Byrne aren’t rebooting Ant-Man (by suggesting Pym is going back to his roots), or revamping him (by charging the shrink-suit with dazzling new powers); they are content to have fun with the character within his limitations, as Scott Lang uses ants to travel, and quick size-changes to bowl over his opponents.  Lang masters many of his new capabilities pretty quickly (hey, it’s only a seventeen-page comic – we’ve got to keep things moving), but does screw up a few things in the learning process; best example is when he unwittingly KO’s guard Mike by crashing into his back (p22, last pnl), and admits he only wanted to hitch a ride.
The Byrne/Layton works wonderfully; too bad we didn’t have Byrne art approaching this caliber for this month’s Avengers.  Well anyway, there are plenty of other art highlights: Lang and an ant-friend dash past a guard’s immense rubber sole (p 3, pnl 2); ant’s eye perspective as we follow Lang on his stomach-lurching flight into CTE (p 16, 1st pnl); Lang quick-zips down and takes out another guard (p 27, 1st pnl); an ambitious two-page spread, which gives us the full impact of how large Cross is, emphasizing his muscular build – but in his puffed face and fully-flushed off-red color (points to Bob Sharen), he’s looking somehow seriously unhealthy too.  
Before I go, there’s a mention on the letters page of a multi-part Black Widow story in the works for this title, co-produced by Ralph Macchio and George Pérez.  Should be pretty great, right?  Well – in case you were wondering – for some reason, this won’t see the light of day for over four years; when it finally runs in the underachieving Marvel Fanfare (starting with #10, August 1983), the four-part series will require six different inkers to complete it, which will leave the results of the Pérez pencils looking as mixed as you might expect.

The Amazing Spider-Man 191
"The Wings of the Fearsome Fly!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Keith Pollard and Jim Mooney
Colors by Ben Sean
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Al Milgrom and Bob McLeod

J. Jonah Jameson is livid, blaming Spider-Man for killing his son, John, and has plans to have a huge headline claiming the wall-crawler is guilty in the next Bugle. City Editor Joe Robertston knows better, and explains why he's not printing JJJ's editorial for reasons of possible libel. JJJ also wants photographer Peter Parker fired for his association with Spidey, but instead Robbie tries to call Peter and give him a big assignment. But Peter's phone is busy, as he's talking to bathing Mary Jane (hey now!) as they set up a "date" to talk things over, plus we learn Peter is getting his diploma tomorrow, having completed his gym class. Getting the call from Robbie, Peter plans to take MJ to the King Tut exhibit, and swings off as Spider-Man, thinking everything is going his way. Suddenly, a car veers out of control on the streets below, but Spidey is able to save an old woman from getting killed—and of course she gets mad that a "murderer" is touching her. He also halts the car, saving the driver too, but the man is also scared that Spider-Man will hurt him. Then Spidey sees the front page of the Bugle: "Spider Man Killer," and he is cheesed!

JJJ and Marla Madison go to see the suffering Spencer Smythe, requesting "the best Spider-Slayer you can build," and Smythe jumps at the opportunity, seeing it as a chance to get his revenge on both Spidey and Jameson. Spidey himself is visiting DA Tower, who says the hero may have to reveal his identity to prove his innocence, and after Spidey smashes his desk, gives the web-head some mail. Back at Smythe's lab, he is alone with JJJ, and after showing him the "finest Spider-Slayer" he's ever created, locks a contraption on Jameson's wrist, telling him he'll die in 24 hours! At Peter's pad, he whips up a new, stronger batch of web fluid, since the chemical pollutants in the air have affected the original formula (I guess that makes sense…), and picks up his refrigerator to prove his strength to himself. (Good thing it's probably empty, or he'd have a mess to clean up!) He finally checks his mail, and it's from Claredge Advertising, who wanted to do a merchandising deal with Spidey—and of course, they're cancelling the deal, so Peter smashes his couch. Heading out to confront JJ once and for all, an angry Spidey gets hoodwinked by the Spider-Slayer. After a rollicking rooftop battle, the hero and the robot smash to the pavement with a mighty "KRUNCHHH!" and Smythe appears quickly to take Spidey back to his lab—where he's shackled him to JJJ with a deadly explosive!
—Joe Tura

Joe: So it looks like Smythe will have his revenge after all! The shifty scientist uses his "finest" Spider-Slayer ever to finally nab Spidey and attach a bomb to his and J. Jonah's wrists, not only setting up their deaths, but keeping two bitter enemies together whether they like it or not. But here's the thing: first off, the Spider-Slayer lasts one battle and is smashed when it lands on the street. Second, why not just kill both of them right away? If you really want revenge, why bother waiting? Why make any superhero suffer? Can't these villains just act? Only Tuco had the right idea: "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." Well, that wouldn't be suspenseful and keep the comic going, so Smythe, like all Marvel villains, has that fatal egotistical flaw.

The issue as a whole is uneven. Sure, the story is packed with good stuff, from Jameson flipping out and Joe Robbie doing his job, to MJ in a bathtub, to Peter's roller-coaster emotional ride, to Spidey 's problems with the public and tirade at Tower's office, to Smythe's sneakiness, Marv keeps the pages turning. If you don't stop to apply logic to it all, that is, or see through the obvious flaws in Smythe's foolproof plans. And the art goes from nicely drawn pages to smudged and blurry panels that seem as if the ink was tripled. Typical of this title as we head towards the end of the 70s, I must admit.

The loud "KAA-RANG!" as Pete kicks his couch across his apartment is my favorite sound effect this month. Mainly because he gets to blow off some steam, learning his merch deal was killed thanks to JJJ's accusations, and quickly has a "D'oh!" moment, realizing it's the second piece of furniture he's ruined that day, after Tower's desk. That's not going to be easy on his empty wallet.

Matthew: “The Last Spider-Slayer”?  Is that like “The [fill in the blank] and Final Sleeper”?  You promise?  Memo to Smythe:  Die already.  Probably inevitable that with JJJ’s “killer” kampaign, Marv is blotting Spidey’s clean rap sheet, which had its own problems, e.g., Tower’s probably kidding when he says, “you’ll get the bill,” but where would he send it?  Apparently the same place Claredge Advertising sent the information about the punching bags:  “Spider-Man, c/o Peter Parker’s Chelsea Apartment.”  Bye-bye secret i.d.  The disarray among arachno-writers regarding his love life is out of control; M.J. goes from giving him a big smooch in last month’s MTU to agreeing—grudgingly, at best—to “one date” here.  Get it together, guys.

Mark: Wait, Betty Brant's back working at the Bugle (p.6)? Since when? Peter won't give Betty the brush unless MJ (who recently blew off his marriage proposal) takes him back? Yes, class, we get random incoherence on Mr. Parker's side of the ledger, and another (mercifully brief) Spider-Slayer.

Speaking of which, besides Marv Wolfman's sudden and heretofore unknown insertion of nuclear materials into the Slayers - the better to have inventor Smythe dying of radiation poisoning - we now have the nutty professor whining about J Jonah "...forcing me to build Spider-Slayer after Spider-Slayer..." Was Flattop holding an invisible gun on you, Prof, or has all that non-existent nuclear material rotted your memory as well?

Why do New Yorkers suddenly believe Jameson's latest SPIDER-MAN KILLER headline? Why does Triple J seek out multiple-loser Smythe for the umpteenth time? Why does Spidey whip up a reformulated batch of web fluid and promptly forget to take any with him when he exits his apartment? Why does Smythe manage to capture both Webs and Jameson, handcuff them together between a bomb gizmo, and then give them 24 hours to escape?

But the most critical question about this one, kids, is when - oh Lord, WHEN - will Wolfman decamp to DC and save us from more of these increasingly malodorous stinkburgers?  

Chris: Peter’s anger and frustration with Jonah rises to new heights; and why shouldn’t it?  He should know he would never deliberately allow John to drop from his grasp; plus, just as Jonah can’t prove Spider-Man killed John, Spidey can’t prove he saw John zap away before he could hit the East River.  He can’t have his day in court without revealing his secret identity (and no, that would not help matters), but perhaps worst of all, Jonah’s accusations have cost Peter some (if not all) of his Spidey-merchandising opportunities.  And now that he’s shackled to Jonah, that’s sure to screw Peter out of two other things – no, three things: a nice Bugle payday; a look at the King Tut exhibit, after being shut out in his attempt to buy tickets (hey Spidey – maybe Power Man and Iron Fist can sneak you in); but, worst of all, a chance to get back in MJ’s good graces!  Forget it, Pete – even if you have completed that last gym credit, and even if Tower cleared you of those other charges, there always will be something to deal with.  

Fortunately, Marv allows Peter to stay true to his anger, which begins to border on the all-consuming, without backing off to soak Peter in self-pity or self-doubt – or worse, questions of whether to continue the uncertain business of super-heroics, all of which made for painful reading in Marv’s Daredevil days.
The art is fairly weak; Pollard’s layouts are fine, if not terribly dynamic, but Esposito’s finishes (too thin? too quickly applied?) don’t add anything.  Even Gafford’s colors look slightly dull, and Parker’s letters are dinky, as if everyone (except Jonah, of course) is speaking sotto voce.  Marvel’s signature character appears in three new stories this month, and if his best depiction is presented by Mooney & Springer (in PPS S-M), then that’s trouble.  

Battlestar Galactica 2
Story by Roger McKenzie
Art by Ernie Colón 
Colors by Bob Sharen
Letters by Ernie Colón 
Cover by Jeff Aclin

The traitorous Baltar stands on the surface of Caprica, surveying the carnage he has wrought. A Cylon patrol lands and tells him a group of survivors have escaped in whatever ships they can find. Baltar reminds the centurions of the Imperious Leader's orders to find and destroy any survivors.  Meanwhile, Apollo has Starbuck and Boomer help him check the survivors' ships for solium leaks. On one freighter they find people crowded into cargo bays, hurt and starving. A man who worked on the luxury liner Rising Star tells of Sire Uri and his huge repository of food being served only to the upper class. An elderly Gemonese couple asks for help; Starbuck can’t understand their language, but a young “socialator” named Cassiopeia translates. She is also hurt and the others want her to go because of her profession. Starbuck is instantly attracted to her and flirts mercilessly as he gets her information. At the same time, Apollo tries to find answers to the food shortage from the Galactica, but is stonewalled with a vague acknowledgement of the problem. Stopping at the Rising Star, Apollo is approached by Serena who is concerned for Boxey. He sends Boomer on to the upper levels while he attempts to cheer up Serena’s son, who is mourning the death of his daggit Muffey, by giving him his rank insignia. Apollo and Serena connect thanks to this kindness, but Apollo has work to do. He reaches Uri’s cabin as Boomer is convincing a guard to allow them entry by the point of his gun. Apollo confiscates all the food and levels charges against Uri.

On the Cylon Base Ship, Baltar is brought before the Imperious Leader and is furious that his own colony was destroyed in violation of their agreement. The Leader scoffs at Baltar’s gullibility and orders him taken away for public execution. Later, after the food has been distributed, Uri, one of the newly formed Council of Twelve, argues his innocence and suggests they go to the nearby system of Borallus rather than across the stars to Carrilon. However, Adama is certain the Cylons would have a task force there. Uri argues the Nova Magadon is unguarded by Cylons, but Adama counters with the information that it is unguarded because it is heavily mined. Apollo says there’s another way: the starfield is so bright they would have to seal their Viper cockpits and navigate by sensors, however they could clear the minefield using turbolasers. The plan is approved. Before he leaves, Apollo has Boxey presented with an android replica of Muffey. It’s crude, but lovable. Finally, Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer launch into the Nova. As their sensors are quickly fried, they realize they’re flying blind. -Scott McIntyre

Scott: There is no way to review these adaptations without comparing them to the source material. Roger McKenzie sticks close to the final cut of the second hour of the pilot film. There are some small scenes edited, but for the most part, it’s pretty faithful. This early version of the format is much darker than the resulting series. There are some realistic portrayals of what could happen in these circumstances; leaving people behind, using rickety old ships leaking poison, greed, and famine. People are penned in like animals. Yet, aside from a quick mention in a later episode, this concept is all but forgotten thanks to the dictates of the network who wanted a kid-friendly TV series. Had they allowed creator Glen Larson to take it in the direction he originally wanted, we could have wound up with something closer to the Ronald Moore remake 25 years later (just, I guess, without the gratuitous sex). The art is pretty crummy and obviously rushed. Sometimes a character resembles an actor, but mostly not. A story longer than both Star Wars or Logan’s Run and it got kissed off with a piss poor, three-issue rush job.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters 21
"The Doom Trip!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Herb Trimpe and Dan Green
Colors by Ben Sean
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Herb Trimpe

The Thing makes up for knocking Godzilla into the shark tank by bashing him out of it, and Mr. Fantastic knocks him out by stretch-blanketing him. With Dum Dum in tow, the F.F. transport Godzilla to the Baxter Building, where the others arrive to hear Reed's plan—to use Dr. Doom's time machine to send Godzilla back to prehistoric times to be with "his own kind." After a moment of confusion, Godzilla accepts this new land as home, one that's already "threatened" by a gang of lizard-warriors and their "beasts of strife"—whom they send after Godzilla, roaring from the ridge! The bold battle draws the attention of Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur, who see Godzilla breathe fire on his enemies and think he is a "demon-beast come to slay all the creatures of our valley!" Devil attacks and the two titans battle to a near standstill, until Moon-Boy notices the lizard-warriors are gathering, ready to claim the Valley of the Flame. He halts the fight, and Godzilla, reminded of young Rob when he looks at Moon-Boy's mush, agrees to stand together with Devil to fight the enemies who would dare to steal "his new found peace…his new home."--Joe Tura

Joe: When the idea of Devil Dinosaur hit my eyes on the cover, and Dr. Doom's time machine showed up on the inside pages to explain the possible MARMIS (would that be GODZARMIS?), I was as skeptical as Dum Dum Dugan himself. Yet this issue actually works, especially when the Big G hits the past. Maybe it's a bit too quick that G accepts his new home, but what the heck else is he going to do? He's an animal, technically, so adjusting to new environments comes a little easier—and it helps to be Godzilla-sized. The battle with Devil Dinosaur wasn't bad, either, (except for the wrestling move by Godzilla on page 22—should have gone for the suplex!) and well drawn by Trimpe and Green. Certainly one of the top five issues of this title so far. Maybe Moench is a bit heavy-handed with the Godzilla thought captions, but it's not like the King can speak in word balloons. Well, maybe when Anguirus is around!

Matthew: It’s interesting—albeit presumably coincidental—that this month, two titles feature Bronze-Age Kirby kreations kancelled in December, with Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy featured here, while Incredible Hulk continues its Corporation cross-pollination by interpolating Machine Man.  The latter, by the way, will be revived in August for 10 bimonthly issues with artwork by Steve Ditko (whose Kirbyesque ill-timed return to Marvel is, by another coincidence, ballyhooed in the current Stan’s Soapbox), written first by Marv Wolfman and then by Tom DeFalco.  As for Godzilla, now zapped back 900 million years, all I can say is that if Moench wanted to blaze his own path, utterly distinct from the Toho movies, he has certainly succeeded.