Wednesday, June 26, 2013

August 1971: The Hulk Controversy Stalks the Corridors of Marvel University! Where Do You Stand?

Iron Man 40
"Night Walk!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by George Tuska and Jim Mooney

As Marianne is awoken by a premonition that he is in danger, Tony is plagued by disjointed memories of his five-day ordeal, and tells Fury he cannot address the U.N. meeting on the peaceful uses of science, certain that he did not design the weapon for which he gave Kevin the blueprints.  The White Dragon’s “revised plan” appears to involve discrediting Stark with a failed weapon, forcing him to unmask at the meeting, and/or destroying the U.N. with a nuclear device his agents have planted.  Iron Man cripples the sub, leaving when the White Dragon’s spy camera shows S.I. destroyed by the accidentally triggered weapon (in reality an illusion created by Kevin), while the Dragon, learning he has been but a pawn, activates the destruct mechanism. -MB

At age 9, poor Harold realizes he'll get
more love from his imaginary friends
MB: Except for the walk-on by Iron Raccoon on the splash page, Mooney shows the returning Tuska’s work to the best possible advantage (although the pairing should probably be added to the list of those not allowed to draw Nick Fury), and overall, the artwork represents a dramatic shifting of gears from last issue.  Unfortunately, Gerry’s storyline does not, with the White Dragon’s poorly conceived, executed, and—above all—explained plan ultimately foiled by Kevin’s resoundingly implausible solution.  On the distaff side, Shara-Le [sic] is so eager to display her true colors by betraying her man that she drops a vowel from her name…but wasn’t it only a couple of issues ago that Tony’s supposed “ex-friend,” Marianne, was so delighted to be back in his life again?

SM: I never thought I'd be so happy to see George Tuska back on the title. His work always looks better after a long haul with Don Heck and last issue's Trimpe abortion, although he can't seem to draw Nick Fury. The story is okay, but the old "bluff them with a movie" trick was well past its freshness date. Kevin O'Brien is still whining and Marianne Rodgers comes out of nowhere to fill in some pages. There's a lot of padding in the beginning, but since I could barely read last issue's mess, I was happy to be caught up.

Astonishing Tales 7

Ka-Zar in
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe

Angry god Damon vows to obliterate mortals, starting with Ka-Zar and Tongah. But fast-thinking KZ shoots an arrow that knocks the space-born scoundrel for a loop, then the jungle lord attacks! Cut to Tatia & Emuel, Tongah’s siblings, who discover the strange light they tracked is really an alien receptacle, holding a beautiful woman in suspended animation. Tatia touches the glowing bauble hanging above her, then sees visions, then an eerie light surrounds her! Ka-Zar gets Zabu to help turn the tide in his battle against Damon, and the sabretooth sidekick complies by causing a stampede of dinosaurs. Cut to the mysterious woman in Kevin Plunder’s mansion, who vows to go to the Savage Land in order to save KZ—and the planet! As the KZ-Damon tussle reaches the final round (so they both claim), the mysterious Lelania appears—that is, Damon’s lost love—which ends the mighty man-god’s rage against everyone in sight. Emuel shows up to tell the tale of how his sister sacrificed herself to save the Savage Land, then the hidden vessel flies off to the stars and faithful Tongah heads home to his village. Yay! Happily ever after! --JT

"...And Lo, There Shall Come -- Colorforms!"

JT: Roy Thomas takes over for Gerry Conway, freeing the teen titan up to write Dr. Doom this month (among 50 other books), and Herb Trimpe takes over the art. Immediately seeing Herb in the credits, I assumed the art here would stink, but although it’s no Barry Smith, it’s not horrendous. The Damon story is wrapped up quite neatly, maybe too much so, and the sacrifice of Tatia is kinda sad in its nobility. The dinosaur stampede was OK, but they all looked a lot like the plastic dinos I had as a kid, even down to the multiple primary colors. Is that a bad thing? Yeah, probably.

After their overwhelming success last month,
Mrs. Blumenthal's munchkins make a rousing return

SM: Herb Trimpe takes over the art, but some panels and pages don't look like his pencils at all. The first panel on page two looks like Barry Smith's work and the inking doesn't seem like Trimpe either. Very weird. Ka-Zar's appeal is lost on me, and I know I'm not alone here. An okay end to a not very interesting "epic." It's hard to drum up any strong emotions, positive or negative, about Ka-Zar. So off I go.

MB:  Thomas returns to Lord Kevin Plunder’s adventures after a four-issue hiatus, paired up with new penciler (and, in this case, inker) Herb Trimpe, who would presumably make Barry [now Windsor-] Smith look like an even tougher act to follow than he already was.  Now, I’m not foolhardy enough to equate Trimpe with Smith, but the change in styles is much less noticeable than I’d expected, and Herb’s strikes me as much better suited to Ka-Zar than to, say, last month’s Iron Man.  As for Rascally Roy, having inherited this potentially epic plotline from Merry Gerry, he seems eager to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible; not being a regular reader, I’m surprised that he apparently killed off a major character.

Dr. Doom in
"... And If I Be Called Traitor--!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Frank Giacoia

Doom faces off with T’Challa, trying to get him to lay down his weapon. But when the Wakandan prince does so, the turncoat tyrant blasts him with energy and has him carted away. Admiring the Panther’s nobility and honor out loud (as all good villains do), Doom still continues with his search for vibranium. T’Challa manages to free himself, just as Doom’s machine causes earth-shattering vibrations! But the Panther confronts Doom, vowing to destroy even the vibranium unless Doom ceases his quest and leaves the country. And Doom agrees, since the Panther’s actions no longer suit his cause. -- JT

JT: Seven issues in and we have another new Doom artist, Gene Colan. Love Colon’s angles and action scenes, which are fairly well done here. But the half issue format rushes things along at a Reader’s Digest pace. I like that Doom’s arrogance is put aside a little (very little) for his admiration of the noble T’Challa. I guess he just figured he’d find another way another day to get the vibranium, as well as getting the Panther to become his ally. Good luck with that! Gerry Conway taking over for Larry Leiber definitely pumps up the hyberbole in the narrative, but I kinda liked this one overall actually. Maybe it’s my own admiration for T’Challa, one of my favorite Marvel characters. One question, though. Who’s the traitor mentioned in the title? Is it supposed to be the Panther for threatening to sacrifice his own people? Or is it Doom, for being a traitor to his undying arrogance?

MB:  Conway shifts from one half of the book to the other, turning Ka-Zar back over to Roy (although he would return in #10 and, later, the jungle lord’s solo title) to relieve Lieber of the writing chores on Dr. Doom, with Colan and Giacoia similarly replacing Tuska and Esposito.  I’ll allow that Colan must be considered a step up from Tuska on this ill-fated strip, not least with a master like Fearless Frank handling the embellishment, but while his Panther is deliciously lithe and regal, I can’t say I’m satisfied with his Doom, particularly in the close-ups that at times appear almost comical.  Gerry, on the other hand, seems to be in equally good command of both monarchs, and the stalemate with which he ends the story extremely apt.

SM: This issue is a prime example of why villains don't work as main characters in their own title. Doom is toothless. He stuns T'Challa and even decides not to disarm him at the end. He "punishes" his lackeys with energy bolts and karate blows and leaves them alive. Why? He could have not only disarmed the Black Panther, he could have killed him at the start and been done with it. Even if T'Challa's people wouldn't have been good slaves, so what? Doom gives up the power far too quickly because of a simple reality of the day: the villain cannot win, even in his own book. Gene Colan does okay work here. Not his best but better than George Tuska (how's that for a backhanded compliment?). See, though, no matter how good the art, the story falls apart without Doom being given the freedom to alter the status quo. This was the same thing that doomed The Joker's own title over at DC. There's a reason Doom and the Joker are so popular and deadly adversaries. But none of those reasons are enough to float their own titles.

PE: I'm beginning to wonder, and please bear with me, if these Marvel writers were being paid for all the "..." and "--" in their titles. And when Roy (and his college degree) became a big-time writer, it opened the flood gates for pretension. Really, can't we have a story title now and then like "Spider-Man Goes Nuts!" rather than "-- Here There Be Crazed God-Like Beings Sayeth Hemingway...!"?

The Mighty Thor 191
"A Time of Evil!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Now in possession of the Odin-Ring, Loki sits on the throne of Asgard. Odin forbids anyone from interfering, as the wearer of said ring wealds both power and law. Loki orders the All-Father to take the Odinsleep. Thor however, doesn’t let a few rules stop him, and takes up the good fight. True to legend, the ring does possess power even a Thunder God can’t defy, breaking Mjolnir’s enchantment and making it a weapon in Loki’s hand. Karnilla gloats, Balder (in her servitude) mopes, and Sif strikes. But the Odin-Ring has an answer for everything. Loki brings the Warriors Three back from a senseless limbo to add to the sport, but soon wearies of this and pins the good Asgardians unmoving until he can hatch his next move. He bids Karnilla to create a humanoid form, a lifeless powerhouse without mercy. Loki then uses his own power to give it life and calls it Duro the Demolisher. Its purpose-- to slay Thor. Knowing the Thunder God must follow, Loki sends Durok to Earth, there to wreak havoc until he fulfills his final purpose.     -JB

JB: Last month we rolled our eyes a bit when Loki butted in at the end, and some rolling may still be going on, but overall the issue acquits itself well enough. The Odin-Ring seems to be a rather convenient way for Loki to wield control over everyone, sending Odin for yet another sleep (he misses a lot of fun!), and playing cat and mouse with Thor. The creation of Durok is satisfactorily mysterious; we’ll see how relevant he turns out to be. Buscema makes him look good at least.

MB: Apropos of nothing but my insistence on reporting such minutiae, this month Marvel transitions from paginating just the story (holding at 19 net in most cases) to the overall issue (32 sans covers).  Not much to say about Loki’s latest evil scheme, which after ordering Odin to get his jammies on entails playing the obligatory round of the I-think-I’ll-toy-with-him-before-I-kill-him routine with Thor, followed by the creation of Durok the Demolisher, yet another big bruiser intended to knock the stuffing out of the Thunder God.  As usual, Loki plays on Thor’s soft spot for Midgard and us poor mortals, neatly setting up next issue’s fireworks, and also as usual, the incomparable Buscema/Sinnott team just keeps right on truckin’, visualizing it all spectacularly.

PE: It doesn't feature The Circus of Crime but it's one of the weakest Thor adventures in some time.
When will Odin learn to keep Loki caged on a distant planet with no possible way to sneak through a wormhole somehow? The old guy seems to switch emotions on a dime more and more these days. The only thing interesting about the latest family feud between The Thunder God and his pop is that Odin has enough of his son's bad-mouthing and does something radical about it! Outside of this three-parter we're commencing, I see no further appearances of Durok the Demolisher and his surname will be adopted in a few years by a certain cyborg. "There ain't enough room in this Universe fer two Demolishers."

SM: It's sad to see a title with such promise spinning its wheels and going in circles. This is just one pointless battle after another, with lots of posturing, speeches, and dramatic poses. Odin has another temper tantrum and smites Thor, but has another immediate change of heart. Then he takes a nap. I'm with Dean Peter on this one; it's weak stuff, the same kind of cookie cutter padding, dragging out these things into false epics. It's just more of the same.

Conan the Barbarian 8
"The Keepers of the Crypt"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith, Tom Sutton, and Tom Palmer

Wanted after his misadventures in Numalia, Conan is tracked by Corinthian soldiers. The Cimmerian causes an avalanche, burying his pursuers. When the black-haired barbarian scales down the mountain to survey his deadly handiwork, he finds the Corinthian captain still alive and ready for revenge. After quickly dispatching the lone survivor, Conan roams off and discovers an abandoned city — he enters and is soon attacked by a giant gila monster. The young thief scrambles up a crumbling tower to escape the red and yellow beast: at the top, he heaves a boulder into the ravenous reptile’s mouth, killing the creature. Just before Conan is about to enter an ancient temple, the Corinthian captain returns, only wounded and very much alive. The former combatants decide to join forces and share any riches found within the temple. Soon they discover the priceless Treasure-Crypt of Lanjau. However, it is guarded by the Keepers of the Treasure-Crypt, huge, undead knights. After a savage skirmish, Conan and the Corinthian retreat — when the Keepers chase them into the sunlight, the giant ghouls burst into flames. -TF

TF: With this crackerjack issue, continuity begins to creep into the series. Not only are the Corinthian
soldiers pursuing Conan because of the incidents from last issue, there are four remaining pages after the Keepers are destroyed: on these, Conan reunites and rides off with Jenna, the nubile prostitute from issue #6. We have a pair of Toms as inkers, Sutton and Palmer, and they both make it a nipple-filled comic. Barry Smith — tagged the “British-born bombshell” on The Hyborian Page — is really rounding into fabulous form. There’s intricate detail in each panel: he draws and shades every single scale of the giant gila monster over three tremendous pages. And the reptile’s colors are just the icing on the cake. Go Chiefs! Go “The Giant Gila Monster!” While the Keepers didn’t really resemble Templars, they have a good shot at freaking out Professor Matthew — especially if you stand over his shoulder and moan while he’s reading the comic. The splash page states that “The Keepers of the Crypt” is “based on an original synopsis by Robert E. Howard,” but my search could find no evidence to back that claim.

SM: This one is based on a "synopsis" by Robert E. Howard. It won't be long before they'll be based on drunken mutterings and bad dreams. Still, a rousing yarn, but unless Roy starts changing things up pretty soon, I'm going to start getting a little bored. The glow of discovery and happy surprise is wearing off. I love the art and what Roy brings to the book, but they're all starting to look and feel the same. The same red-haired rivals who don't survive the story, the theft, the pretty maidens, the coldness of Conan's actions are all well and good, but it's time to break free of the synopses and adaptations of the short stories and poems and get to the epic storytelling this series deserves. However, I tip my hat to the introduction of continuity. More to come, I hope.

Sub-Mariner 40
"-- Under the Name of Ritual --"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Sam Grainger

The Sub-Mariner and Spider-Man are transported like magic by Lady Tuvia to the city of the Black Sea.  The city is inhabited by mutant telepaths that need the heroes to protect them from a huge warrior named 'Turalla.'  Spider-Man isn't too keen on the idea of getting in a brawl with this bad guy while Namor is uncharacteristically calm and compliant as he prepares for battle.  He reveals to Spidey that he feels obligated since it was his people of Atlantis that had at one time lived with this mutant race, only to have unfairly persecuted them and drove them away to live elsewhere.  By tradition, both heroes are allowed to fight Turalla at one time and Turalla is not allowed to use his powerful psychic mind-blasts against them.  The two heroes have it rough at first when they fight him, but eventually become victorious.  Unable to swallow the bitter pill of defeat, Turalla starts to use his mind-blasts on them.  All looks lost for Subby and Spidey but, fortunately, an old dude living in Boston has been monitoring the goings on by using his own psychic powers.  The old man was a former mutant of the Black Sea.  He uses his telepathic powers to stop Turalla for good.  The two heroes go their separate ways as Namor heads to Boston to meet the old man and find out if his father is still alive. -TM

TM:  I like how all of these supposed advanced races and otherworldly tribes in the Marvel Universe have all of these stupid different traditions that usually leads to combat.  Not a big fan of this story as I thought Namor's quest for his father was going to start as advertised last issue.  This comic book's main problem lately seems to be its inconsistency as Namor bounces from one strange adventure to the next.  Still, there were worse comic books out there at the time.  In all fairness though, I didn't read the Daredevil story that proceeded this one.  Maybe if I had I would have liked this one a bit more.

Has Spidey been packing on the pounds?
MB:  With Thomas and Andru both having left the book, Marvel obviously needed somebody to draw the damned thing, and having Gene Colan (here inked by Sam Grainger) take over—for how long, I can’t recall—makes sense, not only because of his lengthy history with the character, but also to increase the continuity with the first part of newbie writer Gerry Conway’s crossover, way back in Daredevil #77.  Ironically, Hornhead himself is nowhere to be seen in the conclusion, and the reasons for Spidey’s presence, both in and out of the context of the story, are far from clear.  However, it’s nice to see Spidey and Namor part on such good terms, as befitting the most eloquently resolved MARMIS in recent memory, even if the ending is decidedly abrupt.

SM: I really felt like I walked into the middle of this story. It comes out of nowhere, I thought it was a flashback. Is this really a direct continuation from two months earlier in DD 77? Why yes, the end of that issue says "To Be Continued in APRIL." Just weeks later, I totally forgot, so I can imagine the readers - after two MONTHS - being even more confused. The whole thing seems oddly out of place, like a fill-in issue. We last left Namor taking off to find his father (which is mentioned briefly here) and then stuck in this ass-half of a cross-over. Why was Spider-Man even necessary? None of this even touched his own monthly title. On the bright side, I agreed with Prof Matthew; it was a very nice change to see Spider-Man and Namor battle together without a Marvel Misunderstanding or a negative comment to ruin it. Namor calls Spidey "friend" throughout and it all ends on the same, positive note. After years of petty bickering between characters, this DC Outlook is refreshing. Aside from that, I have no idea why this issue even exists other than to close up a hole in the continuity. Skip it and miss nothing.

The Avengers 91
"Take One Giant Step -- Backward!"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Sal Buscema

Thanks to Ronan, Hank Pym is now a primeval ape like guy, but one who refuses to kill Jan, luckily for her. Ronan has Mar-Vell captured and Goliath under his spell, fighting against the Avengers with the Sentry. During the battle, Wanda and the Vision are captured and they come just this close to kissing, but the Vision balks. Ronan witnesses this and gleefully announces they are in love.  All of this action and chaos is brought to an abrupt end when Ronan gets a message that the Kree are under attack by the Skrulls. He leaves the Sentry behind to go fight, but the Sentry, without purpose, self destructs.

SM: The last two pages are the most important as they set up the actual Kree-Skrull war. The rest of this issue is a boring slog, a real black hole in the narrative. I had no connection with the devolving of Pym and the whole plot Ronan hatched. This is my main grip with this story; too many side trips to unrelated stories. I feel like this title was given the responsibility to tie up other characters' loose ends. For example, Black Bolt's stateside adventures will be concluded here during this run and it just takes away from the good stuff. Not much here for me to comment on, even after having read it four times in the last year, I still have a hard time retaining the story or caring about what happened. Your mileage may vary.

MB:  Damn, I’m loving this Kree-Skrull War arc, despite how much I lament Hank’s periodic resignations, and Our Pal Sal, still inking his own pencils, seems somehow to have kicked it up a notch; not that he was doing anything wrong beforehand, but a maniacal Ronan the Accuser seems to bring out the best in him.  It’s great to have Mar-Vell back on the scene, although he is but an enforced spectator this time out, and even more so to have him back in the cosmic milieu where he belongs.  Roy has clarified the plot point that puzzled me last issue, as well as ending any possible ambiguity regarding his intentions toward the relationship between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, and now, with the Skrulls attacking, things kick into high gear.

PE: I must say, other than the brief appearance of the Skrulls to end this prologue (I'm assuming, in a Monday Morning Quarterback position, we are labeling these last few issues a prologue, correct?) and the aforementioned interrupted bonding time between Vizh and Scarlet, this arc has been a crashing bore to me. I'm willing to accept barbs and possibly ticking devices from my fellow scholars but it won't change my mind on this: so far, so weak. Sal's rendition of Hank Pym as The Neanderthal Man (who speaks just like The Hulk) looks, for all the world, like a George Tuska insert. I do give props to Roy for taking Vizh down a notch when he attempts to do his "insert hand into the small intestine" trick (I believe The Avengers refer to it as Maneuver 37) and gets zapped. At times that defense almost makes The Vision as unbeatable as Superman and we all know that can lead to trouble. I'm still prepared to throw myself into this saga once it kicks into high gear but I'm also ramping my anticipation way down and preparing for the inevitability that I may be in the minority when all is said and done.

Captain America and the Falcon 140
"In the Grip of Gargoyle!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita and George Roussos

The Grey Gargoyle attacks Cap and, while they battle, the Falcon looks for his missing partner and finds a discarded policeman's uniform. Falc notices it's just Steve's size, and since no other man in the universe has those measurements (which the Falcon had luckily memorized) Sam Wilson naturally concludes Steve Rogers is now a cop. Falc catches up with Cap and the Gargoyle and joins in the fray. After the Gargoyle makes an escape, Cap finally fills in his partner about his moonlighting. They split up to find the arch villain while Steve reports in to the commissioner, leading to a run-in with Sgt. Muldoon, who is none-too-happy Rogers is a friend of the commish. Meanwhile, Falcon catches up with the Gargoyle just as he is filling in the audience on his origin. The Grey one turns Falc to living stone; thanks to Element X, the Falcon can move, speak and breathe, all while being the Grey Gargoyle's slave. While all this is going on, Steve - in his police duds - goes to Sam's office and runs into Leila. She hates cops as much as white people, and since Steve is both, she is immediately nasty and leaves. With Sam nowhere to be found, Steve gets into his costume to search and is intercepted by Nick Fury, who feels the Grey Gargoyle isn't nearly as dangerous as what SHIELD is after: Element X. Luckily for them, the Gargoyle has the element and they can tackle him together. See, Element X is the most dangerous element in the world and will enable the Gargoyle to turn everyone in the world into a stone slave! -SM

SM: More coincidences and amazing deductions pull things together to make it easy on Stan. Really, the Falcon knows Steve's exact shirt size? And obviously no other guy is built like Cap, not even a Cop (Cop-tain America? No? Never mind)? Always happy to see SHIELD on the job, but they can't seem to do a damned thing without Cap's help. It's all very fast, very dramatic and beautifully drawn. Sam takes the opportunity to squeeze in a soapbox racial comment to Cap. Does he really think Cap is a racist? Stuff like this will become par for the course before long. Not the greatest chapter in the series, but fun and much better than the previous year's worth of stories. I hate Leila, but I'd better get used to her, cuz she's here to stay.

"Jive-Ass Chicken-Pluckin' Honky Tonk Cowboy MoFo!"
MB: One of my favorite issues of Marvel Team-Up—which, as I dimly recall, may have had a tie-in
with this story—pitted Cap and Spidey against the always-welcome Gargoyle, and that only increases my enjoyment of this earlier clash between the grey and the red-white-and-blue, luxuriously spread out over no fewer than four months.  Jazzy Johnny seems to have lost nothing by relinquishing the inking chores to George Roussos, as together they imbue the multiple fight scenes with the requisite amount of verve.  Needless to say, it’s a nice change of pace to see Cap and Sharon in a clinch, although the newfound Cap/Falcon partnership seems to suffer from almost as many ups and downs (sadly belying their original mutual respect).

PE: Roussos does a decent job of inking Johnny but I prefer when Jazzy does his own inking (as in the last couple months' numbers, with an assist from Tony Mortellaro). What a small world this Marvel Universe continues to be! We find out that Nick Fury and SHIELD have been monitoring a secret mountain hideaway stashed full of "the most unstable element in the world," Element X, just minutes after we find out that The Grey Gargoyle is jonesing to get his hands on... wait for it... yep, Element X! Who'da thunk it? What a hoot when The Falcon capitalizes on a lull in the heat of battle to lecture Cap on loyalty and token partners. Really? This couldn't have waited until a calmer moment? I am glad that the dynamic duo have been practicing "maneuver seven," the ultra-tricky battle move where Cap falls on his back and uses his feet to dodge flying objects. One of these Super Sundays, I'll be publishing my "Professor Pete's Marvel's Guide to Practiced Maneuvers," a handy behind-the-scenes listing of all the Marvel battle moves ever created.

"Hmmm... monogrammed CA... could it be?"

Daredevil 79
"'Murder' Cries the Man-Bull!"
Story by Gary Friedrich
Plot by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

The captured Daredevil and the Minotaur are sparring in the laboratory that created the Man-Bull.  It doesn’t look good for ol’ DD; he gets knocked out a window to the water!  Meanwhile, hippies George and Dia are kidnapped by the villains and brought to the same lab. Foggy is on his way home, ruminating over the threats that he has received from the mysterious Mr. Kline.  What a surprise – Karen Page is in the house!  The reunion is short though – Foggy gets another ring regarding blackmail.  The next call Mr. Kline makes is by video to the professor and the botched experiment, the Minotaur.  He is assured that “Bull” is stronger and meaner than ever. Daredevil’s back, whisking George and Dia off to safety. Busy “hiding” the loving hippy couple in the crowds of the theatre district, DD finds the Minotaur is close on their trail.  Another battle between the horned ones occurs.  However, although Daredevil has his work cut out for him, this time it ends in his success-- he uses his billy club to trip up the Minotaur, who loses consciousness against a brick wall then mysteriously turns back into his human form. George and Dia are grateful for DD’s friendship, but they run into the friend they were originally intending to stay with and head off, leaving Daredevil alone again . . . for now. NC & JB

NC:  Awesome issue.  I don’t mind the fact that is a multi-part story.  It keeps the suspense alive!  It was good to see Karen show some humility at last!  The Minotaur makes a good and powerful foe!

JB: It isn’t clear whether or not the Man-Bull is going to remain as the human Bull or not. He’s a villain
memorable for his rather frightening appearance mainly, and, one of the battles where DD manages to get landed with very few punches. Gene Colan’s art is somewhat uneven this time around, but as always, has spectacular action sequences.

MB: I realize that Colan will remain on this book for years to come, so it’s as fruitless as it may be heretical to say it, but I would welcome a change of pace; much as I admire Gene’s DD, a steady diet of anything can cloy.  Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, the Man-Bull, while completely lacking in subtlety, is a villain who always seems to give the other Hornhead a run for his money (running of the bulls, get it?), so kudos to Gerry—and to Gary Friedrich, who does a respectable job of scripting Conway’s plot—for introducing him.  Gardner Dozois gets a belated three-panel cameo, and if I’m not mistaken, DC/Mad man E. Nelson Bridwell is name-checked on page 10, while who but our “fearless leader” pops up with wife Joanie on page 21?

SM: Mr. Tarus, the Man-Bull. God, this book is an uphill climb to get through. The folks Matt was protecting go out for pizza or watermelon and get caught. Idiots. Foggy and Karen meet again while Foggy's dilemma thickens. Who is Mr. Kline? Will it be worth the wait to find out? Daredevil beats the Man-Bull and I've already forgotten why all of this is happening. Never a good sign. The art is, as always, excellent, but this is one hell of a boring title.

The Incredible Hulk 142
"They Shoot Hulks, Don't They?"
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Herb Trimpe and John Severin

The Hulk is all tuckered out so he climbs up the Statue of Liberty to get some sleep.  Cops spot him and spread the word to shut the area down.  A couple of ultra-rich yuppies,  the Parringtons, see this on the news.  They feel sorry for the big guy so they come up with the bright idea of holding a fundraiser for him.  It's the right thing to do and they can invite all their other rich friends to join in for a get together.  With the help of their daughter Samantha, who flips a guard into the ocean, they are able to persuade the Hulk to come with them with the promise of getting him his own country to live in.  They throw the Hulk quite an extravagant party as their rich guests get amusement out of the Hulk.  Daughter Samantha is upset that her parents won't donate any money or support to her women's rights group so she throws a protest.  The evil Enchantress has been monitoring the Hulk, waiting to get revenge on him for foiling one of her evil schemes from long ago.  She uses her powers to possess Samantha and turn her into the Valkyrie.  The Valkyrie wails on the Hulk but he refuses to hit her because she is a girl.  Eventually, the Enchantress's spell wears off and the Valkyrie changes back into Samantha while the Hulk reverts back into Bruce Banner.  The Story ends with Banner walking away in disgust. -TM

TM:  I had to make sure I wasn't drunk or high after reading this one.  That's just how awfully bizarre it is.  And no, I wasn't.  The Marvel Bullpen must have been in a giddy mood that month as they decided to make this issue into a comedy.  After reading the first couple of pages you can tell that this was not supposed to be taken seriously.  It was like most sitcoms, from the 1970's, that had a couple of laughs but for the most part were largely unfunny.  I don't usually read the fan mail for these comics.  I might have to make an exception for this one as I'm curious if folks way back then found it amusing.          

SM: I'd wager most, if not all of us are middle aged. We're fans of comics and love them dearly. So, let's be honest, we're way past the ages of the target audience, especially for this particular era we're covering. At this point, comics were being made for kids and, at most, college age readers. Also, the early 70's were changing pop entertainment from light fantasy to issue oriented, relevant fare. Even allowing all of that, is this issue what kids were looking for in a comic? Yeah, the concept of Radical Chic (and thanks, Roy, for making sure I don't pronounce it "chick") is ripe for mocking, but I can't imagine the satire was truly appreciated by youngsters. For me anyway, it comes off as silly and uninteresting. Yes, I can hear myself as I write this. I'm bashing a comic book about a green rampaging monster as being silly. The difference here is that silliness is inherent in the art, in the concept of super heroes, and we accept that as a given. Hulk fighting robots, super powered musclemen, aliens and the army are all part of the format and what the audience has come to expect. Granted, the Hulk series has not been the strongest in the Marvel Universe, but it has usually been somewhat fun and exciting. This issue is just awful. Worse than awful; it's boring. Take page 14 (please!); the entire page - 6 full panels - is devoted to a sight gag that's just not funny. Neither the Hulk's efforts to get Pizza Rolls, nor the guy who I initially thought was Woody Allen amused me. This whole thing is just one failed attempt to be smart after another. The Hulk presented in a society fund raising party? He would sit still for this, even for a girl who reminds him of Jarella? General Ross should hire this chick, because apparently getting the Hulk calmly into Manhattan to attend parties isn't nearly as hard as knocking him out of the sky with "iceberg rockets" or whatever. I've been waiting my whole life for a "Man in the Moon Marigolds" reference (not), but referencing "I am Curious (Yellow)?" An adult film known for its sexual frankness and nudity? In a kids comic? Did they just expect readers to have heard about it and just roll with the joke? It's still not funny. Yes, I know, DC also mined the title for some heavy handed civil rights polemic in Lois Lane's solo title (they called it "I am Curious (Black)"), but that doesn't make it any less out of place. Oh, and as usual, at no time during all of this non-rage did the Hulk become Bruce Banner. At least, not until it was plot convenient.

MB: A Bullpen Bulletin notes, “The current Hulk thriller…is based on Tom Wolfe’s brilliant best-seller Radical Chic, and Tom himself actually appears in the yarn [as he had in Roy’s Dr. Strange #180].  He said he’s always wanted to be a Marvel superhero—and nobody says them there kinda things lightly around the ol’ Bullpen!”  Not having read the book, I cannot comment on the nuances of Roy’s “inspiration,” and with its title (“They Shoot Hulks, Don’t They?”), this issue risks sinking under the weight of all its pop-culture references.  But the bottom line is, it’s both fun (e.g., Greenskin’s byplay with the waiters at the cocktail party) and noteworthy, as Samantha Parrington becomes the first human to host the persona of the Valkyrie.

PE: If I didn't know any better, I'd guess this was the special resurrection issue of Not Brand Ecch or the legendary ashcan edition of What If #0: "What If The Hulk Was Andy Warhol's Best Pal?" The Not Brand formula is very much on display here with Roy's dense dialogue balloons and Herb's teensy weensy image-packed panels (all that's missing is all those unfunny signs on the walls). Though it's a real riot, it's also (no lie) some of the best writing Rascally has done since arriving in the Marvel Universe. I almost sense Roy parodying himself and the pretensions that can creep into his funny book scripts. Best inside-joke of the issue comes when one of the "beautiful people" at the party insists that her next charity function will blow Hulk's out of the water: "Next week, I'm hosting one for the entire X-Men -- if I can find them." Obviously this was Roy's musing about the long-gone-to-reprint X-Kids. As a one-off, this can't be beat.

SM: "Mumsy?" "Dadsy?" And more Women's Lib tirades from the Valkyrie, who doesn't even show
up until well past the halfway point. Add into the mix the usually blah Timpe/Severin art (Jack Abel can't get here soon enough) and you've got an issue that took me three tries to get all the way through. My fellow academicians seem to like this one; the satire, the highbrow writing, and I get it. It does try something different than the usual Hulk Smash that we'll get back to in short order. But it just seems so damned superfluous. Bruce Banner, when he does finally arrive at the end, is a nasty, rude prick. I guess Samantha had it coming, but jeez Bruce, you have so few friends. You might want to be a little nicer. Next issue, thankfully, we're back to super villains, but we also get Dick Ayers in the process. Ugh, I need a vacation.

PE: Sorry, Scott, just checked the vacation ledger and you're not due until April 2017. Now get back to work.

Fantastic Four 113
"The Power of The Over-Mind!"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Things don’t look good for the Fantastic Four. Ben appears to be dead, motionless on the ground from the Hulk’s attack, and the police close in to arrest them for the destruction the battle has caused! Reed and Johnny, with a little help from the arriving Sue in the Jet Car, hightail it (with Alicia and Ben’s body) to the Baxter Building, where Reed surmises Ben is just stunned, and uses an energy booster to bring him back. Ben and Alicia are happy again, and Johnny takes off in a rage, missing Crystal. A blinding light appears, clearing to reveal the Watcher, come to warn them of the approaching danger, a being called the Overmind. He vanishes, and Reed and Sue set out in the Pogo-Plane to find the Thing and Torch. The specter of Agatha Harkness, appears in the sky to warn them of great danger. The radio demands the surrender of the F.F. to the authorities, and the law-abiding team that they are, all meet up at city hall to appeal to the mayor to change his decision. He won’t, sending our heroes to be locked up, and we see why. The Overmind, a giant of a man, has already arrived, and the mayor is merely the first victim whose mind has been controlled to do his bidding. -JB

Best panel of the month award
JB: It’s been a long time, but I remember these issues with the Overmind from my childhood. The rediscovery of some of these tales is a roller coaster; some meet expectations while others don’t; if this one’s an indication, these may do just that.  The busy cover may promise more than it delivers, but the appearance of the Watcher is always fun, and tells us serious business is at hand. We get another hint of baby Franklin’s powers, and it’s nice to see Ben back to normal.

SM: Johnny Storm is an a-hole and he reaches some real heights in that regard this issue. First he turns on Reed for Ben's apparent death, once again refusing to consider that Reed just might know what he's doing after all these years. Then he whines his apology and after Ben and Alicia are happily reunited, he goes all "woe is me" about Crystal and being alone. He's more emotionally unstable than Anakin Skywalker. All of this stupidity takes up the bulk of the issue. Again Stan is buying time and filling pages to build up toward something larger. The Over-mind story will eventually become a really good epic, but it takes a while for us to get there. We get to meet the mayor, who looks totally different than any other mayor we've seen. This guy is like super hot and young. Interesting. All flash, no splash. It gets better soon.

MB: Like last month’s Thor, this is a return to Stan’s old storytelling style, in which he wraps up one major threat in the first part of an issue and then introduces another in the second, rather than offering a neat conclusion at the end.  For all the bluster associated with him here, I don’t remember the Over-Mind being one of the FF’s more enduring foes, but I’ll always applaud a return appearance by Mr. Prime Directive himself, the Watcher, and that full-page shot of him nicely demonstrates Big John’s power.  I find the stuff about forcing the FF to disband—and Johnny’s attitude throughout the issue—tiresome, like all such plotlines; to me the highlight, dopey grin notwithstanding, was Ben’s coming to terms with being the Thing…for now, anyway.

PE: Just as Johnny finishes his tirade about Ben and apologizes to Reed for dissing him, The Thing
strolls off with Alicia and I thought, "My heavens, it's been quite a while since The Torch had one of his hissy fits about Crystal" From my thoughts to Stan's ears, evidently. Way too much phony in-group fighting this issue, and that's a cliche we've been blissfully free of (for the most part) since the dark days when the subtitle was "The World's Okayest Comic Magazine!" LOL-dialogue abound here. Reed Richards, smartest man on earth, reacting to little wifey's question about whether he'd ever heard of the Over-Mind: " No, darling! But there's something strangely ominous in the sound of his name" Or wait, maybe this is the best exchange of the month, when Reed arrives at the Mayor's office and faces arrest: "The entire city -- perhaps the whole planet -- the whole universe is in the gravest danger!" Can you almost hear the pregnant pauses as he ramps it up? And this about a menace he knows nothing about! Worst... cover... of the year!

The Amazing Spider-Man 99
"A Day in the Life of..."
Story by Stan Lee
Art by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

Newly happy couple Peter and Gwen only have eyes for each other, and Peter has visions of popping the question. But with no money to support his lady love, he heads to the Bugle to see about a job. Turns out Robbie and JJJ have an assignment to grab some pix of the riot at the city pen, which leads Peter to get tough, demand more money and a steady gig, and get his way! Armed with his new Sub-Mini camera, Pete changes into Spider-Man and swings to the prison. After getting the lowdown on the riot from a goon on the roof, Spidey breaks into the jail to find crook Turpo holding the warden hostage. The oily Turpo started the riot as a front for an escape, not caring about his fellow inmates’ grievances. Spidey bursts in and puts an end to the breakout, as well as the bad blood between the warden and the inmates. Swinging away, Spidey is shouted down by a local TV host, who asks him to be a guest on his show that very night, to help with his PR. Peter hands in his terrific pix, but is aghast to learn he won’t get paid until Friday! So he heads to the TV studio, in hopes of earning some money to take Gwen out, and arrives just before the taping begins. Making a grand entrance and doing some come-into-my-parlor tricks to prove he’s the actual Spider-Man, our hero begins pontificating about the state of the prison system, until his moment in the spotlight is cut short by the local police. Realizing he didn’t get paid for his time, he changes into regular guy clothes to meet Gwen, who reveals she’s cooked dinner to have Peter all to herself. Grrrroooowwwwll! -JT

JT: A decent issue because it’s Spider-Man, and until we hit the Keith Pollard era every issue will be decent at worst, but if this were any other book it would be a waste. Some development in Peter’s social life is shown, but the prison riot, which lasts all of ten minutes, and the TV appearance, which lasts 15 at most, together make for a time-killing chapter in the wall-crawler’s life, that for some reason I took a day and a half to summarize above. It is good to see Pete grow a pair and stand up to JJJ a little. But he kinda ruins it by nearly skipping out of the office with an odd look on his face screaming “Oh, wow! Will I!” like one of the Little Rascals, then “I did it! I did it!” like a giddy little schoolgirl. Sigh…

JS: So we get to a filler issue between a couple of amazing story arcs. Sure, it gets a little preachy, and the most interesting aspect is Peter's holding his own against J.J. Jameson, but Kane's art is still solid (at least as it appears in the beautiful IDW Artist's Edition). We'll have forgotten about this low point soon enough. Can't wait for the introduction of Morbius!

PE: The very definition of a 'tweener, complete with money problems, appearances on The Tonight Show, prison breaks, and a public service announcement. Not my cup of tea but after the last milestone and pre-lots of magic, I can excuse a weak offering.

JT: Some odd art in certain panels here. Peter looks like he’s had some work done in spots, very Bruce Jenner-esque. And the look of shock on Peter’s face when he finds out, like most normal 9-5ers, he won’t get paid until Friday, is so exaggerated he looks like Don Knotts after seeing a ghost. I blame the inker, much to Prof. Matthew’s chagrin. All in all this issue seems like a throw away in anticipation of the big deal that the Bullpen Bulletin promises #100 will be, so maybe ol’ Sugarlips merely rushed the job? A fun surprise to see an unnamed Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, typecast as the TV show host and his sidekick. Even though it’s super unrealistic. I mean, come on…Manhattan is a bit far from Burbank. Hiyooooo!

MB: The Bullpen page is already touting next month’s issue as “a story which will be truly different [a fair statement, to say the least]; truly worthy of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the world’s most popular, most sensational, and most relevant superhero.”  In the meantime, Stan’s socially minded prison-break yarn is an enjoyable little divertissement, with a quintessential Gil Kane splash page (inked once again by Frank Giacoia), a Johnny Carson/Ed McMahon Tonight Show guest spot for those old enough to recognize such things, and a second consecutive happy ending with Gwen; irony-lovers will appreciate the fact that the police close in on Spidey exactly when he is doing something that would ultimately benefit them.

SM: Gil Kane's pencils suffer under Frank Giacoia's inks. Suddenly Peter Parker has huge lips. And what's with Parker's idiot expression at the bottom of page 3? Did he get a does of Joker venom? It's awesome to see Peter facing down Jonah, but how can a guy who tackles Doc Ock without hesitation not have the nerve to stare down Jonah Jameson if not for Gwen? Jonah's just a blowhard. And Parker's so stupid he didn't stop to think "salary" meant a scheduled payday? The Johnny Carson bit (notice they never actually name the host) is just too cute by half - and corny as hell. All Spider-Man had to do was a few tricks, but he makes a speech about overcrowded jails! WTF? The warden is already going to handle that, so what's with the PSA? Did the readers who are told "Crime doesn't pay" really give a crap? Well, Spidey, not for anything, but if you stopped catching crooks, the jails wouldn't be so full, genius. And does Carson pay cash? Doesn't Spidey remember back when he tried to cash a check when he was still doing this for money? What a comedown from the drug arc. The web spinner is looking more like a wheel spinner. Nothing to see here folks.

Also this Month

Millie the Model #191
Monsters on the Prowl #12 ->
Our Love Story #12
The Outlaw Kid #7
Rawhide Kid #90
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #90
The X-Men #71

A pretty blonde in a green mini-skirt shows an interest in a strange underwater creature held in a public aquarium. Why the fascination? I'm glad you asked. It seems a guard at the exhibit holds all the answers. His predecessor was a strange dude with orange scaly skin who taunted and tortured the sea life at the aquarium until, one day, he bumped into Vannetta, Mistress of the Witches' Coven, at the shark tank. He threatens to feed Vanetta to the sharks unless she whips up a spell to cure him of his fishy scale skin. Not one to kowtow to threats, Vannetta nonetheless promises to transform the guard into the identity he deserves. After the spell is cast, the evil man is now a giant orange sea monster. After the guard finishes his tale, we witness the pretty blonde walking away, casting the shadow of the Witch Queen! Not a lot to like in "The Maiden and the -- Monster!" despite fairly good art by Manfred Sommer. Stan Lee reaches back to the bad old days of science fiction stories that come equipped with"surprise" twists you could see coming from the splash page. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we found out this was a script left over from pre-hero Tales to Astonish. Why do the guards at this "Marine World"-esque park wear Nazi outfits with a fish sign replacing the swastika? Who came along after the initial guard was transformed and popped the beast into a tank? How is it that this sea monster is on public display and not in a lab somewhere? Don't bother asking. Stick to "I Defied Gomdulla -- The Living Pharaoh!", the epic Kirby tale that opens Monsters on the Prowl #12. -PE