Wednesday, September 16, 2015

November 1976 Part Two: The Black Panther, Warlock, Red Sonja, and Skull All Get Their Pink Slips

Werewolf by Night 41
"And Death Shall Be the Change"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Perlin
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Debra James
Cover by Pablo Marcos

Topaz-Harpy attacks Jack-Wolf with Glitternight cackling all the way in the background, until Daniel's spirit breaks free of the Light-Demons and possesses her, battling the bald baddie's evil forces. Brother Voodoo drops a boulder that helps Topaz break free from GN's control, is blasted by a light ray, and comes back when Daniel enters his body, and he, Jack and Topaz head out, entering a chamber where GN is draining the life forces of Coker and Northrup! Jack turns back into Werewolf and the trio manage to corral Glitternight, but the evil egg-head releases "the fourth" from the imprisonment in his dark soul—it's Fire-Eyes! The red-headed warrior is getting the best of Werewolf, until Voodoo rips Glitternight's puppet strings of light, freeing Fire Eyes from the killer chrome-dome's control. He turns on Glitternight, makes him burn, but a buzzsaw of light cuts Fire-Eyes in half and he explodes! As the smoke clears, the black egg is gone, Glitternight is dead (we can only hope!), Jack wills himself to change back into human form, Northrup sees the light and gives up chasing werewolves, and Coker mourns his zuvembie great-grandfather. --Joe Tura

Joe Tura: Oh, man! Just by the cover, I knew I was in trouble. Fire Eyes? "The man with the gaze of doom"? With a cheesy outfit like that? Holy mackerel, that's a big step back for a book that can't afford to take even a baby step in the wrong direction. And when we look inside, it's not too far off, with a few exceptions. There's action aplenty, although it's creepy and odd. There's the typical "hard-boiled" dialogue, but so much of it, and so many different colored captions, that my eyes started to cross like the red light demon's. But at least we got some answers to the Northrup obsession, the Coker conundrum, and the Fire-Eyes fiasco. Would have been nice to see a three-page battle between him and Glitternight instead of three panels. Oh well, at least that silly sorcerer is gone once and for all. Or is that twice and for all?

Chris Blake: Doug & Don deliver a satisfying conclusion to this multi, multi-parter (since the Coker sub-plot goes back a good long ways – don’t ask me how far).  There’s plenty of demon-fighting and zombie-bashing, but more importantly, Jack’s insistence that the Three Who Are All give him a straight answer also allows us, as readers, to understand fully the purpose of the excursion to the big black egg of Glitternight’s soul.  Brother Voodoo is well-employed, as Daniel’s soul-self is able to free Topaz of a case of the harpies, while Jericho provides a demon-vexing wall of fire and some nifty hand-to-hand against Dr G.  

Fire-Eyes doesn’t get as much screen-time as we might’ve expected from the cover, and his clear reluctance to fight the Werewolf takes some of the juice out of their conflict.  Jack thinks wistfully about Fire-Eyes’ noble “sacrifice,” but let’s face it: the Fourth personage of the Former Five Who Were All (ie Fire-Eyes) knows he’s gotta get smoked if he’s going to be free of the confines of Glitternight’s soul.  If anything, Dr G deserves massive de-meritation for being so fool-hardy that he sent F-E after the Werewolf in the first place, since that move allowed Brother Voodoo a chance to sever the “puppet-strings” Glitternight thought he could use to contain, and manipulate, F-E.  Stupid villain… .
Perlin’s art is above-par, so much so that I thought he might’ve had an inks-assist to enhance some of the panels’ clarity (GCD is mum on the possibility of other artist[s] pitching in).  But, if the results here are all-Don, then more power to him.  The only drawback is a preponderance of small panels – which allow for quick pacing, but sometimes diminish the intensity of the action – but it was the right move, in order to allow Don to pack so much story into this one issue.  A few highlights: Topaz’s talons dig at Jack’s face (p 3, pnl 4); Jack beset by slimy, blood-sucking demons (p 6, last pnl); the view from below, as Jack & Co prepare to descend deeper into the back soul of Glitternight (p 14, 1st pnl).

Skull the Slayer 8
"Riders on the Sky!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Sal Buscema and Sonny Trinidad
Colors by George Roussos
Letters by Denise Wohl
Cover by Jack Kirby, Marie Severin, and Frank Giacoia

Scully and his pals are welcomed into the City of Gold by its ruler, ex-Navy pilot-turned-Inca God Victor Cochran. Though the ruler seems genuinely interested in making peace with the Skullers, there's a menace lurking that may make peace a moot point. As Cochran is showing our heroes the Throne Room of Viracocha ("Judgement Hall of the Gods"), the city is attacked by Huns riding pterodactyls. Though a grand fight is fought, in the end Scully falls and all seems lost. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: Oh, what Bill "Angry Man"-tlo could have done with this series from here on out we can only speculate. Marvel was about to acquire the license to Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous creations and their integration into this (obviously inspired by ERB) Universe seems a natural. What would have been cooler than a Skull the Slayer/John Carter team-up? Yeah, you're right, probably a whole lot of things would have been cooler. Could be that Skull ended just at the right time, before it could become just another series on the decline, but it remained an entertaining hodgepodge right up to the end. Mantlo fills the blender up with elements of Phantom of the Opera, the legendary Flight 19, and those crazy Burroughsian dinosaur pilots and pushes the "high whack" button several times this issue. This is an entertaining cocktail that might have caught on eventually. Alas, aside from a couple of "wrap up the story threads" issues of Marvel Two-In-One in 1978 (written by Skull creator Marv Wolfman), we'll have to say bye bye to a failed gem.

On the art front, Our Pal and Sonny Trinidad do a great job imagining for us (even if Scully looks a tad too much like Hercules on this cover) and that half-pager of Viracocha sure looks like something Indy would have Jonesed over.

Warlock 15
"Just a Series of Events!"
Story and Art by Jim Starlin
Colors by Michel Wolfman
Letters by Tom Orzechowski
Cover by Jim Starlin

 Now a “nebulous giant,” Adam laments that both his homeworld, our own Tellus, and adopted planet, Counter-Earth, are forever denied him, and seeks a new home.  Aboard his rebuilt space ark, Sanctuary I, Thanos dispatches a bored Gamora as a cooler-headed bodyguard for the impetuous, idealistic Warlock, having “use for that gleaming fool in my future plans”; she welcomes the assignment, but would turn on Thanos if she knew his true goal:  “total stellar genocide.”  Adam, his unwitting pawn, becomes even more jaded after saving Lamilm Gor from Marr Gar, a certified representative of the major intergalactic corporation Interplaneteur, Inc., who’d planned to abandon the old prospector in intergalactic space after repossessing his shuttle.

As Gamora seeks Adam, pondering her master’s “secretive ways,” Drax destroys her craft; on a dead world, Adam meets “an ancient traveler…or perhaps a humble thinker…maybe even a crazed hermit,” who foretells that he will watch Gamora, Pip, and others die and cause the High Evolutionary’s death.  On the planet Degenera, Pip eludes Constable Truehart with his ill-gotten gains while Adam, in the isolated jungle of an Earth-like planet, confronts his Soul Gem, which draws him inside and says, “I am one of the six,” as established in Captain Marvel #45.  It revels in its apparent victory, believing it has gained control, but Adam foresaw the attempted takeover and retains his freedom, threatening to take his own life and strand the Gem without a host body. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley: Read today, my diary entry for August 9 commingles vindication and mortification:  “Steve got me Black Goliath (Last Ish!), Marvel PresentsMarvel Two-in-One [written as a small numeral “2” inside a large numeral “1”—wasn’t I creative?], M.’s Grtst Comix [sic], Dracula #50 (Silver Surfer) and a Warlock.”  I say “vindication” because it confirms my certainty that, at one time, I did actually have that issue of Tomb of Dracula, which subsequently vanished, like Vlad turning into fog, from my collection; solely due to the Surfer’s presence, it was the only one I owned besides the Dr. Strange crossover, so I have to assume that I traded it to somebody sometime for something.  And I say “mortification” because of an incident that might be amusing in retrospect.

For those who missed my 1976 “Snapshot” in 2011 (God, have I been writing for MU for that long?), “Steve” is my next-oldest brother, who used to share his comics with me before I started buying them myself, and had for some reason been charged with the responsibility of picking up mine for that week.  With his unerring eye for quality, Steve thought Warlock looked neat and added it to the stack, but I, who had probably never seen Adam before, couldn’t get past the fact that he had spent MY 30¢ on something I hadn’t empowered him to purchase.  Five days later, understandably enraged by my incessant 13-year-old whining, he tore the comic to pieces, all the more painful in light of my retroactive regard for Adam, not to mention what it would fetch now.

Matthew: And, of course, the fact that in a month of heavy bloodletting, it was also his “Last Ish!”  After a mere 21 issues encompassing four and a half years and three publications—including Marvel Premiere and Strange Tales—Adam’s original solo strip finally gives up the ghost, although his story will be brought to some degree of closure in several guest-shots over the next year, starting with Marvel Team-Up #55 in March.  “We ran out of paper,” as Starlin recounted in an interview with Newsarama’s Zack Smith.  “Quite literally, Marvel couldn’t get paper from Canada, which is where they were printing at the time, and a number of books [also including Skull the Slayer and the Strange Tales reprints] got canceled.  I had left Warlock, but it was supposed to go on…

“It was a pretty obscure little thing that happened—these were the lowest-selling books at that time, but they were still doing well and, to my knowledge, one of the few times when books got canceled that were still actually making money….I’d had a number of problems with Gerry Conway, who had been the last editor on the book while I was there, and I decided it was time to go over to DC…I worked in animation for a while, and did Darklon the Mystic for Warren.”  (Per the MCDb, he made a playful allusion to the Star Thief in the Darklon story for Eerie #100.)  At once accurate and deceptively simple, “Just a Series of Events!” is the perfect title for a story that forms a coda, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the cosmic spectacle to come.

Unaided even by Leialoha this time, Starlin is credited as being “once again trapped into doing everything else” besides the editing, lettering, and coloring, and his unfiltered brilliance is a sight to see.  We learn more about Thanos’s plans and the dire predictions of Adam’s future self, while the artwork—most notably the opening sequence of Adam dwarfing our star-system and the climactic confrontation with the “emerald viper,” rendered in delirious yellow and green—is sublime.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the unrepentant Pip is the only character who undergoes no development, while a sign in “the sleaziest section of Degenera’s main city” reads, “MIJ EYB” (“BYE JIM” spelled backwards, although whether a goodbye from or to Starlin, I could not say).

Chris: Starlin gives us the latest chapter of the Thanos conquest-of-everything epic (hey – the Big T doesn’t do anything by half-measures, does he?).   I had forgotten that so much of this story will take place after the Warlock title has (again) folded.  The return of Thanos is a welcome development; I wasn’t as crazy about the recent Star Thief story as I have been for other Starlin-offerings over the years.  

Of course, I appreciate the way Warlock dismisses the asparagus-headed collection agent; one question, though: where has Warlock arrived now, that all beings are as spatially-oversized (to coin a term) as he is?  Or, is it that Warlock has returned to his previous position in space, and regained his usual size?  Starlin doesn’t offer an explanation.  It’d be pretty funny, wouldn’t it, for Gamora to locate Warlock, and find him to be a system-spanning size?  And Thanos, relative to Warlock, would only be a tiny mote of space-dust; can’t say he’d take that well, would he -?  Call it a hunch.

The battle with the soul gem is a fitting final moment.  Warlock correctly observes that the gem appears to have been gaining in willfulness; could that be due to a desire to reveal its sentience (confidence, bordering on over-confidence, on the gem’s part)?  Good planning by Warlock to ensure that the vampiric gem would not gain authority over his physical and psychological selves.  
I, like Prof Matthew, am reading these stories thru the magic of baxter-paper reprints from the 1980s, which lack lettercols.  Does Starlin indicate anywhere in the issue where we might expect to find the next chapters in the Warlock/Thanos story -?  

Mark: When I first saw "WARLOCK #15" show up on the course curriculum last month, I honestly thought it was a gag; our beloved Dean Paste Pot breaking into the giggle-juice in honor of our football team, the MU Uatus, winning their first tilt since the early days of the Cheney Administration. So found treasure this, the last issue of a much-beloved series I never knew existed.

Alas, Gentleman Jim sends our now star-dwarfing hero off in seriously slap-dash fashion: a few panels of Thanos plotting – Bwah-ha-ha!!! – "Total Stellar Genocide;" Gamora's spaceship having a Driver's Ed scare film head-on collision with the Destroyer; Adam saving an old earth man's spaceship from an alien repo-squad, working for – I kid thee not – a sentient celery stalk (all of whom, I gather, are also bigger than the sun); all capped off by (yawn) Adam tussling again with his hungry Little Shop of Horrors soul gem.

So this treasure will remain in pristine, near-mint condition, locked away behind glass in Prof Matthew's Starlin shrine, forever unsullied by rereading.

Jungle Action 24
The Black Panther in
"Wind Eagle in Flight"
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Rich Buckler and Keith Pollard
Colors by Al Wenzel
Letters by Shelly Leferman and Denise Wohl
Cover by Gil Kane and Dan Adkins

The Panther is lashed in chains to a revolving wheel, and is slowly drowning as the wheel repeatedly pulls him thru water.  He recollects events from earlier in the day – he and Monica and Kevin, together with the Sheriff, had met with Leroy Ames, the last person known to have seen Angela alive.  Ames admits that he had not told the Sheriff the whole story, and reveals now that – after he had seen her home that night – he had waited outside, and followed Angela as she went back out, to her employer’s office.  Ames reports that someone had been in the office (it was too dark for him to make out who it was), that Angela had spoken with him, and that this person had shot her there; Angela could not have shot herself.  Armed with new information, T’Challa and the others proceed to Water Cress, the country club of Ambrose Ellis, Angela’s former employer.  They meet briefly with Ellis, and pose their questions; he demurs, and asks to meet the investigators later in the day.  Outside, T’Challa is swept over by a sudden attack by a flying man known as Wind Eagle; their battle is concluded when a car tears up behind the Panther, and knocks him over before he can leap to safety.  The car disgorges a group of hooded men (appearing to be members of the Dragon’s Circle); they proceed to lash the Panther to the wheel, and leave him to drown.  Wind Eagle has his doubts concerning their actions, and his own, but feels duty-bound to follow-thru with the wishes of the Reverend.  T’Challa refuses to yield; he summons his strength, and rips free of the chains.  As he stands safely on the ground, T’Challa looks up, and spots Wind Eagle on a high point; the two silently acknowledge each other.  FIN -Chris Blake

Chris: Is that it?  Is there a page stuck to another one here at the back -?  No, that’s it.  Don never got his feet set on this “Panther vs the Klan” idea; even after the first four chapters (JA #19-22), I felt like I still was waiting for some focus or momentum in the storyline.  Once Don & Rich missed the deadline for JA #23 (which required a reprint instead), they must’ve realized that the time for this title was running perilously short.  It’s really too bad – after the superlative effort that went into “Panther’s Rage,” this title deserved a memorable second act.  

The cheery yellow box on the letters page tries to soften the blow, as it trumpets the arrival of Black Panther #1 in 60 short days; but, you and I know that King Kirby will provide plenty of fireworks (with big blocks of debris as a bonus), but won’t deliver the sort of characterization that McGregor has developed for our principal character (and our presently AWOL supporting cast in Wakanda) that has contributed to this being such a noteworthy title over the past few years.  
Buckler gives us one more reminder of the high-caliber work he had delivered during his first stint with JA; p 10-11 (above) provide snapshots of Ames’ view of circumstances around Angela’s murder, while Wind Eagle’s arrival on p 18-19 (below) is dramatically done.  Pollard is back once again to help Buckler out – did they live in the same building, or something?  His art here shows significant improvement over the work he had brought (about a year ago, wasn’t it?) to his fill-ins on Deathlok’s title.  There’s very little drop-off at the point where Pollard takes over the full-art chores; in particular, p 27 (right) captures some of the spirit of the Panther’s history of death-defying, life-affirming struggles.
Matthew:  The last lettercol (always loved that title, “Jungle Re-Actions”) reveals that the book has fallen victim to poor sales, to be replaced in January by ko-kreator Kirby’s McGregor-ignoring Black Panther #1, and since Amazing Adventures bites the dust this month as well, that appears to be it for Don’s regular Bronze-Age Marvel series, despite scattered credits in the years ahead.  Even cutting him some slack under the circumstances, this is an aggressively unsatisfying non-finale, the eleventh-hour introduction of Wind Eagle leaving us with more questions than answers.  The visuals, consisting of partial Buckler layouts and finished Pollard art, are equally uneven, although T’Challa looks stupendous, especially in his waterwheel ordeal.

Luke Cage, Power Man 37
"Chemistro is Back, Deadlier Than Ever"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Ron Wilson and Aubrey Bradford
Colors by Karen Mantlo
Letters by Michele Wolfman
Cover by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson

Luke Cage, Power Man for Hire, enters his office with sweet swingin' Claire Temple, only to find all four walls and the floor have been transformed into glass. This can mean only one thing... Chemistro's back in town! Luke sets out to track the baddie (aka Curtis Carr) down by mowing through as many snitches as he can. When he gets a reliable tip, he's fired upon by two underworld thugs while he's climbing the side of a building. Luke makes quick work of the assassins and they spill the beans on their employer... Big Brother, a new underworld boss who wants Cage to keep his nose out of the man's business. Since Luke has never even heard of the guy, he's a bit confused but, in the meantime, he returns to the last known address of Carr. What he finds there is a bed-ridden, retired baddy (Chemistro had made the mistake of melting his own foot in his last battle with Cage -- as seen in last issue's "Special Reprint"), one who claims he hasn't left his room since being released from jail. While visiting Noah at the hospital, Luke is attacked by Chemistro, who warns him to stay out of Big Brother's affairs or he'll waste him good. To convince himself, Cage heads back to Carr's apartment and finds the ex-con still in bed but ready to sing. While in prison, he'd been terrorized by an inmate named Arch Morton, a grunt who wanted the secret of Chemistro's "alchemy gun" and was willing to kill for it. Eventually, Carr offered up the formula and, once Morton was released, the thug attempted to replicate the process but experienced a nasty set-back when it exploded on him and the formula was absorbed into his body. This enables the fifth-tier, second-generation villain to alter substances without an alchemy gun. Chemistro-2 and Big Brother are waiting just across the street from Carr's apartment and when Luke exits he's attacked. Chemistro transforms the city street into mud and Luke Cage is sucked into the quagmire. -Peter Enfantino

Peter Enfantino: There's nothing on the Marvel schedule quite like Power Man; deliriously goofy and violent with a smile and a wink, this title is one of those books that makes you want to get on top of your roof and scream, "You people should be reading this, ferchrissakes!" were it not for the restrictions of an overzealous HOA. Steve Englehart was the best Marvel writer of the 1970s (and there should be no debate about that, staff!) but Marv Wolfman makes an argument that he should be awarded the Silver with his work here and on the ground-breaking Tomb of Dracula. Marv takes over from Don McGregor after a very good run on PM and immediately puts you at ease that there will be no major vibe-changes when Luke busts heads in order to drum up an address for Carr. Hilariously, rather than take the stairs and risk alerting the villain, Cage busts out chunks and climbs the side of the building! Another stand-out is Luke's showdown with the (ahem)... portly nurse assigned to Noah's floor ("Misss-ter Cage. Thisss is a hosss-pital, and not a gymnasium... I suggessst you leave nowww while you still cannnn!"). Cage's entertaining bottom-of-the-barrel villain catwalk continues as does his fondness for the absurd oaths ("You stinkin' mother-huggin' skunk!"). I'll even swear off the snarky comments about Carr being limber enough to wander the halls of prison but then becoming bed-ridden upon release. If this first issue of Marv's ten-issue tenure on PM is any indication, you better fasten yer mother-humpin' seat belts, mofos, and hold on tight to yer valuables. We is in for some fuuuuuun!

Luke Cage, Power Man Annual 1
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Lee Elias and Dave Hunt
Colors by Bonnie Wilford
Letters by Gaspar Saladino
Cover by Dave Cockrum

Luke Cage, Power Hero Man for Hire is hired by billionaire Amanda Sheridan to protect her granddaughter, the luscious geophysicist, Samantha. Cage travels to Japan to play bodyguard but soon he and Sam are kidnapped by the devious fourth-tier villain, Moses Magnum (aka Magnum Force and last seen in Giant-Size Spider-Man #4), who has set up a mining operation on the remote island of Katsyu Shima. Cage earns his pay several times over (even surviving a fall from an airplane) before finally reaching Sam on the island and rescuing her from the clutches of Magnum. The fiend's deep-core drilling touches off an earthquake that sinks the island and seals his doom but Cage and Sam exit just in time. -Peter Enfantino

Peter: Not that it's a bad story; quite the contrary, it's a competent one. It's just doesn't work for the gammin', jammin', body-slammin' mofo known as Luke Cage, Power Man. For one, the man is plain out of his backyard, ya dig? Cat needs the streets like a foxy mama needs her solid soul man and a friggin' dust-up halfway 'cross the globe ain't the best way to utilize m'man Luke. This adventure belongs to Shang-Chi or Iron Fist; let's keep Power Man in Harlem facing off against loonytoon villains like Mr. Fish and The Mangler. Claremont misses the beats Don McGregor and Marv Wolfman seem to find almost effortlessly in the regular title, such as the wild street lingo the characters spout and the nice little off-action moments our cast share each month (Luke's inability to get a good cup of coffee out of the machine, for instance). Instead, Chris almost seems to have been assigned to this Annual without fully understanding our urban hero (though Claremont will write several issues of PM and PM/Iron Fist some time later) and his history. The non-linear presentation doesn't help either (several times I lost track of which time frame we were in) nor does the reserved and sleepy art by Elias and Hunt. One other thing: not sure where Claremont dug up the factoid about Haneda Airport in Tokyo handling 165 million flights a year but, if my math is correct, that's over 452,000 flights a day. That's some airport!

The Invaders 10
"The Wrath of the Reaper"
(Framing Sequence) Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Frank Robbins
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia

"The Wrath of the Reaper"

(reprinted from Captain America Comics #22 (January 1943)

In three Thomas/Robbins/Springer pages, Bucky flies Lord Falsworth and a partly drained Jacqueline to the hospital, while Cap takes a D3-imposed trip down Memory Lane to recall their brush with a Reaper of the more corporeal variety in Captain America Comics #22 (January 1943).  With cartoony art by Al Avison and Al Gabrielle, Stan’s story depicts Der Führer dispatching the scythe-wielding coot—legally untouchable, because he commits no actual crime—to sow an anarchistic “wrong is right” doctrine.  After Bucky secures proof that the Reaper is a Nazi rather than the U.S. citizen he professed to be, he flees, pursued by Cap into a subway tunnel, and conveniently immolates himself on the third rail. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: “This once-in-a-lifetime re-presentation of one of comicdom’s classic adventures from the war years was included so that Roy and Frank could catch up with our new monthly schedule which had caught everybody just a wee bit off guard,” we’re told on the last page.  Roy also continues attempting to reconcile the Golden-Age books and the then-current Marvel Universe with the pretense—already touched on back in #5—that they were “comic-book version[s]” of actual adventures.  Says Cap, “Some of the hard facts of that caper are still classified…but, by sheer coincidence, a basically accurate account of it is going to be published Stateside, any day now” (despite the fact that, as recently as #3, their exploits were said to be taking place in early 1942).

Mark: Deadline Doom, even when there's a war on?

Yep. The new monthly schedule lands Roy and Frank behind the ole eight-ball, and except for three new pages used as a framing device this is a WWII reprint, efficacious only in underscoring my previous comment that Roy Thomas creates "...a superior simulacrum of rah-rah war time comics."

The real thing, at least in the case of CA #22, is dog-doo. If "Cap...Battles the Reaper" actually represented America, I'd be strongly reconsidering the virtues of National Socialism.

Let's see now, a Nazi spy who looks like the Crypt Keeper is parachuted into America and mere days later the Reaper (complete with Jumbo Scythe!) has become a public speaker of such renown that he can not only fill Madison Square Garden, but his rally gets broadcast coast to coast! Is it the Old Testament robe and sandals or the facial warts, snaggle-teeth, and billy goat beard that wows the masses? Whatever his appeal, this Donald Trump of 1943 soon has John & Jane Q. Public lapping up his nihilistic mummeries, summarized by Aleister Crowley's inculcation, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" (come to think of it, the Reaper looks like Crowley after a weekend-long ether and absinth binge). The whole country's on the verge of anarchy and revolution until Cap...
You get the idea, class. 

Artists Al Avison and Al Gabrielle ape Sid Shores aping Simon & Kirby's art. The writer goes unnamed to protect the guilty, but should we be able to track him down in whatever rest home he may lurk, there's no statute of limitations on Crimes Against Humanity...

Chris: Scene missing: camp mascot Bucky Barnes walks into the FBI office in Manhattan, and asks, “Excuse me, could you tell me whether The Reaper is a US citizen?” “Sure, kid!  Sit right down here, and I’ll be back in a jiffy.  Say, howja like a Hershey bar, while you’re waiting?” “Gee – thanks, mister!”  The moment when Bucky trots up with the incriminating answer (written on a little scrap of paper) was easily my favorite part of the whole issue. Ah, for the simpler life of long-ago, when personal information was available for the asking.  And without the encumbrances of a big, bulky internet!  Bright days, indeed.

Well, the reprint is easier to handle, in light of the news that the title is going monthly – it’s not like fans have to wait another 60 days to find out whether Jacqueline pulls through.  Another good thing about Invaders going monthly is that the greater scheduling demands should reduce the risk of Robbins having time to soil another title.  Speaking of art: the Jazzy cover certainly improves the chances that I’m going to plunk down my 30 cents, but by comparison, the interior art is even more outclassed, isn’t it -? 

Iron Fist 9
“The Dragon Dies at Dawn”
Story by Chris Claremont
Art by John Byrne and Frank Chiaramonte
Colors by Bonnie Wilford
Letters by John  Costanza
Cover by Dave Cockrum

Chaka and costumed members of his Golden Tigers gang burst into the Meachum Building’s boardroom. Danny Rand, not wanting to give away his secret identity, allows Chaka to toss him through a window: Rand saves himself by grabbing the balcony railing below. He dons his green-and-yellow gear and makes his way back up, smashing into the room with a mighty Iron Fist punch. But Chaka knocks him cold with a strike of his electrified triple-iron. The Living Weapon awakes bound to a chair in the Tiger’s Chinatown hideout. The gang leader informs the hero that he has been injected with a debilitating poison and will soon die. However, before the serum does its deadly work, he will be released, tracked down and killed: that way Chaka will gain back the face that Iron Fist’s meddling has lost him. As the stumbling Rand is shown the exit, Chaka enters the room where his brother, Bill Hao, has been imprisoned — he hypnotizes the respected attorney to murder Iron Fist. Meanwhile, in London, Danny’s friend Alan Cavenaugh boards a tramp steamer to America, unaware that he is being observed by two men who plan on assassinating both him and Iron Fist in New York City. Back in Chinatown, Iron Fist has managed to survive the Tiger’s gauntlet even in his rapidly weakening state. But then Chaka attacks, battering the martial artist with his triple-iron. But Iron Fist gathers his last bit of strength and stuns his opponent. He then focuses his Iron Fist power internally and burns the poison out of his system. When Chaka steals up from behind, Rand strikes out with his still crackling fist, knocking the gang leader towards a wall. But before impact, another triple-iron swings from the shadows, cracking Chaka in the skull. Rand cradles his lifeless body as two policemen burst unto the scene. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: I’ve done this before so you’ll have to forgive me again: as has been his wont so far, Claremont uses multiple flashbacks to tell his story but I just put everything in chronological order. Chris also continues the habit of peppering his script with namedrops of other Marvel heroes. At one point, Rand wonders if he can claim that Spider-Man was luckily swinging by when he was tossed out the window. And when Iron Fist smashes his way into the boardroom, a gang member shouts “What if it’s the Avengers!?” Sorry, that’s weak and  pandering. And I still think that Chaka looks a bit ridiculous. With all that said, this is an excellent comic, packed with high energy and dynamic action. And the whole running-the-gauntlet-through-Chinatown angle made me think of The Warriors so I was coming out to play for this one. You’d have to be a complete gaijin not to realize that the Chaka who attacked Iron Fist was actually Bill Hao — and that the triple-iron swinger in the shadows was his brother Robert, the real Chaka. Man, that guy is a prick! Now that I think of it, I have one more minor quibble: the last panel shows the two cops bursting through a door, one yelling “Freeze, killer!” Geez, Iron Fist wanted for murder!

Chris: I look at an issue of IF like this one, and I wonder why this title isn’t in the conversation when the all-time greats are discussed.  The story has everything: sibling rivalry, defenestration, perseverance (despite the drain of fatigue and poison), a bit of mystery (who chocked Chaka at the very end?), and action action action!  Even if the clock-ticking-down (slow-acting poison, time-bomb, etc) has been done before, the technique does add plenty of suspense; give Chris credit for finding a solution, as Danny once again employs the iron fist to heal himself, without having to resort to the standard, worn-out gimmick of last-second antidote-delivery.  

High praise also to Claremont for consistently picking his spots for use of the iron fist; remember when nearly every battle would end with a build-up to Danny summoning the power, and flattening someone?  Instead, this issue typifies Claremont’s more judicious approach, as Danny uses the big fist to blow a door down and to purge the poison, but not for a typical in-battle moment; the iron-bash to Chaka at the end is simply a bonus.
As solid as the story is, the art – of course – puts this one right to the top.  Pick your own highlight, but I will nominate these: the unusual framing of the flashback, as Chaka zaps Danny (p 11); Danny’s flip over the patrol car (big splash), and the car’s crash, which scatters garbage and breaks a headlight (small details) (p 14); the bristling energy as Danny lashes out with the iron fist (p 31). 
So, why is IF not typically acknowledged as an all-time great?  Is it a bias against kung-fu as a stereotypically ‘70s fascination?  Is it the lack of compelling villains – after all, in the final equation, Chaka is simply another crime boss, who wears a hood, and doesn’t have any wigged-out powers.   Or, is it because the title wound up cancelled before it could build more of a readership -?
Matthew:  In his introduction to Marvel Masterworks: Iron Fist, Volume 2, Bruce Canwell calls Claremont and Byrne “the Lennon & McCartney of comics,” and for the Bronze Age at least, I probably wouldn’t dispute the point.  There are other writers and artists whose individual work, I would submit, equaled theirs in quality, yet when you talk about a team—and one that excelled on so many books—you’d have to go back to Lee and Kirby, or Thomas and Buscema, as a precedent, right, Tom?  I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but these Masterworks are the bee’s knees, packed with luscious reproductions and informative intros like Canwell’s, a model for mixing just the right degree of plot summary with any relevant trivia bits.

A stunning example of the team at its finest, this issue is, as far as I can tell, Chiaramonte’s commendable last work for Marvel before he decamped to DC and, sadly, died of cancer at 40 in 1983.  I’ve seen some criticism over the, shall we say, evolution of the iron fist power, yet it certainly didn’t bother me at 13, nor does it now, feeling to me like completely legitimate plotting.  The structure is fun, too, with Chris creating that big cliffhanger last time, then refusing to pick up where he left off, which he does instead with a mid-issue flashback; meanwhile, John continues to dazzle with his superb mastery of variable panel sizes, and the detail enabling even small panels to carry considerable freight, not to mention Byrne’s beautifully nuanced face work.

The Invincible Iron Man 92
"Burn, Hero -- Burn!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by George Tuska and Jack Abel
Colors by Don Warfield
Letters by Joe Rosen and Irving Watanabe
Cover by Jack Kirby and Al Milgrom

After an explosion (another act of sabotage) damages Iron Man’s armor, Abe and Krissy learn that Aerospace Ltd. has a patent for a rescue-jet predating Tony’s.  As they return to S.I. via the Brooklyn Bridge, the army convoy ahead of them is attacked by the Melter, but with his thermocouple inoperative, Iron Man is defeated and presumed dead, forced to ditch his fused armor in the bay.  While O’Brien expresses dissatisfaction with the papers Key stole, the Melter demands $6 million for the prototype nuke he snatched, until his Montauk Point lighthouse lab is invaded by the golden “original Iron Man”—remote-controlled so that Tony, in non-polarizing armor, can smash his melting ray—and he plunges into the surf, convinced he has fought a ghost. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Having concluded Archie’s splendid storyline last issue, Gerry begins charting his own course, but the first leg of the journey is no great shakes and, in retrospect, resembles a possible excuse for another new-broom attemptsee the current Captain Marvelto undo recent developments regarding Shellhead’s armor, love ’em or hate ’em.  Although a singularly apt foe for a ferrous super-hero, the Melter seems like a low-tier villain to trounce the Golden Avenger so thoroughly, and Conway’s self-aware captions (e.g., “We told you there’d be complications, and we also told you they wouldn’t be resolved this issue…”) are distracting.  The Tuskabel art made me miss Colletta, even if I’m not certain I consider the imminent two-part Trimpe fill-in good news.

Master of Kung Fu 46
"The Spider Spell!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Paul Gulacy and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Joe Rosen
Cover by Al Milgrom and Jack Abel

Reston explains (to unseen questioners) the circumstances of his separation from Shang-Chi and Leiko.  Reston – shortly after realizing that Tarrant the bomber really was Sir Griswold – had managed to leap free of Fah Lo Suee’s motor launch; after hiding underwater to stay out of range of Griswold’s gunshots, Reston swam to the far shore.  Once there, he had run into S-C and Leiko, who had driven the circuitous shore road; together, they observed a caravan snaking its way to Fah’s mountaintop HQ.  Reston determined that Fah intended to fly from the Swiss Alps to the Arctic, in order to intercept her father, Fu Manchu.  Leiko disclosed information of Fu’s plans that had been passed to her by Ducharme, who had learned that Fu intended to acquire a “key to power,” which would allow him to rule the world; the specific location and workings of the key remain unknown.  (Cut to: Fu himself, as he orders an immense pearl blown open, to reveal a skull, which Fu identifies as belonging to an ancestor who had originally discovered the life-sustaining elixir vitae.)  To reach the airstrip, Reston had split off from S-C and Leiko; he then was captured by Fu’s strongman, Chankar.  S-C and Leiko, under heavy fire, successfully managed to cross a gorge on a foot bridge; all this was according to Fah’s plan, since she wanted Leiko taken alive, so that she too might learn Ducharme’s intelligence of Fu’s plans.  S-C successfully defeated Chankar; he and Leiko then overpowered two guards and stole their uniforms.  Reston watched helplessly from the ground as Fah’s helicopter – also bearing a disguised S-C and Leiko – lifted off for the Arctic.  Reston then was collected by two of Griswold’s agents, and turned over to MI-6.  His inquisitors still have questions – why did Fah leave Reston behind? Why does Reston now bear the mark of Fah’s black spider on his chest? Is he now allied with Fah, and the latest enemy plant in MI-6?  For now, they have no sufficient cause to doubt Reston’s loyalty.  Tarr advises Clive to get a few hours’ rest; he’s going to need it before they head to the Arctic, to rendezvous with S-C and Leiko.  -Chris Blake
Chris: This issue seems choppy to me; it’s missing a bit of spark this time too, somehow.  Reston and the others separate, meet up, and separate again, as they creep forward, remaining always within sight of Fah and Griswold.  Shang-Chi and Leiko never come in contact with their opponents, until they board the helicopter at the very end.  It’s not a cat and mouse pursuit, either – merely a slow, careful observation most of the way.  There’s a fair amount of excitement as S-C and Leiko race across the footbridge, but our knowledge that Fah has ordered her henchmen not to shoot to kill takes some of the edge off the moment.  S-C’s grapple with Chankar seems perfunctory, as we seem to be checking off the “kung-fu clash” box.  
It’s not a bad issue at all, just lacking a bit of the breathless excitement that has become par for this title’s course.  To his credit, Doug already has thrown a lot of twists our way in recent issues – Dr Petrie is a mole, Sir Denis has been shot (by Petrie) and is in a coma, Griswold appears to be a double-agent – so it might’ve been the right decision to advance the story, without relying on a shock or a surprise for us this time.  



'Ganda assets Moench/Gulacy highlight Clive Reston in above refed "comic book," per my suggestion. Reston's veracity  was contentious bone, which he spat out clean after vigorous debrief. Rare case where the "truth" of Clive's exploits, when/if declassified, could churn pos PR. 

Artist Gulacy's very effective but too showy to consider deeper recruitment/e.g. garishly colored pg 1 looks like a cinema broadsheet & all webby like that Spider-Bloke/PLUS features accurate rendering of S-C/L-W/violating their dark-op status. They'll be blacked out on "splash" page at printers, names altered/facial features redone by our asset A. Plastino.

F-M's weapons devel remains unknown/paid sources whisper of "suitcase nukes"/irradiated egg rolls in food supply/over-sized crustaceans/ancestor skulls w/magical powers. Likely all rubbish but Fu's daughter F-L-S' mind-control mist is confirmed as world's strongest Mimosa. Reston weathered it, with some unholy ink for his troubles.

Reston, while still effective, in thrall of emotional upheaval/re former relationship with L-W & can't keep damn mouth shut about his relatives on best day. Maybe too "theatrical" to ever officially spotlight. Already looks like lefty Hollywood actor, Marlon {REDACTED}.

In confidence reports of your "coma" are deep cover and/or minor medical setback,

Vince Bar/Media Specialist-80117

Marvel Feature Presents 7
Red Sonja She-Devil with a Sword in
“The Battle of the Barbarians!”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art and Letters by Frank Thorne
Colors by Hugh Paley
Cover by Frank Thorne

The page from the iron-bound Book of Skelos in her possession, Red Sonja rides out of Messantia with Conan and Bêlit in hot pursuit — they are unknowingly observed by the hooded Stygian wizard, who retreats to his humble quarters and begins an incantation. The Cimmerian and the Shemite begin to gain ground on the Hyrkanian but a sudden rockslide blocks their path. After they manage to traverse the barricade, the duo comes across a fork in the road. Conan sends Bêlit down the left branch: he takes the right path, spotting Sonja’s tracks, which were missed by his mate. Red Sonja finally comes across her destination, a fortress called the Nest of the Sacred Ibis. Inside she finds Karanthes, the priest who hired her to find the page — he admits to causing the rockslide. He shows her the temple’s treasure, the bones of all the deceased priests of Ibis. Conan soon arrives and trades swords with the She-Devil. During their battle, the two former friends disturb some of the ancient bones: the corpses’ guardian, a huge serpent-like snake, rises from the skeletal remains. Red Sonja and Conan put aside their conflict and decapitate the reptile together. Suddenly, a huge bat flies down from an opening in the ceiling — the terrifying monster has the head of the Stygian sorcerer.  -Tom Flynn

Tom: Another fast moving issue, the last of Marvel’s second incarnation of Marvel Feature, which is now cancelled for the second and final time. But fear not horny young boys, things won’t miss a beat as Red Sonja will debut in her very own solo series two months from now, January 1977. That one will last 15 issues, all written by Roy and, except for the last four, illustrated by Frank Thorne. This one continues from October’s Conan the Barbarian #68 — it will wrap up this month back in that series. The Sonja and Conan battle lasts for five pages. At one point she gains the upper hand but backs off: he returns the favor a few panels later. Thoth-Amon gets a mention: he drove the Ibis priests out of Stygia and it looks like the sorcerer-turned-giant-bat is one of his minions. Really enjoying this Sonja/Conan crossover. I wonder if it bumped up sales enough so that Sonja could escape a “try-out” series and get her own strip?

Chris: Roy’s presence as scripter ensures continuity with the other chapters of this storyline (which appear – you guessed it – in Conan the Barbarian).  Even though Thorne’s artwork will never be mistaken for Buscema’s, Thorne provides ample energy and excitement, so I’m not distracted (too much) by the different appearances of the characters here; Conan in particular, looks simian.  I wonder if there had been any consideration of assigning one of Buscema’s recent inkers (either Gan or DeZuniga) to this issue, so at least this chapter might bear even more resemblance to the art of Conan.  

Satisfying (but far from unexpected) development as Conan and Sonja agree to a truce, and present a united front to Karanthes.  Also, nice plot twist to have the Stygian sorcerer crash thru the ceiling at the end, in his demon-bird form; Roy & Co certainly have given fans reason to be excited about the prospects for the conclusion of this multi-part tale (and, I hear Kull will be there too).

Marvel Presents 7
The Guardians of the Galaxy in
"Embrace in the Void!"
Story by Steve Gerber
Art by Al Milgrom and Bob Wiacek
Colors by Petra Goldberg
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Al Milgrom

At the convent, Nikki sees a flaming sister turn to ashes, and balks when told by Starhawk, “in order to save the galaxy, you must enter the flame state”; aboard the ship, Vance faces his own likeness, a food-gathering particle of the star-dwarfing Topographical Man, who “feeds on the energy of exploding galaxies.”  Despite unleashing his most potent PK burst, Vance falls in seeming defeat while, parsecs away, Starhawk’s asteroid home is a frozen ruin, its protective dome shattered, as Aleta weeps for children Tara, Sita, and John on a computer screen that explodes.  The Mother Superior explains that most women are willingly consumed by the energy-expenditure, yet “those with the strongest sense of singular identity” return (as she did).

As Nikki occupies a chair-like device that will infinitely expand her mind by tapping a reservoir of psychic energy, Starhawk doubles over and exits the chapel, followed by Martinex, and after taking control, Aleta says he abandoned them to the Reavers of Arcturus.  His identity displaced into Karanada by the burst, Vance absorbs the ship’s power and merges with the T-Man while Nikki’s spirit expands to his size.  A quake forces Yondu (bearing her flaming body) and Charlie to flee, teleporting to the ship with the others; forced by Nikki’s and Vance’s spirits “to engage in act of love—an affirmation of its own opposite, which is life,” Karanada disintegrates, leaving a star fused out of “the spirits of those people whose worlds the giant had consumed…” -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Tough to follow, let alone to summarize, this issue marks the first Marvel credit for Wiacek, who will round out a run that—following the current tardy entry—reverts to its regular schedule next month.  Future X-Men fixture Bob is an inker of whom I have the haziest of memories at best, but aside from an inability to prevent Milgrom from making the crystalline Martinex look like a Muppet, I’d say he’s off to a good start.  Regarding the upcoming Reavers of Arcturus storyline, the lettercol connects a couple of dots that I would not have otherwise, reminding us that this is the same Arcturus introduced by Gerber in the Adventures into Fear Morbius strip (which I did not read until many years after the fact), although I don’t think there’s much more to it than that.

So, sex saves the universe.  Dude, I’m all for it, both on general principle and because I see how perfectly it brings to, um, a climax some of the, uh, seeds Steve has been sowing, e.g., Vance’s early attraction to Nikki and perennial desire “to feel like a man again instead of a candy bar.”  I can’t recall if it’s addressed later on, yet while they return to apparent normality at the end, one senses that internally at least, it is anything but the status quo ante.  And although it’s not 100% clear to me whether the Mother Superior anticipated Vance’s role, she characterizes the ritual as “not an execution…but a sort of marriage….the union of woman [since, per Starhawk, no males need apply] with the Godhead—the ultimate sensual experience—a joining with all of infinity.”

Chris: I’m still a bit mystified about how Vance and Nikki brought about Karanada’s culmination; Nikki’s role is a bit easier to appreciate, as she seemed to have awakened the dormant spirit of the Topographical Man – but, what was Vance supposed to be doing at that time?  Was Nikki able to connect with TM because Vance already had joined with him – did Vance serve as a conduit to allow the other two spirits to join?  

Well, I don’t want to be too critical regarding this one plot point (as much as it plays into the outcome of the story), since overall, it’s probably the most satisfying issue of GotG since #3.  Mixed in with the cosmic stuff, Steve G ably includes plenty of character moments (Marty’s analysis, Yondu’s selflessness, Nikki’s strong self-identity), and adds more mystery surrounding the Starhawk/Aleta dyad.  Steve subtly sets up the ending – first, we spend a few minutes with Vance as he appreciates the freedom of feeling like flesh-and-blood again; then, as he’s restored to himself on the last page, he feels self-conscious as he recollects the intimacy he had shared with Nikki, and withdraws from her, as he realizes such connection is impossible for him in his present physical state.
As we admired Terry Austin’s inks on GotG #6, I had an unkind comment about the art we could expect from Bob Wiacek, beginning with this issue.  Well, I’ll freely admit that it isn’t nearly as indistinct as I remembered it to be, and consistently solid overall; the view of the interior of the chapel is an obvious highlight (p 11).  There are plenty of noteworthy smaller moments, though, as Milgrom squeezes all the action into page after page of narrow panels, such as: Nikki’s trepidation before she begins the procedure (p 14, pnl 7); Martinex, trying to console Aleta (p 17, pnl 7); and, Aleta bandaging Yondu’s burned arms, once they’re all back on the Captain America (p 30, pnl 3).

Marvel Team-Up 51
Spider-Man and Iron Man in
"The Trial of the Wraith!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Gil Kane and Mike Esposito

The trial of DeWolff Père et Fils is about to begin, with a diverse panel of five judges, Champions lawyer Emerson Bale for the defense, Shellhead and Doc giving Jean moral support, AV link-ups with Matt Murdock (odd, as he’s local) and Nick Fury, and a photog who decamps after telling the tragedy-mongering JJJ to stuff his camera.  The alpha-jammer is ineffective on delta waves, so as Spidey sneaks back into the courtroom unseen, Phillip compels a S.H.I.E.L.D. techno to disconnect the helmet, putting the Wraith back in business, and contact with a live wire enables him to co-inhabit, and rule, Brian’s body.  Fury watches in bafflement as our heroes battle empty air, believing that the very floor of the courtroom has become a monster.

Order is restored when the Wraith is decked by Iron Man and cured by Dr. Strange, combining his medical and mystical skills to remove the bullet lodged in Brian’s spine and restore his mind.  The court rules that despite expert testimony from the likes of Charles Xavier and Moondragon, it is not prepared to accept the existence of a “mind-force,” but concedes that because Brian was coerced by Phillip in some fashion, thus violating his rights, he is innocent and Phillip is guilty.  Since Brian still possesses his mind-powers, Doc and Shellhead suggest that perhaps the Wraith should serve as a force for good; in twin codas, the judges privately display paranormal powers whose existence they could not acknowledge legally while the Hulk bounds across New Mexico. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Like the early Stephen King, Mantlo is sometimes better at coming up with these stories than at bringing them to satisfying conclusions (I can’t speak for Steve’s work since I stopped being his hardcover publicist in 1996), and in my view he pretty well bollixes the end of this tetralogy.  It’s unclear exactly who’s being tried for what, under what statutes or whose auspices, and by the time Bill has dispensed with the obligatory action scenes—set in motion by the out-of-left-field alpha vs. delta contrivance—the “trial” is pretty perfunctory.  Naturally, Sal is the best choice to draw so many guest-stars, the only discordant note being his odd rendition of Professor X, but the spaghetti-against-the wall strategy backfires on Bill, full of sound and fury, signifying…little.

Joe: A weird cover. A weird epilogue. And some weird close-ups from the normally amazing (pun intended) Sal and Mike. Is this the way to end the Wraith saga that's lasted three issues? Sure, why not! I know I say this every time, but back in 1976 this was thrill-a-minute for 9-year-old me but I probably didn't understand half of it. Alpha Jammers? Telekinetic judges? Mind swaps on seemingly every page? Ah, who cares, there's action galore, snappy banter by the hundreds, frowning Iron Man masks, and JJJ screwing up taking a simple photo. Maybe it's slightly disappointing all these years later, but for the most part, it's still de wolff...I mean, da bomb.

Marvel Two-In-One 21
The Thing and Doc Savage in
"Black Sun Lives!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by Ron Wilson and Pablo Marcos
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Karen Mantlo
Cover by Ron Wilson and Joe Sinnott

Doc Savage, Renny, and Monk agree to help Lucinda Lightner, whose husband Raymond, a Nobel Prize-winning astronomer, has built a sky cannon to tap the power of the stars; in a literally parallel plotline, 40 years later, his daughter, Janice, tells Ben and Johnny that her twin brother, Tom, has rebuilt it.  As each team flies to investigate a blackout (including the stars), the F-Car—with Janice aboard—and Doc’s autogyro are hit by the cannon, breaching the time-span that separated them and deflecting the beam at father and son, who are merged by the stellar energy into Blacksun.  Immune to mercy-bullets, Johnny’s flame, or Ben and Doc’s punches, he suddenly collapses, having burnt himself out, while Doc and his friends fade away… -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Not a good month for our Bill, who apparently either didn’t get his fill of chronal anomalies with his recent MTU extravaganza, or was envious of Roy sending Ben back to 1942.  At least he does what Gerry didn’t in Giant-Size Spider-Man #3, bringing Ben and Doc face to face, but however clever it may seem, the side-by-side storytelling slows down this tale—criminally constrained to a single issue—so much that the abrupt climax cries out for a caption reading, “Sorry, ran out of pages!”  I’ll let our resident Doc-spert, Professor Gilbert, weigh in on his portrayal, but to me it’s an opportunity squandered (“an’ me his biggest fan!”), with far too many unanswered questions, plus Wilson/Marcos artwork that sometimes makes the characters appear disconcertingly craggy.

Gilbert Colon: The Fantastic Four meet the Fabulous Five!  (Or at least some of them.)  On the art front, the futuristic F-Car and the retro autogyro very efficiently visualize the contrasting generations beyond the characters’ wardrobes.  On the writing front, Mantlo keeps Doc, Monk, and Renny sufficiently in character.  

However, this crossover’s confusing up-down narrative takes some getting used to, and by the time one does, the parallel panels revert to traditional left-right reading once Doc and crew enter “the good ol’ here an’ now--.”  Before then, this split-screen storytelling requires some unexpected concentration.  The question for readers will be, does all the mental effort pay off?  For the Worlds Unknown and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction crowd, maybe a little.  (The harnessing of “stellar power” to merge “--father!” and “--son!” into one being is sheer science fiction of the hard variety too.)  

As was the case with the Spider-Man and Doc Savage team-up (Giant-Size Spider-Man #3), 
it is still odd to think that in 1976, Doc and his men would have faded from existence to become only distant memory.  The last Doc Savage novels were presumably set in the same years as their publication dates before Lester Dent’s death in 1959, and 1976 is not even two decades later.  True, Dent’s last Man of Bronze story was in 1949, but could he and his aides have all died out or disbanded in 27 years?  Retired certainly, but does that automatically mean they permanently relocated to a Florida old-age home like New York snowbirds?  If there is no Dent or Philip José Farmer finale to conclude the career of the Amazing Five, maybe Doug Moench – who was concurrently doing a decent job penning “pulse-pounding” new Savage tales at the Curtis magazine Doc Savage – could have supplied his own for Marvel.  

For this story’s finale, instead of ending up at Doc’s upstate crime college for rehabilitation, “super-villain of the month!” Blacksun remains in the Fantastic Four’s era and is shipped off to Dr. Don Blake, aka Thor, for medical attention.  Temporal anomalies, time travel, etc. will, alas, always and inevitably be part of any storyline bridging the Bronze Man’s world of the Thirties with Marvel’s contemporary universe, tiresome though those storytelling devices often are.  

While criticisms of this issue have been enumerated by Professor Matthew, it was still fun to hear the Thing call himself Doc’s “biggest fan!” and thus establish the Bronze Giant and his compatriots as the superheroes all others look back and up to.  At least, as our self-appointed “Overlord of the Overview” reminded me, we were spared the metafictional distraction of having Ben identify Doc as a literary character, the way Spidey did with Fu Manchu when he met Shang-Chi in Giant-Size Spider-Man #2.  

The last team-up with Spider-Man elicited an unfavorable missive in the Man of Bronze letters page (Doc Savage magazine #6), calling it “mediocre.”  The disappointed reader predicts “his teamup with the Thing will be of similar substandard quality.”  It is hard to know how these crossovers were received in their day, but these comments may have been the consensus all around since, after this, no other team-ups materialized.  

Ironically, the same letter writer actually requests another team-up, though one less “conventional.”  He feels there is “only one unrelated fictional character who could logically – and should – appear in a new Doc Savage story – and that character is Fu Manchu!”  He “urge[s] a meeting between Doc and Fu in the 30’s, when Smith and Petrie were at their heroic peak and Shang-Chi was unborn.”  

This letter writer, almost literally on the same page as Marvel, gets the Man of Bronze page to divulge that “[p]lans were indeed afoot to pit Doc against Fu Manchu...and Doug was all set to do one hell of a number on a blockbuster the likes of which those two combined characters would obviously demand.”  Then “at the last minute, our plans were unfortunately sidetracked by various copyright obstacles too lengthy to go into here.”  To soften the blow, they report that “at least Fu Manchu is holding his own...within recent, current, and near future issues of our color MASTER OF KUNG FU title.”  

And as for “The Spider-Man and the Fly!” on page 29, this one-page story turns out to be a Twinkies ad in which the villain is overcome by “[t]hat golden sponge cake...and creamed filling” long enough for Spider-Man to THONK! the gun out of his hand and “dispense justice...tempered with mercy...and...Hostess® ‘Twinkies!”  All one can say is what Ralphie said in A Christmas Story after his hard-won decoder ring deciphered the Little Orphan Annie radio show’s secret sentence to read BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE: “A crummy commercial?  Son of a b*tch!”  

Nova 3
"--The Deadly Diamondhead is Ready to Strike!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Sal Buscema and Tom Palmer
Colors by Michele Wolfman
Letters by Irving Watanabe and Gaspar Saladino
Cover by John Buscema and Frank Giacoia

Sparkling and sinister, the villain named Diamondhead spews bravado to any who will listen, passing all the dangerous tests in his "attack room", yet he fears (as did Condor and Powerhouse from last ish) The Dreaded One. Once Arch Dyker, DH was also a Golden Gloves champ with lifelong dreams of being a master crimelord, and gained his powers during a gem heist at a Science Institute where he tripped into a diamond-powered laser and was reborn. Richard Rider is sent to his room by his Dad for fighting in school, but that gives him a chance to zip off as Nova, whereupon he halts a shoot-out between some crooks and the cops. The next day Richard is punched by bully Mike, but this time, he punches back, and eludes the ruffian. Diamondhead goes on a crime spree, then gets caught so he can steal a mysterious box from the prison that will help him challenge The Dreaded One. After his escape, Nova catches up to Diamondhead and the two battle in a rail yard, Nova cracking wise the whole time as DH gets angrier. Trying to escape on a train, DH smashes into a tunnel entrance and disappears. As Nova flies off, a deceitful Diamondhead meets The Condor, and the two decide to team up to destroy Nova!--Joe Tura

Joe: An "instant classic" claims the splash page, and while this conceit is far from the truth, this is the best issue of Nova's three so far, and it's pure coincidence that My Pal Sal is at the helm instead of Big Brother John. Love the Tom Palmer inks, which usually worked well for either Buscema. There's just too much aping of Spidey for my tastes, and I'm sure it was intentional; it just doesn't work here. We continue to get bits and pieces of Richard's life brought out (his Mom is a police dispatcher) that we find out over his automatic helmet radio. And he's distracted by that enough to get blasted by Diamondhead. Sigh…And Flash Thompson wanna-be Mike is fairly annoying to say the least, and even more of a one-note character than Flash ever was in the 60s. Diamondhead is not the worst bad guy, but he's goofy-looking and has a bigger ego than anyone outside of Doc Ock and Dr. Doom, and certainly isn't deserved yet. Invent tentacles that you can control with your mind or rule over a whole country first, all right, Gem-Head...

Matthew: It was too much to hope that they’d keep Big John on this book once it was launched, yet the most ominous shift is not between brothers but from Sinnott to Palmer; to be safe, I think he should be kept far away from anybody named Buscema, inking Colan where he belongs.  Marv is hitting the “Dreaded One” stuff a bit hard, and while there’s nothing fundamentally wrong here, little things bothered me, e.g., the simulacrum of fresh-out-the-box Nova alongside established heroes Thor, Shellhead, and Spidey in Diamondhead’s quasi-Danger Room.  And his transition from one-man crime wave to deliberate convict (with oddly convenient access to Powerhouse’s box) seems head-snappingly abrupt—does the justice system really work that fast?

Chris: Handsome, cuddles, chuckles, sparkles, handsome (twice more), glitterpuss, chuckles (again).  I’ve already gotten after Marv for subjecting us to stupid banter during battles; as much as I dislike these distracting throwaway lines in Daredevil, I find I dislike them even more here.  It isn’t just because most Marvel characters don’t resort to these pet-names in mid-scrap; it’s because, Marv, you’re introducing a new character here.  Why not give him his own voice, instead of borrowing Spidey’s routine (joking so as to throw his opponents off-balance, and sometimes to mask his apprehension about being in a potentially life-or-death struggle)?  Rich Rider reflects on his inexperience; plus, he’s around sixteen years old – wouldn’t it be possible that he’d try to compensate for his self-perceived inadequacies by laying on some bluster, a bit of braggadocio? Why not, Marv?  

Some faculty and devoted MU students might not care for the art by Sal + Tom, but I like it.  The results are a bit murky in some panels, but overall the images have weight and texture, without costing us Sal’s pencils, or leaving us wondering whether we picked up Tomb of Dracula by mistake.  Particularly during the fight sequence (p 22-27), the art comes across as an effective mingling of both artists’ styles.

Omega the Unknown 5
"Through the Rat Hole -- Into the Cat's Lair!"
Story by Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes
Art by Jim Mooney
Colors by Janice Cohen
Letters by Joe Rosen
Cover by Gil Kane and Frank Giacoia

One of James-Michael's buddies, John Nedley, has been severely beaten by bullies at school and is rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, across town, Omega the Unknown is still licking his wounds after getting a beating from El Gato (both occurrences happened in our last exhilarating issue- PastePot) but, weighing more on his mind is the fact that Teresa accompanied the villain back to his place, seemingly of her own volition. Omega breaks into El Gato's house to look for clues and stumbles on some psychedelic feline guards, who latch onto his body and cause Omega to "explode." Amber Grant heads for the Bugle to remind JJJ he owes her money and runs into a certain famous Bugle photographer. Later that night, Omega reappears outside Gramps' pawn shop. He explains to the old man the curious trip he's just been on and a strange little voodoo charm lying around the shop catches his eye. Gramps says he sees a lightbulb go on over the Unknown's head and the kid may just have figured things out (I'm glad someone's figured this out- PastePot). Back at El Gato Central, Teresa consents to be the slimy bandit's wife but first must undergo a "ritual of purification" via a hot brand! The girl's definitely not wired for that kind of a scene so it's her luck that the Unknown Guy picks just then to crash through the window and rescue her. Omega declaws El Gato but that's not enough for Teresa, who comes out of her spell and delivers a little red hot purification of her own right on The Cat's noggin. Back at the hospital, another young man is wheeled into the hospital in critical condition: Nick, the hood who beat John Nedley! Administer 10cc of Ringer's Lactate and meet me back here next month.
-Peter Enfantino

Peter: Whether it's the tedium of "School Days for (Junior Rick Jones) James-Michael" or the nothingness of "Shazam Beats on Forgettable Villains," Omega the Unknown is a sucking bog of a book. Halfway through its run, this title has no identity, purpose, or goal to speak of. The only aspect I can tolerate is the shade of Skerber Purple the writers dip their writing pen into:

The wet, salty blindness passes, however. The kill won't be a mere formality.
So -- faith illogic -- in the accuracy of data accumulated, through the senses may also be faulty.
Unbelief doesn't make the truth less true...!

Oh, and when the half-nekkid Teresa slams the cat-logo'd brand down on El Gato's forehead: pretty cool! Other than that, I want out of here fast.

Matthew:  I don’t know if Skerber (per our august Dean) and Mooney actually backslid, or just caught me in a less receptive mood—which, alas, is something we can never fully quantify—but I enjoyed this entry less than the Big O’s prior outing… “enjoyed” being, as always, a relative term when discussing a book I never particularly liked.  Although it’s not an intrinsically bad thing, between the focus on Nedley’s plight and the title character’s typically underdrawn persona, this feels more than ever like an issue of James-Michael Starling Comics into which they’ve shoehorned a generic super-hero, complete with generic cover, in the hope of boosting sales.  The juxtaposition of the revenge theme at the end of both plotlines is interesting.

The Mighty Thor 253
"Chaos in the Kingdom of the Trolls"
Story by Len Wein
Art by John Buscema and Tony DeZuniga
Colors by Marie Severin
Letters by Gaspar Saladino and Condoy

Tales of Asgard:

"The Weapon and the Warrior"
Story by David Kraft
Art by Pablo Marcos
Colors by Glynis Wein
Letters by Irving Watanabe
Cover by Jack Kirby and John Romita

It appears that Ulik has won the battle, as Thor plunges into the fiery abyss below. But thanks to the power of Mjolnir, Thor is able to regain his composure and save himself. In the meantime, Ulik has attained the object of their battle, the Ruby Eye that the dragon guarding the gates to the Realm Below possessed. Both wanting the prize to save their respective realms, Thor re-engages in battle until the duo discusses why the stone is needed. The troll explains that his kingdom has been attacked by a giant being, possibly from another dimension, who calls himself Trogg. He seems to have the might to crush them. He has been temporarily contained by a barrier Ulik's fellows have constructed, but it won't last long. The Thunder God offers to add his might to the fight, in exchange afterwards for the stone Mirmir demanded if he was to offer any advice on how and where to find Odin. The mighty troll reluctantly agrees and they proceed further into the tunnels below. Soon the barricade containing Trogg breaches, and the white skinned, fire-breathing behemoth attacks, and proves no easy feat to defeat. Between the two of them they make it an honest battle, and Ulik uses a wood pillar to push Trogg close to the entrance to the barrier whence he came. It is a temporary respite, and Thor realizes it will take the Ruby Eye to win the day. He throws it at the giant, who disappears in a blinding flash of light. Even knowing it will cost him the eye, the Thunder God feels bound to keep his word in helping the trolls; only mocking laughter is his reward as he departs the troll kingdom. -Jim Barwise

Jim Barwise: First off, our main story is followed by part two of a revived Tales of Asgard, where a young Thor faces off brawn and brain against a storm giant who draws endless strength from the Earth. An OK tale, but why waste our time with it instead of giving Ulik and Trogg some more airtime? The main tale is different in that we get to see Ulik work together with Thor for a change, and that Thor is a man (god) of his word even when it may cost him dearly in his search for Odin. Trogg is an interesting-looking character, reeking of some kind of power despite his lanky looks (a Mangog-y head on a much skinnier body).

Matthew:  I’ve always ranked Ulik high among Thor villains, so my only reservation here is that, to my eyes, the Buscema/DeZuniga rendition looks a little inconsistent, both within this issue and with prior tales.  Although there is action aplenty, Len does a good job of making it more than mere crash-bang-boom, with each character’s behavior suited to his personality, and Thor should indeed “remember the lesson [he] learned,” especially so soon after being sucker-punched on the bridge.  Speaking of lessons learned, the “Tales of Asgard” back-up feature offers a tidy one, and while Kraft seems as unclear on the definition of “noisome” (i.e., smelly) as he is of “supine,” I’m not gonna tell any lies by claiming the Marcos splash page is less than spectacular.

The Tomb of Dracula 50
"Where Soars the Silver Surfer!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
Colors by Tom Palmer
Letters by John Costanza
Cover by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Deciding the Prince of Darkness is no longer of use to him, Anton Lupeski summons the Silver Surfer and casts a spell over him, convincing the Surfer that the greatest evil in the world is Count Dracula and for the world to know peace... Dracula Must Be Destroyed! The Surfer confronts the Count but is persuaded to leave by Dracula's bride, Domini. The woman assures the Surfer that all will be good in the end and Norrin Radd, seeing something in her eyes, takes to the skies on his board. When Dracula asks his wife what the silver hero saw in her eyes, Domini gives him a cryptic, "Perhaps he saw the future and the future was good." Meanwhile, Hannibal King fights the faux-Blade to a standstill and makes good his exit, with the vampire swearing he'll hunt King down and kill him.
 -Peter Enfantino

Matthew: Nice Hammer allusion, Dean Paste-Pot.


Would have loved that cover blurb on this head-scratcher, which leaves one wondering if Marv accidentally grabbed Jim Starlin's Merry Prankster punch at a party, or lost a bet. Just what askew wave tilted Surfie's into the Count's orbit? 

Just seeing S.S's logo merged with Drac's bat-shaped, blood red title induces a sort of vertigo, cognitive dissonance, like a extra-wacky Marvel Team-Up, or maybe we've grabbed Starlin's punch...

But, no, class, it's all too real. Thankfully – and at risk of damning with faint praise – comicdom's top tomb team, Wolfman and Colan, make it better than it sounds. Galactic hero isn't Gene's métier, but he gets the job done, working a weird palette like the Surfer swarmed by rats. The tonal clash of the characters makes the whole thing still feel jerry-rigged, despite Marv setting up the premise as well as possible.

They get the best, maybe, of a bad idea, but a question begs: if supposed cut-rate Satanist Anton Lupeski has all along had the power to pluck the flippin' Silver Surfer from the sky and turn him into a hypnotized weapon, then what the hell does he need Dracula for?

Chris: Curious match-up here; a purposeful attempt to draw-in mainstream Marvel readers to comicdom’s #1 fear mag, perhaps?  Well, in any case, the Surfer’s inclination toward a peaceful resolution means that he doesn’t have to follow his instinct to burn Drac’s evil out of existence (and you know he could, right?  One quick pulse of that ol' power cosmic …).  So, this battle fits another recognizable Marvel category, which I’m inclined to term as: EIMEIS (ie: equals in might, ending in stalemate); ya like it?  

The real take-away from this issue is two-fold: first, Anton Lupeski, who successfully summons the Surfer, might be more of a force-to-be-reckoned-with, and more of a legitimate threat to Drac, than he originally had appeared to be; and, as the final page reminds us, Domini continues to be aware of the expected outcome of her pregnancy, though self-confident Drac doth know this not.  Should make for a hell of a reckoning, once the little tyke arrives.
Now, if in our next issue Ghost Rider were to meet Drac, his desire to purge evil from the world would propel him to act against Count Blood, and we’d see if Drac could survive a blast of hellfire!  (sadly, this meeting is not in the cards for the Bronze era …)

Also This Month

Chamber of Chills #25 (Final Issue)
Crazy #21
Kid Colt Outlaw #212
Marvel's Greatest Comics #67
Marvel Classics Comics #11
Marvel Super-Heroes #61
Marvel Tales #73
Marvel Triple Action #32
Rawhide Kid #136
Ringo Kid #30 (Final Issue)
Sgt Fury #137
Strange Tales #188 (Final Issue) >
Tomb of Darkness #23 (Final Issue)


The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 30
Cover by Earl Norem

"Threads of Evil... Web of Hate!"
Story by Bill Mantlo
Art by George Perez and Sonny Trinidad

"Field of Honor"
Swordquest Part IV
Story by John Warner
Art by Tony DeZuniga

Jack of Hearts sets out to find the White Tiger and help him find the murderers of Jack's father. The Tiger, however, is held up by a group of dealers who are out to kill the brother of the White Tiger's alter ego, Hector Ayala. The thugs have seized Hector's sister and threaten her with bodily harm if they don't get what they came for. The Tiger at first pulls punches but finally grows impatient and hands the dopers their heads. Hector's hophead brother reminds him that they're running out of time and lifts his own shirt to prove it, showing the Tiger the plethora of explosives attached to his chest. Meanwhile, in other parts of the world: Bob Diamond, still stuck in the arctic freeze of the Canadian forest he was filming in, faces off against a huge bear; Lin and Lotus meet Bob Diamond's scumbag agent; and Abe Brown prepares for battle in Africa.

Again, as in the last few issues, the most interesting aspects of this series (the three original members of the Sons of the Tiger) are given short shrift and must play second fiddle to the White Tiger's meandering saga. Yeah, we get the guy is tortured (we're reminded in pert near every panel) and we know he's bi-lingual (because he translates himself in each word balloon!) but could we possibly advance the story a bit to, say, a relevant spot? Both Jack of Hearts and White Tiger struggle with their tempers and that road is the only one that seems an interesting one to travel on. Bill pulls out some howlers this time around (the drug thugs must have learned their sketchy English from Cheech and Chong LPs  -- "You just cost thees frail her life, meester hero... You steenkin' broad!") just to break up the monotony. The "Coming Next Issue" tag ("The Final Battle Waged!") has me optimistic that we might be getting back on the right track.

John Warner delivers the fourth and (please, oh dear God) final chapter in his "Swordquest" saga, an epic so epic in its epic size and epic dimensions that it took one hundred epic pages to tell its... well, darn near epic fable. I felt that hero Kwang-Che and I came out the other end feeling exactly the same way: that we wasted a whole lot of time for nothing. At least I didn't have to slay half a country with a sword to come to that conclusion. -Peter Enfantino

Amen to that, brutha!

Planet of the Apes 26
Cover by Malcolm McN

Story by Doug Moench
Art by Herb Trimpe and Virgil Redondo

"Assault on Paradise"
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Chapter Five
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Dino Castrillo

The good news: Terror is back. The bad news: Herb Trimpe. Now, I have nothing against ol' Herbie to be honest, but compared to the artists before him, it's a huge step down. I mean, he gives Jason a haircut and a body wave. What the heck? Anyways, up in the North Lands, our motley band of heroes is stranded and cold, but the Psychedrome railcar is equipped with thermo-insulated gear and monkey-demon swords. Back at the Psychedrome itself, repairs are underway, that may take 20-30 years according to one of the Keepers. Meantime, Brutus and the drones find Lightsmith's wagon, filled with pop culture treasures that Brutus calls "junk." Lightsmith disappears in a blizzard, and when the group goes after him, they're met by Eriko and the North Apes. After a quick but light-hearted (according to Eriko) battle, Jason, Alexander, Malagueña and Gilbert (the mute chimp, not the MU professor) are taken via longship to a feast in the ape village. Malagueña is annoyed at a partying Jason for not pursuing their friend Lightsmith, who was taken by Snow-Shamblers to a cave, where he's fed and cared for gently, of all things. The next morning, there's a charge against the Snow-Shamblers to save Lightsmith, and a borderline massacre, including the killing of the main Shambler that affects Lightsmith so much, it breaks him free from the Psychedrome hypnosis. Eriko gives our heroes a longship to travel in, but the North Apes keep the Keeper, who they claim is an oracle carved on their great poles. A lesson learned, as the Keepers tried to turn Lightsmith into their oracle.

Prof. Joe and The Dean discuss Joe's
latest Ka-Zar write-up
Between the seemingly needless massacre of the gentle Snow-Shamblers, and the sadness of Lightsmith (even though he no longer spews goodness mumbo-jumbo all the time) Doug Moench really brings this tale to a solemn end. Add to that the coldness of Malagueña to Jason, the mere cameo for Alexander, and a smattering of evil Brutus, and this is a downer. Only the jubilant attitude of Eriko brings it up, but his killing of Lightsmith's caretaker ends that quick enough. Moench turns up the dialogue meter big time, as if everyone had to talk to keep warm, while Trimpe does serviceable work at best on the art. What have they done to my beloved Terror? Sigh…

Moving on to Part II of Lee Overstreet's "Man and Ape: Relections in an Imperfect Mirror," I realize I need to go to bed soon to catch an early flight to Disneyland, so the less said about this self-indulgent psycho-babble the better. But we pause on the letters page "We Heard It Through The Ape Vine" to share this doozy of a message: "This is a very special issue of POTA for all of us up here at the Mighty Marvel Outpost for wayward apes. As you've no doubt noticed, we've introduced a new look to Terror on the Planet of the Apes, compliments of Happy Herb Trimpe, whom we've managed to cajole [sic] away from our ever-exciting line of color comics with the promise of a year-long lease in the luxury treehouse of his choice, plus all the bananas he can eat. It was touch-and-go for awhile, but the bananas a-peal were just too much." And it goes on from there, proving these black and white mags affected the minds of the editors.

For Part V of the Battle adaptation, Moench is joined by Dino Castrillo, known for drawing a bookshelf's worth of Marvel Classic Comics, including Prof. Bradley fave Master of the World, The Invisible Man and some little-known tale called Frankenstein. Here Castrillo, like Trimpe in the first half of the book, takes the art down a notch, with weird ape haircuts, too much gel for MacDonald's hair and beard, and Wrangler jeans on some of the humans. Add to that a mix of basic layouts with cool ones (page 35), goofy angles and bizarre choices mixed with brutal action and explosions, and it's no wonder this mag is headed toward the great ape treehouse in the sky a few months from now.

As to our story, a lot happens in a short time. We begin with Aldo clearing the council chamber of humans and locking them up, then raiding the armory for guns to arm the apes. Virgil watches the whole thing, but when he goes to warn Caesar, the leader is keeping watch over his injured son, Cornelius. But when the youngster reveals with his dying breath that it wasn't humans that hurt him, an enraged Caesar confronts Aldo—just as Breck and the mutants attack the city! Aldo leads the gorillas to intercept, as the chimpanzees build a barricade. A nasty battle ensues, with the mutants quickly gaining the radiated upper hand with machine guns and cannons, including blasting the barricade!--Joe Tura


  1. Iron Man 62 has a special spot in my heart as this was my first original Marvel comic I ever bought at an international press stand. It was the start of my collection. I still have the issue. I knew the character from the short run of its german editions, and Iron Man always fascinated me. Even if Stark is a genius, Iron Man is a kind of everyman hero, which is a big part of his appeal. So when I discovered the box with a handful of current Marvels this was my first choice. And I kept buying the book for the next two decades with its up and downs.

    And I still think that ToD 50 is a waste and pointless. The Silver Surfer should have burned the count to a crisp without breaking into a sweat. Lupeski can summon the Surfer and still doesn't get who the vampire is? Idiot.I read somewhere that they indeed used the surfer to help falling sales. Why not Spider-Man? 'Would have drawn a bigger audience.

    1. Actually, Andy, Lupeski does know the Count is a vampire but he doesn't want to let Drac know he knows.

    2. Oh, thanks. Never rely on memory alone when writing something, this is more often then not a recipe for nonsense :-) It has been quite a while since I last read these issues.

  2. Andy,

    Good call on Drac; Lupeski's sudden power goes as fast as it comes.

    Dean P,

    It was Hammer-time, per Prof Matthew. Good eye.

    Prof Chris,

    EIMEIS. I like it, but I'm just learning MARMIS...

    Prof Joe,

    Good Wolff whistle!

  3. Esteemed Prof Mark -- nice work on the Telex for this month's MoKF. Cleverly done, a real highlight for our well-meaning blog. -Prof C


  4. Prof Chris,


    Paste-Po - er, Beloved Dean Peter, still occasionally has me and Prof Joe Fight Clubing it for the last facility parking space.

    But thanks. Consistently good to great books become tougher, month after month, to lesson plan for -- it's great, it's HUGE!!. Crap-fests - almost as karmic payback - are easy & fun.

    Go figure...