Wednesday, December 24, 2008

History of the Marvel Universe--November 1962, part 1

Fantastic Four #8

Gee whiz, the Puppet Master is one creepy looking guy.

He’s got a creepy M.O. as well, using radioactive clay to make puppets of real people, who he is then able to mentally control via the puppet.

This is really Ben Grimm’s issue. He meets the love of his life---Alicia Masters, the blind step-daughter of the Puppet Master—and takes yet another major step to leaving aside his bitterness and accepting life as the Thing.

In the meantime, there lots of mental control; lots of breaking free from mental control; and lots of good action as the FF deals with a mass prison escape; all leading up to the Puppet Master falling to his (presumed) death. He’ll be back, though. The Puppet Master will prove to be a fun enough creation to call for an occasional return appearance.

Hulk #4

When we last saw Hulk and his only friend, teenager Rick Jones, we weren’t certain if big guy would ever again turn back into Bruce Banner. But we need not have worried, as Rick manages to use some some of Bruce’s hidden equipment to turn him human once again. In fact, the situation really changes as Bruce briefly retains his own personality and intelligence when he becomes the Hulk once again. But the Hulk’s more savage personality reasserts itself in time for him to fight Mongu, the Gladiator from Outer Space.

Mongu turns out to be a robot operated by a Communist soldier as part of a plot to capture the Hulk for study behind the Iron Curtain. That proves to be a really bad idea.

By the end of this issue, Bruce is able to use machinery to turn into the Hulk as needed, then back to a human being again. It seems that Lee and Kirby are still playing around with the character, not yet sure what works best as they try out different things. The Hulk, at this point, is still very much a work-in-progress.

Tales to Astonish #37

The Protector, clad in a mechanical suit to amplify his suit and wielding an apparent disintegrator pistol, is forcing local merchants to cough up protection money. Ant Man looks into things and, despite at one point being vacuumed up by the bad guy, manages to put a stop to the racket.

There’s really not much to say about this issue (a situation that will probably reoccur when we cover future Ant Man stories). The Ant Man is a perfectly good character and the stories are entertaining, but this comic simply isn’t reaching the same level of originality and character development that we are seeing in the Fantastic Four (and will soon see in Spider Man). I don’t want to sound like I’m dumping on the story or the character---it’s still good stuff. Just not truly great stuff.

Next week, we’ll visit with Thor and the Human Torch to finish up November 1962.

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