Wednesday, May 20, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1963, part 1


The Skrulls, still annoyed that the Fantastic Four defeated them back in FF #2, make another attempt to destroy the group and conquer the Earth. This time, they send the Super Skrull, a being able to duplicate and amplify all the FF’s powers.

At first, he seems capable of whipping the good guys quite handily. But Reed deduces that Super Skrull must be getting extra power beamed to him from his home planet. Once that power is jammed, it’s the Super Skrull who goes down in defeat.

This is a fun, action-oriented issue. The Skrulls are going to become one of the major alien threats in the Marvel Universe—certainly, their creepy visual design and shape-changing powers make them more memorable than most of the countless other alien races that keep invading us. The Super Skrull himself will, of course, be back to fight again as well.

I should also mention that Sue continues to pull her weight in the action scenes, using her invisibility to good affect. We’re not too many issues away from when her powers finally get amped up with the ability to generate force fields, but in the meantime she’s continuing to do a pretty good job.


An American jazz musician traveling in India learns the secret of using music to hypnotize both men and animals. Returning to New York City, he plans to use his powers to hypnotize the populace while he steals them blind.

Fortunately, Ant Man’s cybernetic helmet makes him immune to the music and he foils the plot by destroying the bad guy’s trumpet.

This one is a bit dull, taking far too much time to set up the situation and explain the not-terribly-interesting villain. There’s a nice bit of characterization, though, when Janet talks Hank into taking her to a jazz club. It turns out she’s a fan of jazz, while poor stick-in-the-mud Hank has no idea who Count Basie is. But by the end of the story, he’s learning to appreciate her taste in music.


Iron Man finally gets some regular supporting cast members—something the book has been lacking so far. Happy Hogan is a perpetually grouchy ex-boxer who saves Tony’s life and gets a job as chauffer/bodyguard. Pepper Potts is Tony’s secretary and is (of course) hoping to one day marry the boss.

They are both likable characters. Happy falls for Pepper right off, but she’s initially annoyed with him. This antagonistic relationship (they eventually fall in love and marry) gives some much-needed personality to the book.

Of course, this issue takes so long to introduce us to Happy and Pepper that there’s not much time for the super villain. An embittered scientist (there are a lot of those scattered around the Marvel Universe) invents a freeze ray and ice suit combination and goes on a crime spree. Iron Man defeats him fairly easily by putting together a miniature furnace from components he keeps in his armor.

This makes several issues in a row in which Iron Man hasn’t had to work up much of a sweat in beating the bad guys. But he’s got a better quality of bad guy coming up in future issues.

One other interesting thing—Tony Stark keeps playing up the fact that Iron Man is a good friend who happens to hang around Stark Industries a lot, explaining why the hero is always nearby when trouble breaks out. We haven’t yet reached the point at which Tony comes up with the rather obvious idea of stating that Iron Man is an employee.

Next week, we’ll see what Thor, the Human Torch and Spider Man are up to.

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