Wednesday, November 11, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1964: part 1


Reed finally decides to propose to Sue. But while he's out buying a ring, Namor shows to kidnap the poor girl yet again. The undersea prince, still deserted by his people save for the few loyal guards who rejoined him in Avengers #4, has decided that he needs a bride to regain his previous glory.

Reed pretty much explodes with anger and decides that he'll confront Namor alone. Johnny and Ben don't approve of this, so they recruit Dr. Strange to track down Namor so they can rejoin Reed in time to help.

What follows is yet another great fight scene--Reed goes mano-o-mano with Namor while Ben handles the contingent of Atlantean soldiers. Johnny rescues Sue and they work together to ward off a death trap or two. Cuts between the various scenes are expertly handled so we can easily follow the action throughout.

And Jack Kirby does a great job of making the fight between Namor and Reed believable, with Reed using his powers in several clever ways to cancel out Namor's advantage in pure power. A panel in which Reed forms his body into a giant crossbow and basically fires Namor into some of his own soldiers is wonderful. It somehow manages to be just a little bit silly and really cool at the same time.

Anyway, Sue seperates everyone with a force field and tells Namor to leave her alone in the future. This ticks the pointy-eared prince off, but Dr. Strange teleports everyone away before the fighting can resume. But poor Reed thinks Sue might have just been pretending to reject Namor to end the conflict. So no proposal yet.

I do like the nod to the Marvel Universe's internal continuity here. Namor was rejoined by some of his solders in the Avengers, but Stan Lee remembered to carry that event over into the Fantastic Four. And, finally, Reed angry reaction to Namor's actions adds some real depth to his character.


Spider Man is still adding to his Rogue's Gallery at a fast and furious pace. This month introduces us to Mysterio, a former stunt man/special effects guy who uses his skills and devices to frame Spider Man for a series of robberies. Mysterio then publically sets himself up as a crime fighter and the only guy who can bring the villianous webslinger to justice.

Peter spends a few pages worried that he has developed a split personality and really is committing the crimes. This part of the story doesn't really work--this isn't the first time Spidey's been impersonated, after all.

And when Spider Man finally figures out what is going on, he uses the already cliched method of getting the bad guy to gloat and openly confess his crimes while Spidey gets it all on tape.

These flaws keep this issue from being as good as Spider Man usually is, but it's still not bad stuff. Ditko gives us another fine fight scene--he continues to show a real talent for choreographing the action in such a way that emphasizes the webslinger's need to use his brains as well as his powers to win. And Mysterio is a great villain who will be put to better use in better constructed stories in the future.

That's it for this week. Next time, we'll look in on Thor, Iron Man and Giant Man.

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