Wednesday, December 16, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1964, part 3


We meet Baron Zemo--an arch enemy of Captain America. During the war, Zemo perfected a chemical called Adhesive X. But in a fight with Cap, a vat of the chemical was shattered and spilled over Zemo, permenently affixing the hood he wears to his face.

Now, years later, Zemo is hiding out in a South American jungle when he finds out Captain America is alive. He recruits the first-ever version of the Masters of Evil, grabbing one enemy from each of the Avengers' individual Rogue's Galleries. Aside from himself, there's the Black Knight (a good choice--by far the most interesting of Giant Man's foes), Radioactive Man, and the Melter.

A couple of neat-o fights follow, with the Avengers being initially forced to retreat when Cap and Giant Man get stuck to some pavement with Adhesive X. Then there's a rematch, with the Avengers trading opponents to confuse the enemy. Once again, Jack Kirby manages to give each of the heroes some quality "screen time." The scene in which Iron Man borrows a pickup truck to tow Cap and Hank behind him while they're stuck to a hunk of pavement is a visual highlight.

Several points of note: There's a nice bit of Marvel U continuity when the Avengers contact Paste-Pot Pete, the Human Torch's foe, to get his expertise in figuring out how to dissolve Adhesive X. He agrees to help in exchange for reduced prison time, so his motivation is perfectly believable.

In a slightly less believable sequence, Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade play an important part in Cap's overall plan for defeating the Masters of Evil. I would have thought that asking the cops or the army for a couple of guys to help might have been preferable to risking the lives of teenagers. Oh, well, the average age of comic book readers at the time was still a lot younger than it is now, so the temptation to make heroes out of kids is understandable. Besides, Rick and Cap will be building up a father/son-type relationship in future issues, so giving Rick some face time in the story makes sense in that regard.

One last thing: Iron Man has installed some electronics and magnets in Cap's shield, allowing Cap to control its flight when he throws it. He'll keep these gadgets for awhile until someone finally realizes Cap is just plain cooler when he does incredible things with his shield through skill alone. In a future issue, he'll decide the gadgets throw off the shield's "delicate balance" and get rid of them.

X-MEN #6

Gosh, what a coincidence! Both Professor X and Magneto independently come to the conclusion that the Sub Mariner might be a mutant and both begin to search him out to recruit him.

But if you give Stan and Jack their one little coincidence, what follows is another great story.

I sometimes wonder if I should keep bothering with the Marvel Universe series simply because I keep repeating myself on one aspect of them so often--Jack Kirby (along with Steve Ditko) was a master in constructing logical and visually awesome battle sequences. This one is no different. It's set on an isolated island upon which Magneto has set up his latest base. The Sub Mariner is there, checking out the possibility of working with Magneto to take his vengence on surface dwellers. (Namor is particularly ticked off since Sue rejected him in last month's Fantastic Four.) The fight starts when Namor and Angel have a brief dogfight, then the battle becomes more general with all the various combatants taking a hand.

Once again, the teamwork and skills learned from Danger Room sessions help the X-Men during their fight, while Magneto shows a casual willingness to sacrifice his own teammates to win a battle. This turns Namor against him. Magneto and the Brotherhood flee in a rocketship, though not before his relationship with Pietro and Wanda is strained even farther. Namor stomps off, disillusioned with the concept of an alliance with anyone. (So far, he's had bad experiences with Doctor Doom, the Hulk and now Magneto.) The X-Men go home--victorious in that they helped prevent Namor and Magneto from joining forces.

That's it for July. In August, Zemo will get new allies and then arrange a rematch with the Avengers (now a monthly book); the FF will have a rematch against the Red Ghost; Spider Man adds another villain to his growing Rogue's Gallery; Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man, the Human Torch and Daredevil also each encounter new villians; and Dr. Strange battles Loki.


  1. Instead of calling it "Adhesive X" Baron Zemo could've named it "Crazy Glue," made a fortune and have taken over the world that way.

  2. That's the trouble with mad scientists--they never show any good business sense.

  3. That X-Men issue is the first X-Men issue I remember reading. I remember it fondly. It's the only time I ever saw Magneto astral project.


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