Wednesday, January 27, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1964, part 3


We meet Kang the Conqueror in this issue--but we've actually sorta seen him before. He was Pharoah Rama-Tut when the Fantastic Four fought him in issue #19 of their book. After his defeat there, Rama-Tut tried to return to his native time period (the 31th Century) but over-shot and ended up in the 41st Century instead.

But that worked out okay for him. He landed on a world torn by war, carved out an empire for himself and has now travelled back to the 20th Century to conquer us more primitive people.

Initially, things look bad when most of the Avengers are captured and taken inside Kang's huge time ship. But the Wasp, along with Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade, manage to pull off a rescue. When his armored suit and his ship are both damaged, Kang beats a hasy retreat into the time stream.

It's yet another well-done fight scene by Jack Kirby (who, unfortunately, will be dropping the Avengers after this issue). As with the last issue of the Avengers, it's a little jarring to see a band of teenagers--rather than, say, a Green Beret A-Team--going up against a supervillain.

But that's done partially because the average comic book reader was still pretty young at the time. I think it may also have been done to keep Rick Jones in the loop, as a mentor-student relationship between him and Captain America is still being built up. In a few months, though, Cap will get his own feature in Tales of Suspense, taking Rick with him. Rick will appear less often in the Avengers. Though Rick is a perfectly good character in his own right, this is just as well. He never really fit in with the Avengers. But as the student of a single superhero--well, I can buy that.

X-MEN #7

Now that the X-Men have graduated, Professor X decides that they are ready to go it on their own. He appoints Cyclops as group leader, then takes a leave of absence from his school. He also introduces Scott to Cerebro, the mutant tracking computer that will be such a big part of the X-Men mythology.

Soon, the X-less X-Men get their baptism of fire when Magneto tracks down the Blob and tries to recruit him into the Brotherhood. Most of this issue centers around the fight scene that follows, with Magneto pretty much blowing his chance to earn Blob's loyalty when he proves willing to blow up the fat mutant in order to take out the X-Men. The battle ends in a draw when the Brotherhood retreats.

The fight scenes, as usual, were very good. But there's also some interesting characterizations going on. When Scott becomes leader, we get some dialogue revealing just how concerned he always is about losing control of his optic beams. Wanda and Pietro continue to grow more and more disillusioned with Magneto. And the Blob ends up being a tragic figure that you can't help feeling sympathy for.

That's it for September. Next week, we'll take a look at the 1964 annuals--Fantastic Four Annual #2 and Spider Man Annual #1, before moving on to October.

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