Wednesday, March 3, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: November 1964, part 1


Well, this issue certainly seeps with tragedy. First, Reed figures out a way to turn Ben human again, but this has a side effect of giving Ben amnesia, so he’s gotta be changed back into the Thing.

Then an alien trades places with Sue and Johnny’s dad (still in jail after surrendering himself in the previous issue) and then breaks out of prison. The fake Dr. Storm goes on a rampage with the ability to duplicate any of the Fantastic Four.

Sue and Johnny think the alien is really their dad gone nuts. A confused and heartbroken Sue at one point even interferes with Reed’s attempt to attack the alien. Reed, though, deduces what’s really going on—figuring out that “Dr. Storm” is really the Super Skrull, back for a re-match.

Reed’s pretty much annoyed with the rest of the team by now. He quite literally tells them all to just shut up and do what they’re told. (I love it when Reed gets mad—it always makes for a fun scene.) He manages to contact the Skrull home world and tell them the jig is up. Super Skrull is teleported home and the real Dr. Storm is returned to Earth.

But the doc’s been booby-trapped and he’s forced to sacrifice himself to save his kids.

In the previous issue, Stan and Jack got a little too soap-opera. But here, they do a superb job and the emotions generated by the story come across as real. The sequence involving a cure for Ben, Sue and Johnny’s confusion over what to do about their “dad,” and the elder Storm’s self-sacrifice makes for a succession of honestly touching moments.


And, by golly, we’ve got more honest emotion over here in Spider Man. After the events of the last issue, Spider Man is now publically reviled as being a coward, especially since he hasn’t been seen since he apparently ran away from the Green Goblin. In fact, Peter is so concerned that his convalescing Aunt May needs him, he’s now thinking he shouldn’t take any chances. When he spots some thieves breaking into a jewelry store, he phones the cops rather than take them out himself.

And when he runs into the Sandman, he then runs away from the Sandman. Unfortunately, someone films this and the public hates Spider Man even more.

On top of all this, Betty Brant is still mad at Peter for apparently standing her up. The end result is Peter being lonely, depressed and constantly worried about Aunt May.

But Aunt May finally begins to feel better, giving Peter a pep talk about having gumption and not giving up. Peter realizes he’s been acting like a quitter and the issue ends with him donning his Spider Man costume once more.

It’s an issue low in action but high in some really nifty character development. And it all leads up to some great action stuff in next month’s issue, when Spidey shows the world he’s not a coward after all.


The Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master had teamed up to destroy the F.F. a few months back in Fantastic Four #28. Now we find out they are still working together, now planning on taking out the F.F. one at a time.

What follows is a straightforward little tale in which the villains’ plans go awry and we get some nice emphasis on just how inherently decent a person Ben Grimm is. (He also gets turned human again for a few minutes—this is Ben’s month for unsuccessful transformations.) Reed plays a part as well—rigging up a funny looking helmet that feeds Puppet Master’s mind control energies back at the bad guy, exploding his Ben puppet.

Meanwhile, Dr. Strange has his first meeting with the Dread Dormammu, the despotic ruler of another dimension. When Dormammu threatens to invade Earth, the good doctor travels to his home dimension for a pre-emptive strike.

Strange battles a succession of magical opponents before confronting Dormammu. The story continues into the next issue as the two protagonists finally meet face to face.

This is the sort of story that Steve Ditko was born to illustrate. The alien landscapes, the various weird creatures, Dormammu’s striking visual design—it’s all perfect.

Strange also meets a really purty girl in Dormammu’s dimension. She isn’t given a name yet, but this is the first appearance of Clea, the doctor’s future lady love.

Also, I’ve discovered that “Dormammu” is a nearly impossible word to type correctly on the first try.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll visit with Thor and Iron Man. We’ll also take a look at Captain America’s solo debut.

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