Wednesday, June 30, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: April 1965, Part 3


A sexy Chinese scientist named Madame Macabre—raised and educated by the Mandarin—apparently has the power to enlarge and reduce objects. She at first tries to vamp Hank into joining her to conquer the world, then later just captures him outright to get him to tell her how HE enlarges and reduces stuff.

He and the Wasp (also a prisoner) manage to escape and capture her, discovering that she had an electronic device to simulate a superpower she did not inherently possess.

Madame Macabre is pretty unexceptional, though the connection to the Mandarin is nice. Also, the story gets points for letting the Wasp do most of the escaping/rescuing during the story, pulling Hank out of a jam in the nick of time.

The Hulk, meanwhile, is still in the Soviet base he trashed last issue. The base’s commander tries to zap him with a powerful proton gun, but another scientist who had been a forced laborer at the base takes the blast for the Hulk, giving his life to save him.

Hulk rampages through the base, nearly catching the now-terrified commander before his exertions cause him to turn back into Banner. It’s only when a couple of Soviet jets strafe the base that he Hulks-out again. The story ends with him about to go toe-to-toe with an armored task force.

Also, the American military learns that Banner is behind the Iron Curtain. Talbot is convinced more than ever that Banner is a traitor (he also hopes this is true so that Betty will become available). Betty is convinced Banner is innocent, but is afraid she’s wrong. Unfortunately, Rick Jones isn’t around this issue to call up LBJ again and get the president to clear Banner. Stan Lee is doing an excellent job with the serial format of these Hulk stories, but he either forgot or chose to ignore that particular plot thread (which would, to be fair, been too much of a dues ex machina to keep using).


Zemo arranges for Rick Jones to be kidnapped, then sics the Masters of Evil on the Avengers. While most of the Avengers battle the MoE through the streets of New York, Captain America flies to South America to rescue Rick.

The extended Avengers/MoE fight ends with the two groups confronting each other and the Avengers worried about innocent lives being lost if the battle continues. That confrontation will continue into the next issue, but the Zemo/Cap fight comes to an end when Zemo accidentally brings an avalanche down onto his own head. Zemo is killed (though he will one day sort of return when his son takes over his identity).

One other point of interest: Captain America writes a letter to Col. Nick Fury, looking for work as an agent for the government. Remember at this point we’ve seen Nick once outside his own WWII-set comic book, working for the CIA. He’s still a few months away from being appointed head of the super-spy organization SHIELD. But he’s still a logical choice for Cap to try to contact. And it’s a nice bit of character development that Cap is looking for a way to have a useful life outside of the Avengers.

There is one silly bit to the letter he writes, though. He starts it will “You won’t remember me, but we met during the war.” Cap, no one who meets a super-soldier with a shield in a red, white and blue costume is likely to ever forget him. Gee whiz.


DD finally redesigns his suit into his more familiar and much better looking red costume. If I remember correctly, it was artist Wally Wood who insisted on this, realizing that a yellow costume for “the Man without Fear” just didn’t work either visually or thematically.

Though one can’t help but wonder how a blind man decides on color motifs. It’s the one thing his super-senses don’t really help him with.

Anyway, the comic actually opens in Atlantis, where Namor’s warlord Krang is insisting that they attack the surface world without warning. Namor won’t go for this and opts instead to try a novel approach. He’ll go to the surface world and sue the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE for possession.

He randomly chooses Nelson & Murdock for lawyers. They explain that there’s no legal basis for the lawsuit, so Namor goes on a brief rampage, then surrenders, to get a criminal trial. He’ll present his case against the human race there.

But when he learns that Krang is trying to usurp his throne, he’s forced to give up on his lawsuit plans and break out of prison. That forces Matt to don his new costume and face off against this more-powerful foe.

What follows is a classic battle—beautifully drawn and choreographed by Wood. What makes it great is in large part that neither Wood nor Stan Lee’s script ever forgot that Namor is several times more powerful than Daredevil. DD uses a number of clever tactics, but in the end Namor lays him out.

But DD’s courage and tenacity impresses the prince of Atlantis. He leaves New York without hurting any more humans. Matt considers that a victory.

Wally Wood was one of the comic book industry’s truly great artists. His output for Marvel’s superhero books was relatively small, but what he did was remarkable. This issue of Daredevil is arguably his best Marvel work.

That’s it for April 1965. In May, the FF will rematch against the Frightful Four; Spider Man apparently goes nuts; Ben and Johnny tangle with a mad scientist; Dr. Strange confronts Baron Mordo; Thor goes on trial; Iron Man fights—Iron Man?; Captain America faces off against the Red Skull; Giant Man battles another fairly lame villain; the Hulk continues his behind-the-Iron-Curtain rampage; the Avengers drastically change their membership roster; and the X-Men go up against a cosmic-level threat.

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