Wednesday, September 1, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1965, part 3


Well, it’s Giant Man’s last solo story. His current costume is still butt-ugly. The Wasp’s current costume is butt-ugly. The Human Top’s current costume is butt-ugly. So I suppose you can credit the story for being visually consistent.

Actually, Hank comes up with a pretty clever way to escape a death trap, rescue Janet and beat the Human Top at the end, so this otherwise uninteresting story has its points.

And the Ant Man/Giant Man series as a whole had a few highpoints to it. The best issue was probably #52, which had a cool cover and a well-choreographed fight against the Black Knight. Hank and Janet never really developed clear-cut personalities and the series might have been helped by having a few supporting characters to add some more personal interactions. Better villains would have helped as well. Black Knight was probably the best and a few minor second-stringers were also created in these pages. But there was no one who ever approached the storytelling potential of a Doctor Doom or Loki.

Well, Hank and Janet will be back before too long as members of the Avengers, though Hank will sadly become one of the most psychologically put-upon characters in comic book history.

The Hulk, though, is still going strong. The Leader has captured the Hulk and the Absorbatron (Banner’s secret device that absorbs atomic energy). Banner’s disappearance along with the Absorbatron makes General Ross and Major Talbot more certain than ever that Banner is a traitor.

But capturing the Hulk is rarely a wise thing to do. While in Banner’s form, he sends a radio message to Ross. While in Hulk’s form, he trashes the Leader’s base. The Leader is forced to retreat, but the issue ends with Banner taking a slug to the skull from a soldier who was shooting at the Hulk. Banner is apparently dead.

Well, it’ll be no surprise that we’ll find he’s not quite dead yet next issue, but that bullet will be causing some personality issues with the Hulk for a few issues.

Rick Jones plays a part in this story. I wonder who’s footing his traveling expenses, since he seems to be shuttling back and forth between the American Southwest and Avengers Mansion in New York an awful lot.


There’s still a lot of bickering among the new Avengers as they zip off to a small Asian country and confront the Communist tyrant who rules there. The tyrant is a giant of a man with super strength and seeming invulnerability, but Cap figures out he’s really a robot and Wanda deactivates him with a hex.

It’s a pretty good story. But it’s the characterizations that are most important. We get hints that Hawkeye has a strong sense of patriotism hidden beneath his sarcastic exterior. Wanda has come to respect Cap as their leader wholeheartedly, but Hawkeye and Quicksilver still have some whiney moments about it. The team is slowly learning to work together, though.

There’s some more stuff about Cap trying to contact Nick Fury to get a job outside the Avengers. That’ll come to a head soon, especially with Nick only a month away from being put in charge of SHIELD.

X-MEN #12

I enjoy the way this story is constructed. The X Mansion is being attacked by a villain called Juggernaut. While the villain breaks through various defenses one by one, we get a series of flashbacks, extended over most of the issue, that explain who he is.

He is Professor X’s abusive stepbrother, who accidentally stumbled over the gem of Cyttorak, giving him superpowers. Now he’s out to smash Xavier, whom he always loathed.

The issue ends with Juggernaut beating through the defensives and swatting aside the X-Men, leaving Xavier to face off against him alone.

The storytelling here is really quite expert, clearly and succinctly giving us a lot of information about Xavier’s past in relatively few pages. It’s not a classic in terms of action (though there’s enough action to go around), but it’s really a model of how to convey information to your readers in a clear but still entertaining fashion.

That’s it for July. In August, Ben Grimm gets really, really grouchy; Spider Man punches out a bevy of mobsters; Nick Fury boards the SHIELD helicarrier for the first time; Dr. Strange remains on the run; Odin wakes up from his nap; Tony Stark seems to go nuts; Captain America fights a Nazi with a disintegrator ray; Prince Namor loses his throne (again!); Hulk fights a Godzilla-sized android; the Avengers meet an enemy who will one day be a friend; and Daredevil battles a ruthless dictator.

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