Wednesday, September 29, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1965, part 1


Boy-o-boy, this one is action-packed. Reed uses his power in a clever way to get out of a death trap; Sue manages a Crowning Moment of Awesome; Ben is still mind-controlled by the Wizard; Johnny gets mind-controlled as well; Reed gets a second wind and starts using the Wiz's own devices against the Frightful Four (I love the panel in which he uses his stretchable fingers as a slingshot to pop anti-gravity discs at the villains); and the issue ends with the good guys still barely hanging on. It's literally non-stop action, though Stan and Jack manage to keep everyone in character at the same time. Kirby once again provides superb fight choreography.


And talking about superb fight choreography, Steve Ditko lays out a knock-down-and-drag-'em-out bout between Spidey and a new addition to his Rogue's Gallery (Molten Man) that's as good as Kirby's stuff in FF this month.

But as good as that is, it's once again the character stuff that stands out in this issue. Peter is finally graduating from high school, getting a science scholarship that'll allow him to attend college. (This is the start of a college career that will last decades in real life time, though only a few years in comic book time.)

Liz Allen leaves the cast in this issue--it'll be a few years before we see her again. Her exit is a very human moment--she's pretty much gotten tired of being considered a dizzy blonde by Peter (which is how she had come to see their friendship) and was using her graduation to cut old ties and start fresh.

We cut some really funny moments as well, centering around J. Jonah Jamison being the speaker at graduation and his attempts to suck up to Peter and Aunt May because he's afraid Peter will begin selling photos to other newspapers.

By the way, we see Molten Man's origin in this issue (he gets an experimental metal alloy spilled on him and becomes invulnerable/super strong), but we don't find out for some time that he's Liz Allen's stepbrother.

Peter starts college in just a few issues, where some important new cast members will be introduced. Flash Thompson, in college on a sports scholarship, will be around for a little while longer, with he and Peter becoming somewhat less hostile to each other. I especially enjoy Flash's overall personal story arc--his gradual maturation from school yard bully to functional adult is believable and very human.


We get our first look here at the most famous barber shop in the Marvel Universe—the shop that is actually a front to provide entry into SHIELD’s underground headquarters in New York City.

A couple of Hydra agents tail Nick there, but they’re caught and Nick uses a “hypno-gun” to trick them into leading a Hydra attack squad into an ambush. When the bad guys attack a warehouse they think is SHIELD headquarters, they walk into a series of high-tech booby-traps and get captured enmasse.

It’s not a bad story, though it really just continues to set up the premise of the series and (through a few scenes set in Hydra headquarters) give us an idea of just how ruthless Hydra is. Next issue will really pick up when Stan turns to the same multi-issue, non-stop serial format he’s using so effectively in Hulk, Dr. Strange and other Marvel books.

Dr. Strange, in the meantime, is still just one step ahead of Mordo's minions as he checks in with various other wizards and tries to find out what the heck "Eternity" is. One wizard--who has gone crazy-pants from extreme old age (we're talking centuries here)--inadvertently gets Strange zapped into another dimension and captured by a demonic creature. Strange uses his wits and his powers to escape and get back to Earth. He now plans to take a telepathic trip into the Ancient One's brain to find out about Eternity.

While this is going on, Clea (who is actually still unnamed at this point) gets imprisoned by Dormammu for helping Strange a few issues back.

I've just got more of the same praise I've been piling on to this series for awhile now--Stan Lee has the serial, cliffhanger-heavy style of storytelling down pat and Ditko's bizarre visuals continue to be a perfect match for subject matter.

Next week, we'll drop in on Thor, Iron Man and Captain America.

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