Wednesday, October 13, 2010
History of the Marvel Universe: September 1965, part 3
TALES TO ASTONISH #71
Namor manages to defeat the giant octopus that had him cornered last issue, then continues to follow clues that will lead him to Neptune’s trident. He has a tussle with some of Krang’s men, then is confronted by a giant seaweed monster that begins to crush the life out of him as the issue comes to an end.
Adam Austin’s strong artwork carries the story along nicely. There’s also a legitimately touching moment when Namor meets an elderly Atlantian who assures him that most of his people are still loyal to him. The “Namor on a quest” story also fits into the multi-chapter serial format that Stan Lee is using on quite a few books by this point.
Meanwhile, Thunderbolt Ross is proving to be pretty casual at tossing around atomic weapons. He uses one to finish off the Leader’s giant Humanoid. Hulk grabs Rick Jones and jumps away in the nick of time. This leaves Hulk mad at the army, despite having Banner’s brain in control. Rick begins to get worried, noting that the Hulk is now more violent than ever.
With a bullet still lodged in his brain, the Hulk is dead meat if he turns back into Banner. So he heads for his secret lab and rigs up equipment that will keep him from changing. But the army has spotted him and now Ross is once again threatening to drop a nuke.
Hulk forces a reluctant Rick to leave the cave and get to safety. He figures he’s doomed, but just then the Leader teleports into the cave and promises to save him—IF, of course, he swears eternal loyalty to the Leader.
The series continues to roll along with good action and effective cliffhangers. The Leader might actually be in danger of overexposure—it’ll be nice when the Hulk’s rogue’s gallery gets to grow a little larger. But he’s a strong villain nonetheless, as will be demonstrated over the next few chapters.
Captain America is still plummeting to his doom, but the other Avengers use their various powers together to save him. They’re about the clean the Swordsman’s clock when the bad guy is teleported away by the Mandarin.
The Mandarin then fakes a message from Iron Man, telling the Avengers that Swordsman can indeed be trusted. This, of course, is a trap, with the Swordsman being given a bomb to plant inside Avengers Mansion.
There’s a fun twist at the end. Swordsman has second thoughts about committing mass-murder and is getting rid of the bomb when the Avengers—who remained suspicious of him—confront him. It looks like he’s planting the bomb, so he has to make a break for it, disposing of the explosive devise just before it goes off.
There’s also more bickering among the Avengers over who should be leader. It’s actually a nice dynamic—all fight bravely and work well together when in battle, but between battles they begin to get on each others’ nerves.
Juggernaut has blasted through the X-Men to confront Professor X, who attempts to drop the bad guy with a mental blast. But Juggy’s helmet keeps him immune to telepathic shenanigans.
What follows is a very exciting and expertly choreographed battle in which the X-Men fight a delaying action against Juggernaut back and forth through the mansion, until they finally come up with a way to get his helmet off. Xavier can then finally drop him with a mental blast. A very good issue in terms of action and Kirby’s visuals.
The X-Men, by the way, get some help from the Human Torch, whom Professor X summoned telepathically. Johnny seems a pretty random choice, but the real reason, of course, is to get in a quick plug for the FF and mention Reed’s upcoming marriage to Sue.
This leads to an odd bit at the end, when Professor X mind-wipes the memory of the battle from Johnny. That seems a bit unnecessary and highlights that Stan and Jack still hadn’t thought through all the ethical implications of the professor’s powers. But this does nothing to take away from the story’s high entertainment value.
That’s it for September. In October, the Fantastic Four continue to fight the Frightful Four while Iron Man continues to battle the Titanium Man; Spider Man gets a rematch against the Scorpion while Thor gets a rematch against the Absorbing Man; some SHIELD agents get whacked; Dr. Strange mind-probes his mentor; Captain America joins Bucky as a captive of the Nazis; Namor has trouble with both seaweed and diamonds; the Hulk and the Leader find they can’t play nice together; the Avengers get discredited---AGAIN; and Daredevil fights a gang of pretty goofy looking criminals.