Wednesday, December 29, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: January 1966, part 1


There’s a typically well-choreographed Kirby fight scene as the FF takes on Black Bolt and some of the other Inhumans. Expertly wrapped up in this fight is dialogue that imparts information to us and provides us with good characterization. The only note that rings false in all this is Crystal and Johnny (who have only briefly glimpsed each other at this point) already obviously falling in love.

But this is easily forgivable in a comic book that is such a pleasure to both read and to simply look at. By the time the issue ends, the following things have happened.

1) We learn the scaly Inhuman Triton can only breathe in water, but he’s captured by the mysterious Seeker anyways.
2) We learn the Seeker is an Inhuman whose job it is capture wayward Inhumans and return them to the Great Refuge.
3) We learn the Seeker can really screw up sometimes, such as when he mistakes the sleeping Dragon Man for a big Inhuman.
4) We (and the FF) learn that the Inhumans are a species that developed earlier than man and perfected genetic engineering used to give themselves cool powers. They live isolated from us violent humans in a place called The Great Refuge.
5) We see Black Bolt and his followers get teleported away by Lockjaw.
6) Not long after that, Dragon Man gets loose and goes on a rampage through New York City.

Gee whiz, this is great stuff. And the momentum will continue to build as, over the next few issues, the Inhuman story arc is temporarily resolved and our heroes meet the Silver Surfer and Galactus.


And talk about great stuff!!! Aunt May is sick and seems doomed. Well, that by itself is hardly new, but on this occasion, she’s sick because she’s somehow absorbed some radiation. Peter realizes it must have come from his blood when he was the donor for a transfusion.

As Spider Man, he recruits Dr. Curt Connors (formally the Lizard) to help. Connors now lives in New York and he whips up a cure for Aunt May—but he needs a particular rare isotope to activate it.

Of course, the isotope has been stolen by the Master Planner’s men. The Master Planner, by the way, turns out to be Dr. Octopus, who has been having his men steal scientific stuff to experiment with the idea of giving himself extra powers.

Spidey literally goes on a rampage. It’s a defining Spider Man moment—determined to save Aunt May, he gives up cracking wise and making jokes. Instead, he starts beating the snot out of every crook he can track down, trying to find out where the Master Planner is. It’s a character trait that pops up again from time to time throughout his career—threaten Peter’s family or friends and you are in for a world of hurt.

Anyway, Ock is using an underwater base in the East River. The one small weak point in an otherwise superb story is that Spidey pretty much just accidentally stumbles over a hidden sewer entrance to the base, making his frantic efforts up until then almost beside the point.

He goes one-on-one against Doc Ock, who is shocked and awed by Spidey’s anger. But Peter actually puts up too good a fight, bringing tons of debris down on top of him, trapping him just out of reach of the serum he needs while the roof keeping out the river starts to give way.


The Avengers are still in the far future, trying to help Princess Ravonna defend her kingdom against Kang’s army. There’s one heck of a last stand, but the heroes are all captured and Ravonna’s kingdom is taken by the conqueror.

But Kang, who is still in love with the Princess, refuses to execute her. That ticks off his military commanders, who decide the boss is showing weakness. They revolt and Kang is forced to turn to the Avengers for help. It all ends with Kang defeating his own men, but Ravonna getting zapped and perhaps killed with a ray gun. The Avengers are sent back in time to present day before they find out if the poor girl lives.

This was an entertaining and fast-paced story, set up to highlight the realization by the three younger heroes that Captain America is the backbone of the team. It's a lesson Hawkeye will need a few more issues to really learn, though.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll look at Dr. Strange, Nick Fury, the X-Mena and Daredevil.

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