Wednesday, March 16, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: April 1966, part 2


Hawkeye decides to use a memory inducer to remember the computer code he needs to find out where the other Avengers are. But he’s interrupted when the Beetle attacks the mansion.

Why? It's not revealed until the next issue, but it turns out that a guy named the Collector (who eventually turns out to be an Elder of the Universe) is collecting a complete set of Avengers and has hired the Beetle as an agent.

But for now, we get to see Hawkeye and Beetle in a pretty neat fight, with Hawkeye using his various arrows in clever ways to get away so that he can rescue his teammates.

And they certainly need rescuing. Attuma’s ship is now completely flooded. The Avengers had air helmets, but the Atlantean bad guy is in his natural element. But Hawkeye shows up (in an “Aero-Sub” he borrows from the Fantastic Four). There’s a dog fight with several of Attuma’s patrol craft, interrupted by a visually impressive encounter with a giant octopus.

All the good guys end up on Attuma’s main ship, teaming up to win the fight. I love a panel where Wanda takes over control of an armored vehicle, zapping some of Attuma’s men with a ray gun while thinking “I don’t quite know what it’s doing—but certainly is doing it well!”

The Avengers escape and Attuma’s ship blows up, ending his latest threat to the surface world. But the Wasp is mysteriously missing and there issue ends with a visitor at the front door. We don’t get to see who it is yet, but the Avengers certainly act surprised.

It’s a strong issue from start to finish. Though I sometimes find Don Heck’s figure work a little stiff, he gives us some really good stuff this issue.

THOR #127

Thor, shamed by his defeat by Hercules, tells Jane it’s over between them, then flies off to mope. Odin, in the meantime, begins to feel badly about double-crossing his son in the middle of a fight. He feels even worse when his advisor Seidring refuses to give back the Odin power. He zaps Odin and soon subdues the warriors of Asgard.

Thor arrives to find out what’s going on and has to take on Seidring along. Through sheer courage and a refusal to surrender, he manages to fight his way into the chamber where the Odin Sword resides, threatening to draw the giant sword and thus cause the universe to end. Seidring panics and gives Odin back his powers. Thor, having saved the day, drops unconscious from his injuries.

That summary really doesn’t do the issue justice. Once again, Jack Kirby takes the opportunity to draw beings of cosmic-level powers to make everything look glorious. And Thor exudes nobility. There’s nothing corny or heavy-handed here. We easily believe that Thor wins with nothing but unflagging courage.

While all this is going on, we learn that the producer who invited Hercules to star in a movie is Pluto, ruler of the Greek Underworld. But he’s sick of that job, so is using this whole movie gimmick to trick Hercules into signing a contract to take his place. He’s enlisted the Queen of the Amazons to help guile the Son of Zeus into signing.

It’s the weirdest supervillain plan ever. But it fits in with the feel of the story. All this continues to make up what I would pick as Thor’s best ever story arc.

In “Tales of Asgard,” Thor and his companions are back in Asgard, listening to the world’s creepiest-looking oracle predict their doom. This provides Jack with an excuse to spend several pages drawing what Ragnarok will look like, ending with the Midgard Serpent rising up finish off what’s left.

Monsters—god-like warriors—massive destruction. In a Jack Kirby story, what else do you need to make it cool?


Iron Man manages to transform Happy back into a human, though the process leaves the unfortunate ex-boxer with amnesia. Soon after, Tony is kidnapped by the Mandarin. He loses his briefcase with his Iron Man armor, while Mandarin threatens to release an ultimate weapon and finally conquer the world.

It’s a pretty straightforward chapter in Iron Man’s ongoing serial, with Adam Austin’s art work continuing to give the title a new sense of energy.

In Captain America, John Romita takes over as artist for a couple of issues and give us some solid action as Cap is forced to team up with Batroc to catch the girl and warn her the explosive she’s carrying is about to go off. Batroc, in the meantime, continues to talk constantly in his REALLY ANNOYING accent.

When the catch the girl, they start fighting each other again. Batroc unintentionally leads Cap back to the criminals who hired him. The two duke it out before the villains seem to escape with the explosive (now safely contained again), but it turns out the girl was carrying a dummy. The real explosive was safely delivered to SHIELD. And as the girl is taken off in an ambulance, Cap wonders if he’ll ever see her again.

This makes for a good stopping point for Tales of Suspense. Well, actually, it’s not that great a stopping point, since both series are hip-deep in cliffhangers. But it’s the closest thing to a stopping point that we’ll get and I’m now determined to cut the titles I do chronologically down to FF, Spidey and Thor over the next few installments, thus opening up Wednesday slots to cover other comics. We will be returning to Shellhead and Cap frequently, though, to look at specific storylines.


The army replaces Dr. Banner with Dr. Zaxon, an expert in “organic energy.” Someone fell down on the job in the interview process, though. It soon turns out that Zaxon hopes to one day conquer the world.

And when the Hulk reappears in his own time zone, he’s gassed unconscious by the army. The issue ends with Dr. Zaxon using an Organic Energy Attractor in an attempt to steal the Hulk’s power.

There’s some nifty characterization stuff here too. Banner’s personality and memories are still fading, leaving an increasingly brutal Hulk behind. Rick, before learning that Hulk is still alive, spills the beans to everyone—including Betty—about Banner’s duel identity. It’ll be a few more issues, in fact, before Hulk finally turns back into Banner. But even so, we are getting very close to getting the Banner/Hulk transformations to become regular events based on his emotional state.

Meanwhile, we get the rest of Namor’s encounter with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (all taking place before the current issue of the Avengers). That encounter ends when the Puppet Master (who intercepted a radio message about Namor) quickly takes control of the undersea monarch, with a plan to use him to attack the FF. (Janet, in the meantime, flies off to warn the Avengers about Namor, leading into the Avengers story arc.)

The Puppet Master realizes he’s low on cash, so he sends Namor off to rob a bank or two before crushing the FF. But by the end of the issue, he’s surrounded by the Army, with the villain mentally telling him not to be taken alive.

Adam Austin’s art continues to look great, but I gotta say his design of Puppet Master (which includes a bizarre costume) doesn’t manage to catch the creepy vibe that Jack Kirby always gave him.

That’s it for April. Next week, we'll pause in our examination of the Marvel Universe again to take a look at what the average dinosaur was doing during World War II.

In two weeks, we'll return to our now-truncated history of the Marvel Universe, in which the FF wraps up its fight against Galactus in time to send Johnny to college; Spider Man fights a new villain and gets Gwen really ticked off at him; several ex-Avengers return to the fold; Thor goes fishing before deciding to help Hercules; the Hulk actually fights Hercules; and Namor deals with both mind control and a giant monster.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...