Wednesday, April 20, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1966, part 2


I don’t think Gene Colan ever drew a boring panel of comic art in his life. And his debut on The Sub Mariner is a lot of fun as Namor battles the giant Behemoth. It looks great.

At first, it looks like Namor is out of his weight class. But when he summons up a bunch of electric eels to zap the thing, the feedback destroys the puppet Krang is using to control it. That allows Namor a chance to swim fast enough to cause a whirlpool and suck the Behemoth into a quagmire.

I’m not entirely sure the physics of that work out, but it really does look great, so what the hey.

In the meantime, Krang goes to his Plan B, which is kidnapping Dorma, then using the now inert Behemoth puppet to run a bluff on her and get her to leave with him and later announce their engagement. This leaves poor Namor thinking Dorma has betrayed him.

And I’m afraid we’re going to leave the heartbroken king of Atlantis behind for now, dropping him from the line-up. We will, though, continue to follow the adventures of the Hulk for a few more issues at least—because… well, because it’s MY blog and I want to.

So what’s the Hulk up to this issue? Well, he’s pretty much finished evolving into the dumb brute who refers to himself in the third person (“Hulk will break away!”) that is his best known incarnation.

Still on the run from the Army, he finds himself teleported down to the underground kingdom of Tyrannus—a despotic ruler who kidnapped Hulk back in Hulk #5 about four years earlier.

Tyrannus as been reduced to a withered old man in the meantime because the Mole Man and his forces now control the enchanted pool he needs to bathe in to remain young.

I like this issue, not just because it’s another fun chapter in a fast-paced serial, but also because it ties some disparate elements of the Marvel Universe together. At this point, we’ve seen at least three underground civilizations. (Iron Man encountered one also.) Now they are being confirmed to all exist in the same continuity and interact with each other. Mole Man is trying to take over Tyrannus’ forces to strengthen his future efforts to conquer all us hated surface-dwellers.

 Anyway, Tyrannus has also kidnapped Rick, Betty and Talbot to try to force Hulk to fight for him. Hulk is too far gone mentally to recognize his friends, but when Mole Man attacks, he fights pretty much just for the fun of it.

Jack Kirby did the layouts, with Bill Everett providing the pencils. The end result seems a little bit stiffer than what we get when these excellent artists work independently, but it still looks pretty cool. In the end, Hulk goes one-on-one against a giant multi-tentacled robot and the enchanted pool gets blow up as collateral damage. The explosion turns Hulk back into Banner for the first time in months, leaving the poor guy wondering what the heck is going on.


Lots of emotional roller coasters in this issue. Hank is stuck at ten-feet-tall and, though he still fights bravely when needed, he’s rather understandably depressed by this. Hawkeye learns that his true love Black Widow has reappeared, but she’s been brainwashed by the Commies to work for them again.

The Widow recruits Power Man and Swordsman to take out the Avengers. Several of them are captured, but Goliath shows up to spoil the villains’ plans and yet another visually fun fight follows. Widow and her allies get away at the end. Hawkeye has a chance to peg her with an arrow, but can’t bring himself to do it. In a really nice bit of characterization, Captain America sympathizes with him rather than bawling him out, making the archer feel pretty low for riding Cap all these months.

All in all, a strong story that establishes Goliath and Wasp are going to be regular, active members again.

So we’ll use this high point to drop the Avengers from our chronological reviews. Don’t worry, though, there’s far too many cool Avengers stories from the Roy Thomas and Steve Englehart eras to leave them behind for long. We’ll be looking at specific storylines from future issues from time to time.

So that leaves us with the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Thor and Hulk. We will continue with the first three chronologically for many months to come. We’ll trail along with Hulk for a few more issues at least before dropping him.

And that’s it for June 1966. In July, the Fantastic Four will meet a certain ruler of an African nation for the first time; Steve Ditko will draw Spider Man for the last time; Thor takes a trip to the Greek underworld; and Hulk continues to make a mess of the, um, normal underworld.

But first, we'll jump a thousand years into the future--then a few million years into the past--to join the Legion of Super Heroes in an unusual adventure.

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