Wednesday, August 31, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: August 1967


Gee whiz, the FF can’t catch a break. After their South Seas vacation turned into a fight against a Kree robot, Reed tries to take Sue out on the town. But they (along with Johnny and Ben) get kidnapped by yet another Kree.

This time it’s Ronan the Accuser, in his Marvel Universe debut. (We also get our first look at the Supreme Intelligence, the giant disembodied brain that rules the Kree Empire.)

Ronan has been sent to “try” and execute the FF for destroying the Sentry. This, not surprisingly, leads to a fight.

The fight isn’t quite as cool as Kirby’s fights normally are, because the setting (a small chamber into which all the characters have been teleported) is kind of boring. But the action itself, in which the FF uses their various powers in perfect tandem to take down Ronan, comes very close to making up for this. I especially like the way it at first seems as if poor Sue is acting like a frightened and fairly useless little girl, but even that turns out to be a clever tactic.

And, as has become typical for the book in this era, the characterizations (mixing humor with honest emotion) continue to be top notch. Ben, in particular, continues to shine. I think I wrote in a recent entry that he gives Peter Parker a run for the money in the single most human character in the Marvel Universe. That continues to hold true.

And, oh, yes, Alicia gets taken out of her studio by an unseen man with the ability to walk through walls. More on that next issue.


The Kingpin, after appointing the apparently recidivist Frederick Foswell as a lieutenant,  launches a crime spree on New York City. But he’s unaware that Spider Man is back in action.  

The crime boss has also decided to kidnap Jonah Jamison, since the publishers anti-crime editorials could cause trouble.

During this action-packed issue, Spidey beats up some thugs, narrowly avoids getting blown to smithereens and plants a spider tracer on a fleeing villain. This leads him to Kingpin’s hideout, where he takes on the bad guy in an attempt to save JJJ.

The very first ever Spidey/Kingpin fight is a good one. Our hero takes a few nasty shots, painfully learning that his opponent’s “fat” is actually solid muscle and that the Kingpin moves with speed and agility that belies his size.

All the same, it appears that Spider Man might come out on top—until Kingpin uses a trick tie pin to gas him unconscious. So we end with a cliffhanger.

All the action in this issue, though, doesn’t prevent Stan Lee from sneaking in a few good character moments.  The most important of these involves Jonah. He’s a blowhard and a jerk, but when kidnapped and threatened by Kingpin, he refuses to back off from his editorials.

It’s moments like this that are key to Jonah’s character—those very, very rarely glimpsed traits that mark him as an essentially decent human being at his core.

By the way, though he’s not named yet, we get our first glimpse of Daily Bugle editor Robbie Robertson.

THOR #143

It’s nice to see some of the other Asgardians getting some Crowning Moments of Awesome. Balder and Sif are still out looking for the three evil Enchanters and they encounter the “Living Talisman,” a big bruiser of a creature who works for the Enchanters.

Balder manages to knock the stuffing out of the big guy, but the Enchanters show up and get the drop on both him and Sif. So Sif teleports herself and her friend to Earth, where they soon contact Thor.

But it’s all a trap. The Enchanters had predicted all this and two of them appear on Earth as well as the issue comes to an end.

There is also our first indication that Balder has a thing for Sif, but knows she only has eyes for Thor.

Sadly, the Tales of Asgard will be coming to an end soon as well. With only three chapters to go, Thor and the Warriors Three really need to be wrapping up their fight against Mogul soon.

This chapter concentrates on Volstagg, who is separated from the fighting and taking a moment to hit on Mogul’s beautiful sister. The sister drops him through a trap door, but he inadvertently drags her down with him.

They’re both soon threatened by an indestructible minotaur, so the femme fatale forces her fat friend to flee as fast as is feasible, taking him to a magical device that basically works as a whopping big ray gun.

Which is hopefully a good thing, since Thor, Hogun and Fandrall are on the verge of being overwhelmed by Mogul’s demon riders.

I love the way Volstagg is portrayed throughout this story. Is he simply a clumsy coward, or is he a skilled warrior who puts on an act to hide his skill? When Volstagg is handled by a writer who understands what makes him cool, we’re left never quite sure ourselves.

Well, that finishes August 1967.  Next week, we'll return to the Marvel Universe as the FF look for Ben’s missing girl friend; Spider Man gets tossed into a death trap while chained to the world’s most annoying person; and Thor fights a pair of apparently omnipotent opponents.

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