Wednesday, December 7, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: May 1968


Galactus is getting hungry again. He’s having trouble finding an eatable world without a herald to scout things out for him. So he heads back to Earth to re-recruit the Silver Surfer.

But the Surfer doesn’t want to go. Though this would end his exile on Earth, scouting worlds for Galactus means helping to commit genocide—something he’s no longer willing to do. So he goes to the FF for help.

The Punisher (no, not THAT Punisher—the robot the big G used to beat up the Fantastic Four back in issue #49) is sent to Earth to find the Surfer and most of the issue is Ben , Johnnie and Reed fighting the nigh-unbeatable mechanism. Sue is still sitting out the action do to her pregnancy.

When the Punisher realizes that the Surfer is too well-hidden to be found, it teleports away. The issue ends with Galactus personally beginning a search for his former herald.

This is a strong, well-plotted opening for another extended story arc. Stan and Jack continue to mesh character moments and action sequences smoothly together. The issue opens when Ben stops by to see Alicia and finds the Surfer there. Jealous, he acts like an immature jerk until the Surfer literally has to blast him and insist that the world may be in danger. What makes this scene perfect is that this works—getting knocked back by an angry Surfer is what makes Ben shut up and listen. It’s yet another small but important moment that shows how thoroughly Stan and Jack understood their characters.

And I like the motivation for bringing Galactus back to Earth—it makes sense even in light of his promise never to return.


This issue balances so many plot threads so perfectly that it’s impossible to summarize it faithfully without droning on about it far too long. So, just as Indigo did for Westley before attacking the castle, I’ll sum up.

Captain Stacy is brainwashed and working for the Kingpin; Gwen thinks Peter has attacked her dad and now wants nothing to do with him; Peter gets pictures of Stacy stealing police records and Jamison publishes these in a special edition. That leaves Peter in even deeper hot water with Gwen.

That’s the situation as the issue ends. The story leading up to it is packed to the gills with great storytelling that covers an amazing amount of territory without ever seeming dense or rushed. It’s literally a textbook example of graphic storytelling exposition. If you hope to write comics one day, this is an issue you need to study—taking note of how much plot and character stuff is expertly worked into it.  Action; characterization; exposition; moments of high melodrama—it’s all there in exactly the right amounts. This isn’t the best-ever Spidey story, but it’s still an excellent one. And it’s better told in terms of story construction than just about any other comic book I can think of.

THOR #152

The fun thing about this story arc is that there’s not really just one main villain. Every issue or two, the story kind of shifts gears and goes in a different direction. But each of those shifts is very smooth and makes perfect sense in context to the universe Thor and his fellow Asgardians inhabit.

It started with Loki vs. Thor. This morphed into the Wrecker vs. Thor. Then Sif’s life force is zapped into the Destroyer.

This issue begins with Thor—fully powered again—still fighting the Destroyer. But, in the meantime, Ulik is threatening Karnilla. In order to get Balder to agree to defend her, she returns Sif’s life force to its proper place. The Destroyer falls over, inanimate once again.

Balder and Ulik wail on each other for awhile, until Karnilla zaps Thor up to her realm. So the fight shifts to Thor vs. Ulik.

In the end, the troll is knocked into the “bottomless Abyss of Shadows,” in which he’s lost forever—which in this case actually means one issue.

As the dust settles, Thor realizes his hammer is missing—magically stolen by Loki. So it looks like the story will morph back into Thor vs. Loki once again.

There’s a definite rhythm to the story arc. As with this month’s Spider Man, we get an excellent example of just how skilled Stan Lee (and whichever artist he was working with) was at story construction and pacing.

By the way, I’ve been whining about Odin’s less-than-logical actions during this story arc, but the All-Father gets a Crowning Moment of Awesome this time around, when he appears in a police station to take possession of the Destroyer. Despite being dressed in normal clothes, he over-awes the cops, shoos them out of the room containing the Destroyer, and teleports away with it. The poor cops are left baffled and wondering if this was the “decision from Asgard” that Thor told them would be handed down regarding the robot.     

That’s it for May. In June 1968, the FF follow the Silver Surfer to a very unusual hideout; Spider Man gets a rematch against Kingpin; and Thor/Don Blake has to multi-task.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...