Wednesday, April 18, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1969


Free from the village and joined by Sue, the FF storm Doom’s castle. Doom, though, is setting up a trap for them once they get inside.

This all sets up a pretty nifty conclusion, which surprisingly involves one of Doom’s henchman—the ex-Nazi guy whose been sniveling around at Doom’s heels for the last few issues. Basically, the guy is so obsessed with making himself look good in his boss’s eyes that he screws everything up. Doom has to kill him instead of his arch-enemies.

In what is a bit of a deus ex machina, when his booby-trap goes awry, Doom just grumpily calls off the fight and tells the FF to leave his country. I’m not sure if I completely buy that—it’s not as if Doom didn’t have a castle full of advanced weaponry, trained soldiers and killer robots still at his command.

But I don’t really feel the urge to complain. Though not as epic as the previous Doom story arc (where he stole the Silver Surfer’s powers), this was still a good, solid story. I especially like how the action logically shifted from a desperate last stand in the previous issue to an assault on a castle in this issue. Also, props to Stan and Jack for giving both Sue and Crystal some cool action stuff to do during the fighting. It’s a long way since the Sue of the first year of the comic, where the most she ever seemed to get to do was surreptitiously trip an occasional fleeing Skrull.

Also, there’s a little bit more foreshadowing about the underground house that Sue was considering buying a few issues back. That poor real estate decision will be driving the plot for the next few issues.


First, Kingpin wanted that darned ancient tablet. Then Shocker stole it. Now the Maggia (the Marvel Universe version of the Mafia) is after it.

Spider Man tracks the tablet to an old girl friend of Shocker, but the Maggia leg-breaker Man Mountain Marko is there as well. Marko doesn’t have any powers, but (like Ox of the Enforcers) he’s so big and strong that he can stand toe-to-toe with a superhero.

Marko uses the rather ruthless tactic of tossing a girl out a window to distract Spidey while he gets away with the tablet.

The action scenes are typically cool, but it’s the character moments that really shine in this issue. I love a bit early on where Spider Man enters the Stacy house through Captain Stacy’s bedroom window, in order to compare notes with the policeman and get a lead on the tablet. Stacy helps him, but only after sternly telling the webslinger “Just because I don’t thing you’re as bad as you’re painted, doesn’t mean I like having my house broken into!”

But the best scene involves Robbie and his son Randy at the Daily Bugle. It is, in fact, Robbie’s Crowning Moment of Awesome and cements his well-deserved reputation as one of the most thoughtful and decent characters to populate the Marvel Universe.

Randy is thinking of quitting college. Robbie isn’t objecting to his son’s militant politics (“maybe we need more of that stripe”), but he still gives a corny but all-the-same heartfelt speech about the importance of an education to combat bigotry.

He then stands up to Jamison, who is throwing a fit for reporting a story that made Spider Man look heroic. Jamison backs down when Robbie refuses to distort straight news stories.

Randy is impressed that his dad was willing to put his job on the line to do the right thing, but still wonders like he has to “take all that bull from a racist like him?” Robbie’s answer is the best part of that scene, accurately defining his character and giving us an insight into Jamison:

This was, in fact, an important moment in Jamison’s continuing characterization. Since he’s supposed to be a blowhard and a bit of a jerk, a lazy writer might have made him a bigot to highlight his faults. But Stan Lee didn’t go that route. Instead, he made sure we knew that J.J.J. is an equal opportunity blowhard and jerk. He does have his good points, even if those points are often hard to find.

Anyway, while all this is going on, Marko takes the tablet to the elderly Silvermane—the head of the Maggia. Silverman, who apparently knows the secret the tablet holds, kidnaps a scientist to help decipher the tablet.

That the scientist is a one-armed man named Curt Connors couldn’t possibly lead to any trouble, could it?

THOR #165

Pluto and his futuristic mutants have been defeated, but there is still something powerful wandering around the halls of the Atomic Research Center.  Thor, Sif and Balder investigate and soon encounter “Him.”

This guy, if you remember, is the genetically engineered super being made by a cabal of scientists back in Fantastic Four #66. He had destroyed his creators and fled into space, but a chain of unusual circumstances (well not so unusual in a comic book universe) soon had him back on Earth and wrapped in a cocoon. Now he’s on the loose again.

He’s decided that he’s lonely and that Sif would be a good mate, so he snatches her up and zaps himself to another dimension. Thor uses his hammer to whip up his own dimensional vortex, allowing he and Balder to follow.

But, just as Thor and Him confront one another on a desolate planetscape, an old hag of a witch (conveniently named Haag) reaches through a dimensional hole to kidnap Balder, intending to bring him to Karnilla. While Thor is saving Balder, Him and Sif disappear again.

Once again, we have a strong story that is also designed to highlight Jack Kirby’s awesomeness at drawing alien landscapes, bizarre creatures and cosmically powered beings.

That’s it for June. In July, the Fantastic Four unwisely follow up on Sue’s poor real estate decision; Spider Man hunts for a missing friend; and Thor goes into a Berserker Rage.

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