Wednesday, June 13, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: November 1969


Ben is still a prisoner on the Skrull-Mobster planet, being trained to fight in the games. These games are a big deal, since mob leaders bet their territories on fighters they think will win.

Ben’s not normally someone to take slavery lying down, but between the strength-sapping collar he’s forced to wear, the “hypno-glow” ray in his prison cell, and the tommy guns that double as “brain blasters,” he’s pretty much helpless. All the same, he does well in his training sessions, impressing those who watch him into thinking he might beat everyone except Torgo. Nobody beats Torgo.

He also wonders why the slaves don’t band together and revolt, but Torgo points out the huge sonic disruptor that will destroy the homeworld of any slave who disobeys.

This is all cool stuff. As with the previous issue, the combination of Prohibition-era imagery with science fiction gadgetry and a variety of alien monsters give the whole story a unique and completely fun vibe.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Reed is prepping the Skrull saucer ship captured way back in FF #2, intending to trail Ben all the way to the Skrull galaxy if need be.


Last issue was pretty much all action. This issue is paced much slower, giving time for some characterization and introducing a sort-of villain.  It’d probably be a lousy issue for a new reader to come aboard. (“Hey, all this Spider Man guy does the whole issue is make a phone call!”)  But for regular readers, the story is presented smoothly and expertly.

Peter sees Gwen at the coffee shop with Flash Thompson and immediately assumes he’s lost her. Gwen, though, is simply trying to find out if Flash (who has known Pete much longer than she has) knows anything about his mysterious disappearances.

So Peter as girl trouble. And—since he’s Peter Parker—he’s also having money trouble. He stops by the Daily Planet to ask for an advance and—since he’s Peter Parker—walks into yet more trouble.

The villain he meets is the Prowler. The Prowler is really Hobie Brown, a young black man with a talent for inventing things. But Hobie is stuck in a dead-end job and his racist boss won’t look at his ideas for improving safety and performance on the job.

There’s a great scene that’s an important part of introducing us to Hobie. He’s washing windows on the Daily Bugle building. He’s working slowly while he’s thinking about his life in general and his boss brings him to task for this. It’s J. Jonah Jameson—of all people—who tries to cover for Hobie and who reacts with anger and disgust as the boss’s racism.

I love seeing glimpses of this side of Jonah. He’s still a tightwad and a short-tempered jerk and that’s what we usually see (heck, we see that a little later on in this issue), but every once in a while one of his redeeming qualities sneaks out for a moment.

Anyway, Hobie comes up with idea of using his inventions to become the Prowler, commit a robbery, then “find” the loot as Hobie and become a hero for turning it back in. It’s a dumb plan, of course, but it fits in with Hobie’s tendency to feel sorry for himself.

He tries to rob the Daily Bugle building, figuring that’s the quickest way to get publicity. Peter is there and confronts him. But—since he’s Peter Parker—a problem arises. Jameson comes into the room, meaning Peter can’t let loose on the Prowler without giving away his secret identity.

So the issue ends with Peter "falling" out a nearby window to his apparent death.

THOR #170

The Thermal Man is rampaging through New York City. Thor joins Balder and the Warriors Three, but make no progress against the giant robot.

It’s a nifty battle, including a really cool sequence in which Fandral does his swashbuckling best to avoid the robot’s blows and land a sword cut of his own—only to have his sword shatter.

The Thermal Man is so dangerous that even the Red Chinese have second thoughts about it and send over a bomb designed to take it out. This apparently does knock the robot out. But while Thor reverts to Blake and treats wounded soldiers, the robot gets up again and quickly takes down the other Asgardians. 

Karnilla’s been watching the fight and—concerned about Balder’s safety—teleports him and the Warriors Three to her realm.

Thor, in the meantime, calls in a massive tidal wave to carry the Thermal Man away from the city and into the Arctic Circle, where it will be frozen forever.

So it’s another all-action issue, which is a good thing. Thor spent the previous issue pretty much just sitting on his duff listening to Galactus recount his life story. This issue most definitely gives Thor something to so. It’s nice to see our favorite Thunder God back in action.

That’s if for November. Next week, we’ll jump back over to the DC Universe and jump back in time to World War II with a look at the Losers and an examination of a long-forgotten supporting character from that book.  

Then, in December 1969, the FF play at being intergalactic Untouchables; Peter Parker gets murdered; and Thor goes up against an old enemy.

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