Wednesday, October 24, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: November 1970


Well, at least Stan and John Romita remembered to put enclosed helmets on the Atlantians while they’re out of the water this time---though there is still a scene where Sue and Dorma are tied up side-by-side without Dorma having a helmet (though a few panels later, she suddenly does).

But I’m done nitpicking about when and where Atlantians can  breath. This is the last issue of the FF we’ll look at in original order. So, though we are bound to look at individual story arcs in the future, we’ll bring this era to an end by saying good things.

And it is a good story. The action moves along briskly, with the level of tension kept high. Magneto, using Atlantian technology to amp up his powers, keeps the army at bay and manages to occupy New York City. Reed, Ben and Johnny retreat to the Baxter Building, where they are joined by Crystal (left behind last issue to handle communications). They fight off some Atlantian soldiers while Reed frantically builds a new device.

Namor, in the meantime, is pretending to consider rejoining Magneto in order to keep the villain busy. And Sue, despite being a hostage for most of the issue, gets some good moments as well when she makes an escape attempt. She’s forced to surrender only when Magneto threatens to kill Dorma.

Crystal gets some shots in as well—another example of how Stan Lee grew to use female characters much more proactively over the last decade.

Anyway, the device Reed builds is something that captures Magneto’s magnetic energy and funnels it back at him, trapping him inside a force field. This brings the threat (and the story arc) to an end. It actually seems a bit abrupt, though it’s all perfectly logical within the tenets of a comic book universe.


Gil Kane continues to do fantastic work while filling in for Romita on pencils. He really manages to give each of Doctor Octopus’ tentacles a life of their own. As I said last time, he weaves them in and out of individual panels in such a way as to really heighten the aura of danger and power they carry with them.

So both Spidey’s cliffhanger escape from Ock at the beginning of the issue and their rematch at the end are fantastic fight scenes—arguable the best we’ve seen even when compared to what both Ditko and Romita have accomplished with these two combatants in the past.

The rematch comes after a scene involving Peter, Gwen and Captain Stacy, in which some things Stacy says makes Peter think the policeman suspects his secret identity. But Peter can’t follow up on that now—he’s too busy whipping up a special web fluid for his rematch with Ock.

That web fluid, when shot onto a tentacle, blocks Ock’s mental control and causes that tentacle to attack its “brothers.” So Spidey soon has a tentacle civil war going on.

But Ock’s struggles smash a chimney and the proverbial ton of bricks plummet towards some kid. Captain Stacy is nearby, knocking the kid to safety, but getting crushed himself.

This leads to a scene that really does carry an extraordinary emotional impact. Before he dies, Stacy reveals to Peter that he knows he’s Spider Man, asking him to look after Gwen.

This is great stuff. It’s not just that the fight scenes are done so well. The plot is well-constructed; Ock comes across as scarier and more powerful than he ever has before; we get a reminder that Peter is a brilliant scientist in his own right when he creates his special web fluid; and the death of Captain Stacy is handled with just the right amount of honest emotion while providing a twist ending. This is justifiably considered to be one of the classic Spider Man issues.

And that’s it for our “History of the Marvel Universe.” As we continue with Spider Man, I’ll simply come up with mind-numbingly witty titles for individual reviews. And the next issue involves Peter having to deal with the fact that the woman he loves blames Spider Man for her dad’s death. So I’ll call it… um…

Oh, don’t worry. I’ll think of something.

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