Wednesday, October 3, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1970


Kirby’s last issue is the beginning of a pretty good but flawed story arc. Namor has found an unconscious Magneto (who just suffered a defeat at the hands of the X-Men) and taken him to Atlantis for medical aid. But once there, Magneto starts using his powers to secretly attack New York City (and specifically the FF), as well as secretly shake apart some of Atlantis. He convinces Namor that the surface world is attacking him, determined to get him to do the dirty work of destroying mankind.

This sets up the story for John Romita’s first two issues as the FF’s new artist. (We’ll cover those issues, by the way, before leaving our regular coverage of this book. It would be rude to leave our heroes behind in mid-story.)

It’s a good story—visually strong and with some fun moments in which Johnny and Crystal are trying to nurse a flu-stricken Ben. But it does have a few annoying flaws.

I’m reading this story in a black-and-white Essential volume and I’ve never happened to see it in color, so perhaps some of the finer details of the art are lost. But, all the same, I can’t tell if—while Magneto is in Atlantis—whether he’s somehow breathing underwater or if Submariner’s palace is not water-filled. There’s any number of explanations for how Magneto could be water-breathing at the moment (Heck, Marvel Universe science includes oxygen pills), but if Stan and Jack had Atlantians other than Namor breathing air, then they made an embarrassing mistake. But, as I said, a black-and-white reprint may be fooling me. Perhaps the original color makes it clear the palace is water-filled. Anyone with access to the original comic or a color reprint is welcome to comment and clarify this.

The other misstep, I think, is how quickly Namor believes Magneto’s claim that he’s being attacked from the outside. Yes, Namor is impetuous and prone to distrust surface dwellers. But Magneto is a surface dweller as well—you’d think even the quick-tempered Namor would want to do a little fact-checking before going to war on Magneto’s word alone.

Oh, well, it’s still a good set-up for what is a strong story idea, even if the execution is a little flawed. Still, I wish Jack Kirby had gone out on a bit more of a high note. I liked his last Thor story arc a lot. With the FF, after a classic 100th issue, he ended with a pair of merely average stories.


Peter’s grades are dropping because he keeps missing so many classes, but there’s no time to worry about that now. Doctor Octopus has escaped and hijacked a plane that has an important foreign dignitary aboard.

So Peter gets aboard the plane as well, managing to distract Ock long enough for the hostages to get free. The plane blows up and Spidey escapes, but is Doctor Octopus dead?

Well, of course he’s not. In fact, he’s going to be the main villain for the next few issues, in which Stan Lee and John Romita will give us yet another classic story arc.

This particular issue is pretty much self-contained, though it establishes that Doc Ock has escaped from prison and thus sets up the next story. What makes it work are the fun fight scenes.

For instance, Doc escapes by mentally summoning his mechanical arms, even though they are being stored hundreds of miles from his prison. This leads to a short but delightful scene in which Spidey tangles with the disembodied arms.

Then there’s the fight on the plane, in which Romita uses the fact that it takes place in an enclosed space to give the short sequence a lot of intensity.

That’s it for September. In October 1970, we’ll see that Namor and Magneto just can’t get along; while Spider Man gets his butt handed to him by Doctor Octopus.

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