Current Reviews


Marvel Milestones Special: Bloodstone, X-51, and Captain Marvel II

Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2006
By: Michael Deeley

Reprinting stories from:

Marvel Presents #1: Writer/Artist: John Warner/Mike Vosburg & Pat Boyette

Machine Man #1: Writer/Artist: Jack Kirby

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16: Writer/Artist: Roger Stern/ John Romita Jr. & John Romita Sr.

Bloodstone #1: Wrtiers/Artists: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Michael Lopez & Scott Hanna

Publisher: Marvel Comics

This Marvel Milestones collects stories related to the new mini-series Nextwave. Monica Rambeau, Elsa Bloodstone, and X-51 all appear in that book. Normally, Marvel Milestones collects stories appearing in newly released trade books and hardcovers. This is the first issue Iíve seen in months to have a unified theme and stories that could truly be called "Milestones."

The first appearance of Ulysses Bloodstone opens the book. Heís currently dead in the Marvel Universe, so I donít know why itís included here. Marvel could have left this out, cutting back on the page count and the price. Maybe itís to provide the premise for Bloodstone, starring Ulyssesí daughter. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining piece of Bronze Age entertainment. The immortal Ulysses Bloodstone fights a monster with a shotgun and magic ruby. Heís haunted by visions of a squid-headed creature heís chased for centuries. The full history of this monster hunter is explained in his Marvel Handbook bio, also included in this comic.

This is a pretty straightforward action-adventure story with a simple premise: tough guy fights monsters. Itís a throwback to the giant monster comics of the 1950s, with a bit of Doc Savage thrown in for good measure. The two chapters are drawn by two different artists. Their styles contrast sharply, with Boyetteís being the more distinctive. Itís fun, though I can see why thereís never been a collection of these old stories.

X-51, the Machine Man, first appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Marvelís series loosely based on the classic film. In Machine Man #1, the origin of the android with an identity crisis is retold. He was part of a series of robots made to resemble men. But when their growing sense of humanity conflicted with their program to kill, they rebelled and were destroyed. Only X-51 survived. He now wanders the country as ďAaron Stack,Ē trying to live a normal life. He explains his powers as gadgetry and high-tech gimmicks.

The original letters page is also included. In it, Kirby writes how Machine Man will deal with the serious issues rising from an artificial man living amongst us. Would he gain the same legal rights as natural people? Would his superior abilities mean unfair competition for jobs? Sure it sounds silly, but with human cloning quickly becoming a reality, such issues will be addressed in the real world. Itís possible Kirby was writing a commentary on military attitudes. X-51 was designed to be a killer. When he develops a sense of humanity, identity, and compassion, he is deemed useless and dangerous. Is that how Kirby saw his former Army commanders? Was this a metaphor for soldiers returning home from Vietnam? This is all speculation. Yet the ability to spark such debate is a quality rare in comics.

I want to applaud Roger Stern for creating a positive female character in Monica Rambeau, a.k.a. Captain Marvel II. Monica is confident, brash, but not as masculine as most heroines created by men. Her origin is the usual comic book combination of scientific accident, coincidence, and family responsibility. Monica investigates a secret weapons project at the request of a friend of her grandfather. The weapon involves drawing energies from other dimensions. The weaponís control system is destroyed, and Monica is bathed in unknown cosmic powers. For reasons never fully explained, she is turned into a being of pure energy. She can manipulate the entire electromagnetic spectrum and travel at light speed. The ramblings of a shocked criminal inspire her new name: Captain Marvel. Now sheís come to New York City looking for help in releasing a dangerous build up of her power. She risks exploding and destroying the city. Naturally, Spider-Man misunderstands her and makes things worse. Spidey comes across as a bit of a bumbler. But itís in keeping with his ďCharlie BrownĒ karma. His attempts to help just makes things worse until he finally saves the day.

Elsa Bloodstone is the 18-year old daughter of the formerly immortal Ulysses Bloodstone. She and her mother have come to the Bloodstone mansion theyíve just inherited. Elsaís been plagued by nightmares about fighting monsters, especially vampires, for several months. Itís not until she meets the mansionís caretaker, Frankensteinís monster, that she understands why. Her father was a monster hunter, and now she must continue the family tradition. She dons a choker with a fragment of her fatherís magic ruby, and instantly appears alongside Dracula!

Letís be honest: This was Marvelís way of cashing in on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Swedish/British teen girl, blonde and stacked, kicks monster butt with help from the Creature and her Vampire lawyer. Lopezís art is stunning, Hannaís a legendary inker, and Abnett & Lanning have proven they can write great teen characters on Legion. So why wasnít this a monthly series? Was the rest of the mini-series so lame? Since when did that stop a publisher from making a comic about a hot girl?

Every time I review a comic, I ask myself if itís worth the money I paid for it. This issue of Marvel Milestones is the most expensive one yet. It also has the highest page count (100+), and the most consistent level of quality throughout the stories. Old-fashioned monster fighting, Jack Kirby, a non-stereotypical African-American heroine, and new-style monster fighting: Yeah, this is worth 5 bucks.

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