Welcome to another edition of Mondo Marvel, your monthly jaunt through the history of Marvel Comics, where I, Paul Brian McCoy, am reading every issue of Marvel’s superhero comics from the beginning with Fantastic Four #1, through everything published in December, 1969 – if we ever get there.
But you have my word. I’m gonna try to do it.
I know some months, especially since we shifted from bi-weekly to monthly, it seems like this column isn’t ever going to get posted; but have faith, True Believers, I am still here and the column ain’t going nowhere.
It would be great if folks would come over to the message boards and share memories and experiences reading these books. There are a few people who already post regularly, but the more, the merrier! And I always welcome insights and information that have slipped past me in the cobbling together of the column.
Hell, it’s the Internet, right? We should easily be able to throw together enough knowledge to fully chart every single development as the Marvel Universe grows and turns into something special. I’d be particularly interested to know if anyone’s seeing thematic or stylistic developments that I’m missing.
And that includes out-there theoretical interpretations! I love that crap!
But back to business! This month it looks like Stan Lee spent some time at the circus, we have the return of a certain not-so-jolly green giant, and the introduction of a fan-favorite archer along with a not-so-well-known submarine commander.
Yes, we are running the gamut this month.
So, with invitations shared and groundwork laid, let’s jump on in to this month’s Mondo Marvel!
When discussing the previous issue, I said that there was an ebb and flow to the quality of Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four stories, and that we were at a low point in innovation. Fantastic Four Annual #2 had me hoping we’d jumped back up the quality scale, but alas.
This month’s tale introduces us to a character supposedly over 100 years old, who’s been trapped in his Transylvanian castle by the local villagers, and when Reed Richards is told all of this, he just accepts it without question. Well, first he figures it’s just a legend, but when Diablo shows up, there’s no hesitation or questioning of just what is going on.
And that’s because the story doesn’t have any further levels to it than that. Diablo is a centuries-old alchemist who wants to take over the world. End of story. There aren’t even any subtle vampire references.
Anyway, the gang stumbles upon Diablo, a Transylvanian alchemist with a Spanish name, in a set-up straight out of Scooby Doo. They’re vacationing in Transylvania, for some reason, and while lost in a mysterious forest, stumble upon Diablo’s abandoned castle. Before they can investigate, Baron Hugo, the mayor of the territory stops them, invites them back to his place, and tells them the story of Diablo.
Later that night, Ben wakes up to a mysterious voice that lures on an hours long quest through the woods again, where he sets Diablo free. The alchemist then gives Ben a half-cure, promising him a full cure after a year of employment/servitude, and Ben jumps at the opportunity.
It seems he’d rather be human-looking guy with orange, dotted skin, than a rocky monster, which makes sense, but the immediacy of the situation and Ben’s own determination that he’s not under any mind control, reveal a fairly disturbing element of Ben’s personality.
It’s not a new point, really, but we haven’t seen it show up for quite a while. At least not really since Ben became involved with Alicia. Now, at the drop of a hat, Ben is willing to not only turn on his oldest friends, but also becomes an overseer of Diablo’s enslaving of the local villagers, who are intimidated into compliance by Ben’s mere presence.
Ben is a selfish dick.
When he’s not a self-pitying crybaby.
Seriously, this issue makes me not want to like Ben Grimm any more. And he’s always been my favorite FF character, even when he’s done things like this before. At least during those earlier times, he was seriously distraught, bordering on manic-depressive. It was understood in the context of the story just why he would react the way he did.
Here, it just seems like an arbitrary plot device from the store of already worn-out plot devices.
Anyway, Diablo is a bad guy, even though he uses his chemical compounds to do good. That’s just his thing. He makes enough money to hire a private army, but then his alchemical compounds fail. Like they always do, apparently. Nothing he creates, lasts. Except his own immortality formula, it seems.
So, of course, when Ben turns back into his rocky self, he goes a little nuts, and chases Diablo back to his hole, where he seals him in and then collapses the entire castle down on top for good measure. I guess Ben never thought that being human part of the time was an acceptable compromise. All he had to do was get another dose, but instead, he goes crazy.
Then, as an added precaution, The Torch blasts the rubble with flames so hot he melts it all together to form a huge molten dome that hardens into solid rock. I guess that’s the last we’ll see of Diablo, eh?
Of course not. But this is one character that just needs to be forgotten. Keep him in his hole. Or at least put some thought into his motivations and abilities.
Yes, you read that correctly. Paste Pot Pete is back, but he’s had a bit of a fashion makeover. No more clown-like costume, weird beard, and huge beret. This time, he’s armored up and ready for action. But to be quite honest, he still looks foolish with his barrel-torso, helmet, and oversized gloves and boots. Especially since Dick Ayers draws him with some of the skinniest arms and legs I’ve ever seen on a comic book character. And his bulbous armor is filled with his paste and covered in small nozzles so he can attach his paste-shooting gun anywhere and never run out of ammo.
This is not how you make an absurd character serious.
I had some hope for the guy after he was utilized over in Avengers #6. In a nice little bit of continuity, his helping the Avengers is what gets him sprung from prison early.
Of course, once out, he immediately goes and rents out a fully-equipped glue factory, builds his armor, and goes on a revenge spree.
There’s really not a lot to like about this story. The characters are silly, the relationship between Johnny and Ben is ridiculous, and the conclusion is extremely unsatisfying. This comic is just spinning its wheels.
I won’t even dwell on the fact that at the beginning of the story, when Johnny doesn’t answer the door quickly enough, Ben decides to lift the side of the house itself, as if it were detachable, rather than just force the door. And the
n, when he puts it back, Johnny welds it together so Sue won’t notice.
I’m pretty sure that’s not up to code. They’ll never get a good price for that house if they decide to move.
The only thing about this story that gives me hope for the future of this portion of Strange Tales, is that from here on out, it’s not just going to be tales of The Human Torch. Starting next month The Thing is “officially” co-starring with The Torch. Sure, Ben’s been along for the ride for the past two months, but now they’ve put a ring on it.
Hooplah. More bickering.
If last issue really just served to get Doctor Strange more involved with the Marvel Universe, I have no idea what the point of this month’s story is.
While out on an ectoplasmic cruise above the city, Strange senses some magic going on, and follows the trail to a mysterious hooded lady. Seems she’s entranced and after a little checking, Strange realizes that she’s not from this time.
She’s from some unnamed distant past.
That’s a key point there, folks. Unnamed distant past.
So Doc gets The Ancient One’s blessing to time travel and zips back through time to confront Zota. Who’s Zota? Who knows? All we know is that he’s shuffling some Roman-esque looking soldier off out of his hair when Doc confronts him. There’s a brief battle, where Zota uses weird technological devices to perform his “magic” and Strange quickly overpowers him.
Then, after searching Zota’s mind, Doc discovers our mystery lady’s secret.
So he returns to the present (after a page or two of almost getting lost the darkness of time, because the Ancient One’s candle ran out – never mind – it was an arbitrary device used to heighten tension with no real explanation or justification) and sends “The Lady from Nowhere” back home to ancient Egypt.
Yes, that’s right. She’s really Cleopatra. And that was Marc Antony that Zota was dealing with when Strange showed up.
I really don’t know why this story even exists. There’s no real threat, the plot complications are nonsensical, and the only interesting thing about it was Strange almost getting trapped outside of Time. But even that is handled so quickly and with so little thought, that it really just seemed like a way to squeeze a couple of more pages out of an already thin story.
There was a time when I thought Dr. Strange was one of the most compelling and interesting characters Marvel had going for it. But now it just seems like Lee and Ditko have no idea what to do with him.
Hey, guess who doesn’t have an issue of his comic out this month?
Daredevil, that’s who. So Lee and Ditko decide to give him some exposure in Amazing Spider-Man to keep him in the public eye.
And that’s probably not a bad idea. I don’t know how Daredevil is selling, but I can’t help but think it’s struggling. But what do I know? Just because we’re three issues into his series and we’ve only seen one original villain. And that guy was called The Owl.
I can’t see (no pun intended) that there’s a lot of attraction to Daredevil so far. Especially given his costume, and the fact that he’s a lawyer. There’s no real grab beyond the fact that he’s blind.
He doesn’t even get an original relationship hang-up. He loves his secretary, but can’t admit it because who could love a blind man. Sounds like Dr. Donald Blake and Tony Stark to me, except Blake is puny and Stark has heart trouble.
I suppose they may be going for the harsher reality kind of approach. At least that’s what the last issue seemed to be trying. I hope they continue it. Make the book a little edgier. That’s what’s missing from the Marvel Universe at the moment; some nihilistic violence and noir crime edges.
But this isn’t about what’s wrong with Daredevil. This is about plugging Daredevil into an issue of Amazing Spider-Man to give him some more air time and maybe get some Spidey Fans on-board.
And what better way to initiate a cross-over than with the obligatory “heroes fighting each other before teaming up to fight the real bad guys” approach. This time, it’s thanks to The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, so at least there is some reasoning behind it.
Long story short, The Ringmaster is planning what the Ringmaster is always planning – to rob his audience. In order to get a crowd he advertises that Spider-Man will be performing, and when Peter Parker sees the ads he thinks, why not? Maybe it’ll boost his profile.
Which it does, until the Ringmaster hypnotizes everyone. Luckily, Matt Murdock is there with his work buddies and is, as we all know, blind. So the Ringmaster’s hypnotic top hat doesn’t work on him. Murdock changes into Daredevil and starts to bust things up. Of course, Ringmaster then sends a hypnotized Spider-Man to fight in his defense.
It’s a well-orchestrated bit of action, as we’ve come to expect from Ditko, with Daredevil out-maneuvering Spidey thanks to his radar-sense, until he can grab the Ringmaster’s top hat and un-hypnotize the web-slinger. Then the entire Circus of Crime attacks and even more mayhem breaks loose.
DD sees an opportunity to slip away and does just that, leaving Spidey to mop up the circus-folk.
And that’s pretty much that.
Nothing is really accomplished this month, except for Spidey and DD meeting, and Peter’s love problems getting a few moments in the spotlight. The story opens with Aunt May pleading with Pete to give Mary Jane Watson a chance. She’s apparently a lovely girl. But Pete doesn’t want to do the whole blind date thing.
Then, when he drops his ticket to the circus in front of Betty at work, she flips out and starts crying because Pete must be taking some other young lady, probably from school, to the circus instead of her.
It is at this point that I have to say, I think Peter should stay far away from Betty Brant. She’s got emotional issues that are too much for a high school student to have to deal with. And don’t try to throw that “maybe it’s her time of the month” crap at me. Betty’s always like this. She doesn’t need to be dating a high school boy. She has problems and needs help – quite possibly prescription help.
It’s graduation day!
For reals. School’s out and Professor X is hitting the road to take care of some personal stuff that he doesn’t feel like sharing with the rest of the team. So he names Cyclops the new team leader and hightails it out of there.
Just for the record, I
agree that Scott is probably the most qualified of the bunch to take the lead, but if we thought he was moody and depressing before, just wait until you get a load of the new Scott Summers. Just to prove how willing he is to sacrifice his own happiness for the others, he sends the gang off to have fun while he sits at home in the dark waiting for Magneto to strike somewhere.
How could Jean not be interested?
This issue does provide at least one interesting new development: the introduction of Cerebro, the e.s.p. machine which can be used to find new mutants. Since Professor X isn’t going to be around anymore, he figures the kids could use Cerebro to help keep an eye out for mutant activity around the globe.
So, yeah. Scott’s only friend is an e.s.p. machine. Luckily, it softly pings in the darkness as Scott sits by, hands clenched, wondering what could have been if he wasn’t such a big freak.
I was also pretty amused by the fact that Hank’s gigantic feet are treated as fetish objects (in the most literal sense, not in a sexual way) by local beatniks. Unfortunately, Hank is way too square to really get into it. Not that he doesn’t let them paint his feet and write bad poetry about them. But he’s just not that into it.
On the surface. I’m pretty sure this is the beginning of the fabulous furry freaky Beast personality we’d see later in the Seventies.
But the real story is the return of The Blob (and our second jaunt to the circus this month, but not our last). It turns out that Magneto digs walking around carnivals in full costume, because the silly humans just think he’s part of the show – which says something about his choice of wardrobe, really, but I’m not gonna mention it to him.
He stumbles across a “performance” by The Blob and realizes that the big boy is a mutant. Magneto confronts him, and when another carny intervenes, displays his magnetic powers. To which the carny replies, “Hey, Rube!” (the “time-honored carny battle cry”) and an all-out brawl breaks out between the carnies and the Brotherhood, during which, the Blob hits his head and suddenly remembers The X-Men (from back in X-Men #3).
This leads to another battle between the Brotherhood and the X-Men, this time in an old factory that Magneto happens to own and has kept prepped for just such an occasion. By which he means it’s abandoned, but stocked with loads of torpedoes!!
Which he then hurls one after the other at our heroes.
Finally, he gets a clear shot at them, but, oh no! The Blob is in the way! Does he make the torpedoes swerve around his ally? Hells no. This is Magneto we’re talking about. He’s not about loyalty. He only wants fear and blind obedience.
So he hits Blob with the torpedoes in an attempt to kill the X-Men. Blob is knocked down, but only his feelings are hurt.
Wanda and Pietro object to Magneto’s approach to teamwork and, sensing he needs to go give everyone a stern talking to, Magneto and the gang flee, leaving the Blob behind with the X-Men. Blob is sad, and refuses the X-Men’s invitation to come live and learn with them. He’s carny-folk. He’s lived a sideshow freak – and that’s how he’ll die.
It’s a particularly downbeat ending, and not only do we leave the Blob feeling practically suicidal, our heroes don’t have any cash to get a taxi home. There’s something poetic and right about that though. Here are our young graduates, finally out of school and schlepping around in the real world on their own. And what do they run up against. Depression, a bleak job market, and poverty.
Sounds like when I graduated.
One thing that I really like about how the Marvel Universe is developing here, is that while there are a great many stories that feel just slapped together to meet a deadline, there are also many stories that serve a distinct purpose. For example, the re-introduction of Captain America to the Marvel Universe was preceded by a test-run in a Human Torch story in Strange Tales.
And while that wasn’t the actual Captain America, it did sort of lay out a framework for how a Cap story might work. And then, a couple of months later, they bring Cap back in Avengers #4.
Well, this time, Stan and Company have decided that The Hulk needs to be brought back into the fold. Not just as a guest-star/villain, but with his own stories. But since the last run of Hulk comics kind of fell short, what better way to keep him in the public eye than with a series of stories in the shared title, Tales to Astonish?
But that doesn’t happen until next month.
This month, we get Hank feeling guilty about the Hulk’s station in life and he decides to go out West to find him and try to get him to rejoin the Avengers.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the way Hulk has developed, especially since losing his title. He’s a very intriguing force of chaos that just seems to pop up out of nowhere and put everyone on alert. This time, however, it’s not just Hank and Jan trying to track him down. This time, The Human Top is back and trying to manipulate Hulk into defeating his old foe.
It doesn’t really work. Of course, Hank gets his ass handed to him, but the real story here is a little darker than one might expect.
Knowing that horrible damage is probably going to be taking place shortly, Hank evacuates an entire town in order to face off with Hulk. This is after confronting Dr. Bruce Banner about where he thinks they can find Hulk. Banner is so freaked out and anxious about Hank’s questions that he drives off into the desert and changes, after months of controlling his condition.
Way to go, Hank.
Anyway, while they’re going head to head in the abandoned town, Thunderbolt Ross and the army are on their way and have been authorized to use nuclear missiles to take down Hulk. Jan rushes back to the town to warn Hank, but the missile flies.
This is when the Hulk gets suicidal. Seriously, what is it with Marvel’s heavy-set characters this month? He leaps out to meet the missile, saying to himself (and anyone near enough to hear), “If this is gonna be the end of the Hulk, who cares?? Maybe it’ll be the best thing that could happen!! I’m no good to myself – or to anyone else!! The whole world hates me almost as much as I hate myself!”
Then he survives the blast.
Hank fears he failed to accomplish anything, but Jan remarks that when Hulk was willing to kill himself to save Hank, maybe it meant something had changed in him.
It’s a pretty nice moment. Maybe the best moment in any Hank Pym story yet. Of course, it ends with the Avengers hanging around bored and Hank cracking wise, so it’s not a complete success. And I didn’t even mention Hank using his powers to beat up some people who are flirting with Jan and insulting him at the start of the story.
Some things I just don’t want to talk about any more.
The next page is the really exciting bit. Next month, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are bringing the Hulk back to monthly comics. I can’t wait!
As you can see by that cover, there’s a new character being introduced this issue, and Marvel seems to be pretty happy with him. I am too. But first…
This month, Happy decides that he needs Tony’s help to ask Pepper out. Seems she keep shooting him down, but he thinks that if the boss puts in a good word for him…
Instead, as one might expect, Pepper thinks Tony’s asking her out (which is what Tony really wants to do, anyway) and jumps at the chance. Happy is sad.
And since Tony doesn’t trust himself with Pepper, he decides to take her someplace safe: Coney Island! And with that, we have our third circus/carnival setting this month. It makes me wonder if Stan had just spent some time at the circus during the plotting sessions this month.
While there, we are introduced to a carnival performer named Hawkeye, the marksman, who isn’t really impressing the crowd. This is especially the case once Iron Man shows up and saves a bunch of people from an out of control Flying Pinwheel.
This inspires Hawkeye to whip up some trick arrows and a fancy purple costume in order to go out and fight crime. It’s all about the glory with Hawkeye, though, and to be quite honest, he doesn’t seem all that bright.
As if to prove that point, Hawkeye stops a robbery in progress, but the crook run away before he can catch him, and when the police arrive, they assume Hawkeye is the crook. Naturally, he runs, which is always the best course of action when the police see you holding a bag of stolen jewelry.
Luckily, a sexy lady is driving by and offers the masked guy with the bow and arrow a lift. And with that, Hawkeye is smitten. But that’s not just any sexy lady, it’s The Black Widow. And with that, the plot thickens.
Especially when Natasha tells him that Iron Man is her mortal enemy. Hawkeye is so eager to please her, that he’s raring to go kick some Iron Butt. Which he proceeds to do, thanks to his handy-dandy Rust Arrows!
Then, Hawkeye almost gets away, thanks to Iron Man’s spare armor missing a boot!?! That doesn’t last long, though, as Iron Man catches up to them at the docks. But, as has become par for the course, Hawkeye and Black Widow escape in the end.
Iron Man really needs to work on that.
Interestingly, Hawkeye comes out of this still looking fairly good. He hasn’t broken any major laws, outside of assault, and is mostly just guilty of thinking with his, um, arrow? We’ll see how he reacts when he finds out the lady he’s lusting over is actually a Russian spy. That will be the real test.
The main message of this month’s Thor adventure seems to be that Thor and Odin need answering machines.
Their relationship would be far less rocky if they could just get ahold of each other when they need to. You’d think that gods wouldn’t have that sort of trouble, seeing as they’re communicating with their minds and all. However, because Thor doesn’t respond to Odin’s summons, Odin gets pissy. Then, when Thor calls out to Odin for help, Odin misses the message because he’s out waging war (which is why he was summoning Thor initially). When he gets back, Odin tries to return Thor’s call, but Thor’s having none of it.
He’s actually pissed off because Odin didn’t help him, so he rejects his father again.
But in the end, they hug and make up.
Mixed in with this communication breakdown is another tale of Loki sneaking out of Asgard to wreak havoc on Thor. He tricks Dr. Blake into swapping canes with him, tosses it out the window, and then shunts Nurse Jane off to limbo. Unfortunately for Thor, when he goes to find his cane, some hobos have stolen it and are using it as a fishing pole.
I shit thee not.
Oh yeah. Doctor Strange guest-stars in this one, which I suppose is a sort-of continuation of Loki and Thor’s guest appearances in his story last month. This time around, Strange has just vanquished Baron Mordo yet again and it’s nearly killed him.
I wish we’d seen this adventure over in Strange Tales instead of that stupid Cleopatra one.
Anyway, Strange psychically summons Thor to help him. Why Thor? Why not? Luckily, Thor is really a doctor, so he rushes Strange into surgery. Why surgery? Why not? That’s when Odin first calls. Thor can’t respond because he’s a little busy saving a life.
Then, once Strange is recovering, he gets to pay back the favor by protecting Jane while she’s in limbo.
And that’s pretty much that. Loki is defeated and taken back to Asgard, Thor and Odin make up, and Thor and Doctor Strange become friends. If this story accomplishes nothing else, it at least helps weave more new relationships throughout the Marvel Universe, just like the Daredevil appearance in Amazing Spider-Man does this month.
On a side note, it seems we’re finding out all kinds of little tidbits about The Avengers during Thor’s adventures. Last month it was that they have “Federal Priority”, which I assume means they have legal and social authorities that other superheroes only wish they had. This month we find out that The Avengers have an Emergency Fund that is used specifically to reimburse cities for the damage that they cause in the course of their operations.
It’s nice to have a mega-rich industrialist as one of your members.
One of the best things about the “Tales of Asgard” stories is just how simple they are. But they’re not simple in a dumb way, like most of the Ant Man/Giant Man adventures are. They’re simple in that they have a story to tell and they tell it. There’s no messing about. No wasted space.
This month we jump right in as a stranger asks for shelter from Sindri, King of the Dwarfs (that’s the spelling used, folks). Unfortunately, it turns out that Sindri welcomes travelers only so he can then drop them down a hole to the land of the Trolls. As long as he provides slaves for the Trolls, they don’t attack his kingdom.
And Sindri has been busy.
But, as fate would have it (or Odin would have it, actually), the stranger reveals himself to by young Thor, who’s there on a mission to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And he’s all out of bubblegum.
Oh, and he’s there to free all the enslaved Asgardians.
Which he does.
See? No messing about.
Once the slaves are all free, Thor uses his hammer to seal the entrance to the Troll kingdom forever. Or, at least that’s what the narration says. I doubt it’s really sealed forever, especially since there’s a hole to it over in Sindri’s castle.
What’s amusing, though, is Thor’s declaration at the end of the story.
“Nevermore,” he says, “shall men make slaves of others! Not in Asgard – not on Earth – Not any place where the Hammer of Thor can be swung – Or where men of good faith hold freedom dear!”
That’s sweet, ain’t it? I guess Thor just lost track of things during THE REST OF HUMAN HISTORY, eh?
Oh well. It’s a nice sentiment.
And Kirby and Colletta’s art is gorgeous as usual.
The Avengers is really the central hub of the Marvel Universe these days. The team makes guest appearances in each members’ solo stories and we find out little bits about them here and there throughout those other titles, which helps to create a nice sense of interrelatedness between all of the characters. This is especially true since the guest appearances are usually just casual cross-overs, where they’re just hanging out together or the team shows up to offer help (which is usually turned down).
So the actual Avengers adventures take place here in the main title, but their presence is felt throughout the MU. And, as I mentioned in the Thor discussion, they have an authority that none of the other heroes in at Marvel seem to have.
Sure, the Fantastic Four are honored and respected, but as in this issue, when there’s a serious threat, the U.S. government calls on The Avengers.
This issue opens with the team being summoned to a Red Alert meeting with The Pentagon. And they don’t even have to go to them, the Pentagon officials will telecommunicate with the Avengers at their headquarters.
We also learn about how The Avengers actually organize themselves. They don’t actually have a leader at this point. They take turns chairing meetings, which they say is more democratic, but sounds anarchistic to me.
Anyway, the Red Alert was called because a U.F.O. has appeared over Virginia and when the army confronted it, their tanks were destroyed and a strange figure calling himself Kang, emerged from the ship. So without hesitation, the Avengers head to Virginia to confront the alien invader.
It provides a nice opportunity for Lee to characterize the team members by their reaction to the threat. Iron Man immediately analyzes the situation and susses out what kind of tech Kang is using. Thor urges caution and prepares for battle.
Wasp comments that she thinks the alien is probably handsome under his mask.
The Avengers prove to be fairly useless against Kang, the Conqueror. But Kang’s not really a new character. Kang is actually Rama Tut, who we just saw in Fantastic Four Annual #2, sending Doctor Doom back to Earth and then heading off through time on his own.
Rama Tut had intended to return home to the year 3000, but accidentally overshoots his target and winds up in the year 4000, where the world has become horrible and barbaric. Seeing an opportunity, he creates the identity of Kang and quickly conquers the world. But it’s a dying world.
So, bored with life there, Kang decides to take his advanced weapons and return to the Twentieth Century and conquer a world that is still vital and has things worth ruling over. Naturally, he then declares himself the ruler of Earth, which triggers another attack from The Avengers.
And again, he mops the floor with them, using his tech to essentially suck them up into his ship where they are caged, paralyzed, and unable to escape. Except he missed The Wasp, who slips away with Rick Jones to plot another approach.
Meanwhile, the United Nations vote unanimously to join together against Kang, which is kind of nice in its own way.
While that’s going on, Wasp heads back to headquarters to find a special gun that Stark and Pym have been designing, and Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade offer up their services to Kang, who, without really thinking it through, accepts their offer and gives them free run of his ship. Kang’s not very bright, if you ask me. As you might have guessed, Jones and the boys free the Avengers, who attack him again.
This time, though, they wear down his defenses, and Hank uses the special gun Jan has retrieved to fire a conveniently-designed acid-based solvent that dissolves Kang’s suit, destroying his weapons control.
This doesn’t stop his mask from emitting an insane amount of deadly radiation in a last ditch effort to kill them all. Luckily, Thor’s Uru Hammer can absorb radiation, and even better, channel it back at Kang, who escapes into Time.
But don’t worry, True Believers. The Avengers will be waiting if he ever returns. Which, if I were Kang, would be immediately after I left, refreshed with a new batch of weapons. And if they beat me again, I’d run away into Time, heal up and return to a moment minutes later and attack again. In fact, I’d do that over and over until they were worn out and I finally won.
But Kang won’t do that, and The Avengers live to fight another day.
Hopefully, their next foe will also be criminally self-absorbed and only half as smart as they think they are.
I’m going to try to make this one short and sweet.
Either Ayers is getting more of a hang of crafting some World War II action, or Lee is writing to better suit Ayers’ talents. Either way, with each passing issue, the Lee/Ayers team is becoming more natural and more successful.
It still lacks the visual flair and energetic writing that I fell in love with, but it’s becoming a perfectly functional War Comic. Which is both sad and understandable. Looking back, I don’t think it would be possible to really sustain the insanity with which Lee and Kirby launched this title.
It’s moved from being a Tarantino film each month, to something more like a TV show. Maybe something like Baa Baa Black Sheep / Black Sheep Squadron from back in ’76. And that’s not much of a complaint, really. I loved that show when I was a kid. Robert Conrad was pretty much everything one could want for a tough-as-nails Major keeping his squadron flying and alive.
But it was TV.
The scale is different. The vision is different. There are different goals, expectations, and approaches.
Post-Kirby Sgt. Fury is kind of like that. Smaller budgets and smaller scale.
And this time out, Fury and the Howlers are sent to Okinawa to rescue Fury’s old commander, Colonel “Pillbox” Parker, from a Japanese prison camp. Why send the Howling Commandos, you ask? Because the Battle of Okinawa is about to be launched, and there’s very little hope that Parker (and his intelligence) would survive.
So our heroes take a very realistic jaunt from England to the Pacific, where they engage in a bit of subterfuge, passing Izzy Cohen off as a Japanese officer who “captures” the gang and leads them to the prison camp they are searching for. They fake a mouth wound to keep Izzy from having to talk, and they use some “goo” on his eyes to make them appear slanted.
I’m not going to get all P.C. about this. It’s not really insulting or racist, especially with Ayers’ realistic approach to the art. It’s just kind of silly. But of course, it works, and Fur
y, the Howlers, Parker, and the rest of the captured Allied soldiers escape.
That’s about all there is to the story.
It’s not bad, but it’s not anything special.
On a more interesting note, this issue introduces us to a submarine commander known only (at this time) as The Skipper. He stands out for a couple of reasons. First of all, he’s one of the more distinctive characters in the issue, making more of a mark on the story than most of the other cast members just for his full beard and aggressive attitude.
He also has what appears to be a fairly defined supporting cast on the sub. No one is named, or really does anything special, but one fellow has a top hat and a pipe, and the crew seems to also be a multi-racial group.
They stood out, and I was curious to find out if they were characters from another title I wasn’t familiar with or what. As it turns out, they’re new characters, and will be returning to this title soon, transporting the Howlers here and there until The Skipper is finally given a name and a title of his own. His name is Simon Savage, and he will eventually join the Marines and lead his own squad, modeled on Sgt. Fury’s Howling Commandos in 1968’s Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders.
And that’s another one in the books.
Until next time, Wah-hoo!