Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Return of Dr. Spectrum!

In the classic Avengers #70, where the team battles the Squadron Sinister while conscripted into a game between the Grandmaster and Kang the Conqueror, Iron Man battles one of the Grandmaster's pawns, Dr. Spectrum. The battle takes barely over two pages to play out, with Iron Man deducing Spectrum's weakness--a vulnerability to ultra-violet light:

Iron Man's attack disables both man and prism in fairly short order. So why, in their next meeting in Iron Man's own title, would writer Mike Friedrich think another battle between them could span four issues?

I mean, a twist of the knob on IM's armor and it's over, right?

I wasn't Friedrich's greatest fan on his run on Iron Man, but I need to give credit where credit is due insofar as how he dealt in the threat of Spectrum while avoiding having the character meet his defeat the same way as before (and in the same amount of time). For Friedrich has several elements in play, and all of them coalesce very nicely by the time of the story's climax.

First, though, even before Spectrum lands the first blow (against Iron Man, at least), Friedrich deals with the obvious question, which both Iron Man and Spectrum pose separately:

Nor does Friedrich resolve the issue, but rather lets it harmlessly linger, simply bringing it up in order to better get it out of the way. But we did learn that the power prism seems to have formed an agenda, which for some reason requires Iron Man's involvement. And in a later attack, Iron Man can't help but notice the rift that's formed between the prism and its human host:

But finally, after one inconclusive battle, Friedrich has Iron Man deploy his weapon in the second:

After which, both Spectrum and prism should have crumbled. Yet while both are obviously in pain during the attack, Spectrum comes up with a cloud to hide them so that they can duck out and escape.

So what gives with these two joined beings? Friedrich now provides us with their origin, which goes a little further back before the Grandmaster's involvement with them. The prism is actually a Skrull, Krimonn, whose ambitions caused his superiors to transform him into a prism while still allowing him sentience, and then exiling him to outer space. Which is where the Grandmaster found him and subsequently brought him to Earth, placing him in the path of Dr. Obatu, a west African economics minister who had ambitions of his own:

The only task remaining was for the Grandmaster (the Grandmaster, Mike) to imbue them both with power to take advantage of their symbiosis:

Afterward, the Grandmaster summons them to play their part in the face-off with the Avengers, which we know didn't have a favorable outcome to the Grandmaster or his players.

When we next see Obatu, apparently the prism's rage at its bonding to him has reached such a point that Obatu has sought out first Luke Cage, and then Iron Man himself to hire as a bodyguard to protect him from periodic attacks the prism has launched against him. Naturally, it seems self-defeating for Krimonn to bite the hand that feeds him--in this case, feeding him life--but he hasn't shared with Obatu his true reasons for goading him to seek out Iron Man. It's only in Spectrum's third battle with Iron Man that the rift between the prism and Obatu intensifies to the point of Spectrum marshalling the rage he needs to have Iron Man on the ropes, including destroying the ultra-violet weapon. And it's then Iron Man sees the prism's plan revealed:

Iron Man escapes while Spectrum and the prism are locked in their own power struggle--but when they next locate him, Krimonn is ready to make his move. Literally:

Now possessed by Krimonn, "Iron Man" goes on a destructive rampage throughout the city, only to be stopped in his tracks by a hammer to the helmet:

So it's become a little more clear how Spectrum's rematch with Iron Man can go this kind of distance, given the variables Friedrich has introduced throughout this story. (And that's not even counting the considerable number of pages Friedrich devotes to the Happy Hogan/Pepper Potts drama going back and forth between the two, when Happy discovers that his wife and Stark are an item.) There are even more variables to come. But first we've got a "battle royale" to get through, though I'm not really talking about this one:

Krimonn tries a variety of tactics against the Thunder God, including an invisibility trick that his fellow Skrulls had embedded in the prism. (Possibly a scripting "patch" that Friedrich is applying to artist George Tuska's panels.  The Skrulls wouldn't bother giving powers to an exile, and a prism, at that; but Tuska is obviously having Iron Man emit some kind of blinding light to which Thor summons rain in response, which also doesn't make sense.)  But in addition to these tactics not panning out, Krimonn discovers that the body he's in is growing weaker. Still, when you're fighting Thor, all roads usually lead to this one:

Kinda makes you wonder why Krimonn didn't just tough it out with Spectrum. Speaking of whom, he's not exactly out for the count in this encounter. Taking advantage of Krimonn's separation from his body, his will has had time to strengthen to the point of being able to be in the driver's seat this time. And he makes his move:

But while Thor takes off after Spectrum, Friedrich throws us another curve by having a second Iron Man arrive on the scene. When the dust settles later, we find out the identity of the fallen Iron Man and what happened when IM escaped from Spectrum earlier:

And now that the real Iron Man has suited up again, he finds Thor and has him return to tend to Eddie March. Spectrum is a pleasure he wants all to himself, as the true "battle royale" we've waited four issues to see now begins:

Give Spectrum some credit--he's as imaginative as ever. He tries everything but the kitchen sink against Iron Man. From deadly cables:

To giant robotic behemoths:

To booby-trapped weapons:

To blistering heat:

Yet, finally:

Spectrum has used his last bit of power to cushion his fall--so that, when Iron Man is closing in on him, there's little he can do to stop the reckoning we all know is coming. Friedrich even punctuates that fact, as he gets all 1973 on us:

All in all, this second appearance by Dr. Spectrum surprised me as a fine four-parter, with good work by Friedrich and equally nice work by Tuska, who has quite a lot to do in this story but lays it out like a puzzle where all of its pieces fit together as a whole.

As for our remaining characters:  Obatu, vowing revenge, probably ends up being deported. And now that Tony Stark has made a vow as well--to spare no expense in Eddie March's care--we can take that to mean that Eddie is going to have a transformation into the Freak to look forward to, courtesy of Stark's enervator. As for the power prism--didn't anyone think to scoop up those fragments?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing Doc. Spectrum here. As a card-carrying member of the Squadron Sinister Appreciation Society, I appreciate it. But let me assure all of you, we no longer have any master-supervillian plans of melting the polar icecaps and flooding the world. Apparently, it's already happening.

dbutler16 said...

Dr. Spectrum, in this light (pun intended) looks like an interesting character. Many characters have an internal battle going on ,but in his case, there are literally two separate entities carrying on this conflict.
Anyway, when I think of Dr. Spectrum, the first thing I think of is Avengers Annual #8, with the wonderful George Perez art, and that cover is forever burned into my memory banks. Apparently, though, that was a different Dr. Spectrum, though I assume it's the same prism.

Comicsfan said...

dbutler16, I enjoyed that Spectrum story a lot, too, and I have it in my unofficial queue to review one of these days. It was definitely an outstanding cover to that issue.

david_b said...

THIS was my first story arc reading Iron Man. Ish 63 was my first IM issue, so this storyline made me quite a fan.

Awesome Tuska art, probably among his best in my book..

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