Friday, August 23, 2013

The Whatever-It-Takes Warrior

If you bought this 1973 issue of Captain Marvel, let's just say that its cover took a few liberties in selling you on the story:

At least we can safely assume one thing: "Dr. Mynde" is the evil looking guy rampaging against our hero. Other than that, let me clear up a few misconceptions you're bound to have as you read this issue:
  • These two don't battle in the city streets, nor do any unfortunate lampposts meet their end.
  • There are no people on the streets trying to kill each other. You can find that in issues with the Over-Mind, or Inferno, or the Hate Monger, but Mynde's hands are clean in that respect.
  • I don't know who the "Android-Man" is, but he's probably in another mag hanging with Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wonder Man, Marvel Man, Iceman, and other manly men. Mynde is no android/man hybrid, nor does he have a snazzy costume like the cover villain.
  • Finally, Mar-vell looks like he's taking the fight to Mynde and holding his own, doesn't he? Unfortunately, he gets his ass handed to him--and also loses points in the honor category, but more on that later.

What you will find is Rick Jones... a story that pays homage to certain elements from Goldfinger... and an ending that will probably have you ripping this issue into confetti.

This issue of Captain Marvel would be the last before Jim Starlin began his memorable run on the title--so it's tempting to make unflattering comparisons between the three issues that jump-started the title again after its hiatus, and Starlin's more lengthy work on the character. I can't exactly disagree with such comparisons, as those earlier stories did Mar-vell no favors. Before Dr. Mynde came a forgettable villain called the Megaton Man, with Mynde surely a forgettable follow-up villain. Writer Marv Wolfman came aboard Marvel sometime in '72, and he was given the unenviable task of not only wrapping up the Megaton Man story but also of crafting a memorable one-issue story featuring Mynde. Tell me, how do the Megaton Man and Dr. Mynde rank among the most memorable Captain Marvel villains to you? Or are you Googling them even now?

Actually, even with his foot barely in the Marvel front door, Wolfman doesn't do a bad job with this story, which isn't to say it couldn't have used some editorial patching up. You'll find Dr. Mynde to be pretty formulaic in many respects in terms of villainous ambition and dialog, and Wolfman doesn't make any effort to add any dimension to him beyond the obvious; but there are a few things here and there that keep the story from being completely wretched, though that may have more to do with artist Wayne Boring's efforts. Sure, go ahead and make jokes about the man's last name and how it's unfortunately associated with something like artwork--but in places where Wolfman takes shortcuts, Boring helps the story stay somewhat consistent with the intent of the plot.

For instance, I don't know what Wolfman is going for on page one, since there's nothing that Rick is running from if you're going by Wolfman's dialog that follows--but Boring's opening page is nicely done, and introduces us right away to Mynde and his associate, Madame Synn:

Yes, you're also Googling Madame Synn, aren't you. Synn might be the comic book equivalent to Pussy Galore, who was a staunch aide to Auric Goldfinger as well as a quite capable field agent. Both women surprised their foes with their hand-to-hand skills--and Synn, like Galore, keeps a low profile until Mynde has need of her. The main difference between them is that Synn's loyalties to Mynde are never in question.

But what's Mynde doing going after Rick Jones? That will become clear later, but for now he seems to be the subject of an arranged demonstration:

I don't know if Wolfman is being literal or simply exaggerating, but even a car rigged with explosives isn't likely to take out "half of New York." Maybe one block. And since cars normally weigh in around two tons, a five-ton speeding car is likely to blow out average tires before crashing into anything. But are we here to nitpick, or find out the story on Mynde? We won't learn much from his discussion of the test with Synn--only that he has ominous plans for Rick and seems to be satisfied as to Mar-vell's threat level:

Savannah happens to be the father of Rick's girlfriend--but, coincidentally, Mynde and Savannah also used to work in weapons design at the Pentagon, which will figure into a scheme to lure Rick into a carefully prepared trap:

The lure proves tempting for Rick, who feels directionless and looks back at his life as someone watching it from the sidelines:

I don't know about that "could've ruled the universe" bit, since I don't recall the Kree Supreme Intelligence making him such an offer--but it's understandable that Rick sees his current situation with Mar-vell as no improvement in his life's course, and so he accepts Mynde's offer, despite Mar-vell's misgivings:

As for Mynde, he's not going after Fort Knox, as Goldfinger did. But his scaled table model is no less impressive, and his plan no less ambitious:

Mynde is referring to a weapons cache he discovered beneath the Pentagon when he was working there with Prof. Savannah. And Rick is going to help him get to it, courtesy of his old Avengers I.D. which Mynde retrieved from the street where Rick tossed it after he finally ended his association with the team. A revelation you have to see to believe:

No, I don't know why Mynde was tailing Rick at the time, somehow hoping for Rick to pull a bonehead move like that. And yes, I'm sure you and I wouldn't toss our Avengers I.D. on a New York street, or any street. I mean, we take scissors to our old credit cards--I'm pretty sure we'd run an Avengers I.D. through the shredder. What did Rick think he was casually tossing away, an old M.M.M.S. card? But here's how it originally played out:

Anyway, Rick is none too pleased about the plan, and springs into action with all his Bucky moves that he learned from Cap. Mynde has his own private militia, but Rick seems to be holding his own with the guys in the room, at least. And given his current mood regarding Mar-vell, he's not really thinking about the odds he's facing:

But Rick meets more than his match when Mynde sics Madame Synn on him:

It's then that Mynde reveals the details of his plan to Rick, including a few details about himself--his association with Savannah, his time at the Pentagon, and how he was dying when one of his experiments had given him radiation poisoning, forcing him to salvage his head by grafting it onto a new body. Only this body would be made of steel, so that nothing could ever harm him again. And we see that Mynde has little use for a wheelchair:

And so Mynde's plan goes into effect. He, Synn, and Rick slip into the Pentagon and make their way to the underground weapons room, courtesy of Rick's I.D. And while we don't have Pussy Galore's Flying Circus, we do have Mynde's remote-controlled gas missiles to rain down on the Pentagon's government troops stationed outside:

As well as Mynde's militia to send into the fray:

So far, so good. Synn isn't about to turn on Mynde the way Galore did on Goldfinger, so this plan is coming off by the numbers. Rick, though, finally unleashes Captain Marvel to face Mynde. For all the good it does him:

To put it simply, Mynde trashes Mar-vell with his steel body. Nor does Mar-vell, a seasoned warrior, think to land his blows on Mynde's unprotected head. Now, I realize that, even though Captain Marvel and Captain America share the same rank, they clearly aren't the same type of man--but even so, I never expected Mar-vell to THREATEN A HOSTAGE when he was on the losing side of a fight:

To complete the humiliation of this warrior-with-no-shame, Synn gives him a well-deserved thrashing. And that would seem to be that, as far as Mynde's opposition:

Yet if you thought Mar-vell couldn't sink any lower, think again, because he has one last desperate move to make when Mynde targets him for execution:

Though Wolfman conveys the impression that Synn hurls herself in front of Mynde's deadly blast, Boring appears to have Mar-vell actually throwing Synn into the line of fire. I guess you can take the warrior out of the Kree, but you can't take the Kree out of the warrior. However, Mynde would still appear to be victorious, right? Mar-vell can't defeat him... he's in the Pentagon and has the weapons... and his militia have slaughtered the government troops and secured the building. But we're on the last page of the issue, and this story won't be continued--so is Mar-vell going to lose this fight? Heck no, because you're about to see the most asinine ending ever:

Which is probably one reason why Mynde may not have rung a bell with you. And Mar-vell certainly seems to want to forget about him--though to be frank, I think a lot of readers were ready to forget Mar-vell at this point. He's not the most admirable hero we've ever seen, that's for sure--so perhaps it's no wonder Starlin's makeover of him was received so well. Both Mar-vell and Wolfman would go on to bigger and better things, which is difficult to believe after putting this issue aside.


Joe S. Walker said...

"Without even knowing it, he pressed the trigger!"

A dialogue assist from the Comics Code Authority, I suspect.

Comicsfan said...

Someone should also clue in Mar-vell that yelling "STOP!" after a trigger has been pulled--knowingly or not--is wasted effort at that point.

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