Friday, May 29, 2015

Partners In Crime

In many of those old silver- and bronze-age stories that involved Asgard and/or Thor, the Enchantress and the Executioner always seemed to be joined at the hip--the Enchantress being the brains, and her brutish companion the Executioner the brawn, the two drawn together in some mutual scheme where they could attain power and/or revenge. And it looks like they were a team from Day One:

It's pretty easy to figure out why the Executioner came running whenever the Enchantress beckoned, other than the fact that it meant a devilish scheme was at hand. But what set in motion their enmity toward Thor? What set them on the path to mutual villainy?

To find the answer, we'll need to execute yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

How did these two Asgardians become partners in crime?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

When Falls The Wizard!

OR: "The Wizard Slips Up!"

The first time the Wizard went up against the Human Torch, his only goal was to discredit and frame him, as proof that his brilliance could overcome even someone of the Torch's power. In their second encounter, it looks like he's moved up to outright assault:

Clearly, the Wizard isn't willing to take a "oh well, can't win 'em all" attitude and let this go. Unfortunately, he's currently tucked away in prison, and it's not likely they're going to release him so that he can engage in a grudge match with the Torch. But he has no intention on making prison his permanent residence--and it's a good bet a man who calls himself "the Wizard" is no slouch in the resourcefulness department. Of course, it helps if your prison's guards have the brains of an artichoke:

Not that the Wizard doesn't make the occasional blunder. Not many escapees head back to their residence after breaking out--but that's just what the Wizard does, and the law quickly tracks him down and surrounds the place. But that's all they can do, because the Wizard has thrown up a force field to prevent their access. So you might think this all comes down to a standoff--but the Wizard moves immediately to business, and challenges the Human Torch to a rematch, which the Torch accepts over the protests of his sister, the Invisible Girl, who chides him for using his power to settle a vendetta.

And so once the Torch arrives at the Wizard's estate, the Wizard adjusts the force field to allow him through, and the Wizard's game of cat and mouse begins:

While his devices keep the Torch busy, the residence registers an intruder alarm, which turns out to be the Invisible Girl who's apparently come to keep a covert eye on her brother. But thanks to her interference, the Wizard soon has the Torch at his mercy:

Good grief, there seems to be an utter lack of brains from just about everyone in this story! Though we'd have to give the advantage right now to the Wizard, who's rigged the cell holding the Torch and his sister with a bomb that will go off if he raises his temperature. But the Torch is quick enough to disable the bomb's trigger device before it activates--and as for the bomb itself:

Yes, it seems you can indeed make functioning equipment out of only fire. But PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME.

With the Torch free, it looks like the writing's on the wall for the Wizard--or, rather, the water's on the floor, as the villain experiences an embarrassing set of capture maneuvers that will likely keep his prison buddies amused for days:

At least now we know where the Wizard got the inspiration for that helmet of his, eh?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

They Walk Like Gods!

Yikes! With the attack of Ego-Prime, and Earth on its way to becoming so much rubble, it looks like the monster is already putting some of that rubble to good use: ending the life of the god who stood against him!

Good grief, Sif--you're an Asgardian goddess! You can't move a few boulders out of the way? Or how about bypassing time and space and getting him the heck out of there? But let's assume that Ego-Prime, who's still on the scene, is acting against her efforts (to say nothing of Thor's), and still putting pressure on Thor's makeshift tomb:

It's indeed a pretty dire situation that writer Gerry Conway has left us at, following Ego-Prime's arrival on Earth and learning of the creature's intent to evolve all of humanity to where they literally become one with their world, and thus a part of the living "bioverse" of the entity known as Ego. To Balder and Sif, the only Asgardians who remain able to defy him, Ego-Prime paints a bleak picture of their chances:

Though Ego-Prime obviously poses a threat to the entire planet, Conway (as well as artist John Buscema) has held back in making it clear as far as his effect on the planet thus far. We know that New York, at least, is now in ruins; and when the story reaches its climax, we'll learn the extent of the devastation has occurred on a global scale. Unfortunately, with everything that's being crammed into this story's conclusion, there's little to no room in the 20 pages they have for Conway and Buscema to depict those scenes--and that's regrettable, since Ego-Prime's attack on the world deserves to have more impact than just the creature's bold and arrogant words of its intent.

And speaking of boldness, there's also the dramatic scene the issue's cover puts forth, an image which seems to have nothing at all to do with Ego-Prime (though, in truth, the opposite will prove to be the case):

But, first things first. In order for the Asgardians to offer some sort of resistance to the monstrous attack of Ego-Prime, they're going to need Thor. There's another explanation offered elsewhere as to why I don't feel this particular scene of helplessness on Thor's part holds muster; but suffice to say that, when 60 seconds pass with no direct contact with his hammer, it looks like it will be Don Blake facing Ego-Prime, at least until he can scramble for his cane:

Thor's change to Blake manifesting as a violent reaction seems to be a matter of whether or not Thor is in a deadly predicament at the time (which has also been the case with Blake's change to Thor). One could argue that the change produces a violent effect if Thor isn't using his hammer to control the change, though we've seen otherwise in such instances over the years; and of course here, buried beneath tons of rubble, the frail figure of Blake would have been instantly crushed had the change not resulted in blasting the boulders away.

Though when it comes to close quarters, you have to think both Captain America and the Wasp are grateful that Thor wasn't in a dire predicament when he decided to make the change in the confines of an elevator:

Regardless, when Blake immediately makes the change back to Thor, it's time to kick this story up a notch--because Thor is ready for Round Two with Ego-Prime!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Here's Looking You Over, Kid

Over a decade before Google Glass made the scene, the X-Men were already using a more sophisticated version of it in their "Xtreme" series:

Mainly a communications device, the team's sensor shades also provided near-instantaneous scanning and diagnostic information, in tandem with analysis from fellow team member Sage (a/k/a Tessa, former aide to the Hellfire Club's Sebastian Shaw).

And even their enemies became fans of the shades:

Of course, they weren't a bad fashion statement, either.

Monday, May 25, 2015

None Dare Stand 'gainst Ego-Prime!

Even before Asgard returned from the edges of space/time after the realm's forces faced Pluto and his hordes, its ruler, Odin, had launched one of his intricately woven plans in order to accomplish a goal for the greater good (or at least Odin's idea of the greater good)--its timetable perhaps accelerated due to the looming threat of Mangog and the feared destruction of Asgard. This plan would turn out to involve several people, all unknowingly and independently assembling the pieces of Odin's scheme--and in the end, it would have grave consequences for the people of Earth, if only for the duration. The consequences for Odin's son--Thor, the God of Thunder--would be another matter, and would not be remedied so easily.

But for readers of Mighty Thor, the two-part conclusion to this saga--published in late 1972 and written by Gerry Conway--would cap a heck of a ride, a story involving many elements and which would have repercussions which would reach all the way to Thor #300. But don't jump ahead just yet! Because it's important to keep in mind that Conway had written these events without the foresight of what the end result of Odin's plan would portend for that 300th anniversary issue, eight years ahead--and if taken on its own merits, his story here is perhaps all the more remarkable in its depth. So, one step at a time, shall we?

Aside from Thor and the Warriors Three being sent to fetch waters from the Well at World's End, Odin sends the lady Sif and her staunch protectress, Hildegarde, to the mysterious planet called Blackworld--mysterious, mostly, because only the Asgardians have named it "Blackworld," and we really don't discover why. But Sif and Hildegarde discover that the planet's inhabitants are evolving at a phenomenal rate. Whether that's the reason why the planet is important to Odin is anyone's guess; but it's also apparently important for some reason to Tana Nile, of the Rigellian Colonizers, whom the two Asgardians discover fleeing from a creature who seems responsible for the planet's evolution:

"Ego-Prime," as Tana Nile calls him, is, in effect, a mobile piece of Ego, the Living Planet, from which the Rigellians have extracted a sample to experiment on, in an attempt to use to create habitable worlds to colonize. The first world they test this process on turns out to be Blackworld; but when Tana Nile begins to infuse the Ego-matter with energy, let's just say this is what's meant by an experiment getting away from you:

And so "Ego-Prime" escapes Tana Nile's control and begins evolving the inhabitants of Blackworld unchecked. Eventually, Sif and Hildegarde have no choice but to attempt to flee the creature's assault with Tana Nile (apparently these are the only two Asgardians who turn in the other direction when a foe charges). But Sif notices another danger:

It's the one part of Conway's story that doesn't hold water. Sif, not a scientist by any means, has no basis to believe that Blackworld's evolution has any direct connection with Earth beyond the fact that its evolved humanoids look like 20th century Earthlings and have developed a culture that resembles that of Earth; yet she implies that Ego-Prime's actions here will spell disaster for Earth, as well, when Blackworld's timeline matches that of Earth. However shaky such a conclusion is--and Conway never proves it to be otherwise--it soon becomes moot when Blackworld reaches the point of nuclear conflagration. And with the blinding flash of Blackworld's presumed end, Sif and her party appear on Earth without explanation.

Unfortunately, Ego-Prime has arrived with them, and has evolved to its final form:

At this point, Ego-Prime has become as deadly a menace to the planet Earth as Galactus, with only Thor and his Asgardian party able to stand against it. Whether they have a chance of success remains to be seen--but the cover's bold caption makes it crystal clear what we're in for in this penultimate issue of Conway's story:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Take No Prisoners!

In Uncanny X-Men #145, the assistant of the murderous Arcade, Miss Locke, ambushes Storm and presents her with this ultimatum:

After confirming that the hostages Locke mentioned are indeed missing, Storm returns to home base and informs the X-Men and Charles Xavier of the situation. Xavier is leaning in the direction of accommodating Locke's demands--but I always liked the speech Wolverine gives in rebuttal. For all the good it does. It's Storm's response that raises an eyebrow:

Whoa, Ororo! Who's talking about abandoning or sacrificing Locke's hostages? Wolverine speaks of saving the hostages and abandoning Arcade (and, if he has his way, making sure Locke's days of kidnapping are finished).

Soon, however, Storm presents her plan, which is immediately given the green light:

In effect, Storm is amending Wolverine's proposal by splitting the team, for reasons which don't make sense: One group breaks into Murderworld and rescues the hostages, while the other team negotiates with Doom for Arcade's release. To make matters worse, what Storm fails to make mention of in this panel is the fact that her group's purpose is not to secure Arcade's release without a fight--it's to infiltrate Doom's fortress and actually break Arcade out of his cell, while Storm meets with and distracts Doom.

In other words, Storm gives writer Chris Claremont what he needs to make this into a three-part story--and for what? Why should the X-Men care about Arcade's affairs vis-à-vis Doom, or that Arcade has fallen into Doom's clutches? It's Locke who is the enemy to overcome here, isn't it? Let's break down Storm's "stormtrooper" plan:  If Storm agrees with Wolverine insofar as rescuing the hostages, why bother with Doom at all? And if her team is breaking Arcade out of captivity and complying with Locke's demands, why invade Murderworld at the same time?

So, let's say you're Charles Xavier, and you have to make the call. In your opinion, which team member has offered the best approach here:

Wolverine--or Storm?

(And who forgot to give these people eyes??)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Support Our Roller Troops

Tony Stark may have had lucrative defense contracts in the years when he was exploring his new life as Iron Man, but, munitions and weapons manufacturing aside, you have to hand it to the man for always thinking outside the box. You could definitely say the same for Reed Richards, yes--but, with his resources, Anthony Stark was the go-to guy for getting things designed and off the drawing board and into productivity.

Yet Stark was also innovative, and his inventive genius often found receptive ears among those in many fields other than the armed forces. For instance, the FF could have probably used this particular invention before they made their fateful space flight:

And not that you don't want a guy like Stark on hand to beef up your medical equipment:

...but when did he find time for a crash course in biology?

Yet it was in national defense that Stark found his niche, going the extra mile for our men in uniform. (Unfortunately, in the '60s, not yet men and women.) For instance, we know that Iron Man added powered roller skates to his arsenal (trying saying that with a straight face)--but let's take a look at where the idea probably trickled down from:

A great idea, assuming your troops have the luxury of highways to whoosh along on--and I'd bet they can probably be heard a mile away by the enemy.

And how about the range on this baby:

Uh--Mr. Stark? Dude? Nobody was firing nuclear salvos, even in the trigger-happy '60s. The goal was not to fire nuclear salvos, remember?

And check out the firepower in this nifty tank-in-a-rifle:

(Yes, there really was something called a "burp gun.")

But as we well know, Stark could tend to go a little overboard with his desire to ensure the safety of everyone. And any guy who tinkers with a WMD like a disintegrator ray should probably be kept on a tight leash:

Hey, Stark, answer your phone! Ultron would like a word with you!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Where Waits The Cosmic Cube!

If you thought Captain Marvel's last confrontation with the Super-Skrull brought down the house--and literally so--plotter/artist Jim Starlin gives their rematch similar treatment when he moves his developing Thanos plot to the Saturn moon of Titan.  There, we finally meet Mentor and Eros (Thanos' father and brother, respectively), as they join with Mar-vell to liberate this war-torn moon from the hordes of Thanos as well as the deadly Super-Skrull:

Unfortunately, the numbers of Titan's defenders (a/k/a the "free, fighting, true army of Titan") are low, since Thanos has been quite thorough in conquering his homeworld and eliminating any possible opposition to his plans. Just how low will be revealed in a bit. Our concern for now is Rick Jones, who, when we left him following Mar-vell's victory, was determined to find some answers. Instead, when he falls into the clutches of Thanos himself, he finds that he'll be the one providing answers, in a unique form of interrogation which Thanos hopes will lead him directly to his goal: a weapon of ultimate power.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Man Who Has (Almost) Everything

It's hard to imagine there was ever a time when the flamboyant Johnny Storm wanted to keep his status as the Human Torch under wraps. Yet, around the time the Fantastic Four were facing Kurrgo (the "Master of Planet X"--who else?) in late 1962, Johnny and his sister, Sue, established a residence in Glenville, to coincide with the Torch being given a feature of his own in Strange Tales. And Johnny Storm, of all people, took a shot at having a secret identity.

Apparently the good folks of Glenville aren't all that swift at putting two and two together. Johnny's face is already well-known as the Torch; in the FF mag published the same month as this story, he's even joining his partners to attend a high-profile dinner engagement in Washington, complete with news and television cameras. And while the Torch has yet to reveal to anyone else his name as Johnny Storm, he's been overheard referring to Sue as his sister. Regardless, whenever he powers down around anyone in Glenville, Johnny is careful to keep his face obscured in flame. The whole setup here is a head-scratcher, for sure.

To add to the confusion, let's hear how Johnny thinks of his life as the Human Torch as he enters Sue's pretty fab residence:

If you're shaking your head in astonishment at the Torch's admission here, join the club. Didn't you always have the impression this kid thought his power was *ahem* fantastic?

And speaking of his partners, we have Mr. Fantastic to thank for providing Johnny with possibly the most toxic bedroom in existence:

And if the Torch thought his stay in Glenville was going to be all play and no work, his room at Sue's could be mistaken for an office/lab if it weren't for the bed:

I'm not sure if NASA had "detailed star charts" in 1962, much less a teenager; and why would a guy with a secret identity need a high-tech device to screen visitors?

But since we're on the subject of high tech, let's jump to the following issue where none other than the Wizard makes his first appearance. Unlike the deadly menace we know the Wizard will one day become, our budding villain in this story has pretty much everything he could want--fame, wealth, and, it goes without saying, intelligence. Why would this man seek out a life of crime?

(Chessmasters pitting their skills against mere computers must be a little envious of the Wizard right about now, who manages to find one with arms and legs. And, say, why didn't Charles Xavier snag one of those air chairs, if they were put on the market?)

So the Wizard seems to lack for very little. But in Glenville, word gets around--and with the Human Torch making waves with the locals, it seems the one thing the Wizard doesn't have coming his way often is a challenge:

And so the Wizard arranges a meeting with the Torch, by fabricating a phony crisis and tricking the Torch into rescuing him. The Torch is as impressed with the Wizard's achievements like anyone else, and thus walks unsuspectingly into a trap:

(Johnny must be thinking, "Whew! I'm sure glad a dousing chemical wash doesn't include a person's head!")

You'd think capturing the Human Torch would have satisfied the Wizard's need to prove himself against this character. But he plans to take his scheme a lot further:

The Wizard's plan succeeds brilliantly, as he proceeds to rob banks, free prisoners, and cause enough general mayhem as the Torch to make his foe a hunted man. Eventually, the Torch manages to burn his way out of his cell, and, finding that he's now wanted by the law, races to confront the Wizard, who tantalizingly holds in front of the Torch the proof he will need to clear himself:

Sure, there are any number of ways for the Torch to use his speed and his flame to force the Wizard to release those pics without threatening his life. But you probably never thought he'd come up with a new super-power to do it:

To clear up this mystery, Johnny had arranged for Sue to invisibly lend a hand here. And it looks like, at this stage of his new criminal career, the Wizard folds his cards pretty quickly:

And so the Wizard is about to get his first taste of prison life, and we know in hindsight that he'd better get used to it. But a prison cell isn't likely to hold a guy with the smarts of the Wizard--and when we catch up to him again, he'll make a stand at that high-tech estate of his and set his sights once more on his fiery foe.