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.

If you were hoping for a last-minute save by Captain Marvel, that's not likely to happen with Rick's wrists shackled and unable to initiate the process that would exchange his atoms for the Kree warrior's. Whatever one might say about Thanos, he's extremely proficient in pursuing his goals--and in just a few moments, Rick's mind has been sifted through and downloaded by the Titan super-computer known as ISAAC.

Through ISAAC's readout, writer Mike Friedrich provides us with a rundown of the events which have played out prior to this point in time, in which we saw Mar-vell's clash with two Skrulls (Skragg and the Super-Skrull) operating on Earth in the service of Thanos, followed by further machinations involving the Thing and eventually leading to Rick's capture. And as Thanos moves on to the information he desires, we discover just what weapon he's after.

It turns out we have the Kree Supreme Intelligence to thank for implanting the location of the Cube in Rick's subconscious, as a way for Rick to be able to call on the knowledge in case of a universal "doomsday" scenario. (Kind of hard to do if information is buried in your subconscious, but who are we to quibble with a being that calls itself the "Supreme Intelligence.") We still don't know how Thanos got wind of the S.I.'s plan--but again, Thanos does his homework.

Thanos then quickly departs for Earth and the coordinates of the Cube, but not before instating the Super-Skrull as his second-in-command in his absence--as well as leaving the Skrull with a "unisphere" which will protect him in case of attack by outside forces. As for Rick, he's found and freed from his shackles by Mentor and Eros--or, put another way, meet the "free, fighting, true army of Titan."

We find in this story that Friedrich has quite a bit to say about the horrors of war, in terms of the bloody battles its participants must wage as well as its aftermath. The first such segment arrives when Eros describes how Titan was laid waste by Thanos, though we and Rick hear Friedrich, instead:

Rick is stirred to action and passionately calls out to Captain Marvel--but what a nice touch by Friedrich to remind us that Mar-vell and Rick are separate entities, and that Mar-vell's decision to join the cause of Mentor and Eros is his own.

Meanwhile, Thanos arrives on Earth, and inexorably moves closer to the one object which might well gain for him the entire universe. Fortunately for the universe, he'll find his way blocked by a being specially created to bring about the mad Titan's end, a purpose best described by that entity's name.

Thanos' clashes with the Destroyer are the only disappointing aspect of Starlin's otherwise entertaining storyline. With each confrontation between the two, the Destroyer is supremely confident that he'll bring about Thanos' end; yet once we're past the initial drama of the Destroyer's appearance, Thanos deals with him almost contemptuously, and usually dispatches him with relative ease. Perhaps Odin's Destroyer would have a better chance at bringing Thanos down. For all his power, Drax the Destroyer seems ill-prepared for the foe he was specifically created to overcome.

Back on Titan, Mar-vell invades the Hall of Science in order to erase the intelligence tapes of Rick's mind probe, while Mentor and Eros run interference. But Mar-vell will have to go through an old foe to succeed--and so the battle rages on two fronts:

The Super-Skrull nearly accomplishes Mar-vell's mission for him, smashing into the tapes and bringing himself near defeat in the process. In desperation, he reaches for the Unisphere, which Thanos boasted would even stop the Destroyer. That alone should give us an idea of the effectiveness of the Unisphere, though Starlin's intent here is to demonstrate Thanos' lack of trust or loyalty concerning his subordinates.

And so the life of the Super-Skrull, at last, apparently comes to an end, and Mar-vell finishes the job of erasing the tapes. And in the scene which follows, Friedrich gives his soliloquy on war a kind of epilogue, though it could just as well be interpreted as paving the way for Mar-vell's life-changing future meeting with the entity known as Eon:

As Mar-vell has mused, Thanos remains at large and nearing the Cosmic Cube, and the situation remains grim. Will the Destroyer turn the tide? Probably not--but, coming up, we'll see how things stand, as Thanos gets his first taste of real power, the Avengers become involved, and Mar-vell faces the awesome might of the Controller!

Captain Marvel #27

Script: Mike Friedrich
Plot/Pencils: Jim Starlin
Inks: Pablo Marcos
Letterer: John Costanza


david_b said...

One of my first and most favorite Starlin MarVell comics..

Gorgeous art, great insight into Thanos.., sooooon to weave himself into the Avengers history, next issue.

Anonymous said...

Classic stuff.
While Drax never seemed to really pose much of a threat against Thanos in a straight-up fight, he was such a single-minded fanatic lunatic type that Thanos seemed to get sick of the aggravation. He never knew when Drax was gonna pop up, and I'm not sure if Drax could be killed, since he was technically kind of an undead guy.
You would have to be in Thor's class to clobber Thanos, and Drax was more on an Iron Man level, I think. But I'm sure Thanos got annoyed by it, after a while.
I was surprised that Mar-vell could take the Super-Skrull, who had fought Thor and was definitely a heavyweight. Mar-vell wasn't in his strength class, but apparently his military and martial arts skills served him well, and this was even before he achieved cosmic awareness, which would enable him to fight running battles while playing for time against far more powerful entities, the Hulk, the Controller, even Thanos himself.
Starlin, I think, was like many in the early '70's who developed an interest and fascination in martial arts and eastern philosophy, which also led to Master of Kung Fu, a great series I've only recently discovered.
I think it was these influences that made Captain Marvel a truly great, interesting character, not just a space-opera guy with a ray-gun, and this a classic run.

B Smith said...

Captain Marvel #25 was my first exposure to Jim Starlin's art, but it was this issue that made me go "Wow!" It was Pablos Marcus's inks that made the difference.

Fred W. Hill said...

At age 10, in early 1973, after several years of erratic comics collecting and my dad having tossed a box of them when our family moved from Long Beach, CA, to Salt Lake City in 1972, I got seriously into collecting Marvel comics and my initial favorites were Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and the Avengers. I'd gotten Captain Marvel #22 -- my first encounter with the character -- but missed the next several issues and then got this one. Now #22 was very much average superhero comicbook fare, not excrutiatingly terrible but not anything to get excited about either. #27, however -- in art and story it was stunning, mindblowing. I'd missed the Kree-Skrull War, although I'd read several references to it in the letters pages and elsewhere, including this issue, and I got the impression it was a great epic and now I was in on another great epic storyline. I didn't get issues #25 & 26 until many years later and settled for a reprint of Iron Man #55 wherein Thanos & Drax were introduced, but otherwise I got the rest of the epic brand new off the racks in '73 & '74. Still, just within those 4 issues, from IM 55 thru CM 27, Starlin's art improved dramatically such that with this issue he'd clearly, IMO, arrived as one of the masters of the craft of dramatic comics storytelling.