Monday, June 1, 2015

Crushed By The Controller!

When we last looked in on Captain Marvel, we saw that Thanos, the mad Titan (not to be confused with the mad Thinker), had advanced his plans for seizing the Cosmic Cube, currently hidden on Earth--while Mar-vell, along with Mentor and Eros of Titan, fought to wrest control of that Saturn moon from Thanos' mercenaries, a battle which resulted in the death of the Super-Skrull. It's a story plotted by artist Jim Starlin that continues to raise the profile of Thanos, whose plans first manifested in the pages of Iron Man and who Starlin has now brought to the Captain Marvel book in order to play out those plans to fruition; and with Starlin featuring such popular characters as the Thing and the Avengers, his developing plot with Thanos was also benefiting Mar-vell, a character who had struggled and ultimately failed in his own title but who now was experiencing a resurgence.

Up to this point, it was Starlin's unique artistry which was making an impression on readers. But now, as Mar-vell pursues Thanos to Earth, Starlin and writer Mike Friedrich split the scripting of this next issue, and Starlin takes the first steps toward writing the events of this story. Looking back on those issues, it seemed to suggest a lot on his plate, given that he also assumed colorist chores and would only end up scripting three issues in their entirety before the story concluded and he would move on. Consider, also, that Captain Marvel at the time was being published bi-monthly, which gave Starlin a generous amount of time to turn in his work. Yet there could have been any number of factors in play which kept Starlin from taking the reins for the duration--from prior scheduling of other writers like Friedrich or Steve Englehart, to consideration of future plans for the book, to Starlin's own arrangements. With the book's publication schedule, Starlin would be with the title for a year and a half, a fairly long time--and while artists like Herb Trimpe, John Byrne, et al. have been content to remain with a project for even longer periods, perhaps Starlin simply wanted to move on to try his hand at other work. Whatever the circumstances, there's no denying the contribution he made to not only this title, but others which he's taken an interest in and breathed new life into.

As for this particular story, it would be one of transition--not only for Thanos, on his path to true power, but also for Mar-vell, a staunch Kree warrior who operates by a strict military code and who faces his last issue in battle in that current form. Dealt in with both characters are the mighty Avengers, who are formally drawn into the conflict with Thanos and his deadly hirelings. We also have Rick's girlfriend, Lou-Ann, a character who's become a victim of Thanos' machinations and who, let's face it, nobody really cares about. (With the possible exception of Rick.) But making up for Lou-Ann's non-presence is the more interesting Destroyer, nemesis of Thanos--the only being that stands between the Titan and the ultimate weapon of power he seeks. Together, a collage of characters that we find presented on the story's teasing splash page, in a tale which brings us closer to the dire fate of the universe!

Upon their return from Titan, it's not clear that either Mar-vell or Rick had meant to involve the Avengers in their growing conflict with Thanos. With Mar-vell and Rick aware that Thanos is after the Cosmic Cube, you'd think that reaching it before he does would be a priority upon their arrival on Earth:

Presumably, though, the Avengers have reached out to Rick in order to let him know of Lou-Ann's arrival on their doorstep seeking help.

Upon investigation, the Avengers discover a small disc clamped to the base of Lou-Ann's skull, indicating that she's fallen under the control of--well, the Controller, a former foe of Iron Man who's now apparently in the service of Thanos. That presumption proves to be true when the Avengers are, one by one, taken out by a hidden foe who has come to retrieve the woman who has slipped from his grasp:

It's at this point that we come to the chapter which is scripted by Starlin--the Destroyer's confrontation with Thanos, whose partner in this quest appears to be the manifestation of Death itself:

It seems an ideal situation for the Destroyer, who faces Thanos on equal ground without the Titan being surrounded by a horde of troops or any equipment which might benefit him. Yet Thanos avoids a direct battle with the Destroyer (whose power might well give him the advantage) by choosing an attack based on manipulation of the mind. It's an interesting (and awfully convenient) facet of Thanos' power, a being who often seems to pull his abilities out of a hat. For instance, a preference for mental-based attacks is probably the last thing we would expect from a being who is so dependent on the power of his ships and equipment, as well as the cutthroats in his service; yet he's already used the "mind-cyclone" on Rick while on Titan, and we know he'll successfully overpower Moondragon (Moondragon, of all people) in a "mind war." Now he chooses to invade the Destroyer's mind by using another mental technique that he feels confident will give him the advantage:

Equally surprising is the Destroyer's level of resistance, given his obvious advantage in physical confrontation. Here, the Destroyer prevails only insofar as breaking free of the sync-warp attack, leaving Thanos as the overall victor. And with the Destroyer's fall, and Mar-vell being occupied by the Controller, there's nothing to prevent Thanos from claiming his prize.

Meanwhile, to say that Mar-vell has his hands full is an understatement:

It's been a pretty good day for the Controller. The power his slave discs give him has made it possible for him to get the drop on the Avengers as well as dropping a good deal of Avengers Mansion on Mar-vell, allowing him to recover his "slave" with absolutely no one to oppose him. But, inexplicably, it's not Mar-vell trapped under all of that debris, but a far more human (and helpless) victim:

And Mar-vell? He's been whisked away by a monstrosity that has its own plans for him, just when the universe needs him the most. Which, as it happens, is precisely the point:

This two-faced being named "Eon" seems to have a captive audience in Mar-vell, and certainly doesn't look like it's going to take "no" for answer as far as its plans for him. But, with Rick in danger of being crushed by stone and steel, and with Thanos now in possession of a weapon that can materialize his every sadistic wish, will Mar-vell emerge from whatever Eon has planned for him only to witness the aftermath of universal armageddon?

(Oh, yeah, Lou-Ann is also still in danger--there's that bombshell, too!)

Captain Marvel #28

Script: Mike Friedrich (with Jim Starlin)
Plot/Pencils/Colors: Jim Starlin
Inks: Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


david_b said...

Ok, confessing this now..: I still LOVE LOVE LOVE this issue. Why..?

1) Ahhhh, first thrust into all-things-Marvel, it was one of my very first comics I bought off the stands. It had Captain America, and just newly discovering the Avengers, I of course bought it without a moment of hesitation.

2) Loved the newly-discovered Starlin cosmic storyline and exquisite art. Great pencils, uber-surreal (for my early eyes..) frame formatting. I had seen early Steranko on a copy of Cap 113, so I could follow the oddness of it.

3) It just screams 'majestic', I love the cover. (It's actually my mouse pad at work...).

I wasn't much of a MarVell fan up until then (never heard of him frankly..), but this story arc was an immediate must-have. Not in this issue, but I do appreciate how Starlin insured you saw the Swordsman in frame (while he was alive..) whenever the Avengers were in next half-dozen issues. He and Mantis were early team favorites for me.

Great post today.

Anonymous said...

Man, this would have been a great comic for the art alone, but Starlin
was throwing so many weird characters and cosmic brain bombs at the reader I was tempted to take a time out and take several deep breaths when I first read it. The guy just didn't let up!
Holy shmolies.
Suffice to say, this classic arc is the jewel of my mighty comic collection, which in turn will be the centerpiece of the museum they will build in my honor when I die in bed a hundred years from now.

Comicsfan said...

david and M.P., I quite agree that this Captain Marvel series of issues was something special.

Anonymous said...

Another thing about the Controller, that I just kinda remembered, is that he was a notorious bushwacker. His basic M.O. was to sneak up or jump on people and clamp a "slave-disc" on 'em.
In the "Acts of Vengeance" storyline, which I liked, he did that with the Sub-Mariner, successfully, but when he tried to pull it on Loki it didn't work too good. Loki is just one of those guys you can't sneak up on. He tried it on Magneto and Magneto put him through a wall. That was a cool series!
Kind of a one-trick pony, that Controller.
I was surprised he could catch the Black Panther unawares. It would be almost as tough as sneaking on Daredevil.

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I agree--I didn't really buy that business about the Panther being caught off-guard because he was preoccupied. I would think the whole point of those herbs giving T'Challa "jungle senses" is that those senses are heightened enough to react automatically--i.e., without the Panther having to go "looking for trouble."

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