Wednesday, January 23, 2019

...From Beyond The Grave!

In case you missed Parts 1 and 2 featuring the introduction of Her, here's how things broke down, in a nutshell:

  • Following his death at Thanos' hand, the "godslayer" known as Adam Warlock was interred on the world known as Counter-Earth, a duplicate of the real Earth created by the High Evolutionary and placed in orbit on the far side of the sun--the same world where the being formerly known as Him reappeared to begin a new chapter in his life as Warlock, agreeing to purge this second Earth of its evil in exchange for the Evolutionary's promise not to destroy it. Yet before Warlock engaged in his fatal encounter with Thanos, he dropped by the Evolutionary's asteriod base in a fury, claiming that the Evolutionary had reneged on his word and destroyed his creation and the four billion lives on it. In retaliation, Warlock slew the Evolutionary, before departing on his mission to thwart the mad plan of Thanos to extinguish every star in the universe.
  • Three years later (our time), the woman christened as Her (f/k/a Paragon)--the successor to Him, also created by the group of scientists known as the Enclave--appears and announces her intention to locate Warlock and mate with him so that the two of them may create the perfect race (let's hope that the Enclave provided Warlock with a lot of stamina). Yet after learning from the self-proclaimed goddess, Moondragon, that Warlock is now deceased, Her makes the incredible claim that she can restore him to life. To that end, she boards Moondragon's ship along with Alicia Masters (who has expressed a wish to accompany them), and the three set a course for Counter-Earth. However...
  • Upon reaching the coordinates of the planet, they discover that it has vanished from orbit, a fact that comes as a surprise to the Evolutionary as well when he learns of it. And with the newly arrived Thing and his team-up companion, Starhawk, who have agreed to see this situation through with the others, the six now pursue the particle trail of the missing world, intent on discovering the identity of whoever committed the incredible act of stealing it.*

*Given his modus operandi, smart money would peg the Stranger as our man, eh?

And with that answer forthcoming, the conclusion to this three-part story still waits in the wings--where we learn if Her can deliver on her promise, and Adam Warlock rejoins the land of the living! But what exactly is going to reach out from the grave?

In this finale to the story by Mark Gruenwald and Jerry Bingham, we don't have to wait long to learn the "how" part of Counter-Earth's theft. On approach to the planet's new location, the Evolutionary's equipment maps and analyzes the sophisticated technology that has "towed" Counter-Earth across the galaxy--though fortunately, those who have done the deed have seen to it that the world's population remains oblivious to its shocking fate.

From this point, things move fairly quickly in regard to discovering the identities of those responsible as well as the whys and wherefores of their actions. In any other story, the circumstances involving those who made off with an entire world in tow would take precedence and comprise an issue's entire allotment of pages; but there has been a two-issue buildup of the curious story of Her and her mission to find and revive Warlock, which regrettably must relegate the predicament of Counter-Earth to "B" status.

Nevertheless, that part of the story is given due attention by Gruenwald and Bingham, even with shortcuts having been taken. For instance, thanks to Starhawk's senses, the group knows which of the tow ships is the command ship--and once there, the group of Starhawk, Moondragon, and Her encounter little in the way of resistance on their way to the control room.

Meanwhile, unknown to the others, the Evolutionary, the Thing, and Alicia have been transported to the command vessel and introduced to the alien named Sphinxor, who is eager to clear up the "misunderstanding."

Sphinxor and the "Prime Movers" are admittedly an offbeat element added to the story, characters not at all as we might have expected to find responsible for this drama--"moving men," when you get right down to it, though what a kick to find out they're hired to move entire planets. (You can't help but wonder how they maintain a steady business--what sort of clientele would avail themselves of their services?) With their appearance, the Prime Movers become one of a handful of satirical organizations that are occasionally thrown into the mix of a plot in order to provide a bit of levity, or even a quick fix to untangle a woefully twisted plot thread and help to bring the story back on track. (The Time Variance Authority being another example--a clerical nightmare of an organization whose representatives exhibit all-too-human mannerisms and speech. Our friend Sphinxor seems to have a convenient excuse in that regard, given his proclivity to tune in Earth television transmissions--and sitcoms, in particular.)

Once the others of his team arrive, the Evolutionary has them stand down while he prevails on Sphinxor to explain their mission on behalf of "the Beyonders," and why it was necessary to manipulate Warlock in order to complete their task.

The story of the Beyonders and their reason for wanting Counter-Earth is one that will have to wait**, since Sphinxor punts to them regarding any further inquiries on the Evolutionary's part--and again, there is the situation with Her which probably has readers drumming their fingers waiting to see resolved. Suffice to say that we leave the Evolutionary with a new mission to undertake once he parts company with those who accompanied him.

**And wait it does--see Gruenwald's backup story to Avengers Annual #17, eight years later!

Finally, though, the time comes for Her, Alicia, Moondragon, the Thing, and Starhawk to transport to the planet surface to conduct their grim mission, made possible by Sphinxor releasing the portion of the planet's stasis field where Warlock's grave is located. Under the circumstances, it's an eerie gathering, considering that the entire world's population is inanimate and unaware that their planet is now located in a different part of the galaxy, headed toward an unknown fate.  Strange that the Thing, as a member of the Fantastic Four, feels no responsibility to confront the Beyonders, as he surely would if the population of the true Earth had been so threatened; it appears to be one aspect of this story that Gruenwald, who is normally diligent in his coverage of such points, prefers not to touch on.

Given that the scene is given only the last three pages of this story to unfold, it stands to reason that we shouldn't get our hopes up that it will yield anything substantive in regard to Warlock, much less sending the character out into the universe again, filled with renewed purpose. Rather, it's Her who is the scene's focus, and who should be--a nascent being like Him who seeks a purpose, and a future, and even love, but whose search might likewise end up being unfulfilled. It's too early to make that judgment for Her--but if her experience on Counter-Earth is any indication, her future will remain uncertain.

Gruenwald's closing narrative fittingly provides the character of Her with a send-off of sorts before she departs--so much like Him in this stage of her development in terms of having no grasp of understanding of her nature or what she really wants out of life, now that this first step has met with such disappointment. Even so, Her has perhaps learned more than Moondragon, who sees in Her only an opportunity for self-improvement and who exhibits none of the insight and empathy she demonstrated following the deaths of Michael and Carina, two others she identified with but whose struggle to gain their own ends collapsed.

It's Starhawk who, not surprisingly, had a better take on the departure of Her--and Alicia, as well, who remarked to Ben that "Perhaps even persons as different as you and me have a better chance at happiness than people 'made' for each other" and hoped that was something Her would someday discover. It's no doubt one of many things awaiting discovery by one who already considers herself to be perfect as is.

Marvel Two-In-One #63

Script: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Jerry Bingham
Inks: Gene Day
Letterer: Joe Rosen


Big Murr said...

I dunno. These sorts of stories are always a bit dodgy. Untangling and re-knotting the snarl that is Marvel Continuity is such an exercise in futility when you know a year later some other writer will unravel it all and add his/her own knots.

The only high point that hit me when I first saw these issues was the return of Sphinxor. I thought it quite a twist that the narrator-host of "Strange Tales" #178 that re-introduces the world the character of Warlock should make a reappearance, and as a giant!

Comicsfan said...

What a cool piece of trivia, Murray, thanks! (But you know, Sphinxor could have been a giant in that Warlock story, too!)

Anonymous said...

It's a pretty good space opera. And it's always fun to see Ben Grimm play off these cosmic types.
I've noticed that the High Evolutionary always did seem to have a high opinion of himself. Always gotta be the tallest guy in the room. Or on the planet, like when Galactus tried to eat Counter Earth.


Comicsfan said...

Fortunately for the Evolutionary, M.P., Sphinxor was no Galactus! ;)