Wednesday, February 27, 2019

At The Will Of Doom!

After foiling a scheme by Doctor Doom that transferred the villain's mind to the body of Daredevil and vice versa, in order to facilitate a scheme of revenge against the Fantastic Four (because Daredevil is so much more formidable to the FF than Doom--someone explain that to me), the Man Without Fear was frankly surprised to find Doom willing to release him without further incident. But there is often method to Doom's madness--and his revenge against the super-team could still succeed with his use of Daredevil, with just a slight bit of tweaking.

And so the FF are now gunning for Daredevil while under the impression that Doom is using his body, with Daredevil none the wiser! Granted, it's a longshot on Doom's part, since the FF vs. Daredevil can be considered no contest and the FF aren't in the business of murder. But Doom will no doubt chalk it up as a win, for its amusement value if nothing else--and as for Daredevil going down fairly quickly in this skirmish, from the surprise guest-stars in this story it appears we're looking at a cover-to-cover battle issue, and all-out war!

And consider this interesting tidbit: While it's true that an earlier story featuring the Sub-Mariner's hunt for Warlord Krang played out in both Tales To Astonish and Tales Of Suspense, do the stories in Daredevil #38 and Fantastic Four #73 represent Marvel's first mainstream crossover tale?

Monday, February 25, 2019

"Slay Your Enemies!"

If you ever looked for a brief change of scenery outside of the regular comics titles you picked up, and yet didn't really want to make a commitment beyond a few issues, you probably sampled a few of Marvel's various Limited Series that were published beginning in the 1980s and extending into the early 2000s. If so, you may appreciate the 2006 six-issue series, Beyond!, which I'll have to admit is one of the few comics which sold me on the first issue because of the sci-fi style of its masthead.

Yet the book's title has connotations, er, "beyond" the sensational and the vast void of outer space. Written by Dwayne McDuffie with art by Scott Kolins (the latter whom you may remember from his work on the Earth's Mightiest Heroes series from 2005), the story is an interesting follow-up of the Secret Wars concept from the mid-1980s which had sizable groups of both heroes and villains abducted and brought to an alien world to take part in a conflict that would have them at each others' throats. Unlike its predecessor, however, Beyond! had no commercial build-up associated with it, no ominous launch, no crossovers with its cast of characters and their own respective titles, and (as far as I know) no licensing deals for action figures. It does, obviously, depend in part on reader familiarity with what the word "Beyond" signifies in the Marvel universe--but there are sufficient alterations in its plot to tug at your curiosity and have you investing yourself in the story on its own merits. And yes, the Beyonder can again be said to be the driving force of this story, in a manner of speaking--the meaning of which becomes clear when the story reaches its climax.

As for the characters involved this time around, we can already see that they all make up a single group of nine, rather than distinctive opposing sides--yet the group is diverse enough so that some could respond to the Beyonder's standard word-for-word challenge of being granted "all they desire" should they "slay their enemies." At the story's beginning, those individuals are: Henry Pym, the Wasp, Gravity, Medusa, Firebird, Spider-Man, Kraven the Hunter (son of Sergei Kravinoff), Venom, and the Hood. And while one-third of this group immediately stand out as those most likely to adhere to the Beyonder's conditions to the letter and slay their enemies for a prize such as what the Beyonder offers, there is one in particular who wastes no time making it clear to everyone how little value he holds for human life should push come to shove.

McDuffie and Kolins clearly have a way of getting our attention--and yes, we're indeed seeing this story's first fatality, as shocking as it seems. Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! Two of these three claims will turn out to be true; the third, not so much, though there's more to it than meets the eye.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Recycled Vengeance Of The Destroyer!

It's hard to believe that the Destroyer--a raging powerhouse whose sole purpose in life was to put an end to Thanos, the mad Titan--would once again want to seek out Captain Marvel with the intent of killing him, blaming him for ending Thanos' life himself and thereby depriving the Destroyer of his life's mission. It was a faulty premise which drove their previous clash, given that Thanos had actually survived Mar-vell's fatal strike on the Cosmic Cube and thus remained alive for the Destroyer to subsequently deal with; but the battle between the Destroyer and Mar-vell finally ended when the Destroyer at last sensed the location of Thanos, putting an end to his building frustration which led to his lashing out at Mar-vell.

But some water had gone under the bridge in the Captain Marvel title since then--fifteen issues' worth (which for a bi-monthly publication works out to 2½ years), including a new writer/artist team and a new direction, though obviously not new enough to prevent recycling this storyline albeit with a twist. For the details, let's pick things up in deep space, where the Destroyer is once again bemoaning his unending state of frustration at being denied his destiny--because in spite of the knowledge he gained on where to find Thanos, his target eludes him still. For other events have occurred since the Destroyer resumed his search for Thanos--another clash with the Titan involving Mar-vell and the Avengers, and, at long last, his death, this time at the searing hands of Warlock.

Yet the Destroyer will once more lay the blame for that act at Mar-vell's door.

Good grief! Didn't we just leave this party?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Destroyer! Destroyer!

Let's get right to the pulse-pounding action, shall we?

It all begins with this shy, mild-mannered fellow.
Who has serious anger management issues.

It's not too many of us who would choose to blow off steam by annihilating an entire world, and then maybe following up by plunging our hands into a star (a star, mind you) and ripping apart its core. (All right, depending on the day we'd had, some of us would probably start with the star.) But that should give you an idea of the sheer destructive potential of the aptly-named Destroyer, once a mere Earth mortal who was resurrected by Kronos (one of the original Olympian Titans, now a near-deity) and charged with a single task: to destroy Thanos, the very being who caused his own death and that of his wife in the Nevada desert. Yet in early 1976, the Destroyer's mega-tantrum as we're seeing it here takes place after Thanos had already met his end--at the swift-striking hand of Captain Marvel, who destroyed the monster's link with the Cosmic Cube and, presumably, the monster himself.

So what does the Destroyer still have to be enraged about?

How about the fact that Kronos, in his *COUGH* infinite wisdom *COUGH*, gave the Destroyer a single driving force to consume his new life--yet with Thanos having met destruction, and not at the hands of the Destroyer, the universe is left with a raging engine of pure destruction who can never know satisfaction or fulfillment, and certainly not peace.

And so what direction can the Destroyer turn to? What box is left for him to check off?

For the Destroyer, that seems to be a no-brainer: REVENGE!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Gene Colan's Dr. Doom: The Living Prison!

Having looked at artist Gene Colan's work with Doctor Doom from 1971 as it appeared in Astonishing Tales, followed by a three-part Sub-Mariner story from 1972 where Doom came into conflict with M.O.D.O.K., we now circle back to 1968 to find Colan's earliest work with the Master of Menace. We haven't seen Daredevil clash with Doom since their meeting during the so-called Battle of the Baxter Building--but here, writer Stan Lee has something completely different in mind (a pun which will become clear in a moment), as Doom devises his latest plot to gain revenge on the Fantastic Four.

By this time, Colan has drawn the Daredevil title for nearly a year and a half and succeeded in putting his distinctive stamp on the character, so there couldn't be a better time to witness his treatment of the fighting styles of both DD and Doom in a second meeting. But without spoiling things too much, you shouldn't expect a knock-down drag-out between them, since we wouldn't exactly be witnessing a battle of equals; in fact, the graphic we see here by Colan of the two duking it out (well, one of them is) speaks volumes as to which of them has the greater likelihood of prevailing. Yet there's enough novelty in Lee's approach to satisfy the reader and at least keep things interesting, though the most action that "Doom" will see is in battling his own henchmen.

To bring us up to speed as to the circumstances which bring Doom and DD together, let's have a quick recap of the events that led us up to this point:

  • The Trapster launches his own scheme of revenge against the FF--but first he has to regain his confidence, by seeking out and killing a hero he considers to be far less trouble (i.e., Daredevil).
  • With the help of a few of the Wizard's anti-gravity discs, the Trapster pastes a number of them on DD, sending him soaring into the sky and to his eventual death. Yet the Trapster's trademark super-paste is usually only as super as the writer allows--and DD manages to dislodge and discard all but the single disc he needs to retain on his person in order to descend back to Earth safely. (Tsk. Time was when one disc would have done the job, Wiz.)
  • DD returns in time to foil the Trapster's plans for the FF, but the wily villain manages to give DD a run for his money before he's finally brought down in a railway station.
  • Unfortunately, in trying to prevent serious injury to the Trapster, DD wrenches his back. And though the Trapster is taken into custody by the police and carted off to jail, amazingly no one stays to assist the injured DD.

But look who does show up to take care of him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gene Colan's Dr. Doom: Who Shall Possess The Dream Stone?

While some of us may remember writer Gerry Conway's treatment of Dr. Doom from his run on Fantastic Four, his first crack at the character appears to have taken place in the pages of Astonishing Tales in 1971, before moving on to feature him in a more expanded story nearly a year later in Sub-Mariner, where Namor had lapsed into amnesia following the death of his father. Turning the page on a Conway story often translates to seeing its characters in a perpetually dour frame of mind; but Conway's take on Doom is often a pleasure to see, given that the character fits so well into that mold--with Doom's mania carefully held in check, leaving us with a man who is both cultured and deadly, a model of control and calculation.

Yet a scripter is also generally obliged to take his cue from the artist in regard to setting the mood for his or her characters.  In this case, artist Gene Colan--who pencilled the Sub-Mariner when the character returned as a feature in Tales To Astonish in 1965 and also worked his magic with both Daredevil and Doom in early 1968--turns out to be an exquisite fit for Doom in appearance and temperament, with Conway's style, in turn, fitting Doom like a glove.

As time went on, Namor and Doom would repeatedly flirt with the idea of becoming allies, with one often trying to convince the other that not only would they make "natural" allies but that they also pursue similar goals. Our featured story, which continues the PPC's look this week at Colan's work with Doom, is somewhat different in that Doom seeks no formal alliance with Namor; in addition, Namor's amnesia, a plot device which was already in danger of being overused even at this early point in the character's history, would presumably complicate things for Doom since Namor has even less reason than usual to side with Doom in any endeavor. Yet as we'll see, Conway manages to deftly work his way around both concerns--and this three-part story, while being more Doom's show than Namor's, helps to raise the profile of the Sub-Mariner book considerably, as both men face the power-hungry creation of A.I.M. known as M.O.D.O.K. in a desperate play to take possession of nothing less than the Cosmic Cube!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Gene Colan's Dr. Doom: King vs. King!

Having previously taken a look at artist Gene Colan's early work with the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange, it seems only fitting that we sample the other end of the spectrum and bring together a collection of his work featuring the Master of Menace, Doctor Doom, a character that Colan lent his distinctive touch to in stories from the late 1960s to the early '70s.

The PPC will gather together and present a select grouping of those stories this week.  To start us off, we spin the wheel of fortune and land on a tale from the "tail" end of summer, 1971, which actually is something of a landmark issue that not only sees Doom's first foray into Wakanda, but also finding him crossing paths for the first time with T'Challa, the Black Panther. It's a gem of a story tucked into the double-billed Astonishing Tales book, where Doom shared the mag with the jungle lord, Ka-zar.*

*And getting second billing, at that. Incomprehensible as it seems, there was a time when Marvel judged Ka-zar to be more of a reader draw than Dr. Doom; to add injury to insult, Doom was edged out of the book entirely after only eight issues, leaving Ka-zar to have a healthy (if bi-monthly) solo run in the title for the next twenty-two issues. (Looks like the House of Ideas may have been onto something, at that.)

Artist George Tuska handles the art for the story's first half, which provides the foundation for Doom's involvement in Wakandan affairs and his subsequent conflict with T'Challa. We can break it down briefly as follows:

  • In order to build a fleet of rockets constructed with Vibranium so that they will never go off course, Doom "interrogates" (which is putting it mildly) an African native who finally breaks and reveals where to find the ore: the nation of Wakanda, where Doom sends a sophisticated scanning device to map the deposits' exact coordinates.
  • To reach Wakanda and mine the Vibranium, Doom boards his nuclear-powered Excavator and tunnels all the way to Africa. Once in position, the ship's mining activities begin causing massive surface damage to Wakanda, enough to warrant an emergency message to Avengers Mansion where it's received by you-know-who.
  • Amidst the carnage, T'Challa vows to his people to find the one(s) responsible. To that end, he descends into a newly-erupted volcano, where he believes he can survive the molten lava thanks to having "the speed and agility of a jungle cat." (Note: Leopards, cheetahs, and yes, panthers generally stay clear of live volcanoes, probably because they have the good sense to know without even getting near them that they can't survive there.)
  • While Doom is conducting repairs on a mechanism from the Excavator, he sets aside his weapon, which is retrieved to use against him. We know the culprit isn't a jungle cat--but it is someone dressed like one.

And not only does the Panther make his entrance, but so does Mr. Colan.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Earth's Mightiest Feud

Dissension In The Ranks

When resentments and disagreements boil over,
even allies can turn against each other in fierce battle that can bring the house down.

(And often does!)


Iron Man and Wonder Man

Oh for the days when the phrase "Its Avenger vs. Avenger!" lit up a caption--when one Avenger lashed out at another after heated words were exchanged. Imagine if other groups acted like the Avengers, and actually resolved their disagreements or arguments with violence, as if they were starring in a western. How politicians avoid coming to blows is a genuine mystery. Baseball teams break out in fights en masse at the drop of a hat, and yet politicians are content to score biting verbal zingers with each other and leave it at that. Thank goodness for decorum.

It's hard to liken an Avenger to a politician--yet our two Avengers featured here didn't come to actual blows from their feud which took place across a span of 20+ issues of West Coast Avengers, despite having plenty of opportunity to do so. As far as we can tell, the trouble started when Wonder Man started making it big in Hollywood and began treating his Avengers stint and his status as a hero as indulgences that satisfied his ego rather than as a commitment. And Iron Man began to take notice.

The problem was that Iron Man, as a founding member of the team who had solid credentials in the hero business and a reputation which spoke for itself, also had an ego--and when Wonder Man began stepping on his toes, he began doing a little stepping of his own. Naturally, the dispute soon reached a point when one blamed the other for not only starting it, but escalating matters.

Iron Man is of course referring to the fact that back in the day, Simon Williams wasn't exactly the poster boy for business ethics:

As we're seeing, things really begin to heat up between them when the team finds itself trapped in the past after one of their foes sabotages Dr. Doom's time machine so that it only transports its user(s) backward in time. During one such jaunt, Mockingbird, Hawkeye's wife, is captured by the Phantom Rider just as the time platform carrying the others activates--after which, Wonder Man makes his boldest move yet to raise his profile on the team (and leap-frog over Iron Man in the process).

Yet when Hawkeye is injured, Iron Man pulls rank that nullifies Wonder Man's end run--but the altercation can't help but create more friction between them, to the point of the rest of the team taking notice of their ongoing quarrel.

Finally, Hawkeye's injury reaches the point where he has no choice but to temporarily step down as Chairman, and name a replacement. If the Avengers had continued rotating the position as they used to, there wouldn't have been an issue here--but there is, and Wonder Man is furious about how it's resolved.

Striking a bargain with the Egyptian god Khonshu (as only Hawkeye can), his injuries are mended and he recovers--but the situation between Wonder Man and Iron Man is spiralling out of control, with no end in sight.

Finally, the WCA return to their own time and confront the alien known as Dominus (which might ring a bell with X-Men readers), who was under the belief that he'd dealt with the team for good when he sent them on a one-way ticket to the past. This time, however, the Avengers triumph; yet when Dominus attempts escape, Iron Man, Espirita (a/k/a Firebird), and Wonder Man take off after him, hoping to overtake him before his vessel leaves Earth's atmosphere.

However, Wonder Man becomes a liability when he fails to consider his method of propulsion during his ascent--and while Iron Man makes the right call in turning back to save him, the antagonism between them erupts as a result.

But it's when they return to their compound that Wonder Man, already on the fence in regard to dedicating himself to his movie career vs. his desire to be an Avenger, is given food for thought by his agent--words that finally appear to sink in for him.

For all intents and purposes, this argument is set aside from this point on. Thanks to his solo battle with the Abomination in the following issue, Wonder Man gains new perspective on his status as an Avenger and reaffirms his commitment to the team, relegating his film career to the back burner whenever his Avengers duties take precedence. His dissension with Iron Man remained an issue; but whatever writer Steve Englehart had in mind for resolving the dispute between the two was never followed up on, as Tony Stark becomes obsessed with dealing with those who have taken advantage of his armor's stolen tech (the Armor Wars storyline) and is later forced to resign from the Avengers because of the lines he crosses with the law.

By the time he rejoined the team, he did so under false pretenses, with Stark presumed dead from his battle with Firepower and the team under the impression that another man was wearing the Iron Man armor--and with Englehart having departed by then, that seemed to be that as far as the two having any reason to continue their war of one-upmanship.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

"Crisis On Counter-Earth!"

Having recently seen how it all started for the "man-god" named Warlock, let's jump ahead to the series that came about as a result of that promising beginning: The Power of... Warlock, given the green light after only two appearances in the pages of Marvel Premiere, with its first issue hitting the stands in August of 1972. Published on a bi-monthly basis, the book reunited Warlock's creative team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, with Tom Sutton replacing Dan Adkins on inks--though Thomas, as was his custom during his spree of creating new '70s titles, almost immediately handed off the reins to another writer--in this case, Mike Friedrich.

During its time, the book struggled creatively as well as commercially, with artist Bob Brown replacing Kane who had departed after five issues, while the returning Thomas and science fiction writer Ron Goulart would alternate with Friedrich. But by its eighth issue, or likely even sooner, the writing was on the wall--as well as in one of those dreaded announcement boxes that unfortunately appeared in a few of those '70s books that were cranked out and thrown to the wolves:

"At the possibly most climactic point in Adam Warlock's brief career, the vise of economics has gotten us in its squeeze! This issue, regretably [sic], is the final one for the golden gladiator under his own title.

"Frankly, we don't know quite what went wrong. We believe we've presented you a succession of well-written, well-drawn stories, full of the exciting action we all read comics for, yet with a gentle prodding of the mind as well. But in any case, the newsstands report that not enough of you bought our adventures to make it profitable to continue. If anything should report in that would change this disappointing picture, we promise to begin anew at the drop of a soul-jewel."

Writer/artist Jim Starlin would give the character his own "Marvel premiere" nearly a year and half later with a four-issue try-out in Strange Tales that ran bi-monthly from February-August in 1975, which led to launching Warlock once more in his former series and simply picking up the book's numbering where it left off. (Smack dab in the middle of a new, unrelated storyline, no less. Hopefully new readers of the character who were collecting back issues of The Power of... Warlock were able to follow the paper trail!)

But what to do in the interim?

A few irons were left in the fire before the 1972-73 series folded. But only two are of importance to bring forward: First, the status of the High Evolutionary, who is still keeping tabs on Warlock's progress to bring peace to the inhabitants of Counter-Earth:

And secondly, the resolution of Warlock's confrontation of his primary antagonist--the Man-Beast, who has set out to avenge himself against the High Evolutionary by destroying Warlock and all he wished to accomplish on this world that the Evolutionary had such high hopes for. The fortunes of the Man-Beast have definitely improved in the course of his machinations, which include taking possession of U.S. President Rex Carpenter and thus gaining for himself and his minions the power to alter the course of events throughout the entire world--as Warlock discovers when the deception is revealed in the last issue's final panel.

To tie up the loose ends and resolve not only the fate of Warlock but also that of Counter-Earth itself, on the brink of possible global nuclear war, the story was brought over to the pages of Incredible Hulk in mid-1974, which sees the Hulk once again finding himself on this duplicate of Earth on the far side of the sun--only this time, he'll come face to face with Warlock, who seems fated to meet his end on this world he swore to save.

But we know that Mr. Starlin's project didn't feature a corpse--so what really happened?