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!

The truth is, Thanos has already risen from the grave (much like the revived Warlock title, in which he guest-stars); but the Destroyer is frustrated by the fact that he cannot sense his enemy's location, and the universe is vast enough that his search could take an eternity (if he's lucky). Frustration is still no reason for him to go off on Mar-vell, of course--but for a being like the Destroyer, with his life's purpose consuming his every thought yet being unable to do anything about it, his frenzied state must have him approaching madness by now. More on that train of thought in a moment.

As for Mar-vell, he and Rick Jones are currently on their way to Deneb IV, thanks to an enigmatic plan set in motion by the Kree Supreme Intelligence and facilitated by their transportation, a space-worthy robot mule borrowed from a prospector following a conflict with the Stranger. But for reasons of his (its?) own, the Intelligence wishes Mar-vell and the Destroyer to cross paths--and so "Rusty" the mule inexplicably breaks down near a deserted moon, just as a dangerous, fixated alien rants at his lot in life and closes in. Mar-vell has already "heard" the Destroyer's scream across the void, though he has no clue yet as to its source--nor does he realize that his moments of life may be numbered.

Now if you're thinking that there's no way we'll see Mar-vell plunging into any stars, let alone surviving without so much as being singed, it's also probably occurred to you that he has no chance against the Destroyer, despite his moves and his optimism. The Destroyer is much like the Hulk, in the respect that he keeps coming for you, and his single-minded purpose is to crush you. If a star's core has no effect on him, what are Mar-vell's kicks and punches going to accomplish in the long run?

For this story to even work as written depends a great deal on the Destroyer's near-insanity, because otherwise it makes no sense for him to lash out as he has while his enemy roams free. In other words, since Thanos is alive, the Destroyer's mission continues, and he's certainly proven to be adept at pursuing and finding his quarry. Why is he wasting time battling Mar-vell, when he could be pumping him for information? Instead, so that the battle can continue unabated, Mar-vell is made to act in tandem with the half-premise that this story began with: the Destroyer blaming Mar-vell for depriving him of his life's purpose. And Mar-vell being in the dark concerning Thanos' status really shouldn't be the case either, should it? The man is cosmically aware, a scope of perception which you'd think would be on par with that of Drax--and if the Destroyer senses that Thanos is alive, how is it that Mar-vell, the man who fought a pitched battle to defeat him, hasn't registered it?

And so in his efforts to reason with the Destroyer, the story won't allow Mar-vell to point out to his foe that he hasn't been deprived of anything. Unfortunately, that translates to Mar-vell taking quite a beating for the duration.

And talk about going down in flames!

It should be mentioned here that Rick, who now wears one of Mar-vell's two nega-bands (thanks to the Intelligence's machinations), has been able to use it on occasion to draw power for himself, allowing him to be of more assistance and less of a burden to Mar-vell as they deal with the various threats set against them. Unknown to either of them, the Intelligence has been monitoring them, and has understandably noted with some concern the fierceness of this struggle with the Destroyer, though mostly because it has diverted Mar-vell overlong from the Intelligence's plans for him. Fortunately, however, Mar-vell makes use of his own nega-band to save himself from his fiery plummet--and consequently, the Destroyer now has more of a fight on his hands than he'd thought.

Turnabout is certainly fair play, though for a being who rips apart whole suns it's fair to assume that the Destroyer isn't going to be harmed by a searing re-entry through this moon's atmosphere. In addition, Mar-vell has failed to notice the changes in his thoughts and demeanor--a side effect of absorbing more power through the nega-band and, unknown to Mar-vell, more of Rick's life force.

Nor has Mar-vell noticed, as the Destroyer has, the appearance of a young woman at the battle scene, the same woman who mysteriously materialized during the altercation with the Stranger--and who now unexpectedly brings an end to this conflict.

As for Mar-vell, the woman's touch not only restores his own clarity but also makes him aware of Rick's peril; but he arrives at Rick's side in time to stabilize his condition, and the two continue to Deneb IV, as the Intelligence's plans for Mar-vell move closer to fruition. Whatever those plans entail, it's becoming apparent that Mar-vell will have to play his part in them the hard way.


Would you believe--Round Two?

Captain Marvel #43
(with scenes from #44)

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils and Inks: Al Milgrom
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

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