Monday, August 30, 2021

The Revealing Of... The Enemy!


The story of Korvac--or, rather, the character we're most familiar with from a ten-month string of Avengers stories in 1978--began following his emergence from a conflict in the 31st century and into our own, where he stumbled upon a source of power that would pave the way for a greater conflict to come.

As we've learned, "Michael," as he refers to himself, had now set out to make himself the universe's benefactor and the savior of all who live by freeing all beings from the chaotic cruelty and injustice of life throughout the universe, while bringing all existence under his own "sane and benevolent rule"--words which for any reader of comics ring familiar as those spoken by many would-be oppressors who felt similarly entitled.

Like other sagas in Marvel's titles which have slowly unfolded over stretches of time (the story of "They" being one such example), this plot winding its way through the Avengers book managed to stay relevant even through shifts in the book's creative talent, as well as the turmoil which can often be found in the team's adventures--sandwiched as it was between their desperate battle with Count Nefaria and their showdown with the deadly Ultron, where the they learned that another threat was now stalking them.

More disappearances occurred both before and after the Avengers (joined by Ms. Marvel) went on to deal with the menace of Tyrak--yet unknown to them, one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, travelling from the future to head off a suspected attempt on the life of one of their members, Vance Astro, had already managed to sense the true nature of their enemy and decided to confront him. It would be a meeting which would cost Starhawk his life.

Starhawk was then sent on his way, oblivious to what had just occurred and no longer a threat to Michael. As we've also seen, Michael had been joined by Carina Walters, a fashion model he coerced to come with him but who in reality is the daughter of the Collector--sent to spy on Michael, but who had instead fallen in love with him.

In dealing with Starhawk, Michael had, in his own words, drawn first blood in the war to come--but as we backtrack and assemble the pieces of this conflict taking shape, how will even the Avengers come to know of this threat before it's too late?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

When Skrulls Take A Holiday


At the conclusion of the PPC's post on the Skrulls of Kral--a planet of Skrulls who became fascinated with Earth's gangster era from the 1920s-30s to the extent of shifting their shapes to mimic the people and culture of that period--it seemed those Skrulls were getting their just deserts from those they had captured from other worlds and enslaved to fight one another in their "Great Games," held to settle territorial disputes between Kralian gang bosses. Having broken free from their captors, thanks to the timely arrival of the Fantastic Four who had come in search of the Thing, the slaves turned on the Skrulls in revolt, making their intentions crystal clear.

But you wouldn't expect gangsters to take this sort of thing on the chin--and gangsters who are actually Skrulls, a race which doesn't particularly hold humans in high regard, might bear even more of a grudge toward those who have interfered in their affairs.

Which gives a nod to our 1928 Packard to pull up to another

Marvel Trivia Question

What became of the Kralians after the demise of the Great Games?

Monday, August 23, 2021

"Spider-Man No More!"


During those times when Marvel brought special attention to a title's 50th issue, one story which surely stood out in that respect was the fiftieth issue of Amazing Spider-Man--one of the company's flagship characters who, as Peter Parker, reaches a pivotal moment and decides to walk away from his life as the wall-crawler forever, a moment that comes across in the issue's stunning and still memorable cover by artist John Romita Sr.

Following his previous issue, you'd think things would be looking up for Spider-Man.  Having survived a near-death battle at the hands (er, wings) of Blackie Drago, the new Vulture, only to then go on to defeat the team-up of Drago and Kraven the Hunter in a hands-down victory, Spidey was feeling jubilant and riding high. But it seems the next-issue blurb in the story's closing panel, "Spider-Man No More!", was to be taken seriously--yet how could Peter's optimism take such a nose dive so quickly?

A future Avengers story which spelled disaster for the team would have Hawkeye remarking that the team had suffered "an extraordinarily bad day," and that, living the lives they do, "[they] had it coming." We won't go so far as to say that the pile-on which is about to befall Peter amounts to his just deserts--after all, if there's anyone who doesn't deserve the raw hand his life continues to deal him, it's Peter Parker--but not long after page one, Romita and writer Stan Lee do their level best to crush Peter's spirit and morale with a steadily depressing day which has him questioning his life's direction.

The fun starts when Spider-Man foils a bank robbery in progress, an accomplishment which normally would be cause for smiles and thank-yous--but the level of gratitude he receives afterward becomes almost a metaphor for how he's come to be regarded by the general public when he goes into action.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Avenger, Reassembled!


Show of hands: Who was glad that Marvel brought back the merciless Thor-clone that Tony Stark unleashed against his fellow heroes?


Nobody?? Well, a few writers apparently thought this construct was worth another look.

Introduced in the pages of the Civil War series, the cybernetic Thor-clone was produced by the efforts of Henry Pym, Tony Stark, and Reed Richards in order to give their side of the conflict an edge while conveying the impression that the real Thor had chosen to side with them rather than Captain America. Held in reserve until needed, "Thor" went on to viciously cut down Cap's forces with swaths of lightning, only to then completely cross the line and make use of another bolt to kill Bill Foster (aka Goliath) without a second thought. Once the dust had settled, a shutdown code was then sent by Richards to deactivate the cyber-clone in order to investigate what had gone wrong--but the tragedy was enough to prompt both sides to reassess their methods, as well as their convictions.

In the final struggle, however, the Thor-clone was deemed fit for reactivation and once again joined the fight against Cap's forces--only to be made short work of by Hercules, who channels former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in the scene.

But as anyone familiar with Ultron knows, anything busted up can be put back together in the realm of fiction. The question is, who aside from the mad Thinker would want to restore the Thor-clone to full functionality?

Or, for our purposes let's put it another way:

You'd be surprised at how often the Thor-clone is repaired to senselessly kill again.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Enslaved To Fight... Or Die!


Although none of us were likely aware of it at the time, a four-part story arc which played out from September to December of 1969 in the pages of Fantastic Four would be the last multi-issue storyline for the book from artist Jack Kirby--and you had only to look at its collective covers to realize that it was something of a feast for the imagination.

By this time, Kirby and his family were living in Irvine, CA--still doing a flurry of work for Marvel, though discontented with his lack of a contract or residuals (e.g., not being compensated for the art he was providing for Marvelmania, the fan club which had spun off from the defunct MMMS). After completing a three-part story in mid-1970 for his other regular title, Mighty Thor, Kirby would turn in what became his final work for that book which would appear in August of that year. But it was his work on the premiere issues of Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales, as well as fill-in work for the soon-to-be-cancelled Silver Surfer title, which would coincide with the disappointment he felt at failing to secure an equitable contract with the company, marking an end to his distinguished career at Marvel Comics.

Yet it's the FF tale we throw the spotlight on here, published just over a year and a half after the airing of "A Piece Of The Action," a Star Trek episode with which it shares certain elements--specifically, a planet whose population has patterned their own development from America's gangster culture of the 1920s. The story also takes the opportunity to focus on one member of the FF in particular--Ben Grimm, the Thing, who is targeted by a foe whose power is ideal for luring an unsuspecting victim into a trap.

Having taken a taxi to a secluded area in the countryside, there's little doubt that "Reed" is about to make his move on the Thing--and taking a glance at one of this story's covers, the nature of this enemy is all too clear. The story has also made a point of showing earlier that he's meticulously prepared well in order to capture this member of the FF--yet the question remains, why?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Comes Now... The End Of The Universe!


War has broken out in Asgard! No, strike that: War has been declared on Asgard, by the embodiment of a billion, billion tyrants whose hatred drives him not only to destroy the Asgardians but to wipe out all of existence! We refer of course to Mangog, imprisoned by Odin following his race's invasion of Asgard but rashly freed by the troll, Ulik, and who now carves a path of destruction and death toward the realm. His ultimate goal (aside from slaying Asgardians): to draw the huge weapon known as the Odinsword, which, once freed from its sheath, will bring an end to everything, and everyone.

In Part One of this story, we watched as Mangog defied all resistance of and weaponry used by the gods and went on to decimate their ranks--including, incredibly, withstanding the full power of the God of Thunder, Thor, unleashed to no avail. Yet Thor realizes that if Mangog makes it past himself and his comrades-in-arms, the beast will have a virtually unimpeded path to the Odinsword--and so Thor searches for his foe along the banks of a new river, the result of a fierce storm he created which only swept Mangog some distance away and gained himself and his group of warriors a respite (a brief one, at best). But just as Thor feared, Mangog lives--and a fateful battle begins for the survival of the entire universe!

At this day's end, will any warriors of Asgard--will anyone, anywhere--be left to mourn the fallen?

Monday, August 9, 2021

"...To Wake The Mangog!"


While the Tales Of Asgard feature tucked within the pages of Mighty Thor provided readers with more extended exposure to Asgardian armed conflicts from the past, Asgard's battle with the troll kingdom of Geirrodur gave us our first look at how the realm would fare in all-out war with an aggressor. Yet that struggle, while destructive and a clear threat to Asgard, also hinged on the trolls' captivity of an alien who was compelled to provide foreknowledge of the Asgardians' plans and strategy as well as weapons which would give Geirrodur's forces a clear advantage over Odin's warriors as well as Odin himself--and once Odin's son, Thor, dealt successfully with that aspect of the trolls' offensive, Geirrodur was forced to retreat and subsequently offer his surrender.

Apparently, the troll war must have elicited favorable reader response, as it took only a little over a year for writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby to raise the stakes considerably and launch the gods of Asgard into another life-or-death conflict, serious enough that the Asgardians came to regard it as the coming of Ragnarok. This time, these warriors, bred to battle, would fight a very one-sided war in which their combat with the trolls paled by comparison, as they found themselves pitted against the might of a billion, billion beings--all rolled into one unstoppable, revenge-crazed bruiser.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Story Terrible

OR: "Will Somebody Get This Kid A Rattle??"

In the spirit of full disclosure, the review you're about to read is one I've avoided several times during the PPC's run, simply because I've always had difficulty sitting down with the Fantastic Four story from 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, "The Infant Terrible!", an issue that always seemed to perpetually end up at the bottom of my stack of stories to look into. Among my reasons: The issue's cover design, frankly, doesn't entice me to pick up the issue, but, rather, impulsively set it aside.  Also, the appeal of Kirby's alien seems limited to kids Pre-K to second grade, and isn't really a selling point for me.  In addition, I felt the story's title was terrible in itself--while  both its cover and title page are hell-bent on making sure the reader (that would be me, in this case) wasn't put off from this story right from the start (that would again be me).

"The writer doth cajole too much, methinks" (with apologies to Hamlet's Queen Gertrude). While it's true Lee was no stranger to the hard sell, it's almost as if even he believes the FF's popularity isn't enough to carry the ball here. But on that score, you be the judge.

Monday, August 2, 2021

"To Die Like A God!"


There's certainly no shortage of wars in the realm of Asgard, home of a race of Norse warriors who rally to the call of steel-clashing war in the same way that you and I would to news of the next Avengers film. As readers, we've been lucky enough to have our pick of Asgardian wars from which to choose, whether the aggressor was the Egyptian god Seth, or Surtur (to say nothing of his bringing along his forces), or the granddaddy of all life-or-death conflicts, Ragnarok. To put it mildly, the Asgardians gird themselves for rebuilding their demolished realm as often as they sharpen their swords to meet an invader.

With all the formidable, overwhelming threats the Asgardians face in their immortal lives, then, you would think the trolls who toil in the depths of the realm wouldn't pose much of a challenge for warriors who have faced these creatures with relish, either in isolated instances or when they've joined with like-minded aggressors such as Pluto or Loki in attacks against the realm. But Asgard's warriors have learned never to underestimate the resourcefulness of trolls, a lesson that came during an all-out attack on their city and their liege which nearly led to defeat for the realm's defenders--thanks to cunning planning, a brutal mass of muscle, and a powerful, albeit unwilling, ally.