Thursday, December 15, 2022

Judgment Day (Or Not)


As an unofficial encore to Captain Marvel's role as chairwoman of the Avengers during writer Roger Stern's run on the title, those of you who have followed Stern's Marvel work and were fans as well of either The Avengers or X-Men might have caught the four-issue limited series The X-Men vs. the Avengers from mid-1987, which Stern would write ¾ of (at which time a different writer/artist team would take the reins of the story for its conclusion). The series takes place roughly between the time Captain Marvel accepts Captain America's nomination for the team's leadership position, and the Avengers' mission to Olympus which would conclude Stern's work on the book. The true focus of the series, however, would prove to be Magneto, the Master of Magnetism--and, more specifically, the resolution of the Paris trial which had been convened to hold him accountable for past crimes against the human race.

Yet the prelude to this story occurs years earlier, with the explosive arrival of an alien we would come to know in the New Mutants as Warlock.

Magneto survives the impact, thanks to the ministrations of Lee Forrester, who fishes him out of the ocean and brings him to the island where he once fought a pitched battle with the X-Men--the repercussions of which led, in part, to his trial. As for his asteroid, two sizable parts of it survive their fall to Earth a few years later, and draw the interest of not only Magneto but three super-teams which would vie to decide his ultimate fate.

Monday, December 12, 2022

In Defense of... Magneto!


No doubt "The Trial of Magneto" from late 1985 was anticipated on a number of levels by those of us who were following recent issues of Uncanny X-Men, where readers had lately been seeing the Master of Magnetism turn over a new leaf and acclimate himself to members of a team who for much of the book's history had been his most tenacious foes.  Indeed, it's his own history that remains the elephant in the room for some of the X-Men--as well as for those in government circles, foreign and domestic, who see him as nothing less than a deadly threat to humanity.

Magneto's gradual development of a conscience, as chronicled by writer Chris Claremont, has been fascinating to watch--but for the book's double-sized 200th issue, a long-awaited reckoning for Magneto finally looked to be on the horizon when Mystique, leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, decided that it was in the best interests of herself and her team members to make a deal with the Feds for amnesty in exchange for their services as super-powered operatives who report directly to the government. To that end, she approaches Valerie Cooper, Special Assistant to the President's National Security Advisor, who has taken up an aggressive posture against mutant activities and certain mutants in particular but finds Mystique's offer convincing, as well as the perfect means to remove Magneto's threat.

Against the X-Men, however, "Freedom Force," though clearly having become a tight-knit fighting unit under Mystique's leadership, proves less than equal to the task. Instead it's Magneto himself who acquiesces to his arrest in order to put the matter of his crimes to rest once and for all.

Which paves the way for a riveting anniversary issue that, when all is said and done, will have provided anything but closure on the issue of Magneto's guilt or innocence.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

And The Award of "Most Rejected" Goes To....


In 1984, not long after I'd turned 27, the second Ka-Zar solo series folded with its 34th issue--lasting fourteen issues longer than its previous bimonthly title published from 1974-77, whatever that statistic is worth. (I'll assume we're not counting the three issues published between 1970-71 as an official volume, given that they comprised reprinted material drawn from other titles where Ka-Zar was a guest-star.) If my count is correct, Ka-Zar has had five volumes of his own series to date. Volume Three, published monthly from 1997-98, lasted a whopping nineteen issues; while I leave it to you as to whether Volumes Four and Five qualify as bona fide volumes, since at the time Marvel was publishing a number of its regular series as "numbered arcs" (at least that's what I'm calling them), each numbering five issues and resetting back to issue 1 to presumably whet the interest of readers who were on the lookout for a title's First Issue. I don't know how many first issues Marvel released between 2011-2021, but heaven only knows.

My overall point being this:

The character of Ka-Zar is not, nor has he ever been, a bankable enough draw to sustain his own series.

And I single out issue #34 from '84 because its story is bookended by two virtual admissions of the fact--each written by Mike Carlin, who scripted the series' last seven issues and who will in the end arrange to present Ka-Zar himself with a dubious award that puts the character above all others in such a self-deprecating category.

First up, in "The Last Ka-Zar Picture Show," we catch Carlin in his office, commiserating with others in the Bullpen--the only problem being that he's a party of one in that respect, since it's clear everyone else at this shindig is of one mind in practically advising Ka-Zar not to let the door hit him on the way out.

Obviously Ka-Zar has become the furthest thing from Carlin's mind at this heady moment. Now why don't you pour yourself some punch, buddy?

As for Ka-Zar himself, his issue has ended with the splendid news that his wife, Shanna, is pregnant. But with his book's cancellation, Carlin has an epilogue to write--and Ka-Zar a journey to make before keeping his promise to his family, a destination that by now he's become all too familiar with.

Upon arrival, however, he must run the gamut of others who have faced the same humiliation he finds himself revisiting--but finally, he arrives to find himself Guest of Honor, in light of this land's raison d'ĂȘtre.

Pfah, Mr. Carlin. Mark Gruenwald would have provided a comprehensive "guest list" to us.

Ka-Zar's undaunted closing words may not have his readers (what's left of them) doing cartwheels, but there is a positive note to them: he'll end up boomeranging back to this place so often that he'll likely never be in danger of being demoted.

Monday, December 5, 2022

"Doom Must Fall!"


At long last, it's a pleasure for me to revisit an issue of Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. that had first caught my eye in an old house ad (most likely a reprint issue from the early 1970s) but had regrettably been long gone from the stands well after its 1968 release. (Those of you in the UK perhaps found it reprinted in the 1977 Captain Britain publication, issues 38-39.) What helped to embed the issue in my mind was of course its stunning cover by Jim Steranko.

I was reminded of this issue thanks to an upcoming PPC post regarding the final issue of Ka-Zar The Savage--specifically, its homage cover by artist Paul Neary, where our Lord of the Savage Land is doing his best to fill the boots of Nick Fury:

"Collectors' Item Last Issue!" The 34th issue of a cancelled title isn't likely to be something a reader would covet, gentlemen.

Steranko's cover is for the most part symbolic of the crisis in the issue's story, with the exception that within the pages Fury doesn't suit up for a mission in outer space (though not for lack of trying, as we'll see); and yet, taking into account the fact that Steranko had just departed the book as its writer/artist with the prior issue, he might well have had the entire cover scenario in mind for this issue had he continued. It's an eye-catching image that I would have liked to have seen to completion.

Yet the plot we have is from Roy Thomas, with the story scripted by Archie Goodwin. And the essential gist of Steranko's cover layout would appear to be intact when the crisis presents itself:

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Killraven, Warrior Of The Worlds!  (Featuring: the Martians!)


The "War Of The Worlds" feature in Amazing Adventures began in the title's eighteenth issue in May of 1973 and was published bimonthly for the entirety of its run, finally having its plug pulled near the end of 1976 after twenty-two issues--nineteen of which were scripted by writer Don McGregor, who worked with a number of artists before pairing with Craig Russell and putting their joint stamp on the book and the principal character of Killraven.

With Killraven and his band of Freemen leading the charge against the invaders and their human and once-human collaborators, it became clear almost immediately how the series was being crafted to appeal to its readers. For instance, when the guns of Killraven and his compatriot, M'Shulla, are depleted of energy (simultaneously, mind you), both men shift to a more daring approach and reach for swords and other such weapons (scooped up in a convenient museum they find themselves in) that must be wielded with a strong arm, and never look back--tools and methods reminiscent of their days in the gladiatorial pens of their youth. "Sword vs. Science Gone Mad!" declares one cover caption on its second issue (and repeated almost word for word nine issues later). It was also at that point I began seeing the Earth's Martian conquerors being pushed to the background, with the bulk of Killraven's vengeance spent on those who were imprisoning and/or experimenting on human survivors located in this complex or that.

As a result, the Martians become collectively relegated to the two-dimensional role of evil conquerors--known to feed off of humans while enjoying the spoils of conquest as they rule in tyranny. It's a rather black-and-white view of this invasion, and the invaders, that even McGregor seems to be on board with, judging by the opening page of his initial issue:

There is only a single issue in the series where McGregor and Russell would explore the Martians (or two of them, at least) in greater depth (more on that shortly); but in an effort to briefly shift the focus back to the beings who started this "war" (though at this stage it could more accurately be referred to as an "occupation"), let's collate what limited scenes are available in regard to their direct involvement, while taking a look as well at those chosen few who are unswerving loyalists to their demands.

Monday, November 28, 2022

By Namor Betrayed!


I had every reason to expect good things from What If #41 from October of 1983 (which happened to hit the stands around my 26th birthday), given that its premise was to take a different approach to the interference of Paul Destine (the man known as Destiny) in the Sub-Mariner's life, and the man's role in the destruction of the realm of Atlantis where Namor's mother (Princess Fen) and grandfather (Emperor Thakorr) met their deaths.

And yet, I was left disappointed on several fronts after reading this forty-page tale, a story which held promise but for much of its content lacked depth (so to speak). Written by Alan Zelenetz (whom you Conan readers may be familiar with), its artists (Marc Silvestri and Mel Candido) turn in pages that provide Zelenetz with ample opportunity to give this story weight and bring its characters to life; instead, you may find that these characters mostly play to type and offer little to compel any investment on the reader's part. For argument's sake, however, there's very little meaningful characterization to draw on at this particular point in time in regard to the Atlanteans, and to Namor, beyond what we were given in Golden Age stories (barring any development provided to Namor in his time with the Invaders). That's not meant to offer an excuse for the bare-bones presentation offered by Zelenetz... nor imply an effort made to provide the story with some measure of authenticity, which admittedly would be a stretch on my part.

Irregardless, we're left to read these characters as presented. Namor here is much like he was in his reappearance in 1962--quick to pass judgment, seeing things only in black and white, a royal Atlantean at his grandfather's beck and call; Byrrah, deceptive and manipulative with an eye on the throne; Krang, ambitious and as much of an opportunist as Byrrah; and the Atlanteans, a fickle people prone to fall in line and believe whatever well-spun lies are delivered to them in a desperate hour. Descriptions which make the grand two-page introduction of Atlantis itself appear to be a facade, and ripe for disaster.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Even More Emissaries Of Evil!


While clearly alliterative, the name of the group of villains who comprised the Emissaries of Evil seemed to come up short--after all, what villain would want to be regarded as an "emissary"? Are they an evildoer, or a messenger? Diplomatic, rather than deadly. "Greetings... we're here to bring you the evil that we harbor toward you" or, closer to the mark, something that indicates they've been sent by someone even more evil: "We come bearing a message from our master: 'Die!' " Yet in comics, alliteration goes a long way when you add an exclamation point--and those who would join the Emissaries club took their role seriously, even though I doubt the "Emissaries of Evil" was a name they could use as a form of intimidation toward those they went after, or even to strike fear into their targets. The Masters of Evil grabbed the really good name in those respects.

There was only one grouping of Emissaries who formed up and operated on their own volition, and that turned out to be the original team (though I'm probably being generous with that noun) from 1967, with Electro getting first billing as the one who gathered them together:

As was the case with the the Sinister Six in the first Amazing Spider-Man Annual, Daredevil would initially battle the Emissaries one by one; but going the ASM Annual one better, the DD issue, as we've seen, would provide a finale where Daredevil faced and battled the entire group. But under what circumstances did other groupings of evil Emissaries stick with that dopey name assemble over the years?

That's our cue to assemble yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

Who made up the ranks of the Emissaries of Evil between the years 1976-1998?

Monday, November 21, 2022

Return Of The Gods!


When my comics collecting had begun to wane after the turn of the century, it was a welcome surprise to see a new volume of Thor appear on the stands in 2007--its third volume (if you're not counting the 1962-66 issues of Journey Into Mystery separately) and of particular interest, with its characters reappearing to chart their own destiny after having at last broken the cycle of Ragnarok and freeing themselves from the specter of doom which, given its perpetrators, had literally shadowed their existence. Initially plotted and written by J. Michael Straczynski, the volume would comprise thirty-five issues that would conclude in a series of crossovers which would see the end of Norman Osborn's rise to power, as well as the return of Steve Rogers to the land of the living.

This new series would have a bumpy ride in terms of its publishing schedule, going back and forth between a monthly and bi-monthly (even tri-monthly) status--in addition to mirroring the fluctuating issue numbering of other titles which resumed their original numbering at a certain point, with Thor taking advantage of its 600th issue by picking up that number after its first twelve issues. Yet it's the initial stories by Straczynski (who would depart the book after fifteen issues) which offer the most promise for the character--as Thor experiences a rebirth after nearly three years (our time) off the stands and, afterward, strives to seek out and return to a state of existence his fellow Asgardians. Yet Thor, himself, would be guided back to life by the last character we would expect--Donald Blake, whose final fate Straczynski glosses over using the essence of wonderment and the unknown, and who will come to play a compelling part in the formative issues of this series.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

These Odds and Ends Approved by Princess Zanda


Recently, I had occasion to go through a lot of graphics files that have been collecting dust over the years--looking them over after so long, clearing out the chaff, that sort of thing. Many of them consisted of content for old blog posts long since completed; some were curated as fodder for framework ideas for either home or office; and there were a few curiosities in the mix that evoked my earliest days of collecting comics memorabilia, a sort of digital "scrapbook" I hadn't even realized I was contributing to. By contrast, however, there were also a few such images that had me wondering just what I'd intended for them, but for whatever reason decided not to pursue or preferred to put on the back burner indefinitely.

Yet there were enough of these to share with Peerless Power readers and perhaps convey the same mixture of nostalgia and curiosity that I still have toward them--a sort of "grab bag" of comics tidbits that will hopefully evoke some thoughts on your part, as well.

We can start off with a montage of Alex Ross renderings that never made it to a wall hanging, but were most suitable for throwing together a desktop wallpaper montage:

(And if you're wondering why there's a Batman/Green Hornet graphic among the Marvel scenes, the only explanation I have is that it was too awesome not to have on my desktop! :) )

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Final Fate of Counter-Earth!


If you were a reader of Bronze Age comics, then you've probably run across a few stories featuring the doomed world of Counter-Earth--a duplicate of our own Earth which was positioned in orbit on the far side of the sun, created with the best of intentions by the High Evolutionary in order to be home to a race of humanity which had none of the violent tendencies of those populating our own world (which is where I suppose the "counter" in its name comes from). Introduced in the origin story of the character who came to be known as (Adam) Warlock, we watched in shock and sadness as one of the Evolutionary's earlier creations, the vengeful Man-Beast, took advantage of the Evolutionary's lapse into a deep sleep after his labors to board the scientist's moonship and unravel his work by introducing the savage traits of our own species to those on the Evolutionary's new world--a world that the Man-Beast now declared "beyond redemption."

With the Evolutionary poised to destroy his work in order to erase the tragedy of a second Earth now a violent mirror of the first, Warlock, a witness to the travesty, offered to do what he could to fight the Man-Beast's influence on this world and prove to the Evolutionary that this race was deserving of life. The bargain was accepted, and Warlock succeeded in at least bringing an end to the Man-Beast. (Or so he believed at the time.)

In the interim, we were treated to several stories in other titles that involved the humans of Counter-Earth--the Hulk having the occasion to encounter that Earth's Bruce Banner, and, later, being helpless to save Warlock from falling into the hands of the Man-Beast and being put to death (or so it seemed). Counter-Earth also found itself vulnerable to a certain world-ravager whom the High Evolutionary met in defiance:

Over the years, we've seen other instances of Counter-Earths take their place in comics lore. If I remember correctly (I wasn't exactly enamored with stories having to do with Onslaught), the "pocket dimension" created by Franklin Richards to shunt those heroes who sacrificed their lives meeting the attack of Onslaught housed a planet that was given the name "Counter-Earth," a world eventually brought into our universe and renamed "Planet Doom" (after the good Doctor) and later visited by the Thunderbolts. In addition, the Evolutionary took another crack at creating another Counter-Earth--this one inhabited by his New Men (though they'd find the Evolutionary less of a benefactor), while at one time even attempting to merge his creation with our own Earth.

But as for the first world to be known as Counter-Earth--well, we did, regrettably, use the word "doomed" in its introduction, to be sure.

Which dooms us to explore yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

What was the fate of the original Counter-Earth?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

"The Heroes and the Holocaust!"


In 1981, Marvel Treasury Edition brought to an end its seven-year series with its "final edition" (so to speak) that featured characters from both Marvel and DC Comics in a whopping 68-page story--long overdue for a presentation in the PPC and, as a real treat for yours truly, one which I'm looking at myself for the first time, having initially passed on it at the counter over forty years ago.

Given the listing of credits, it's no wonder that DC gave its approval to those assigned to the job:

  • Pencils: John Buscema, arguably Marvel's biggest gun on story art at the time;
  • Inks: Nine different artists inking Buscema's backgrounds, with Joe Sinnott handling all of the characters;
  • Letters: Joe Rosen, brother to fellow Marvel letterer Sam Rosen*;
  • Front cover art: John Romita (layouts) and Bob Larkin

*In such stellar creative company, I almost expected to see Sam Rosen's name joining them; but by this point, he'd left Marvel, his final (albeit incomplete) work for the company having been submitted about nine years prior. But I think you'll find that Joe turns in exemplary work on this story.

While on scripting, we have Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, with plotting suggestions submitted by Marv Wolfman--though initially different arrangements had been made, as Mr. Shooter explains**:

   "I picked Marv Wolfman to write the book for a number of reasons: he was a marquee name and deservedly so, he was in New York, conveniently, he was absolutely reliable, and most of all because he really, really wanted to do it.
   "Somewhere in the middle of plotting, Marv’s employment agreement expired. We weren’t able to come to terms on a new one. He had an offer from DC, and opted to take it. So, Marvel was obliged to provide another acceptable writer. I was the only Marvel writer who had written both Superman and Spider-Man. I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands, but neither did the other leading candidates. So, I took it on. DC had no objection."

**Condensed for brevity. You can find Shooter's full and fascinating remembrances of this project on his blog, in three parts.

Predictably, there are a number of things to look forward to here, as those of you already familiar with this edition know. For one thing, it's a fine overall story. The beginning lays out its direction with Spider-Man's discovery of suspicious activity; the heat is turned up a bit by out of the ordinary behavior on the part of the incredible Hulk (if one can even use the word "ordinary" in regard to his actions); Superman arrives and begins his own investigation, leading him to the doorstep of the Latverian Embassy and you-know-who; there's the added variable of the man named Parasite, an energy-draining character who had been imprisoned by Superman but becomes aligned with Doom; there is also Wonder Woman's presence, lured by Dr. Doom to New York for some unknown reason; while Spider-Man's own progress in the investigation leads to joining with Superman against both Doom and Parasite.

The key player in leading us through this story's developments, however, would be Doom--whom we come across early on and provides us with the knowledge of an ongoing plan that brings him closer to world domination. This early in Shooter's story we're provided with no specifics as yet; yet the master of menace, and manipulation, will be responsible for a good deal of what you and I will see from this point going forward.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Planet Of The Apes!


Given the admittedly shameless aspect to this post's bait-and-switch title, it's understandable if those of you dropping in on the PPC today were expecting to see something like the following--a concept which is still kicking up steam long after its first film debuted in 1968 and carved a successful franchise that continued to 1973 and beyond which, as of this date, has collectively grossed $2,127.776,430 worldwide. That's a lot of bananas.


Like Lucy van Pelt, who graciously balanced a football on the ground so that Charlie Brown could have the opportunity to run up and kick it--only to snatch it away the moment before his foot made contact, and consequently causing him to spectacularly crash to the ground, flat on his back--we regret to inform you that this post's title refers instead to a similar yet separate subject altogether. Namely:

Have you noticed the number of characters in comics which are based on or actually are, if only in part, simians--e.g., APES?

Yes, it's those characters who beckon us today, not some actors in furry suits who, along with their film crews, raked in over $2 billion at the box office. Who needs 'em? Today, we explore the apes who populate Marvel's Planet Earth. We bring you, instead, Marvel's own...

(With maybe a Beast or two thrown in!)

Monday, October 31, 2022

There's No Place Like Hala


It was after Captain Marvel and Rick Jones had wrapped up their involvement in the trial of the Watcher that the pair returned to Earth and resumed their own separate lives. For Rick, that meant attempting to pick up the pieces of his performing career; but as for Mar-vell, he would take a respite and say his farewells to comrades and friends before leaving Earth for his homeworld of Hala to report to the Kree Supreme Intelligence on the activities of the renegade Kree who called themselves the Lunatic Legion, as well as, for all intents and purposes, formalizing the end of his original mission on Earth and taking his place once more as a Kree.

Yet it struck me as a curious--and, frankly, implausible--pivot for the character on the part of writer Steve Englehart. After all, this was the same Captain Marvel who emerged as one with the universe following a reckoning with his past initiated by the being called Eon:

And yet, thanks to narrative that elbows aside those new convictions with a simple "But that's in the past!", he's now ready and willing to return to the Kree, a conquering race that embraces war as a way of life, and... what? Somehow remain neutral? Reclaim his former rank in title only? Restrict himself to the service of the Supreme Intelligence which groomed him and accorded him honor? What does "taking my place as a Kree once more" mean, exactly--and how does the "protector" Mar-vell not find the concept of rejoining the people and way of life he walked away from abhorrent?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Sting(s) Of The Scorpion!


Having recently looked in on the goings-on of the Scorpion, resurfacing following his incarceration by the insidious Mister Kline, let's now look back over seven years prior to those events, to when Mac Gargan began his career as the tailed villain--courtesy of the checkbook of J. Jonah Jameson, who also finances a hard-working yet under the radar scientist named Farley Stillwell to make use of a new serum that will hopefully give Gargan powers greater than Spider-Man's. In so doing, Jameson begins a misguided but nevertheless illegal operation of hiring hitmen to take out Spider-Man.

At the risk of skipping ahead, Gargan wasn't in our roundup of covers which declared the title character(s) to have met DEFEAT!, but defeat is just what befell the web-spinner more than once when he went up against the power of the Scorpion.

(Magnanimous of Stan Lee to give his artist top billing in the credits, only to then enlarge his own name and emblazon it in red, eh?)

Monday, October 24, 2022

Target: ROSSSS!


In just about any comic that featured the incredible Hulk described as going "berserk," that would be no great stretch of the imagination for any Hulk reader, given the character's fits of rage. In addition, since that rage brings about an increase in the Hulk's strength, it doesn't come as a surprise when the level of destruction of a given area (or the punishment of a foe) becomes a scene of carnage and devastation as a result. But when a book such as What If makes such a claim, a series where the worst case scenario often becomes reality (that is, alternate reality), you can almost depend on the likelihood that even for a creature of rage such as the Hulk, things are going to get as bad as bad can get, as the Watcher will attest to in this mid-1984 issue.

Compliments to artist Bill Sienkiewicz (and his letterer) for the story's stunning cover.

Written by Peter Gillis with art by Ron Wilson, this would be the last issue of What If that the Hulk would appear in as its main character, having been featured as such in four prior issues throughout the first volume of the series. Given the Watcher's introduction, it's apparent that whatever change in the Hulk that affects his behavior to such a degree will occur at the point when Bruce Banner first transforms into the man-brute--ergo, it's fair to assume that something about the gamma bomb explosion that irradiates him is different than we remember. And that indeed turns out to be the case, as we join the doctors investigating the level of radiation exposure in not just one patient this time, but two.

In this reality, Banner failed to reach the protective trench with his young charge, Rick Jones, which leads to both of them being exposed to the detonation of the gamma bomb test. And so when Banner experiences his initial transformation that will change his life for the worse, in this reality Rick has an empathic reaction to the changes in Banner's mind as the creature who would become known as the Hulk breaks out of the facility.

All too quickly, just as it happened in our reality, the men under the command of General Ross witness the capabilities of the monster that will be named the Hulk--while our doctors discover a figurative lid being clamped down on the entire developing situation, which will unfortunately prevent their input from reaching those who are most in need of understanding just who and what the Hulk is.

Gillis has brought in Maj. Glenn Talbot--a character who for us didn't join the fold until the Hulk's second act in Tales To Astonish--somewhat earlier than his original appearance, though just as committed to his duty and to Ross.

And so we see the battle lines being drawn by these officers who are now dealing with the threat potential of a powerful, unknown intruder. But with Rick also now having a telepathic connection with the Hulk even from his sickbed, the circumstances here will change dramatically for all concerned--particularly for Ross, who is now on the path to making an enemy obsessed with his destruction, an enemy the likes of which he and the men under his command have never known.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Big John Meets S.H.I.E.L.D.!


While artist John Buscema had done work for Atlas Comics in the late 1950s, it was only after the pivot to super-hero books by its successor, Marvel Comics, that we were treated to his initial work for the company in that genre in November of 1966.  Published that month was his first Incredible Hulk work with inkers John Tartaglione and Mickey Demeo in Tales To Astonish--while over in Strange Tales, he turned in pencils over Jack Kirby's layouts for a Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.! tale which sees signs of the return of Hydra just ten issues after SHIELD supposedly put an end to the organization for good.

With all respect to SHIELD and Mr. Kirby, this test amounts to (as Fury would say) some of the most lamebrained science this side of a Grade B sci-fi flick, with half the budget. Why risk the head of SHIELD--or the life of anyone--on this stunt? Unless this "Overkill horn" actually needs a human being to emit the sound it needs to unleash its sonic beam, why wouldn't something as simple as an air horn from any football game (or its SHIELD equivalent) fit the bill? And if a human was needed, couldn't a recording by Fury (or anyone), triggered from a control booth, suffice?

Nevertheless, the test is successful--though the fact that the Overkill horn works as designed is disturbing in itself, since its success all but confirms the existence of the device in someone else's hands.

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Terror And The "Team"


Previously, we've witnessed the machinations of Mister Kline, the figure in shadows who sought to manipulate the lives of Tony Stark, Matt Murdock, and even Franklin "Foggy" Nelson during the years 1971-72, and who made use of a number of operatives to deal with interference from Daredevil, the Black Widow, and Iron Man. Kline, having finally been revealed as an android named the Assassin, met his end at the hands of future beings who appeared following a final battle with Daredevil, which at last brought the saga of Mister Kline to a close.

As for his operatives, their fate was a mixture of defeat, death, and betrayal by Kline himself. Two such men, the super-criminals known as the Scorpion and Mister Hyde, each appeared to die under mysterious circumstances; yet if that was so, then how is it that, five months later (our time), we discover those very men in an abandoned cavern, alive and seemingly escaping captivity?

We readers learn that both men had been captured by Kline in order for android duplicates of them to carry out his instructions--but Captain America, who as Steve Rogers was recently attacked by the pair, is confronted with the question of how both men have turned up alive and at large, and for reasons unknown were demanding information from him regarding S.H.I.E.L.D. As for our two ruffians, having no clue that it was Kline who was responsible for their abduction, they've come to the conclusion that only one organization could have been responsible for incarcerating them.

And that leads them to track down one hero in particular--but thanks to a new partnership, they'll find it's no longer two against one!  Or will they?