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?

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Torpedo, Away


If you weren't much of a Daredevil reader in the mid-1970s, you may mostly remember the adventurer known as the Torpedo from the farce three-part Defenders story occurring a few years later which featured a plethora of Marvel's characters showing up on the non-team's doorstep to join their ranks. It was no one's finest hour that day, much less the Torpedo's:

Created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Bob Brown, the character's debut in the pages of Daredevil provides a generous two-issue appearance which from glances at their covers would lead us to at first believe there's a new, ruthless villain in town.

But "appearance" has always been part of the problem for me with this character, whose super-suit makes him, as intended, a human torpedo, a description that serves only to cement in the reader's mind that this character's main claim to fame is to streak through the air like a you-know-what--which in a way stacks him up right next to Nova (debuting the following year), who also failed to pique my interest. Maybe something more provocative for this character's name--e.g., as long as we're being direct in his description, "the Blue Streak," a handle another character would lay claim to a few years later.

The Torpedo's first time out of the gate, however, leads to his death when DD goes after him for theft. But the twist that Wolfman introduces for the character inadvertently becomes the only aspect of the Torpedo that I cared for: the fact that the man's corpse would yet serve a purpose for another to step in and adopt a sense of responsibility for what his predecessor set out to do.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Heroes Defeated!


Few moments in comics are more dramatic than your favorite comic book hero(es) meeting defeat at the hands of a villain. And while in some cases there are extenuating circumstances to the situation, you can always count on the story's cover to not mince words and make it seem as if there's no coming back for the beaten--a stain that cannot be purged.

(Though things can't be too bad for Dr. Strange if the same cover buffers the impact of the announcement with images of the Thing and the Human Torch in Beatles wigs.)

Here, then, is a sampling of covers which made the most of the stinging word:

(Even if the jury may have still been out on the matter.)

Thursday, October 6, 2022

A Smattering Of Smashers


There's no doubt that comics have had no shortage of recycled character names over the years, the circumstances varying depending on whether it was thought there would be potential sales reader interest in introducing another character who had taken on the name of a previous hero or villain. The short list of examples would include Captain Marvel... Thor... Spider-Man... Dr. Strange... Captain America... and on the villain side, so far we've taken a look at some Slashers and a few Crushers.

And since villains are known for choosing names for themselves that imply the threat they pose, what's another name that tends to be at the top of the list for bruisers who want their reputation to precede them?

THAT'S RIGHT, they're

Something Daredevil thought he was pretty good at, until he ran into a brawler who laid claim to the actual name.

Monday, October 3, 2022

The Final Hour of the Assassin!


We've been looking at the roughly six-month period of stories from 1971-72 which introduced the figure-in-shadows known as Mister Kline, whose agenda was to disrupt the lives of both Tony Stark and Matt Murdock for reasons unknown. To that end, he involved a number of criminal operatives to do his bidding, until finally turning to more dependable androids of his own construction--at which point Kline himself pulled back the curtain to reveal that he was also an android, in the service of another figure who was just as mysterious in regard to their ultimate goal.

And now, we come to see the situation somewhat resolved in the pages of Daredevil (the key word here being "somewhat"), where writer Gerry Conway brings an anticlimactic conclusion to this storyline that mostly fast-tracks closure for the character and story of "Mister Kline" (now designated "the Assassin" by his superior, Baal) by way of a bare minimum of explanation which may nevertheless satisfy those readers who are ready to move on. Oddly enough, it's made clear by story's end that those sentiments are also shared by Daredevil and the Black Widow.