Friday, January 22, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Marauding Martians and the Warriors Three!

Karen: I recently read H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds for the first time, so I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit Marvel's effort at a sequel -Amazing Adventures featuring War of the Worlds. The first issue in this on-going series was #18, published in May 1973. This book was a true group effort. Roy Thomas conceived of it, Gerry Conway scripted it, and both Neal Adams and Howard Chaykin drew it! The basic premise is that the Martians figured out how to protect themselves from the germs that killed them when they first came to Earth, so in 2001, the aliens show up and conquer our planet. To provide entertainment, they have humans train as gladiators and pit them against one another. Our protagonist, Jonathan Killraven, is one such gladiator.Killraven has managed to escape and has decided to go after the Keeper, a human servant of the Martians.

Karen: The story itself is mostly exposition, explaining how the Martians took over and how Killraven survived in post-invasion New York. It's not bad but like most origin stories, it just leaves you wanting to move forward and see where things are going to go. The Neal Adams art in the first half of the book is just great, although Killraven's costume is surely a solid candidate for another "fashion disaster"! Luckily, he would get a less giggle-inspiring suit later on. A text piece by Thomas in the back of the book explains how he had devised the basic concept, and Adams then came up with the plot and character of Killraven. Unfortunately he got bogged down in other assignments and so Chaykin finished up the book . His work wasn't terrible but he was no Adams! Thomas also didn't have time to write it - this seemed to have happened a lot when he was editor in chief -so Conway was brought in to do the job.

Karen: Not a bad first issue as such things go. There were definitely enough ideas tossed out to make a reader curious enough to come back for more. And I will, in some later Two-in-Ones.

Doug: Marvel Spotlight #30 (October 1976) is today's literary fare, kids. This really fun story was brought to the light of day by scribe Len Wein and the classic pairing of Big John Buscema and Joltin' Joe Sinnott. You know, part of the appeal of the Mighty Thor through the years has always been the Son of Odin's supporting cast, and none among that pantheon of gods is any more entertaining than the Warriors Three: Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim, and Voluminous Volstagg!

I used the hardcover Marvel Visionaries: John Buscema as the source of this story, which is entitled, "A Night on the Town!" Our tale begins with a bar fight involving our protagonists. Buscema's splash page is just the kind of fun Big John allegedly poured his heart into -- swashbuckling, lots of heavies and miscreants, and pure pandemonium. But that's not the beginning of our story...

Fandral, along with his mates, laments that Thor has left them to confront Firelord (c. Thor 246-7). But then he decides to make the most of it and the three begin to scheme where and what kind of fun they might find. Hiring a cab, the three enter and bid the driver to take them to where the fun is. Wein has their voices down perfectly -- on one panel Hogun bristles over the lack of space in the rear seat, saying "I desire only a bit more room, Fandral. Our voluminous friend fairly fills the seat entire!" To which Volstagg characteristically responds, "Pfah! A man's girth is the true measure of his nobility!" As the cab proceeds, they eventually hit a traffic jam, gapers stopping to watch a young lady perched on a ledge as if to jump. Emerging from the cab, Fandral scales the wall and eventually talks her down.

The lady, Mary, was on the ledge because her fiancee, Arnold, was mixed up with some loan sharks and as a way to pay off his debts had been forced to assist in the robbery of a diamond exchange. Fandral pledged to help her to free Arnold from those bozos, so back in the cab they go. Enlisting the aid of a local wino, the boys get into the jewelry exchange and foil the burglary only to find that Arnold had been left outside to watch and had left via another cab as soon as the burgling had commenced. After busting a few skulls, the troupe piles back in their own cab and heads to the waterfront where Arnold had allegedly fled.

Arriving at McGinty's, a seedy tavern wherein our story began, the Asgardians enter to a less than amicable greeting. Inevitably Volstagg touches off the brawl and it's full on. Buscema is again at his best here and just cuts loose with a lot of fun. Wein's words really compliment the pictures. As the battle winds down and finishes, the boys file back outside and who do they find but Mary with Arnold. Arnold Slackmyster, that is. Explanations are given, the couple pledges to take Arnold's story to the police, Fandral insists they find a justice of the peace to be wed that evening, and finally Fandral settles up with their cabbie.

A happy ending for all; until Fandral hails another cab!

What a fun story! Books like Marvel Premiere, Marvel Spotlight, etc., when done with top-flight talent, prove that the done-in-one format works and even with minor characters. These sort of books were a staple of the Bronze Age and a great place to seek out a favorite B-lister. I miss 'em!

1 comment:

Andrew Wahl said...

Got to give Karen the edge on this one, as Killraven was another of my Marvel favorites from this era. And, yes, that is a terrible costume — check out those most excellent boots!


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