Karen:Welcome back to the on-going saga of Deathlok the Demolisher! This time around I'll look at Astonishing Tales #30 - and no, I didn't skip an issue; issue 29 featured a Guardians of the Galaxy reprint.
Karen: For this issue, Doug Moench is back as scripter on pages 6-32, with Rich Buckler credited for pages 1-5. The art team is a real smorgasbord, with Buckler, Keith Pollard, and Arvell Jones as pencillers, and Al McWilliams inking. Not to insult anyone, but I have to say right upfront, I thought this issue had was the weakest, art-wise. And I don't think any of these artists are bad individually, but the mix really leaves something to be desired.
Karen: Our story picks up with Deathlok and the mysterious revolutionary who was following him being threatened by Ryker's cyber-tank. From there it's one long chase, with Ryker's unstoppable tank and a group of laser -armed thugs following the cyborg as he makes his way through the deserted and dilapidated city.
Karen: Ryker continues to rant and rave and generally appear like a complete loon. He has plans to turn himself into "The Savior-Machine", whatever that might be. So far, Ryker has seemed so over-the-top that I really can't take him seriously.
Karen: Deathlok overcomes the thugs and somehow destroys the tank by creating a huge crossbow out of junkyard materials - no, I am not making this up! This issue had a very rushed feel to it. It also felt too similar to the previous issue, with the majority of time spent with Deathlok on the run. Perhaps if the art had been better it would have been a more enjoyable issue. These early issues have been more promise than pay-off, but that's all about to change starting with the next issue!
Doug: While many argue that Jack "King" Kirby's departure from Marvel to migrate to the Distinguished Competition was the end of the Silver Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age, today's story is written and drawn by Kirby and comes from 1970 -- a date which many historians alternatively temporally mark as the dawn of the Bronze Age. Let's take a look at Jack Kirby sans Stan Lee, with the debut issue of the Inhumans in Amazing Adventures #1 from August 1970 -- written and drawn by Kirby with Chic Stone providing the embellishment. After years of inks by Joe Sinnott and Vince Colletta, it's almost a trip back in time seeing Stone's less-powerful inks.
The story opens oddly enough with a "movie night" in the Baxter Building. Reed Richards has a video synopsis of the Inhumans' Royal Family, and narrates each person's name and powers -- as if Ben, Johnny, and Crystal wouldn't know! And wait a second -- Crystal is in the room... This book was on the spinner racks the same month as FF #101 (Kirby's second-to-last issue of the FF), and Medusa had long ago come to the States to take Crystal back to the Great Refuge in the Himalayas (FF #95, February 1970). I'll write this one off to the notion that Kirby may have had this story finished before he and Stan decided on the departure of Crystal, but since many Kirby apologists have argued that Jack had been plotting FF for years prior to his leaving Marvel, it is problematic.
The scene shifts to Asia, where a group of interlopers is attempting to find the Great Refuge. They're drawn in much the same fashion Kirby and other early Silver-Agers like Don Heck drew Asians -- as caricatured, menacing Commies. The entourage is met and opposed by Gorgon, he of the thunderous hooves, who creates a shockwave to startle the party. Karnak then chops off a large chunk of the mountain, setting it down perfectly to form a land bridge that will serve as an escape route for the trespassers. With a little additional "encouragement" from Medusa and Black Bolt, the group decides that it would be in their best interests to vacate the premises and leave the Inhumans alone. Black Bolt destroys the land bridge once the potential baddies have gone.
Triton greets the rest of his cousins upon their return, and informs them that a cobalt missile is rapidly approaching the city. Scene-switch a few moments in the past to Maximus the Mad and his henchmen Centarius, Timberius, Leonius, Aeolus (many first seen in August 1968's Incredible Hulk Special #1 and last seen in Incredible Hulk #119) -- where Maximus gloats of sending off a missile that will confuse and hopefully destroy his hated brother Black Bolt. The ultimate goal is for Black Bolt to begin a war with the outside world, fought mainly against Maximus' unwitting pawns the Fantastic Four.
As the Royal Family scrambles with the knowledge Triton has imparted, the missile approaches. Black Bolt takes to the sky to fend it off, destroys it, and reveals a piece of the shrapnel with a decal -- a blue circle within which is a blue 4. As Gorgon exclaims, the Fantastic Four are the only outworlders who know the exact location of the Great Refuge -- and Black Bolt silently proclaims war!
As this is a two-fer book with the other half being occupied by the John Buscema-drawn Black Widow, we'll have to wait until next time to see how this turns out! But before I leave you, I wanted to comment on Kirby's storytelling. Jack, as mentioned above, had been quite instrumental in the success of the Fantastic Four, as the driving force creatively. It's been well-documented that he was often frustrated with Stan's ignoring of Jack's margin notes, and particularly disgusted at what Stan chose to do with the Silver Surfer and Him (later Adam Warlock). Kirby had long-desired the opportunity to flex his creative energies on his own, to tell stories he wanted to tell and to do it his way. So here we have it -- one of his own creations, the use of the Fantastic Four, and pretty much the freedom to cut loose his way. And what we get is a very pedestrian style of writing. This story plays out as if someone were simply narrating "we're going to do this, and then this happens." The dialogue is simple, and each character seems to have lost his or her "voice". What we see, sadly, is that while Jack Kirby was the King of dynamic, violent, tornadic art and ideas, he was just an everyman when it came to the script. Many have said that what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did together was truly a Marvel Masterwork; what they did apart falls considerably short.