Karen: I've always been a fan of Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel work, but I have to confess, I've read very little of the character before Starlin made his mark with him. So today I am looking at Captain Marvel #4 (Aug 1968), a story entitled "The Alien and the Amphibian" by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan.
Karen: This tale takes place when the Kree captain was still wearing his green and white uniform, which I always thought was a a fairly unique color scheme for a superhero. Our good captain is also quite conflicted, as he is still a loyal soldier of the Kree Empire. But his time on Earth has begun to make him doubt his cause. Thomas spends a couple of pages showing the white-haired Mar-Vell wracked with guilt over the fact that newspapers are declaring him a hero, when he knows that "it may one day be my hand which signals the fatal attack upon an unsuspecting sphere."
Karen: Mar-Vell has assumed a dual identity (like most Marvel heroes of the 60s), that of Dr. Walt Lawson, rocket expert, so that he might better infiltrate the U.S. space defense arena. Operating out of nearby missile base "The Cape" (Canaveral?) Lawson also works with Security Chief Carol Danvers - that's right, the future Ms. Marvel. She's been around a long time baby!
Karen: The military launches a missile full of dangerous bacteria because, well, that's what the military does. Unfortunately, the ruthless Kree commander, Colonel Yon-Rogg, causes it to go crashing down to New York Harbor, where a recently reformed Namor the Sub-Mariner happens to be swimming along.
Karen: The officers from the cape, and Dr. Lawson, fly out to the bay. While the military men want to recover the missile and its dangerous cargo, Mar-Vell has been given another mission: prevent the Earth men from disarming the missile, so that millions might be killed. Again, we see Mar-Vell struggle between his growing conscience and his duty to his people.
Karen: Meanwhile, Namor, who has decided to try to be friends with the air-breathers he normally is always trying to wipe out, swims towards the ship carrying the missile base crew. They explain the situation to him and he decides he will find the missile for them. However, he has complications when our alien captain arrives.
Karen: Mar-Vell's situation here is really a nice twist on things: while appearing to be the hero, he is in fact, the bad guy! But he's a reluctant bad guy, one who doesn't want to succeed in his mission. Unfortunately, he's being monitored by Yon-Rogg, so he can't just throw the fight. He does however, manage to manipulate things so that even as he appears to be following orders, he's providing Namor with the means to retrieve the bacteria.
Karen: The fight between he and Namor is decidedly one-sided, as it should be. Namor is far too powerful for the Captain. Colan's work really captures the futility of Mar-Vell's efforts. His underwater scenes are quite realistic. I've always thought he was one of the best at portraying underwater action. I should also note what a great cover this issue has. It's Colan at his most dynamic.
Karen: Namor does manage to save the day, Mar-Vell still feels conflicted, and Linda Danvers still wonders what Walt Lawson is hiding. It was fun delving into the origins of Captain Marvel, long before he became so cosmic.
Doug: Several months ago I gave a second look at the first issue I own of the 1970's Teen Titans revival. Today we'll take a gander at issue #47, written by Bob Rozakis with art by the team of Bob Brown and Tex Blaisdell. The story is entitled "Trouble -- Which Rhymes With Double!" and was cover dated April 1977.
Doug: I'm sorry to proclaim that Bob Rozakis' writing has not gotten better with age, whether in the short time that transpired between DC's release of issues 45 and 47 or the approximately similar amount of time since I looked at said #45. Wow. What a dumb story, and what poor characterization (and Bob Brown's art was looking an awful lot like Don Heck in some places). Look: I'm going into an unknown situation and I have Robin's leadership, Kid Flash's super speed, Wonder Girl's strength and power of flight, and Speedy's finesse and marksmanship (not to mention all of the trick arrows). I'm going to take my chances against just about anyone, including some heavy hitters I could think of. But instead, our young stalwarts get stymied by two groups led by the younger brothers of the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser...
Doug: Here's the plot -- a gang of thieves is stealing old collectibles (stamps, coins, autographs, etc.) from museums, etc. in both New York City and Gotham City. The Titans, on a hunch from Duela Dent, aka the Joker's Daughter, interrupt the heist in Gotham. They're confronted by Flamesplasher (Worst. Name. Ever.), who has a hose nozzle duct-taped to his wrist that -- you guessed it -- shoots fire; Darklight (who looks strikingly similar to the "new" Dr. Light of the 1980's Justice League), who has powers similar to Shadow Lass; and Sizematic (dressed like Marvel's Silver Samurai), who can grow. As you might expect from a team book, the Titans plunge headlong into battle, never stopping to size up the competition or formulate appropriate match-ups. And, predictably so, they get a good whuppin'.
Doug: The major subplots in the issue are the establishment of a disco on Long Island that is going to double as the team's new HQ. It's called "Gabriel's Horn", named after Mal's weapon that he appropriated back in #45. But, since it's a disco, one might find it a bit odd that the opening night entertainment would be a band and not a DJ. I'm just saying. Another subplot that got real old real fast was Roy Harper's constant doubting of Duela's allegiance to the Titans. Now I'll give you that her choice of garb and nod to a homicidal maniac is curious at the least, but her powers of clairvoyance proved true each time. Lastly, Aqualad's taken ill. The team consults Aquaman, who instructs them to basically soak him in distilled water. Sounds like what you'd do to get the lime out of your iron before you press your pants.
Doug: Yeah, Roy was on a roll and everyone was getting ticked at him. He was looking good, especially when the ol' JD foretold of a heist and the Titans engaged... not the same guys. Nope. Instead of the super-baddies I named above, they got a guy with water on the wrist, a shrinking silver dude, and a mistress of light. Of course Speedy thinks Duela set them up, and blah, blah, blah.
Doug: OK, the good guys win, Mal is feuding with his girlfriend and she's gonna show him, Robin and Joker's Daughter go off on a case and are kidnapped by... Two-Face? Yeah -- Two-Face. To be continued. Unfortunately, I don't have issue #48. However, I do have #49, and in spite of my complaining, I really liked this title as a kid -- so I'm willing to give Embattled Bob Rozakis another chance. See ya next time.