Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just a Stone's Throw Away...

Captain America #142 (October 1971)
"And in the End..."
Gary Friedrich-John Romita/Joe Sinnott

Doug: So I guess I'm not sure the ending was so "unbelievable", but I'll give you that this one was chock fulla "Action in the Marvel Manner!" Pretty good ending to a decent Bronze Age story, was this. Let's have a look!

Doug: Gary Friedrich takes over for Stan Lee, who last issue ended his run on the title. The transition is pretty seamless, as I'm sure Stan and Jazzy Johnny had it all plotted out and Friedrich had only to word it up. The story opens just after the Grey Gargoyle has holed up in the mountain where the ultra-dangerous "Element X" is stored. Remember -- just a few drops of that chemical could destroy the Earth. Only pure stone can withstand this dangerous substance. There is some really strong art by Romita and Sinnott in the opening pages. As I remarked last ish, with their facial representations they'd do any romance artists proud. I have one bone to pick, and it's been bugging me throughout this series -- why in the world does Sharon Carter let Cap speak down to her so much? Yeah, yeah -- I get that he's old-fashioned and she was being written by Stan Lee. But come on -- with her credentials as a SHIELD agent and whatever that PhD is that Fury was talking about last issue... It's just really over the top.

Karen: Marvel women still had a long way to go. I think it would be a few more years until we saw any real change in how women were written. Certainly some of the younger guys, like Steve Englehart, and later, Chris Claremont, would start to write more empowered, strong female characters.

Karen: I have to say I thought it was kind of funny that we get this big romantic reunion of Sharon and Cap, and then Falco
n gets his big reunion with...his bird, Redwing!

Doug: As we get rolling in this one, the Gargoyle faces some resistance inside the mountain. A group of soldiers use all of the technology at their disposal to try to defeat this gruesome baddie, but to no avail. I continue to find it laughable that this guy is the strongest, most invincible creature in the Marvel Universe! Come on -- no building, street, or rock formation could withstand even
the smallest of explosive warheads available at this time, yet the Gargoyle just thumbs his nose at it all. He's really over-powered in my opinion. Cap and Falc send Nightwing to scout ahead for a place to enter the mountain, and soon spring into action with an aerial assault through the top. I had to smile, though, when Sam called for "Plan D" -- that didn't work so good on the SHIELD helicarrier last isue! There are some great action panels in this sequence.

Karen: The art really is gorgeous. Romita has always drawn great faces, and the action sequences are exciting and unambiguous. But - you knew there was a 'but' coming didn't you? - the Falcon's dialogue is so terrible. It is just over the top with the effort to make him sound like a character out of Superfly. I mean, read this and tell
me you don't cringe: "Outtasite! Keep jivin' like that, and I may be able to make a soul brother out of you yet!" Or this: "I hear you knockin' brother! How about lettin' me in? Hold everything! I think I'm homing in on your vibrations! You're thinking maybe we can get him inside the stone receptacle?"

Doug: After we see the Gargoyle finally procurring Element X (which he promptly "stones" to protect it), we get a little vignette with my favorite bi-atch Leila. Wow -- I can't really express how much I don't like her. Her looks are obviously based on blaxploitation star Pam Grier. But that personality... Fortunately, the other characters in the scene aren't buying the venom she's spewing.

Karen: I always had a hard time figuring out what a positive-thinking guy like Sam was doing with a vile, nasty girl like Leila. The way she's portrayed, she just has no redeeming features. I understand what they were doing with her in the book, as a character to open some doors to comment on the social/racial issues of the times, but why Falcon would put up with her was always a mystery to me.

Doug: Back in the mountain, our heroes engage the Gargoyle in some serious fisticuffs, and Sharon Carter displays her women's intuition on steroids again. The Gargoyle is finally undone when tricked into entering what amounts to a rocket capsule, which Cap seals and Fury activates. Blast off, and no more Gargoyle. Because Sam had swiped the cannister of Element X, all's well that ends well! Curiously, the last two panels contain some soliloquizing by scribe Friedrich that would have done Stan, Roy, or even Denny O'Neil proud!

Karen: The comment about men learning to live as brothers was one thing, but where did Falcon's comment about wishing "all nuclear weap
ons" had been aboard the rocket come from? That really felt a bit forced.

Doug: As a story, this was a fun Bronze Age yarn. Sure it has its faults, but you know what? It wasn't decompressed, the story had a defined beginning, middle, and end, the heroes behaved like heroes and the bad guy was over-the-top, and in the end the good guys won. What more could a comics fan ask for?

Karen: I don't know, Doug, this three parter was a bit hard for me. I was disappointed in Stan's work, and I can't say much about Friedrich here, as he was locked into the story that was already started. The Romita/Sinnott art however, was lush and dynamic, so not a total bummer!


Rip Jagger said...

Wonderful comic! I'm one of ten people in the world (maybe fewer) who actually prefer Falcon's gold and green outfit. I love the way it contrasts with Cap's Old Glory color scheme.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this...distribution was a bit spotty when I was a lad, and although I had #139-141, I missed the following two issues, and never did find out how the Grey Gargoyle storyline wrapped up.

I preferred the Falcon's original costume too...it'd be gone in two issue's time :-(

B Smith

jefsview said...

Wow, only 3 Captain America reviews from the mighty Bronge Age!

Might I suggest Englehart's Tale of 2 Caps? I like it better than the Nomad storyline (although Nomad did have the fate of Roscoe, which was the perfect tragic end).

Also, it'd be fun to actually see how many appearences the Red Skull made back then. He was quite ubiquitous.

Doug said...

Jefsview --

We are aware that our Cap coverage is glaringly absent on our blog. The primary problem is that I don't have the DVD-ROM (Karen does). I have a couple of the Essentials, so I think I could cover the Steranko era. We've talked about doing more Cap -- rest assured at some point we'll get to the Star-Spangled Avenger.

Thanks for the comment!


Bruce said...

I recently (as in, this week) read this three-issue story arc for the first time. I agree with your reviews for the most part - some good art from Jazzy Johnny Romita, some solid action...and a very flimsy plot. Yeah, I don't think Stan put a whole lot of effort into thinking up this storyline!

I have mixed feelings about the race-related themes that were such a major part of this book at the time. On one hand, some of the dialogue seems dated at best and embarrassing at worst (you could create a drinking game based on the number of times the terms "Whitey" and "Soul Brother" get used in early '70s CA&F.) Sometimes, it seemed the Falcon's character revolved around his "blackness" - as if he had no other character traits to explore.

But on the other hand, that may be me seeing these issues through 2013eyes. Not that things are perfect now, but race relations certainly were much rawer in 1970, and you have to give Stan a lot of credit for tackling this topic in an honest manner and for presenting an African-American hero in a headlining role.

And I'd also love to see you review some of Steve Englehart's run on the book.

goldenrulecomics said...

The race-related instances in this story don't hold up well, as you point out. But I always loved Romita's art on Captain America (and on Nick Fury). Overall I think this was a very nice comic from that era, and I'm glad you highlighted it!

Karen said...

GRC, thanks for coming back to this review so many years later. It's great to know folks are still enjoying these older reviews. In case you didn't know, we're currently reviewing the Captain America 'Secret Empire' storyline each week.

It's hard to look back on this comic some 40 years later and not shake your head at the dialog, but I try to remind myself that just having the Falcon and Leila in the book was a huge breakthrough. The way Falcon was presented was also in such contrast to Marvel's other Black character of the times, the Panther, who was decidedly not American, but almost a 'fairy tale' prince. I give Stan Lee, Kirby, Romita, Roy Thomas, and all the rest credit for always making the characters real and interesting, even if they were a bit (OK, maybe a lot) soap opera-ish.

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