Thursday, September 16, 2010

BAB Two-in-One: A Blast from the Past and Butt-Paste and Bumblebees

Karen: One of the few modern comics that I am actually excited about every month is Marvel's Atlas (formerly Agents of Atlas), which has the sort of goofy action I find missing from most books. To me, it doesn't get much better than robots, flying saucers, and talking gorillas!

Karen: But the Atlas team originally appeared in a very different way: they were part of an alternate reality, presented back in What If #9 (1978).
Although Roy Thomas came up with the idea of a 50s super-team, he didn't write this issue. This highly unusual team of obscure characters was put together by a team that was most likely obscure to comics fans at least: writer Don Glut has been active in comic and sci fi fandom for decades, but this might have been his first comic writing assignment. Artist Alan Kupperberg was just getting his start, and inker Bill Black - well, I don't know if we ever heard from him again! But the three turn in an entertaining tale about a super-team set in the 1950s -a team that calls itself the Avengers!
Karen: That's right, and there's our connection to relevancy. The issue starts with Iron Man (from the 'regular' Marvel universe) gathering his Avenger compatriots Capt. America, Thor, the Vision, and the Beast, to look at his dimensional transporter, where they can view other realities. He then shows them the 1950s, in a reality like our own...but with a big difference!

Karen: In this reality, FBI Agent Jimmy Woo is after the Yellow Claw. He recruits pre-Marvel characters Marvel Boy, Venus, G
orilla Man, the Human Robot, and Roy Thomas' creation, the 3-D Man (whose 1970s adventures were set in the 1950s) to help him in his cause. We also get a couple of guest appearances, by Jann of the Jungle and Namora, Sub-Mariner's cousin. (Namora is a regular in the current Atlas series.)

Karen: Can you see now why Iron Man called together his fellow assemblers? Each sees a resemblance to one of the other era's heroes: Cap with 3-D Man, Iron Man with Marvel Boy (a stretch but both utilize advanced technology), Beast with Gorilla Man, the Vision
with the Human Robot, and Thor with Venus. As they watch, the team christens themselves The Avengers! And their battle cry? "Go, Avengers, Go!"

Karen: Our reality's Avengers continue to watch as the group goes up against a team of baddies that the Yellow Claw has put together to kidnap President Eisenhower. We have a Communist baddie named Electro (no relation to the Spidey foe), the Cold Warrior, Skull Face, and a dapper looking gentleman called the Great Video (OK, that name was pretty terrible!). Both the President and Jimmy Woo are caught and the Happy Days Avengers have to go to the rescue! There's some cool fight scenes here, with our good guys taking on the forces of the Claw.

Karen: Of course, our heroes manage to save the President and Woo and deal the Claw a huge def
eat. Unfortunately, when all the smoke clears, Eisenhower asks the team to disband! Amusingly, he cites the concern over comic books as a force of social ill as one reason to disband! Like good Americans, the Avengers assent, and the team is no more, leaving our mainstream Avengers team to ponder what might have been.

Karen: The really fun aspect of this all is that in the current Atlas book, the characters have now gone to another alternate reality, where the team never disbanded, and in fact found Captain America, as well as inducted Iron Man, Thor, and all the others! If you haven't read either this original story, or the new Atlas stories, I would
highly recommend that you pick them up. They're exciting, quirky, and some of the best-written books currently on the stands.

Doug: Awhile ago I stopped at a nice shop in Chicago and scooped up some Bronze Age goodies. I spied a copy of Teen Titans #48 (June 1977), and although I've maligned writer Bob Rozakis in my three previous reviews from this era, I figured I'd fill in one of the gaps. I'm glad I didn't spend too much on this one...When we left off issue #47, Robin and Joker's Daughter had been captured by Two-Face, and JD had announced that she was not in fact the Joker's daughter, but Two-Face's! So they tell a little origin, and ol' Harvey alternates rational/crazed while trying to decide what to do. He remarks that he was the guy behind the Heat Miser/Snow Miser goings-on in the previous issue, and that he's going to blow up both New York and Gotham to help him decide if he should go straight (whaa-aattt?). Well, Harv's bound Duela and Robin back-to-back in wooden straight chairs. While the rant goes on, Robin manages to work his way free; however, Two-Face planned for that and put some super-butt-paste on the chair so Robin can't stand. In a move that would throw my back out, the Teen Wonder begins to whirl Duela around, smacking Two-Face in the chops a couple of times. But, then they lose their balance and...

...we get an interlude to Gabriel's Horn, where the rest of the Titans are gathered. Speedy is, as usual, acting like an (you know), until Robin calls and he actually ramps it up. Robin tells him to can it, and to split into two teams and get to NYC and Gotham. However, as the Titans head out, they are attacked by a gal calling herself the Bumblebee. And using a "honey gun". I ain't makin' this up. Seriously, it is an effort to turn these pages. But, I soldier on for you, our faithful readers...

So the Bumblebee stymies Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy and Mal with an array of bug-inspired powers. Pretty slick for some girl off the street to develop technology like that. She eventually puts the four of them down with a buzz that knocks them all out. No, really.
We then cut away to NYC, where Robin has arrived to stop the bomb. He's trying to convince a couple of security guards of the danger when who shows up, but Wally and Mal. Whaaa-aat? We had just seen them snoozing! But they do stop the bomb.Then we head to Gotham, where Speedy and Donna meet up with Duela. As they head to the roof to stop the second bomb, it occurs to Duela that everything thus far has been in pairs, but opposite. So they race to the basement and discover a bomb bursting through the floor! Of course, they also disable it and save the day. The story ends with Two-Face in custody (but how? We never saw him apprehended. Last we saw he was noticing that the time for the bombs was approaching, and Robin still had butt-paste on), and Duela donning the new name and costume of the Harlequin.

As it turns out, the plot wasn't bad for a Two-Face story, but it's just so goofy! It's really hard to take, like when you just groan at a bad joke -- that's what it's like. And Jose Delbo's art was just a baby-step above what Don Heck might have turned in. Pretty stiff. You can take my word for it!


Kid A said...

I did a review of What If #9 awhile back on my blog and felt the same way about it AND the current series. I was quite sad to hear it was being canceled after #5, but it sounds like these characters will keep popping up in other books. I only hope Jeff Parker is writing them.

Anonymous said...

I thought the name Bill Black looked familiar. He founded AC Comics and created Femforce, and has did work all over the place.
There's an interview here. He's not much of a Bronze age or Modern Age fan. (I have to say I agree with him about today's "ridiculously OVER-RENDERED comic book pencil art."

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