Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finding Silver in Bronze: Marvel's Greatest Comics #46

Marvel's Greatest Comics #46 (November 1973)
Fantastic Four #63
"Blastaar, the Living Bomb-Burst!"

Stan Lee-Jack Kirby/Joe Sinnott

Doug: Hey, it's been quite a few months since we tripped back to the Silver Age via our favorite Bronze Age reprint series. Last time we checked in on the Lee-Romita Spider-Man through
Marvel Tales; today it's Marvel's first family and their allies versus Negative Zone Super-baddie #2, Blastaar!

Doug: This is one long slugfest! The story begins with the FF returning to the Baxter Building from the rescue of Reed.
He had been lost in the Negative Zone and had been saved by Triton. While the team assembles, the roof begins to fall in -- literally! There are heavy blasts taking place, so Reed stretches through a hole in the ceiling. He's rebuffed by a concussive blast, and as he falls mutters that the explosions come from "his fingers". Triton grabs an air gun and blasts to the rooftop. He's greeted by a gray-haired menace calling himself Blastaar, and the Sandman! This is the Sandman I like, in his "battle suit". After Triton is dispatched by a combined effort, the Sandman scoops up Blastaar in a huge fist and they -- get this -- walk down the side of the Baxter Building! I'll have to say I was surprised at this visual -- I really wonder what Stan thought when he saw the panel. He dialogues it with an excuse, that the Sandman used chemicals in his belt to mix with his sandiness to create "adhesive sand". Still, the muscle control it would take to pull this off... well, that's Kirby's imagination for you!

Doug: Once on the ground, who should show up but Johnny and Crystal. Of course the police have gathered to arrest the Sandman, but it's Blastaar who attracts the attention. Naturally Johnny can't stay down, so he attacks. He proves to be pretty ineffective, so it's Uncle Benjie who arrives to save the day. Kirby had to have a blast (no pun intended) with this story, because it's just a chance for him to cut loose. Ben and Johnny do their best, but really operate at break-even with their adversaries.
Highlights of the segment of the story include Ben gripping Blastaar by the wrists, turning his hands toward his own face and daring him to blast. In a panel on the next page, he says, "Just in case ya lost yer wristwatch or somethin', I'm gonna show ya what time it is... It's Clobberin' Time!" Classic.

Doug: So where are Reed and Sue? Upstairs in the lab, trying to get Triton healed up. Of course, Reed has the obligatory vat of water (you may recall our review of
Super-Villain Team-Up #5 and a similar situation involving Namor) and some "healing balm" to fix up their Inhuman ally. Watching the battle in the streets on a viewer, Reed suddenly bursts out of the room and into a closet, feverishly looking for a device he was working on before the Negative Zone adventure -- keep that in mind, before.

Doug: Back outside, the Sandman wraps Ben up like a rolled rug and barrels toward the river.
Johnny is out of commission as, you know, that flame always seemed to go out in the Silver Age. Blastaar takes a move toward Crystal and she gives him a heavy dose of earth, wind, & fire and knocks him on his butt. Now tell me she couldn't have done that again, and ended this whole thing. I think it's really sad that in this time period some of the female characters were actually among Marvel's most powerful (the Scarlet Witch, Sue Storm, Crystal), yet Stan and Jack always had them deferring to their male teammates. Shoot, at the end of the story Sue even apologizes for being too feminine! Disgusting...

Doug: Johnny recharges, and Ben comes back after besting ol' Sandy in the river. At about this time Reed and Sue arrive with the device Reed was looking for and had to quickly finish -- a helmet that dampens a persons ability to make concussive energy blasts! How totally convenient!! Well, he gets it on Blastaar once, but is rebuffed. With one more fleeting chance, Reed manages to secure it.
But then, rather than figure out a way to depower Blastaar or hook him up to some major-league prison, Reed instead tells the team that they are going back to the Negative Zone portal to basically throw him back! Say what?? Yep -- throw him back. So he can getcha later. Duh.

Doug: Overall, this was a fun story for what it was -- just Kirby cutting loose, Stan with his typical Silver Age characterization and dialogue, and characters we love. We've said it before -- this is like a well-worn pair of jeans, just really comfortable. And heck -- it took over 20 minutes to read! What more could one ask for?


Redartz said...

Love those Lee/Kirby FF's! This issue had a particularly striking cover; as a side note , the original FF #63 was the first back issue I ever bought...

david_b said...

Doug, you picked a solid WINNER here..

While it was only a month or so after starting to collect FF and Marvel comics in general, I was emmersed into the current soap opera with Reed and Sue, yet still enjoying wild tales with the red-suited Johnny and Medusa.

But thanks to MGC, I was able to 'peek' into the Silver past and enjoy one of the glorious FF battles EXPLODE under my fingers..

This was arguably one of the best Kirby storylines in the 60s. Starting with MGC #45, reprinting that awe-inspiring, gripping 2page shot of Reed floating away in the Negative Zone, you now had this highly-charged slugfest with nearly every panel burstin' at the seems. Frankly, ALL the panels seemed just too small to contain this much action..

Triton, Crystal, Ben, Reed, everyone shined in their element, and with Triton's attack and Sandman's building walk, a few welcomed surprises were thrown in to rachet up the fun further.

Granted, this had all followed the more-heralded Galactus and Doom storylines. But for my money.., this, in only 1-2 issues, was still Kirby's Fantastic Four at it's finest.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Weird ... I just bought Marvel's Greatest Comics #47-8 out of a bargain bin yesterday. I was reading them this morning ... Small planet.

dbutler16 said...

This series was a great way for us Bronze Age Babies to learn our Marvel history growing up. I hope you guys get around to Marvel Triple Action at some point. Believe it or not, that was actually my first exposure to the X-Men, as #45 reprinted X-Men #45, conveniently enough.

david_b said...

Yeah, Doug. I agree on Sue's wimping out on the last page.. She seemed too much of a 'wilting flower' at the end (couldn't see Crystal or Medusa pulling that..). That was probably the only short-sighted disappointment in otherwise-packed storylines.

(Perhaps she was still exhausted from almost losing Reed in the Negative Zone, who knows...?)

Again, this proved that even without some looming Earth doomsday (or a fight with Mr. Doom himself..), the Lee/Kirby team could still pack a whallop of a story!!

Fred W. Hill said...

I actually remember the first time I read this particular reprint, the conclusion to yet another Lee/Kirby epic, starting with the Sandman's initial attack (and first appearance in his new Kirby-kostume) a couple of issues before. Even if Blastaar wasn't one of Kirby's most stellar creations, and this story was primarily an-issue long slugfest, it was a fun read and a fine capper to the tensions of the previous two-issues. Tbis storyline, btw, was the first time I'd seen the Sandman in action (outside of a few panels in a previous issue of MGC wherein Kirby & Lee interupted Gorgon's introduction to show us Sandy making a vain attempt to escape while in a prison cell with the Trapster). Even though I've since read those earlier Ditko Sandman stories from Spider-Man, Kirby really re-made the Sandman and made you believe he was one dangerous character who couldn't be stopped with a mere vacuum-cleaner (although the suction power of the Negative Zone portal proved sufficient to give him a good scare).

Related Posts with Thumbnails