Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lion of Olympus -- Marvel Premiere #26

Marvel Premiere #26 (November 1975)
"The Games of Raging Gods!"
Bill Mantlo-George Tuska/Vince Colletta

Doug: Now here's a mag we've only hit on twice before. This is actually somewhat of a significant issue, although I'm sure not worth anything price-wise. It's notable because this is the first issue of what would become more of a single-issue or very short-arc try-out book, after lengthy runs of Warlock and Iron Fist in the preceding 25 issues. And who is up to inaugurate the change but our lovable Avenger and Champion -- Hercules! You'll note that he's rendered here by the creative team that was really no strangers to our Olympian demi-god, as these guys had all (although only at the same time, once) shepherded ol' Herc in the aforementioned Champions book.

Doug: The splash page of this issue is a pin-up and a monument to the 10-year anniversary of Hercules' 1st appearance. We're reminded that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had brought Marvel's second-mightiest immortal to bear way back in Thor King-Size Special #1. Once we turn the page, it's all-out action. Hercules and his businessman handler, Richard Fenster, approach a raging fire while traveling California's mountain roads. Sensing that the firefighters are losing ground, Herc steps from his car, uproots a giant redwood tree, and effectively defeats the blaze by himself. He is lauded by the mortals on the scene, then hustled back into the car to try to make a speaking engagement at UCLA on the subject of Greek mythology (natch!). But wait -- who lurks in the shadows, but his old foe Typhon the Titan, accompanied by the Delphic oracle Cylla!

Doug: We get a little up-to-date session with our super-baddies. We are reminded how Typhon suffered defeat at the hands of the Avengers back in Avengers #'s 49-50. Typhon then relates how he was cast by Zeus into Hades, where he encountered Cylla. She had come there of her own accord after being shunned by Hercules. As they had now a common enemy, they conspired to be free. Cylla worked a little magic, and Typhon was able to ascend to Olympus to reclaim his battle axe from the Promethean flame. Yet it was so hot when he grasped it that it became bonded to his hand. Enraged, he lashed out, piercing the clouds that separate Olympus and Earth, and sending the Promethean flame earthbound. Hence, the fire Hercules happened by and extinguished. Cylla had told Typhon that only the blood of his most-hated could free him from the axe handle; you see where this is headed...

Doug: So it's one big slugfest from here on out. A tip of the hat to scribe Bill Mantlo, who writes some great dialogue during the battle between Hercules and Typhon. But it's Cylla who proves to be the wild card in this fight, as she really shows no loyalty to either of these men whom she'd as soon call lover as enemy. And what of Herc's mortal companion, Richard Fenster? As the car he'd been driving had plummeted into the Pacific, Herc had saved Fenster and left him on a cliff. Fenster decided he couldn't stay there, so he climbed up. Once back on the level of the battle, he spied Cylla about to lash Hercules with a bolt of magic. Figuring he couldn't do much, but that anything was better than nothing, Fenster picked up a large stick and KO'd the prophetess. The spells she'd begun to work against Hercules ceased, and Herc uses the end of that diversion to wallop Typhon a good one.

Doug: Tumbling into the ocean, our immortal combatants sink momentarily. Suddenly Typhon bursts the surface and slams hard against the craggy shore. Once Hercules surfaces, the Titan asks only for quarter. Dismayed that not only has he gotten his butt kicked again, but the axe is still attached to his hand, Typhon is one sad puppy. Asked for mercy, Hercules concurs. But then, a small cut on Typhon's cheek begins to run blood down the Titan's face, a small drip alighting on his right hand. The axe is suddenly loosed! Cylla awakes, and informs Typhon that he is free because he is his own worst enemy -- that was the curse! Suddenly Zeus appears and ferries his son's enemies away, back to Hades. So in the end, all's well that ends well.

Doug: I am pretty sure this is what is called a "stock story" that could have been used anytime. It's too long to have been a back-up in an annual, and I believe by this time the giant-size books were about out of steam. But with books like Marvel Premiere around, it served the purpose of launching the re-focus of this magazine, and it was a contemporary of the Champions, where Herc was appearing monthly anyway. I would not think that this was any kind of try-out for a solo series, as it's just not that strong of a story (don't count me among those "who demanded it!"); the last page also announced that Satana will star in the next issue. So this is a decent little done-in-one. I'd say that Mantlo did a nice job, and we got what we'd expect from the art team. Vinnie Colletta wasn't the best inker for George Tuska, but by this time Tuska needed a heavy inker anyway. Vinnie was never "that guy".

1 comment:

Fred W. Hill said...

I hadn't even known about this issue before -- must have been one that didn't make it to the spinner racks where I got my comics at the time as if I'd seen it I mostly likely would have picked it up if I had an extra quarter to spare. Still, doesn't appear Mantlo's take on Hercules, in this mag or in the Champions, was particularly inspired. Bob Layton's version in the '80s mini-series, however, were lots of fun.

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