Captain Marvel #32 (May 1974)
"Thanos the Insane God!"
Mike Friedrich/Jim Starlin-Starlin/Dan Green
Doug: I feel sort of funny being the lead voice/framer of today's post. It's long been known around here that the cosmic guys of Jim Starlin are more in Karen's wheelhouse than my own. But with her blessing, I'm going to do the plot summary with the great hope that she'll add her usual sparkling commentary and make me sound like I actually know what I'm talking about! Power cosmic, indeed!
Karen: I'm sure my partner is more than up to the challenge! Besides, it'll be fun to read your take on this whole cosmic saga. I've been a fan of it for so long that I'm probably not the most impartial reviewer.
Doug: Hopefully after her prompting last week, you read Karen's much-earlier review of Captain Marvel #31; if you didn't, that link will take you to it. Thanos, in possession of the cosmic cube, has elevated himself to the status of a god. He stands opposed only by Mar-Vell, Iron Man, Moondragon, Starfox, Mentor, and Drax the Destroyer. Drax, pledged to destroy the mad Titan, lashes out -- only to incur Thanos's wrath. The observatory on which our heroes stand begins to shake and then to come apart. In the melee, Moondragon is struck by some flying debris and goes down. Mar-Vell knows she needs medical attention, which Mentor offers. Mentor implores Mar-Vell to get to the Titan computer ISAAC -- the only chance these heroes (and the universe) have in defeating this mad god. So in a quest to reach the Hall of Science, Mar-Vell, Iron Man, and Starfox take off. But as they shortcut through the Eternity Tree they are attacked, as was Dorothy in Oz. Mar-Vell and Iron Man are able to stay free, and Eros encourages them to leave him and go onward. They do.
Karen: Right off the bat I have to comment on the art: Dan Green does a very capable job here inking Starlin. His line work is neither too thin nor too thick -as Goldilocks would say, it's just right. I'm looking at the Captain Marvel Marvel Masterworks so I can't really comment on the coloring, although in this volume, it looks very good. The way Starlin depicts the ascended Thanos, as a sort of transparent floating head in the stars, is at once simple and yet striking. Eros (I still have a hard time thinking of him as Starfox) is taken out of the picture rather quickly. But his capture does lend a heightened sense of threat to the whole affair.
Doug: Back at the observatory, Drax rises from the destruction and again decries the vengeance he knows he will bring against Thanos. Meanwhile, Mar-Vell and IM begin to stroll through the Hall of Science. I thought this was strange, given the urgency of the circumstances, but it does buy Jim Starlin some time to recap for the reader what has gone before. Thanos had kidnapped the above-named heroes and made them witness his star fleet heading toward Earth. After that, he showed his power by imprisoning Kronos. When the heroes had escaped, rather than kill them he again imprisoned them and made them watch his transformation to godhood. Mar-Vell insists that it's Thanos's vanity that is his downfall; that and the fact that his newfound power is still too new for him to even grasp his capabilities. The heroes guess that this instability in Thanos's decision-making may be their salvation. But as they continue to move toward ISAAC, Mar-Vell senses that Thanos is indeed focusing his attention on them and is preparing to strike!
Karen: I looked upon the situation in the Hall of Science as a chance for Mar-Vell and Iron Man to slow down and try to figure out a plan -- as Thanos himself says moments later, these two are fighters and thinkers.And of course a big part of all this is that Marv has snatched up the seemingly inert Cosmic Cube; apparently when Thanos used the Cube to transform himself into God, he used all of its power. But Mar-Vell still feels it may be the key to defeating him. Starlin manages to give us a fairly concise rundown of what's happened here; that won't be the case with the next issue of CM!
Doug: You're not kidding! I've been a good lad and have read ahead to the end of this material we're reviewing. When Steve Englehart takes over as scribe in Captain Marvel #33, it's all-words, all-the-time! Man...
Doug: The attack by Thanos comes in a strange form, and seems almost typical of megalomaniacal baddies -- rather than just off their nemeses, they insist on toying with them. In this instance, Thanos chooses to create demons who rise up from the floor to attack Mar-Vell and Iron Man. A battle begins to rage, and Iron Man is soon overcome. Mar-Vell fights valiantly to free his ally, but the odds are turning against them. Knowing the demons are soulless, the heroes fight with no holds barred, but still they succumb. Mar-Vell is cornered, when a new being materializes -- a man wearing an iron mask. In space, Thanos makes it official that he is indeed offering the universe to his mistress Death. She makes no response, and the courting is interrupted -- the Destroyer has found the mad Titan! In a nifty double-page splash, Drax attacks Thanos, reminding him that the only reason Drax exists is to destroy Thanos.
Karen: Just like in our review of Marvel Feature #12 last week, we see that Iron Man at this point in time was far from invincible! It seems so odd, looking back now, what with Shellhead being such a superstar, but he really was sort of a mid-level hero. I really love the way Starlin depicts Mar-Vell in action; he looks like a real fighter, going through actual combat moves. The two page spread with the Destroyer is just breath-taking. Drax was one of Starlin's best designs and I thrilled to see him whenever he appeared. He was so relentless!
Doug: Thanos decides that he can bring more torture to Drax if he shows the Destroyer his true history -- we then get an origin story not only for Drax the Destroyer, but another nugget thrown into Moondragon's (which was shown in Daredevil #105, of all places). I have to take issue with Starlin's memory, however -- he writes that real estate agent Art Douglas had taken his wife and daughter (Heather Douglas -- the later-to-be-named Madame MacEvil/Moondragon) to Las Vegas to see his singing idol, Elvis Presley -- in 1953. Say what? Elvis made his first recording at Sun Records in 1953, and didn't chart until Heartbreak Hotel in 1956. Ah, whatever... Anyway, Thanos's starship came into view of the Douglas vehicle, and being seen by humans couldn't have been good. Thanos arranged for the car in which the family was traveling to crash. The parents were killed; young Heather escaped, to be later transported to Titan and raised by Mentor. When Art Douglas's soul began to ascend to the heavens, it was intercepted by Mentor and Kronos -- they realized they would need a champion to defeat Thanos. Thus was born Drax the Destroyer. But does Thanos succeed in further torturing Drax by revealing this to him? On the contrary -- now the Destroyer hates him all the more!
Karen: Yes, the Elvis reference makes no sense, unless we're on Earth-72 or something. That's the sort of thing that makes you feel like there was a bit of sloppiness creeping in. Then again, I suppose it would take more effort than pushing a few buttons to find the answer! Still, it detracts just a bit from the story. Not enough to ruin anything but enough to make you stop and take you out of it for a moment.Still, the origin of Drax was pretty clever -- it sort of combines a 50s sci fi film motif with a bit of the Spectre and some mythological overtones. I like how Drax knowing the truth backfires on Thanos -- he's just made the Destroyer even more driven!
Doug: At Avengers Mansion, Earth's Mightiest Heroes receive word from the Black Panther that the Russian-American spacelab, StarCore, has picked up evidence of a huge space fleet headed toward Earth -- the same fleet Mar-Vell had knowledge of. The Avengers immediately leap to action -- as we shall see next Monday in our review of Avengers #125! Back in the Hall of Science, Mar-Vell meets the new being in their presence. No introductions are exchanged, although the new figure knows who Mar-Vell is. Mar-Vell continues to fight Thanos's demons while they talk, and Starlin again uses the dialogue to inform the reader of past events -- Mar-Vell, since Captain Marvel #28, no longer considers himself a warrior of the Kree. He has instead become a champion for the universe of which he has attained full awareness. Eventually the man in the iron mask reveals himself to be a holographic representation of ISAAC, the Titan computer. Mar-Vell takes advantage of the situation, asking him how to defeat these demons. ISAAC tells him that he cannot -- that as long as he exists, so will these demons. Cue Rick Jones.
Karen: You can look at most of Starlin's run on the book, from #25-33 at least, and see it as one long protracted war against Thanos, but it was also about the change in Mar-Vell. He went from being a warrior to being a protector -- as we are told sometimes repeatedly -- and this had a lot of significance obviously for Starlin, who was a Viet Nam vet. Mar-Vell still used his Kree training and powers, but as he explains in his monologue in this issue, "Force must only be used as the last possible solution -- and then only enough to resolve the situation! To use more would make me no better than those against whom I must defend!" These are admirable words to be sure, but hard ones to follow in a medium that is built around physical conflict! But that ideal was not uncommon for the times, and was reflected in a lot of places, including the Kung Fu TV show, which I know from interviews Starlin was a fan of.
Doug: See, I knew your color commentary would be awesome!
Doug: Mar-Vell slaps the nega-bands together, bringing Rick back from the Negative Zone. The demons freeze, and Rick asks ISAAC (calling him "Zack") to send him back to Earth so that he can think and plan. ISAAC agrees, and before sending him "home", Rick picks up the de-powered cosmic cube. Once home, Rick doesn't have much time for thinking, or anything else -- Thanos has followed him! Mar-Vell had deduced that Thanos's ego might be his only weakness. So in his most obnoxious manner, Rick begins to goad Thanos, insulting him incessantly, challenging his godhood, manhood, and every other sort of 'hood! But what he didn't bargain for was that the mad Titan would manifest himself again in corporeal form... uh oh!
Karen: Well, Rick can certainly be annoying even when he's not trying to get under your skin! I can hardly blame Thanos for wanting to crush him. But good grief, Thanos manifests himself about 12 feet tall! He's huge and rippling with energy! I thought Starlin got very creative here - we see Thanos' face in a sequence of spheres, striking Rick, a giant Thanos face with a mouth filled with flames, and other almost Ditko-like representations.
Doug: I had a good time with this! Not being very well-versed on the Starlin-verse, I thought it was still pretty accessible. There were enough recaps along the way, and the Internet certainly helps us to fill in gaps, doesn't it? Jim Starlin's art was great -- very detailed, due in no small part to Dan Green's inks, as Karen said at the top. I know that those space scenes take a whole lot of time to do, and Green came through. Although there was no colorist listed, a kudo to him or her as well. According to the Grand Comics Database, it was Starlin himself. Wow. I'm definitely looking forward to the succeeding two chapters in this story -- and especially to next week's art team of John Buscema and Dave Cockrum!