Monday, December 7, 2015
If You're Going to San Francisco... Amazing Adventures 7-8
Amazing Adventures #7 (July 1971)(Inhumans cover by Neal Adams)
"An Evening's Wait for Death!"
Roy Thomas-Neal Adams/John Verpoorten
Doug: I know I said that the last four week's worth of reviews was probably going to be it from me for the foreseeable future, but here I sit again. Writing/scanning/arranging/etc. these reviews is a labor of love -- trouble is, for much of the year it's just been a labor to find the time to do it! But lately I've been able to scare up a couple of hours here and there without taking quality time out of the marriage. So what the heck -- I like comics and you like reading about them. Today we'll be looking at an Inhumans story, spread over two issues of Amazing Adventures. Let's go.
Doug: We open on a beach under the control of Red China (because back in the Cold War you had to say it that way). The Inhumans -- Gorgon, Karnak, Medusa, and Triton -- crash-landed there at the end of the previous issue after a skirmish with Maximus. Black Bolt is elsewhere. This was during the time that Black Bolt had amnesia inflicted upon him by Maximus and was in the city of San Francisco. In defending a young man and his uncle from some thugs, Black Bolt had afterward donned civilian clothes. But unable to speak and truly wanting to converse with the boy, Black Bolt had lapsed and uttered the word "I..." It was enough to split a large naval vessel in half. Needless to say, people were on the lookout for the guy who did that. But back on the beach, our cousins are unconscious when the Red Army shows up. They try to figure out the best course of action to deal with these "monster". As they debate, the commanding officer tells his troops to put down their weapons. Trouble is, that's right about the time everyone wakes up. And naturally Gorgon mistakes all the movement for an attack. So we get a little brouhaha, and Triton hops into the waters to help. He swims out and then down until he finds a large electronic switch on the side of a cliff. He triggers it, and back on the surface a panel opens from the side of a mountain to reveal a slick aircraft. Turns out it had been stashed there months earlier by these very Inhumans (although I couldn't find when). They make their getaway.
Doug: In San Francisco we find Black Bolt, still in civvies and with the boy he'd protected, accosted by an African-American man with a mechanical hand that looks an awful lot like something you would want to avoid the business end of. The man says he knows about the silent man and what he did, and that he can help. The boy asks about the gun-like contraption and the man suddenly converts it to a hand! What a device! He says they must get into his car, and that he will take them somewhere that's safe. As they slide into the back seat, it's suddenly revealed that the boy's (we now know his name is Joey) uncle Roscoe is in the front seat and up to no good. As gas fills the back seat, Joey's uncle and our new villain -- a Mister Dibbs (In the Heat of the Night and Sidney Poitier's "Mr. Tibbs" came out in 1967, but Roy must have been a fan) -- drive off with a costume draped across the front seat. The costume of Black Bolt. Dibbs remarks that the power in that suit is going to bring his plan to fruition.
Doug: We cut to the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of California. Our four Inhuman travelers have set their craft down in the water and hop a hoverboard-type of contraption to make their way to shore. They don't land in directly in San Francisco as you might have guess, but instead turn up on Muscle Beach. It's really sort of silly -- I don't know if it was Roy or Neal who wanted to work this in. But as our costumed Himalayans reach the sand, the muscleheads decide that a) these new arrivals are weirdos and b) they need to be shown that it's a private beach. Well you can guess how this fight will go. Triton again figures that it's he who must end it, so creates a diversion to draw the bodybuilders away. Medusa and Karnak usher Gorgon out and into the city after they steal clothes from the beach's locker room. Emerging, they hail a cab and ask to be taken to the only place they know: Johnson Street. The only reason they know it is because the cabbie had his radio on and a disturbance was reported. In a city the size of San Francisco, Medusa figures any lead is a good lead.
Doug: And, as fate would have it, who do you think is in the middle of the unrest? Why sure -- it's Mister Dibbs. And Black Bolt, now in costume. Dibbs and his armed militants have come to take a stand against their living conditions, their lack of civil rights, and the "crushing heel of white society". If the mayor will not bring down the rat-infested tenements, then Dibbs has a way to do it himself: Black Bolt. To be continued.
Amazing Adventures #8 (September 1971)(Inhumans cover by Neal Adams)
"An Hour for Thunder!"
Roy Thomas-Neal Adams/John Verpoorten
Doug: As I was thinking about what to read for today's reviews, I kicked around some George Perez JLA, some black-and-white Frankenstein Monster, and maybe a Dave Cockrum Legion tale. When I came back to the Perez notion, I remembered the discussion we'd had on Inhumans #2 a couple of months ago. Since I have the Inhumans Marvel Masterworks,
volume 2, I decided to check out the entire issue -- which was, by the way, my first Inhumans as I'd missed the premier. But in looking through it I recalled that the first four issues were all pretty serialized. So I moved away from that. But lo and behold! Right next to that Masterworks sat the Inhumans Marvel Masterworks, volume 1. Ah ha! I immediately turned to Amazing Adventures #8, recalling the cool Thor cover. Leafing through, it was obvious that I needed to also read and review #7, which you just finished reading. So here we are.
Doug: Oddly enough we open this issue in Avengers Mansion. This is the era of the Kree-Skrull War, and this is a great line-up! They are assembled near a visi-screen, watching the goings-on in San Francisco. As Mister Dibbs shouts the name of Black Bolt, the Scarlet Witch wonders aloud who he is. Cap says he does not know, either. Now hey -- didn't the Avengers and the Fantastic Four always share files? I just found this odd. Roy was writing both books and was certainly the resident Marvel scholar, so he would know if this was off. It sure seemed peculiar to me. Suddenly Thor enters the monitor room and claims that he alone will go to San Francisco to right this coming wrong. Just like the Muscle Beach scene in the previous issue, this appears to be a way to raise up a brawl. But, I suppose that's a long-standing Marvel tradition, so I'm going to play along.
Doug: Back in the City by the Bay, Dibbs is spouting his rhetoric and claims that for years he worked within the system to try to enact change -- a change that white politicians would hear nothing of. Well that was all going to end this day, and by demonstration he was going to show his followers how. Black Bolt barely whispers and one of the projects comes down. A representative of the mayor quickly calls out to Dibbs, saying that they'll work with him. Dibbs will have none of it and relates a tale of his youth. It's unfortunately a typical urban story of this time period (shoot -- of now, to say sadly...), full of poverty, vermin, and the protection of youth. Dibbs is angry, and he's promised to bring the entire area to the ground. Off to the side the Royal Family witnesses this in horror as their liege has used his power for violence. They change and leap to action as Dibbs' men fire smoke grenades near the National Guard.
Doug: Still without Triton, Medusa and her remaining male cousins take the fight right to the militants. It's tough to say who is right and who is wrong in a situation like this, but certainly the means of action by Dibbs and his men do cross a line. Ever the blusterer, Gorgon hoists a VW Beetle to get some attention. The compact car is suddenly sliced in half by a certain hammer made of Uru. Thor makes a grand entrance, but announces that the insurgents are under his protection. Now that's not how I'd have figured it. Karnak leaps at Thor while Medusa holds the Thunder God's arms with her tresses. A strike to the Son of Odin's wrist causes him to drop Mjolnir and since this is the Bronze Age -- you know what that means (tick, tick, tick...)! But we cut then to a hide-out across town, where Joey is being guarded by one of Dibbs' men. There's a radio playing, so Joey knows the score. He manages to get away, but not before looking into another room -- a room into which his guard had called. And he sees...
Doug: We cut back to Johnson Street where it's Gorgon who now (unwittingly) keeps Thor separated from his enchanted hammer. The Inhumans move against Dibbs, who leaps off a tank to meet their charge. He peels off the fake hand to again reveal the gun-like device at the end of his right arm. As Medusa uses her hair to grab the weapon and throw Dibbs off-balance, gunshots suddenly ring out from stage left. The smoke from the grenades has dissipated enough that the National Guard and police can now get through. Dibbs sees that this is it. But Thor reaches Mjolnir in the confusion and uses its power to whip up a thunderstorm, driving law enforcement back with wind and lightning. Thor makes his way to Dibbs and tells him that he knows what he's going through. Dibbs scoffs, incredulous that a god could say such a thing. But Thor remarks that he knows the pain Dibbs has faced. Dibbs wonders if Thor has seen some secret file on him, and then reveals the truth: Cancer was going to take his hand and perhaps his life. But his physician -- Dr. Donald Blake -- gave it to him straight. Dibbs, now mad at the world and for seemingly losing all he'd worked for, said he would see Tony Stark about his hand situation. And after that, he had something to do. Thor tells Dibbs that he's watched him from afar, and that all reason has left him. Dibbs turns to implore Black Bolt to speak and complete the mission. But Thor whacks Dibbs on the back of the head, ending his day. The Royal Family rush to their king, begging him not to speak. And then we find that it's not Black Bolt in costume at all -- no, it's Roscoe, young Joey's uncle. And just as he parts his lips to speak, the antenna atop the mask suddenly recharges with the energy of the sun. And Roscoe is not fit to take it. News later that day reports how a stranger in a strange suit had died that afternoon, and that Lionel Dibbs would be awaiting a trial. Joey heard this, in the company of his companion who had been restrained in the room next to him: Black Bolt.
Doug: So... I'm not going to categorize myself as an Inhumans expert, but I've read my fair share of their adventures. Certainly by 1971's history, I'd say that I have read almost all of them. And I never got the impression that it was Black Bolt's suit that gave him his powers. I guess I always figured it was the Terrigen Mists that had empowered him (see the Inhumans back-ups in late Silver Age Thors) with the curse of the voice, with flight, etc. As to the antenna? I really never thought about it much. I mean, isn't the same deal on Lockjaw, and isn't it a part of him? I'm asking -- help a brother out if you know the answers to these questions. When Roscoe spoke at the beginning of the demonstration and the building fell -- how'd that happen? Oh, yes -- and raise your hand if you're ticked off that Thor and Black Bolt never actually fought inside the book. False advertising, I say!
Doug: And what of the script? Roy Thomas is obviously sitting in for Denny O'Neil in a story we've somewhat read before (see our review of Green Lantern #76, as well as other GL/GA issues). Notice how Neal Adams was the penciler on both tales? I'm not saying social justice in comics is wrong -- I think the fact that Thomas and O'Neil, and Stan Lee and others as well, wanted to bring light to important political issues is probably commendable. And that it plays with a heavy hand? I don't know -- maybe that's my problem, not theirs. We could debate that all day, and certainly bring the topics discussed right up to today's relevance. Adams art was great as it usually is (even if John Verpoorten's inks gave it a scratchy texture). If I'd quibble, it's that Adams could draw Thor a bit beefier. But that splash page of the Avengers was magnificent. The man was born to draw that team! Or was it the X-Men...?