Saturday, July 31, 2010

If Only I Could Have Seen...

Doug: Today's question is one for the "thinking cap", or in the immortal words of that lovable/hatable reptile Barney -- "Use your i-ma-gi-na-tionnnnnn!" If you could have been present or party to any event in the Bronze Age, what would it have been, or where would you like to have gone?

Doug: I think you're about to get the sense that the BAB is having a love-fest with one Dr. Henry Pym in the month of August.
I've said before that I'm a big Pym fan and think he's gotten quite a raw deal throughout his four-color history. You will see a whole lot of him beginning Monday, when we'll start out with a look at his threads through the years, and then launch into the four issues that were the "Bride of Ultron" story. To kick it all off, I'll share my moment of imaginary involvement and it deals with the good doctor. It comes from the pages of Avengers #140. After a particularly stressful chain of events and a taxing battle against Whirlwind (when Hank broke his personal pledge to never grow again), Hank passed out on the steps of a hospital. He had been on his way to visit his wife, the Wasp (who was recovering from her own injuries), and after falling began to grow at an uncontrollable rate. George Tuska had some great panels in that book, although at times the scale of Hank's body was very inconsistent. Of particular note is the panel to the right of Hank's body literally filling a street, as seen from a quinjet piloted by the Vision. It would have been something to have seen.

Doug: What comes to your mind? Let us know by sharing a fun memory -- most of this will be "as seen through the eyes of a child", so there's nothing too silly or weird to comment on. Have fun with this! And have a great weekend.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dylan Sang -- Everybody Let's Get Stoned!

Captain America #141 (September 1971)
"The Unholy Alliance!"
Stan Lee-John Romita/Joe Sinnott

Doug: Back at it with part two of our little Cap/Grey Gargoyle triptych. This issue truly is a "middle" in the story -- and I'll say, it does "middle" a bi
t. But let's look closer...
Doug: If you recall from Wednesday, we last left our heroes in disparate places. The Falcon had gone after the Gargoyle in an attempt to a) find out what sinister plan this baddie was concocting, and b) take him down! However, in the midst of doing so Sam Wilson was of course turned to stone, but this time it was by a chemical that not only enabled him to move but also to think -- that is, to only think of obeying the Gargoyle's dastardly commands! On the other hand, Cap had been beamed up to the SHIELD helicarrier and was chatting it up with his squeeze Sharon Carter and her boss Col. Nick Fury. The three were lamenting the existence of "Element X", a compound so dangerous that a mere drop of it could split the Earth. It's at that point Cap put 2 and 2 together and decided that the Grey Gargoyle was out to possess that element.
Doug: You see, Element X can only be contained by pure stone, of which the Grey Gargoyle is made. Now just wait a second. I've got a beef here. I know Stan was in the business of stretching the truth, suspending disbelief, and all that. But how can he a) tell me the reader that the Gargoyle is "pure stone" when it's obvious that his body is functioning somewhat normally, and b) expect me to believe that pure stone is the only thing that can contain this stuff, yet it can split the planet in half? Hel-lo! What is the Earth made of??

Karen: Like I said last time, this makes n
o sense. So what -the Gargoyle could handle Element X? What good would it do him if the Earth was destroyed? It's not even a great blackmail tool, because the guy's signing his own death warrant. And yes, of course, a considerable portion of the Earth is stone...I don't know, I just feel like Stan wasn't even trying here.
Doug: So Cap drops back out of the helicarrier and goes off to find Falc. There's some really good Romita/Sinnott art in this sequence, including a couple of panels where Cap rides the bike up a wall to avoid some street workers. I've always liked the facial work of both Romita and Sinnott and they don't disappoint here. About the only thing I'd take exception to is the "grimness" that Cap often wears (Fury, too). Anyway, Cap goes back to the spot where he thinks Sam might have engaged the Gargoyle. Sure enough, Falc's there, just looking like a statue. Under the influence of the Gargoyle, though, Falc attacks Cap -- if only half-heartedly. They tussle, Sam resists the commands, and Cap tells him he'll get him cured aboard the helicarrier.

Karen: I always enjoyed seeing Cap on his motorcycle, a
nd Romita draws it well.
Doug: Cap sends out his "beam me up" signal, and they ascend to the hovercraft. OK, this is where it gets really, really dumb. Karen, I know you commented last time that at this point in his career (truly within months of ending his full-time writing career) Stan was to an extent mailing it in. Well this next sequence is downright bizarre. Cap tells Fury to get medics for Falc, and pronto. Falc is whisked away, and Sharon remarks, "Steve! Is it safe to bring him on board?" Cap's like, duh!, of course it is -- dude needs help! Sharon goes on: "I'm not sure! I just know I've got bad vibes! There's something wrong!... I can't explain it -- but the Falcon is dangerous! He mustn't remain aboard!" Then Fury chimes in -- "Stow it, Winghead! The gal could be right. Now listen ta me -- Sharon's head of our secret Psyche Squad; ya can call it hyped-up Women's Intuition. Fer starters, she's got a PhD in metaphysical psychology. Then we give her two year's trainin' in..." Then an alarm goes off.

Karen: I hate when the protagonist has to be an
idiot for the story to work. And what the heck was all this stuff about Sharon and her "metaphysical psychology" degree? Was that ever brought up again? Mailing it in indeed.
Doug: Of course Sam was faking it, and only let Cap bring him aboard so he could get the Gargoyle on board. A scrum breaks out, and Fury calls for Plan D. Oh, no -- not Plan D! Yep -- Plan D. Blow the whole stinkin' helicarrier up because of the Grey Gargoyle. No -- not Galactus. Not Dr. Doom. Not even a Hydra infiltration. The Grey - freakin' - Gargoyle. What do you suppose the helicarrier cost? Even in 1971 dollars? Blow it up...

Karen: What's next? Evacuate the capitol because the Eel is in town?
Doug: The fighting continues, and as the SHIELD crew evacuates, the helicarrier is on a course toward the mountain where Element X is stored. Because Fury's been turned to stone in the melee, there's no one to give the clearance code, so the soldiers in the mountain commence firing on the helicarrier. Cap's able to get his buddies out and onto a skiff (I thought of Return of the Jedi when I saw that) -- Falcon jumps out to join them with evil on his mind; fortunately his hour's up and he reverts back to his skin-and-bones self. The Gargoyle decides he's going to beat the heroes into the mountain, and so flies ahead. And that's another thing -- how the heck does he fly? He must weigh a ton (literally)! And then... and then Stan leaves us with this, his last line of his long run as author of Captain America: "He made it! The deadliest human alive is inside the stronghold -- where Element X will be his for the taking!" Bro-ther...

Karen: Yes, the guy made out of stone can glide...what?? Geez. I will admit though that Romita gave us some nice scenes, particularly the sequences with the helicarrier. Although I don't know that I would consider the art strong enough to carry this incredibly weak story. Definitely not the high point of Stan the Man's career.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thor and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes -- Trailers

Doug: I saw this over at Rob Allstetter's Comics Continuum yesterday. If you click below the photo, you'll be taken to the page where Rob's posted a 2-minute trailer to the new Disney XD Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon. That show will debut this fall. It looks pretty good -- lots of super-baddies that you'll recognize. I do wish, however, that they could have gotten a differnt voice actor for Iron Man. Ol' IM just doesn't sound like I "hear" him. But that's a small complaint. Enjoy!

NOTE: At 3:45 this afternoon, I saw the trailer for the May 2011 Thor movie, as was shown at Comicon International this past weekend over at Enjoy! Double NOTE -- The trailer is a bit over five minutes in length; depending on your connection speed, wireless gremlins, etc. it may take awhile to download.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Turned to Stone, When You Were Gone, I Turned To Stone...

Captain America #140 (August 1971)
"In the Grip of the Gargoyle!"
Stan Lee-John Romita/George Roussos

Doug: We remarked last week that we'd been guilty of shunning the Mighty Thor for the past year-plus. Well, lo and behold but Captain America's been getting the shaft, too! So over the
next week, we'll also rectify that situation with a 3-part look at Cap and the Falcon vs. the Grey Gargoyle!
Doug: First impression -- Stan's writing is full of its usual hyperbole, George Roussos is perhaps not the best inker for John Romita, and where in the world did Artie Simek lose all of his punctuation?

Karen: Ah yes, the missing punctuation! There was a period of time where it seemed like you never saw a period at the end of sentences. One of our readers, Steve Pick, stated in comments on our review of Fantastic Four 112 that there was some sort of printing process problem (say that three times fast) going on at the time. But as a young reader, who was proud of her grasp of sentence structure, it drove me crazy. Actually, it still does.

Doug: We pick this story up just as a battle is beginning between Captain America and the Grey Gargoyle. Cap's been on the NYPD at the request of the commissioner in an effort to locate several cops who've turned up missing. The reason they are missing is because they've all been turned to stone by the Gargoyle, and it's this graveyard-looking scene that Cap comes into. If you're not familiar with the Gargoyle, he was a French chemist who accidentally stumbled on a compound that turns anything he touches with his right hand to stone. I've always found it somewhat funny that even though he's the person of masonry, he still wears a moustache -- sort of reminds me of Caesar Romero!
Karen: Yeah, the Gargoyle is a goofy guy -he seems exceedingly bulky, sort of reminding me of the Beast after he got hairy. He just never seemed that challenging a foe -certainly not for the likes of Thor, who I believe was his original enemy.

Doug: The Falcon soon catches up to Cap and joins the battle. We of course get the obligatory racial accusations, that Cap only keeps Falc around as a "token black"; Falc felt that Cap had gone off on his own to tackle the baddie. I've always found this talk somewhat offensive and certainly inflammatory, but I understand that's what Stan was going for. It just gets worn out when it occurs each issue. Later in the story it's really rough when Steve is looking for Sam at his social work office and is confronted by Sam's lady friend. She goes a step further and ridicules Steve for being in his police uniform. I suppose this running commentary was just one more difference between Marvel and DC in this era (the O'Neil/Adams GL-GA notwithstanding).

Karen: It's funny, I found this really the most interesting part of the story. I have to give Stan credit for addressing the issue and not playing it safe. Yes, at times it could seem heavy-handed, but I don't think it was that far removed from reality. I'm sure that an African American hero teamed up with a liv
ing legend would get no end of grief from some people in his community. The pressure to prove himself, to be his own man -that would be tough. As for Leila, well, she was pretty much always a b!tch, regardless of creed or color!
Doug: The Grey Gargoyle proves his mettle by even turning Cap's shield to stone. However, once there's a break in the fighting the Gargoyle slips away. It's not that he couldn't have continued, but he has other business to tend to. So we see Steve Rogers back in uniform and getting instructions from the commissioner while taking heat from his commanding officer (in a scene straight out of Steve's military days in WWII). We're also treated to a brief origin recap for the Gargoyle.

Doug: Next we see Falc has tracked, with the help of Redwing, the Gargoyle to his secret lab. Sam engages ol' Stoneface, they scrap, and Sam surprisingly holds his own. That is, until the Gargoyle exposes Sam to the same chemicals that turn people to stone -- but this time with a twist: the new composition allows the afflicted person to move, but places him under the mental control of the Grey Gargoyle. This is heading south for our heroes in a hurry!

Karen: You have to wonder what Falcon was thinking, kicking a guy made out of stone? Ouch! It doesn't seem like he had any real plan for capturing him, but I blame Stan more for t
hat than Falc!

Doug: Cap is worried about Falc so goes searching for him. The aforementioned exchange at Sam's office takes place, and then Cap requests (through Stark technology) to be beamed up to the SHIELD helicarrier. There, he's reunited with Sharon Carter and Nick Fury. While catching up, Fury informs Cap of a project they're working on to isolate and study Element X. But the only thing that can withstand this dangerous chemical -- with the power to blow up the planet -- is solid stone. It's at that point that Cap connects the dots...

Karen: Why oh why is anyone working on Element X? "One drop can destroy the planet" -hello, what possible use is the stuff? This whole idea seemed like something Stan just had pop into his head and put down on paper with no real effort put into thinking it out.
Doug: This was a decent story -- lots of action, a little mystery, writing from Stan like you'd expect, solid if not spectacular pictures from Jazzy Johnny, and a cliffhanger ending. Yep -- everything you expect to get for your hard-earned 15c!

Karen: This was one of those go-go-go stories that Stan seemed to be doing a lot of towards the end of his writing career. It's not terrible but it's certainly not up to his earlier work. I did really enjoy the Romita art in this issue.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running the Gauntlet?

Karen: I thought this was a rather tantalizing picture from the Marvel display at Comic Con:

Karen: What the heck is the Infinity Gauntlet doing there? The speculation has been wild -everything from Thanos showing up in the Thor or Avengers movies to someone else -Loki possibly -using the Gauntlet. Of course it could just be prop that might be in the background of one of the films. Or a complete McGuffin! What do you think?

Monday, July 26, 2010

George Perez July: X-Men Annual #3

X-Men Annual #3 (1979)
"A Fire In the Sky!"
Chris Claremont-George Perez/Terry Austin

Karen: Welcome to our final entry for "George Perez July". It's a truly entertaining annual that features Perez on some characters he's not normally associated with - The X-Men.

Doug: I don't know about you, but I had a slight smile on my face during my entire read! From the opening splash page where Perez paid homage to regular series penciller John Byrne and then (of all people) Fred Hembeck, to the very last page of the book I just had a lot of fun!

Karen: However this issue starts with a brief visit to the home of a group Perez has deep connections to -The Avengers. Arkon, an extra-dimensional Conan-wannabe who has hassled the Avengers before, goes to Avengers Mansion seeking Thor. Apparently, he needs his help. He nearly throttles Jarvis when he tells him Thor has taken a leave of absence. However, Arkon's adviser, the Grand Vizier, tells him there is another who can aid them -the mutant known as Storm.

Doug: I always enjoy Jarvis. Poor guy -- he's taken his share of lumps through the years. I found it odd, though, that Jarvis said he'd checked the external scanners and sensors before he opened the door to retrieve the morning paper. Soon as he opened the door, BAM! Well hello, Mr. Arkon!

Karen: Cue a trip to the home of the X-Men, where a danger room session is in progress. Perez does a nice job on the different X-Men, and Austin's inks give the team the familiar look we all loved. The danger room session goes awry and we get a nice display of powers by the team. Shortly after this, Arkon shows up and battles the X-Men. Colossus really got a chance to shine in these scenes, finally stopping Arkon by hitting him with a tree! However, before the fight ends, the barbarian king uses a special 'lightning bolt' to teleport Storm to his world. Cyclops decides to use the remaining bolts to transport the whole team to recover Storm.

Doug: This scene seemed to stretch on forever, and I am certainly not complaining. What a tour de force for Perez and Austin. Even though it was one long (actually 2-part, though) superhero fight, it was one joy after another. These were the X-Men as they should be -- as you said, by powers but also by personality, this was the team unspoiled by the anti-hero movement and the blatant commercialism that would be the 1990's. Throughout the book Wolverine was very much in-character, but never hogging the limelight. He was dour, but never surly. Colossus was as noble as ever (I always wondered about the seeming triangle that was he, Ororo, and Nightcrawler and Peter's angry assault on Arkon further deepened my suspicions), and Kurt was his usual feisty self. Storm was regal yet sensitive, and Cyke just led. Like a rock he led. These were the golden days of the All-New team.

Karen: Yeah, this was the Cyclops I used to know and love. A guy who took his role very seriously, who cared about his team but nonetheless drove them to perform. As a strategist, he seemed second only to Captain America. That really comes across here, as Cyke directs the team through fight after fight.

Karen: Once the team is transpo
rted, Perez gets to draw one of his specialties: a gigantic fight scene overflowing with figures! What looks like hundreds of Arkon's warriors attack the X-Men. It's a spectacular fight.

Doug: Ah, yes! Part 3 of the never-ending battle. And just more fun!

Karen: Eventually the heroes locate Storm, only to discover that she is willingly working with her captors now! It turns out that Arkon's kidnapped her because the energy rings that encircle his planet and provide light and warmth have nearly gone out. This happened once before (Avengers 75 and 76); that time Iron Man built a device to charge the rings, and Thor used his lightning to power it. But the device has malfunctioned. Nightcrawler and Wolverine hurry to repair the device -yes, you read that correctly. Claremont throws in a line about how Banshee taught Nightcrawler electronics, but c'mon, really? These two are repairing a device Tony Stark built? I'm not buyin' that! Then Storm absorbs the lightning and projects it into Cyclops, who somehow converts it into optic blasts to charge the device. I thought the reasoning behind all this was weak, to say the least. But it did make for a very dramatic tableau, as Colossus serves to ground Storm, and Cyclops suffers through the fury of her electrical barrage.

Doug: As we mentioned back in our review of Giant-Size X-Men #1, problems often seemed to be spectacularly solved by the energy-powered mutants channeling their various forces through some conduit and at the situation. I agree with you that this was a bit contrived, but the visual was outstanding and really showcased what heroes are all about. You know, as Marvel touts their "Heroic Age", one need only look back to some of these Bronze Age stories to see how it should (always) be done. Why they went away from a good thing is beyond me.

Karen: Of course our mutant heroes succeed, and the life-giving rings are restored to Arkon's world. I know we've discussed this before, but Austin is definitely a 'strong inker' , in that his style is imposed on whomever he inks. You can still tell its Perez, but Austin has a particular style that is all his own. It reminds me of how Joe Sinnott's inking was always identifiable, regardless of the artist. Since I enjoy his work, it doesn't bother me in the slightest. It was fun to see how a Perez X-Men would have looked -and like all things Perez, it's pretty darned nice!

Doug: It was nice, and as you said -- consistent. About the only complaint I had was a series of panels late in the story (when Arkon was explaining how his planet had fallen into darkness) where the inks seemed really uneven. Between the first facial close-up and the last two there was an abrupt change from light inks that really showed Perez's pencils to very dark, heavy inks that almost evoked other inkers we've discussed.

Doug: As I said above, this was such a great period for the X-Men. Chris Claremont had yet to convolute the X-verse beyond recognition and in the regular book he and Byrne/Austin were really clicking. It's no wonder George Perez wanted in on the action, and like you said -- we're all better for it!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Important is the Cover of a Comic Book?

Doug: This weekend's discussion asks you to weigh in with your opinions and/or observations on the evolution of the comic book cover.

Doug: Back in the Golden Age comic covers seemed largely to be used for two main purposes: patriotic propaganda and (especially in the case of DC) light-hearted humor. As comics segued to the Silver Age, covers took on more of a selling-point role, often showcasing events that would take place within the pages of the magazine. Of course, sometimes the covers sported teasers that didn't really happen -- this was also true more of DC than of Marvel. Now, however, comic covers are often merely splash pages -- material that might be better suited to posters or prints.

Doug: So what's your take on it? Do you hold particular covers as favorites that stand out in your mind? Are there those that draw your ire? Leave a comment, and thanks for your consideration of this topic!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Mighty Thor 218: Attack of the Death Stars!

Thor #218 (December 1973)
"Where Pass the Black Stars There Also Passes... Death!"
Gerry Conway-John Buscema/Jim Mooney

Doug: There is an air of intensity and purpose as this story begins. At the end of the previous issue, Odin charged Thor, Sif, Tana Nile, and Silas Grant with a mission to the Rigelian system to find out and/or stop a force that was bearing down on the planet of the Colonizers. Shortly before take-off, Balder requests to accompany his lord and friend, and Thor complies. It is with a heavy heart that Odin watches them sail away.

Karen: The splash page is fantastic. Dramatic and eye-grabbing -Buscema knew how to get the readers' attention!

Doug: On the Colonizers homeworld, the last of the space arks evacuates the population as the leaders monitor the approach of the five black stars. They, too, have a pessimistic view of the coming tragedy, operating under the assumption that this black force will find them no matter where they flee. And indeed, it does advance like some eerie amoeba.

Doug: Scribe Conway inundates us with several vignettes as the magazine unfolds. We next see Krista, who last issue discovered a strange glowing stone. Moving toward home after fleeing from the epic battle between the returning Asgardians and their doppelgangers, she arrives to meet her mother. Stealing away quickly to her bedroom, we get the impression that she has perhaps come under some sort of evil influence from the pulsating rock.

Karen: As you said last time, she looks like an Asgardian Little Red Riding Hood! There's definitely something not right about that stone...

Doug: Back to the ship (wow, Conway was way ahead of his time in this story -- this was certainly made for the attention span of today's teenagers!), we find our heroes have landed on Rigel. Finding it empty, they further explore and are attacked by nether-dwelling mutants. Of course these troll-like creatures pose not much of a threat, but show a surprisingly human side when conversation is allowed to begin. The subjects of Regilian genetic experiments gone wrong, they were left to die in the wake of the black stars. Thor invites them to accompany his team, and they accept.

Karen: I love the absurdity of a Viking longboat plowing across space. Even better, seeing Thor at the rudder! I'm sure modern readers would find it ridiculous but I think it's charming.

Karen: After the Obligatory Fight Scene, Thor displays his nobility by asking the mutants to join his group. It's interesting that you used the word 'troll' to describe them Doug, because as I read this I thought that despite their sci fi origins, these mutants were really no different than the typical mythological underground dwellers, whether they be trolls or some other creature. We've seen this theme in Marvel books before, particularly with the Alpha Primitives of the Inhumans. It's also common in sci fi stories -Morlocks, anyone?

Doug: As the Rigelians flee, they continue to monitor the advance of the five black stars. Watching on a viewscreen, they see rays of energy suddenly burst forth from the black stars, raking through their homeworld. However, they then are astonished to see mechanical tendrils emerge and vacuum up hunks of planet, the cities still attached!

Karen: We are faced with a mind-blowing, dare I say Kirby-esque two-page spread here of the destruction of Rigel. You can feel the raw destructive energy coming off the pages!

Karen: It struck me that the Black Stars are much like the machine in the old Star Trek episode, The Doomsday Machine. They both carve up planets with energy beams and then suck in the fragments and convert them to energy. Of course the appearance is completely different, as the Trek machine looked like nothing so much as a gigantic Bugle corn chip! Seeing as how that episode came out circa 1967, I can't help but wonder if it inspired Conway?

Doug: Thor's ship finally overtakes the Rigelian fleet, and they get attacked! Leaping into the fray, Thor engages the firing ship, quickly dispatching two Colonizers. A melee breaks out, but is soon stopped by higher-ranking Colonizers; it's posited that the Asgardians might be able to assist in the flight from the now-destroyed homeworld.

Doug: Thor and his comrades learn the backstory of the black stars, and it's not an optimistic tale. As the lead Colonizer continues to explain, the group is suddenly confronted with an image of the threat -- a blazing sun surrounded by five black stars, each three times larger than Jupiter; in effect, a solar system moving about the universe destroying galaxies! And what power can stand against such awesome might?

Karen: Another wonderful full-page work. Buscema was really running on all cylinders this issue. I like the Mooney inks -not my favorite on Buscema but pretty good. I've always thought his thicker lines and use of blacks looked good.

Doug: This ish was a mixed bag for me. It seems to be all build-up for what's to come, and sadly I don't have the succeeding issues -- I'm just left hanging. I can't say it was a bad read -- Conway did build up some anticipation, but I'd lie if I said it was one of the most compelling stories I'd ever read. Buscema's art is solid as usual, and like you said, it's nice to see the familiar inks of Jim "Madman" Mooney. There's no mistaking his female faces, especially the eyes. Good stuff, taking me back to his Legion and Supergirl work for DC.

Karen: I really enjoyed the story. Great space action, lots of imaginative art - this is the type of Thor story I like best. It's really story-driven, not character-driven, which I think is the best way to handle Thor. And seeing as how I do have the next issue, I'll definitely be reading it! Sorry Doug!

Doug: Well, then you'll need to do it as part of an upcoming BAB Two-In-One... Don't be cruel!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Captain America and Thor Movie Posters!

Doug: Courtesy of Yahoo, and seen by me on Tuesday (7/20/2010) evening, you'll find below two posters that will be distributed to attendees at this weekend's Comicon International in San Diego, California. Both are artists' renderings, but both show in detail the costumes that will be worn in next summer's Marvel blockbusters. Drool, my friends!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Mighty Thor 217: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

Thor #217 (November 1973)
"All Swords Against Them!"
Gerry Conway-John Buscema/Sal Buscema

Doug: Jumping on point, kids! Hey, can you believe it's been 13 months here at the BAB and we've not checked out an issue of everyone's favorite Thunder God? Well it has, and we're gonna fix that indiscretion today. Thor #217 begins a "new episode", as they say. So what say we get down to it?

Karen: Verily, thou speakest the truth friend Doug! Let it be done!

Doug: As the Odinship descends upon the Realm Eternal after a long adventure (which regretfully I don't know anything about, as I don't have the previous issues! Doh!), the Asgardians are bursting with anticipation at landing after many trials. As the mighty ship begins to land, the denizens of the royal city shout praises to Odin, and to Thor. At first the gods are excited, but suddenly Thor notices that it is not they who are cheered; instead it is a band of doppelgangers who draws the adoration!

Karen: I really like that shot that Buscema does from the angle of the ship above, looking down on the city.

Doug: Needless to say, Thor isn't going to just sit around while Odin's name is desecrated. His band leaps toward their counterparts, and the battle is joined. Of note, however, is that the Thor on the ground wields not a version of mystic Mjolnir, but a sword!

Karen: Yes, tip-off number one that these guys are a bunch of fakes! For some reason the faux Thor also has slightly different wrist bands -there's no black stripe on them.

Doug: Well, I'm glad that they made those little things clear; I usually hate when a guy has to fight his body double -- I never know what the heck is going on!

Doug: Cut away to the constellation Rigel, where Karen's favorite aliens, the Colonizers, reside. A great tragedy bears down on their Command Planet, and the dome-headed citizens board huge space arks in an attempt to flee. This is all very cryptic, and you can rest assured that more information will follow.

Karen: Doesn't Big John do an outstanding job of conveying emotion here? Look at not only the facial expressions of the characters, particularly the chief colonizer, but also at the body language. There's a sense of resignation, of defeat, in the way the chief stands, while the other characters get across the idea that they are scrambling. I just thought this section really stood out and showed one of Buscema's often-overlooked strengths: the ability to show emotion in quiet scenes.

Doug: Big John usually gave us his all in not only camera angles but in atmosphere, too. Despite his common cry that he hated super-heroes, the guy just never mailed it in. I always felt like I was getting his best.

Doug: Back to the battle royale, the false Thor raises his blade against Odin, while the doppelganger Heimdahl challenges Thor. Let's just say that Mjolnir works really well at smashing fake Rainbow Bridge guardians. Sif is in battle, as are the Warriors Three. We next see a goddess named Krista, fretting over all the commotion. As she seeks safety in the West Woods, she stumbles upon a glowing stone, marked with a menacing face. To be honest, this dame reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood... I say to thee, scribe Conway doth weave a tangled web!

Karen: Krista doth like to refer to herself in the third person, which doth driveth me crazy! But without any other characters in the scene, I suppose this was the only way to give readers her name.

Doug: Battling again, Fandral moves around a corner and bumps into Voluminous Volstagg. Fandral is surprised to see him, as the last time they were together was on Earth as Volstagg guarded the stricken Balder. Bringing Fandral up to speed, Volstagg tells of returning to Asgard to find the Realm occupied by the doppelgangers. Balder insulted and then engaged the impostors, of course Volstagg hid, and Balder was beaten. Thrown in jail, it's been two weeks. And Volstagg has done nothing, which doesn't seem to surprise Fandral. Leaping to action, Balder is freed in mere seconds.

Karen: I know Volstagg is comic relief, but there were times like this where I just wanted to kick his big fat behind. However, I couldn't help but smile at that one full-face panel of the buffoon, where he looks a lot like Sgt. Schultz from Hogan's Heroes.

Doug: I couldn't agree more -- Conway apparently did a good job of making us both want to scream!

Doug: As the battle rages, Sif fights against Hildegarde and Thor continues the struggle against Heimdahl. At Sif's request, Odin releases the legions of Asgard to give the heroes a surge. Thor finally bests Heimdahl by knocking him over the Bridge. As Heimdahl falls, he laments that he will change, and indeed begins to dissolve -- before he fades away, he remarks that it is just as the wizard had said. Thor smells a rat.

Doug: Thor gathers up Sif, and as they fly across the Realm they spy Balder on a rooftop. Landing to ask how he got back from Earth (hey, duh -- you don't think it might be the bad one, do you?), Thor and Sif are trapped in a large box by a now-transformed wizard named Igron, the Invincible, former lackey of Loki. He begins to explain how he came to be the ruler of Asgard. It's a simple tale of fall, revenge, triumph, and then ultimately -- as the real Balder belts him with the flat of his shimmering blade -- defeat. Thor and Sif are loosed from their prison.

Karen: The Asgardians often seemed to be portrayed as somewhat simple-minded, or at best, creatures of the moment! I suppose Thor was considered a man of action, not thought, so he was easy to dupe. But even so, there are times when he seems like a complete dunder-head.

Doug: As the battle ends, the spell broken, it is the true gods who again rule Asgard. Odin wraps it up with this proverb: "Be wary what gods thou dost give legiance to, for belief is all too easily used against thee and faith can seed a most bloody fruit!" Wow -- good stuff! And as we close out the issue, Odin sends Thor, Sif, Tana Nile, and Silas Grant on a mission to find out what is closing in on the planet of the Colonizers, and indeed, on all the worlds of men!

Doug: I thought this was a fun issue -- lots of battle scenes, which John Buscema just excels at drawing. Perhaps only Jack Kirby was his master. Sal's inks over big brother John are pretty solid; as we remarked earlier on the Open Forum discussion of inkers, some of John's faces can seem a bit flat (particularly on the 3/4 angle). Sal doesn't necessarily fix that, but then that may be why John often preferred Sal's true treatment of his pencils. So as a done-in-one and a jumping on point, I'd say this was a Bronze Age beauty!

Karen: A fun little story, packed with action. I liked the fact that Thor was somehow able to combine fantasy and science fiction in a rousing adventure format. When you think of many of Thor's greatest adventures, they actually took place in outer space! But it worked.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh, Those Big Books Were Fun!

Doug: Today's discussion topic actually spins out of yesterday's comments on Fantastic Four Annual #14. As the BAB have spent the better part of the summer reminiscing about Giant-Size comics and the summer Annuals, maybe now is a good time to turn it over to you and let you bring forth your favorite books. And, let's not constrict it to just the Bronze Age -- if you have a fave book/story that was in the Silver Age, or if you want to head into the realm of the Treasury Editions (or DC's Limited Collector's Editions) and discuss a favorite tome, go right ahead. Make these discussions your own!

PS: The Mighty Thor arrives at the BAB tomorrow, kids!


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