Friday, July 9, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Werewolf Astronauts and Spiders, Panthers, and Dinosaurs -- Oh My!

Karen: My pick today is from Marvel in 1975, which you should know by now means there's a good chance my review will cover a book far from the mainstream. And so it does! Today may I present Creatures on the Loose #36, featuring the marauding Man-Wolf! This issue is brought to us by David Kraft, George Perez, and Frank McLaughlin. Yup, more Perez even in the Two In One reviews!

Karen:We've discussed our buddy the Man-Wolf before - a few times, actually. But always as the antagonist to Spider-Man. Here, he is the star of the show. The story is well-written, although Kraft's narrative style is sometimes over the top ("Then, his consciousness is supplanted by another...a sable mentality that does not intellectualize but, instead, responds directly to stimuli--with consummate and suicidal violence!")but the story moves along well and kept me interested. The young Perez' art here is delicious -McLaughlin's inks go well and bring out the details in the pencils. The Man-Wolf looks sinewy and savage, and Perez shows he's equally adept at high tech scenes with rockets and space stations. It's a beautiful looking book. It also has an exciting Gil Kane/Klaus Janson cover.

Karen: The story is somewhat convoluted, and I seem to be coming in in the middle of it. John Jameson -aka the Man-Wolf - has agreed to pilot a rocket to an orbiting government space station in return for amnesty for his AWOL status. However, as Jameson begins to dock with the station, the rays of the moon hit him and he wolfs out. A mysterious stranger in a spacesuit that looks like a suit of medieval armor comes to his rescue, but is soon treated to a fist full of wolf. There's a nice fight sequence as Man-Wolf battles the knight and a big bruiser named Gorjoon.

Karen: We then get interludes with John Jameson's girlfriend and his dad, J. Jonah Jameson. It's fun seeing Jonah in a situation not dealing with Peter Parker or Spider-Man.

Karen: This issue ends with the space-knight, Garth, managing to use a power cable in the space station to zap Man-Wolf nearly unconscious. He and his companions have seen the moonstone around Man-Wolf's neck, and it has significance to them, as they call it the Weird Stone. The last panel leads us to believe that Garth is going to cut the stone right from Wolfy's neck!

Karen: I had a lot of fun with this issue. It was a solid story, and the Perez art is terrific. It's amazing to think this was a second or even third tier book in its time. However, there were a lot of hidden gems like this that Marvel put out in the 70s. Titles like Iron Fist, Amazing Adventures with Killraven, Warlock....none of these were blockbusters, but they were some of the most unique and exciting titles to be found.

Doug: Yep, after a month-and-a-half hiatus, we're back at the 2-in-1's. My choice today is Marvel Team-Up #20 from April 1974, co-starring the Black Panther and brought to us by Len Wein and the art team of Sal Buscema and inkers Frank Giacoia and Mike Esposito. This tale picks up immediately after the previous issue's Ka-Zar team-up and battle against Stegron in the Savage Land. As we join our cast, ol' Steggy's on an "ark" full of dinosaurs and bearing straight down on New York City! But much to his future-chagrin, the Dinosaur Man has a stowaway/tagalong -- Spider-Man

In spite of that crack creative team, I have to say that there really isn't too much meat to this story. With the set-up above, we basically get the Panther involved (Jarvis hears a report of a strange craft bearing down on Manhattan), who arrives just in time to save Spidey, who's been knocked off the ark by a blow from Stegron's tale. Spidey gets T'Challa up to speed on what's gone down in the Savage Land and how Stegron has a whole lotta lizards to unleash. The heroes visit Dr. Curt Connors -- Stegron had been Connors' assistant before turning himself into a walking dinosaur. Connors begins to work on an antidote, T'Challa helps Spidey develop a stronger web fluid, and Stegron attacks some folks in Central Park.

We cut away to the Daily Bugle, where Mary Jane is asking City Editor Joe Robertson if he's seen Peter Parker lately. Robbie replies that he hasn't, Jonah busts into the conversation railing about dinosaurs in Times Square, and MJ cuts out -- she assumes where there's a Spider-Man, there's a Peter Parker. So we cut away to Times Square to see Spidey and T'Challa engaging the dinosaurs. As Spidey's about to wrap things up, Mary Jane tricks a police officer and sneaks past the barricade line. In a strange scene, she looks right at Spider-Man and calls out Peter's name. Of course, we're at this point over a decade before Peter would reveal his dual identity.

Spidey webs MJ and pulls her out from under a toppling brontosaurus, then gives her a firm tongue-lashing for putting herself in danger. It's Spidey's hope that the gruff treatment would throw her off any trail that Spidey might be Peter Parker, and it does. Dr. Connors arrives to talk some sense into Stegron, Steggy calls a pterodactyl and makes a break for it, and Spider-Man follows. Over the ocean, Spidey slugs Stegron, who falls off his mount and into the drink. The Dinosaur Man sinks to the bottom, not to be seen again until a Lizard two-parter in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man a few years later.

Overall, this issue was OK, and that's about all the kudos I can toss its way. Sal's art is fine, not spectacular, but serviceable. Wein seems off with some of his dialogue. I always "hear" the Panther as very proper -- not stuffy so much, but speaking with respect and etiquette. Hearing him say "wall-crawler" just doesn't sound quite right. Really, the issue is just one big battle that never seemed in doubt. And, like many of the early Marvel Team-Ups, this was probably just a vehicle for some Panther-promotion, as his feature in Jungle Action was taking off. A little cross-pollination, so to speak...


Edo Bosnar said...

Man, I wish Marvel would do a reprint of these Man-wolf stories. The only ones I read are the 2-issue conclusion of this story in Marvel Premiere 45-46 - which I loved. I only learned much later that there was an entire mini Man-wolf run by Kraft/Perez in "Creatures on the Loose." The back issues are pretty easy to find online, but they aren't necessarily cheap...

Karen said...

Edo, I had at least the last three issues of Creatures on the Loose and all of the Marvel Premiere issues of Man-Wolf, but a few years ago they disappeared (along with a whole long box of books) when I was moving. I was able to get this book and a few other Man-Wolf titles just recently when our local comics place had a 75% off sale. But it would be nice to have them reprinted in a trade.

cerebus660 said...

Man-Wolf was a fun series all right! As Karen said, it would be cool to see the stories collected in a trade. The most interesting thing about a collection would be the chance to watch Perez's artwork improve, issue by issue - you really can see his style develop massively across the series.

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