Friday, September 9, 2011

Could the FF Stave Off Cancellation? Shogun Warriors #19

Shogun Warriors #19 (August 1980)
"The Giant of Manhattan!"
Doug Moench-Herb Trimpe/Mike Esposito

Doug: Now here's one off the eBay reader lot pile that I have absolutely no interest in. I did own one Shogun Warrior toy, but he was only to provide a challenge to my Megos. Runs in my mind that he may have been a stand-in for Galactus at some point... But really -- there are no pre-conceived notions about this book. It's maybe only the second or third copy of this title I've ever held in my hands, and the first I've owned. So, this will be a tabula rasa review, my friends!

Doug: We open with a splash of the giant robots in flight and I'll say this -- had I come to this as a 14-year old the vocabulary on the page would have driven me away. Wow -- not what I'd call a jumping-on point. Fortunately, upon further examination of the page I settled in on the text box at the top. Man, I miss those! After that brief foundational reading I felt like I was good to go. So the Shogun Warriors are on the fast move, apparently to get ahead of some menace. We then shift to space, where a dude called the "primal one" is addressing some "drones" who failed to stop the Shogun Warriors earlier. The goal being stated is to strip Earth of its advanced technology, which has outstripped its morality. Seems fair enough -- who could argue that, even today? So then another ship arrives, commanded by "Captain Cymell" -- and she's no looker in the face department, that's for sure! Intergalactic Mrs. Humpty Dumpty if you ask me... Since both of these beings represent the Charter Federation, an alliance is formed.

Doug: Back on Earth, the three pilots of the Shogun Warriors meet at the Oceanography Research Center. They discuss the impending conflict with the "primal one", and that they know that once the Shogun Warriors are destroyed, it's Reed Richards who will be targeted next. Back in space, at the protest of Captain Cymell, the "primal one" (seriously, every time they mention this character, the name is in quotes. Is it a joke?) unleashes the Gigantauron, a planet-destroying starship. And guess where it's headed? The "primal one" boards the ship by osmosis, and augments it with his life-force. This probably isn't going to be good.

Doug: Cut then to the Baxter Building, where in an all-too-familiar scene the team we know and love as the Fantastic Four works on a giant contraption: Ben supports it, Reed stretches around it working, Johnny is off on the side welding something with his finger, and Sue is useless. Nothing new here. Suddenly the building begins to quake. Johnny looks outside in time to see a giant robot -- the Shogun Warrior Combatra -- about to land on the roof. Hustling out the window, the Torch is soon joined from the elevator by Ben. Naturally they engage without asking questions, only to be rebuked by Reed. The Warrior's pilots then descend, and debrief the FF. Back on the Gigantauron, the "primal one" uses a sensor to track the human pilots to New York City. And how convenient -- they just happen to be in the company of Reed Richards!

Doug: In a scene we've witnessed in just about every sci-fi invasion film, the Gigantauron reaches Earth and slowly blots out the sun as it descends over NYC. Suddenly shifting from a horizontal descent to one that is vertical, we see that the enormous ship is actually an enormous robot, now standing in the harbor. The Gigantauron way out-sizes Combatra -- it's easily 10x larger. The Shogun pilots inform the Four that Combatra is able to separate into five components, each a more powerful weapon than the composite. Reed and Sue volunteer to be the other two human pilots, while Johnny is given responsibility for recognizance and Ben is asked to assist the Air Force in the monitor room.

Doug: As the battle begins, the giant fires lasers at the smaller ships, which seem to buzz around like flies. Of all people, it's Sue who suddenly gets the idea of the day -- to use her ship to plunge into the ocean and use it as a wedge to topple the construct. Since it must operate on some sort of gyro-stabilizer (huh? Sue came up with this??), throwing the thing off-balance may be the solution. However, as she begins the process, the giant lifts its leg and steps right over Sue's ship -- we're led to believe that even her forcefield wasn't enough to save her or her ship. Johnny manages to burn a hole in the side of the Gigantauron, allowing Shogun pilot Genji to pilot her ship inside -- to find the gyro herself. But the hole seals itself behind, and Johnny is kept out. Once inside, Genji ejects and now repeats a scene we've seen twice in the pages of the Avengers: minute hero tracking through a body to find the "cure". As this happens on page 27, you can bet she gets it right. Yep -- big robot fall down, hard!

Doug: Genji gets out, the "primal one" escapes, and Sue surfaces, unharmed. All's well that ends well. Trouble for this reader is that the Gigantauron was billed as a "planet-destroyer", yet succumbed all-too-easily to attack and defeat. That's not so believable. Additionally, the story just seemed to end. No discussion on what is now going to happen to 100's of tons of interstellar technology/refuse. The story just... ended. By the way, this was the penultimate issue of the title -- not sure that had anything to do with it. So, while I'd definitely call this story "average", it wasn't horrible. I'd think for younger readers who could handle some of the vocabulary, and who had the toys on which the title was based, this was probably pretty cool. Doug Moench is a pretty strong writer, so I'm going to say that any short-comings were on the subject matter and not necessarily on him. And what of Herb Trimpe's art? Man, we got on him hard on the Super-Villain Team-Ups he penciled. But here? He's actually pretty good -- don't know how much of that is due to the influence of inker Mike Esposito; Trimpe wasn't exactly aided by the inkers assigned him in SVTU. But it wasn't a bad book to look at. Overall -- certainly not wasted time. My appetite isn't whetted for more, but it was a decently-spent 20 minutes.


Dougie said...

I'm getting a Kirby vibe from the splash page so could "primal one" be a reference to Jack's Fourth World writing style? For a pop culture maven like Moench, who referenced Bond and Fleetwood Mac in MOKF, that might have been an homage.

This book was a favourite of my brother like Micronauts, so I remember the unusual design of that alien captain well. Shogun Warriors is really the kind of title Marvel should be producing nowadays- the anime flavour would surely be popular with kids(minus the 70s-style literary pretensions).

Inkstained Wretch said...

Wow, I actually bought this one off the rack back in the day and probably haven't thought about it once in the 30 (gulp!) years since then, but it all came flooding back pretty quick. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Doug!

Man, Marvel would license pretty much anything in those days, wouldn't it? Having said that, I remember this one being pretty good. Or at least better than you would expect.

Even them I wondered how something as big as Gigantauron could fall over without creating earthquake-like shocks and a tidal wave ...

J.A. Morris said...

I never read this but the first 2 "mainstream" Marvel titles I ever bought on a regular basis were Godzilla and Shogun Warriors(the third was Devil Dinosaur!). When I started buying back issues, I started with Hulk issues from the early 70s.
So Trimpe has long been a favorite of mine for sentimental as well as artistic reasons. I know some dismiss him as a Kirby Klone, but I discovered his work before I knew who Kirby was.

But I've never read this story. One of my favorite aspects of the Bronze Age was the interaction between licensed characters and the heroes of the Marvel Universe. The Godzilla story where he fights the champions is a favorite for that reason.

dbutler16 said...

I think I had the 3" Shogun Warriors (I was alway into the action figures of thaty size rather than the large ones) but for some reason I only had one issue of the comic, and my only other exposure was a crossover in the Avengers. Still, this looks like a decent enough story, probably aimed towards a younger audience.

Fred W. Hill said...

I actually liked the Micronauts but I think I got one issue of Shogun Warriors and couldn't get into it. Maybe because the SW's seemed so much more obviously based on toys and the basic concept struck me as silly. With the Micronauts, I initially had no idea they were based on toys, and despite the obvious similarity to Star Wars, I still found it entertaining (and I liked it a lot more than the Star Wars comics too).

dbutler16 said...

Fred, I was a huge Micronauts fan. I had the action figures and had, and still have, every one of thei Marvel comics.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

"I did own one Shogun Warrior toy, but he was only to provide a challenge to my Megos. Runs in my mind that he may have been a stand-in for Galactus at some point."

I wish I'd done that with my Shogun Warrior! I got "The Great Mazinga"--the one with the spaceship brain and shoooting missile-from-the-fingers Warrior sometime in 1979. I even rolled him the quarter mile to school for Show-and-Tell! Never did read the comic, though.

Herb Trimpe's art always looks so..militaristic! Maybe it's because the books I've read featuring his art (Hulk, G.I. Joe) often used the army in its stories. No one rendered that lacquered hair look better than Trimpe!

Love your blog; it brings back memories and actually gives us Bronze Agers a place to reminisce!

I also see that you're quite the Disneyphile. I'll be going again in early October (native Floridian here).

Doug said...

C.K. Dexter Haven --

Disneyphile? Quite the contrary, but had a blast on our vacation last month.

Thanks for the comment -- don't be a stranger,


Karen said...

Well I love Disney!!


Scott D. said...

I have fond memories of Shogun Warriors. It was one of the first series that I collected every issue. The art by Herb Trimpe was solid -- great storytelling.

I never noticed the "primal one" in parentheses. It was revealed in the next issue that the "primal one" was Lord Maur Kon who was the villian in the first 6 issues.

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