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Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 63 (June 1967) July 28, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Sweet, two weeks in a row of Stan and Jack goodness (don’t blame me for this week, it was chosen randomly). Unlike our last venture into the Silver Age of comics (or the Marvel Age, as Stan would have called it), this one is, for the most part, entertaining. FF 63 features the first appearance of Blastaar. I’ve heard of this character, but fittingly enough this was my first time actually seeing him in a comic. First off, I appreciate the many contributions that Jack Kirby made to the world of comic book art, and I usually thoroughly enjoy his work, but what was up with his tendency to make villains hairy? Blastaar is no different as he looks like a purple gorilla. Mehh, oh well. Blastaar’s apish look and Sandman’s goofy costume aside, he maintained his wonderful storytelling abilities, as well as his signature looks for each of the Four.

Stan Lee’s story appears to be a continuation of the previous issue (which I haven’t read) as the issue starts out with a bang (quite literally) with the recently-escaped-from-the-Negative-Zone Blastaar attacking the Baxter Building. Somehow, the Sandman has also found him, and is serving as his guide on Earth. (I’m assuming he is doing this in exchange for spoils or something.) After knocking Reed unconscious, Blastaar moves through the streets of Manhattan, and eventually Johnny and Crystal, who are sharing a date, run into him. The rest of the issue is mostly a big fight scene between the pair of Blastaar and Sandman against the Fantastic Four and Crystal. During this fight, we mostly get cool displays of powers from all the parties involved, and in the end, it is Reed’s smarts (along with one of his inventions and help from the rest of the Four) that saves the day. So while this issue may not be important in the grand scheme of things with the exception of being the first appearance of an N-Zone baddie, it was a good example of an entertaining Silver Age book. So if you ever get the opportunity to read it, go ahead, but no need to go out of your way to find it.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 222

-LOTRKing

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Flashback: Review of The Silver Surfer Graphic Novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (1978) July 21, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing normally reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history. In this special edition, he has not chosen rondomly and will be reviewing a rare non-canon graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

For those who know nothing about this graphic novel (I didn’t until reading it), it is a retelling of the Silver Surfer character by his two creators. Instead of throwing him into the Marvel Universe populated with superheroes, they tried to introduce him to the “real” world. Did they succeed? I’d say so. While this book may be a bit dated, it is definitely a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby tale. Stan Lee maintains his slightly quirky writing and occasionally flawed logic, yet he hits the soul of the Silver Surfer perfectly. Like his two part Silver Surfer: Parable tale of the eighties (I’ll get around to doing that on Flashback one of these days) this is an introspective and interesting look at humanity from the eyes of a noble non-human character.

Like his original appearance in the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer is here the herald of Galactus, devourer of worlds. After finding Earth, he realizes that it is much like his old home Zenn-La, which causes him to regain much of his conscience. Refusing to allow Galactus to destroy a world populated by such a young and thriving race, he confronts Galactus and after an almost-futile battle, Galactus spares Earth, but exiles Norrin there. As Norrin learns about his new home and its natives, we get the earlier mentioned look and the good and bad aspects of humanity.

Aside from our own morals and foibles, it is through Galactus that Lee tries to define what exactly establishes good from evil, if the two even exist at all. Eventually, Galactus realizes that he needs the Silver Surfer, and the usually neutral entity must examine both his good and evil qualities as he decides what will make the Silver Surfer return to him. What follows in an entertaining and poignant story which ultimately ends in the Silver Surfer making a large sacrifice on behalf of humanity.

It must also be mentioned that while the comic book art of the seventies is nothing like today, Jack Kirby is nonetheless an impressive visual storyteller. Whether it is emotion, action, or even just scenery, it is easy to see why he was considered one of the greats of his time. Together, the story and art make this an enjoyable philosophical read. If you are a fan of the Silver Surfer, Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby and you can ever find it for a decent price, I’d highly recommend getting it.

Next week: Fantastic Four 63

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Uncanny X-Men 40 (January 1968) July 14, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Remember that ol’ phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, insert the word “comic” right before book, and you probably have an accurate description of this issue. After my random number generator chose this book last week, I took one look at the cover and thought: “this book is about to get the biggest bashing of all time.” Heck, I almost even threw a note in last week to expect a big bashing this time around. Let’s examine the cover for a moment: we have the X-Men looking for a monster that looks like it came straight from the 30s horror movie, neck-bolts and all. Second we have the caption: “The X-Men Meet Frankenstein!” Now anyone who has actually read the novel will know that Frankenstein was not the name of the monster, rather the scientist who created it, “the monster” is never given a true name. Being a huge fan of the novel, it always irks me when someone gets this wrong. Name nitpickiness aside, the X-Men facing off against the 30s horror movie version of an iconic character sounds like a recipe for cheesiness.

When I actually read the darn issue, imagine my surprise when my preconceptions turned out to out to be exactly wrong! I’m lead to believe that writer Roy Thomas didn’t write the cover, because he correctly refers to the creature as “Frankenstein’s monster” throughout! Many kudos points to him! Likewise, Xavier himself admits to being a huge fan of the novel also (more kudos points awarded!) In fact, it looks as though Roy Thomas is attempting to build a long-awaited sequel to the novel, by, at first, basing several plot points from the end of the novel. In theory, fiction-to-comic crossovers can work. Heck, I’ve got what I’d like to think is a pretty cool idea for a crossover between the Fantastic Four and one of my favorite books series (that’s a story for another time chaps!)

So far, my emotional roller-coaster went from being prepped for ultimate cheesiness, to being surprised and pleased. Unfortunately, the final stop was disappointment. The story sets up to actually be a good one, I was ready to read an entertaining attempted sequel to one of my favorite classical novels. Alas, “Rascally Roy” muddles things up as he attempts to tell the “true origin” of the monster, one that doesn’t make any sense in context of the original novel. It turns out that the “monster” was actually an android created by friendly exploring aliens, intended to act as an ambassador. When the android malfunctioned and terrorized humans, the aliens chased it to the arctic, where it was eventually frozen in ice, and found in the modern time. (He was thawed, that’s how he entered this issue originally, I suppose I should’ve mentioned that.) Xavier reasons that Mary Shelley somehow heard this story and wrote the novel. Of course, this new story bears no resemblance whatsoever to the novel, except for the fact that they both end in the arctic. They may as well have written this issue to be about a strange monster attacking, engaged it, and then learned its “alien creation” story. It really has no links whatsoever to Frankenstein. I realize that this was X-Men at its low point, right before in went into the “repeats” that continued for a few years, but did they really have to use this kind of disappointing gimmick to sell an issue? I really can’t recommend this unless you want a really rather odd (and nonsensical) spin on a classic tale.

Next week: Special Edition! Not Random! Review of the 1978 Silver Surfer Graphic Novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby! Excelsior! (Okay, that last comment was random, but seemed to fit in with old-school Marvel-sounding hype. Besides, you know you’ve always wanted the chance to say “Excelsior!”)

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Avengers 51 (April 1968) July 7, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Once again we dip into some Silver Age Marvel, but luckily this one is one of the better selections from that period. Sure, it wasn’t the best comic ever published, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last look into the Silver Age. This particular issue features the roster of Thor, Iron Man, Goliath (Pym), Wasp, and Hawkeye and begins as Pym is attempting to regain his powers. His first test fails (quite painfully), and the story soon progresses as we are introduced to the mysterious Collector. If my memory serves me right, The Collector belongs to a fraternity of beings called The Elders. I don’t remember what they do as a group, but I do know that they once tried to destroy Galactus and the universe, so that they could be the new “Galacti” of a reborn universe, and Silver Surfer had to stop them (or something like that). Anyway, that story didn’t come about until way after this, and I’m not even sure if The Elders had made an appearance yet. In this issue all we learn is that The Collector is an ancient alien being that likes to, well, collect stuff. (Why didn’t they just name him Pack-Rat-Man? 😉 ) And, having come to Earth, he decides to collect the Avengers one by one.

The first Avenger he “collects” is Thor, though this isn’t revealed until later, and he has tricked him into drinking an “obedience potion” made with Asgardian herbs (yes, I know, one of those quirky Silver Age gimmicks, but at least it makes sense in the context of the story). He then uses Thor to help him capture Goliath, Wasp, and Hawkeye, and later restores Goliath’s failing powers because he does not want a “defective” Avenger (bad idea buddy). As The Collector sends Thor out to retrieve Iron Man (which results in a pretty cool battle sequence), Wasp, Goliath, and Hawkeye are able to escape. This results in yet another battle, and, much to the Collector’s dismay, the destruction of many of his artifacts. When the battle causes one of his collected machines to go haywire, he is forced to use a temporal dislocator to teleport to another time (why simple teleportation wouldn’t have worked better is beyond me). With these three Avengers in a hovering ship being fast consumed by flames, all looks lost. Luckily, The Collector’s disappearance nulls the effect of the obedience potion on Thor, who has knocked Iron Man unconscious and left his armor barely functioning. Thor returns to the ship to rescue his fellow teammates, and we are left with what looks to be a happy ending.

Of course, the reader always needs to get pulled back, so we still have the vanished Collector drifting around, who we already know will pop back up. Likewise, the very end of the issue introduces a new hero called The Panther (I’m assuming this is T’Challa, the Black Panther), who will join the roster next time. So all-in-all, a fun read, but nothing you have to go hunting through back issues for. If you ever come across it, you may as well take a look at it, otherwise, nothing major missed.

Next week: Uncanny X-Men 40

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Amazing Spider-Man 228 (May 1982) June 30, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

It’s two for two, as this week’s featured flashback was also a fairly enjoyable issue. What we get this time around is a classic Spidey story infused with a good old-fashioned murder mystery (not a “whodunit” type, but still it had a similar feel). It starts with Spider-Man being mysteriously drawn to an old mansion, in which lives a reclusive old man. Finally indulging his curiousity, Peter looks in and sees the man alone, eating his supper. Confused as to what has drawn him there, Peter leaves and soon runs into a street fight that he decides to break up. However, an unexplainable rage quickly comes over him, and he severely beats the fighters. Soon realizing what he has done, Peter makes a hasty exit.

The next day, Peter learns that the old man he had seen last night had been bitten to death by a horde of spiders, and naturally, JJJ is quick to blame Spider-Man. Once Peter learns about this, he decides to investigate, realizing that his own strange actions from the previous night might be related. From here, Peter becomes a “Spider-Sleuth,” and we are presented with several hints and mysterious scenes of our own, before we finally get some real answers. (I semi-figured out the mystery myself, but I was still kept guessing until the cause was revealed.)

We finally learn that an unemployment scientist/inventor had created devices to first lure spiders to a certain location (namely the victim), and then become enraged (causing the attack), and had sold them to various shady characters. As Spider-Man attempts to capture the inventor, he uses a device to nullify his Spider-Sense, and seemingly lures Spider-Man into an “explosive trap.” I’ll admit, even I was amazed that Peter survived until he revealed his own trick. This second “mini-mystery” was a great way to end it. Of course, Spidey eventually captures the inventor and turns him into the police, thus ending an entertaining, standalone issue. While this isn’t by any means one of the best Spider-Man issues out there, it was a lot of fun, and anyone who enjoys Spider-Man and murder mysteries may as well take a look at this if they ever get the chance.

Next week: Avengers 51

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 124 (July 1972) June 23, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Finally, for the first time in Flashback, I can say that I fully enjoyed this issue! (Perhaps the fact that Stan Lee wrote it has something to do with that. 😉 ) It wastes no time setting up the story as the very first panel shows Reed fainting and falling out of the Fantasti-Car. The next few pages show the FF trying to saving Reed and themselves (they’ve lost control of the Fantasti-Car) before they finally succeed and take Reed to the hospital. Upon entering the plot thickens as we hear a nurse raving about how she saw a monster break into the medical supplies room. The other nurses try to tell her that she must have been sleeping and dreaming, but we later find out, since this is a comic book after all, that it actually happened.

After we get an obligatory humorous scene involving the Thing (a necessary piece of an FF issue, right?), we see him step into the supply room in question, before being knocked down by an escaping shadowy figure. The mysterious creature then kidnaps Sue, using chloroform to make her unconscious. This quickly leads to a chase as Johnny flies after them, but the monster eventually makes it to a lake, and distracts Johnny by throwing a full grown tree at several nearby pedestrians. By this time, the monster has disappeared (into the lake unbeknownst to Johnny). As the doctors discover that Reed’s condition is a result of extreme exhaustion, Johnny and Ben regroup and decide to save Sue. Meanwhile, Sue turns herself invisible and the monster, thinking she has escaped, goes to recover her. Finding herself in a deserted cavern, Sue uses a stick to nudge a large boulder out of the way in attempts to escape, only to discover that said boulder was blocking a large surge of water from entering the underwater cave. As the doctors discuss what they should tell Reed about his wife, he wakes up in time to hear about her situation, and tries desperately to escape to save her, while Sue is drowning and laments that she will never see her husband or son again.

For being an over thirty-five year-old story, I was intrigued the whole time. We all know that Stan Lee is a genius, but I think we sometimes fail to forget that even his “non-groundbreaking” stories can still be a great read. Not to mention that John Buscema’s art, while a little dated, is still spectacular. Never once did anything look goofy or cheesy, as can often happen in these old-time comics. Heck, this is the first time doing a Flashback where the ending actually made me care enough to read the next issue to see what happens (and the ending was just as strong as this issue!) So if any of you guys (or gals) are looking for an entertaining old-school Stan Lee Fantastic Four tale, you may as well pick this up! (Along with the next issue, assuming you want to see why Sue doesn’t die, and the story behind the mysterious monster.)

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 228

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Uncanny X-Men 92 (February 1975) June 16, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

Marvel’s Silver Age of Comics is an interesting time. Marvel produced many classic stories which would build the foundation for the Marvel Universe that still exists today. There were also several stinkers which are probably not worth being read. Uncanny X-Men 92 is one of those stinkers, and perhaps even more amazing, UXM 92 is during X-Men’s “reprint phase” before X-Men got its reinvigorating reboot with Giant Size X-Men 1, therefore someone thought the material here (originally from UXM 44) was worth re-reading. They were wrong. While this issue does have a few (very few) redeeming qualities, there were way too many bad ones to save it. Therefore I am going to have some fun today and go into total bashing mode. (For those who do not enjoy comic bashing please return tomorrow for our regularly scheduled program).

This issue opens with the X-Men unconscious and captured by Magneto. The Toad (in his hilarious original outfit) rambles on about how wise and perfect Magneto is for accomplishing this task, and I’m personally surprised that we don’t see him kissing Magneto’s feet. The Toad tries to convince Magneto to kill them, but Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who had recently deserted the Avengers and rejoined their father, convince Magneto to simply imprison them in hopes that they might join him. Magneto, though his original plan was to kill them, decides he likes Pietro’s idea and has Toad lock them up. Conveniently enough, Magneto had already designed and buily the perfect imprisonment apparatus for each of them, to ensure they cannot use their powers to escape. (That’s an awful lot of work when you were just gonna kill ‘em anyway.)

Of course, Angel happens to find a laser sitting right outside his cage and uses it to free himself. He is about to free the others, but Cyclops insists that it might be a trap, so Angel should escape and get the Avengers to help. That makes a lot of sense, only not. If Angel can escape without being trapped, the other X-Men should too. Seems to me like Cyclops is just trying to get the rich prep out of their hair. I can just hear it now, “Great, now that Warren is gone, we can free ourselves and not have to deal with him on the way home.”

Anyway, Angel is able to fly away and quickly realizes that he has flown into a storm (cause that is so easy to do, you know), and comes up with the brilliant idea that he should go to the Avengers for help! (You know, that exact idea that Cyclops mentioned earlier? Am I the only one sensing a Timon and Pumbaa moment here?) Eventually the storm tires him out and he decides to rest on a mysterious rock floating in the ocean. Of course, the rock quickly rises to reveal itself to be an island. Warren is intrigued and decides to explore it when he sees a large metal door on a cliff face. He reasons that Magneto probably won’t kill his friends since he is likely to ask them to join him. That’s a pretty big gamble just to satisfy your curiosity if you ask me. “Hey my friends are in grave danger, but they probably won’t be murdered, so I’ll go ahead and explore this groovy island.” It’s no wonder Cyclops secretly wanted to get rid of him.

Upon entering he discovers that it belongs to a now hibernating race of bird-people (who look exactly like Angel, that is, normal looking people but with large white wings). On this Island is a character named Red Raven who caused the hibernation of the bird-men to keep them from attack the rest of earth. (Apparently these couple hundred creatures planned on conquering the “surface dwellers” with inferior technology. Yeah, I don’t get it either.) Red Raven was the infant survivor of a plane crash on the bird-men’s floating island in the sky who was raised as one of their own. Apparently he never realized he wasn’t a bird-man while growing up (you’d think the lack of wings on his back would be a dead give away) and when he finds out his true lineage, he is bent on stopping the bird-man invasion. He uses some emergency system on the island to release a hibernation gas and sink the island to the bottom of the ocean. The downside of this is that the island was programmed to rise twenty years later (which is now) and awaken everyone. Red Raven stayed behind (those must have been a boring twenty years) to ensure that he could reactivate the hibernation process.

After learning this, Angel suggests that Red Raven allows the bird-men to awaken so that scientists can study them and learn the secrets of their race. That’s a real humane decision Warren! Let’s capture these weird people and study their secrets, but don’t do that to mutants, cause its wrong. Yup, Warren’s a jerk. Eventually Red Raven decides that there is still a chance that the bird-men may succeed in conquering Earth (how exactly?), so he knocks Angel out, lets him float in the ocean on a raft, and returns the island to the murky depths for another twenty years. Eventually, Angel wakes up, and suspects he’ll someday run into Red Raven again. (I hope not, if anyone actually followed up on this story, they deserve to be turned into a newt! Unfortunately, they’ll get better.) He then finally flies off to recruit the Avengers and the issue ends. Wow, not only do we get a completely pointless story, readers back then got a pointless wait between seeing the X-Men captured last issue and finally seeing what would happen in the next issue. I’m not even going to touch on the short story reprint from Mystery Tales 30. Let’s just say that the other anthology stories from Amazing Fantasy 15 (you know, the ones not about Spider-Man) are high literature compared to this one. Heck, the rest of this issue is high literature compared to the MT 30 reprint. So if you are looking for a good example of Silver Age absurdity, look no farther that Uncanny X-Men 92, otherwise, avoid it like the plague.

Next week: Fantastic Four 124

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Avengers 248 (October 1984) June 9, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

As much as I’d like to say that this issue’s involvement of Eternals was done purposefully to relate to this week’s release of Eternals #1, I have to admit that it was purely coincidental. Still, that’s a pretty cool coincidence. The issue starts off in the middle of an ongoing story with the Scarlet Witch and the Vision searching for a villain named Maelstrom who had kidnapped the Wasp and Captain Marvel (Frankie Raye, not Mar-Vell). Before they actually rescue them, we get a rather odd scene as Vision returns from a reconnaissance mission, accidentally scares Wanda, and then the two have a bit of a lover’s spat. What makes this scene odd is at the very end when Vision is hugging and comforting her, he reassures her that she is “very important” and has a very evil looking grin while saying this (she has her face buried in his shoulder so does not see it). I’m not sure if it was just a blunder in drawing his face, or if the Vision was under control of an evil entity (likely Ultron) to be revealed in a later issue, but if it was purposeful, it certainly was a good use of foreshadowing, and I for one want to know what’s going on (though I’m not going to dig through the next several issues to find out).

After this, we see Maelstrom who, in one of the common “bad guy reveals his master plan to doomed hero speeches,” tells us that he has tricked all the Eternals into transforming into one fused “Uni-Mind,” and the he intends to use a machine to transfer all of their wisdom and power into himself, but killing them in the process. (I’m assuming he wants to do this to take over the world, or something, he never really gives a good motivation other than wanting power.) Of course, the Vision shows up and messes up the transfer while Wanda frees the Eternals. With Wasp and Captain Marvel freed as well, the issue heads into its obligatory fight scene with all of the “goodies” taking on the “baddie.” You’d think it’d be a quick win for the good guys seeing as how Maelstrom is severely outnumbered, but it turns out that apart from being very tall, he also has the power to absorb and manipulate kinetic energy, therefore draining most heroes of their energy when they get close. Once the heroes figure this out, they simply use non-kinetic attacks, and Maelstrom is quickly weakened. Sensing his imminent defeat, Maelstrom summons Death-Urge, a sentry of his who had been stationed on a nearby tower, who throws a mysterious Ebon spear which passes through Starfox’s hand (leaving it cold and lifeless) before completely passing (bloodlessly) through Maelstrom, seemingly killing him and making his body as black as carbon. Captain Marvel attempts to capture Death-Urge, but he becomes immaterial and sinks through the ground faster than she can catch him.

After this, a large portion of the Eternals reform the Uni-Mind and leave Earth, while leaving Ikaris, Thena, Makkari, Starfox, and a few others behind (I’m assuming this was resolution to events in earlier issues). Their adventure seemingly over, the Avengers and Eternals return to the Quinjet to leave to New York. In an interesting epilogue, we see Death-Urge return to an underground bunker containing several tubes each containing a body of Maelstrom while Death-Urge vows to continue serving “until all of his lives have been lived.”

Overall, this issue was nothing spectacular, but it was by no means horrible either. The story was fairly entertaining even if the villain (at first) seemed to fit the stereotypical villain mold and the art was very well done. Allen Milgrom (the penciler) made the actions scenes very dynamic and did a wonderful job in conveying the story. Likewise, with the exception of Maelstrom’s facial expression when he realized he was losing, the characters never looked cartoony, and that’s always a plus in my book. So if you enjoy Eternals #1 this week (I thought it was pretty interesting) and you feel like picking up one of their older adventures with the Avengers, this issue certainly wouldn’t be a bad one to look into.

Next week: Uncanny X-Men 92

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Amazing Spider-Man 340 (October 1990) June 2, 2008

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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

There are four types of female villains. One, the hot: these are the ones that you don’t care whether they are good or bad, they are just fun to look at. They can be anywhere from a genius mastermind to a simple minion, but you don’t care as long as they stay on the page. A current example is Sin in Captain America. Two, the cool: these may not be eye candy (in fact they may be quite unattractive at times), but their characters are interesting and/or they have extremely cool powers. A current example is Paper Doll in Spider-Man. Three, the lame: they are neither attractive nor unattractive, in fact they are not much of anything at all and are quite forgettable, example: Screwball from ASM. Fourth, the ugly: not only are these villainesses repulsive to look at, they don’t have any redeeming qualities to fit into the “cool” category, in fact, you wish their characters would disappear altogether. Most unfortunately, this issue of Amazing Spider-Man has not just one female villain from the fourth category, it has a team of four from the fourth category. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I’ll touch back on these villains in a second.

The opening actually looks promising (if you ignore the hideous cover) as Spider-Man is stopping a department store robbery (and boy do the villains’ clothes and hairstyles make it obvious what time period this is!), and we get some classic Spidey humor as he takes them down. As Peter comes home, we get a horrible reminder of what late 80s/early 90s Spidey was like: fun stories, horrible art. (Well, in my opinion anyway. As a side note, I ‘spose I should mention now that I have read all of ASM, and they will likely be the only stories that I have already read in my Flashback column.) Erik Larson (the penciler) comes out of the same mold as Todd MacFarlane, and both of their art was waaaaay to cartoony. (Not to mention that MacFarlane introduced the BIG hair MJ that haunted those pages for over half a decade.) As Pete, MJ, and May share a scene together, we see that Pete has a square head with the face of a five year old, Aunt May’s face looks like an old wrinkly dog, and MJ just has the aforementioned impossibly BIG hair.

After we get more fun supporting cast dynamics, Peter meets a scientist who wants to research Spider-Man’s powers and Pete, worried about how some gas he had inhaled during the earlier robbery might be affecting him, decides to visit him. During their experiments, Spidey is subjecting to some rays that seem to very temporarily rob him of his powers. He jumps out of the way, and asks the scientist to destroy the machine, and he agrees he will once he determines what went wrong. Of course, the scientist turn out to be a dodgy guy, and we see that he arranges an attack on an incoming international delegate to draw out Spider-Man. This attack brings us back to the Femme Fatales (the name of hideous quartet). A large part of what makes them so ugly is their costumes. Given, quirky costumes are a part of this genre that just have to be accepted, but these costumes are just plain badly designed. These women were already unattractive, but these costumes try sexualize them (especially in the *erh-herm* “bosom” area), so what we get are ugly women in sexualized clothing. Not a good mix. Anyway, horrible art aside (and that’s a big aside), the fight scene is pretty action packed, though unfortunately lacking in witty humor (or any humor for that matter).

After Spidey saves the day (as always), he can’t stop thinking about the scientist’s machine and, worried about Aunt May and her recent loss of Nathan Lubensky as well as what any foul-turned superheroics may mean for her or MJ, decides to have the scientist remove his powers once and for all. (*Duhn-duhn-duuuhhhhhn!*) And that’s the big cliffhanger for the issue. If I remember correctly, the machine does successfully take his powers away, but somehow or other, he gets pulled into another fight with Femme Fatales, and Black Cat comes in to save his butt, and just as it looks as they are about to be defeated, he regains his powers (it was apparently only a temporary loss) and saves the day (again). Though I could be wrong, I’m too lazy to read the next two or three issues to remember exactly what happens. (Wow, I just used all three forms of “to/too/two” in a sentence. Sorry, done marveling at strange grammatical occurrences.) So anyway, if you feel like reading this issue for some reason, read only the first half (fun), but skip over the second half (not so fun).

As a final note, I thought I’d mention that the reason I list next week’s issue for Flashback the week before is so that if anyone is crazy enough to want to read the issue too, they can follow the review better, and/or completely agree or argue vehemently with me. That said, the way I pick out the issues is orderly, yet random. I go in the order of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, but I use a random number generator to pick out exactly what issue to read.

Next week: Avengers 248

-LOTRKing

Flashback: Review of Fantastic Four 378 (July 1993) May 26, 2008

Posted by lotrking in Comic Book Reviews, Flashback.
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In Flashback, LOTRKing reviews a random back issue (in most instances, one he hasn’t read before) and attempts to make sense of both the story and its place in Marvel history.

As mentioned here, welcome to the first round of Flashback! Though this was my first time reading the issue, I am somewhat familiar with what was going at this point in history. Johnny had recently accidentally burned much of Empire State University in a fight with villains (if I recall, this is one of several instances in Marvel history where something similar to the SHRA was almost introduced) and is currently on trial for his actions. This issue also has guest stars galore, including Spider-Man (who was going through Maximum Carnage), Silver Sable (where has she been anyway, anyone know the last time she popped up?), Sandman (back when he was good and worked for Silver Sable), Daredevil, and the Avengers.

This issue opens in the middle of an intense fight between the FF (along with Lyja, who apparently is pregnant with Johnny’s baby. I knew that they were once married, but I never realized that she got pregnant. I’m assuming that she went the way of MJ and had a miscarriage?) and a group of villains (I’m assuming the current incarnation of the Frightful Four, as the only villain I recognized was Klaw) taking place in the middle of the court room. The issue evolves as the battle moves from the court to the city streets, and the majority of the story is devoted to it as the fight becomes more intense and life-threatening. Spider-Man and Daredevil (who were present in the court room as their alter egos) quickly join the fight, and finally when it looks like our heroes may be defeated, the Avengers arrive. The Avengers at this time consisted of Vision, Crystal (the only two I recognized), Thunderstrike (who looked a lot like Thor, not sure if Thor changed his name or if he was a copycat), Sersi, and Black Knight. Upon their arrival, the Frightful Four realize they are extremely out numbered and one of their members opens an extradimensional portal to ensure their escape. The last thing we see is that Ben’s former girlfriend Sharon Ventura, then going by the moniker Ms. Marvel (I’m assuming Carol was Warbird at this time), is captured by agents of Dr. Doom (who was supposedly dead at this time, so I’m assuming this was the shocking reveal of “he’s still alive”) and is transformed into a hideous monster, which is the cliffhanger of the issue. I’m also assuming that this was the beginning of her transformation into “She-Thing,” but I could be wrong. (Lots of assumptions on my part.)

Overall I get mixed feelings from the issue. The fight scene was a lot of fun, and the art was very well done. Luckily, it was early enough in the nineties that the art was not yet bleeding with color and over-the-top indistinct action. Likewise, I loved all the guest appearances, it almost felt more like “Marvel Team-Up” than Fantastic Four. However, most of the dialogue in the thought bubbles was cheesy and narrative and sometimes downright childish. Had I read this when it came out, I probably would have loved it (given, I was about a year away from learning how to read when this came out, so I couldn’t really have done this), but since I’m not five years old, the dialogue just didn’t entertain. So if want to read an issue that took place in a somewhat important time in Marvel history, that had several fun guest appearances, a good fight scene, and a rare example of enjoyable nineties art, take a look at this, just try your best to bear with the dialogue.

Next week: Amazing Spider-Man 340

-LOTRKing