Another 9-comic month gives us a wide selection of quality comics to choose from. The Fantastic Four – the Marvel universe’s first space travelers – step in to lend NASA a hand in the race to the moon. They’re not the only folks in a traveling mood; both Captain America and Daredevil are racking up the frequent flier miles in May. The Hulk is sucked into the subterranean world, and the Avengers are off getting stomped by Arkon in an entirely different dimension. So unless you wanna stick around Manhattan with Spidey and mope about Gwen Stacy, put on your travelin’ boots for a whirlwind tour of the Marvel world!
Here’s the roster in rough and subjective order of quality:
- Fantastic Four #98: Reed and co. save Apollo 11 from the machinations of the Kree.
- Iron Man #25: Shell-Head teams up with Namor to deliver an ecological message.
- Captain America #125: Cap is in the jungles of Vietnam, fighting the Mandarin.
- Daredevil #64: A trip to LA brings DD in contact with his old frenemy the Stuntmaster.
- Incredible Hulk #127: The Hulk makes a new pal – Mogol – in an underground adventure.
- Silver Surfer #16: Mephisto uses Shalla Bal to force the Surfer into doing his bidding.
- Avengers #76: The current roster gets a big boost from Thor and Iron Man when they face down Arkon.
- Thor #176: Surtur arrives and throws Asgard (even further) into a frenzy.
- Amazing Spider-Man #84: The story of the Schemer and the Kingpin progresses at a snail’s pace.
In the Amazing Spider-Man this month, things get frustrating. The Schemer has it in for the Kingpin and manages to get Spider-Man to fight him, but this tiny bit of action is wreathed with endless pages of talking (and also fretting about Peter’s relationship with Gwen, because it’s ASM in 1970).
Thor #176 is a letdown after last issue’s drama because the heroes do a whole lot of nothing besides moan about Loki’s power. Then Surtur wakes up and effectively shelves Loki’s plot threads – everything’s on hold while the Asgardians figure out what to do with a fire demon when Odin’s not on hand to bail them out.
In the Avengers, the rather scrub-league roster gets thoroughly shown up by Arkon. While he does some gross wooing on Scarlet Witch, her teammates dither around ineffectually until Thor and Iron Man show up to save the day. Mephisto is back in Silver Surfer #16, and we get a little insight into why the Marvel universe’s supreme evil has such a hate-on for Norrin Radd. Incredible Hulk #127 is a dark little one-shot where Jade-Jaws gets shanghaied by Tyrannus, everybody’s least-favorite subterranean dictator. The Hulk is put to work against the Mole Man, but in the end he has to face down Mogol, the closest thing to a friend he’s met in ages. Grim stuff!
Daredevil features Matt Murdock on a nice little left coast vacation. His time in LA is initially taken up with moping about Karen Page (arg!), but the Stuntmaster shows up soon enough and ropes DD into a pretty interesting Hollywood Heist. Fun stuff. Meanwhile, Captain America is on a less leisurely trip this month with a visit to Vietnam. He’s got to save some respected diplomats from the Mandarin, who’s only interested in making Southeast Asia even more chaotic. This features some lovely Gene Colan jungle art and Cap making the surprisingly rare observation that maybe running around a war zone in bright primary colors is a bad idea.
Iron Man #25 is not exactly a perfect comic, but it’s the start of something new at Marvel: the first of the Bullpen’s pro-environment comics. Tony (and eventually, of course, Iron Man) is visiting a Stark Industries facility on Meridian Island where the corner-cutting supervisor is causing all sorts of ecological mayhem. Things take a distinct turn toward the catastrophic after reckless ocean dumping attracts the attention of the Sub-Mariner. Namor and Iron Man will have to team up to keep this disaster from becoming lethal. It’s not exactly the most elegant anti-pollution message, but it gets definite points for novelty as Marvel’s very first issue on the subject. (Compare with Iron Man #14, which took a similar island set-up and ran in a more cringe-worthy Voodoo direction with the story.)
And finally, our main event this month: Fantastic Four #98. Though the creators will try to cook up something extra-special for #100 in a few months’ time, to my mind this is a much better comic. Reed detects ominous Kree space-signals, and before you can say “where’s Captain Marvel?” the Fantastic Four find themselves combatting a Kree Sentry to make sure Apollo 11 has a successful flight. It’s classic Silver Age corniness – complete with Sue getting relegated to babysitting duty. I’ll be grabbing a moon-shovel and digging into this one thoroughly in my next post.
Images snipped out of Marvel Unlimited by yours truly.