Bronze Age Beginnings

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sub-Mariner #48

Cover date: April 1972

Writer: Gerry Conway

Artist: Gene Colan

Inker: Mike Esposito

The quest for the Cosmic Cube has led Doctor Doom, Namor and Cindy Jones to the Mississippian Bayou, but Doom isn’t convinced that Cindy should accompany them any further. This does not sit well with Namor so he leaves, taking Cindy with him.

Landing in New Orleans, Cindy immediately recognises the dwelling where she once lived and hints at the unhappy reasons she left. We soon discover that this place is, in the words of her old roommate - hippy Johnny - a “happy little drug-pushing nest”, which seems a contradiction.

Johnny threatens Namor with a gun, which is never a good thing; in the confusion one of Doom’s henchmen appears and kidnaps Cindy, and as the police arrive so does Doom, to collect his ‘friend’ Namor. He makes it clear that Cindy is his hostage and will remain so until Namor has fulfilled his part of the bargain.

Sometime later, Doom’s jet is over the Gulf of Mexico and Namor is tasked with scouting out the underwater den of the criminal organisation A.I.M.

Doom believes M.O.D.O.K., A.I.M.’s erstwhile leader, to be dead - following the events of Captain America #133 - a mistake M.O.D.O.K. plans to use to his advantage with his Android Army.

It’s clear that Conway still doesn’t have a solid handle on the direction he wants to take this title, and the inclusion of Doctor Doom almost relegates Namor to a supporting role in his own comic. There are still some dodgy allusions to Doom’s nobility, especially in his prevention of the rape of Cindy by one of his henchmen, and the internal monologue he is given on page 10:

“Doom…you are a fool. Once more your clever manipulations have alienated a man who might have been an ally…a man you might have called your friend! Namor hates you now… and though it pains you to admit it, Von Doom – he hates you with good reason.”

Don’t you just feel sorry for the ol’ terrorist?

The interlude in New Orleans also came across as padding, adding nothing to the plot, but highlighting Doom’ stupidity; if he hadn’t demanded that Cindy go no further with them, then he wouldn’t have had to organise Cindy’s subsequent kidnapping to ensure Namor’s co-operation.

The art was disappointing, Mike Esposito not being a particularly sympathetic inker for Gene Colan, but Colan’s storytelling is, as always, clear and distinctive.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Captain America #148

Cover date: April 1972

Writer: Gary Friedrich

Artist: Sal Buscema

Inker: ?

“Eat some dirt! It may be the last thing we ever taste!”

So says Cap on the final page, and one can only wish... it’d be preferable to the bad taste left in my mouth by this stinker of a comic.

Yep, it’s the Red Skull (again!) with his dreams of Nazism and the rise of the Fourth Reich. He even has another Sleeper (the fifth), because Cap only defeated the last four. Oh hum.

So Cap is given an ultimatum; to surrender to the Sleeper (as tall as a skyscraper!) on the outskirts of Las Vegas, or the Red Skull will crush the free world with his unbeatable Sleeper. Leaving the Falcon to contact SHIELD and FEMME FORCE, and The Kingpin to rouse his men (organised crime in armoured vehicles), Cap sets of by jet-pack.

You can guess the rest. SHIELD, FEMME FORCE and The Kingpin’s men attack the Sleeper to no avail, while Cap sneaks aboard. Battlin’ his way through the Red Skull’s hordes, he confronts ol’ Skully who pulls a gun on him. Luckily, Redwing (Falc’s trained Falcon) swoops in and saves the day, and Cap accidentally knocks the Red Skull to his death. Cap and the Falcon smash up the controls and the Sleeper explodes.

So much for the unstoppable Sleeper, and the rise of Nazism!

Everything about this comic stunk. The plot, the pacing and the dialogue (oh, the dialogue is the worst!). It’s only saving grace are some nice panels here and there by Sal Buscema, who I am going to hazard a guess was inked, or finished, by Romita. I wonder why no inker was given a credit? Too embarrassed, maybe?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Daredevil #86

Cover date: April 1972

Writer: Gerry Conway

Artist: Gene Colan

Inker: Tom Palmer

Natasha (The Black Widow) loves Matt (Daredevil), but Matt thinks he still loves Karen (the movie star), who doesn’t love Phil (her agent) anymore; and isn’t sure about how she feels about Matt, either!

Oh yeah, and The Ox too!

If you’re wondering about The Ox - who died some months ago - it involves transplanted brains and radiation and doesn’t bear much thinking about. The meat here is the cast’s complicated love lives, which wouldn’t be out of place in an issue of Our Love Story.

Thankfully, Gerry Conway wraps everything up in a final two page sequence that finally puts to rest the Matt Murdoch/Karen Page romance, and moves Matt onto a new relationship with Natasha with a symbolic passing of the baton between the two women. It’s beautifully illustrated by the art team supreme of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer.

Karen: “It’s all right Natasha, you’d better go to him now. He needs you. There’s nothing more I can give him.”

Exit Karen, and next issue: SAN FRANCISCO!

Buy Daredevil #86 at My Comic shop
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