Amazing Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Aunt May, Avengers, Betty Brant, Captain America, Dr. Doom, Fantastic Four, Giant-Man, Gideon, Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, J. Jonah Jameson, Mole Man, Mr. Fantastic, Ned Leeds, Puppet Master, Red Ghost, Scorpion, Skrulls, Spider-Man, Thing, Thor, Uncle Ben, Wasp
Back with part II of my first real post. The titles I’m looking at today tend to have slightly better stories than some of the ones I reviewed yesterday, so I’m hopeful that I’ll have a bit more to say about the them. Let’s get going!
Fantastic Four # 34: Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four in 1961 as a reaction to DC‘s Justice League of America, which had recently taken off. He’s credited with making superheroes relatable, starting with FF #1. The heroes had flaws and foibles. The book took off, precipitating the creation of all the other Marvel superheroes. Personally, the FF isn’t my favorite, at least so far. The men, Reed in particular, are misogynistic, Sue is annoying, and their dialogue is painful (sorry Stan! I still love you!) However, there was one recent story (FF #32 “Death of a Hero”) that brought me to tears, so I have hope that things will soon improve. Lets get going with the current issue.
As with most FF stories, this one starts with the group clowning around at their headquarters. Meanwhile, Mr. Gideon, the richest man in the world, makes a deal with the next 3 richest men that if he can destroy the Fantastic Four, they’ll turn over their fortunes to him, making him essentially the ruler of the world. The next day his plan to divide the FF go into effect. Using his vast wealth, he’s able to convince Ben that Reed is actually a Skrull, Sue that Johnny is a robot create by Dr. Doom, and Johnny that Sue is being controlled by the Puppet Master. Mr. Gideon is so focused on gaining control of the world’s finances, he doesn’t notice his son Thomas as he makes plans for the FF’s final defeat, via time distortion. Thomas rushes off to warn his favorite heroes and gets caught in the time distortion himself. Reed manages to turn off the time-distorter in time to save the boy and Mr. Gideon, having realize that nothing is as important as his wife and child, decides to give up his fortune to charity.
What was interesting about this story was the nature of the villain. While he was certainly arch, he didn’t run around in a costume, cackling maniacally. Similarly unusual was that his defeat came at his own hands. Sure, the FF did a lot of fighting, but it was with each other. Other than Reed turning off the machine and the Thing trying to save Thomas and getting trapped in the time distortion too, they didn’t do much to solve the problem in this issue. Ultimately, while this issue had something interesting ideas, I didn’t find it all that engrossing, I therefore gave it 3 out of 5 stars.
Amazing Spider-Man #20: If the Fantastic Four started the Marvel era of relatable heroes, Spider-Man perfected. A nerdy teenager who after being bit by a radioactive spider gains the strength, agility, and sticky digits of a spider, Peter Parker could be anyone. The scientific genius completes this transformation by creating a sticky webbing he can shoot out of concealed shooters at his wrists which he can mold into a wide variety of shapes. He first uses his new powers, to get money, but when a robber he lets escape goes on to murder Peter’s Uncle Ben, who has raised him. His guilt and anger led Peter to track down and capture the robber and a super hero is born. Recently, Peter’s been having girl trouble and his Aunt May fell horribly ill. The last few months of 1964 had some of the best Spider-Man stories yet. I’m anxious to see what will happen next!
This issue opens with Peter realizing he’s being followed. It’s not long before we learn that J. Jonah Jameson has hired a man by the name of Gargan to follow Peter and find out how he gets his amazing photos; however, Jameson has changed his mind, pulls Gargan for another assignment. He brings Gargan to Dr. Farley Stillwell, who has been experimenting with transferring animal traits from one being to another. Promised $10,000, Stillwell agrees to use his serum on Gargan, turning him into the Scorpion. Spidey and the Scorpion soon come to blows and Spidey is knocked out, but the Scorpion has no intention of allowing Jameson to control him, not when he’s more powerful than Spider-Man! He robs an armored truck, kills Stillwell and goes after Jameson. Spider-Man comes to the rescue and defeats the Scorpion only to have Jameson take all the credit for defeating his own creation. We end with Jameson once again promising to put an end to the menace of Spider-Man.
What a disappointing issue! We get only a tiny amount of the personal stuff that makes Spidey so unique. Betty Brant, whom he has been dating, has also been seeing reporter Ned Leeds, but Ned has been assigned to Europe for six months and Peter’s happy to have her to himself for a bit. That’s about it on the personal front. It is nice to Jameson realize that in his fervor to destroy Spider-Man he created a villain even worse. And I actually love the Jameson’s eventual take away is that anyone with more power than the average human could eventually become dangerous, confirming him in his hatred of Spider-Man. However, there wasn’t enough to this issue to make me give it more than 3 out of 5 stars.
Avengers #12: The Avengers banded together as a team when Loki tried to frame the Hulk. Originally composed of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wasp and Giant-Man, it’s not long before the Hulk leaves and the team discovers Captain America, frozen in the arctic. After he’s thawed out, Cap joins the team. Currently, their secret identities remain hidden from each other even as they regularly join forces to fight evil.
At Hank Pym’s lab a siren wails. Ant-Man puts on the helmet that allows him to communicate with the ants to find that they’re in a full panic. Pym calls a meeting of the Avengers who do nothing but make fun of him for worrying about a bunch of ants. Shrinking down to ant-size, Pym goes to the ant hill on his own just in time to discover the dastardly plan of the Mole Man. The Mole Man has built a machine that will make the Earth spin faster and faster on its axis, wreaking havoc on the surface, the ants were the first to notice. Before he can return to warn the Avengers, Giant-Man is captured. Luckily, the changes on the surface soon come to human attention and the Avengers discover that Pym was right all along. They eventually find their way down to the Mole Man’s subterranean empire and fight him and the Red Ghost, who has aligned himself with the Mole Man. They win, destroy the earth-spinning device, and trap the villains below.
I’m guessing the idea behind this issue was to highlight the importance of teamwork and trust. No one believes Pym when he first brings the problem to their attention, though Thor is the most vocal about it. The team’s subsequent chagrin at discovering their friend was right all along is obvious and Thor is downright horrified at his actions. Unfortunately, the story itself leaves something to be desired. It felt like it had been done before and the teamwork theme loses some steam toward the end. I gave this issue 3 out of 5 stars.
Hmmm….this post is already longer than the last one. I think I better stop and add a third part tomorrow. In the meantime, thanks for reading!