Deadpool Epic Comics volume 1: The Circle Chase 1991-1994


By Rob Liefeld, Fabian Nicieza, Glenn Herdling, Gregory Wright, Tom Brevoort, Mike Kanterovich, Mark Waid, Dan Slott, Pat Olliffe, Mark Pacella, Greg Capullo, Mike Gustovich, Joe Madureira, Isaac Cordova, Jerry DeCaire, Bill Wylie, Ian Churchill, Sandu Florea, Terry Shoemaker, Al Milgrom, Scot Eaton, Ariane Lenshoek, Tony DeZuñiga, Lee Weeks, Don Hudson, Ken Lashley & various (MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-1-302-3205-3 (TPB/Digital edition)

With a long, LONG awaited cinematic combo clash finally headed our way this summer and in the year of a certain Canadian Canucklehead’s 50th Anniversary, expect a few cashing-in style commendations and reviews in our immediate future. Here’s a handy starter package to set the ball rolling…

Bloodthirsty killers and stylish mercenaries have long made for popular protagonists and this guy is probably one of the most popular. Deadpool is Wade Wilson: a survivor of sundry experiments that left him a scarred, grotesque bundle of scabs and physical unpleasantries – albeit functionally immortal, invulnerable and capable of regenerating from literally any wound.

Moreover, after his initial outings on the fringes of the X-Universe, his modern incarnation makes him either one of the few beings able to perceive the true nature of reality… or a total gibbering loon.

Chronologically collecting and curating cameos, guest shots and his early outrages from New Mutants #98, X-Force #2, 11 & 15, Deadpool: The Circle Chase #1-4, and Secret Defenders #15-17, as well as pertinent excerpted material from X-Force #4, 5 10, 14, 19-24; X-Force Annual #1, Nomad #4; Avengers #366 & Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #23 & 30, (spanning February 1991 to November 1994), this tome is merely the first in a series cataloguing his ever more outlandish escapades.

After Gail Simone’s joyous Foreword ‘He was always Deadpool’ justifies and confirms his fame, escalating antics and off-kilter appeal, his actual debut in New Mutants #98’s ‘The Beginning of the End, part one’ opens proceedings. The “merc with a mouth” was created as a villain du jour by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza, as that title wound down in advance of a major reboot/rebrand. He seemed a one-trick throwaway in a convoluted saga of mutant mayhem with little else to recommend it. An employee of enigmatic evildoer Mr. Tolliver, Deadpool was despatched to kill to kill future-warrior Cable and his teen acolytes… but spectacularly failed. The kids were soon after rebranded and relaunched as X-Force though, so he had a few encores and more tries…

With appropriate covers and text to precis events between excerpt moments, we learn Deadpool first popped back in September 1991’s X-Force #2’s ‘The Blood Hunters’ where he clashed with another product of Canada’s clandestine super-agent project (which had turned a mutant spy into feral, adamantium-augmented warrior Wolverine as well as unleashing so many other second-string cyborg super-doers). Gritty do-gooder Garrison Kane was dubbed Weapon X (first of many!) and the tale also included aging spymaster GW Bridge

Still just a derivative costumed killer for hire popping up in bit part roles, the merc continued pushing Tolliver’s agenda and met Spider-Man until as seen here via snippets from X-Force Annual #1 (1991) before stumbling through Nicieza-scripted crossover Dead Man’s Hand. Illustrated by Pat Olliffe & Mark McKenna, ‘Neon Knights’ (Nomad #4, August 1992) finds Deadpool just one of a bunch of super-killers-for-hire convened by a group of lesser crime bosses seeking to fill a void created by the fall of The Kingpin. His mission is to remove troublemaking fellow hitman Bushwacker, but former super sidekick Jack “Bucky” Monroe has some objections…

Excerpts from X-Force #10 (May 1992) presage #11’s extended fight between Deadpool, the teen team, Cable and mutant luck-shaper Domino in ‘Friendly Reminders’ (Nicieza, Liefeld, Mark Pacella & Dan Panosian) before a clip from X-Force #14 (September 1992 limned by Terry Shoemaker & Al Milgrom) reveals a shocking truth about Domino and Deadpool’s relationship with her, prior to X-Force #15’s ‘To the Pain’ (October 1992 with art by Greg Capullo) wrapping up a long-running war between Cable’s kids, Tolliver and The Externals

Excerpts from X-Force #19-23 – as first seen in 1993 – find the manic merc hunting Domino and/or Vanessa and sparking a mutant mega clash before Wade Wilson guests in Avengers #366 (September 1993 by Glenn Herdling, Mike Gustovich & Ariane Lenshoek). A tie-in to Deadpool’s first solo miniseries, ‘Swordplay³’ sees the merc and a group of meta-scavengers embroiled in battle with each other and new hero Blood Wraith with The Black Knight helpless to control the chaos…

That first taste of solo stardom came with 4-issue miniseries The Circle Chase: cover-dated August-November 1993 by Nicieza, Joe Madureira & Mark Farmer. A fast-paced but cluttered thriller, it sees Wilson doggedly pursuing an ultimate weapon: one of a large crowd of mutants and variously-enhanced ne’er-do-wells seeking the fabled legacy of arms dealer/fugitive from the future Mr. Tolliver. Among other (un)worthies bound for the boodle in ‘Ducks in a Row’, ‘Rabbit Season, Duck Season’, ‘…And Quacks Like a Duck…’ and ‘Duck Soup’ are mutant misfits Black Tom and The Juggernaut; the then-latest iteration of Weapon X; shape-shifter Copycat and a host of fashionably disposable cyborg loons with quirky media-buzzy names like Commcast and Slayback. If you can swallow any understandable nausea associated with the dreadful trappings of this low point in Marvel’s tempestuous history, there is a sharp and entertaining little thriller underneath…

A follow-up tale in Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #23 (April 1994, Gregory Wright, Isaac Cordova & Hon Hudson) pits Wilson against Daredevil and notional heroes-for-hire Paladin and Silver Sable before uniting to thwart fascist usurpers The Genesis Coalition, prior to a relatively heroic stance in Doctor Strange team-up title Secret Defenders.

Beginning in #15’s ‘Strange Changes Part the First: Strangers and Other Lovers’ (May 1994 by Tom Brevoort, Mike Kanterovich, Jerry Decaire & Tony DeZuñiga) the Sorcerer Supreme sends Doctor Druid, Shadowoman, Luke Cage and Deadpool to stop ancient life-sucking sorceress Malachi – a task fraught with peril that takes #16’s ‘Strange Changes Part the Second: Resurrection Tango’ (pencilled by Bill Wylie and debuting zombie hero Cadaver), and #17’s ‘Strange Changes Part the Third: On Borrowed Time’

A moment from Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #30 (November 1994, by Wright, Scot Eaton & Jim Amash) depicting Wade’s reaction to his rival’s fall from grace segues into the second 4-part Deadpool miniseries (August – November 1994) which revolves around auld acquaintances Black Tom and Juggernaut. Collaboratively contrived by writer Mark Waid, pencillers Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks and Ken Lashley with inkers Jason Minor, Bob McLeod, Bub LaRosa, Tom Wegryzn, Philip Moy & W.C. Carani, ‘If Looks Could Kill!’, ‘Luck of the Irish’, ‘Deadpool, Sandwich’ and ‘Mano a Mano’ delivers a hyperkinetic race against time heavy on explosive action.

The previous miniseries revealed Irish archvillain Black Tom Cassidy was slowly turning into a tree (as you do). Desperate to save his meat-based life, the bad guy and best bud Cain “The Juggernaut” Marko manipulate Wade Wilson: exploiting the merc’s unconventional relationship with Siryn (a sonic mutant, Tom’s niece and X-Force member). Believing Deadpool’s regenerating factor holds a cure, the villains stir up a bucket-load of carnage at a time when Wade is at his lowest ebb. Packed with mutant guest stars, this is a shallow but immensely readable piece of eye-candy that reset Deadpool’s path and paved the way for a tonal change that would make the Merc with a Mouth a global superstar…

All Epic Collections offer bonus material bonanzas and here that comprises images from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Master Edition, many cover reproductions (Deadpool Classic volume 1 by Liefeld & John Kalisz, Deadpool Classic Companion by Michael Bair & Matt Milla, Deadpool: Sins of the Past and The Circle Chase TPBs by Madureira, Farmer & Harry Canelario), pin-ups by Rob Haynes & John Lowe from X-Force Annual #2 and Annual #3 by Lashley & Matt “Batt” Banning, plus Sam Kieth’s Marvel Year-in-Review ’93 cover. That magazine’s parody ad by Dan Slott, Manny Galen, Scott Koblish & Wright, follows with Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti & Mark McNabb’s foldout cover to Wizard #22 and Liefeld’s “Marvel ‘92” variant cover for Deadpool #3 (2015).

Featuring a far darker villain evolving into an antihero in a frenetic blend of light-hearted, surreal, full-on fighting frolics these stories only hint at what is to come but remain truly compulsive reading for dyed-in-the-wool superhero fans who might be feeling just a little jaded with four-colour overload…
© 2021 MARVEL.

Guardians of the Galaxy Epic Collection volume 1: Earth Shall Overcome 1969-1977


By Arnold Drake & Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Scott Edelman, Stan Lee, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom, John Buscema & various (MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-5043-9 (TPB/Digital edition)

With the final GoTG Marvel Cinematic interpretation done and dusted, there’s little to look forward too other than the past, but at least in this anniversary year – 55 and counting! – there’s this timely collection ideal for boning up on some of the lesser-known original stars

There are two distinct and separate iterations of the Guardians of the Galaxy. The films concentrated on the second, but with inescapable connections between them and the stellar stalwarts here so pay close attention. The original comic book team were freedom fighters united to defeat an invasion a thousand years from the present. The other were a later conception: springing out of contemporary crises seen in The Annihilation publishing event.

This treasury of torrid tales gathers landmark moments of the former as seen in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, Giant-Size Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29, the time-busting team’s first solo series as originally seen in Marvel Presents #3-12 and Thor Annual #6: collaboratively and monumentally spanning cover-dates January 1969 to December 1977. It features a radically different set-up than that of the silver screen stars, but is grand comic book sci fi fare all the same. One thing to recall at all times, though, is that there are two teams. Never the twain shall meet …until they one day did…

Despite its key mission to make superheroes more realistic, Marvel also always kept a close connection with its fantasy roots and outlandish cosmic chaos – as typified in the pre-Sixties “monsters-in-underpants” mini-sagas. Thus, this pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintains that wild “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

A blistering battle-fest opens with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome!’ as first seen in new-concept try-out/Golden Age reprint vehicle Marvel Super-Heroes #18. Cover-dated January 1969, it went on sale mid-October 1968, just as the Summer of Love was dying.

This terse, grittily engaging episode introduced disparate freedom fighters reluctantly rallying and united to save Earth from occupation and humanity from extinction at the scaly claws of the sinister, reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon. It began when Jovian militia-man Charlie-27 returned home from a 6-month tour of scout duty to find his entire colony subjugated by invading aliens. Fighting free, Charlie jumped into a randomly-programmed teleporter and emerged on Pluto, just in time to accidentally scupper the escape of crystalline scientist and resistance fighter Martinex.

Both survivors are examples of radical human genetic engineering: manufactured subspecies carefully designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets, but now possibly the last individuals of their respective kinds. After helping the mineral man complete his mission of sabotage – by blowing up potentially useful material before the Badoon can get their hands on it – the odd couple set the teleporter for Earth and jump into the unknown. Unfortunately, the invaders have already taken the homeworld…

The Supreme Badoon Elite are there, busily mocking the oldest Earthman alive. Major Vance Astro had been humanity’s first interstellar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Alpha Centauri at a plodding fraction of the speed of light. When he got there a millennium later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off. Now Astro and Centauri aborigine Yondu are a comedy exhibit for the cruel conquerors actively eradicating both of their species.

The smug invaders are utterly overwhelmed when Astro breaks free, utilising psionic powers he developed during hibernation, before Yondu butchers them with the sound-controlled energy arrows he carries. In their pell-mell flight, the escaping pair stumble across incoming Martinex and Charlie-27 and a new legend of valiant resistance is born…

As envisioned by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Mike Esposito, the eccentric team were presented to an audience undergoing immense social change, with dissent in the air, riot in the streets and the ongoing Vietnam War being visibly lost on their TV screens every night.

Perhaps the jingoistic militaristic overtones were off-putting, or maybe the tenor of the times were against The Guardians, since costumed hero titles were entering a temporary downturn at that juncture, but whatever the reason the feature was a rare “Miss” for the Early Marvel Hit Factory. The futuristic freedom fighters were not seen again for years.

They drifted in limbo until 1974 when Steve Gerber incorporated them into some of his assigned titles (specifically Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders), wherein assorted 20th century champions travelled into the future to ensure humanity’s survival…

In MTIO #4, ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Sal Buscema & Frank Giacoia) sees Ben Grimm – AKA The Thing – and Captain America catapulted into the 31st century to free enslaved humanity from the Badoon, concluding an issue later as a transformed and reconfigured Guardians of the Galaxy climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help the time-lost champions liberate occupied New York before returning home.

The fabulous Future Force returned that visit in Giant Sized Defenders #5: a diverse-handed production with the story ‘Eelar Moves in Mysterious Ways’ credited to Gerber, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Scott Edelman. Dependable Don Heck & Mike Esposito drew the (surprisingly) satisfying and cohesive results, revealing how the Defenders met with future heroes Guardians of the Galaxy in a time-twisting disaster yarn where their very presence seemed to cause nature to run wild. It was simply an introduction, setting up a continued epic arc for the monthly comic book…

Beginning with ‘Savage Time’ (Defenders #26 by Gerber, Sal Buscema & Colletta) it depicts The Hulk, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk and Valkyrie accompanying the Guardians back to 3015 AD in a bold bid to liberate the last survivors of mankind from the all-conquering and genocidal Badoon. The mission continued with ‘Three Worlds to Conquer!’, becoming infinitely more complicated when ‘My Mother, The Badoon!’ reveals sex-based divisions that so compellingly motivate the marauding lizard-men to roam and tyrannise, before climaxing triumphantly in rousingly impassioned conclusion ‘Let My Planet Go!’

Along the way the Guardians picked up – or been unwillingly allied with – an enigmatic stellar powerhouse dubbed Starhawk. Also answering to Stakar, he was a glib, unfriendly type who referred to himself as “one who knows” and infuriatingly usually did, even if he never shared any useful intel…

That portion of the saga is interspersed with the covers of latterday compilations Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome Premiere Hardcover (by Gil Kane & Chris Sotomayor and Ron Wilson & Matt Milla), before the next giant leap…

Rejuvenated by exposure, the squad rededicated themselves to liberating star-scattered Humanity and having astral adventures, in a short-lived series in Marvel Presents (#3-12, February 1976-August 1977) before cancellation left them roaming the MU as perennial guest-stars in cosmically-tinged titles like Thor and The Avengers. That first solo run began with ‘Just Another Planet Story!’ by Gerber, Al Milgrom & Pablo Marcos – with all Badoon removed from an exultant Earth and our now purposeless Guardians realising peace and freedom were not for them. Unable to adapt to civilian life, they reassembled, stole their old starship “The Captain America and rocketed off into the void…

More compilation covers – Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Heroes Omnibus (by John Romita Sr & Veronica Gandini) and Guardians of the Galaxy: The Power of Starhawk Premiere HC by Milgrom & Tom Chu – interleave the unfolding saga, but the original text feature ‘Readers Space’ (episodically delineating future history of Marvel Universe Mankind using various deceased company sci fi series as mile markers, way stations and signposts) is bundled to the bonus section at the back of the book. At the time the roadmap firmly established a timeline which would endure for decades…

Back to comics and in MP #4, Gerber & Milgrom descended ‘Into the Maw of Madness!’ as the noble nomads pick up feisty teenage Nikki: a Mercurian survivor of the Badoon genocide, and noted first inklings that something vast, alien and inimical was coming from “out there” to consume the galaxy. The warriors also met cosmic enigma Starhawk’s better half Aleta: a glamorous woman and mother of his three children sharing his/their body at that time…

When the star-farers and their ship are swallowed by star-system-sized monster Karanada, they discover a universe inside the undead beast and end up stranded on the ‘Planet of the Absurd’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Howard Chaykin), allowing the author to indulge his gift for political and social satire as our heroes seek to escape a society comprising a vast variety of species which somehow mimics 20th century Earth…

Escape achieved, the fantastic fantasy accelerates to top gear when they crash into the heart of the invading force on a galaxy-sized planet in humanoid form. ‘The Topographical Man’ (inked by Terry Austin) holds all answers they seek in a strange sidereal nunnery where Nikki is expected to make a supreme sacrifice: one that changes Vance’s life forever in ways he never imagined.

This all transpires as they spiritually unite to ‘Embrace the Void!’ (Bob Wiacek inks) in a metaphysical rollercoaster which ends the menace of the soul-sucking galactic devourer. At this time deadlines were a critical problem and Marvel Presents #8 adapted a story from Silver Surfer #2 (1968) as the team find an old Badoon data-log and learn ‘Once Upon a Time… the Silver Surfer!’ had saved Earth from the alien predators in a two-layered yarn attributed to Gerber, Milgrom, Wiacek, Stan Lee, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott…

Back on track for MP #9, Gerber & Milgrom revealed ‘Breaking Up is Death to Do!’ as the Guardians’ ship is ambushed by predatory Reivers of Arcturus, leading into the long-awaited shocking origins of Starhawk and Aleta. It also set the assembled heroes on a doomed quest to save the bonded couple’s children from brainwashing, mutation and murder by their own grandfather in ‘Death-Bird Rising!’ before concluding ‘At War with Arcturus!’ (both inked by Wiacek).

The series abruptly concluded just as new scripter Roger Stern signed on with ‘The Shipyard of Deep Space!’, as the beleaguered and battered team escape Arcturus and stumble onto a lost Earth vessel missing since the beginning of the Badoon invasion. “Drydock is a mobile space station the size of a small moon, built to maintain and repair Terran starships. However, what initially seems to be a moving reunion with lost comrades and actual survivors of many gene-gineered human subspecies eradicated by the saurian supremacists is revealed to be just one more deadly snare for the Guardians to overcome or escape…

The time-busting mayhem concludes for now with ‘Thunder in the 31st Century!’ (from Thor Annual #6, December 1977) by Stern, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson,in which the mighty Thunderer is accidentally deposited in the Guardians’ era by a cyborg maniac named Korvac. The god warrior eagerly joins them in battling a gang of superpowered aliens to thwart Korvac’s scheme to make himself master of the universe before returning to his own place and time…

The aforementioned bonus bounty ending this titanic temporal tome also includes the cover of Astonishing Tales #29 (April 1975 and reprinting Marvel Super-Heroes #18), articles on Guardians of the Galaxy by Gerber and Stern from F.O.O.M. #21 (Spring 1978), original art pages and covers by Sal Buscema, Colletta, Milgrom, Rich Buckler, Wiacek & Janson and one last past collection cover – from Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers vol. 2 TPB by John Buscema, Joe Sinnott & Thomas Mason.

This rousing record of riotous star-roving derring-do is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun, swingeing satire and blockbuster action tightly tailored and on-target to turn curious moviegoers into fans of the comic incarnation, and beguile even the most jaded interstellar Fights ‘n’ Tights fanatic into dreaming again with eyes wide open.
© 2023 MARVEL.

Incredible Hulk Epic Edition volume 8 (1976-1978): The Curing of Dr. Banner


By Len Wein, Roger Stern, Sal Buscema, Herb Trimpe, Jim Starlin, David Anthony Kraft, George Tuska, Keith Pollard, Joe Staton, Ernie Chan, Tom Palmer, Alfredo Alcala, Frank Giacoia, Mike Esposito, Joe Sinnott, Josef Rubinstein & various (MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-4879-5 (TPB/Digital edition)

Bruce Banner was a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, stress and other factors trigger transformations into a big green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. One of Marvel’s earliest innovations and first failure, after initially troubled early years he finally found his size-700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of the company’s premiere antiheroes and most popular features.

The Gamma Goliath was always graced with artists who understood the allure of shattering action, the sheer cathartic reader-release rush of spectacular “Hulk Smash!” moments, and here – following in the debris-strewn wake of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe – Sal Buscema was showing the world what he could do when unleashed…

This chronologically complete compendium re-presents Incredible Hulk King Size Annual #6 and issues #201- 226 of his monthly magazine, spanning July 1976 – August 1978.

Crafted by writer Len Wein and illustrated by Buscema & Joe Staton, Hulk #201 features ‘The Sword and the Sorcerer!’ wherein the monster is marooned on a perilously primitive sub-atomic world just long enough to liberate its people from brutal despot (and demon-possessed pawn) Kronak the Barbarian before starting to shrink uncontrollably. He soon arrives in the promised land of his beloved long-lost alien love Queen Jarella

 ‘Havoc at the Heart of the Atom’ reveals how his last visit had rendered the barbarous world tectonically unstable and wrecked the ancient civilisation which once had the power to blend Banner’s mind with the Hulk’s body. Moreover, the once-gentle population then turned on the queen they held responsible…

Reunited with his beloved, the simplistic brute swears to fix the problem confronting the antediluvian horror who first hijacked him to the Microverse… and who still craves bloody revenge. Once again evil fails at great personal cost. The ‘Assault on Psyklop!’ delivers crushing defeat to the vile insectoid and a guardedly happy ending for the man-brute – until a rescue attempt from Earth brings Hulk home, carrying an astounded Jarella with him…

Herb Trimpe briefly returned in #204 to plot and pencil a tale of time-bending might-have-beens, as brilliant theoretician Kerwin Kronus offers to eradicate Banner’s problems by turning back time and undoing the accident which created the Hulk. Sadly, the experiment succeeds all too well: briefly forming an alternate timeline wherein original sidekick Rick Jones died and the time-master became an even greater menace to reality. Banner/Hulk must make a heartbreaking sacrifice to close that unacceptably ‘Vicious Circle’

‘Do Not Forsake Me!’ in #205 depicts the most tragic moment in the Green Goliath’s tortured life when Jarella sacrifices herself to save a child from rampaging robbery robot Crypto-Man, leaving the bereft Hulk ‘A Man-Brute Berserk!’ His trail of destruction leads from Gamma Base, New Mexico all the way to New York City where even his friends and allies cannot calm the grieving green goliath, leading to a brutal battle ‘Alone Against the Defenders!’ who finally realise compassion is the only method that will work against their traumatised ally-turned-foe…

The bereft beast is still beside Defender-in-Chief Doctor Strange for David Anthony Kraft, Trimpe and inkers Frank Giacoia & Mike Esposito for Incredible Hulk King Size Annual #6’s ‘Beware the Beehive!’ wherein a band of mad scientists attempt to recreate their greatest success and failure. Morlak, Hamilton, Shinsky and Zota were a rogue science collective known as The Enclave, who – from their hidden “Beehive” lair – had originally spawned puissant artificial man Him (latterly AKA Adam Warlock).

Here, three of them reunite for another go at building a compliant god they can control, but when they abduct Stephen Strange to replace their missing fourth, the magician has the Jade Juggernaut save him from the experiment’s inevitable consequences: a compassionless super-slave dubbed Paragon whose first task is to eradicate Strange and subdue mankind. Happily, after a border-shattering, army-crunching global rampage, that’s when the Hulk kicks the wall in and goes to work…

In Incredible Hulk #208 Wein, Buscema & Staton reveal ‘A Monster in Our Midst!’ as Bruce Banner finally rejects ending his pain-wracked existence and begins a new and – hopefully – stress-reduced life where his alter ego will never be seen again. That resolve only lasts as long as it takes maniacal Crusher Creel – freed as a consequence of the Jade Juggernaut’s most recent rampage – to accept a commission from a triumvirate of hooded schemers who want the Hulk dead. Of course, even though ‘The Absorbing Man is Out for Blood!’, the super-thug proves no match for Hulk’s unfettered fury, but his well-deserved drubbing results in Banner collapsing unconscious in alley where he is eventually found by a mystic do-gooder in search of an ally…

With #210, Ernie Chan became Buscema’s regular inker as Wein’s ‘And Call the Doctor… Druid!’ finds both Banner and his brutish alter ego crucial to a plan to defeat ancient mutant Maha Yogi, his vast mercenary army and alien bodyguard Mongu before they complete their preparations for world domination. Although the battles of ‘The Monster and the Mystic!’ are a close-run thing, virtue is eventually victorious, but makes little difference to the Hulk’s former teen companion Jim Wilson as he hitchhikes across America, utterly unaware he is the target of a vicious criminal conspiracy. The plots hatch once Jim reaches New York City where his hidden tormentors decide that he must be ‘Crushed by… the Constrictor!’ Neither they nor their ruthless high-tech hitman expected the Hulk to intervene…

With a friend and confidante who shares his secrets, you’d expect Banner’s life to get a little easier, but the authorities never stop hunting the Hulk, who initially realises ‘You Just Don’t Quarrel with the Quintronic Man!’ (inked by Tom Palmer) before bouncing back to trash a formidable five-man mecha suit. As Chan returns, this bout leads to a frenzied clash with a new hyper-powered hero resolved to make his name by defeating America’s most terrifying monster in ‘The Jack of Hearts is Wild!’

Macabre old enemy Bi-Beast is resurrected in #215; still eager to eradicate humanity in ‘Home is Where the Hurt Is’ and nearly succeeding after seizing control of SHIELD’s Helicarrier. Only desperate action by General Thaddeus Ross saves the day, as the old soldier uses the carrier’s tech to shanghai Banner: letting nature take its savage course and hoping the right monster wins the inevitable blockbuster battle before a ‘Countdown to Catastrophe!’ leaves the planet a smoking ruin…

A moodily poignant change of pace comes in #217 as ‘The Circus of Lost Souls!’ sees the shell-shocked Hulk lost somewhere in Europe, defending a band of carnival freaks from the dastardly depredations of The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime: a solid demarcation signalling Wein’s move  away from scripting in favour of co-plotting, allowing Roger Stern to find his own big green feet to guide the Green Goliath’s future…

That begins with ‘The Rhino Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore’ (#218 by Wein & Stern, with George Tuska, Keith Pollard & Chan handling visuals) as super-strong, gamma-tainted psychologist “Doc” Leonard Samson takes centre stage battling the ruthless Rhino, whilst in #219 Banner learns ‘No Man is an Island!’ (Wein, Stern, Sal Buscema & Chan) after hiring on as a freighter deckhand, only to have it sunk from under him by submarine-based pirate Cap’n Barracuda. Washed ashore on a desert atoll, Hulk is befriended by a deluded soul who believes himself to be Robinson Crusoe. As events unfold an even stranger truth is revealed when Barracuda captures the madman to pluck the secret of making monsters from his broken mind. The cruel corsair has utterly underestimated the ferocious loyalty and compassion of the Hulk, who unleashes devastating destructive ‘Fury at 5000 Fathoms!’

With Stern in authorial control, Sal Buscema is joined by Alfredo Alcala for #221’s ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’, with still all-at-sea Banner rescued from drowning by marine explorer Walt Newell. He ferries his exhausted passenger back to Manhattan where he is recognised as Banner. Realising he has unwittingly unleashed The Hulk on a major population centre, Newell exposes his own secret identity as subsea superhero Stingray and pursues his former guest. The battle is painfully one-sided and Stingray near death when Jim Wilson intervenes, saving the marine crusader’s life, but only at the cost of Hulk’s trust…

Wein returned for one last hurrah in #222, scripting a plot by artist Jim Starlin (abetted by Alcala). A potently creepy horror yarn begins as the Jade Juggernaut tears through another unfortunate army unit before being gassed into unconsciousness. Banner awakens in the care of two children living in a cave, but they’re not surprised by the fugitive’s transformations: not since the radioactive stuff changed their little brother…

Now people have been disappearing and although they haven’t grasped the truth of it yet, Bruce instantly grasps what is involved in ‘Feeding Billy’… and what his intended role is…

Now firmly established, Stern began an ambitious storyline in #223 (illustrated by Sal & Josef Rubinstein) as ‘The Curing of Dr. Banner!’ sees the monster’s human half spontaneously purged of the gamma radiation that triggers his changes. Heading for Gamma Base to verify his findings, Bruce discovers the entire facility has been taken over: mind-controlled by his ultimate archenemy…

As the villain makes everyone ‘Follow the Leader!’, Doc Samson and General Ross escape and beg Banner to again sacrifice his humanity for the sake of mankind. Only the Hulk has ever defeated The Leader and their only hope is to recall and harness his unstoppable fury. Tragically, the halfway measures fail at the final moment and the villain has cause to ask ‘Is There Hulk After Death?’ With Bruce seemingly deceased, his compatriots jumpstart his system with another overwhelming dose of gamma rays and soon everybody involved has cause to regret the resurrection of the original Gamma Goliath as another ordnance-obliterating clash with the military in #226’s ‘Big Monster on Campus!’ (Stern, Buscema & Joe Sinnott) leads to the man-monster invading his old college and suffering a psychological trauma that could end his rampages forever…

To Be Hulk-inued…

Graced throughout with covers by Rich Buckler, John Romita, Trimpe, Dan Adkins, Dave Cockrum, Marie Severin, Giacoia, Ed Hannigan, Chan, Starlin, Rubinstein and Ron Wilson, this cataclysmically cathartic tome is rounded out with a blitz of bonus features. Front & back covers for The Incredible Hulk Marvel Treasury Edition #17 (1978) by Jeff Aclin & Tony DeZuñiga precede a panoramic landscape pin-up poster by Trimpe of Hulk smashing the Hulkbusters from a UK Marvel mag (by way of F.O.O.M. #19). These are followed by an airbrush treat by Ken Steacy, starring old Jade Jaws, Ant-Man & The Wasp as first seen on Marvel Comics Index #7A (1978) plus its star-studded frontispiece by Franc Reyes. Contemporary house ads lead into an unused Cockrum cover and a selection of original art by Buckler, Chan, Starlin, Alcala, Buscema & Rubinstein, said pictorial treasure treats climaxing with 5 stunningly beautiful pencilled pages of a never-completed story by Wein and Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson.

The Incredible Hulk is one of the most well-known comic characters on Earth, and these stories, as much as the cartoons, TV shows, games, toys, action figures and movies are the reason why. For an uncomplicated, earnestly vicarious experience of Might actually being Right, you can’t do better than these exciting episodes, so why not Go Green now?
© MARVEL 2023

Ms. Marvel Epic Collection volume 1: This Woman, This Warrior 1977-1978


By Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney, John Byrne, Keith Pollard, Carmine Infantino, George Tuska & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1639-8 (TPB/Digital edition)

Until relatively recently American comics and especially Marvel had very little in the way of positive female role models and almost no viable solo stars. Although a woman starred in the very first comic of the Marvel Age, The Invisible Girl took decades to become a potent and independent character in her own right – or even just be called “woman”. The company’s very first starring heroine was Black Fury: a leather-clad, whip-wielding crimebuster imported from a newspaper strip created by Tarpe Mills in April 1941. The sultry sentinel was repackaged as a resized reprint for Timely’s funnybooks and renamed Miss Fury to enjoy a 4-year run (1942-1946) – although her tabloid incarnation fought on until 1952. Fury was actually predated by Silver Scorpion, who debuted in Daring Mystery Comics #7 (April 1941), but she was relegated to a minor position in the book’s line-up and endured a very short shelf-life.

Miss America premiered in anthological Marvel Mystery Comics (#49, November 1943), created by Otto Binder & artist Al Gabriele. After a few appearances, she won her own title in early 1944. Miss America Comics lasted, but the costumed cutie didn’t as – with the second issue (November1944) – the format changed, to become a combination of teen comedy, fashion feature and domestic tips magazine. Feisty take-charge superheroics were steadily squeezed out and the title is most famous now for introducing virginal evergreen teen ideal Patsy Walker. A few other woman warriors appeared immediately after the War, many as spin-offs and sidekicks of established male stars such as female Sub-Mariner Namora (debuting in Marvel Mystery Comics #82, May 1947 before graduating to her own 3-issue series in 1948).

She was soon joined by the Human Torch’s secretary Mary Mitchell who, as Sun Girl, helmed her own 3-issue 1948 series before becoming a wandering sidekick and guest star in Sub-Mariner and Captain America Comics. Draped in a ballgown and wearing high heels, masked detective Blonde Phantom was created by Stan Lee & Syd Shores for All Select Comics #11 (Fall 1946) whilst sort-of goddess Venus debuted in her own title in August 1948, becoming the gender’s biggest Timely-Atlas-Marvel success until the advent of the “Jungle Girl” fad in the mid-1950s. This was mostly by dint of the superb stories and art by the great Bill Everett and by ruthlessly changing genres from crime to romance to horror every five minutes…

Jann of the Jungle (by Don Rico & Jay Scott Pike) was just part of an anthology line-up in Jungle Tales #1 (September 1954), but she took over the title with the 8th issue (November 1955). Jann of the Jungle continued until June 1957 (#17), spawning a host of in-company imitators like Leopard Girl, Lorna the Jungle Queen and so on…

During the costumed hero boom of the 1960s, Marvel experimented with a title shot for Inhuman émigré Madame Medusa in Marvel Super-Heroes (#15, July 1968) and a solo series for the Black Widow in Amazing Adventures #1-8 (August 1970 to September 1971). Both were sexy, reformed villainesses, not wholesome girl-next-door heroes – and neither lasted solo for long.

When the costumed crazies craze began to subside in the 1970s, Stan Lee & Roy Thomas looked into creating a girl-friendly boutique of heroines written by women. Opening shots in this mini-liberation war were Claws of the Cat by Linda Fite, Marie Severin & Wally Wood and Night Nurse by Jean Thomas & Win Mortimer (both #1’s cover-dated November 1972).

Contemporary jungle queen Shanna the She-Devil #1 – by Carole Seuling & George Tuska – was out in December 1972; but despite impressive creative teams none of these fascinating experiments lasted beyond a fifth issue.

Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword, caught every one’s attention in Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973) and eventually won her own series, whilst The Cat mutated into Tigra, the Were-Woman in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974), but the general editorial position was “books starring chicks don’t sell”…

The company kept on plugging though, and eventually found the right mix at the right time with Ms. Marvel who launched in her own title cover-dated January 1977. She was followed by the equally copyright-protecting Spider-Woman (in Marvel Spotlight #32: February 1977), who secured her own title 15 months later) and Savage She-Hulk (#1, February 1980). She was supplemented by the music-biz sponsored Dazzler who premiered in Uncanny X-Men #130 the same month, before inevitably graduating to her own book.

Ms. Marvel was actually Carol Danvers, a US Air Force security officer first seen in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968): the second episode of the unfolding tale of Kree warrior Mar-Vell, dispatched to Earth as a spy after the Fantastic Four repulsed the alien Kree twice in two months. In that series the immensely competent Carol seemed stalled, perpetually investigating Mar-Vell’s assumed and tenuous cover-identity of Walter Lawson for months. This was until Danvers was caught up in a devastating battle between the now-defecting alien and his nemesis Colonel Yon-Rogg in Captain Marvel #18 (November 1969).

Caught in a climactic explosion of alien technology, she pretty much vanished from sight until Gerry Conway, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott revived her in Ms. Marvel #1 (January 1977) where ‘This Woman, This Warrior!’ opened a new chapter for the company and the industry.

This sturdy economical tome collects Ms. Marvel #1-14 plus guest appearances in Marvel Team-Up #61-62 and The Defenders #57, cumulatively spanning cover-dates January 1977 – March 1978, diving straight into the ongoing mystery. The irrepressible but partially amnesiac Danvers has relocated to New York to become editor of “Woman”: a new magazine for modern misses published by Daily Bugle owner J. Jonah Jameson.

Never having fully recovered from her near-death experience, Danvers left the military and drifted into writing, slowly growing in confidence until the irascible publisher makes her an offer she can’t refuse. At the same time as Carol is getting her feet under a desk, a mysterious new masked hero begins appearing and as rapidly vanishing, such as when she pitches up to battle the sinister Scorpion as he perpetrates a brutal bank raid. The villain narrowly escapes to rendezvous with Professor Kerwin Korwin of AIM (high-tech secret society Advanced Idea Mechanics). The skeevy savant has promised to increase the Scorpion’s powers and allow him to take long-delayed revenge on Jameson – whom the demented thug blames for his freakish condition…

Danvers has been having premonitions and blackouts since her involvement in the final clash between Mar-Vell and Yon-Rogg and has no idea she is transforming into Ms. Marvel. Her latest vision-flash occurs too late to save Jameson from abduction, but her “Seventh Sense” does allow her to track the villain before her unwitting new boss is injured, whilst her incredible physical powers and knowledge of Kree combat techniques enable her to easily trounce the maniac.

The second issue announced an ‘Enigma of Fear!’ in a return engagement for the Scorpion as Korwin and AIM make Ms. Marvel their new science project. As he turns himself into armoured assassin Destructor, Carol’s therapist Mike Barnett achieves an analytical breakthrough with his patient and discovers she is a masked metahuman before she does…

Although again felling the Scorpion, Ms. Marvel is ambushed by the Destructor, but awakes in #3 (written by Chris Claremont) to turn the tables in ‘The Lady’s Not for Killing!’

Travelling to Cape Canaveral to interview old friend Salia Petrie for a women-astronauts feature, Danvers is soon battling an old Silver Surfer foe on the edge of space, where all her occluded memories explosively return just in time for a final confrontation with Destructor. In the midst of the devastating bout she nearly dies after painfully realising ‘Death is the Doomsday Man!’ (with Jim Mooney taking over pencils for Sinnott to embellish).

The Vision guest-stars in #5 as Ms. Marvel crosses a ‘Bridge of No Return’. When Dr. Barnett reveals he knows her secret, Carol is forced to fight the Android Avenger after AIM tricks the artificial hero into protecting a massive, mobile “dirty” bomb. ‘…And Grotesk Shall Slay Thee!’ then pits her against a subterranean menace determined to eradicate the human race, culminating in a waking ‘Nightmare!’ when she is captured by AIM’s leader Modok and all her secrets are exposed to his malign scientific scrutiny. Grotesk strikes again in #8 as ‘The Last Sunset…?’ almost dawns for the planet, whilst ‘Call Me Death-Bird!’ (art by Keith Pollard, Sinnott & Sam Grainger) introduces a mysterious, murderous avian alien who would figure heavily in many a future X-Men and Avengers saga, but who spends her early days allied to the unrelenting forces of AIM as they attack once more in ‘Cry Murder… Cry Modok!’ (Sal Buscema & Tom Palmer).

A push to achieve greater popularity saw the neophyte in consecutive issues of Marvel Team-Up (#61-62, September & October 1977). Claremont had actually begun scripting that title with issue #57 with a succession of espionage-flavoured heroes and villains battling for possession of a mysterious clay statuette. As illustrated by John Byrne & Dave Hunt, the secret of the artefact is revealed in #61 as Human Torch Johnny Storm joins his creepy-crawly frenemy Spider-Man in battle against Super-Skrull and learns ‘Not All Thy Powers Can Save Thee!’, before the furious clash calamitously escalates to include Ms. Marvel with follow-up ‘All This and the QE2’. Here, the Kree-human hybrid uses knowledge and power she didn’t know she had and comes away in possession of an ancient, alien power crystal…

Frank Giacoia inks Sal B in Ms. Marvel #11’s ‘Day of the Dark Angel!’, wherein supernal supernatural menaces Hecate, the Witch-Queen and The Elementals (a group formerly seen fighting The Living Mummy) attack the Cape, tragically preventing Carol from rescuing Salia and her space shuttle crew from an incredible inter-dimensional disaster…

With Sinnott inking, the astonishing action continues in ‘The Warrior… and the Witch-Queen!’ before ‘Homecoming!’ (Mooney pencils) explores Carol’s blue-collar origins in Boston as she crushes a couple of marauding aliens before the all-out action and tense suspense concludes when ‘Fear Stalks Floor 40’ (illustrated by Carmine Infantino & Steve Leialoha) with the battered and weary warrior confronting her construction worker, anti-feminist dad whilst saving his business from the sinister sabotage of The Steeplejack’.

Wrapping up the show is another guest shot – this time from The Defenders #57 (March 1978). Crafted by Claremont, George Tuska & Dave Cockrum, ‘And Along Came… Ms. Marvel’ sees the “non-team” of outsiders and antiheroes paid a visit after Carol’s prescient senses warn her of their imminent ambush by AIM. Cue cataclysmic combat…

This comprehensive chronicle includes Ms. Prints’: Conway and David Anthony Kraft’s editorials on the hero’s origins from Ms. Marvel #1 & 2, original character sketches by John Romita Senior, a house ad, and unused cover sketches by John Buscema and Marie Severin and pages of original art by Sal Buscema, Giacoia & Sinnott and Infantino & Leialoha.

Always entertaining, frequently groundbreaking and painfully patronising (occasionally at the same time), the early Ms. Marvel, against all odds, grew into the modern Marvel icon of capable womanhood we see today in both comics and on screen as Captain Marvel. These exploits are a valuable grounding of the contemporary champion but also still stand on their own as intriguing examples of the inevitable fall of even the staunchest of male bastions: superhero sagas…
© 1977, 1978, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Doctor Strange Masterworks volume 4


By Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Gardner Fox, Barry Windsor-Smith, Archie Goodwin, Gene Colan, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Don Heck, Sam Kweskin, Frank Brunner, P. Craig Russell, Jim Starlin & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3495-4 (HB/Digital Edition)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Arcane Anniversary Astonishment… 9/10

When the budding House of Ideas introduced a warrior wizard to their burgeoning pantheon in the summer of 1963, it was a bold and curious move. Anthologically, bizarre adventures and menacing aliens were still incredibly popular, but most dramatic mentions of magic or the supernatural (especially vampires, werewolves and their equally eldritch ilk) were harshly proscribed by a censorship panel which dictated almost all aspects of story content – the self-inflicted Comics Code Authority.

That eldritch embargo probably explains writer/editor Stan Lee’s low key introduction of Steve Ditko’s mystic adventurer: an exotic, twilight troubleshooter inhabiting the shadowy outer fringes of society.

Within a year of Fantastic Four #1, long-lived monster-mystery anthology Strange Tales became home for the blazing boy-hero Human Torch (from #101, cover-dated October 1962), launching Johnny Storm on a creatively productive but commercially unsuccessful solo career.

In 1963, Tales of Suspense #41 saw new sensation Iron Man battle a crazed scientific wizard dubbed Doctor Strange, and with the name in copyrightable print (a long-established Lee technique: Thorr, The Thing, Magneto, The Hulk and more had been disposable Atlas “furry underpants monsters” long before they became in-continuity Marvel characters), preparations began for a truly different kind of hero.

The company had already devised a quasi-mystic troubleshooter for a short run in Amazing Adventures (volume 1 #1-4 & #6, spanning June-November 1961). The precursor was balding, trench-coated savant Doctor Droom – retooled in the 1970s as Doctor Druid when his exploits were reprinted. Psychiatrist, sage and paranormal investigator, he tackled everything from alien invaders to Atlanteans (albeit not the ones Sub-Mariner ruled). He was subsequently retro-written into Marvel continuity as an alternative candidate for Stephen Strange’s ultimate role as Sorcerer Supreme.

The man we know debuted in Strange Tales #110 (July 1963). After a shaky start, the Master of the Mystic Arts became an unmissable icon of cool counter-culture kids who saw in Ditko’s increasingly psychedelic art, echoes and overtones of their own trippy explorations of other worlds. That might not have been the authors’ intention but it certainly helped keep the mage at the forefront of Lee’s efforts to break comics out of the “kids-stuff” ghetto.

After Ditko abruptly left the company at the height of his fame and success in early 1967, the feature went through a string of creators before Marvel’s 1968 expansion allowed a measure of creative stability as the mystic master won his own monthly solo title in a neat moment of sleight of hand by assuming the numbering of Strange Tales. Thus, this enchanting full colour compilation gathers Doctor Strange #180-183 (May-November 1969) whereupon he became one of the earliest casualties of a superhero implosion heralding the end of the Silver Age. Also included are guest appearances in Sub-Mariner #22 and Incredible Hulk #126 (both 1970), prior to the sorcerer’s return in Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971) and a second bite of the cherry as star of Marvel Premiere #3-8 (July 1972 through May 1973).

Those complex, convoluted, confusing times are better explained in Roy Thomas’ Introduction before the drama resumes with #180’s ‘Eternity, Eternity!’

Previously, Dr. Stephen Strange had joined Black Night Dane Whitman and assorted Avengers in saving Earth from doom by Asgardian demons Surtur and Ymir and here – thanks to Thomas, Gene Colan & Tom Palmer – suffers nightmares and dire premonitions on New Year’s Eve before learning that the guiding spirit of creation has been enslaved by sadistic dream demon Nightmare

After a Colan pin-up of the good doctor and his closest associates, ‘If a World Should Die Before I Wake…’ follows the mage into the dreamlands and beyond to rescue the lynchpin of reality where he is defeated and despatched to uncharted regions. In the miasma he makes an unlikely ally as concluding episode ‘And Juggernaut Makes Three!’ sees Eternity liberated, Nightmare defeated and Stephen Strange rewarded by the reality-warping over-god by being unmade and recreated in a new identity. In the minds of humanity, Dr. Stephen Sanders is nothing to do with recently outed, publicly vilified masked mystic Dr. Strange…

The radical reset was too little too late and Dr. Strange #183 (November 1969) was the final issue. In ‘They Walk by Night!’, Thomas, Colan & Palmer introduced a deadly threat in the Undying Ones, an elder race of devils hungry to reconquer the Earth.

The story went nowhere until Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970 by Thomas, Marie Severin & Johnny Craig) as ‘The Monarch and the Mystic!’ brought the Prince of Atlantis into play, as told in a sterling tale of sacrifice wherein the Master of the Mystic Arts seemingly dies holding the gates of Hell shut with the Undying Ones pent behind them.

The extended saga then concluded on an upbeat note with The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970) ‘Where Stalks the Night-Crawler!’ by Thomas & Herb Trimpe, wherein a New England cult dispatches helpless Bruce Banner to the nether realms in an attempt to undo Strange’s sacrifice.

Luckily cultist Barbara Norris has last minute second thoughts and her sacrifice frees the mystic, seemingly ending the threat of the Undying Ones forever. At the end of the issue Strange retired, forsaking magic, although he changed his mind before too long as the fates – and changing reading tastes – called him back to duty.

Cover dated December 1971, Marvel Feature #1 bombastically introduced the trio of antiheroes united as The Defenders, and just how Strange resumed his mystic arts mantle was tucked into a heady 10-page thriller at the end, proving that not all good things come in large packages. Crafted by Thomas, Don Heck & Frank Giacoia, ‘The Return’ finds medical consultant Stephen Sanders back in Greenwich Village where his old Sanctum Sanctorum is home to an incredible impostor posing as his former self. It takes the intervention of his sagacious mentor The Ancient One to restore his forsaken skills before the conundrum is solved and a villain unmasked…

Back in arcane action, Dr. Strange took up residence in Marvel Premiere, beginning with #3 (July 1972) as Stan Lee, Barry Windsor-Smith & Dan Adkins employ cunning, misdirection and an ancient enemy to attack the mage in ‘While the World Spins Mad!’

That visual tour de force segued into an epic Lovecraftian homage/pastiche beginning in MP#4 when Archie Goodwin, Smith & Frank Brunner detail how Strange’s attempt to aid embattled Ethan Stoddard remove a ghastly malefic contagion from his New England hometown of Starkesboro goes awry. Shamelessly plundering Lovecraft’s literary lore for a graphic gothic masterpiece attempt leads to a severely weakened Master of the Mystic Arts ambushed by the victims he helped and offered as a sacrifice in ‘The Spawn of Sligguth!’

Written by Gardner F. Fox with art by Sam Kweskin (as Irv Wesley) & Don Perlin, and incorporating themes inspired by Robert E. Howard, the dark tale unfolds as Strange breaks free and learns that ‘The Lurker in the Labyrinth!’ is merely a herald for a greater primordial evil about to reawaken before facing another of its vanguard in #6’s ‘The Shambler from the Sea!’ (Fox, Brunner & Sal Buscema). With faithful allies Wong and Clea drawn into the weird war against now-exposed malignant mega-manipulator Shuma-Gorath, Strange’s latest triumph/close shave directs the secret heroes to Stonehenge…

Marvel Premiere #7 highlights ‘The Shadows of the Starstone!’ courtesy of Fox, P. Craig Russell, Mike Esposito Giacoia & Dave Hunt, as new players Henry Gordon and enigmatic medium Blondine join the human resistance just in time to combat latest horror Dagoth, but quickly enough to save Strange from a thaumaturgical boobytrap…

The serialised shocks pause with #8 (May 1973, by Fox, Jim Starlin, Giacoia & Hunt) as animated mansion Witch House assaults the assembled humans until Strange puts an end to the matter. Resolved to work alone he heads back to Stonehenge and employs ancient forces to defeat an army of devils and follow their trail to another world. However, even after destroying their lord he is marooned there by ‘The Doom that Bloomed on Kathulos!’

To Be Continued…

Although the comics spellbinding ends here, there are still treats and surprises in store, beginning with the first cover to Doctor Strange #180 by Colan & Palmer. It had been lost in the post for years and required fast action to be replaced back in 1968. Also on offer are production art proofs and pre-editorial changes: a fascinating glimpse at the tricks behind the comics wonderment, and maybe the biggest Biographies section you’ve ever seen…

The Wizard of Greenwich Village has always been an acquired taste for superhero fans, but the pioneering graphic bravura of these tales and the ones to come in the next volume left an indelible mark on the Marvel Universe and readily fall into the sublime category of works done “ahead of their time”. Many of us prefer to believe Doctor Strange has always been the coolest of outsiders and most accessible fringe star of the Marvel firmament (and now we have mega-blockbuster movies to back us up, so Yar Boo Sucks to them naysayers!). This glorious grimoire is a miraculous means for fans to enter his world once more and the perfect introduction for recent acolytes or converts created by the movie iteration.
© 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers volume 1


By Arnold Drake, Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, Sal Buscema, Don Heck, Al Milgrom, John Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6687-0 (TPB/Digital edition)

With the final Marvel Cinematic movie interpretation rapidly heaving to, here’s a timely collection ideal for boning up on some of the lesser-known characters, augment cinematic exposure and cater to film fans wanting to follow up with a proper comics experience.

This treasury of torrid tales gathers landmarks and key moments from Marvel Super-Heroes#18, Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, Giant-Size Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29 and the time-busting team’s first solo series as originally seen in Marvel Presents #3-12, collaboratively and monumentally spanning cover-dates January 1969 to August 1977. It features a radically different set-up than that of the silver screen stars, but is grand comic book sci fi fare all the same. One thing to recall at all times, though, is that there are two distinct and separate iterations of the team. The films concentrate on the second, but there are inescapable connections between them so pay close attention…

Despite its key mission to make superheroes more realistic, Marvel also always kept a close connection with its fantasy roots and outlandish cosmic chaos – as typified in the pre-Sixties “monsters-in-underpants” mini-sagas. Thus, this pantheon of much-travelled space stalwarts maintains that wild “Anything Goes” attitude in all of their many and varied iterations.

This blistering battle-fest begins with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome!’: first seen in combination new-concept try-out/Golden Age reprint vehicle Marvel Super Heroes #18 (cover-dated January 1969 but on sale from mid-October 1968 – just as the Summer of Love was shutting down).

This terse, grittily engaging episode introduced a disparate band of freedom fighters reluctantly rallying and united to save Earth from occupation and humanity from extinction at the scaly claws of the sinister, reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon.

It starts when Jovian militia-man Charlie-27 returns home from a 6-month tour of scout duty to find his entire colony subjugated by invading aliens. Fighting free, Charlie jumps into a randomly-programmed teleporter and emerges on Pluto, just in time to accidentally scupper the escape of crystalline scientist/resistance fighter Martinex.

Both are examples of radical human genetic engineering: manufactured subspecies carefully designed to populate and colonise Sol system’s outer planets, but now possibly the last individuals of their respective kinds. After helping the mineral man complete his mission of sabotage – by blowing up potentially useful material before the Badoon can get their hands on it – the odd couple set the teleporter for Earth and jump into the unknown. Unfortunately, the invaders have already taken the homeworld…

The Supreme Badoon Elite are there, busily mocking the oldest Earthman alive. Major Vance Astro had been humanity’s first interstellar astronaut; solo flying in cold sleep to Alpha Centauri at a plodding fraction of the speed of light.

When he got there 1000 years later, humanity was waiting for him, having cracked trans-luminal speeds a mere two centuries after he took off. Now Astro and Centauri aborigine Yondu are a comedy exhibit for the cruel conquerors actively eradicating both of their species.

The smug invaders are utterly overwhelmed when Astro breaks free, utilising psionic powers he developed during hibernation, before Yondu butchers them with the sound-controlled energy arrows he carries. In their pell-mell flight, the escaping pair stumble across incoming Martinex and Charlie-27 and a new legend of valiant resistance is born…

The eccentric team, as originally envisioned by Arnold Drake, Gene Colan & Mike Esposito, were presented to an audience undergoing immense social change, with dissent in the air, riot in the streets and the ongoing Vietnam War being visibly lost on their TV screens every night.

Perhaps the jingoistic militaristic overtones were off-putting, or maybe the tenor of the times were against The Guardians, since costumed hero titles were entering a temporary downturn at that juncture, but whatever the reason the feature was a rare “Miss” for the Early Marvel Hit Factory. The futuristic freedom fighters were not seen again for years.

They floated in limbo until 1974 when Steve Gerber incorporated them into some of his assigned titles (specifically Marvel Two-In-One and The Defenders), wherein assorted 20th century champions travelled into the future to ensure humanity’s survival…

From MTIO #4, ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Sal Buscema & Frank Giacoia) sees Ben Grimm/The Thing and Captain America catapulted into the 31st century to free enslaved humanity from the Badoon, concluding an issue later as a transformed and reconfigured Guardians of the Galaxy climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help the time-lost champions liberate occupied New York before returning home.

The fabulous Future Force repaid that visit in Giant Sized Defenders #5: a diverse-handed production with the story ‘Eelar Moves in Mysterious Ways’ credited to Gerber, Gerry Conway, Roger Slifer, Len Wein, Chris Claremont & Scott Edelman. Dependable Don Heck & Mike Esposito drew the (surprisingly) satisfying cohesive results: revealing how the Defenders met with future heroes Guardians of the Galaxy in a time-twisting disaster yarn where their very presence seemed to cause nature to run wild. It was simply an introduction, setting up a continued epic arc for the monthly comic book…

Beginning with ‘Savage Time’ (Defenders #26 by Gerber, Sal Buscema & Colletta) it depicts The Hulk, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk and Valkyrie accompanying the Guardians back to 3015 AD in a bold bid to liberate the last survivors of mankind from the all-conquering and genocidal Badoon. The mission continued with ‘Three Worlds to Conquer!’, becoming infinitely more complicated when ‘My Mother, The Badoon!’ reveals the sex-based divisions that so compellingly motivate the marauding lizard-men to travel and tyrannise, before triumphantly climaxing in rousingly impassioned conclusion ‘Let My Planet Go!’

Along the way the Guardians had picked up – or been unwillingly allied with – an enigmatic stellar powerhouse dubbed Starhawk. Also answering to Stakar, he was a glib, unfriendly type who referred to himself as “one who knows” and infuriatingly usually did, even if he never shared any useful intel…

Rejuvenated by exposure, the squad rededicated themselves to liberating star-scattered Mankind and having astral adventures, eventually winning a short-lived series in Marvel Presents (#3-12, February 1976-August 1977) before cancellation left them roaming the Marvel Universe as perennial guest-stars in such cosmically-tinged titles as Thor and the Avengers.

The team’s first solo run began with ‘Just Another Planet Story!’by Gerber, Al Milgrom & Pablo Marcos – with the Badoon removed from an exultant Earth and the now purposeless Guardians realising peace and freedom were not for them. Unable to adapt to civilian life they reassembled, stole their old starship The Captain America and rocketed off into the void…

These issues were augmented by text features dubbed ‘Readers Space’, episodically delineating the future history (there was only one back then!) of Marvel Universe Mankind – using various deceased company sci fi series as mile markers, way stations and signposts – and firmly establishing a timeline which would endure for decades.

In MP #4, Gerber & Milgrom descended ‘Into the Maw of Madness!’ as the noble nomads picked up Nikki, a feisty teenage Mercurian survivor of the Badoon genocide, and detected the first inklings that something vast, alien and inimical was coming from “out there” to consume our galaxy. They also met cosmic enigma Starhawk’s better half Aleta: a glamorous woman and mother of his three children. She was sharing his/their body at that time…

When the intrepid star-farers and their ship are swallowed by star-systems-sized monster Karanada they discover a universe inside the undead beast and end up stranded on the ‘Planet of the Absurd’ (Gerber, Milgrom & Howard Chaykin), allowing the author to indulge his taste for political and social satire as our heroes seek to escape a society comprising a vast variety of species which somehow mimics 20th century Earth…

Escape achieved, the fantastic fantasy escalates into top gear when they crash into the heart of the invading force and on a galaxy-sized planet in humanoid form. ‘The Topographical Man’ (inked by Terry Austin) holds all the answers they seek in a strange sidereal nunnery where Nikki is expected to make a supreme sacrifice: one that changes Vance’s life forever in ways he never imagined.

It all transpires as they spiritually unite to ‘Embrace the Void!’ in a metaphysical rollercoaster (Bob Wiacek inks) which at last ends the menace of the soul-sucking galactic devourer.

At this time deadlines were a critical problem and Marvel Presents #8 adapted a story from Silver Surfer #2 (1968) with the team finding an old Badoon data-log and learning ‘Once Upon a Time… the Silver Surfer!’ saved Earth from alien predators in a two-layered yarn attributed to Gerber, Milgrom, Wiacek, Stan Lee, John Buscema & Joe Sinnott…

Back on track for MP #9, Gerber & Milgrom revealed that ‘Breaking Up is Death to Do!’ as the Guardians’ ship is ambushed by the predatory Reivers of Arcturus, leading into the long-awaited and shocking origins of Starhawk and Aleta. It set the assembled heroes on a doomed quest to save the bonded couple’s children from brainwashing, mutation and murder by their own grandfather in ‘Death-Bird Rising!’ before concluding ‘At War with Arcturus!’ (both inked by Wiacek).

The series abruptly concluded just as new scripter Roger Stern signed on with ‘The Shipyard of Deep Space!’, as the beleaguered and battered team escape Arcturus and stumble onto a lost Earth vessel missing since the beginning of the Badoon invasion. Drydock is a mobile space station the size of a small moon, designed to maintain and repair Terran starships. However, what initially seems to be a moving reunion with lost comrades and actual survivors of the many gene-gineered human sub-species eradicated by the saurian supremacists is quickly revealed to be just one more deadly snare for the Guardians to overcome or escape…

This spectacular slice of riotous star-roving is a non-stop feast of tense suspense, surreal fun, swingeing satire and blockbuster action: well-tailored, and on-target to turn curious moviegoers into fans of the comic incarnation, and charm even the most jaded interstellar Fights ‘n’ Tights fanatic.
© 1968, 1974, 1976, 1977, 2014 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.

Sub-Mariner Marvel Masterworks volume 5


By Roy Thomas, Allyn Brodsky, Sal Buscema, Ross Andru, Frank Springer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6619-1 (HB/Digital edition)

Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner is the offspring of a water-breathing Atlantean princess and an American polar explorer; a hybrid being of immense strength, highly resistant to physical harm, able to fly, and thrive above and below the waves. Created by young, talented Bill Everett, Namor technically predates Marvel/Atlas/Timely Comics.

He first caught the public’s avid attention as part of an elementally appealing fire vs. water headlining team-up in the October 1939 Marvel Comics #1 (which renamed itself Marvel Mystery Comics from #2 onwards). The amphibian antihero shared honours and top billing with The Human Torch, but had originally been seen (albeit in a truncated, monochrome version) in Motion Picture Funnies: a promotional booklet handed out to moviegoers earlier in the year. Rapidly emerging as one of the industry’s biggest draws, Namor won his own title at the end of 1940 (cover-dated Spring 1941) and was one of the last super-characters to vanish at the end of the first heroic age.

In 1954, when Atlas (as the company then was) briefly revived its “Big Three” line-up – the Torch and Captain America being the other two – Everett returned for an extended run of superbly dark, mordantly timely fantasy fables. However, even his input wasn’t sufficient to keep the title afloat and eventually Sub-Mariner sank again.

In 1961, as Stan Lee & Jack Kirby were reinventing superheroes with the landmark title Fantastic Four, they revived the awesome, all-but-forgotten aquanaut as a troubled, semi-amnesiac antihero. Decidedly more bombastic, regal and grandiose, this returnee despised humanity: embittered and broken by the loss of his sub-sea kingdom which had been (seemingly) destroyed by American atomic testing. His rightful revenge became infinitely complicated after he became utterly besotted with the FF’s Susan Storm.

Namor knocked around the budding Marvel universe for a few years, squabbling with other star turns such as The Hulk, Avengers, X-Men and Daredevil before securing his own series as one half of Tales to Astonish, and from there graduating in 1968 to his own solo title.

This fifth subsea selection trawls Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner #26-38 and portions of Ka-Zar #1, spanning June 1970 to June 1971, and opens with another heartfelt appreciation and more creative secret-sharing in an Introduction from life-long devotee – and primary scribe of this book – Roy Thomas. The drama recommences as recently self-appointed relentless guardian of the safety and ecology of all Earth’s oceans, the Prince of Atlantis furtively returns to the surface world.

In ‘“Kill!” Cried the Raven!’ by Thomas, Sal Buscema & Joe Gaudioso (AKA Mike Esposito) the Sub-Mariner has come to investigate reports of comatose superhuman Red Raven. He was the human emissary of a legendary race of sky-dwelling Birdmen recently encountered by The Angel of the X-Men in their last clash with Magneto. With the covert assistance of old friend Diane Arliss, Namor seeks to forge an alliance with the Avian race, but shocks, surprises and the Raven’s trauma-induced madness all conspire to sink the plan…

Back brooding in Atlantis in the wake of another failure, Namor’s mood is further plagued when a human pirate uses his giant monster-vessel to attack shipping with Atlantis bearing the brunt of blame ‘When Wakes the Kraken!’ His hunt for bizarre bandit Commander Kraken again involves Diane and ends only when the Sub-Mariner demonstrates what a real sea monster looks like…

Recuperating with her in New York City, Namor is incensed by the actions of an unrepentant industrial polluter and joins teen protestors fighting developer Sam Westman’s thugs and mega machines in ‘Youthquake!’ before we pause for a little diversion…

Beginning as a Tarzan tribute act relocated to a lost world in a sub-polar realm of swamp-men and dinosaurs, Ka-Zar eventually evolved into one of Marvel’s more complex and mercurial characters. Wealthy heir to one of Britain’s oldest noble families, his best friend is Zabu the sabretooth tiger, his wife is feisty environmental-crusader Shanna the She-Devil and his brother is a homicidal super-scientific bandit. Kevin Reginald, Lord Plunder is perpetually torn between the clean life-or-death simplicity of the jungle and the bewildering constant compromises of modern civilisation.

The primordial paragon even outranks Namor in terms of longevity, having begun as a prose pulp star, boasting three issues of his own magazine between October 1936 and June 1937. They were authored by Bob Byrd – a pseudonym for publisher Martin Goodman or one of a fleet of writers on his staff – and he was latterly shoehorned into a speculative new-fangled comic book venture Marvel Comics #1. There he roamed alongside another pulp mag graduate: The Angel, plus Masked Raider, the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner

When Ka-Zar reappeared all rowdy and renovated in 1965’s X-Men #10, it was clear the Sovereign of the Savage Land was destined for bigger things. However, for years all he got was guest shots as misunderstood foe du jour for Daredevil, Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, and the Hulk.

In 1969, he took his shot with a solo saga in Marvel Super-Heroes and later that year – after Roy Thomas & Neal Adams used him so effectively in their X-Men run (issues #62-63) – was awarded a giant-sized solo title reprinting many previous appearances. The title also incongruously offered all-new stories of Hercules and the second, mutant X-Man Angel. That same month, Ka-Zar’s first regular series began in Astonishing Tales

That Hercules back up from Ka-Zar #1 (August 1970 by Allyn Brodsky, Frank Springer & Dick Ayers) is reprinted here as it impacts Namor’s exploits…

‘In his Footsteps… The Huntsman of Zeus!’ sees the potent Prince of Power on the run from an Olympian agent despatched by the King of the Gods. Following another bitter dispute with his sire Hercules returns to Earth, leaving Ares to foment trouble and prompt Zeus to set his terror-inducing Huntsman on the godling’s trail…

After seeking sanctuary with the Avengers, Hercules sees his mortal friends brutally beaten and flees once again…

The panicked rush takes him to Sub-Mariner #29 and the distant Mediterranean where the Huntsman ensorcells Namor and pits him against the fugitive. Although Hercules soon breaks the hypnotic spell, ‘Fear is the Hunter!’ reveals why the pursuer is so dreaded as he sends mythical terrors Scylla, Charybdis and Polyphemus against the heroes and the pitiful mortals of the region, until a valiant breakthrough ends the threat and forces a paternal reconciliation…

Another guest star treat materialises in #30 as ‘Calling Captain Marvel!’ sees Namor again reduced to a mesmerised puppet and attacking the Kree warrior and his human host Rick Jones. This time the condition is due to the amphibian’s falling in battle against toxic terrorist Mr. Markham who attempts to blackmail Earth by threatening to poison the seas with his molecular polluter. Once Captain Marvel batters Namor back to his right mind, they make quick work of the maniac in a concerted twin assault…

The fallout from his recent actions have unsettled Namor’s old friend Triton, and the Inhuman goes looking for the prince in #31 just as apparent Atlantean attacks on surface shipping mounts. Meeting equally concerned human Walt Newell (who operates as undersea Avenger Stingray) they finally find – and fight – the Sub-Mariner, only to learn the crisis has been manufactured by his old enemy who is now ‘Attuma Triumphant!’

The barbarian’s plans include destroying human civilisation, but he still has time to pit his captives against each other in a gladiatorial battle to the death; which of course is Attuma’s undoing…

Jim Mooney comes aboard as inker with #32 as a new and deadly enemy debuts in ‘Call Her Llyra… Call Her Legend!’ when fresh human atomic tests prompt Namor to voyage to the Pacific and renew political alliance with the undersea state of Lemuria. However, on arrival he finds noble Karthon replaced by a sinister seductress who lusts for war and harbours a tragic Jekyll & Hyde secret…

By the time he reaches Atlantis again the Sunken City is being ravaged by seaquakes and old political enemy Prince Byrrah is seizing control from Namor’s deputies and devoted paramour Lady Dorma. ‘Come the Cataclysm’ sees him first accuse surface-worlders before locating and defeating the true culprits – an alliance of Byrrah with failed usurper Warlord Krang and human mad genius Dr. Dorcas. In the throes of triumph, Prince Namor announces his imminent marriage to Dorma…

Antihero superteam The Defenders officially begin with Sub-Mariner #34-35 (cover-dated February & March 1971). As previously stated, the Prince of Atlantis had become an early and ardent activist and advocate of the ecology movement, and here he takes radical steps to save the planet by fractiously recruiting The Hulk and Silver Surfer to help him destroy an American Nuclear Weather-Control station.

In ‘Titans Three!’ and concluding chapter ‘Confrontation!’ (by Thomas, Sal Buscema & Jim Mooney) the always-misunderstood outcasts unite to battle a despotic dictator’s legions, the US Army, UN defence forces and the mighty Avengers to prevent the malfunctioning station from vaporising half the planet…

Inked by Berni Wrightson, Sub-Mariner #36 augurs a huge sea change in Namor’s fortunes that begins with time-honoured holy preparations for a happy event as ‘What Gods Have Joined Together!’ Elsewhere, arcane enemy Llyra is resuurected and seeks to steal the throne by abducting and replacing the bride-to-be whilst Namor is distracted by an invasion of Attuma’s hordes.

Ross Andru & Esposito take over illustration duties with #37 as an era ends and tragedy triumphs, leading to a catastrophic battle on ‘The Way to Dusty Death!’

Betrayed by one of his closest friends and ultimately unable to save his beloved, the heartbroken prince thinks long and hard before abdicating in #38 ‘Namor Agonistes!’: reprising his origins and life choices before choosing to henceforth pursue the human half of his hybrid heritage as a surface dweller…

To Be Continued…

More sunken treasures salvaged here include the cover to all-reprint Sub-Mariner Annual #1 (January 1971, and reprising the underwater portions of Tales to Astonish #70-73) plus Bill Everett’s pin-up of young Namor, contemporary House Ads and Marie Severin’s glorious cover sketch for #33, plus a huge Biographies section.

Many early Marvel Comics are more exuberant than qualitative, but this volume, especially from an art-lover’s point of view, is a wonderful exception: a historical treasure with narrative bite that fans will delight in forever. Moreover, with the Prince of Atlantis now a bona fide big screen sensation that no one’s ever heard of, now might be the time to get wise and impress your friends with a little insider knowledge…
© 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Moon Knight Epic Collection volume 1: Bad Moon Rising (1975-1981)


By Doug Moench, David Anthony Kraft, Bill Mantlo, Steven Grant, Roger Slifer, John Warner, Don Perlin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Keith Giffen, Mike Zeck, Jim Mooney, Jim Craig, Gene Colan, Keith Pollard & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2092-6 (TPB/Digital edition)

Moon Knight is probably the most complex and convoluted hero(es) in comics. There’s also a lot of eminently readable strip evidence to support the contention that he’s a certifiable loon.

The mercurial champion first appeared during the 1970s horror boom: a mercenary Batman knockoff hired by corporate villains to capture a monster. Sparking reader attention, the mercenary spun off into a brace of solo trial issues in Marvel Spotlight and welter of guest shots before securing an exceedingly sophisticated back-up slot in the TV inspired Hulk Magazine before graduating to the first of many solo series.

His convoluted origin eventually revealed how multiple-personality-suffering CIA spook-turned-mercenary Marc Spector was murdered by his boss and apparently resurrected by an Egyptian god…

This first epic compilation re-presents Werewolf by Night #32-33; Marvel Spotlight #28-29; Defenders #47-50, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #22-23; Marvel Two-In-One #52; material from Hulk Magazine #11-15, 17-18 & 20; Marvel Preview #21 and Moon Knight #1-4, spanning 1975 to 1981.

It all began in Werewolf by Night #32 (August 1975) and another stage in a long-running plot thread. Accursed lycanthrope Jack Russell and his sister Lyssa had been targets of criminal capitalists the Corporation for months. The plutocratic cabal believed that by terrorising the public, they could induce them to spend more…

Here Doug Moench & Don Perlin (with assistance from little Howie Perlin) introduced mercenary Marc Spector: a rough and ready modern warrior hired by plutocratic plunderers and equipped with a silver-armoured costume and weapons to capture Russell or his animal other as ‘…The Stalker Called Moon Knight’.

The bombastic battle and its ferocious sequel ‘Wolf-Beast vs. Moon Knight’ received an unprecedented response and rapidly propelled the lunar avenger to prominence as Marvel’s edgy answer to Batman: especially after the mercurial merc rejected his latest loathsome employers’ entreaties and let the wolf, as well as collateral hostages Lissa and Topaz, run free…

Within a year the spectral sentinel had returned for a two-part solo mission that fleshed out his characters (yes, plural!) and hinted at a hidden history behind the simple mercenary façade. Cover-dated June & August 1976, Marvel Spotlight #28-29 ‘The Crushing Conquer-Lord!’ and concluding chapter ‘The Deadly Gambit of Conquer-Lord!’ reveal the mercenary to be a well-established clandestine crimebuster with vast financial resources, a dedicated team of assistants including pilot “Frenchy” and secretary Marlene as well as wide-ranging network of street informants, a mansion/secret HQ, a ton of cool gadgets and at least four separate identities.

This latter aspect would inform Moon Knight’s entire career as various creators explored where playacting ended and Multiple Personality Disorder – if not outright supernatural possession – began…

Thanks to his brush with the werewolf, the masked vigilante had also gained a partial superpower. As the moon waxed and waned, his physical strength speed, stamina and resilience also doubled and diminished.

Here, billionaire Steven Grant, New York cabbie/information gatherer Jake Lockley, repentant gun-for-hire Marc Spector and the mysterious Moon Knight discovered he had been targeted by ruthless mastermind Mr. Quinn, who sought to eliminate a potential impediment in his plane to become a supervillain and rule Manhattan. The cunning criminal had placed a spy in Steven Grant’s inner circle and subsequent research revealed how Spector – a former CIA unarmed combat and weapons expert – had infiltrated the Corporation, gained powers, created alternate identities and, for unknown reasons, declared war on crime…

Sadly, despite this devious scheme and deploying plenty of his own wonder weapons and henchmen, the Conquer-Lord proves no match for the hidden hero in a gripping thriller by Moench & Perlin.

Following a quartet of previous collection covers by Gil Kane & Tom Smith, Perlin & Matt Milla, Bill Sienkiewicz & John Kalisz, and Sienkiewicz, Klaus Janson & Thomas Mason, the spectral sentinel’s next appearance was as a guest in a long running super-team saga.

Beginning with ‘Night Moves!’ in Defenders #47 (May 1977 and running through #50 and beyond), John Warner, David Anthony Kraft, Roger Slifer, Keith Giffen – in full Kirby mimic mode – with inkers Janson & Mike Royer disclose how putative loner Moon Knight is drawn into a war between a supervillain suffering a despondent mid-life crisis and the heroic “non-team” of Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hellcat and The Hulk.

It begins in New Jersey, as the late-patrolling vigilante stumbles upon an abduction. When S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury “arrests” Valkyrie’s former husband Jack Norriss in a most unorthodox manner, Moon Knight rescues Jack, taking him to Doctor Strange. Before long, MK’s somehow fighting Avenger Wonder Man, and thereafter catapulted into an aging Bad Guy’s existential crisis in #48’s ‘Who Remembers Scorpio? Part 1: Sinister Savior’

Certainly not Jack, now a captive audience to Fury’s supposedly dead brother, who bemoans his lot in life while waiting for his new Zodiac team to mature and leave the Life Model Decoy machine currently constructing them…

When the Knight finds them, he’s caught in a deadly death trap, as Nighthawk is captured and added to the whining villain’s unwilling audience. Moon Knight’s escape and dash for reinforcements coincides with Hulk’s latest ‘Rampage’ through Manhattan in #49, allowing MK to lead him back to the Zodiac base, with Hellcat and Valkyrie close behind them.

Everyone meets up just as the artificial Zodiac is prematurely born, with double-length Defenders #50 hosting massive, manic free-for-all ‘Who Remembers Scorpio? Part 3: Scorpio Must Die!’

The clash ends in tragedy and Moon Knight’s departure, but not before an extract from #51’s ‘A Round with the Ringer!’ reveals the shocking secret of Fury’s involvement and exactly how the Knight in White escaped that aforementioned death trap…

You’re not really a Marvel Superhero until you meet the wondrous webslinger, and that initial introduction came in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #22-23 (September & October 1978) as Bill Mantlo, Mike Zeck & Bruce D. Patterson detail an underworld plot to destroy the mysterious vigilante ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon Knight!’

When an informant is gunned down warning the Maggia have ferreted out one of his secret identities, Moon Knight learns the lethal legacy of Conquer-Lord’s files have made targets of his other assets, including diner owner Gena and homeless derelict Crawley. Lockley seeks to save them from assassination as Spider-Man is just passing, and the webslinger intervenes to save lives and keep his neighbourhood friendly…

After the traditional misunderstanding Meet-&-Beat-Up, Spidey and Moon Knight unite just in time to battle the Maggia’s top super-enforcer… French speedster Cyclone!

The saga concludes courtesy of artists Jim Mooney & Mike Esposito as the wallcrawler enviously scopes out MK HQ before joining a punitive counterstrike on the crime combine in ‘Guess Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb!’

Cover-dated June 1979, one last guest shot preceded MK’s transition to a solo series. In Marvel Two-In-One #52, Steven Grant – the real one Spector’s alter ego is teasingly based on – and artist Jim Craig & Pablo Marcos had the mysterious Moon Knight ally with The Thing to stop CIA Psy-Ops master Crossfire from brainwashing the city’s superheroes into killing each other…

Superhero credentials suitably established, Moon Knight began carving out his uniquely twisted corner of the Marvel Universe in a psychologically-themed vehicle aimed at an older, more general audience.

Originally released as newsprint monochrome magazine The Rampaging Hulk, the advent of the company’s “Marvelcolor” process and a hugely successful TV show starring the Green Goliath saw the periodical upgraded to slicker paper stock and obliquely continuity-adjacent storylines to address the needs of casual readers/television converts.

Supposedly a more sophisticated product, the book offered a home to Moon Knight, who moved in for a series of dark modern tales also outside standard superhero parameters. Before those begin here, Hulk Magazine #11 (October 1978) provides Bob Larkin’s wraparound painted cover, a house ad from #10 and a text introduction extolling the virtues of artistic debutante Bill Sienkiewicz from #13…

A new era dawned with ‘Graven Image of Death’ (#11, by Moench, Gene Colan & Tony DeZuñiga) as the hooded hunter stumbles into a murderous war between rival antiquities collectors Joel Luxor and Anton Varro: millionaires vying for possession of a statuette of Egyptian god Horus. As bodies stack up, Moon Knight despatches Grant’s assistant/paramour Marlene to question museum curator Fenton Crane and is barely in time to stop her joining the body count in #12’s ‘Embassy of Fear!’ (Moench, Keith Pollard, Frank Giacoia & Esposito).

On learning the entire affair is simply smoke and mirrors for a larger scheme, with the statue simply moneymaking collateral in an international terrorism plot, Moon Knight buys in as shady millionaire Grant to work undercover. He is unaware that another mastermind has obtained Conquer-Lord’s files and it’s all a trap.

Hulk Magazine #13 (February 1979) was Sienkiewicz’s moment. On ‘The Big Blackmail’ his sleek imitation of classic Neal Adams hyperrealism (and Batman swipe files) combined with Steve Oliff’s advanced colour techniques, were breathtaking as enigmatic Machiavelli Lupinar observed the hero’s friends and allies at dangerously close quarters. Orchestrating nuclear armageddon with Moon Knight as his unwitting dupe, legendary operative Marc Spector was his true target…

After wading through layers of murderous multinational intermediaries, Moon Knight finally confronts his bestial hidden enemy in #14’s ‘Countdown to Dark’ (Bob McLeod inks) in a furious fight to the death as a nuclear clock inexorably counts down…

A smart crossover follows after a gallery of Hulk covers – #12-15 by Joe Jusko, Earl Norem, Larkin & Peter Ledger before June 1980’s #15 hosted a single encounter told from two perspectives. Moench, Sienkiewicz & McLeod explored ‘An Eclipse, Waning’ with Grant indulging a neglected passion for astronomy by visiting an old pal in the countryside on the night of a total lunar occultation.

The event brings brutal burglars out of the woodwork and Moon Knight is required to stop them, but, bizarrely, at the height of the eclipse, during the moment of utter darkness, the Lunar Avenger encounters something huge, monstrous and unbeatable, barely escaping with his life.

Answers come in ‘An Eclipse Waxing’ as on that same night , fugitive Bruce Banner meets burglars breaking into an isolated house and helplessly transforms into the Hulk again. Just as total night falls, the monster briefly encounters an unseen foe of far greater capabilities…

Norem, Larkin and Jusko covers for #17, 18 and 20 precede some longed-awaited revelations of the White Knight’s troubled past, emerging when as regular Moon Knight feature resumed in #17. In a chilling, disturbing sequence inked by Klaus Janson, ‘Nights Born Ten Years Gone Part I-III’ finds Manhattan terrorised by a mad axeman stalking nightshift nurses.

Wearing pyjama bottoms and a clown mask, the “Hatchet-Man” has racked up nine kills before Moon Night’s street agents present evidence indicating a close historical connection to Spector. Always cautious, the Man of Many Parts is parsimonious in sharing knowledge and Marlene convinces him that she can safely act as bait…

The ploy goes appallingly wrong and she is severely injured by both the police and the axe-man, leading to the incensed lunar vigilante going wild amidst the ‘Shadows in the Heart of the City’ as the frustrated maniac spirals out of control

However, although the killer is stopped, the guilt-wracked hero tirelessly works a night of minor life-saving exploits and endures anxious terrors before Marlene is safe in ‘A Long Way to Dawn’

That euphoric fable appeared in Hulk Magazine #20 (April 1980) and was Moon Knight’s swan song there, but he resurfaced in a complex conspiracy mystery in monochrome magazine Marvel Preview (#21, Spring 1980).

Behind the Sienkiewicz, Larkin, Janson & Oliff cover here and preceded by the penciller’s B&W frontispiece ‘The Mind Thieves’ and concluding chapter ‘Vipers’ come from a later colourised reprint, but retain all the sinister paranoic confusion of the Moench, Sienkiewicz, Tom Palmer & Dan Greene original.

When a corpse is delivered to Grant’s mansion, it reactivates Spector’s CIA career and sets Moon Knight on the trail of unfinished business in a “Company” mind control lab supposedly decommissioned years previously…

Following a trail of dead men, dirty secrets, and programable super-killers, MK, Marlene and Frenchy escape barely death in Montreal and Paris while exposing a vicious vengeance plot behind the dirty tricks campaign. It almost costs them everything…

Appended by Ralph Macchio’s editorial ‘Full Phase’, the story closes one chapter in the character’s life and leads into the far mor complex and conflicted career of a man seeking atonement as the November cover-dated premier solo title exposes the secrets of ‘The Macabre Moon Knight!’

Here Moench, Sienkiewicz & Frank Springer reveal how world-weary, burned-out mercenary Spector was working for murderous marauder Raul Bushman but reclaimed his moral compass after his ruthless boss murdered archaeologist Peter Alraune for the contents of a recently excavated Sudanese tomb. The scientist’s daughter Marlene escaped, as did equally disgusted comrade Frenchy, but when Spector attempted to stop Bushman executing witnesses he was beaten and left to die in the desert.

Dying by degrees, Spector crawled for miles and died just as he enters the tomb of Pharoah Seti, where Marlene and her workers were hiding. Dumped at the feet of a statue of Khonshu – god of the Moon and Taker of Vengeance – he inexplicably revived. Clearly deranged, he draped the statue’s white mantle around himself, before going out into the night. By dawn, Bushman’s band are dead and the monster fled…

Skipping forward to now and hinting at a long eventful road to the life of a multi-identity superhero, the origin ends with a fateful showdown with the returned Bushman in his New York lair…

Barely pausing, #2 focuses on pitiful peeping pawn Crawley in a powerful human interest tale. The city reels under the bloody shadow of a butcher hunting bums and indigents. With corpses no one cares about mounting, Moon Knight soon learns ‘The Slasher’ is seeking one specific homeless man, and will not stop until he finds him…

Cover-dated January 1981, #3 sees Sienkiewicz ink himself as ‘Midnight Means Murder’ with the Knight of the Moon facing ruthless thief Anton Mogart/The Midnight Man, before the saga pauses with #4 and the Janson-inked action thriller ‘A Committee of 5’. Here, the Lunar Avenger is hunted by and hunts in return a quintet of specialist assassins. Happily, fortune augments ability and Khonshu’s chosen is more than a match for the killer elite…

Accompanied throughout by covers from Gil Kane, Al Milgrom, Klaus Janson, Perlin, Jack Kirby, Ed Hannigan, Joe Sinnott, Dave Cockrum, Joe Rubinstein, Keith Pollard, George Pérez, Sienkiewicz and others, the extras are supplemented by Sienkiewicz’s wrapround covers from Moon Knight Special Edition #1-3 and the 6-plate character portfolio contained therein, plus Jim Shooter’s introduction.

Also on show are contemporary house ads; printed trivia; previous collection covers; the painted cover to fanzine Amazing Heroes #6 and 11 pages of original art and covers by Milgrom, Cockrum, Rubinstein, Sienkiewicz, McLeod, Springer & Janson.

Moody, dark, thematically off-kilter and savagely entertaining this first volume sees a Batman knock-off evolve into a unique example of the line between hero and villain and sinner and saint all wrapped up in pure electric entertainment for testosterone junkies and
© 2019 MARVEL.

Thor vs. Hulk


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart,Bill Mantlo, Peter David, Erik Larsen, Jeph Loeb, Jeff Parker, Peter B. Gillis, Jim Shooter, Sal Buscema, M.C. Wyman, Angel Medina, Jorge Lucas, Ed McGuinness, Gabriel Hardman & Ron Wilson & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8515-4 (TPB/Digital edition)

It bears repeating: on an inescapable primal level, comic books are all about one question; “who’s strongest/who would win if…?

The Incredible Hulk and Mighty Thor share their 60th anniversary this year, and whether in print, in animations or in blockbuster movies, that eternal question has been asked but never answered to anyone’s satisfaction whenever applied to the modern iteration of the age-old mythic war between gods and monsters.

Packed with potent past clashes from the very start, this titanic tome opens with an erudite Introduction from former editor Ralph Macchio (no, the other one) outlining the concussive delights that follow. Contained herein are bouts and sagas first seen in Avengers #3; Journey into Mystery #112; Sub-Mariner #35; Defenders #10; Incredible Hulk #255, 440; Thor #385, 489; Incredible Hulk Annual 2001; Hulk (2008) #5-6, 26; and What If? #45, spanning cover-dates January 1964 – December 2010, but there’s no time for nonsense or niceties as the action opens at full throttle with Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Paul Reinman revealing how in Avengers #3 ‘The Avengers Meet… Sub-Mariner!’

The previous issue saw latent animosities between Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp, and Thor lead to the aggressively volatile Hulk quitting the team in disgust. He returned as an outright villain in partnership with the vengeful prince of devastated Atlantis in a globe-trotting romp delivering high-energy thrills and one of the best battle scenes in comics history as the assorted titans clashed in abandoned World War II tunnels beneath the Rock of Gibraltar. Naturally, there was no clear winner when Thunderer and Gamma Goliath briefly battled…

The true birth of this particular grudge match came via a potent flashback in Journey into Mystery #112 (January 1965) which gave the readers what they had been clamouring for with ‘The Mighty Thor Battles the Incredible Hulk!’: a glorious gift to all those fans who perpetually asking the question “who’s stronger…?”

Possibly Kirby & Chic Stone’s finest artistic moment, it detailed a private duel between the two super-humans appearing off-camera during the free-for-all between The Avengers, Sub-Mariner and the Jade Juggernaut.

Jumping to a new decade, we see the solitary green gargantuan reconsidering his position on teamwork as a 2-part tale heralded the formation of a new supergroup. The Defenders’ story officially begins with Sub-Mariner #34-35 (February & March 1971: with only the latter included here).

The Prince of Atlantis was an early advocate of the ecology movement, and here (rather fractiously) recruited Hulk and The Silver Surfer to help him destroy an American nuclear weather-control station. Concluding in ‘Confrontation’ (by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema & Jim Mooney) the misunderstood trio battled a despotic dictator’s forces, the US Army, UN defence forces and the mighty Avengers to prevent the malfunctioning station from accidentally vaporising half the planet, offering the emerald berserker another shot at that long-haired upstart who claimed to be the strongest one there is…

When the Defenders formed, their clandestine nature and line up (avowed antisocial menaces Sub-Mariner, Hulk, Valkyrie and enigmatic Doctor Strange) allowed mystic villains Loki and Dormammu to foment a war between the non-team and The Avengers that became a classic crossover event when that was a rare thing…

It lead to ‘Breakthrough! in Defenders #10 (November 1973) as Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema & Frank Bolle lavished many pages on epic standoff ‘The Incredible Hulk Vs. Thor’ before the inevitable joining together of warring camps in ‘United We Stand!’ That’s a great story you will need to seek out elsewhere as here we’re all about the bash… no trouble…

Courtesy of Bill Mantlo & Sal B, Incredible Hulk #255 (January 1980) detailed Thunder Under the East River!’ as reasons for the inescapable rumble become harder to manufacture. Here, the monster’s meanderings in New York and innate simmering belligerence are sufficient to spark off another blockbusting brouhaha while Thor #385 (November 1987) saw Jim Shooter provide a plot for Stan Lee to script, while Erik Larsen & Vince Colletta handled all the bellicose pictorial breakages in another city-set smash-up in ‘Be Thou God or Monster!’

After Image Comics’ debut compelled the Big Two (that would be DC and Marvel) to chase their deconstructivist, edgy style in the mid-1990s, radically reimagined Hulk and Thor bouts took on added grit and grimness. The changes were first seen in Thor #489’s ‘Hel and High Water’ (August 1995 by Thomas, M. C. Wyman & Mike DeCarlo) as a Hulk with Banner’s intellect rescued the Thunderer from beyond Death’s grasp, yet still ended up trading blows, whilst Incredible Hulk #440 (April 1996) featured Peter David, Angel Medina & Robin Riggs’ ‘The Big Bang’ as Thor strove against evil Future Hulk The Maestro with the world at stake and the lethal Leader pulling the strings…

Harking back to glory days, Incredible Hulk Annual 2001 (by Larsen, Jorge Lucas, Al Milgrom, Al Vey & Greg Adams) pastiched and homaged classic Kirby Kaos in ‘The Hammer Strikes’ as Thor drags the Jade Juggernaut across time and space in an extended clash but finds nowhere where their struggle will not create carnage and catastrophe…

Years passed and it transpired that green was not the only gamma wavelength to bear bitter fruit…

Cover-dated October & November 2008 and crafted by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Mark Farmer & Dexter Vines, Hulk (volume 2) #5-6 detailed a no-holds barred battle between Thunder God and a ruthless Red Hulk (AKA General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross) in ‘Rolling Thunder’ before concluding with ‘Blood Red’ with the original Green Goliath and Avengers stepping in stop the carnage. Hulk #26 (December 2010, by Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman) then provides a notional rematch as prelude to cosmic shenanigans in ‘Scorched Earth Part II’…

Wrapping up the furious fisticuffs is an out of chronology tale from What If? #45 (June 1984) by Peter B. Gillis, Ron Wilson, Ian Akin & Brian Garvey, wherein Banner’s worst nightmare came true in ‘What If the Hulk Went Berserk?!’ Set in the early months after the Gamma bomb mutated the scientist, it thrillingly details the alternate Earth deaths of most of the budding Marvel Universe before Thor even arrives…

Adding to the beefy brilliance is a range of Classic Battles’ as depicted by Frenz & Milgrom (from Incredible Hulk #393), Arthur Adams & Laura Martin (Avengers Classic #3), Kirby, Reinman & Paul Mounts (Avengers Epic Collection #1) and John Romita Sr. & Richard Isanove (Avengers/Defenders War TPB), and cover sketches for (Red) Hulk #6 by Ed McGuinness.

Vivid, vibrant and valiantly irresistibly vicarious, these fabulous forays are primal yet perfect examples of superhero stories’ Prime Directive and deliver all the pictorial punch and panache any Fights ‘n’ Tights fiend could hope for.
© 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved

Incredible Hulk Epic Collection volume 4 1969-1971: In the Hands of Hydra


By Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Gary Friedrich, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1558-2 (TPB)

Bruce Banner was a military scientist who was caught in a gamma bomb blast. As a result of ongoing mutation, stress and other factors can cause him to transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury.

After an initially troubled few years the gamma-irradiated gargantuan finally found his size 700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of young Marvel’s most popular features. After his first solo-title folded, The Hulk shambled around the slowly-coalescing Marvel Universe as guest star and/or villain du jour until a new home was found for him in “split-book” Tales to Astonish where he shared space with fellow misunderstood misanthrope Namor the Sub-Mariner, who proved an ideal thematic companion from his induction in #70.

Writer Stan Lee was gradually distancing himself from the creative chair as he became Marvel’s publisher, as this ferocious fourth trade paperback (and eBook) volume covers Incredible Hulk #118-137 (spanning August 1969-March 1971) and also includes a crucial sidebar yarn from September 1968’s Marvel Super-Heroes #16 and opens with a fan-favourite clash that always enticed fight fans…

Incredible Hulk #118 (August 1969) depicts a duplicitous courtier at the Sub-Mariner’s sunken citadel orchestrating ‘A Clash of Titans’ (as related by Lee & Trimpe) after which the Green Goliath stumbles into a South American country secretly conquered by and ‘At the Mercy of… Maximus the Mad’: a 2-part tale that concludes with the Roy Thomas scripted ‘On the Side of… the Evil Inhumans!’

This all-out action extravaganza sees the Hulk also fighting the Costa Salvador army, the ubiquitous moustachioed rebels, General Ross‘ specialist US army forces and even a giant hypnotic robot before giving way to a moodier menace as Ol’ Greenskin returns to North America, and in the South the man-monster learns ‘Within the Swamp, There Stirs… a Glob!’

Designed as tribute in equal parts to Theodore Sturgeon’s “It” and Hillman Comics character The Heap – who slopped his way through the back of Airboy Comics in the early 1950s – this muck-encrusted monstrosity predates both DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s own Man-Thing in a tale of woeful tragedy and unrequited love.

When the remains of a long-dead escaped convict are accidentally irradiated they take on a shambling semblance of life. Surely, it’s just bad luck that Betty and the Hulk are in its misanthropic path?

As the 1970s opened the Incredible Hulk had settled into a comfortable – if always spectacularly destructive – niche. The globe-trotting formula saw tragic Bruce Banner hiding and seeking cures for his gamma-transformative curse, alternately aided or hunted by prospective father-in-law US General “Thunderbolt” Ross and a variety of guest-star heroes and villains.

Trimpe had made the character his own, displaying a penchant for explosive action and an unparalleled facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles. Scripter Roy Thomas – unofficial custodian of Marvel’s burgeoning shared-universe continuity – played the afflicted Jekyll/Hyde card for maximum angst and ironic heartbreak even as he continually injected the Jade Juggernaut into the lives of other stalwarts of Marvel’s growing pantheon…

Now Incredible Hulk #122, hotly touts ‘The Hulk’s Last Fight!’ as the Fantastic Four advertise a cure for Banner’s condition, and the fraught physicist makes his way North from Florida, with the police and army hunting him every step of the way. His quest only falters at the very last moment thanks to a clerical error…

What should have been a quiet transition and resolution instead results in a shattering clash between the Hulk and FF, but eventually the beast is subdued and the cure attempted in concluding episode ‘No More the Monster!’

Sadly, even now that Banner has complete control of his inner demon, he learns that you don’t always get what you want – especially when evil gamma-super-genius the Leader involves himself in the plan.

Seemingly cured of the curse of the Hulk, Banner finally marries his troubled sweetheart Betty Ross, but ‘The Rhino Says No!’ and the subsequent set-to (rather heavily finished and inked by Sal Buscema) returns him to the tragic status quo of hunted, haunted antihero perpetually on the run…

Trimpe again took up the inker’s brush for the bludgeoning battle in #125 ‘And Now, the Absorbing Man!’ after which Doctor Stephen Strange guest-stars in trans-dimensional duel with the malign Undying Ones.

‘…Where Stalks the Night-Crawler!’ is a spooky, all-action tidying-up exercise closing a saga from the good Doctor’s own cancelled title – and one which inevitably led to the formation of outsider super-team The Defenders.

In ‘Mogol!’ (#127) the child-like, eternally-lonely Hulk is transported to the Mole Man‘s subterranean realm where he thinks he’s finally found a friend, only to endure bitter disappointment once more. His subsequent subterranean loss-fuelled rampage threatens to destroy California when he starts ripping his way surface-ward via the San Andreas Fault. And the American authorities are compelled to call in the Big Guns.

‘And in this Corner… The Avengers!’ (#128) sees the assembled champions seeking a solution to the problem, but they can’t hold the Jade Juggernaut long, instead only leading him to more trouble when ‘Again, The Glob!’ attacks. The embattled Hulk has no idea old foe The Leader is behind the swampy assault…

Incredible Hulk #130 then sees Banner totally separate himself from the Hulk in ‘If I Kill You… I Die’, but the scientifically-implausible division has potentially disastrous consequences for Los Angeles, if not the world, and only Iron Man can help when ‘A Titan Stalks the Tenements!’

This powerful tale introduced black ghetto kid and occasional confidante Jim Wilson, made doubly memorable by the inking wizardry of legendary John Severin who signed on for a 3-issue stint that would eventually turn into a long-term commitment.

In #132, the Hulk is ‘In the Hands of Hydra!’ – although not for long and to their eternal regret. His casually explosive escape leaves him stranded in Mediterranean totalitarian state Morvania: an unwilling freedom fighter against despicable dictator Draxon on the ‘Day of Thunder… Night of Death!’

Sal Buscema returned as inker for the conclusion of the tale as ‘Among us Walks… the Golem!’ from Incredible Hulk#134 sees revolution liberate Morvania with the Green Giant as the most unlikely symbol of freedom ever…

One of the strangest Marvel team-ups ever occurred in ‘Descent into the Time-Storm!’ as Kang the Conqueror dispatches the Hulk to the dog-days of World War I to prevent the Avengers’ ancestors from being born, only to fall foul of the enigmatic masked aviator known as the Phantom Eagle.

Concluding this smashing show – and apparently as the result of a Gerry Conway suggestion – Moby Dick (among other cross-media classics) was then pilfered and adapted for ‘Klattu! The Behemoth from Beyond Space!’ and ‘The Stars, Mine Enemy!’ (this last inked by Mike Esposito) wherein a vengeance-crazed starship captain pursues the Brobdingnagian alien beast that had long-ago maimed him, consequently press-ganging the Hulk in the process and pitting him against old foe the Abomination.

Did I say it was all over? Not so, as the bonus section starts with Trimpe’s cover to all-reprint Hulk Annual #3 and follows up with the debut tale of ‘The Phantom Eagle’ by Friedrich & Trimpe as seen in Marvel Super-Heroes #16 (September 1968).

It’s March 1917 and barnstorming aviator Karl Kaufman chafes at his inability to enlist in the US Army Air Corps. America is not in the Great War yet, but everyone knows it’s coming, and Karl’s best friend cannot understand his pal’s reticence. Despite a crash-created infirmity, Rex Griffin signed up immediately but doesn’t realise that Karl can’t be an Allied air warrior until he has smuggled his German parents out of the Fatherland and beyond the reach of reprisals…

All too suddenly the war comes to Karl, as, while testing his new super-plane, he encounters a gigantic Fokker-carrying zeppelin over Long Island Sound, and realizes the Kaiser has launched a pre-emptive invasion of America…

Mobilising his meagre resources and masked as a Phantom Eagle, Karl takes to the skies, but his sortie, although successful, will cost him dearly…

Adding even more lustre and appeal to this tome are Marie Severin’s colour-guide to #119’s cover, original artwork by Trimpe, House ads and Trimpe’s Marvel Artist Self-Portrait.

The Hulk is one of the most well-known comic characters on Earth, and these stories, as much as the movies, TV shows and action figures, are the reason why. For an uncomplicated, honestly vicarious experience of Might actually being Right, you can’t do better than these yarns, so why not Go Green?
© 2019 MARVEL.