Doctor Strange Marvel Masterworks volume 3


By Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Dan Adkins, Tom Palmer, John Buscema, George Klein & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851- (HB/Digital Edition)

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.

Almost a decade after a public witchhunt led to Senate hearings on the malign influences of words and pictures in sequence, comic books were ferociously monitored and adjudicated by the draconian Comics Code Authority. Even though some of the small company’s strongest sellers were still mystery and monster mags, their underlying themes and premises were almost universally mad science and alien wonders, not necromantic or thaumaturgic horrors.

Companies like ACG, Charlton and DC – and the remnants of Atlas/pre-Marvel – got around the edicts against thaumaturgical thrills and chills by making all reference to magic benign or even humorous… the same tone adopted by massively popular TV series Bewitched a year after Doctor Strange debuted.

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.

Capitalising on of the runaway success of The Fantastic Four, Lee had quickly spun off the youngest, most colourful member of the team into his own series, hoping to recapture the glory of the 1940s when The Human Torch was one of the company’s untouchable “Big Three” superstars. Within a year of FF #1, long-lived anthology title Strange Tales became home for the blazing boy-hero (from #101, cover-dated October 1962), launching Johnny Storm on a creatively productive but commercially unsuccessful solo career.

Soon after, in Tales of Suspense #41 (May 196), latest sensation Iron Man battled a crazed scientific wizard dubbed Doctor Strange, and with the name successfully and legally in copyrightable print (a long-established Lee technique: Thorr, The Thing, Magneto, The Hulk and others 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 an short run in Amazing Adventures (volume 1 #1-4 & #6 spanning June-November 1961).

The precursor was balding, trench-coated savant Doctor Droom – later retooled as Doctor Druid when his exploits were reprinted in the 1970s. He was a psychiatrist, sage and paranormal investigator tackling 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…

After a shaky start, the Master of the Mystic Arts became an unmissable icon of the cool counter-culture kids who saw, in Ditko’s increasingly psychedelic art, echoes and overtones of their own trippy explorations of other worlds. It might not have been the authors’ intention but certainly helped keep the mage at the forefront of Lee’s efforts to break comics out of the “kids-stuff” ghetto…

After the originator 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 neat moment of sleight of hand by assuming the numbering of Strange Tales. Thus, this enchanting full colour compilation gathers Doctor Strange #169-179 plus a crossover from Avengers #61, spanning cover-dates June 1968 to April 1969. It also sagely includes every issue’s stunning cover – a gallery of wonders from Dan Adkins, Gene Colan, John Buscema and Barry (not yet Windsor) Smith.

Previously, Dr. Stephen Strange had entered and escaped the terrifying dimension of imagination; defeated Scientist Supreme Yandroth; learned the origin of the his mentor The Ancient One and lost his extradimensional lover Clea to the outer infinities. Now a new era dawned for the mystic master just as Big Things were happening at Marvel…

In 1968, after more than a decade under a restrictive and limiting retail contract, The House of Ideas secured a new distributor and explosively expanded with a tidal wave of titles. Twin-featured “Split-Books” such as Strange Tales were divided: replaced by full-length solo series for the cohabiting stars. For the Master of the Mystic Arts, that meant a bit of rapid resetting…

Following an Introduction from sole scripter Roy Thomas, sorcerous super-shenanigans resume with a reworking of the Mage’s origins.

Extrapolating and building upon the Ditko masterpiece from Strange Tales #115, ‘The Coming of Dr. Strange’ by Thomas & Dan Adkins details how he was once America’s greatest surgeon. A brilliant man, yet greedy, vain and arrogant, he cared nothing for the sick except as a means to wealth and glory. When a self-inflicted, drunken car-crash ended his career, Strange hit the skids.

Fallen as low as man ever could, the debased doctor overheard a barroom tale leading him on a delirious odyssey – or, perhaps more accurately, pilgrimage – to Tibet, where a frail, aged mage changed his life forever. Eventual enlightenment through daily redemption transformed Stephen the derelict into a solitary, dedicated watchdog at the fringes of humanity, challenging every hidden danger of the dark on behalf of a world better off not knowing what dangers lurk in the shadows.

The saga also featured his first clash with the Ancient One’s other pupil Mordo revealing how Strange thwarted a seditious scheme, earning the Baron’s undying envious enmity…

The expanded exploration of the transformation from elitist, dissolute surgeon into penitent scholar and dutiful mystic guardian of humanity neatly segues into another clash with a lethally persistent foe as ‘To Dream… Perchance to Die!’ (#170) finds the Ancient One trapped in a coma thanks to the malevolent lord of dreams. To wake his master, Strange impetuously enters the astral realms and defeats Nightmare on his own terms and turf after which #171 introduces someone who will become a key creator in the mystic’s career.

Pencilled by eventual inker supreme Tom Palmer, with Adkins supplying finishes, ‘In the Shadow of… Death!’ sees Strange lured away from Earth by news of long-lost Clea. To facilitate a rescue mission, the sorcerer unthinkingly calls on English associate and sometimes arcane ally Victoria Bentley, unaware or uncaring of her romantic feelings for him.

Their trek through the outer deeps of The Realm Unknown is fraught with deadly traps and peril, but does locate missing Clea… after Bentley is captured and Strange ambushed by his most powerful and hate-filled foe…

A magical creative team formed for Doctor Strange #171 as Gene Colan signed on for an astoundingly experimental run with Palmer handling inks. Humanity is endangered by ‘…I, Dormammu!’ as the Dark God reveals he has orchestrated many recent attacks designed to weary and de-power Earth’s magical champion. The gloating fiend shares how his apparent destruction battling conceptual being Eternity in fact resulted in transdimensional exile and the subjugation of a demonic race dubbed Dykkors: now his eager and willing foot-soldiers ready to ravage the realms of Mankind. The Dark Despot has even suborned his hated sister and former foe Umar the Unspeakable to his scheme…

As always, Dormammu has underestimated the valour and ingenuity of Stephen Strange. ‘…While a World Awaits!’ the monstrous conqueror leads a demonic army through the Doorway of Dimensions, leaving the human mage time to liberate Clea and Victoria, and engage the fearsome forces in a mystic delaying tactic that once again allows Dormammu to defeat himself…

As former associate Dr. Benton seeks to convince Strange to abandon his crazy charlatanry for a life of respectable medical consultancy, #174 sees the Master of the Mystic Arts helping magical Clea adapt to mundane life on Earth. However, ‘The Power and the Pendulum’ finds him accompanying secretly despondent Victoria home to England, before being diverted to a foreboding castle where weirdly flamboyant Lord Nekron has laid a devilish trap.

The crazed noble has made a bargain with hellborn Supreme Satannish, offering his soul for fame and immortality. Instead, the Lord of Lies devised a counter-offer, calling for the substitution of another mystic at the end of one year. With time running out and Strange fitted up for the switch, doom seemed inevitable, but Earth’s champion had one timely trick left to play…

The late sixties were an incredibly creative period and comics greatly benefitted from the atmosphere of experimentation. Colan used page layouts in wildly imaginative ways that stunned many readers of the time, but that same expanded vision has often been cited as the reason for the title’s poor sales. I suspect the feature’s early cancellation was as much the result of increasingly sophisticated and scary stories from Thomas, who early on tapped into the growing global fascination for supernatural horror, and urban conspiracy such as seen in #175’s ‘Unto Us… the Sons of Satannish!’ – coincidentally, the last issue to carry his original title logo.

Just like Ira Levin’s 1967 book and hit 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby, Strange’s next case involved devil-worship in safely mundane Manhattan, working in secret to achieve diabolical aims. Deprived access to the film’s simmering sexuality and mature themes, Thomas, Colan & Palmer stuck to comic book strengths as Clea’s immigrant experience abruptly encompasses ostracization, isolation, suspicious reactions and even assault by ordinary New Yorkers. This leads her into the hands of hidden cult The Sons of Satannish, whose charismatic leader Asmodeus deals with the devil, and attempts to gain ultimate power by eradicating Strange and replacing him in #176’s ‘O Grave Where is Thy Victory?’, with a new, eerie and  abbreviated masthead.

Those aforementioned sales problems were not going away and #177’s concluding chapter ‘The Cult and the Curse’ addressed the issue in a tried and true manner. Exiled from his own existence and persona, Strange rescued Clea but could only strike back and reclaim his life by magically reinventing himself and devising a brand new look. The mask and tights of a traditional superhero were apparently the only way to outmanoeuvre Asmodeus, but sadly, not in time to stop him activating a deathbed curse to destroy the world…

The super-suited and booted modern mage needed information to proceed, and Dr. Strange #178 finds him seeking to question the other Satannish worshippers Asmodeus had callously banished. Once again hoping to exploit poor Victoria Bentley, Strange recognises her new neighbour Dane Whitman as part-time Avenger The Black Knight and his plea for aid results in an assault on  the dimension of decay-god Tiborro ‘…With One Beside Him!’

The saga finally concluded in Avengers #61 with ‘Some Say the World Will End in Fire… Some Say in Ice!’ by Thomas, John Buscema & George Klein. After Asmodeus’ recued minions reveal that the satanic cult’s failsafe spell unleashed Norse demons Surtur and Ymir to destroy the planet, Strange and Black Knight recruited The Vision, Black Panther and Hawkeye to help them save the world on two fronts…

Although the comics spellbinding ends here, also on offer is the cover of Dr. Strange #179: a Barry Smith treat from 1969 that fronted an emergency reprint of Lee & Ditko’s ‘The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange’ from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2. It joins a House ad for the 1968 relaunch, a half dozen original art pages by Adkins, Colan & Palmer plus the cover art to #174 and 175.

The Wizard of Greenwich Village has always been an acquired taste for mainstream 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 that Doctor Strange has always been the coolest of outsiders and most accessible fringe star of the Marvel firmament. This glorious grimoire is a miraculous means for old fans to enjoy 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.

Mighty Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange volume 1: The World Beyond 


By Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, with Don Rico, George Roussos & various (Marvel) 
ISBN: 978-1-3029-3438-5 (PB/Digital edition) 

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. Bizarre adventures and menacing monsters were still incredibly popular, but most mature mention of magic or the supernatural (especially vampires, werewolves and their eldritch ilk) were harshly proscribed by a censorship panel which dictated almost all aspects of story content. Almost a decade after a public witchhunt led to Senate hearings on the malign influences of words and pictures in sequence, comics were ferociously monitored and adjudicated by the draconian Comics Code Authority. Even though some of the small company’s strongest sellers were still mystery and monster mags, their underlying themes and premises were almost universally mad science and alien wonders, not necromantic or thaumaturgic horrors. 

Companies like ACG, Charlton and DC – and Atlas/Marvel – got around the edicts against mystic thrills and chills by making all reference to magic benign or even humorous… the same tone adopted by massively popular TV series Bewitched about a year after Doctor Strange debuted. 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. 

Capitalising on of the runaway success of The Fantastic Four, Lee had quickly spun off the youngest, most colourful member of the team into his own series, hoping to recapture the glory of the 1940s when The Human Torch was one of the company’s untouchable “Big Three” superstars. Within a year of FF #1, long-lived anthology title Strange Tales became home for the blazing boy-hero (from #101, cover-dated October 1962), launching Johnny Storm on a creatively productive but commercially unsuccessful solo career. 

Soon after, in Tales of Suspense #41 (May 196), latest sensation Iron Man battled a crazed scientific wizard dubbed Doctor Strange, and with the name successfully and legally in copyrightable print (a long-established Lee technique: Thorr, The Thing, Magneto, The Hulk and others 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 published a quasi-mystic precursor: balding, trench-coated savant Doctor Droom – later rechristened (or is that re-pagan-ed?) Dr. Druid – had an inconspicuous short run in Amazing Adventures (volume 1 #1-4 & #6: June-November 1961).  

He was a psychiatrist, sage and paranormal investigator tackling everything from alien invaders to Atlanteans (albeit not the ones Sub-Mariner ruled). Droom was subsequently retro-written into Marvel continuity as an alternative candidate and precursor for Stephen Strange’s ultimate role as Sorcerer Supreme… 

After a shaky start, the Master of the Mystic Arts became an unmissable icon of the 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… 

This enchanting full colour paperback compilation – also available as a digital download – gathers the spectral sections of Strange Tales #110, 111 and 114-129: spanning cover-dates July 1963 to February 1965. Moreover, although the Good Doctor didn’t rate a cover blurb until #117 or banner insert visual until #118 and was barely cover-featured until issue #130, it also magnanimously includes every issue’s stunning frontage: thus offering an incredible array of superbly eye-catching Marvel masterpieces from the upstart outfit’s formative heyday by Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Chic Stone and George Roussos, John Severin and others. In case you were wondering: Strange’s first shared split-cover came with Strange Tales #121 (June 1964)… 

Our first meeting with the man of mystery comes courtesy of a quiet little chiller which has never been surpassed for sheer mood and imagination. ‘Doctor Strange Master of Black Magic!’ by Lee & Ditko debuted at the back of Strange Tales #110 and saw a terrified man troubled by his dreams approach an exceptional consultant in his search for a cure… 

That perfect 5-page fright-fest introduces whole new realms and features deceit, desperation, double dealing and the introduction of both a mysterious and aged oriental mentor and devilish dream demon Nightmare in an unforgettable yarn that might well be Ditko’s finest moment… 

A month later in #111 he was back, ‘Face-to-Face with the Magic of Baron Mordo!’ which introduced a player on the other side. The esoteric duel with such an obviously formidable foe established Strange as a tragic solitary guardian tasked with defending the world from supernatural terrors and uncanny encroachment whilst introducing his most implacable enemy, a fellow sorcerer with vaulting ambition and absolutely no morals. In the astounding battle that ensued, it was also firmly confirmed that Strange was the smarter man… 

Then things went quiet for a short while until the letters started coming in… 

Strange Tales #114 (November 1963) was one of the most important issues of the era. Not only did it highlight the return of another Golden Age hero – Captain America – but it contained the fabulously moody resurrection of Doctor Strange: permanently installed in an eccentric and baroque little corner of the growing unified universe where Ditko let his imagination run wild… 

With #114, the Master of the Mystic Arts took up monthly residence behind the Torch as ‘The Return of the Omnipotent Baron Mordo!’ (uncredited inks by George Roussos) finds the Doctor lured to London and into a trap, only to be saved by unlikely adept Victoria Bentley: an abortive stab at a romantic interest who would periodically turn up in years to come. 

The forbidding man of mystery is at last revealed in all his frail mortality as Strange Tales #115 offered ‘The Origin of Dr. Strange’: disclosing how Strange was once America’s greatest surgeon. A brilliant man, yet greedy, vain and arrogant, he cared nothing for the sick except as a means to wealth and glory. When a self-inflicted, drunken car-crash ended his career, Strange hit the skids. 

Then, fallen as low as man ever could, the debased doctor overheard a barroom tale which led him on a delirious odyssey or, perhaps more accurately, pilgrimage to Tibet, where a frail and aged mage changed his life forever. It also showed his first clash with the Ancient One’s other pupil Mordo: thwarting a seditious scheme and earning the Baron’s undying envious enmity… 

Eventual enlightenment through daily redemption transformed Stephen the derelict into a solitary, dedicated watchdog at the fringes of humanity, challenging every hidden danger of the dark on behalf of a world better off not knowing what dangers lurk in the shadows… 

‘Return to the Nightmare World!’ sees the insidious dream predator trapping earthly sleepers in perpetual slumber until the doubtful authorities ask Strange to investigate. The subsequent invasion of his oneiric enemy’s stronghold is a masterpiece of moody suspense, followed by ‘The Many Traps of Baron Mordo!’: showing the malign mage devising an inescapable doom, which once more founders after Strange applies a little logic to it… 

The wild and infinite variety of Strange’s universe offered Ditko tremendous opportunities to stretch himself visually and as plotter of the stories. In ST #118 the Master of Magic travels to Bavaria to combat ‘The Possessed!’; finding humans succumbing to extra-dimensional invaders neither fully mystic nor mundane, whilst ‘Beyond the Purple Veil’ has Strange rescue, from ray-gun wielding slaver-tyrants, the burglars who stole one of his arcane curios… 

Strange Tales #120 plays with the conventions of ghost stories as a reporter vanishes during a live broadcast from ‘The House of Shadows!’ before the Doctor diagnoses something unworldly but certainly not dead… 

Mordo springs yet another deadly trap in ‘Witchcraft in the Wax Museum!’ but is once more outsmarted and humiliated after stealing his rival’s body whilst Strange wanders the world in astral form, after which Roussos returned as an uncredited inker for #122’s ‘The World Beyond’ as Nightmare nearly scores his greatest victory after the exhausted Strange falls asleep before uttering the nightly charm shielding him from attack through his own dreams. 

Strange hosts his first Marvel guest star in #123 whilst meeting ‘The Challenge of Loki!’ (August 1964 by Lee, Ditko & George Roussos as George Bell) as the god of Mischief tricks the earthly mage into briefly stealing Thor’s hammer before deducing where the emanations of evil he senses really come from… 

Strange battles a sorcerer out of ancient Egypt to save ‘The Lady from Nowhere!’ from time-bending banishment and imprisonment, and performs similar service to rescue the Ancient One after the aged sage is kidnapped in ‘Mordo Must Not Catch Me!’, after which Roussos/Bell moved on whilst Lee & Ditko geared up for even more esoteric action. 

Strange Tales #126 brings the Master of the Mystic arts to ‘The Domain of the Dread Dormammu!’ as an extra-dimensional god seeks to subjugate Earth. In a fantastic realm, Strange meets an enigmatic, exotic woman who reveals the Dread One operates by his own implacable code: giving the overmatched Earthling the edge in the concluding ‘Duel with of the Dread Dormammu!’ which saw Earth saved, the Ancient One freed of a long-standing curse and Strange given a new look and mystic weapons upgrade… 

Restored to his homeworld and Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village, Strange solves ‘The Dilemma of… the Demon’s Disciple!’ by saving a luckless truth-seeker from an abusive minor magician and – after a stunning pin-up by Ditko - wraps up this initial volume with one more done-in-one delight. 

Scripted by Golden Age Great Don Rico (Bulletman; Human Torch, Captain America; Jann of the Jungle and more), #129’s ‘Beware… Tiborro! The Tyrant of the Sixth Dimension!’ sees Strange tackling a demonic deity of decadence stealing TV guests and execs from a show debunking magic and mysticism… 

But wait, there’s still more: a page of original art from ST #125 and that rarest of all artefacts, un-inked Ditko pencils in the form of a preliminary sketch for an unused Strange/Ancient One pin-up. 

These stories are timeless and have been gathered many times before, but let’s for a moment focus on format. The Mighty Marvel Masterworks line launched with economy in mind: classic tales of Marvel’s key creators and characters re-presented in chronological order. It’s been a staple since the 1990s, but always before in lavish, hardback collectors editions. These modern editions are cheaper, on lower quality paper and – crucially – smaller (about the dimensions of a paperback book). Your eyesight might be failing and your hands too big and shaky, but at 152 x 227mm, they’re perfect for kids. If you opt for the digital editions, that’s no issue at all… 

Doctor Strange has always been the coolest of outsiders and most accessible fringe star of the Marvel firmament. This glorious grimoire is a magical method for old fans to enjoy his world once more and the perfect introduction for recent acolytes or converts created by the movie iteration to enjoy the groundbreaking work of two thirds of the Marvel Empire’s founding triumvirate at their most imaginative. 
© 2022 MARVEL  

Marvel Two-in-One Masterworks volume 1


By Steve Gerber, Len Wein, Mike Friedrich, Chris Claremont, Jim Starlin, Gil Kane, Sal Buscema, George Tuska, Herb Trimpe, Bob Brown & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6633-7 (HB)

Imagination isn’t everything. As Marvel slowly grew to a position of dominance in the wake of losing their two most innovative and inspirational creators, they did so less by risky experimentation and more by expanding and exploiting proven concepts and properties.

The only real exception to this was their en masse creation of horror titles in response to the industry down-turn in super-hero sales – a move expedited by a rapid revision in the wordings of the increasingly ineffectual Comics Code Authority rules.

The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing, or battling – and usually both – with less well-selling company characters, was not new when Marvel decided to award their most popular hero the lion’s share of this new title, but they wisely left their options open by allocating an occasional substitute lead in the Human Torch. In those long-lost days, editors were acutely conscious of potential over-exposure – and since super-heroes were actually in a decline, they may well have been right.

After the runaway success of Spider-Man’s collaborations in Marvel Team-Up, the House of Ideas reinforced the trend with a series starring bashful, blue-eyed Ben Grimm – the Fantastic Four’s most iconic member – beginning with two test runs in Marvel Feature before graduating to its own somewhat over-elaborate title.

This compelling compendium – available in hardback and digital formats – gathers the contents of Marvel Feature #11-12 and Marvel Two-In-One #1-10, covering September 1973 – July 1975, and opens with a Roy Thomas Introduction explaining how it was Stan’s idea…

Then the much told tales take centre stage with a perennial favourite pairing and the Thing once more clashing with The Incredible Hulk in ‘Cry: Monster! by Len Wein, Jim Starlin & Joe Sinnott (from MF #11).

Here, Kurrgo, Master of Planet X and the lethal Leader manipulate both blockbusting brutes into duking it out – ostensibly to settle a wager – but with the mighty minded, misshapen masterminds each concealing hidden agendas…

That ever-inconclusive yet cataclysmic clash leaves Ben stranded in the Nevada desert where Mike Friedrich, Starlin & Sinnott promptly drop him in the middle of the ongoing war against mad Titan Thanos with Iron Man helping Ben crush monstrous alien invaders in ’The Bite of the Blood Brothers!’ (Marvel Feature #12, November 1973): another spectacular and painfully pretty all-action punch-up.

Still stuck in the desert when the dust settles, Ben laboriously treks to a minor outpost of civilisation just in time to be diverted to Florida for the grand opening of his own title. Cover-dated January 1974, Marvel Two-In-One #1 sees Steve Gerber, Gil Kane & Sinnott magnificently detail the ‘Vengeance of the Molecule Man!’, with Ben learning some horrifying home truths about what constitutes being a monster after battling with and beside ghastly, grotesque anti-hero Man-Thing.

With the second issue Gerber cannily trades a superfluous supporting character from his Man-Thing series to add some much-needed depth to the team-up title. ‘Manhunters from the Stars!’ pits Ben, old enemy Namor, the Sub-Mariner (another series Gerber was currently writing) and the Aquatic Avenger’s feisty and single-minded cousin Namoritaagainst each other as well as aliens hunting the emotionally and intellectually retarded superboy Wundarr. Another dynamically, intoxicating tale illustrated by Kane & Sinnott, this case also leaves the Thing as de facto guardian of the titanic teenaged tot…

Sal Buscema signed on as penciller with #3 as the Rocky Ranger joins the Man Without Fear ‘Inside Black Spectre!’: a crossover instalment of the extended epic then playing out in Daredevil #108-112 (in case you’re wondering, this action-packed fight-fest occurs between the second and third chapters) after which ‘Doomsday 3014!’ (Gerber, Buscema & Frank Giacoia) finds Ben and Captain America visiting the 31st century to save Earth from enslavement by the reptilian Brotherhood of Badoon, leaving Wundarr with Namorita for the foreseeable future…

The furious future-shocker concludes in MTIO #5 as the original Guardians of the Galaxy (not the movie group) climb aboard the Freedom Rocket to help our time-lost heroes liberate New York before returning home. The overthrow of the aliens was completed by another set of ancient heroes in Defenders #26-29 (which is also the subject of a different review)…

Marvel Two-In-One #6 began a complex crossover tale with the aforementioned Defenders as Dr. Strange and the Thing witness a cosmic event which begins with a subway busker’s harmonica and leads inexorably to a ‘Death-Song of Destiny!’ (Gerber, George Tuska & Mike Esposito) before Asgardian outcasts Enchantress and the Executioner attempt to seize control of unfolding events in #7’s ‘Name That Doom!’ (pencilled by Sal Buscema).

As they are thwarted by Grimm and the valiant Valkyrie, there’s enough of an ending here for casual readers, but fans and completists will want to hunt down Defenders #20 or Defenders Masterworks link please volume 3 for the full story…

Back here, however, MTIO #8 teams Grimm and supernatural sensation Ghost Rider in a quirkily compelling Yuletide yarn. ‘Silent Night… Deadly Night!’ – by Gerber, Buscema & Esposito – finds the audacious Miracle Man trying to take control of a very special birth in a stable…

Gerber moved on after plotting Thor team-up ‘When a God goes Mad!’ for Chris Claremont to script and Herb Trimpe & Joe Giella to finish: a rushed and meagre effort with the Puppet Master and Radion the Atomic Man making a foredoomed power play, before issue #10 concludes this initial compendium.

Crafted by Claremont, the still much-missed Bob Brown & Klaus Janson, it is a slice of inspired espionage action-intrigue with Ben and the Black Widow battling suicidal terrorist Agamemnon who plans to detonate the planet’s biggest nuke in blistering thriller ‘Is This the Way the World Ends?’.

These stories from Marvel’s Middle Period are of variable quality but nonetheless represent an honest attempt to entertain and exhibit a dedicated drive to please. Whilst artistically the work varies from adequate to utterly superb, most fans of the frantic Fights ‘n’ Tights genre would find little to complain about.

Although not really a book for casual or more maturely-oriented readers there’s still buckets of fun on hand and young readers will have a blast, so why not to add this colossal comics chronicle to your straining superhero bookshelves?
© 2020 MARVEL

Decades: Marvel in the ‘60s – Spider-Man Meets the Marvel Universe


By Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Roy Thomas, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, John Romita Sr, Gene Colan, Werner Roth & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1660-2 (TPB)

The Amazing Spider-Man was first seen in the middle of 1962, so expect plenty of wallcrawling reviews over the next twelve months, and if any of us make it to the end I’m sure we’ll all be well-versed in Arachnid Lore with our book shelves (physical or digital) positively groaning with sublimely re-readable tales and tomes…

For Marvel, it’s always been all about the team-ups…

In the company’s 80th Anniversary year of 2019, they published plenty of reprint material in archival formats designed to highlight specific triumphs of the House of Ideas. One of the mot interesting was the Decades project: collecting material from each era seen through a themed lens. For the 1960s – with so very much astounding innovation to be proud of – the editors opted to re-present critical confrontations of the company’s signature star with the other breakthrough characters that formed the bedrock of the Marvel Universe. After all, it’s always been all about the team-ups…

Within this trade paperback/digital delight – in full or in extract – are bombastic battles and eccentric encounters between the wondrous wallcrawler and the other growing stars of the ever-expanding firmament, culled from Amazing Spider-Man #1, 8, 14, 16; Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2; Fantastic Four #73; Fantastic Four Annual #1; Strange Tales Annual #2; Tales to Astonish #57; The Avengers #11; The Avengers Annual #3; Daredevil #16, 17, 27 and The X-Men #35 spanning March 1963 to 1968. The curated cruise begins with a context-setting Introduction from Jess Harrold, before we see a skinny kid in a costume meet his heroes for the first time…

Marvel is often termed “the House that Jack Built” and Kirby’s contributions are undeniable and inescapable in the creation of a new kind of comic storytelling, but there was another unique visionary toiling at Atlas-Comics-as-was, one whose creativity and even philosophy seemed diametrically opposed to the bludgeoning power, vast imaginative scope and clean, broad lines of Jack’s ever-expanding search for the external and infinite.

Steve Ditko was quiet and unassuming, voluntarily diffident to the point of invisibility, but his work was both subtle and striking: simultaneously innovative and meticulously polished. Always questing for the ideal, he explored the man within. He saw heroism and humour and ultimate evil all contained within the frail but noble confines of humanity. His drawing could be oddly disquieting… and, when he wanted, decidedly creepy.

Crafting extremely well-received monster and mystery tales for and with Stan Lee, Ditko had been rewarded with his own title. Amazing Adventures/Amazing Adult Fantasy featured a subtler brand of yarn than Rampaging Aliens and Furry Underpants Monsters: an ilk which, though individually entertaining, had been slowly losing traction in comics ever since DC had successfully reintroduced costumed heroes.

Lee & Kirby had responded with Fantastic Four and the ahead-of-its-time Incredible Hulk but there was no indication of the renaissance ahead when officially just-cancelled Amazing Fantasy featured a brand new and rather eerie adventure character…

It wasn’t a new story, but the setting was familiar to every kid reading it and the artwork was downright spooky. This wasn’t the gleaming high-tech world of moon-rockets, mammoth monsters and flying cars… this stuff could happen to anybody…

The debut of Spider-Man and his pathetic, loser, young alter ego Peter Parker was a landmark moment. The hard luck hero effortlessly made the jump to his own title. Holding on to the “Amazing” prefix to jog reader’s memories, the bi-monthly Amazing Spider-Man #1 arrived with a March 1963 cover-date and two complete stories. It also prominently featured the aforementioned FF and took the readership by storm. Excerpted here are the 5 pages wherein the cash-strapped youngster breaks into the Baxter Building determined to get himself hired by the team and ends battling his idols…

That’s followed by a back-up story from 1963’s Fantastic Four Annual #1 which expanded the incident into a proper yarn. ‘The Fabulous Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man’ sees Kirby redraw the moment with Ditko inking and it is superb, smartly segueing into the lead feature from the same year’s Strange Tales Annual #2. This terrific romp from Lee, Kirby & Ditko depicts an early Marvel Misapprehension as the wallcrawler is framed by international art thief and disguise-master The Fox, and hot-headed Johnny Storm determines to bring the aggravating arachnid to justice. Guess how that works out…

Cover-dated January 1964, Amazing Spider-Man #8 led with a battle against the computer dubbed the Living Brain, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for that. An extra vignette in that issue provided another Lee/Kirby/Ditko delight. ‘Spiderman Tackles the Torch!’ is a 6-page comedy romp wherein a boisterous and envious wall-crawler gate-crashes a beach party thrown by the flaming hero’s girlfriend… with suitably explosive consequences.

Marvel’s growing band of stars were pooping up everywhere in others titles by this time, and the next snippet – 5 pages culled from Amazing Spider-Man #14 (July 1964) – sees the webspinner’s battle against the Green Goblin and Enforcers interrupted by the Incredible Hulk who delivers an unforgettable lesson in staying in your own weight class. That same month, Tales to Astonish #57 saw Giant-Man and the Wasp ‘On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!’ – courtesy of Lee, Dick Ayers & Paul Reinman – with sinister mastermind Egghead pulling strings to make the complete strangers into mortal enemies…

September 1964 found Amazing Spider-Man #16 extending the wallcrawler’s circle of friends and foes whilst battling the Ringmaster and his Circus of Evil and encountering freshly minted fellow loner hero in a dazzling and delightful‘Duel with Daredevil’ (Lee & Ditko), after which The Avengers #11 (by Lee, Don Heck & Chic Stone) details how ‘The Mighty Avengers Meet Spider-Man!’ This is a clever and classy cross-fertilising tale featuring time-bending tyrant Kang the Conqueror who attempts to destroy the team by insinuating within their serried ranks a robotic duplicate of the outcast hero.

Next up is arguably Ditko’s greatest artistic triumph of this era: the lead tale from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (October of that year and filled out with vintage Spidey classics).

Ditko was on peak form: fast enough to handle two monthly strips, and at this time also blowing away audiences with another ill-fitting, oddly tangential superhero. The disparate crusaders met in ‘The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!’: an entrancing fable unforgettably introducing the Amazing Arachnid to arcane realities and metaphysical mysteries as he joins the Master of the Mystic Arts to battle power-crazed mage Xandu in a phantasmagorical, dimension-hopping masterpiece involving ensorcelled zombie thugs and the stolen Wand of Watoomb. After this, it was clear that Spider-Man could work in any milieu and that nothing could hold him back…

Now sporting his signature all-red outfit, the Man Without Fear re-encountered Spider-Man in Daredevil #16-17 (May & June 1966 and crafted by Lee, John Romita the elder and inker Frank Giacoia) as ‘Enter… Spider-Man!’ introduces diabolical criminal mastermind Masked Marauder who has big plans; the first of which is to get DD and the wallcrawler to kill each other…

With chapter ‘None are so Blind…’ opens a convoluted a sub-plot which would lead to some of the highest and lowest moments of the early Daredevil series – such as Spidey accusing Law-firm partner Foggy Nelson of being the Scarlet Swashbuckler and Matt Murdock inventing a twin brother Mike – but the art is superb and the action is nonstop, so there’s not much to complain about…

Next comes Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 3 and ‘…To Become an Avenger!’ with the World’s Mightiest Heroes offering the webspinner membership if he can capture and bring them the Hulk. As usual, all is not as it seems but the action-drenched epic, courtesy of Lee, Romita (on layouts), Don Heck, & Mike Esposito is the kind of guest-heavy, power-punching package that made these summer specials such a prize…

Jumping to April 1967, Daredevil #27 (Lee, Gene Colan & Giacoia) closes a chapter as a leaner, moodier Man Without Fear manifested. Earlier episodes saw the hopeless romantic triangle of Murdock, best friend Foggy and their secretary Karen Page become a whacky quadrangle by introducing fictitious twin Mike Murdock. Now he would be “exposed” as Daredevil to divert suspicion from the blind attorney who actually battled all those weird villains…

Well that happened, and – still skulking in the background – arch-villain Masked Marauder slowly honed in on DD’s actual alter ego. He got closest in ‘Mike Murdock Must Die!’ after Stilt-Man teams with the Marauder before Spider-Man abrasively helped out in a brief cameo to take down the long-legged loon…

Cover-dated August 1967, The X-Men #35 finally found Marvel’s top teens in the same story. At that time the mutant heroes were hunting secret cabal Factor Three who had used robot arachnoids to kidnap Professor X.

When ally Banshee is captured mid-sentence during a crucial communication with the team in ‘Along Came A Spider…’(by Roy Thomas, Werner Roth & Dan Adkins) everybody’s favourite wallcrawler is mistaken for a foe. After the desperate, distraught mutants find the hero amidst robot wreckage, he is forced to battle for his life against the increasingly unstable teens…

Ending this chronological collaboration excursion is Fantastic Four #73 (April 1968) which carried an instant-classic crossover that overlapped an ongoing Thor storyline and conclusion to a long-running Daredevil story wherein the sightless crusader is ousted from his own body by Doctor Doom. After warning the FF of imminent attack, the Swashbuckler subsequently defeats Doom on his own, but neglects to tell the heroes of his victory…

Thus, outmatched and unable to convince them any other way, DD enlists currently the de-powered Thunder God and ever-eager webspinner in to solve the problem Marvel style – with a pointless, spectacular and utterly riveting punch-up – in ‘The Flames of Battle…’

These timeless team-ups of Marvel’s original loner comprise a superb catalogue of splendid triumphs to be enjoyed over and over again. How can you not?
© 2019, MARVEL

Marvel Two-in-One Marvel Masterworks volume 5


By Mark Gruenwald, Ralph Macchio, Bill Mantlo, Jo Duffy, John Byrne, Peter B. Gillis, Steven Grant, Marv Wolfman, Allyn Brodsky, David Michelinie, George Pérez, Chic Stone, Alan Kupperberg, Frank Miller, Jim Craig& various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2220-7 (HB)

It’s the anniversary of the Fantastic Four this year and we couldn’t let it go without celebrating the team’s most iconic member…

Above all else, Marvel has always been about team-ups. The concept of team-up books – an established star pairing, or battling (often both) with less well-selling company characters – was not new when Marvel awarded their most popular hero the same deal DC had with Batman in The Brave and the Bold. Although confident in their new title, they wisely left options open by allocating an occasional substitute lead in the Human Torch.

In those long-ago days, editors were acutely conscious of potential over-exposure – and since super-heroes were actually in a decline they may well have been right.

Nevertheless, after the runaway success of Spider-Man’s guest vehicle Marvel Team-Up, the House of Ideas carried on the trend with a series starring bashful, blue-eyed Ben Grimm – the Fantastic Four’s most popular star. They began with a brace of test runs in Marvel Feature #11-12 before awarding him his own team-up title, with this fifth classy compendium gathering in hardback or digital editions the contents of Marvel Two-In-One #47-60, MTIO Annuals #2-3 and Avengers Annual #4, covering January 1979-February 1980. Preceded by a comprehensive and informative reminiscence in Ralph Macchio’s Introduction, the action begins a true golden age for the title.

The innate problem with team-up tales was always a lack of continuity – something Marvel always prided itself upon – and which writer/editor Marv Wolfman had sought to address during his tenure through the simple expedient of having stories link-up through evolving, overarching plots which took Ben from place to place and from guest to guest.

Arguably the very best of these closes this volume; the vast-scaled, supremely convoluted saga known as “The Project Pegasus Saga”…

Although the company’s glory-days were undoubtedly the era of Lee, Kirby & Ditko leading through to the Adams, Buscema(s), Englehart, Gerber, Steranko and Windsor-Smith “Second Wave”, a lot of superb material came out the middle years when Marvel was transforming from inspirational small business to corporate heavyweight.

This is not said to demean or denigrate the many fine creators who worked on the tide of titles published after that heady opening period, but only to indicate that after that time a certain revolutionary spontaneity was markedly absent from the line.

It should also be remembered that this was not deliberate. Every creator does the best job he/she can: posterity and critical response is the only arbiter of what is classic and what is simply one more comicbook. Certainly high sales don’t necessarily define a masterpiece – unless you’re a publisher…

Nevertheless, every so often everyone involved in a particular tale seems to catch fire at the same time and magic occurred. Before that, though, a gradual increase in overall quality begins after perpetual gadflies The Yancy Street Gangheadlined in MT-I-O #47 as ‘Happy Deathday, Mister Grimm!’ (Bill Mantlo & Chic Stone) saw a cybernetic tyrant take over Ben’s old neighbourhood. The invasion concluded – once awesome alien energy powerhouse Jack of Hearts joined the fight – with ‘My Master, Machinesmith!’ in #48 by Mantlo, Stone & Tex Blaisdell.

Mary Jo Duffy, Alan Kupperberg & Gene Day piled on spooky laughs in #49 as the ‘Curse of Crawl-Inswood’ found Doctor Strange manipulating Ben into helping crush a paranormal incursion in a quaint and quiet seaside resort…

Anniversary issue #50 was everything a special issue should be. ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ by Byrne & Joe Sinnott took a powerful and poignant look at the Thing’s history as a monster outcast and posited a few what-might-have-beens…

Following another failure by Reed Richards to cure Ben’s rocky condition, The Thing steals the chemical and travels into his own past, determined to use the remedy on his younger, less mutated self, but his bitter, brooding, brittle earlier incarnation is hardly prepared to listen to another monster and inevitably, catastrophic combat ensues…

Issue #51 was even better. ‘Full House… Dragons High!’ by Peter Gillis, up-&-coming artist Frank Miller & Bob McLeod, details how a weekly poker session at Avengers Mansion is interrupted by rogue US General Pollock, who again tries to conquer America with stolen technology. Happily, Ben and Nick Fury finds Ms. Marvel (not today’s teenager Kamala Khan but Carol Danvers – the current Captain Marvel), Wonder Man and the Beast better combat comrades than Poker opponents…

A note of sinister paranoia creeps in with Marvel Two-In-One #52 in ‘A Little Knight Music!’ (by Steven Grant, Jim Craig & Marcos), as the mysterious Moon Knight joins the Thing to stop CIA Psy-Ops master Crossfire from brainwashing the city’s superheroes into killing each other…

Marvel Two-In-One Annual #4 then provides an old-fashioned, world-busting blockbuster as ‘A Mission of Gravity!’(plotted by Allyn Brodsky, scripted by David Michelinie and illustrated by Jim Craig, Bob Budiansky & Bruce Patterson) brings the Thing and Inhuman monarch Black Bolt together to stop unstable maniac Graviton turning into a black hole and taking the world with him…

That disaster averted, the Thing hits that aforementioned high note in the self-contained mini-saga which partnered him with a succession of Marvel’s quirkiest B-listers and newcomers…

Project Pegasus had debuted in Marvel T-I-O #42-43: a federal research station tasked with investigating new and alternative energy sources and a sensible place to dump super-powered baddies when they’ve been trounced. Ten issues later writers Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio flexed their creative muscles with a 6-issue epic seeing Ben return to Pegasus just as a sinister scheme by a mysterious mastermind to eradicate the facility goes into full effect.

Scripted by Mark Gruenwald & Macchio, it begins as ‘The Inner War!’ (illustrated by Byrne & Joe Sinnott) sees Ben visiting his educationally and emotionally challenged ward Wundarr – who had been left at the secret base after exposure to a reality-warping Cosmic Cube.

Ben meets light-powered security chief Quasar – who technically debuts here, although he was first seen as Marvel Boy in Captain America – only to stumble into a treacherous plot to sabotage the facility…

The consequent clash is augmented by a handy schematic of The Federal research station designated the Potential EnergyGroup/Alternate Sources/United States that will prove invaluable as the saga unfolds.

The tension mounts in ‘Blood and Bionics’ as a reprogrammed Deathlok cyborg stalks the base until the Thing and Quasar crush it. Elsewhere, Ben’s old sparring partner Thundra is recruited by a team of super-powered women wrestlers (I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, it works) with a secret and nefarious sideline…

One of the resident scientists at Pegasus is Bill Foster – who had a brief costumed career as Black Goliath – and he resumes adventuring with a new/old name just in time to help tackle freshly-liberated atomic monster Nuklo in ‘Giants in the Earth’. Sadly, the traitor who let the infantile walking atomic inferno out is still undiscovered and, in the darkest part of the Project, something strange is whispering to the comatose Wundarr…

George Pérez & Gene Day took over as illustrators from #56 as Thundra and her new friends invade in ‘The Deadlier of the Species!’ but even their blistering assault is merely a feint for the real threat and soon a final countdown to disaster is in effect. Doomsday begins ‘When Walks Wundarr!’ and, in his mesmerised wake, a horde of energy-projecting villains incarcerated in the research facility break free…

With chaos everywhere the traitor triggers an extra-dimensional catastrophe, intent on destroying Pegasus ‘To the Nth Power!’, but as a living singularity tries to suck the entire institution into infinity, the end of everything is countered by the ascension of a new kind of hero as The Aquarian debuts to save the day…

Released as one of Marvel’s earliest trade paperback collections, the high-tension bombastic action of The Project Pegasus Saga rattles along without the appearance of any major stars – a daring move for a team-up title but one which greatly enhanced the power and depth of The Thing.

Moreover, by concentrating on rebooting moribund characters such as Deathlok and Giant-Man whilst launching fresh faces Quasar and The Aquarian instead of looking for ill-fitting, big-name sales-boosters, the story truly proves the old adage about there being no bad characters…

Another sound decision was the use of Byrne & Sinnott for the first half and Pérez & the late, great Gene Day to finish off the tale. Both pencillers were in their early ascendancy here and the artistic energy just jumps off the pages.

Publishing schedules wait for no one, however, and the landmark epic is immediately followed by a rather lesser yarn as Marv Wolfman, Macchio, Chic Stone & Al Gordon depict ‘Trial and Error!’ in #59 as Ben and the Human Torch play matchmaker for a dopey dreamer, after which #60 balances the thrills with fun and frolics with Ben and impish ET Impossible Man in hilarious combat with three of Marvel’s earliest bad guys….

Augmented by original art and covers by Pérez; Macchio’s essay ‘Project Prelude’ from that early Marvel collection and its wraparound cover by Ron Frenz; covers from reprint title The Adventures of the Thing (by Sam Keith and Joe Quesada) and biographies for the legion of creators contained herein, this tome of tales from Marvel’s Middle Period are admittedly of variable quality. They are, however, offset by truly timeless classics, still as captivating today as they ever were. Most fans of Costumed Dramas will find little to complain about and there’s lots of fun to be found for young and old readers. So why not lower your critical guard and have an honest blast of pure warts ‘n’ all comics craziness? You’ll almost certainly grow to like it…
© 2020 MARVEL.

X-Men Epic Collection volume 7: 1980-1981 – The Fate of the Phoenix


By Chris Claremont & John Byrne, Jo Duffy, Scott Edelman, John Romita Jr., Ken Landgraf, Brent Anderson & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2253-5 (TPB)

In autumn 1963, The X-Men #1 introduced Scott (Cyclops) Summers, Bobby (Iceman) Drake, Warren (Angel) Worthington, Jean (Marvel Girl) Grey and Hank (The Beast) McCoy: unique students of Professor Charles Xavier. Their teacher was a wheelchair-bound telepath dedicated to brokering peace and integration between the masses of humanity and the emergent off-shoot race of mutants dubbed Homo superior; considered by many who knew him as a living saint.

After almost eight years of eccentrically spectacular adventures the mutant misfits virtually disappeared at the beginning of 1970, during another periodic downturn in superhero comics sales. Just as in the 1940s, mystery men faded away as supernatural mysteries and traditional genres dominated the world’s entertainment fields. The title returned at year’s end as a reprint vehicle, and the missing mutants were reduced to guest-stars and bit-players throughout the Marvel universe. The Beast was refashioned as a monster fit for the global uptick in scary stories.

Everything changed in 1975 when Len Wein & Dave Cockrum revived and reordered the Mutant mystique with a brand-new team in Giant Size X-Men #1. To old foes-turned-friends Banshee and Sunfire were added one-shot Hulk hunter Wolverine, and new creations Kurt Wagner, a demonic German teleporter codenamed Nightcrawler; African weather “goddess” Ororo Monroe – AKA Storm; Russian farmboy Peter Rasputin, who transformed at will into a living steel Colossus and bitter, disillusioned Apache superman John Proudstar who was groomed into joining the makeshift squad as Thunderbird.

The revision was an instant hit, with Wein’s editorial assistant Chris Claremont writing the series from the second story onwards. The Uncanny X-Men reclaimed their own comic book with #94, and it quickly became the company’s most popular – and highest quality – title.

After Thunderbird became the team’s first fatality, the survivors slowly bonded, becoming an infallible fighting unit under the brusque and draconian supervision of Cyclops. Cockrum was succeeded by John Byrne and as the team roster changed the series rose to even greater heights.

This comprehensive compilation (available in trade paperback and eBook editions) is perfect for newbies, neophytes and even old lags nervous about reading such splendid yarns on fragile but extremely valuable newsprint paper. It celebrates the absolute peak of Claremont & Byrne’s collaborative synergy (with regular inker Terry Austin very much a part of the magical experience) as the mutants confirmed their unstoppable march to market dominance through groundbreaking, high-quality stories: specifically issues #129-143 of the decidedly “All-New, All-Different” – (latterly re-renamed “Uncanny”) X-Men; Annual #4, vignettes from Marvel Treasury Edition #26-27 and material from Marvel Team-Up #100, spanning January 1980 to March 1981. Also included are chronologically askew additional treats from Phoenix: The Untold Story #1 (April 1984).

Having saved Edinburgh and perhaps the world from reality-warping Proteus, Uncanny X-Men #129 sees another happy reunion as the heroes (all but the now retired Banshee) find Charles Xavier awaiting them when they reach their Westchester home in ‘God Spare the Child…’.

Thanks to sinister psionic predator Jason Wyngarde, Jean is increasingly slipping into visions of a former life as a spoiled, cruel child of privilege, contrasting sharply with her renewed love for Scott, but the home atmosphere is troubled by another discordant factor. Xavier is intent on resuming training the team, haughtily oblivious that this group are grizzled, seasoned veterans of combat, rather than the callow teenagers he first tutored.

Elsewhere, a cabal of mutants and millionaires plot murder and conquest. Black King Sebastian Shaw, White Queen Emma Frost and the rest of the Hellfire Club hierarchy know Wyngarde is an ambitious and presumptuous upstart, but the possibility of subverting the almighty Phoenix to their world-dominating agenda is irresistible…

When two new mutants manifest, Xavier splits the team to contact both, taking Storm, Wolverine and Colossus to Chicago and meeting the nervous parents of naive 13-year- old Kitty Pryde who has just realised that, along with all the other problems of puberty, she now falls through floors and walks through walls…

However, no sooner does the Professor offer to admit enrol her in his select and prestigious private school than they are all attacked by war-suited mercenaries and shipped by Emma Frost to the Hellfire Club. Only Kitty escapes, but instead of running, she stows away on the transport; terrified but intent on saving the day…

The other Homo Superior neophyte debuts in #130 as Cyclops, Phoenix and Nightcrawler head to Manhattan’s club district, tracking a disco singer dubbed ‘Dazzler’. They are unaware that they too have been targeted for capture…

However, Kitty’s attempts to free the captives at the Hellfire base forces the villains to tip their hand early and with the assistance of Dazzler Alison Blair – a musical mutant who converts sound to devastating light effects – the second mercenary capture team is defeated…

The drama concludes in #131 as Kitty is forced to frantically ‘Run for Your Life!’ – happily, straight into the arms of the remaining X-Men. Soon the plucky lass – after an understandable period of terror, confusion and kvetching – leads a strike on the lair of the White Queen: freeing Wolverine, Colossus and Xavier as Frost faces off in a deadly psionic showdown with a Phoenix far less kind and caring than ever before…

The war with the plutocratic Hellfire Club resumes in #132 as ‘And Hellfire is their Name!’ brings The Angel back into the fold. Their foes are in actuality a centuries-old association of the world’s most powerful and wealthy individuals, and Warren Worthington’s family have been members in good standing for generations. What better way of infiltrating the organisation than with someone already deep on the ultra-privileged inside?

As Wolverine and Nightcrawler scurry through sewers beneath the society’s palatial New York mansion, Warren inveigles the others in through the grand front doors, attending the year’s swankiest soiree whilst he and the Professor await events…

It’s a bold but pointless move. Although the rank and file are simply spoiled rich folk, there is an Inner Circle led by mutant supremo Sebastian Shaw comprising some of Earth’s most dangerous men and women who have been waiting and watching for the mutants-in-mufti’s countermove…

As soon as the heroes are inside, Wyngarde strikes, pushing Jean Grey until she retreats into to a manufactured persona he has woven over months to awaken her darkest desires. With the Phoenix’s overwhelming power added to the Inner Circle’s might, former friends quickly fall before the attack of super-strong Shaw and cyborg human Donald Pierce. Even Wolverine is beaten, smashed through the floor to his doom by mass-manipulating mutant Harry Leland…

As the Inner Circle gloat, Cyclops – connected to Jean by a psionic rapport – sees the world through his lover’s corrupted, beguiled eyes and despairs. However, when Wyngarde – exposed as illusion caster Mastermind – apparently stabs Cyclops, the effect on “his” Black Queen is far from anticipated…

Far below their feet, a body stirs. Battered but unbowed, ‘Wolverine: Alone!’ begins to work his ruthless, relentless way through the Club’s hired minions. His explosive entrance in #134’s ‘Too Late, the Heroes!’ gives the captive heroes a chance to break free and strike back, soundly thrashing the Hellfire blackguards. Sadly for Mastermind, not all his tampering has been expunged, and when Jean catches him, his fate is ghastly beyond imagining…

As the mutants make their escape the situation escalates to crisis level. Months of mind-manipulation finally unleash all Jean’s most selfish, self-serving desires and she shatteringly transforms into ‘Dark Phoenix’…

Manifested as a god without qualm or conscience, Jean attacks her comrades before vanishing into space. In a distant system, and feeling depleted, she casually consumes the local sun, indifferent to the entire civilisation that dies upon the planet circling it. Passing the D’Bari system is a vast and powerful ship of the Shi’ar fleet. Rushing to aid the already extinct world, they are merely a postprandial palate cleanser for the voracious Phoenix…

Uncanny X-Men #136 opens with horrified Shi’ar Empress Lilandra mobilising her entire military machine and heading for Earth, determined to end the threat of the ‘Child of Light and Darkness!’ On that beleaguered world, Cyclops has called on the Beast to build a psychic scrambler to disrupt Jean’s immeasurable psionic might, but when she cataclysmically reappears to trounce the team, the device burns out in seconds.

Jean’s gentler persona erratically appears, begging her friends to kill her before she loses control, but Dark Phoenix is close to destroying Earth before – in a cataclysmic psychic duel – Xavier shuts down her powers and establishes mental circuit breakers to prevent her ever going rogue again. With Jean left as little more than mind-maimed human, the exhausted heroes suddenly vanish in a flash of light…

The epic concludes in X-Men #137 as the outraged and terrified Shi’ar arrive in orbit to settle ‘The Fate of the Phoenix!’ With observers from the Kree and Skrull empires in attendance, Lilandra has come to exact justice and prevent the Phoenix from ever rising again. She is not prepared to accept her fiancé Charles Xavier’s word that the threat is already ended…

Summary execution is only avoided when Xavier invokes an ancient rite compelling Lilandra to instigate trial-by-combat. Relocating to the enigmatic Blue Area of the Moon (with its artificial pocket of breathable atmosphere) the mutants engage in all-out war with a brigade of cosmic champions – the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (an in-joke version of DC’s Legion of Super Heroes). However, despite their greatest efforts, the mutants are pushed to the brink of defeat.

With collapse imminent and her friends doomed, Jean’s psychic shackles slip and the Phoenix breaks free. Horrified at what will inevitably happen, Jean allows herself to be killed to save the universe…

Days later on Earth, the X-Men mourn her passing in #138’s ‘Elegy’ as Cyclops recalls his life with the valiant woman he loved so deeply – and we get a comprehensive recap of the mutant team’s career to date. Heartbroken, the quintessential X-Man resigns just as Kitty Pryde moves in…

Breaking from the monthly run, X-Men Annual #4 then describes ‘Nightcrawler’s Inferno!’ (by Claremont, John Romita Jr.& Bob McLeod) with Doctor Strange called in after Kurt Wagner is targeted by a demonic Lord of Limbo and uncovers a secret family connection to uber-witch Margali Szardos…

A new day dawns in issue #139’s ‘…Something Wicked This Way Comes!’ as the Angel returns just in time to see Nightcrawler join Wolverine in heading north for a reconciliation with the Canadian’s previous team, Alpha Flight. The visit turns into a hunt for carnivorous magical monster Wendigo, culminating in a brutal battle and an increasingly rare clean win in #140’s concluding chapter ‘Rage!’

An evocative and extended subplot opens which would dictate the shape of mutant history for years to come follows as ‘Days of Future Past’ depicts an imminently approaching dystopian apocalypse wherein almost all mutants, paranormals and superheroes have been eradicated by Federally-controlled Sentinel robots. These mechanoids rule over a shattered world on the edge of utter annihilation. New York is a charnel pit with most surviving superhumans kept in concentration camps and only a precious few free to fight a losing war of resistance.

In this dark tomorrow, aging Katherine Pryde is the lynchpin of a desperate plan to unmake history. With the aid of telepath named Rachel (eventually to escape that time-line and become a new Phoenix), Pryde swaps consciousness with her younger self in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the pivotal event which created the bleak existence where all her remaining friends and comrades are being pitilessly exterminated, one by resolute one…

‘Mind Out of Time’ sees the mature Pryde in our era, inhabiting her own 13-year-old body and leading disbelieving team-mates on a frantic mission to foil the assassination of US senator David Kelly on prime-time TV by a sinister new iteration of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants – super-terrorists determined to make a very public example of the human politician attacking the cause of Mutant Rights…

Rocket-paced, action-packed, spectacularly multi-layered, bitterly tragic and agonisingly inconclusive – as all such time-travel tales should be – this cunning, compact yarn is one of the best individual tales of the Claremont/Byrne era, resetting the mood, tone and agenda for all the following decades of mutant mayhem…

With the timeline restored and tragedy averted, things slow down at the X-Mansion, but in the real world, John Byrne had left for pastures new. His swan song in #143 is a bombastic romp which finds lonely, homesick Kitty home alone at Christmas… except for a lone N’garai ‘Demon’ determined to eat her. Her solo trial decimates the X-Men citadel and proves once and for all that she has what it takes…

An era might have ended but mutant life goes on, as seen here in a brace of short stories taken from tabloids Marvel Treasury Edition #26 and 27.

The first is a light-hearted clash between off-duty, grouchy Logan and fun-loving, girl-chasing godling Hercules inadvertently gracing the same bar ‘At the Sign of the Lion’ (by Mary Jo Duffy, Ken Landgraf and a young George Pérez), proving exactly why most pubs reserve the right to refuse admission…

It’s accompanied by The Avenging Angel taking a ‘Joyride into Jeopardy’ courtesy of Scott Edelman, Brent Anderson & Bob McLeod before being attacked by a vengeance-crazed killer seeking payback for the sins of his father…

An intriguing safari into the unknown comes next: the untold story of how Storm and Black Panther T’Challa first met as kids in the wilds of Africa. By Claremont, Byrne & McLeod, it originated as a back-up in Marvel Team-Up #100, cunningly revealing how the kids enjoyed an idyllic time on the veldt (reminiscent of Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon) until a South African commando team tried to kidnap the Wakandan prince for a bargaining chip.

Now, as adults in America they are hunted by the vicious Afrikaner Andreas de Ruyter who has returned, seeking to assassinate Ororo before exacting final revenge upon the Black Panther. Cue long-delayed lover’s reunion and team-raid on an automated House of Horrors…

Wrapping up the mutant mayhem are a selection of snippets retroactively crafted for this period of X-history. The first is a marketing oddity of the period. Phoenix: The Untold Story was released in 1984 and reprinted X-Men #137… mostly…

By all accounts, that epic conclusion was originally completed with a different ending and Jean Grey surviving the battle against the Shi’ar. That was before then Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter overruled the outcome, decreeing she should die for her sins. You can judge the merits of the decision for yourself from the alternate version delivered here.

Also included are Jim Salicrup’s editorial ‘She’s Dead, Jim!’: ‘The Dark Phoenix Tapes – a candid conversation between Byrne, Shooter and Claremont’ on the contentious issue.

More extras include a wealth of original art pages, unseen pencils, house ads, pin-ups, lost and spoof covers; character sketches; the pertinent entry from 1981’s Marvel Comics 20th Anniversary Calendar and images from Marvel Super Hero Portfolio: The Uncanny X-Men with 4 original Byrne drawings remastered by painters Steve Fastner & Rich Larson and monochrome plates from Éditions Déese 1993 World’s Finest Comic Book Artists Portfolio by John Byrne. There’s also a gallery of X-Men collection covers by Byrne, Salvador Larroca, Bill Sienkiewicz and others.

For many fans these tales comprise the definitive X-Men. Rightly ranking amongst some of the greatest stories Marvel ever published, they remain thrilling, groundbreaking and painfully intoxicating: an invaluable grounding in contemporary fights ‘n’ tights fiction no fan or casual reader can afford to ignore.
© 2021 MARVEL

Sub-Mariner Marvel Masterworks volume 4


By Roy Thomas, Marie Severin, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Jack Katz & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5048-0 (HB)

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 exist above and below the waves. Created by young, talented Bill Everett, Namor technically predates Marvel/Atlas/Timely Comics.

He first caught the public’s attention as part of the elementally appealing fire vs. water headlining team in the October 1939 cover-dated Marvel Comics #1 which became Marvel Mystery Comics with issue #2. He 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 weekly promotional giveaway handed out to moviegoers earlier in the year.

Rapidly emerging as one of the industry’s biggest draws, Namor gained his own title at the end of 1940 (Spring 1941) and was one of the last super-characters to go at the end of the first heroic age. In 1954, when Atlas (as the company then was) briefly revived its “Big Three” (the Torch and Captain America being the other two) costumed characters, Everett returned for an extended run of superb darkly timely fantasy tales, but even his input wasn’t sufficient to keep the title afloat and Sub-Mariner sank again.

When Stan Lee & Jack Kirby began reinventing comic book superheroes in 1961 with the groundbreaking Fantastic Four, they revived the awesome and all-but-forgotten amphibian as a troubled, semi-amnesiac anti-hero. Decidedly more bombastic, regal and grandiose, the returnee despised humanity; embittered at the loss of his sub-sea kingdom (seemingly destroyed by American atomic testing) whilst simultaneously 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 ultimately his own solo title.

This fourth subsea selection – available in hardback and eBook editions – collects Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner #14-25, spanning June 1969 to May 1970 and opens with another heartfelt appreciation and some creative secret-sharing from sometime-scribe and life-long devotee Roy Thomas in his Introduction.

Innovative action and shameless nostalgia vie for attention as Thomas, Marie Severin and Mike Esposito (moonlighting as Joe Gaudioso) decree ‘Burn, Namor… Burn!’ in Sub-Mariner #14, as the Mad Thinker apparently resurrects the original – android – Human Torch and sets him to destroy the monarch of Atlantis. This epic clash was one prong of an early experiment in multi-part cross-overs (Captain Marvel #14 and Avengers #64 being the other episodes of the triptych).

Inked by Vince Colletta, ‘The Day of the Dragon!’ finds Namor back in Atlantis after months away, only to find his beloved Lady Dorma has been abducted by old foe Dr. Dorcas. The trail leads to Empire State University and brutal battle against mighty android Dragon Man…

“Gaudioso” returned for Namor’s voyage to a timeless phenomenon in search of mutated foe Tiger Shark who had conquered ‘The Sea that Time Forgot!’, after which the Sub-Mariner contends with an alien intent on draining Earth’s oceans in ‘From the Stars… the Stalker!’ pencilled in tandem by Severin and Golden Age Great Jack Katz, using nom de plume Jay Hawk.

The saga ends calamitously in ‘Side by Side with… Triton!’ (Thomas, Severin & Gaudioso) as, with the help of the aquatic Inhuman, Namor repels the extraterrestrial assault, but loses his ability to breathe underwater. Now forced to dwell on the surface, the despised Atlantean then crushingly clashes with an old friend in the livery of a new superhero in ‘Support your Local Sting-Ray!’ This bombastic battle yarn also offers a delicious peek at the Marvel Bullpen, courtesy of (ex-EC veterans) Severin and inker Johnny Craig’s deft caricaturing skills…

John Buscema returns for #20, with Thomas scripting and Craig inking a chilling dose of realpolitik. ‘In the Darkness Dwells… Doom!’ sees Namor lured by the promise of a cure to his breathing difficulties into the exploitative clutches of the mad Monarch of Latveria. Trapping the Sub-Mariner and keeping him, however, are two wildly differing concepts…

Informed of Namor’s condition, the armies of Atlantis are marshalled by Dorma and disgraced Warlord Seth in ‘Invasion from the Ocean Floor!’ (art by Severin & Craig) besieging New York and almost invoking a new age of monsters.

As Namor’s malady is treated by Atlantean super-science, a key component of a new Superhero concept begins.

Last of the big star conglomerate super-groups, the Defenders would eventually count amongst its membership almost every hero – and a few villains – in the Marvel Universe. No surprise there as initially they were composed of the company’s bad-boys: misunderstood, outcast and often actually dangerous to know.

The genesis of the team in fact derived from their status as publicly distrusted “villains”, but before all that later inventive approbation linked tales of enigmatic antiheroes as best exemplified by Prince Namor, and the Incredible Hulk. When you add the mystery and magic of Doctor Strange the recipe for thrills, spills and chills became simply irresistible…

Following on from Dr. Strange #183 (November 1969) – which introduced the infernal Undying Ones, an elder race of demons hungry to reconquer the Earth – February 1970’s Sub-Mariner #22 ‘The Monarch and the Mystic!’ brought the Prince of Atlantis into the mix, as Thomas, Severin & Craig relate a moody tale of sacrifice in which the Master of the Mystic Arts apparently dies holding the gates of Hell shut with the Undying Ones pent behind them.

In case you’re curious, the saga concludes on an upbeat note in Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970). You might want to track down that yarn too…

Even restored to full capacity, there’s no peace for the regal, and Sub-Mariner #23 finds Namor still contending with Dorcas and arch villain Warlord Krang after the human mad scientist uses his power-transfer process to create an Atlantean wonder with the might of killer whales in ‘The Coming of… Orka!’ The slow-witted psycho subsequently sets an army of enraged cetaceans against the sunken city as John Buscema & Jim Mooney step in artistically to depict how ‘The Lady and the Tiger Shark!’ finds Namor enslaved and Dorma making Faustian pacts to save Atlantis.

This scintillating volume concludes with a landmark tale as – restored to rule and ready to be riled – Namor becomes an early and strident environmental activist after surface world pollution slaughters some of his subjects. Crafted by Thomas, Sal Buscema & Mooney, ‘A World My Enemy!’ follows Sub-Mariner’s bellicose confrontation with the UN as he puts humanity on notice: clean up your mess or I will…

From this point on the antihero would become a minor icon and subtle advocate of the issues, even if only to young comics readers…

These tales feature some of Marvel’s greatest artists at their visual peak, with all the verve and enthusiasm still shining through. 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 fans will delight in forever.
© 1968, 1969, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Incredible Hulk Marvel Masterworks volume 13


By Len Wein, Roger Stern, Jim Starlin, David Anthony Kraft, Sal Buscema, Herb Trimpe, George Tuska, Keith Pollard & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1926-9 (HB)

Bruce Banner was a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, stress and other factors cause him to transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. He was one of Marvel’s earliest innovations and first failure, but after an initially troubled few years 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 hardback and digital monolith re-presents Incredible Hulk King Size Annual #6 and issues #210-222 of his monthly magazine, spanning April 1977 – April 1978 and opens with an Introduction and curated reminiscence from Roger Stern who assumed the writing reins from Len Wein.

The drama and destruction commence however with David Anthony Kraft, Trimpe and inkers Frank Giacoia & Mike Esposito tale ‘Beware the Beehive!’ from Incredible Hulk King Size Annual #6, 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. Their hidden “Beehive” had originally spawned puissant artificial man Him (latterly Adam Warlock). Here and now, three of them reunite for another go at building a god they can control, but when they abduct Dr. Stephen Strange to replace their missing fourth, the magician summons the Jade Juggernaut to save him from the experiment’s inevitable consequences: a marauding, 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 #210, Ernie Chan became Sal 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 stop immortal 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 that makes little difference to the Hulk’s once-companion teenager Jim Wilson as he hitch-hikes across America, utterly unaware that he is the target of a vicious criminal conspiracy. The plots hatch once Jim reaches New York 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 knows all his secrets, you’d expect Banner’s life to get a little easier, but the authorities will 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 the formidable five-man mecha suit.

As Chan returns, this battle 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 the Bi-Beast is resurrected in #215; still hungry to eradicate humanity in ‘Home is Where the Hurt Is’ and close to succeeding after seizing control of SHIELD’s Helicarrier. Only desperate action by General Thaddeus Ross can save the day, as the old soldier uses the carrier’s tech to shanghai Banner, letting nature take its course and hoping that 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 graces #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 as Wein moves 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…

It all begins with ‘The Rhino Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore’ (#218 by Wein & Stern, with George Tuska, Keith Pollard & Chan handling the 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 deck hand on a freighter, 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 individual who believes himself to be Robinson Crusoe, but as events unfold an even stranger truth is revealed. Barracuda captures the madman, to pluck the secret of making monsters from his broken mind.

The cruel corsair has completely underestimated the ferocious loyalty and compassion of the Hulk, who unleashes devastating destructive ‘Fury at 5000 Fathoms!’

With Stern in complete authorial control, Sal Buscema is joined by Alfredo Alcala for #221’s ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’, with the still all-at-sea Banner rescued from drowning by marine explorer Walt Newell who ferries his exhausted passenger back to New York where he is recognised as Bruce Banner. Realising he has unwittingly unleashed the Hulk on a major population centre, Newell exposes his own secret identity as sub-sea superhero Stingray and pursues his former guest.

The battle is painfully one-sided and Stingray is 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, aided and abetted by Jim Starlin & Alcala for a potently creepy horror yarn. It begins as the Green Goliath 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 started 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…

The remainder of this catastrophically cathartic tome – available in hardback and digital editions – is an art lovers delight, featuring a gallery of original art and covers by Trimpe, Giacoia, Esposito, Rich Buckler, Chan, Sal Buscema, Starlin & Alcala and also includes 5 stunningly beautiful pencilled pages of a never-completed story by Wein and Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson, plus a panoramic pin-up of Jade Jaws vs the Hulkbusters by Trimpe originally published in F.O.O.M. #19.

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 – even if it’s only in monochrome and in your own delirious head?
© 2019 MARVEL.

Spider-Man: Fever


By Brendan McCarthy & Steve Cook, with Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (Marvel)
ISBN: 987-0-7851-4125-9 (TPB)

Peter Parker was a smart, alienated kid when he was bitten by a radioactive spider during a school trip. Developing astonishing abilities – augmented with his own natural chemistry, physics and engineering genius – the boy did what any lonely, unappreciated, geeky nerd would do with such newfound prowess: try to cash in for girls, fame and money…

Hiding behind a home-made costume (in case he fails and makes a fool of himself), Parker becomes a minor media celebrity – and a criminally self-important one. To his eternal regret, when a thief flees past him one night, the cocky teen doesn’t lift a finger to stop him. When the boy returns home that night, he learns that his beloved guardian uncle Ben Parker has been murdered.

Crazed with a need for vengeance, Peter hunts the assailant who made his devoted Aunt May a widow and killed the only father he had ever known, and discovers, to his horror, that it is the self-same felon he neglected to stop. The traumatised boy is fixated on the fact that his irresponsibility resulted in the death of the man who raised him, and swears to forevermore use his powers to help others…

Since that night he has tirelessly battled miscreants, monsters and madmen, with a fickle, ungrateful public usually baying for his blood even as he perpetually saves them…

It wasn’t too long after his spectacular launch that Stan Lee & Steve Ditko’s astonishing Spider-Man proved himself a contemporary hero who fitted every possible milieu and scenario; equally at home against cheap hoods, world-busting super-menaces or the oddest of alien incursions, and this superbly outré modern masterpiece – available in trade paperback and digital formats – celebrates that astounding versatility by reprising one of the most brilliantly bizarre team-ups from the early Marvel Age.

The legendary classic first meeting of Mystic Master and Wondrous Wallcrawler occurred in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 and it’s rightly included at the end of this beguiling tome featuring über-imaginatively narrative art trendsetter Brendan McCarthy’s tribute to Ditko’s dazzling graphic magic.

London-born McCarthy came to prominence in comics on 2000AD before branching out into international comics stardom whilst pursuing parallel careers in film, television and design. His most notable works range from Strange Days and Paradax to Judge Dredd, The Zaucer of Zilk, Zenith, Skin, Rogan Gosh, Dream Gang and innumerable stunning covers. His moving media credits include The Storyteller, Highlander, Lost in Space, Reboot, Mad Max 4: Fury Road and so much more.

Collected here is a digitally-psychedelic, intoxicatingly appealing 3-issue miniseries from 2010 and produced for the mature-audience Marvel Knights sub-imprint. Written and illustrated by McCarthy with lettering and additional colouring from old comrade Steve Cook, it begins with the web-spinner battling frequent flyer archfoe The Vulture even as Sorcerer Supreme Stephen Strange explores a few Outer Realms and inadvertently activates an ancient trap set in an old grimoire – the Lost Journal of Albion Crowley…

The “webwaze” energy escapes into the very architecture and infrastructure of New York City, finding its way to the cornered Vulture: possessing the bad old bird before passing through him, permeating and infecting the Friendly Neighbourhooded one…

When Strange further examines the cursed chronicle, he discovers the sorry tale of Crowley and his unlucky acolyte Victor Neumenon, whose long ago trans-dimensional forays led them into fateful contact with cosmically peripheral spider-demons dubbed Arachnix, lurking in the darkest corners and crannies of Creation.

Both were subjected to unimaginable atrocity at the many hands of the hairy horrors, but only Crowley returned to recount his experiences, and spin their adventures his way…

Meanwhile, ensorcelled Spider-Man, reeling in delirious torment, has instinctively crawled into the bathroom of Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum where his now-tainted soul is suddenly snatched away by arcane Arachnix-Hunter Daddy Longlegs, who drags the essence of the hero to its hideous homelands to be devoured by the ghastly King Korazon

Arriving too late to assist, the Master of the Mystic Arts gives chase through increasingly impossible planes of existence, following the ethereal webwaze paths in his frenzied attempts to save his old friend from utter horror and eternal damnation…

Along the way the wizard meets keenly helpful void-dwellers Fetch Doggy Fetch and Pugly, even as Peter Parker’s enmeshed spirit faces consumption by the Eight-Legged Tribe. Somehow, however, the hero’s dual nature confounds the beasts. They cannot determine if he is Spider – and therefore kin – or Man, and thus the most appealing meal ever presented to any Arachnix…

To decide his prey’s future fate Korazon despatches the befuddled soul-shell through the Insect Gate to catch the fabled feast known as the Sorror-Fly from the home dimension of all arthropods. If the arbitrary man-spider can snare the elusive treat he is their brother, but if he returns empty-handed, he’s just lunch…

Whilst the englamoured hero hunts in the insect realm, Strange rescues fellow Earth-born traveller Ms. Ningirril, long-trapped during her own dimensional Walkabout. In gratitude, the Antipodean wanderer provides the mage with useful intelligence, sound advice and a safer, swifter means of navigating his search for Spider-Man…

In a fantastic City of Termites our befuddled hero has succeeded in his task and is dragging the woeful Sorror-Fly back to the Arachnix: further succumbing with each passing moment to the inexorable, bestial allure of his Spider side, even as his garrulous meal relates the dread history of the insect dimension and a prophecy of telling magnitude.

When the Sorcerer Supreme and his allies fortuitously arrive, the Fly transforms back to a form he has not held for over a century, presaging the redemption and cure of the fallen Wall-crawler and a spectacular end to an infinitude of eight-legged terrors…

Bold, ambitious and visually compelling and off the wall, this superb magical mystery tour is perfectly augmented here by that aforementioned first meeting…

In 1965 Steve Ditko was blowing away audiences with another oddly tangential, daringly different superhero. Amazing Spider-Man King Size Annual #2 revealed ‘The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!’: introducing the webslinger to other realities after he accidentally interrupts an attack by wannabe wizard Xandu upon the Master of the Mystic Arts.

The villain had stolen the puissant Wand of Watoomb from Strange to achieve ultimate power, and when that pesky, interfering Spider-Man butts in, the power-crazed dilettante exiles him to an alien dimension – but not before the hero’s webbing snatches the arcane artefact from Xandu’s hand and takes it with him…

Cue an involuntary incredible journey to phantasmagorical, mind-bending worlds pursued by unstoppable zombie slaves and a desperately determined Doctor Strange in a dimension-hopping masterpiece of mystery and imagination…

Moody, creepy and staggeringly engrossing, this eerie eldritch escapade also includes the author/artist’s ‘Notes on the Design and Story Ideas for Spider-Man: Fever’ – a selection of commentary, roughs and sketches offering a fascinating glimpse of into the creative process of a truly unique talent, as well as a selection of Ditko pinups detailing the M.O.’s of The Circus of Crime, The Scorpion, The Beetle, Jonah’s Robot and the Crime-Master…

Here’s another superb and crucial selection starring the timeless teen icon, superhero symbol and big screen superstar fans just cannot afford to do without
© 1965 and 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Doctor Strange Epic Collection volume 1 1963-1966: Master of the Mystic Arts


By Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, with Don Rico, Roy Thomas, Dennis O’Neil, George Roussos & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1138-6

We lost some grand masters of our art form this year, including arguably the biggest name left in the pantheon in American comics, Stan Lee. Also gone is certainly the most influential and least understood of American comics’ true greats: Steve Ditko. Despite their infamous acrimonious later working relationship, Lee & Ditko literally made magic together.

Here’s a recently-released collection with them at their very best and most groundbreaking…

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. Bizarre adventures and menacing monsters were still incredibly popular but mention of magic or the supernatural – especially vampires, werewolves and their eldritch ilk – were harshly proscribed by a censorship panel which dictated almost all aspects of story content.

At this time – almost a decade after a public witch hunt led to Senate hearings – all comics were ferociously monitored and adjudicated by the draconian Comics Code Authority. Even though some of the small company’s strongest sellers were still mystery and monster mags, their underlying themes and premises were almost universally mad science and alien wonders, not necromantic or thaumaturgic horrors.

That might explain Stan Lee’s low-key introduction of Steve Ditko’s mystic adventurer: an exotic, twilit troubleshooter inhabiting the shadowy outer fringes of rational, civilised society.

Capitalising on of the runaway success of Fantastic Four, Lee had quickly spun off the youngest, most colourful member of the team into his own series, hoping to recapture the glory of the 1940s when the Human Torch was one of the company’s untouchable “Big Three” superstars.

Within a year of FF #1, anthology title Strange Tales became home for the blazing boy-hero (beginning with issue #101, cover-dated October 1962): launching Johnny Storm on a creatively productive but commercially unsuccessful solo career.

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

The company had already – recently – published a quasi-mystic precursor: balding, trench-coated savant Doctor Droom – later rechristened (or is that re-paganed?) Dr. Druid – had an inconspicuous short run in Amazing Adventures (volume 1 #1-4 & #6: June-November 1961).

He was a psychiatrist, sage and paranormal investigator tackling everything from alien invaders to Atlanteans (albeit not the ones Sub-Mariner ruled). Droom was subsequently retro-written into Marvel continuity as an alternative candidate and precursor for Stephen Strange’s ultimate role as Sorcerer Supreme…

Nevertheless, after a shaky start, the Marvel Age Master of the Mystic Arts became an unmissable icon of the cool counter-culture kids who saw in Ditko’s increasingly psychedelic art echoes and overtones of their own trippy explorations of other worlds and realms…

That might not have been the authors’ intentions but it certainly helped keep the mage at the forefront of Lee’s efforts to break comics out of the kids-stuff ghetto…

This enchanting full colour paperback compilation – also available as a digital download – collects the mystical portions of Strange Tales #110, 111 and 114-146 plus a titanic team-up from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2; spanning July 1963 to July 1966. Moreover, although the Good Doctor was barely cover-featured until issue #130, it also magnanimously includes every issue’s stunning frontage, thus offering an incredible array of superbly eye-catching Marvel masterpieces from the upstart outfit’s formative heyday by Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bob Powell, John Severin and others.

Thus, without any preamble, our first meeting with the man of mystery comes courtesy of a quiet little chiller which has never been surpassed for sheer mood and imagination.

Lee & Ditko’s ‘Doctor Strange Master of Black Magic!’ debuted at the back of Strange Tales #110 and saw a terrified man troubled by his dreams approach an exceptional consultant in his search for a cure…

That perfect 5-page fright-fest introduces whole new realms and features deceit, desperation, double-dealing and the introduction of both a mysterious and aged oriental mentor and devilish dream demon Nightmare in an unforgettable yarn that might well be Ditko’s finest moment…

A month later in #111 the good Doctor was back, ‘Face-to-Face with the Magic of Baron Mordo!’ which sensibly introduced a player on the other side…

The esoteric duel with such an obviously formidable foe established Strange as a tragic solitary guardian tasked with defending the world from supernatural terrors and uncanny encroachment whilst introducing his most implacable enemy, a fellow sorcerer with vaulting ambition and absolutely no morals. In the astounding battle that ensued, it was also firmly confirmed that Strange was the smarter man…

Then things went quiet for a short while until the letters started coming in…

Strange Tales #114 (November 1963) was one of the most important issues of the era. Not only did it highlight the return of another Golden Age hero – or at least a villainous facsimile of him – by Lee, Kirby & Ayers. Here’s a quote from the last panel. “You guessed it! This story was really a test! To see if you too would like Captain America to Return! As usual, your letters will give us the answer!” We all know how that turned out…

Nevertheless, for many of us the true treasure trove here was the fabulously moody resurrection of Doctor Strange: permanently installing an eccentric and baroque little corner of the growing unified universe where Ditko could let his imagination run wild…

With #114, the Master of the Mystic Arts took up monthly residence behind the Torch as ‘The Return of the Omnipotent Baron Mordo!’ (uncredited inks by George Roussos) finds the Doctor lured to London and into a trap, only to be saved by unlikely adept Victoria Bentley: an abortive stab at a romantic interest who would periodically turn up in years to come.

The forbidding man of mystery is at last revealed in all his frail mortality as Strange Tales #115 offered ‘The Origin of Dr. Strange’, disclosing how Stephen Strange was once America’s greatest surgeon. A brilliant man, yet greedy, vain and arrogant, he cares nothing for the sick except as a means to wealth and glory. When a self-inflicted, drunken car-crash ends his career, Strange hits the skids.

Then, fallen as low as man ever could, the debased doctor overheard a barroom tale which led him on a delirious odyssey or, perhaps more accurately, pilgrimage to Tibet, where a frail and aged mage changed his life forever. It also showed his first clash with the Ancient One’s other pupil Mordo: thwarting a seditious scheme and earning the Baron’s undying envious enmity…

Eventual enlightenment through daily redemption transformed Stephen the derelict into a solitary, dedicated watchdog for at the fringes of humanity, challenging all the hidden dangers of the dark on behalf of a world better off not knowing what dangers lurk in the shadows…

‘Return to the Nightmare World!’ sees the insidious dream predator trapping earthly sleepers in perpetual slumber until the doubtful authorities asked Strange to investigate. The hero’s invasion of his oneiric enemy’s stronghold is a masterpiece of moody suspense and is followed here by ‘The Many Traps of Baron Mordo!’: apparently showing the malevolent mage devising an inescapable doom, which once more founders after Strange applies a little logic to it…

The wildness and infinite variety of Strange’s universe offered Ditko tremendous opportunities to stretch himself visually and as plotter of the stories. In ST #118 the Master of Magic travels to Bavaria to combat ‘The Possessed!’, finding humans succumbing to extra-dimensional invaders neither fully mystic or mundane, whilst ‘Beyond the Purple Veil’ has Strange rescuing burglars who have stolen one of his deadly treasures from ray-gun wielding slaver-tyrants…

Strange Tales #120 played with the conventions of ghost stories as a reporter vanishes during a live broadcast from ‘The House of Shadows!’ and the concerned Doctor diagnoses something unworldly but certainly not dead…

Mordo springs yet another deadly trap in ‘Witchcraft in the Wax Museum!’ but is once again outsmarted and humiliated after stealing his rival’s body whilst Strange wanders the world in astral form…

Roussos returned as an uncredited inker for #122’s ‘The World Beyond’ wherein Nightmare nearly scores his greatest victory after the exhausted Strange falls asleep before uttering the nightly charm that protects from him from attack through his own dreams.

Strange hosts his first Marvel guest star in #123 whilst meeting ‘The Challenge of Loki!’ (August 1964 by Lee, Ditko & George Roussos as George Bell) as the god of Mischief tricks the earthly mage into briefly stealing Thor’s hammer before deducing where the emanations of evil he senses really come from…

Strange battles a sorcerer out of ancient Egypt to save ‘The Lady from Nowhere!’ from time-bending banishment and imprisonment, and performs similar service to rescue the Ancient One after the aged sage is kidnapped in ‘Mordo Must Not Catch Me!’, after which Roussos moves on whilst Lee & Ditko gear up for even more esoteric action.

Strange Tales #126 took the Master of the Mystic arts to ‘The Domain of the Dread Dormammu!’ as an extra-dimensional god seeks to subjugate Earth. In a fantastic realm Strange meets a mysterious, exotic woman who reveals the Dread One operates by his own implacable code: giving the overmatched Earthling the edge in the concluding ‘Duel with of the Dread Dormammu!’

This sees Earth saved, the Ancient One freed from a long-standing crippling curse and Strange awarded a new look and mystic weapons upgrade…

Restored to his homeworld and Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village, Strange then solves ‘The Dilemma of… the Demon’s Disciple!’ by saving a luckless truth-seeker from an abusive minor magician and – after a stunning pin-up by Ditko – defeats a demonic god of decadence stealing TV guests and execs in #129’s ‘Beware… Tiborro! The Tyrant of the Sixth Dimension!’ (scripted by Golden Age great Don Rico).

Doctor Strange got his first star cover slot for Strange Tales #130 to celebrate the start of an ambitious multi-part saga which would be rightly acclaimed one of the mystic’s finest moments.

‘The Defeat of Dr. Strange’ opens with an enigmatic outer-dimensional sponsor entering into a pact with Baron Mordo to supply infinite power and ethereal minions in return for the death of Earth’s magical guardian…

With the Ancient One assaulted and stuck in a deathly coma, Strange is forced to go on the run: a fugitive hiding in the most exotic corners of the globe as remorseless, irresistible forces close in all around him…

A claustrophobic close shave whilst trapped aboard a jetliner in ‘The Hunter and the Hunted!’ expands into cosmic high gear in #132 as Strange doubles back to his sanctum and defeats the returning Demon only to come ‘Face-to-Face at Last with Baron Mordo!’ Crumbling into weary defeat as the villain’s godly sponsor is revealed, the hero is hurled headlong out of reality to materialise in ‘A Nameless Land, A Timeless Time!’ before confronting tyrannical witch-queen Shazana.

Upon liberating her benighted realm, the relentless pursuit resumes as Strange re-crosses hostile dimensions to take the fight to his foes in ‘Earth Be My Battleground’.

Returning to the enclave hiding his ailing master, he gleans a hint of a solution in the mumbled enigmatic word “Eternity” and begins searching for more information, even as, in the Dark Dimension, a terrified girl attempts to sabotage Dread Dormammu’s efforts to empower Mordo…

As the world went super-science spy-crazy and Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. took over the lead spot with Strange Tales #135, the Sixties also saw a blossoming of alternative thought and rebellion. Doctor Strange apparently became a confirmed favourite of the blossoming Counterculture Movement and its recreational drug experimentation subculture. With Ditko truly hitting his imaginative stride, it’s not hard to see why. His weirdly authentic otherworlds and demonstrably adjacent dimensions were just unlike anything anyone had ever seen or depicted before…

‘Eternity Beckons!’ when Strange is lured to an ancient castle where an old ally seeks to betray him and, after again narrowly escaping Mordo’s minions, the Mage desperately consults the aged senile Genghis in #136: a grave error in judgement. Once more catapulted into a dimension of deadly danger, Strange barely escapes a soul-stealing horror after discovering ‘What Lurks Beneath the Mask?’

Back on Earth and out of options, the Doctor is forced to test his strength against the Ancient One’s formidable psychic defences to learn the secret of Eternity in ‘When Meet the Mystic Minds!’ After barely surviving the terrible trial, he translates himself to a place beyond reality to meet the embodiment of creation in ‘If Eternity Should Fail!’

The quest for solutions or extra might bears little fruit and, as he despondently arrives on Earth, the Doctor finds his mentor One and his unnamed female friend prisoners of his worst enemies in anticipation of a fatal showdown…

Strange Tales #139 warns ‘Beware…! Dormammu is Watching!’, but as Mordo – despite being super-charged with the Dark Lord’s infinite energies – fails over and again to kill the Good Doctor, the Overlord of Evil loses all patience and drags the whole show into his home domain…

Intent on making a show of destroying his mortal nemesis, Dormammu convenes a great gathering before whom he will smash Strange in a duel using nothing but ‘The Pincers of Power!’ and is again bathed in ultimate humiliation as the mortal’s wit and determination result in a stunning triumph in concluding episode ‘Let There Be Victory!’

As the universes tremble, Doctor Strange wearily heads home, blithely unaware that his enemies have laid one last trap. The weary victor returns to his mystic Sanctum Sanctorum, unaware that his foes have boobytrapped his residence with mundane explosives…

Scripted by Lee and plotted and illustrated by Ditko, Strange Tales #142 reveals ‘Those Who Would Destroy Me!’ as Mordo’s unnamed disciples ready for one last stab at the Master of the Mystic Arts.

They would remain anonymous for decades, only gaining names of their own – Kaecillius, Demonicus and The Witch – upon their return in the mid-1980s. Here, however, they easily entrap the exhausted mage and imprison him with a view to plundering all his secrets. It’s a big mistake as, in the Roy Thomas dialogued sequel ‘With None Beside Me!’, Strange quickly outwits and subdues his captors…

In #144 Ditko & Thomas take the heartsick hero ‘Where Man Hath Never Trod!’ Although Dormammu was soundly defeated and humiliated before his peers and vassals, the demonic tyrant takes a measure of revenge by exiling Strange’s anonymous female collaborator to realms unknown. Now, as the Earthling seeks to rescue her while searching myriad mystic planes, he stumbles into a trap laid by the Dark One and carried out by devilish collector of souls Tazza…

On defeating the scheme, Strange returns to Earth and almost dies at the hands of a far weaker, but much sneakier wizard dubbed Mister Rasputin. The spy and swindler utilises meagre mystic gifts for material gain but is happy to resort to base brutality ‘To Catch a Magician!’ (scripted by Dennis O’Neil).

All previous covers had been Kirby S.H.I.E.L.D. affairs but finally, with Strange Tales #146, Strange and Ditko won their moment in the sun. Although the artist would soon be gone, the Good Doctor remained, alternating with Nick Fury’s team until the title ended.

Ditko & O’Neil presided over ‘The End …At Last!’ as a deranged Dormammu abducts Strange before suicidally attacking the omnipotent embodiment of the cosmos known as Eternity.

The cataclysmic chaos ruptures the heavens over infinite dimensions and when the universe is calm again both supra-deities are gone. Rescued from the resultant tumult, however, is the valiant girl Strange had loved and lost. She introduces herself as Clea, and although Stephen despondently leaves her, we all know she will be back…

This cosmic swansong was Ditko’s last hurrah. Issue #147 saw a fresh start as Strange went back to his Greenwich Village abode under the auspices of co-scripters Lee & O’Neil, with comics veteran Bill Everett suddenly and surprisingly limning the arcane adventures.

Before that though there are a few treats still in store, beginning with one last Lee/Ditko yarn to enthral and beguile: Although a little chronologically askew, it is very much a case of the best left until last…

In October 1965 ‘The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!’ (from Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2) was the astonishing lead feature in an otherwise vintage reprint Spidey comicbook.

The entrancing fable unforgettably introduced the webslinger to arcane adventure and otherworldly realities as he teamed up with the Master of the Mystic Arts to battle power-crazed wizard Xandu in a phantasmagorical, dimension-hopping masterpiece involving ensorcelled zombie thugs and the purloined Wand of Watoomb.

After this story it was clear that Spider-Man could work in any milieu and nothing could hold him back… and the cross-fertilisation probably introduced many fans to Lee & Ditko’s other breakthrough series.

But wait, there’s even more! Wrapping up the proceeding is a selection of original art beginning with an unused pencil sketch of a master and student pinup plus a completed pinup published in 1967’s Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics #10 and the original art for it.

Following those is a contemporary T-shirt design, a cover gallery of Marvel Tales #1 and Doctor Strange Classics #1-4 (by John Byrne & Al Milgrom, including text pages by Roger Stern) all nicely rounded off by a re-presentation of previous Ditko collection covers modified by painters Dean White & Richard Isanove as well as Alex Ross’ epic Doctor Strange Omnibus cover.

Doctor Strange has always been the coolest of outsiders and most accessible fringe star of the Marvel firmament. This glorious grimoire is a magical method for old fans to enjoy his world once more and the perfect introduction for recent acolytes or converts created by the movie iteration to enjoy the groundbreaking work of two thirds of the Marvel Empire’s founding triumvirate at their most imaginative.
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