X-Men Epic Collection volume 8: I, Magneto (1981-1982)


By Chris Claremont, Jo Duffy, Bob Layton, Dace Cockrum, Michael Golden, Brent Anderson, Paul Smith, Jim Sherman, Bob McLeod, John Buscema, George Pérez & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2952-7 (TPB/Digital edition)

In 1963, The X-Men #1 introduced Scott (Cyclops) Summers, Jean (Marvel Girl) Grey, Bobby (Iceman) Drake, Warren (Angel) Worthington III 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 eight years of eccentrically amazing adventures, the mutant misfits almost disappeared at the beginning of 1970 during another periodic downturn in superhero comics sales. Just as in the 1940s, mystery men faded away whilst traditional genres – especially supernatural yarns – dominated entertainment fields. The title returned at year’s end as a reprint vehicle, and the missing mutants became perennial guest-stars and bit-players throughout the Marvel Universe. The Beast was suitably refashioned as a monster fit for the global uptick in scary stories…

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

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

After Thunderbird became the team’s first fatality, the survivors slowly bonded, becoming an unparalleled fighting unit under the brusquely draconian supervision of Cyclops. Cockrum was succeeded by John Byrne and as the team roster changed, the series scaled even greater heights, culminating in the landmark Dark Phoenix storyline which saw the death of arguably the book’s most beloved, imaginative and powerful character.

In the aftermath, team leader Cyclops left but the epic cosmic saga also seemed to fracture the groundbreaking working relationship of Claremont & Byrne. Within months they went their separate ways: Claremont staying with mutants whilst Byrne went on to establish his own reputation as a writer with series such as Alpha Flight, Incredible Hulk and especially his revolutionary reimagining of The Fantastic Four

This comprehensive compilation is an ideal jumping-on point, perfect for newbies, neophytes and old lags nervous over re-reading these splendid yarns on fragile, extremely valuable newsprint paper. It celebrates a changing of the guard as the mutants consolidated their unstoppable march to market dominance through high-quality storytelling Seen here are issues #144-153 of the (latterly re-renamed “Uncanny”) X-Men; X-Men Annual #5, Avengers Annual #10 and material from Bizarre Adventures #27 and Marvel Fanfare #1-4, spanning April 1981-September 1982.

Scripted by Claremont and illustrated by Brent Anderson & Joseph Rubenstein the drama resumes with X-Men #144 as ‘Even in Death…’ finds heartbroken wanderer Scott Summers (who quit after the death of Jean Grey) fetching up in coastal village Shark Bay before joining the crew of a fishing boat.

Trouble is never far from Cyclops, however, and when captain Aletys Forester introduces him to her dad, Scott must draw upon all his inner reserves – and instinctive assistance of macabre swamp guardian Man-Thing – to repel crushing, soul-consuming psychic assaults from pernicious demon D’spayre, who has made the region his personal torture garden…

Cockrum returned to the team he co-created in #145, joining Claremont & Rubinstein in an extended clash of cultures as ‘Kidnapped!’ sees the X-Men targeted by Doctor Doom, thanks to the machinations of deranged assassin Arcade.

With Storm, Colossus, Angel, Wolverine and Nightcrawler invading the Diabolical Dictator’s castle, a substitute-squad consisting of Iceman, Polaris, Banshee and Havoc are despatched to the killer-for-hire’s mechanised ‘Murderworld!’ to rescue family and friends of the heroes, all previously kidnapped by Arcade. In the interim, Doom has defeated the invading X-Men of his castle, but his cruel act of entrapping claustrophobe Ororo has backfired, triggering a ‘Rogue Storm!’ that could erase the USA from the globe…

Issue #148 opens with Scott and Aletys shipwrecked on a recently reemergent island holding the remnants of a lost civilisation, but the main event is a trip to Manhattan for 13-year-old X-Man Kitty Pryde, accompanied by Storm, Spider-Woman Jessica Drew and Dazzler Alison Blair. That’s lucky, since nomadic mutant empath Caliban calamitously attempts to abduct the child in ‘Cry, Mutant!’ by Claremont, Cockrum & Rubinstein…

A major menace resurfaces in #149 to threaten the shipwrecked couple, but the active X-Men are too busy to notice, dealing with resurrected demi-god Garokk and an erupting volcano in ‘And the Dead Shall Bury the Living!’ before all the varied plots converge in #150 (October 1981). Before that, though, there’s a crucial diversion that will affect and reshape the X-Men for years to come.

Crafted by Claremont, Michael Golden & Armando Gil, ‘By Friends… Betrayed!’  comes from Avengers Annual #10: seemingly closing the superhero career of Carol Danvers AKA Ms. Marvel. Powerless and stripped of her memories, Danvers is rescued from drowning by Spider-Woman, even as mutant shapeshifter Mystique launches an attack on the World’s Mightiest Superheroes to free her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from jail.

It’s revealed that Danvers’ mind and abilities have been permanently stolen by a power-leaching teenager dubbed Rogue and in the aftermath of the assembled heroes defeating Mystique, the Avengers learn a horrific truth: how they had inadvertently surrendered their comrade Carol into the grip of a manipulative villain acting as the perfect husband…

Returning to the X-Men, the anniversary issue delivers extended epic ‘I, Magneto’ seeing the merciless, malevolent master of magnetism threaten all humanity. with Xavier’s team helpless to stop him… until a critical moment triggers an emotional crisis and awakening of the tortured villain’s long-suppressed humanity…

Claremont, Anderson & Bob McLeod then craft riotous intergalactic wonderment in X-Men Annual #5’s ‘Ou, La La…Badoon!’ When the Fantastic Four help an alien fugitive stranded in Manhattan they are in turn targeted by unsavoury, invisible lizard-men. Only Susan Richards escapes, fighting her way to Westchester to enlist the aid of the X-Men: combat veterans well acquainted with battling aliens.

The rescue mission starts with a stopover in the extradimensional realm of Arkon the Magnificent where the Badoon have already triumphed and where, amid much mayhem, the liberators overthrow the invaders and provide salvation for three worlds…

Chronologically adrift but sacrificed to a cohesive reading order, the contents of Marvel Fanfare #1-4 follow. Published between March and September 1982, the astounding saga was an elite yarn designed to launch a prestige format showcase of Marvel characters and talent. The new title featured slick paper stock, superior printing (all standard today) and a rolling brief to promote innovation and bold new directions.

Under Al Milgrom’s editorial guidance, numerous notable tales from exceptional creators were published, but cynical me – and not just me – soon noticed that many of those creators were ones who had problems with periodical publishing and couldn’t make fixed deadlines…

These day’s that’s nothing to shout over: comics come out when they do and editors have no real power to decree otherwise, but in the 1980s it was big deal, because printers booked a project for a pre-specified date, and charged punitive fees if publishers didn’t get product in on time. That’s why inventory tales were created: fill-ins that sat in a drawer until a writer blew it or an artist had his work eaten by the dog. Sometimes the US Mail simply lost completed stuff in transit…

Scripted by Claremont, and also including Milgrom’s humorous ‘Editor-Al’ intro pages, Savage Land was collected in 1987 and again in 2002: uniting Spider-Man, Ka-Zar and a grab bag of X-Men in a spectacular return to that primordial paradise: an antediluvian repository beneath the South Pole where fantastic civilisations and dinosaurs fretfully co-exist.

Illustrated and coloured by Golden, it begins with a ‘Fast Descent into Hell!’ when distraught Tanya Anderssen tries to find her missing lover, last seen in that lost world. Disturbingly, the missing man is Karl Lykos, a troubled soul addicted to feeding on mutants and likely to become ghastly humanoid pteranosaur Sauron. Tanya’s only hope of saving him was via Warren Worthington III – publicly infamous as former/occasional X-Man The Angel.

The billionaire’s reluctant expedition to the Savage Land ultimately includes an embedded news team from the Daily Bugle, including photographer/trouble magnet Peter Parker, who quickly stumbles across a band of native evil mutants planning to conquer the outer world by creating mutant hybrids from human victims – like Spider-Man

Second chapter ‘To Sacrifice my Soul…’ has Spidey and local hero Ka-Zar, the Jungle Lord, join forces to crush the mutation plot, inadvertently unleashing Sauron on the sub-polar world.

Golden’s stylish easy grace gave way to the slick, accomplished method of Dave Cockrum, & Bob McLeod for ‘Into the Land of Death…’ as X-Men Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Storm join Angel to thwart the diabolical dinosaur man and his malign mutant allies, before legend-in-training Paul Smith – assisted by inker Terry Austin – stepped in to finish the epic in grand style and climactic action in ‘Lost Souls!’

We then pop back to November 1981 for X-Men #151 wherein Jim Sherman, McLeod & Rubinstein welcome back Cyclops and wave Kitty goodbye in ‘X-Men Minus One!’

Due to the manipulations of White Queen Emma Frost, the teenager’s parents withdraw their daughter from Xavier’s school to enrol her in the Massachusetts Academy which covertly operates as the Hellfire Club’s training camp for young recruits. However, the sinister scheme is even deeper than the X-Men fear, as telepath Frost switches bodies with Storm to further her plan to eradicate the mutant heroes.

What nobody seems to realise is that although Frost has gained Ororo’s weather powers, her victim now has her appearance, loyal henchmen and psionic powers. Despite the deployment of terrifying robotic Sentinels, the plot spectacularly fails in closing instalment ‘The Hellfire Gambit’, illustrated by McLeod & Rubinstein…

Cockrum was back for #153, adding layers of whimsy to the usual angst and melodrama as ‘Kitty’s Fairy Tale’ sees the X-Mansion under reconstruction and the teen back where she belongs. As repairs continue, she tells bedtime stories to Colossus’ baby sister Illyana: using her teammates as inspiration, she spins a beguiling yarn of fantastic space pirates…

The action closes with the contents of monochrome “mature-reader” magazine Bizarre Adventures #27 (July 1981) sharing untold tales under the umbrella heading of ‘Secret Lives of the X-Men’

Preceded by editorial ‘Listen, I Knew the X-Men When…’ and ‘X-Men Data Log’ pages by illustrated by Cockrum, these are offbeat solo tales of our idiosyncratic stars, opening with Phoenix in ‘The Brides of Attuma’ by Claremont, John Buscema & Klaus Janson. Here the dear departed mutant’s sister Sara Grey recalls a past moment when they were abducted by an undersea barbarian and even then Jean proved to be more than any mortal could handle…

That’s followed by Iceman vignette ‘Winter Carnival’ by Mary Jo Duffy, Pérez & Alfredo Alcala, wherein Bobby Drake is embroiled in a college heist with potentially catastrophic consequences, before ‘Show me the way to go home…’ (Bob Layton, Duffy, Cockrum & Ricardo Villamonte) pits Nightcrawler against villainous teleporter the Vanisher in a light-hearted trans-dimensional romp involving warrior women, threats to the very nature of reality and gratuitous (male) nudity…

Extras include original art pages by Cockrum, Rubinstein, Anderson & McLeod; Cockrum’s cover to fanzine The X-Men Chronicles; Byrne & Austin’s cover for the X-men parody issue of Crazy (#82, January 1982) and John Buscema’s 1987 Savage Land collection.

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

Savage Hulk: The Man Within


By Alan Davis, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Mark Farmer, Sam Grainger & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9043-1 (TPB/Digital edition)

The Incredible Hulk is the perfect guest star: both staunch ally and ultimate enemy to any hero or team and always a figure of tragedy and barely suppressed terror. Here’s a very entertaining proof of the dictum…

In 1969, after six years of quirky, deliciously off-kilter adventures, The X-Men comic book folded: a relatively early casualty of the latest periodic, cyclic changing-of-reading-tastes, which saw the buying public again shun superhero stories in favour of traditional genres like war, westerns and, most especially, supernatural horror yarns…

Of course, once the fantasy fad receded again, the team emerged resurgent and unstoppable in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 to become an unshakable fixture of contemporary comics, TV animation and cinema culture. Nevertheless, when they first folded, a goodly number of us diehard funnybook fans couldn’t believe the loss of such outré and irreplaceable characters.

Despite their reappearance in recycled reprints, a certain magic had gone from the world back then and this mostly modern confection from Alan Davis seeks to redress that loss, albeit more than four decades later…

That final 1960s X-Men exploit was one of those weird quasi-team-ups and, as it pivotally informs the all-original 4-part tale by Davis, inker Mark Farmer & colourist Matt Hollingsworth which comprises the majority of this scintillating chronicle, the editors at Marvel have thoughtfully included it – in all its raw glory – at the back of the book.

I’m reviewing it first because that’s just the way I am…

Crafted by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema & Sam Grainger ‘The Mutants and the Monster!’ (X-Men volume 1, #66, cover-dated March 1970), was actually the epilogue to an epic clash between the mutants and voracious alien invaders. The campaign had shockingly brought back long-believed dead Professor Charles Xavier, who then nearly killed himself for real by uniting every mind on Earth in a psychic thrust of unparalleled force to repel the already repellent Z’Nox.

The tragic aftermath was seen here: a debilitating coma caused by psychic exertion left the telepath near death, able only to convey a feeble psionic message which sent the team hunting for Bruce Banner in Nevada. Apparently, the two cerebral heavyweights had previously and secretly collaborated on a gamma-powered device which might now save and restore the fallen Xavier…

However, the harried young heroes, in their hasty attempt to save their mentor, forgot one crucial fact: when you hunt Banner what you usually end up with is an immensely irate Incredible Hulk

The resulting destructive debacle wrecked a lot of landscape but throughout the extended brouhaha, the Hulk seemed to be subconsciously leading the titanic teens to his hidden desert lab where the prototype Gamma Stimulator was stashed.

Despite colossal carnage and inevitable US Army interference, the gadget was recovered and the Professor saved…

Flipping now to the front of the book, the main event reveals a previously undisclosed follow-up encounter published as Savage Hulk #1-4 (August-November 2014). ‘The Man Within’ opens with TV coverage of the Nevada battle being carefully scrutinised by Gamma-spawned evil super-genius The Leader. The sinister savant soon gleans a connection between the mutant warriors and their previously unsuspected boss Charles Xavier…

The Hulk meanwhile, is fending off another furious attack by the military even as – back in Westchester County – the recuperating Xavier examines the life-saving device and realises Banner had completed it to cure himself of his emerald alter ego. The benevolent mentor quickly discovers why it didn’t work on the tragic titanic transformer. It needed a telepathic trigger…

Convinced he can return the favour and finally cure Banner, guilty, grateful Professor X accompanies Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok and magnetic warrior Lorna Dane to Nevada and Banner’s clandestine lab. They are all blithely unaware that The Leader has already staked the place out…

Elsewhere, the frenzied fugitive at the heart of the matter has been found by a well-meaning elderly couple whose offer of assistance leads to unbridled terror as the timid down-and-out suddenly shapeshifts into a mountain of angry green muscle…

Nearby the X-Men are ambushed by the murderous, monstrous Abomination – also hunting for the Hulk – and their titanic tussle soon intrudes on the Jade Giant’s agonised antics. The 3-way war immediately escalates as the army close in, all guns blazing, but the merely human military are swiftly driven back by the mutants, leaving Hulk to trash his gamma-powered nemesis single handed.

In the quiet aftermath, Marvel Girl uses her own still-developing telepathy to quell the victorious Hulk’s rage and manifest deeply-traumatised Bruce. Soon, the physicist confers with Xavier and prepares to be rid of his ominous other for all time, but as their salvation device is set in motion none are aware another deadly threat is nearby, awaiting the perfect moment to strike…

Shock follows shock as the procedure goes awry with the Hulk’s gamma-energy migrating to Marvel Girl, creating a bellicose female green giantess reeling with incomprehensible psionic power.

…And that’s when The Leader makes his move at the head of an army of mechanoids and a legion of the Hulk’s old foes…

Only Xavier is aware things are not entirely what they seem, and is capable of combating the true source of the threat, aided by the Hulk’s most incredible gamma transformation yet…

Also included in this splendid and explosively entertaining epistle are the original covers by Davis, Farmer, Val Staples, Matt Hollingsworth & Brad Andersen, plus Marie Severin & Grainger’s 1969 classic image.

Cleverly crafted, beautifully illustrated, riotously action-packed and stunningly suspenseful, this tale of triumph and tragedy is pure vintage Marvel Mastery, ably augmented by the original inspirational yarn ending a unique era. It offers readers young and old a magnificent chance to re-experience the glory days of the House of Ideas and must not be missed.
© 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cyclops volume 1: Starstruck


By Greg Rucka, Russell Dauterman, Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9075-2 (TPB/Digital edition)

When mutant genius Henry McCoy learned he was dying, he used time-travel tech in a last-ditch attempt to give his life meaning. Seeking to prevent an inter-species war, he brought the young, naive X-Men of his own youth into the future to reason with his radicalised former comrade Scott Summers, praying the still idealistic and hopeful teens could divert Mutant Enemy Terrorist No. 1 from his path of doctrinaire madness…

The gamble paid off in all the wrong ways. Rather than shocking modern day Cyclops back to his senses, the confrontation hardened the renegade’s heart and strengthened his resolve. Moreover, after McCoy the younger somehow cured his older self, he and the rest of the X-Kids were trapped in their own future and began gradually defecting to the fundamentalist team…

Eventually, the temporally misplaced First Class all ended up living with the elder Cyclops’ crew, but everything changed after Gladiator of the Shi’ar realised that Jean Grey AKA Marvel Girl – and future host of the cosmic force known as the Phoenix – was back. The alien overlord rashly attempted to abduct and execute her for the crimes of her older self…

The insane pre-emptive punishment plan was foiled by an assembly of X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and intergalactic buccaneers Hepzibah, Ch’odRaza Longknife and insectoid medical wizard Sikorsky – collectively known as The Starjammers.

During that cosmic conflict, 16-year-old Scott met his believed-dead dad Christopher Summers, now called Corsair and undisputed leader of the cosmic privateers. When the mutant heroes returned to Earth, Scott chose to remain in space with the father he had spent most of his brief life assuming killed in a plane crash…

Scripted by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Russell Dauterman, Carmen Carnero & Terry Pallot, stellar saga Starstruck collects issues #1-5 of Cyclops: (July-November 2014), following the chronal castaway to the ends of the universe and even further into uncharted emotional territory…

The story begins as the still shell-shocked teen spends some time in hard vacuum with his dad’s exotic paramour Hepzibah. Together they are testing his new spacesuit, which allows him to fire his fearsome optic blasts safely through his helmet. That and reminiscing about how he got here and revelling in the sheer majesty of the intergalactic firmament, of course…

For most of his career Scott Summers has been capable and competent but also dour, grim, despondent and simply no fun at all. Here, however, we get to see the true hero he always was, whilst also following a nervous, unsure kid hungry for affirmation and still capable of ingenuous wide-eyed wonder.

That’s never more ably demonstrated than when his attempts to write a letter to Jean (the girl everybody in the future tells him he will marry and lose) are interrupted by an attack on the ship. The Starjammers are wanted by almost every empire and ruling authority in the universe, but this ambush by the scurrilous Brotherhood of Badoon is easily repulsed and only results in the freebooters capturing their attackers’ vessel primarily intact…

Not so easily handled is the growing gulf between Scott and Corsair. The boy simply cannot accept why his father would allow him – and indeed his future self – to believe he was dead for decades…

The grizzled star-pirate thinks he has a solution. Giving Scott a sword liberated from the vessel (apparently a crucial piece of kit for any space-farer regularly indulging in close combat) Corsair suggests a father-and-son vacation: a few months tooling around the galaxies in their newest prize, just getting to know each other…

At first the grand tour is all mind-bending exploration and eye-popping alien encounters, but eventually Scott starts seeing a disturbing pattern to Corsair’s actions and arrives at a ghastly conclusion. His dad is a drug addict and their numerous stopovers in quirky cosmic bazaars and seamy sidereal marketplaces are just opportunities to restock his personal pharmacopoeia…

One such jaunt introduces the kid to unlikely barkeeper/crimelord Baroque and leads Scott into a potentially life-changing VR encounter with a svelte and sexy alien temptress named Vass. Sadly, anything he might have learned is promptly forgotten when a merciless multi-species band of bounty hunters corners the father-&-son team.

These wily thief-takers are utterly unprepared for Cyclops’ optic blasts, however, and the humans get away relatively unscathed… except for Corsair’s latest “stash”…

The next crisis occurs soon after as the Badoon ship catastrophically malfunctions, stranding them on an isolated planetoid. Painfully scouring through crash wreckage later, Scott discovers a tracking device – now destroyed – and finally confronts his father about his addiction.

He is doubly appalled when Corsair shamefully reveals that rather than buying narcotics, he’s been visiting every criminal dive in creation to score universally-proscribed nanite tech: the only thing currently keeping him alive…

Stranded on a primitive mudball filled with predators becoming increasingly less cautious and more hungrily curious, Scott at last learns of his unsuspected brother Vulcan: a mutant who seized control of the Shi’ar Empire, sparked intergalactic wars and killed their father…

Of course, his devoted comrades refused to leave Corsair dead, and petitioned enigmatic cult the Shrouded to restore him. The cloaked wonders succeeded, but their cure required constant and illicit maintenance…

Days pass and the last dregs of the contraband chemicals are used, whilst fading father and estranged son grow closer: to the point where they unite to deal with the voracious bird-things stalking them. As Corsair impatiently strives to teach his son everything he’ll need to survive the decades he might be alone on the planetoid, the boy enacts a desperate scheme to save them both. The first step is repairing that fractured tracking device and luring the bounty hunters to their current location…

Everything goes according to plan and the hunters become the hunted, but at a critical moment Scott, seemingly swayed by the blandishments of the mercenaries’ female slave, sells his own dad out.

What happens next proves the boy hero’s astonishing tactical genius and saves everyone’s lives – if not necessarily their honour…

Heart-warming, thrilling, funny and astoundingly action-packed, Cyclops: Starstruck combines cosmic intrigue and dashing derring-do with solid characterisation and wild blue yonder wonderment, and will delight any fan of cosmically light-hearted Marvel Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok.

What more could any wide-eyed, entertainment-starved child of the wondering stars want?
© 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Morbius: Preludes and Nightmares


By Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Joe Keatinge, Dan Slott, Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Paul Gulacy, Valentine DiLandro, Marco Checchetto & various (MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2592-5 (TPB/Digital edition)

The transition of Marvel’s print canon to whatever passes for celluloid this century seems unstoppable and with their pioneering hero/villain Michael Morbius now a big screen presence, the company fast-tracked a few archival collections to anticipate/support the release. The most useful for casual readers is undoubtedly this slim, sleek tome: an introductory primer perfect for film fans hunting up a little comic book context. It re-presents Amazing Spider-Man #101-102 and 699.1; Marvel Team-Up #3-4; (Adventure into) Fear #20, and fact-packed excerpts from the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #7, spanning October 1971 to February 2013, mixing the origin and earliest 1970s appearances with a relatively latter-day reappraisal.

A fuller archival treatment of his scattered career can be found in a brace of Epic Collections, and I’ll get around to them in the fullness of time.

It begins with The Amazing Spider-Man #101, the second chapter in an anniversary trilogy tale begun by Stan Lee, Gil Kane & Frank Giacoia which saw the wallcrawler accidentally mutate himself, gaining four extra arms…

Now Roy Thomas takes over with ‘A Monster Called… Morbius!’ as the 8-limbed hero desperately seeks a way to reverse his condition. Whilst hiding in Dr. Curt Connors’ Long Island home/lab, he stumbles across a murderous costumed horror who drinks human blood. The newcomer has just reached shore, from a ship that he left a charnel house…

Making matters even worse is Connors’ sudden arrival in the scaly savage form of The Lizard. Suddenly surprised and always enraged, the saurian attacks, set on killing all intruders…

Amongst the many things banned by the Comics Code Authority in 1954 were horror staples zombies, werewolves and vampires, but changing tastes and rising costs of the early 1970s were seeing superhero titles dropping like flies in a blizzard.

With interest in suspense and the supernatural growing globally, all comics publishers were pushing to re-establish scary comics again, and the covert introduction of a “Living Vampire” in superhero staple Spider-Man led to another challenge to the CCA, the eventually revision of the Code’s horror section and a resurgent rise of supernatural heroes and titles.

For one month Marvel also experimented with double-sized comicbooks (DC’s switch back to 52-page issues lasted almost a year – August 1971-June 1972 cover-dates). Thus, Amazing Spider-Man #102 featured an immense 3-chapter blockbuster brawl beginning with ‘Vampire at Large!’ wherein the octo-webspinner and anthropoid reptile joined forces to hunt a science-spawned bloodsucker after discovering a factor in the bitey brute’s saliva could cure both part-time monsters’ respective conditions.

‘The Way it Began’ abruptly diverges from the main narrative to present the tragic secret origin of Nobel Prize winning biologist Michael Morbius and how be turned himself into a haunted night-horror in hopes of curing a fatal blood disease, before ‘The Curse and the Cure!’ brought the tale to a blistering conclusion and restored the status quo and requisite appendage-count.

Gerry Conway assumed the writer’s role for the third appearance of the living (not dead; never ever dead but living), breathing humanoid predator who drank blood to live, as Marvel Team-Up # 3 (July 1972, illustrated by Rossa Andru & Giacoia) found Spidey and Human Torch Johnny Storm hunting the resurgent Morbius after he attacks student Jefferson Bolt and passes on his plague of thirst. The conflicted scientist still seeks a cure and tracks old colleague Hans Jorgenson to Peter Parker’s college, but his now-vampiric servant Bolt wants just what all true bloodsuckers want in ‘The Power to Purge!’…

The new horror-star was still acting the villain in MTU #4 as the Torch was replaced by most of Marvel’s sole mutant team (The Beast having gone all hairy – and solo – in another science-based workaround to publish comic book monsters who were anything but supernatural) in ‘And Then… the X-Men!’

This enthralling thriller was illustrated by magnificent Gil Kane at the top of his form and inked by Steve Mitchell with the webslinger and X-Men at odds while both hunting the missing Jorgenson. After the unavoidable butting of heads, the heroes united to overcome Morbius and left him for Professor Charles Xavier to contain or cure…

As superheroes continued to decline and horror bloomed, Morbius established himself in Marvel’s black-&-white magazine title Vampire Tales, but returned to four-colour publishing with (Adventure into) Fear #20 (cover-dated February 1973). The title had previously hosted the macabre Man-Thing, and his/its promotion to a solo title gave Morbius opportunity to spread his own wings.

Spawned by scripter Mike Friedrich and artist Paul Gulacy, Jack Abel & George Roussos, ‘Morbius the Living Vampire!’ revealed how he escaped the X-Men and fled to Los Angeles and lived (whenever possible) off victims who deserved his voracious bite. The initial tale also set up a bizarre relationship with Rabbi Krause and Reverend Daemon who sought to cure him, before one was exposed as a human devil, catapulting Morbius into intergalactic conflict that had shaped humanity over millennia. That saga also is fully detailed in the Epic Collections, but frustratingly not here…

Brushing past decades of history and character development, there’s a huge jump to the twenteens and a more nuanced revision of the origin to close this book’s story section, as The Amazing Spider-Man # 699.1 (February 2013, by Joe Keatinge, Dan Slott, Valentine DiLandro & Marco Checchetto) finds Morbius in supermax penitentiary The Raft, ruminating on his childhood in Greece, living with an imminently fatal but unpredictable blood condition, but still finding love, friendship and adventure.

Sadly, as we already know, his Nobel Prize winning research only led to the death of his greatest friend and colleague, the abandonment of his true love and an unlife sentence as a rampaging killer…

Rounding out the red reading, fact-filled picture-packed pages from The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #7, offering dry history and statistics from those intervening years.

A compelling and beguiling bunch of beginnings well told and superbly illustrated, this treat is superficially entertaining but won’t satisfy those with a deep thirst for true knowledge…
© 2021 MARVEL

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection volume 6 – 1970-1972: The Death of Captain Stacy


By Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, John Romita, John Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1302929084 (TPB/Digital edition)

The Amazing Spider-Man was first seen in the middle of 1962, so expect more wallcrawling reviews over the coming 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…

As an added bonus, this collection also represents the debut of a current Marvel Movie-verse monster masterwork. Oooh, scary…

The Amazing Spider-Man was always a comic that matured with – or perhaps just slightly ahead of – its fan-base. In this superbly scintillating compilation of chronologically corrected webspinning wonderment (in ponderous paperback or ephemeral eBook formats), the World’s Most Misunderstood Hero barely survives another rocky period of transformation as the second great era of Amazing Arachnid artists moved inevitably to a close. Although the elder John Romita would remain closely connected to the Wallcrawler’s adventures for some time yet, these tales would number amongst his last sustained run as lead illustrator.

After a rather nervous nativity The Amazing Spider-Man soon became a certified sensation with kids of all ages. Before too long the quirky, charming, thrillingly action-packed comics soap-opera would become the model for an entire generation of younger heroes impatiently elbowing aside the staid, (relatively) old thirty-something mystery-men of previous publications and hallowed tradition.

Smart-but-alienated Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider during a school trip. Discovering strange superhuman abilities – which he augmented with his own natural chemistry, physics and engineering genius – the kid did what any lonely, geeky nerd would do with such newfound prowess: he tried to cash in for girls, fame and money.

Making a costume to hide his identity in case he made a fool of himself, Parker became a minor media celebrity – and a criminally self-important one. To his eternal regret, when a thief fled past him one night, he didn’t lift a finger to stop him. That self-serving arrogance cost him dearly, as when he returned home, he learned his guardian uncle Ben Parker had been murdered.

Crazed and vengeful, Peter hunted the assailant who’d made his beloved Aunt May a widow and killed the only father he had ever known, discovering to his horror that it was the self-same felon he had neglected to stop. His irresponsibility had resulted in the death of the man who raised him, and the traumatised boy swore to forevermore use his powers to help others…

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

Stan Lee’s scripts were in tune with the times – as understood by most kids’ parents at least – and the heavy dose of soap opera kept older readers glued to the series even if the bombastic battle sequences didn’t.

This sixth full-colour collection of chronologically congregated and curated early Amazing Arachnoid Epics sees the World’s Most Misunderstood Hero foreshadowing a major change in the tone and timbre of comics even while continuing the long climb to global stardom…

Re-presenting Amazing Spider-Man #86-104 (originally released between July 1970 and January 1972) these spider-sagas began the next stage in the hero’s evolution as Lee first surrendered the scripting privileges: here to his ordained understudy Roy Thomas. Lee would reclaim the role briefly but as with The Fantastic Four and Thor, it was time for new voices…

The drama begins with drastic transformation for a conflicted Cold War leftover as Lee’s ‘Beware… the Black Widow!’ gave John Romita (senior) and Jim Mooney leave to redesign and relaunch the Soviet super-spy. Looking for a fresh start, the sometime-Avenger stole the show in an enjoyable if highly formulaic misunderstanding/clash-of-heroes yarn with an ailing Spider-Man never really endangered. The entire episode was actually a promotion for the Widow’s own soon-to-debut solo series…

‘Unmasked at Last!’ found Parker convinced that his powers were fading forever and suffering from a raging fever. Delirious, Parker exposes his secret identity to all the guests at his girlfriend’s party but on recovering – from flu – acts to save his other life, using the kind of logic and subterfuge that only works in comics and sitcoms. Asking ex-villain Hobie (The Prowler) Brown for help, Parker subsequently convinces everybody that it was only a flu-induced aberration…

Spider-Man at this time became a permanent, unmissable part of youngsters’ lives and did so by living a life as close to theirs as social mores and the Comics Code would allow. Blending cultural authenticity with spectacular art, and making a dramatic virtue of the awkwardness, confusion and sense of powerlessness that most of the readership daily experienced, resulted in an irresistibly intoxicating read, delivered in addictive emotionally-intense instalments, but none of that would be relevant if the stories weren’t so compellingly entertaining.

The wonderment resumes in ‘The Arms of Doctor Octopus!’ with the many-tentacled terror escaping jail and capturing a jetliner full of Chinese diplomats. It all ends with explosive suddenness and apparent suicide after the wallcrawler intervenes, yet is promptly followed a month later by ‘Doc Ock Lives!’ This heralded a new era of visual dynamism as Gil Kane began a sporadic but memorable run as penciller, with Romita reverting to chief inker. Here Octopus rampages through town, causing carnage until Spider-Man again confronts him. The battle takes a lethal turn in ‘And Death Shall Come!’ wherein Parker’s attempts to stop him leads to the death of a beloved cast member…

With that tragic demise of a cast regular, the webslinger became a wanted fugitive. Already fanatical publisher J. Jonah Jameson began backing “Law and Order” election hopeful Sam Bullitt in a campaign ‘To Smash the Spider!’, unaware of the politician’s disreputable past and ultra-right-wing agenda, but the secret is exposed (by Bugle sub-editor Joe Robertson) in #92’s ‘When Iceman Attacks’…

The ambitious demagogue convinced the youngest X-Man that Spider-Man had kidnapped Parker’s paramour Gwen Stacy but the Wondrous Wallcrawler’s explosive battle against the mutant exposed the corrupt and explicitly racist Bullit in an all-out action extravaganza featuring some of the best fight-art of the decade by two of the industry’s greatest names.
Romita resumed pencilling with issue #93, which saw the return of an almost forgotten frenemy in ‘The Lady and… The Prowler!’. Hobie Brown was a reformed super-burglar but when he saw that the Amazing Arachnid was wanted, he too was all too ready to believe the media hype…

Amazing Spider-Man #94 (Lee, Romita & Sal Buscema) offered a fresh glimpse of the hero’s fabled origin as part of a dynamic dust-up with The Beetle ‘On Wings of Death!’, after which Peter headed for London to woo his estranged girlfriend Gwen, who had fled the manic violence of America after her father’s death.

Typically, ‘Trap for a Terrorist’ finds the city under threat from a gang of bombers, which apparently only Spider-Man can handle. Gwen returned home, never knowing Parker had come after her, and had to stay out of sight once the wallcrawler was seen in Westminster.

Everything was forgotten in the next issue when deeply disturbed and partially amnesiac industrialist Norman Osborn abruptly remembered he once had another more macabre persona. Restored and enraged he once again attacked Peter in #96’s ‘…And Now, the Goblin!’ by Lee, Kane & Romita.

Stan Lee had long wanted to address the contemporary drugs situation in Marvel’s stories but was forbidden by Comics Code Authority strictures. When the Nixon administration, in the form of the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, approached him to tackle the issue, Lee devised the 3-part Green Goblin tale. When it was inevitably refused Code approval, the writer-editor went ahead and published it anyway…

Although the return of the madman who knew all Spider-Man’s secrets was the big fan-draw, the real meat of the tale was how Osborn’s son Harry – a perfectly average rich white kid and Peter Parker’s best friend – is drawn into a web of addiction, abuse and toxic overdose. Frank Giacoia began inking Kane with the second instalment, ‘In the Grip of the Goblin!’ as the elder Osborn runs riot, almost killing the webslinger and preparing for his final deadly assault, even as his son lies dying. The saga spectacularly concludes with ‘The Goblin’s Last Gasp!’ as, in the clinch, the villain’s deeply-buried paternal love proves his undoing and Parker’s salvation…

Amazing Spider-Man #99 portrays ‘A Day in the Life of…’: an all-action, social drama-tinged palate-cleanser with Peter and Gwen finally getting their love-life back on track, only marginally diverted by a prison breakout easily quelled by the Arachnid Avenger, whilst highlighting the growing scandal of prison conditions.

Celebrating a major anniversary, and heralding a dramatic change to the entire comics industry, an astonishing tales begins with ‘The Spider or the Man?’ (Lee, Kane & Giacoia) as, determined to retire and marry, Peter attempts to destroy his powers with an untested self-concocted serum. The result is a hallucinogenic trip wherein action ace Kane draws an all-out battle between Spidey and an army of old enemies, culminating in a waking nightmare when Parker regains consciousness and discovers he’s grown four additional arms…

With #101 Roy Thomas stepped in as scripter for ‘A Monster Called… Morbius!’, wherein the eight-limbed hero desperately seeks some way to reverse his condition. Fortuitously, he stumbles across a murderous costumed horror who drinks human blood. Making matters even worse is old foe The Lizard who suddenly turns up, determined to kill them both…

Amongst the many things banned by the Comics Code in 1954 were horror staples vampires and werewolves, but changing tastes and rising comics production costs of the early 1970s saw superhero titles dropping like flies in a blizzard. With interest in suspense and the supernatural growing, all comics publishers were pushing to re-establish horror comics again, and the covert introduction of a “Living Vampire” in superhero staple Spider-Man led to another challenge to the CCA; the eventually revision of the horror section of the Code and a resurgent rise of supernatural heroes and titles.

For one month Marvel also experimented with double-sized comicbooks (DC’s switch to 52-page issues lasted almost a year – August 1971-June 1972 cover-dates) and Amazing Spider-Man #102 featured an immense, 3-chapter blockbuster beginning with ‘Vampire at Large!’, wherein the octo-webspinner and anthropoid reptile join forces to hunt a science-spawned bloodsucker after discovering a factor in the vampire’s saliva could cure both part-time monsters’ respective conditions…

‘The Way it Began’ briefly diverges from the main narrative to present the tragic secret origin of Nobel Prize winning biologist Michael Morbius, and how be turned himself into a haunted night-horror, before kThe Curse and the Cure!’ brings the tale to a blistering conclusion and restores the status quo and requisite appendage-count.

Designed as another extra-length epic, ‘Walk the Savage Land!’ began in now conventionally paginated #103, but was sliced in half and finished as #104’s ‘The Beauty and the Brute’.

When The Daily Bugle suffers a financial crisis, bellicose publisher Jameson takes Parker and his extremely photogenic girlfriend Gwen on a monster-hunt to the Lost World under the Antarctic. The intention is to encounter dinosaurs and cavemen but the stunt goes awry, dragging in noble savage Ka-Zar, perfidious villain Kraven the Hunter and a terrifying giant alien baby dubbed Gog in a fabulous pastiche and homage to Willis O’Brien’s King Kong, delivered with love and pride from Thomas, Kane & Giacoia.

Although this romp ends the narrative on a rousing high, there still more to see, beginning with the Romita Sr. covers from all-reprint Amazing Spider-Man Annual’s #7-8; contemporary house-ads and scads of un-inked Kane art pages. That’s supplemented by a bridging story-page by Kane & Mike Esposito from Marvel Tales #83; and a selection of covers from numerous other reprints of these stories: illustrated by Jim Calafiore, Glen Orbik, Steve Lightle, Nghia Lam & Jason Rodriguez, Al Rio & Thomas Velazquez, Romita Sr. Bruce Timm, Mike Wieringo, Tim Townsend, Sean Chen & Eric Cannon, but the true treat for comics historians are various versions of Kane’s original cover for #97 and the turning point of the drugs story. A far stronger and more explicit view of Harry’s addiction, both the colour rough and amended full cover art were rejected by the CCA.

Spider-Man became a permanent unmissable part of many teenagers’ lives at this time and did so by living a life as close to theirs as social mores and the Comics Code would allow. Blending cultural authenticity with glorious narrative art, and making a dramatic virtue of the awkwardness, confusion and sense of powerlessness most of the readership experienced daily, resulted in an irresistibly intoxicating read, delivered in addictive soap-opera slices, but none of that would be relevant if the stories weren’t so compellingly entertaining.

This book is Marvel and Spider-Man at their peak. Come see why.
© 2021 MARVEL

Klaws of the Panther


By Jonathan Mayberry, Shawn Moll, Gianluca Gugliotta, Walden Wong & Pepe Larraz (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5118-0 (TPB/Digital editions)

Debuting in Fantastic Four #52 (cover-dated July 1966) and hailed as the first black super hero character in American comics – and one of the first to carry his own series – the Black Panther’s popularity and fortunes have waxed and waned since he boldly attacked the FF as part of an extended plan to gain vengeance on the murderer of his father.

Time passed and T’Challa, son of T’Chaka was revealed as an African monarch whose hidden kingdom was the only source of a vibration-absorbing alien metal upon which the country’s immense wealth was founded. Those mineral riches – derived from a fallen meteor which struck the continent in lost antiquity – had enabled him to turn his country into a technological wonderland. The tribal wealth had been guarded throughout history by a cat-like champion deriving physical advantages from secret ceremonies and a mysterious heart-shaped herb which ensured the generational dominance of the nation’s warrior Panther Cult.

In modern times the Vibranium mound made the country a target for increasing subversion and incursion and after an all-out attack by the forces of Doctor Doom, culminating in the Iron Dictator seizing control of Wakanda, T’Challa was forced to render all Vibranium on Earth inert, defeating the invader but leaving his own homeland broken and economically shattered.

During this cataclysmic clash T’Challa’s flighty, spoiled brat half-sister Shuri took on the mantle of the Black Panther and became the clan and country’s new champion whilst her predecessor struggled with the disaster he had deliberately caused…

This slim, unassuming but extremely engaging Costumed Drama collects pertinent portions of the portmanteau Age of Heroes #4 and the guest-star packed Klaws of the Panther 4-part fortnightly miniseries from 2010-2011 – following a very different princess from the filmic one you probably know – as she progress through the Marvel Universe, striving to outlive her wastrel reputation, serve her country and the world whilst – crucially – defeating the growing homicidal rage that increasingly burns within her…

The story starts with ‘Honor’ by Jonathan Mayberry, Shawn Moll & Walden Wong, wherein the latest Panther Champion brutally repels an invasion by soldiers of Advanced Idea Mechanics: simply the latest opportunist agency attempting to take over the decimated country of Wakanda.

With her brother and (X-Man and occasional goddess) Queen Storm absent, Shuri is also de facto ruler of the nation, but faces dissent from her own people, as embarrassing reports and photos of her days as a billionaire good-time girl are continually surfacing to stir popular antipathy to her and the Panther clan.

When opportunist G’Tuga of the outlawed White Gorilla sect challenges for the role of national champion, Shuri treats the ritual combat as a welcome relief from insurmountable, intangible problems; but has badly misjudged her opponent and the sentiment of the people…

The main event by Mayberry, Gianluca Gugliotta & Pepe Larraz opens with ‘Savage Tales’ as Shuri is lured to fantastic dinosaur preserve the Savage Land, hoping to purchase a supply of a metal-eating Vibranium isotope, but instead uncovers a deadly plot by AIM and sentient sound-wave Klaw.

The incredible fauna of the lost world has been enslaved by the Master of Sound – who years previously murdered Shuri and T’Challa’s father in an earlier attempt to seize ultimate power – and the villain has captured the region’s protector Ka-Zar whilst seeking to secure all Savage Land Vibranium for his nefarious schemes.

Klaw, however, only thought he had fully compensated for the interference of Shuri and Ka-Zar’s formidable spouse Shanna the She-Devil…

Driven by lust for vengeance, Shuri almost allows Klaw to destroy the entire Savage Land and only the timely intervention of mutant sister-in-law Storm prevents nuclear armageddon in ‘Sound and Fury’, after which the impulsive Panther seeks out Wolverine on the outlaw island Madripoor, looking for help with her out-of-control anger management issues. Once again, AIM attacks, attempting to steal the rogue state’s priceless stockpile of Savage Land Vibranium, but instead walks into a buzzsaw of angry retribution…

Shuri is about to extract information from a surviving AIM agent in time-honoured Wakandan manner when Klaw appears, hinting at a world-shattering plan called “The Scream” which will use mysterious device M.U.S.I.C. to totally remake the Earth…

After another furious fight, the new Panther gains the upper hand by using SLV dust, but squanders her hard-won advantage to save Wolverine from certain death…

Knowing the entire planet is at stake, Shuri accepts the necessity for major-league assistance in ‘Music of the Spheres’ but unfortunately the only one home at Avengers Tower is the relatively low-calibre Spider-Man. Reluctantly she takes the wisecracking half-wit on another raid on AIM and finally catches a break when one of Klaw’s AIM minions reveals the tragic secret of the horrific M.U.S.I.C device…

All this time, Black Panther has had a hidden ally in the form of tech specialist Flea, who has been providing intel from an orbiting spaceship. Now the full truth is revealed and the heroes find Klaw’s plans centre on an attack from space. The maniac intends to destroy humanity from an invulnerable station thousands of miles above the planet and nothing can broach the base’s incredible defences. Happily, Spider-Man and ex-Captain America Steve Rogers know the world’s greatest infiltration expert and soon ‘Enter the Black Widow’ finds Earth’s last hopes depending on an all-or-nothing assault by the icily calm Panther and the world’s deadliest spy.

Cue tragic sacrifice, deadly combat, spectacular denouement, reaffirmed dedication and a new start for the ferociously inspired and determined Black Panther…

Slight yet gloriously readable, this compelling thriller boasts an impressive cover gallery by Jae Lee, Michael Del Mundo and Stephanie Hans, plus an information-packed text feature on Shuri’s life-history, career and abilities to bring the completist reader up to full speed.

If you don’t despise reboots and re-treads on unswerving principle and are prepared to give something new(ish) a go, there’s tons of fun to be had in this infectious, fast-paced Fights ‘n’ Tights farrago, so go set your sights and hunt this down…
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marvel Team-Up Marvel Masterworks volume 6


By Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Keith Giffen & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-2931-2 (HB)

The concept of team-ups – an established star pairing or battling (usually both) with new or less well-selling company characters – has been with us since the earliest days of comics, but making the brief encounter/temporary alliance a key selling point really took hold with DC’s The Brave and the Bold before being taken up by their biggest competitor.

Marvel Team-Up was the second regular Spider-Man title, launching at the end of 1971. It went from strength to strength, proving the time had finally come for expansion and offering a regular venue for uncomplicated action romps to supplement the House of Ideas’ complex sub-plot fare in regular books. However, even in the infinite Marvel Multiverse, certain stars shine more brightly than others and some characters turn up in team-ups more often than others…

In recent years, carefully curated themed collections from the back-catalogue have served to initiate new readers intrigued by Marvel’s Movie and TV endeavours, but there’s no real substitute for seeing Marvel’s continuity unfolding in chronological and this compelling hardback/eBook compilation gathers the contents of Marvel Team-Up #53-64; MTU Annual #1 and includes a pertinent debut from Marvel Premiere #31; collectively covering August 1976 to December 1977.

Following Chris Claremont’s Introduction offering fond remembrances of the times and key writer Bill Mantlo, open with an epic length adventure from Marvel Team-Up Annual #1 by Mantlo, Sal Buscema & Mike Esposito (from a plot by Mantlo, Claremont & Bonnie Wilford).

‘The Lords of Light and Darkness!’ sees Spider-Man and the then-newly minted and revived X-Men, Banshee, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Phoenix and Cyclops helping Charles Xavier combat a pantheon of scientists mutated by atomic accident and elevated to minor godhood.

Like most deities, the puissant ones believed they knew what was best for humanity…

Mantlo then teamed with John Byrne & Frank Giacoia to bring closure to a tale begun – and left hanging – in August 1976’s Marvel Premiere #31, which can be found at the back of this book.

Marvel Team-Up #53 detailed a ‘Nightmare in New Mexico!’ as The Hulk meets troubled and AWOL gene-splicing experiment Woodgod as the tragic construct flees from corrupt Army Colonel Del Tremens. By the time the wallcrawler drops in, the fugitive outcasts have joined forces leaving him a  ‘Spider in the Middle!’ (inked by Esposito).

As Tremens seeks to suppress the calamitous crisis – and his own indiscretions – by killing everyone, the final scene sees the webspinner trapped in a rocket and blasted into space…

Marvel Team-Up #55 revealed a ‘Spider, Spider on the Moon!’ (Mantlo, Byrne & Dave Hunt) with returned cosmic Avenger Adam Warlock intercepting the ship before assisting the Arachnid and mysterious alien The Gardener against The Stranger: all seeking possession of the Golden Gladiator’s life-sustaining Soul Gem…

Back on Earth but still a trouble-magnet, in #56 Spider-Man assists Daredevil against ‘Double Danger at the Daily Bugle!’ (Mantlo, Sal B & Hunt) when Electro and Blizzard take the entire Newsroom hostage, after which Claremont assumed full scripting duties, laying the groundwork for a complex extended thriller embroiling the still-naïve hero in a deadly espionage plot.

With artists Sal Buscema & Dave Hunt, Claremont began redefining the Widow’s ways in Marvel Team-Up #57 (May 1977). ‘When Slays the Silver Samurai!’ sees Spidey saved from lethal ambush by the Black Widow, implausibly holding up a collapsing building, and reluctantly taking possession of a strange statuette that he soon forgets all about. That’s an oversight he’ll later regret…

In #58, the webspinner aids Ghost Rider against The Trapster in ‘Panic on Pier One!’ (Pablo Marcos inks) before he can investigate further.  Another distraction comes when MTU #59 declares ‘Some Say Spidey Will Die by Fire… Some Say by Ice!’ (Claremont, Byrne & Hunt) when veteran Avenger Yellowjacket is apparently murdered by rampaging mystery maniac Equinox, the Thermo-Dynamic Man. The Amazing Arachnid is hard-pressed to stop the traumatised Waspexacting bloody vengeance in concluding episode ‘A Matter of Love… and Death!’ in MTU #60…

The secret of the clay artefact is revealed in #61 as Human Torch Johnny Storm joins his creepy-crawly frenemy in battle against the Super-Skrull and learns ‘Not All Thy Powers Can Save Thee!’, with the furious clash calamitously escalating to include Ms. Marvel Carol Danvers with the next issue’s ‘All This and the QE2’…

Despite the very best efforts of Claremont & Byrne, their Kung Fu fantasy Iron Fist never quite achieved the kind of sales traction that rewarded their collaboration on the X-Men. The living weapon lost his circulation battle with issue #15 of his own title. Although ending in spectacular fashion, the cancellation was clearly unplanned, as two major subplots went unresolved: private detective Misty Knight had disappeared on an undercover assignment to investigate European gang-boss John Bushmaster and K’un Lun kid Danny Rand was suffering repeated attacks on his chi by the enigmatic and murderous Steel Serpent…

Frustrated fans didn’t have to wait long for a resolution. Marvel Team-Up was becoming the creative team’s personal clearing house for unresolved plot-lines. Issues #63 & 64 exposed the secret of the sinister K’un Lun pariah on the ‘Night of the Dragon’ before Rand and Spidey – with the assistance of Daughters of the Dragon Misty Knight and Colleen Wing– finally ended his threat in blistering martial arts manner with ‘If Death Be My Destiny!’

This epic tome is packed with rarely-seen extras, beginning with the contents of the Marvel Comics Memory Album Calendar 1977, released in late 1976 and preceded here by a ‘Special F.O.O.M. Preview!’ from the fabled fan-mag’s #16 (December 1976) issue. The Calendar pages follow, written by Roy Thomas and limned by Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr., Joe Sinnott, Ed Hannigan, Frank Giacoia, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Ron Wilson, Gene Colan, Jack Abel, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, George Pérez, Tom Palmer, P. Craig Russell and John Verpoorten.

As an added treat, the debut/origin of “The Man-Brute Called Woodgod” (Marvel Premiere #31, August 1976) comes next as Mantlo, Keith Giffen and Klaus Janson explore the merits, ethics and repercussions of manufacturing life and meddling with nature. ‘Birthday!’ finds a modern-day faun rampaging through the ruins of a murdered town, searching for meaning and answers from the savage military men and technicians whose only solution to oversight and potential censure is murder and cover-ups…

The sinister science project saga is supplemented by F.O.O.M. #13’s interview ‘Woodgod Wanderings’ plus a gallery of Byrne original art pages.

These tales are of variable quality but all have an honest drive to entertain and please, whilst artistically the work – particularly action-man-on-fire Byrne – is superb, and most fans will find little to complain about. Although not perhaps a book for casual or more maturely-oriented readers there’s lots of fun on hand and young readers – or Marvel Cinematic supporters – will have a blast, so why not consider this tome for your “Must-Have” library? © 2021 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 Presents The X-Men Collector’s Edition (1982 Annual)


By Roy Thomas, Neal Adams, Tom Palmer & various (Grandreams/Marvel Comics International)
ISBN: 0-86227-038-3 (HB Annual)

When Stan Lee stormed the American comic-book industry in the early 1960s, his greatest weapon wasn’t the compact and brilliant talent pool available nor even the proverbial idea whose time had come, but rather his canny hucksterism and grasp of marketing and promotion. DC, Dell/Gold Key and Charlton all had limited overseas licenses (usually in black-and-white reprint anthologies) but Lee went further, reselling Marvel’s revolutionary early efforts all over the world.

In Britain, the material appeared in Class Comics and reformatted in weeklies like Pow!, Wham!, Smash! and even the venerable Eagle. There were also two almost wholly Marvel-ised papers, Fantastic and Terrific, which ran from 1967 to 1968 with only one UK originated strip in each. These slick format comics mimicked Marvel’s US “split-books” and originally featured three key Marvel properties in each. However, appearing every seven days quickly exhausted the company’s back catalogue.

After years of guesting in other publications, Marvel secured their own UK Annuals at the end of the 1960s through the publishing arm of World Distributors and – after launching their own British-based subsidiary – began a line of hardback premium reprints which made Christmas a special treat for growing Marvelites across the Kingdom and the House of Ideas a mainstay of the Yuletide season…

This particular oddment stems from 1982: a slim, sleekly repackaged but brutally trimmed down tome abridging a classic but somewhat tale from the end of the Silver Age: specifically, X-Men volume 1, #56-59, courtesy of Roy Thomas, Neal Adams & Tom Palmer.

It begins by asking ‘What is… the Power?’ and reveals an uncanny connection between the villainous Living Pharaoh and emergent mutant Alex Summers younger brother of team leader Cyclops.

By imprisoning Alex the Egyptian mastermind transforms into a colossal Living Monolith, but when he breaks free the terrified boy’s mutant energies are unleashed with catastrophic results. Savagely edited together with issue #57 the story jumps to reveal the team’s most relentless adversaries have returned and a public witch-hunt prompts the mutant-hunting Sentinels to capture X-Men and other Homo superior across the globe.

Chapter 2, ‘Mission: Murder!’ ramps up the tension as the toll of fallen mutants increases, with Iceman, the Pharaoh, Angel and Mesmero all falling to the murderous mechanoids, but when their human controller discovers an unsuspected secret the automatons strike out on their own…

With most mutants in the Marvel universe captured, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Beast are reduced to a suicidal frontal assault, pulling off a spectacular victory, but only at great cost…

Gone are the text stories, quizzes and game pages which traditionally padded out most British Christmas books, replaced with cover-to-cover superhero action produced by the House of Ideas at the very peak of its creativity. Moreover, it’s in full colour throughout – an almost unheard-of largesse at the time.

More a sign of changing attitudes than a celebration of good old days, this is still a quirky nostalgic treat for all concerned.
© MARVEL COMICS INTERNATIONAL LTD. All rights reserved

Ka-Zar Marvel Masterworks volume 1


By Arnold Drake, Steve Parkhouse, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Len Wein, Mike Friedrich, George Tuska, Barry Windsor-Smith, Herb Trimpe, John Buscema, Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Rich Buckler, Dan Adkins & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5957-5 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Fabulous Feast of Fantastic Forest Fun and Fury… 9/10

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

The primordial paragon is arguably Marvel’s oldest star, having begun life as a prose pulp star, boasting three issues of his own magazine between October 1936 and June 1937. They were authored by Bob Byrd – a pseudonym for publisher Martin Goodman or one of a fleet of writers on staff – who latterly had him shoehorned into his speculative new-fangled comic book venture Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939), beside The Angel (another pulp line graduate), Masked Raider, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner…

In 1965, when he reappeared all rowdy and renovated in X-Men #10, it was clear the uncrowned Sovereign of the Savage Land was destined for bigger and better things, but for years all we got was guest shots as a misunderstood foe du jour for Daredevil, Sub-Mariner, Spider-Man, and the Hulk.

Eventually in 1969 he got his shot at a solo saga in Marvel Super-Heroes and later that year – after Roy Thomas & Neal Adams used him so effectively in their X-Men run (#62-63) – he was awarded a giant-sized solo title reprinting all his previous appearances but strangely offering all-new stories of Hercules and the Angel. That same month, his first regular series began in a new split book entitled Astonishing Tales…

Gathering material from Marvel Super-Heroes #19; Savage Tales volume 1 #1 and Astonishing Tales #1-16, spanning March 1969 to February 1973, this initial hardback and digital volume traces Lord Plunder’s path from misjudged superhero to barbaric fantasy star. Following a revelatory Introduction by Roy Thomas, we plunge straight in to ‘My Father, My Enemy’ from Marvel Super-Heroes #19 March 1969. Scripted by Arnold Drake and Steve Parkhouse with art from George Tuska & Sid Greene it gathers scraps from previous stories to forge an origin for Ka-Zar the Jungle Master!, revealing a murky web of deceit and intrigue as Kevin Plunder quits British High Society in search of the truth about the father who apparently abandoned him and his unsavoury super-villain brother Parnival years earlier in search of a lost continent and mystery anti-metal.

At the behest of Parnival – AKA The Plunderer – Ka-Zar’s return to his spiritual home soon descends into a brutal clash with tribesmen of the Golden People safeguarding the menacing mineral and another painful half-victory for the his scurrilous sibling…

August 1970 saw the launch of Astonishing Tales with the Jungle Lord sharing space with Latverian Liege Doctor Doom. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Sam Grainger displayed ‘The Power of Ka-Zar!’ as crazed “sportsman” Kraven the Hunter sets his sights on Zabu’s pelt. A successful ambush in Antarctica sees the toothy tiger trapped and dragged back to “civilisation”. However, his human brother survives the assault and grimly follows the villain, leading to ‘Frenzy on the Fortieth Floor!’ as the second issue sees our hero – retitled Ka-Zar, Lord of the Jungle! – track his prey to Manhattan and score a stunning rescue and victory. Thomas replaced Lee here, but gave way to Gerry Conway, with Barry (Windsor) Smith joining Grainger to detail the hero’s first meeting with living god Garokk the Petrified Man urgently demanding his help in getting ‘Back to the Savage Land!’ where his ambitious Queen Priestess Zaladane has begun a war of conquest against the many tribes of the hidden continent. After sharing his all-too human origins and connection to the primordial domain, the constantly-mutating stranger is brought home just in time to become ‘The Sun God!’ in thought and deed as well as appearance; going on a destructive ‘Rampage!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia) and forcing harsh choices from Ka-Zar and his comrade Tongah of the Fall People…

AT #6 sees a stunning art job from Smith & Bill Everett as Conway’s ‘Ware the Winds of Death!’ pits the war’s survivors against reawakened alien god Damon, returned after centuries to destroy the world that took his lover Lelania, even as in faraway England a mysterious woman seeks to warn Lord Plunder of impending doom…

Thomas returns to script with Herb Trimpe illustrating concluding chapter ‘Deluge!’ as Damon is repelled – but only at tragic cost to Tongah – before Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Caspak and Caprona (with hints of Romeo and Juliet) tales inform #8’s ‘The Battle of New Britannia!’ by Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Trimpe & Tom Sutton, as Ka-Zar and Zabu explore a new region of the vast under-ice region, discovering warring colonies populated by the remnants of British and German soldiers still fighting WWII. Into this mass mess of monsters, man-apes and secret pacts and lies, parachutes the mystery girl from England, a formidable force who will eventually be superspy/Avenger Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse…

Astonishing Tales #8 was an experiment with increased page count and included an origin tale by Len Wein, George Tuska & Mike Esposito. ‘This Badge Bedeviled!’ reveals how twins Damian and Joshua Link – one a cop, the other a crook – are changed by an abortive experiment. The result was that they could combine their physicality and abilities into one body as Gemini, but sadly only one personality could dominate…

The next issue was normal-sized but now only Ka-Zar was in situ, retitled Ka-Zar, Lord of the Hidden Jungle. Moreover, thanks to scheduling problems it was as a fill-in: a pure barbarian fantasy in the manner of Conan. ‘The Legend of the Lizard Men!’ by Lee & John Buscema pitted the outraged savage against a conquering witch-queen enslaving tribes and hiding a big secret…

The ongoing storyline continues and concludes with #10 (February 1972) as Thomas, Conway, Windsor-Smith & Sal Buscema usher in a minor Götterdämmerung with an horrific secret exposed in ‘To End in Flame!’

A newish direction beckons as #11’s ‘A Day of Tigers!’ revisits, clarifies and expands upon Ka-Zar’s origin in superb tale by Thomas, Gil Kane & Giacoia detailing how a young boy lost in Savage Land forms a primal bond with a sabretooth tiger, gains a lifelong enemy in Maa-Gor the Man-Ape becomes unwilling custodian to the most dangerous element on Earth…

Astonishing Tales #12 abruptly relocates the entire cast to Florida for ‘Terror Stalks the Everglades!’ with Thomas, John Buscema & Dan Adkins recasting the Jungle King as a consultant for S.H.I.E.L.D. assisting aging biologist Dr. WilmaCalvin – who just happens to be Morse’s mentor – in tracking down missing scientist Ted Sallis…

What Ka-Zar doesn’t know is that the project all of them are working on is the recreation of the super-soldier serum that created Captain America and what nobody living knows is that Sallis succeeded. However, when Advanced Idea Mechanic agents tried to steal it, Sallis injected himself and the chemicals reacted with the swamp’s magical energies to create a mindless shambling monster.

Readers are clued in thanks to an unused interlude intended for Savage Tales #2, with Wein & Neal Adams providing a chilling recap sequence detailing the macabre Man-Thing’s previous relationship with Calvin, before we slip back to now with AIM attacking and trapping Ka-Zar with the bog-beast…

AT #13 sees Thomas, J. Buscema, Rich Buckler & Adkins expand the mystery as the Jungle Lord escapes the ‘Man-Thing!’ to focus on the real monsters, subsequently routing out a traitor and defeating AIM… for now…

Scheduling continued to be tricky and #14 featured Lee & John Buscema’s ‘The Night of the Looter’: a bowdlerised, colourised version of a rather racy thriller first seen in Savage Tales #1 wherein Ka-Zar scorns the temptations and dodges the perils brought by destructive treasure hunters from civilisation invading his hidden home, before continuity returned with #15 as Mike Friedrich, Kane & Sutton ask ‘And Who Will Call Him Savage?’

Increasingly enamoured of Barbra Morse, Ka-Zar opts to give the modern world another go, but quickly comes to despise the greed, the dirt, the greed, the callous brutality and the sheer greed of petty people, especially after encountering the drug crisis first hand and clashing with dope peddler The Pusher…

When his vile schemes almost end Wilma Calvin’s life, Ka-Zar goes wild in ‘To Stalk a City!’ (Friedrich, Buckler & Chic Stone) rampaging through the concrete jungle of New York City and delivering a king’s justice in an edgy action packed conclusion.

Also included here is the original, unedited monochrome version of Lee & Buscema’s ‘The Night of the Looter’ as seen in May 1971’s Savage Tales (volume 1 #1) lush with grey-tone washes with some gratuitous female nudity to keep readers attention high. Also on display is a pertinent text ‘Bullpen Bulletins’ page, and house ads, and the covers from aforementioned 1970 reprint series Ka-Zar volume 1, #1-3, rendered by Marie Severin and John Romita (Sr.)

Boldly bombastic, brilliantly escapist and crafted by some of the biggest and best in comics, these wild rides and riotous romps are timeless fun from the borderlands of Marvel’s endless universe: a fabulous excursion in to forgotten worlds you’ll want to treasure forever…
© 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.