Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Retro Reviews

June 1982 - week 2

"Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!"
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: John Romita Jr. and Jim Mooney
Editor: Tom DeFalco

In this entertaining tale, Spider-Man meets Juggernaut for the first time as he tries to keep him from abducting Madame Web, a feeble old woman with psychic powers.

The entire issue pretty much chronicles Juggernaut's trek through New York in search of Web's abode, while Spider-Man scrambles to stop him. Or at least slow him down until he can get help.

Unfortunately, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men and even the good Doctor Strange are nowhere to be found and so Spidey must rely on his own abilities to thwart the foe.

This was a very solid story and it did well to display the overlapping of the Marvel Universe. There's even an iconic panel with Spider-Man swinging over backed-up traffic as New Yorkers lean out of their cars to see what's going on.

Most amusing was the frequent phone calls that Madame Web made to Spider-Man, regardless of where he was at the time.

Grade: B.

"Someone Who Cares"
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: Mike Zeck and John Beatty
Editor: Jim Salicrup

It wasn't hard to figure out what the theme of this issue was.

Cap and current love interest Bernie aren't seeing eye-to-eye on what love means. Mostly because he comes from a world long since passed while she in the reality of today.

Their relationship isn't going the way Cap envisions it should since he's not head over heels in love with her as he thinks he ought to be. He determines that her love for him is unfounded as they haven't been together for a long time.

Soon thereafter, both Cap and Bernie encounter what the power of caring does in the modern world.

Bernie through the eyes of a homeless woman who had given up on hope. Cap through those of a long forgotten childhood friend who seeks help to free his roommate.

There's a lot of haziness in the story to keep it accessable on both the young reader level and the adult level, as we all know from the allusions given what Cap's old friend, Arnie, has at stake with the abduction of his roommate.

After Cap witnesses the emotions of his old friend, he comes to terms with his naive conceptions and goes to Bernie for comfort.

One of the best stories of the week, despite the villain never being revealed or even dealt with.

Grade: B+

"Land of the Pharaohs"
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin
Editor: Al Milgrom

This was another one of the best stories of the week and what made it so was Roger Stern's seamless integration of a classic FANTASTIC FOUR tale.

Time travel is always a touchy subject and it's hard to tell a good story revolving around the premise without goofing somewhere. However, here we get Doctor Strange travelling back thousands of years to the same exact spot and time that the Fantastic Four did during their encounter with Rama-Tut, who's yet another time-traveller from the far future.

So you have Rama-Tut from the future, Doctor Strange from the present and the Fantastic Four from the past (from before Strange met them, even) all converging in the same place and time. It should be a headache to orchaestrate. Stern proves to be very talented as he makes it work remarkably well.

Of course, that's just part of the fun as Doc is there searching for a previous incarnation of Morganna Blessing, a mystically aware person who's had a nasty experience which caused her to send a shockwave through all her past lives.

Things appear to be direly serious as even Nightmare, one of the Sorceror Supremes most dangerous enemies, is spurring him on. It's revealed that once the shockwave hits the dawn of time even he will be destroyed.

Roger Stern has truly proven that he is worthy of continuing Doctor Strange's adventures. He grasps both the cosmic and the humane and mixes them both into an engaging read.

Grade: A+

"Personal Demons"
Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Bob Budiansky and Dave Simons
Editor: Tom DeFalco

Unfortunately, as much as Stern impressed me with his DOCTOR STRANGE, I was pretty much uninterested in his GHOST RIDER.

From the opening scene where Ghost Rider bullies a motorcycle cop to the ending where he cleanses a town drunk, I simply got the feeling that Stern was just going through the motions.

There were some moments where I thought maybe I would be lured into it. Once with the appearance of Red Fowler, a man who was once upstaged by Johnny Blaze (the human persona of Ghost Rider) but now secretly harbors the knowledge of who Johnny is. And then again with the introduction of Cynthia Randolph, a reporter digging into Johnny's persoal life.

Nevertheless, the Evel Knievel antics through a maze that would seem more at home in the X-Men's Danger Room brought a pause to the rather trivial story about a man, his girl and his best friend.

Budiansky's art was nice as far as the character renditions go, but I felt that some pages had way too many panels which left you with smaller images. With more panels you'd expect faster action but instead there was much more dialogue which sometimes slowed it down.

Grade: C.

"Knave, Thy Name is Nemesis!"
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Gil Kane and Danny Bulanadi
Editor: Al Milgrom

We catch up with the Micronauts as they've found themselves trapped on earth trying to find a way back to Homeworld.

Each is having different reactions to their plight. Some brood over lost friends and lovers while others reflect upon what they still have.

Meanwhile, near where the team is stranded, Janet Van Dyne (the Avengers' Wasp) is holding a glamorous banquet which is crashed by an old enemy. Bug, sensing Wasp's troubles through an "insect" connection with her, leads his comrades to defend her.

The old enemy, Doctor Nemesis, had discovered Hank Pym's adamantium armor that he was going to use to make himself a more useful Avenger. This, coupled with Nemesis' ability to shrink things to nothingness, makes him almost unbeatable until a mishap turns the tables. And changes the team in the process.

Gil Kane's art in this issue was great to behold as he is one of the masters, in my opinion. Devil and Bug stood out as his best. And of course nude Wasp...

But please... That helmet looks silly on Arcturus!

Grade: B

"Cut Adrift Off the Coast of America"
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Bill Sienkiewicz and Steve Mitchell

And now we come to the last of the three best stories of the week.

Moon Knight is on a mission to keep a terrorist named Arsenal from destoying Manhatten through an elaborate scheme involving oil tankers.

In frightening detail, Moench establishes what the villain intends to do and how he plans to go about it. While it may seem a bit far-fetched, it also comes off quite feasible.

Through infiltration of Arsenal's base, Moon Knight and girlfriend Marlene manage to defeat the maniac and keep the city safe. All this and kung-fu chicks in bikinis!

This was one of the books that really seperates Moon Knight from other super-heroes. There's a grittiness to his world. A kind of harsh reality that he just seems to skate the edge of. Unlike other heroes of his kind he is more at home in the streets and on the same level as those that he helps.

Grade: A

THOR #320
"Blake's Managerie"
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Keith Pollard, Stone and Tartag
Editor: Jim Salicrup

One of my favorite topics is mythology. When I was in junior high I was more interested in the Greek Gods than I was in American History. So, it'd be no surprise that Thor would be one of my favorite characters, as well.

However, this issue finds Thor spending most of his time sort of babysitting a group of Asgardians who had been imprisoned on Earth and set free accidentally by his visit to a museum.

All would be well and good, except that each one requires a human host to manifest in physical form, of which one is Thor's friend, Shawna Lynde. This means that the humans or the Gods could exist but not both.

Before long, though, the Asgardians learn that their revelry on Midgard (Earth) is too intense for frail humans and agree to return to whence they came. Then they learn that someone else had a hand in their return...

It was a good read but a bit too heavy on the situational comedy. Plus, not enough Asgard for my tastes. Although, with the subplot brewing in the first few pages, we may be seeing something coming up pretty soon.

Grade: B

Next review stack:
CONAN #135
ROM #31
X-MEN #158

Previous Retro Reviews:
June 1982 - week 1


doppelganger said...

You got access to a scanner?
Love to see some Micronauts interior art (and not just nude wasp!)

Republic of Replicants said...

I do.

I'll see what I can do.

glen davis said...

That issue of Ghost rider was pretty pedestrian. The powers of HellFire against some drunk guy driving a tractor.

Republic of Replicants said...

Yeah. Exactly!

Stern just wasn't on the same level of quality that he was showing in DOCTOR STRANGE.