Sunday, 17 August 2014

Supergirl #4 - The Borrowed Brain.

Supergirl #4, The Borrowed Brain, cover
As we all know, no good ever came of having a brain.

I happen to know this because I happen to know that all the worst ideas in human history were conceived by people with a brain.

If only we all had the intellectual development of a lettuce; how peaceful the world would be.

Well, that was all very philosophical. I feel like Stan Lee, rappin' with his readers in Stan's Soapbox.

As regards the brain situation, clearly this is a rap that needs laying down on Supergirl, as she literally - and unwisely - gives a would-be master criminal a piece of her mind.

What happens is this. As desperate for a bunk-up as ever, Linda Danvers instantly falls in love with David, a student she meets at a pool party.

Supergirl #4, Sappy love
It's true! Stay clear of his sappy love, Linda!
With the inevitability of night following day, it turns out he's a criminal genius who only wants to hang around with Linda so he can use her as an alibi. You have to hand it to Supergirl, her homing beacon for inappropriate romance never seems to get weaker.

Sadly, David isn't as bright as he thinks he is because, trying to get brownie points with the authorities, he gives himself massive brain damage whilst saving one of Linda's flatmates from death in a swimming pool.

Well, there's no way Supergirl's going to let her latest dreamboat be a vegetable for the rest of his life. So, with the aid of a Kandorian scientist, she transfers some of her brain cells into David's head.

Supergirl #4, brain surgery
Don't try this at home, kids.
There's only one problem.

The new brain cells promptly give him super powers, enabling him to embark on an even better life of crime than before.

Except it doesn't - because no sooner has he begun his super crime spree than he loses his powers and Supergirl hands him in to the cops.

Will Linda Danvers ever develop the sense to find a decent boyfriend?

Supergirl #4, Super-DavidObviously not.

After all, where would DC's Silver and Bronze Age writers have been without every boyfriend she ever had turning out to be a robot/woman/horse/statue/murderer/ghost/whatever?

On the face of it, this issue should be a reason to celebrate as, after three issues of Supergirl coming up against no kind of threat to her at all, she finally comes up against someone who can be a match for her, thus theoretically upping the dramatic stakes.

Sadly, the dramatic stakes remain well and truly un-upped, as no sooner has she encountered David in his super form than he promptly loses his powers. Again, I suspect this is down to the comic having to accommodate a Zatanna back-up strip and therefore the page count having to be kept down.

Yet again, there's no mention whatsoever of mysterious flatmate Wanda Five. I really would love to know just what happened with that storyline. I'm starting to wonder if Supergirl's murdered her and the truth is being kept from us.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Zatanna meets the Pied Piper - Supergirl #2.

Supergirl #2, Zatanna does time travelOnly the other day, I suggested that part of the reason why Supergirl's adventures in her own 1970s comic were neither involved nor involving was because she only had part of the comic to herself and it inherently limited how complex the tales could get.

That's because, even though it was her comic, she was having to share it with that enchanting enchantress of enchantment Zatanna - not to be confused with Satanna.

Perhaps that, therefore, is my cue to take a look at what the Mistress of Magic was up to in issue #2 while Supergirl was trying to inflate Kandor.

It seems that the city Zatanna is in is being overrun by rats.

Quick as a flash, she comes up with the solution.

She'll go back in time and bring the Pied Piper to the present, so he can deal with the rats, leaving her free to do whatever it is she does when other people are doing the donkey work for her.

Supergirl #2, Zatanna meets the Pied PiperNeedless to say, no sooner has she arrived back in Hamelin than she's attacked by ergot-crazed locals who hack her to pieces and...

...Oh.

No.

That doesn't happen. Instead, she finds the Pied Piper all set to dispatch the rats and steal the town's children. Our heroine makes a quick attempt to prevent their abduction, fails and promptly loses all interest in them. All she cares about is chin-wagging amiably with their abductor.

Totally unfazed by her claims to be from the future, he agrees to go back with her.

Except it doesn't work. When she gets back to the present, there's no sign of him.

But then who shows up? Why, it's the local rat-catcher. And blow me down with a feather if he isn't the spitting image of the Pied Piper. It seems fate works in mysterious ways.

Supergirl #2I'd like to say it's a masterpiece but the truth is it's pretty lame. We have to put up with Zatanna delivering half her lines backwards, which means you have to make far too much effort to find out what she's saying and, when you do, it turns out she's not said anything interesting.

There's also the issue of the stolen children. Obviously, Zatanna has to accept she can't rewrite history but she could try showing some sort of concern over their fate and at least ask the Piper just what he's done with them. Instead, she seems to forget all about them the moment she realises she can't save them.

There're no credits given for the tale but it's pretty clear it's drawn by Don Heck on one of his midling days, though I suspect I see the hand of Dick Giordano in the inking.

So, there you go. Enchanted it may have been, but magic it wasn't.

Or perhaps I should say, "T'nsaw ti cigam."

I am now going to make ten million people read this post.

Tsop siht ta kool, elpoep noillim net.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Supergirl #3 - The Garden of Death.

Supergirl #3, Dateless Supergirl
There aren't many people in this world who can come up with plans even more unlikely than the Maid of Might's but Supergirl issue #3 provides us with just such an individual.

After being dumped by her latest boyfriend, our heroine discovers that horticulturalist Albert Brooks, the father of a fellow student of hers, has been arrested for murdering various people, including local crime boss, "Lucky Coin," Lacey.

With all the evidence pointing toward him, it looks like curtains for Brooks.

But it's not long before the clue-happy Kandorian discovers he's been framed by Lacey who's alive and well and, thanks to a crooked plastic surgeon, now looks and sounds exactly like Brooks.

His plan is this;

He's framed Brooks for his murder, so that Supergirl will get involved and clear Brooks. Then, when Brooks is released, Lacey can kidnap him, kill him and take his place, on the grounds that no one would suspect him of having killed and replaced the man who's just been cleared of murdering him.

Supergirl #3
This plan, of course, depends on his fake body being found, even though it's buried in a private garden, Supergirl getting involved, Supergirl believing Brooks to be innocent for no good reason, Supergirl clearing Brooks and then losing all interest in the case and making no attempt at all to solve it from that point on.

Call me a sceptic but, given all the variables involved, I can see no way this plan could possibly succeed. Nor can I see why Lacey didn't just kill Brooks and take his place without all the other stuff involved, thus avoiding the involvement of Supergirl who's clearly going to be the biggest threat to his plan's prospects of success.

As with the other tales I've so far reviewed in this series, it's all a bit tame, as, for the second time in three issues, Kara goes all Murder She Wrote on us and faces no danger to herself whatsoever.

Supergirl #3, Venus Flytrap
Admittedly, there is a scene where she's eaten by a giant Venus flytrap - whose presence is never explained - but there's never any threat that it's going to be able to do her any actual harm.

Probably the real mystery that sticks in the mind in this issue is the whereabouts of Wanda Five.

I'm sure you recall that, in issue #1, she was introduced to us as Linda Danvers' enigmatic new flatmate - the one with strange alien artefacts in her room. At the end of that tale, we were left in no doubt that the solving of that riddle was going to be a major plank of the series and probably its driving force. In this tale, however, Linda now has two totally different flatmates who we've never seen before and there's not a mention of Wanda Five. Where on Earth - or off it - has she got to and how has Supergirl so totally forgotten about her?

Supergirl #3, Ooooff
Of course, anyone with any sense would at this point be asking why I'm bothering to review Supergirl stories when they're totally tame, lack any kind of tension and make no sense.

The answer's simple. Like Supergirl herself, these tales have a strange charm that defies all attempts at critical analysis. They're just oddly likeable. Like candy floss.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Forty years ago today - August 1974.

What's this? Claims in the news that there are plans to link-up Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle into one mighty northern mega-city of awesomeness?

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of exactly forty years ago being equally awesome?

Or were they, instead, being as thrilling as a dead whippet in Wetwang?

Only a trip in Steve Does Comics' ferret-stuffed flat cap of Time can tell us.

Behold! The Past!


Avengers #126, Klaw

Is there something wrong with me? I have no recollection at all of ever having read this story, even though it must, presumably, be reprinted in an Essential Avengers book that I  have in a cupboard not more than five feet away from where I'm sat right now.

It's madness, I tell you! Madness!
Conan the Barbarian #41, the Garden of Death and Life

I suspect, from the title, that things have got so bad for our Antediluvian aggro-meister that he can't even meet vegetables now without them wanting to kill him.
Captain America and the Falcon #176

It's the classic tale where Steve Rogers has one almighty great mard-fit and decides to quit being Captain America.
Daredevil #112, Mandrill

Hooray! The Mandrill shows up!

Admittedly, I can never see the name, "Mandrill," without being reminded of an unwatchable TV show called Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters that Yorkshire TV insisted on inflicting on late night viewers in the early 1980s. How our brains melted in the merciless onslaught of their Country and Westernness. Frankly, just the thought of having to watch that show inflicted more terror into my heart than even a talking, homicidal, sexed-up baboon ever could. And those aren't words I say lightly.
Fantastic Four #149, the Sub-Mariner

Subby's back and causing yet more mischief for our heroes.
Incredible Hulk #178, Warlock reborn

Biblical allegory gets laid on with a trowel as Warlock does the Jesus thing.
Iron Man #69

I can't help feeling that any tale that has the Mandarin, the Unicorn, Sunfire and The Yellow Claw in it might prove to be a little overcrowded - especially in the ego department.
Amazing Spider-Man #135, the Tarantula and the Punisher

It's another classic John Romita cover as Spider-Man and the Punisher team up to tackle the Tarantula.
Thor #226, Galactus

Galactus being a bit of a sad-sack there.
X-Men #89, the Sub-Human

I am totally unfamiliar with this tale but, to be honest, if I was labelled, "The Sub-Human," I'd probably want to smash things up too.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Supergirl #2 - The Death of a City.

Supergirl #2, Death of a City
Crikey! Has it really been a week since I reviewed issue #1 of the maid of might's very own 1970s comic?

That can only mean one thing.

I have to review issue #2!

And I will!

Discovering that her university professor Allan is on the verge of death just as he's about to make a breakthrough in the treatment of sickle cell anaemia, Supergirl takes him into the bottled city of Kandor, in the hope that, there, she can find a cure for whatever it is that's afflicting him.

Inevitably, not all goes to plan and it's not long before the pair find themselves kidnapped by a giant bird.

Still, our heroine is never one to give up and it's not much longer than that before she's located the coffin of a Kandorian scientist who conveniently has the cure for all known ailments, clutched in his dead hands.

Supergirl #2, Desert of Burning Hands
Sadly, it's only after she's administered Allan with the cure for everything that Supergirl realises it tends to make its recipient grow at an alarming rate.

Thus it is that he's now growing uncontrollably, is too big to get out of the bottle and is in imminent danger of crushing the entire city to death.

Supergirl #2, Supergirl inflates KandorThat's when Supergirl comes up with a solution that has to be one of the stupidest that even she's ever contrived, as, having exited it, she super-heats the bottle to make it malleable and then inflates it with her super-breath, so she can pull Alan out of it before it's too late.

Now, I don't like to poke holes in things but how on Earth do the people of Kandor possibly survive this mega-exposure to furnace-like heat and the massive pressure of her super-breath?

Supergirl #2, giant bird
That's, of course, assuming that they do survive.

In fact, we never see them again from that point on in the story. So perhaps they don't survive. Perhaps Supergirl's just killed the lot of them and we're being spared the distressing truth by writer Cary Bates and penciller Art Saaf.

The truth is that, Supergirl's homicidal methodology aside, it's a slight tale. You can't help feeling the main strip's suffering from the fact it's having to share the comic with a Zatanna back-up tale, meaning space constraints are forcing the main story to be on the flimsy side.

Oh well, we do at least get to see Supergirl fighting giant octopuses - and what more could a man or woman want in life?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Fifty years ago today - August 1964.

As all the finest scholars know, the month of August didn't get that name by accident.

Good grief, no.

It's named after August Darnell of Kid Creole and the Coconuts fame.

But were our favourite Marvel heroes of fifty years ago going nuts? Or were they just sitting back and drinking their cocoa?

There's only way to find out.


Avengers #7, Enchantress, Zemo and the Executioner

It would appear that the Enchantress and the Executioner have teamed up with Baron Zemo to cause trouble for Marvel's finest.
Daredevil #3, the Owl

The super-soar-away Owl makes his debut.

You can't help feeling that, if he'd played his cards right, the Owl could have been Daredevil's answer to the Kingpin.

Clearly he didn't play his cards right, and the Kingpin ended up being Daredevil's answer to the Kingpin.

But take a look at DD. How could anyone not love that red and yellow costume?

How?

How??
Fantastic Four #29, the Watcher, Yancy Street

I believe this tale sees the return of the Red Ghost and yet another trip to the moon for our heroes.
Journey into Mystery #107, Thor and the Grey Gargoyle

The Grey Gargoyle makes his debut.

I've always liked the Grey Gargoyle. Leaving aside the fact he spells, "Grey," the British way, he's always seemed a most unpleasant cove and a bit of a bounder.
Spider-Man #15, Kraven the Hunter

It's clearly a big month for debuts, as Kraven the Hunter makes his first appearance.
Strange Tales #123, the Human Torch and Dr Strange

Swipe me down with a can of Raid! It's yet another dastardly debut, as the Beetle shows his face for the first time.

But there's a worse peril for the Human Torch around, as Dr Strange now has fifty percent of the cover - and a battle with Loki to give us! How can our flaming phenomenon ever hope to see off such a challenge?
Tales of Suspense #56, Iron Man vs the Unicorn

The Unicorn makes his horny debut.
Tales to Astonish #58, Giant-Man vs Colossus

Well, with all these great villains making their first appearances this month, just what legendary foe can Giant-Man give us?

That's right.

It's Colossus.

No wonder Hank Pym went mad.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Marvel Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy #5. A New York state of mind.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5
The visitor stats to the World's Greatest Blog tell me that now is the ideal moment to cash in on the impending release of the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie by posting an article that mentions the Guardians of the Galaxy a lot.

But how can I contrive to post an article on here that mentions the Guardians of the Galaxy a lot?

How?

How??

How???

I know!

I'll do a review of an issue of the Guardians of the Galaxy!

I suspect that anyone who read the Guardians' original run in Marvel Presents most remembers the issue where, in search of a transistor with which they can repair their obviously state-of-the-art spaceship, four of the Guardians find themselves on an alien world almost identical to New York circa 1980.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, New York
Needless to say, with their highly developed social skills, it's not long before they're all involved in various scraps and scrapes, with Charlie-27 in a post-bar-brawl police cell, as Nikki finds herself at war with a religious cult, while Yondu and Vance Astro find themselves accused of theft from a radio shop.

And, needless to say, there's a twist in the tale when - rescued at the end of the mag, with seemingly all of New York out to kill them - it turns out the world is in fact not a planned society but a lunatic asylum that resembles New York because the inmates have been left to create the society that best suits their madness.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Vance Astro
The decision to launch the Guardians into space was clearly an attempt to redo Star Trek and nowhere is that more obvious than in this tale, which is clearly inspired by those Star Trek episodes where Kirk and friends found themselves on planets that resembled prohibition America, Nazi Germany or Ancient Rome.

With its not exactly subtle satire by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom, it's not what you'd call a classic but it's all good fun and passes the time painlessly while fitting into the vibe you got from Milgrom during his run on Captain Marvel. In fact, you could easily imagine this being done as a one-off Captain Marvel tale. Whisper it quietly but you could even imagine it being done as a Jim Starlin Warlock tale, with Adam, Pip and Gamora in the Guardians' place. In the latter instance, you suspect the satire would have been handled more darkly and more bitingly.

Marvel Presents the Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Nikki
My favourite character in this story has to be the Mercurian Nikki who comes across as a less irritating but more troublesome predecessor to the X-Men's Jubilee.

The most annoying character has to be Vance Astro with his non-stop racism directed at Yondu. It might have made sense for him to look down his nose at Yondu as an ignorant savage when they first met but, after all the adventures they've had together, you'd have thought he'd have learned some sort of respect for him by now.

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