Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Avengers #90. The Kree/Skrull War Part 2. The Arctic Turn.

Avengers #90, the Kree-Skrull War
The Neal Adams section of the Avengers' Kree/Skrull War might be more celebrated but I have to admit that these days I tend to enjoy its Sal Buscema prologue more.

That might be down to the latent human instinct that makes teenagers pretend they prefer bands no one's heard of to bands that're Number One. Then again, it might be that over-familiarity's dulled my appreciation of Adams' work, or simply that I was so blown-away by his part of the epic, as a child, that its inevitable inability to have the same impact on my more dulled adult senses makes me rate it less highly than it deserves.

But I suspect that, in reality, in my dotage I appreciate the efficient straightforwardness of Sal Buscema's work more than the determined sophistication of Neal Adams'. It seems to me that Sal Buscema constructed comic strips with the expert craftsmanship of a man who hand-makes makes wooden chairs for a living. They might not make it into any design museum, like those fancier chairs do, but they just feel right when you sit on them.

Of course it doesn't hurt that this issue has the advantage that a large part of it's set in a jungle and, as seen in The Avengers #88, which immediately preceded the Kree/Skrull War, there's something about jungles that seemed to bring out the best in Buscema.

And so we get the tale of how Sentry 459 kidnaps Captain Marvel, takes him to a foliage-covered island in the Arctic Circle and then mind-controls Goliath into helping it fight the Avengers as Ronan the Accuser gives the captive Mar-Vell an expository lump abut his plans to de-evolve the human race and all other life on Earth to a prehistoric state so it can pose no threat to the Kree and their future plans. We also get a nice flashback to the Sentry's first meeting with the Inhumans, and a quick recap of Mar-Vell's entire career to date.

I'm not sure how sound the science is in all this. I'm no David Attenborough (or even a Richard Attenborough) but surely de-evolving a modern dragonfly wouldn't turn it into a giant form of extinct dragonfly? I assume a modern dragonfly isn't descended from one of those extinct ones but from a different branch of the same family? As for what Hank Pym turns into; are they sure that's what man's ancient ancestors looked like? A word with Richard Leakey might have helped.

None of it matters of course. In story-telling terms it's more entertaining if Hank Pym turns into some sort of huge, mad savage that bears no real resemblance to how homo sapiens' forebears  really were than a two foot tall monkey-like thing that mostly lives on fruit, and it does give the tale a classic climax as the brutish Pym, club in hand, closes in on the unconscious Wasp. A reminder perhaps that it's alright to stage an epic but the threat of one person doing harm to another's still dramatically more potent than all the threats of worlds being destroyed.

One of the main things that strikes me about the tale is that its recap of Captain Marvel's career reminds you just how bad Captain Marvel's strip was in its early days and how bad his initial costume was. If Henry Pym can change immeasurably for the worse, it's nice to see that counter-balanced by how Captain Marvel could change immeasurably for the better.


Richard said...

On the dragonfly issue: well, obviously de-evolving a creature works however Roy Thomas -- or Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerry Casale -- say it works, because there's no real thing to compare it with! But yes, modern-day creatures are descended from differently-shaped creatures who are now extinct, and our DNA contains segments that are unchanged from those of our forebears. A modern dragonfly absolutely has some bits of extinct prehistoric dragonfly DNA inside that could tell a Kree mutation ray what they looked like back in the Permian age. In fact, there was one found in Oklahoma in 1940 that I'd bet was the very fella who inspired Roy to include that image in the story:

Steve said...

Well, I've no doubt there were giant dragonflies in the past and I've no doubt modern dragonflies still retain the DNA of their ancestors. My doubts were as to whether modern dragonflies are actually descended from those giant dragonflies or whether they're descended from a different strand of the dragonfly family.

For instance, if you de-evolved an elephant, it wouldn't turn into a mammoth because modern elephants aren't descended from mammoths. They're simply related to them. I was sort of working on the assumption that it works the same way with dragonflies. That the ancestors of the modern dragonfly would've been around at the same time as the giant dragonflies but would've been "normal-sized" and a separate sub-species.

Then again, like I say, I'm not an expert, so could be completely wrong.

Kid A said...

Are you saying you don't care for the green and white Capt. Marvel costume? I don't know what it is about it exactly, but I'm rather fond of it. I think it's the mixing of those two colors. I don't see that very often.

Steve said...

Well I'm not too keen on the colour scheme but I think it's the whole look of the thing - especially the helmet. For me, the whole ensemble lacks a certain pizazz.

The Groovy Agent said...

I'm really digging your series on the Kree/Skrull War. T'was Sal Buscema's art that turned me from being a kid who bought comics sometimes to a kid who (as my folks put it) ate, slept, and breathed comics. Believe it or not, when Neal Adams took over--I hated it! I don't now, but then it was a major blow. Still and all to me, Sal's style IS comics. Keep up the great posts, man!

Steve said...

Thanks, Groove.