Thursday, 28 January 2016

Atlas Comics' Destructor #3.

Atlas Comics, The Destructor #3, the Huntress
As I blunder around the streets of Sheffield, destroying anything that gets in my path, people often say to me, "Steve, you're so destructive that I can't believe this city's even still standing!"

And I tell them, "Hang around for another five minutes and it won't be!"

But I have to admit that even my powers of destruction are nothing besides those of a man so destructive that they actually named him after that quality.

Issue #3 of The Destructor was the earliest issue of the title I ever owned as a youth. Which means I never got to see his origin.

But, from what I can make out in this tale, he seems to be Atlas Comics' equivalent of Wolverine, being likewise blessed with animal senses and super-fast healing.

Unlike Wolverine, he appears not to be in need of a padded cell. Which is clearly a good thing as, unlike Wolverine, he has the strength to lift up buildings with his bare hands.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
And he's clearly going to need all that strength - because he's annoyed a criminal organisation called The Combine, by bashing-up their henchman Deathgrip, meaning they're out for revenge.

To get it, they set a woman on him, called The Huntress who turns out to be no match for our hero, who duly defeats her and scares a bunch of gangsters while he's at it.

The thing that strikes you is this is a blatant retread of that early Spider-Man tale where Kraven the Hunter shows up and chases Spider-Man around a park before Spider-Man gives him the good chinning he's been asking for.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
Sadly, The Huntress is a strangely ineffectual foe. Without the weapons the boss of The Combine has given her, the fight wouldn't even last ten seconds and she insists on spurning two nailed-on chances to kill The Destructor, purely so she can show off by defeating him more than once.

She also seems to have no control at all over her lackey who just does what he wants as she futilely watches and tries to convince him not to. You can't help suspecting she might not be quite the top-of-the-range assassin that everyone in the tale keeps saying she is.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3
But, of course, the most interesting thing about the issue is that, although written by Archie Goodwin, it's drawn by Steve Ditko, giving us a chance to compare his 1970s super-hero form directly with his 1960s Spider-Man work.

How does it stand up?

Quite nicely. Although it's not as stylish as his early '60s Marvel work, it shows he still has the ability to compose panels of elegant and effortless simplicity.

Sadly, like a number of his later Spider-Man tales, it gives us a story that can only be called, "Straightforward." Villain captures hero. Hero fights villain. Hero wins. All of which means it has a clear visual charm but nothing in the way of twists and turns to keep a reader gripped.

Atlas Comics, Destructor #3There's a bit of character development early on, as it turns out The Destructor's civilian identity of Jay Hunter is also the chauffeur of a crime lord he's vowed to destroy, setting up what's clearly going to be a tangled love-life with the crime lord's daughter.

However, there's not quite enough of his personal life present for my liking. And the fact that his personal life is so closely tied to his crime-fighting life makes you wonder just how far it can be developed before it starts to feel constrained and repetitive.

Despite its limitations, it does seem like one of the more thought-out Atlas comics and so ranks well above the likes of Ironjaw and The Brute but it doesn't feel very inspired and, after having re-read it for the first time since my younger days, I'll still have to stick to my long-standing belief that The Phoenix was the Atlas super-hero who had most potential, even if The Phoenix never actually got anywhere near achieving that potential.

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