Well here we are to my third box of unread comics. For those who haven't followed, theoretically I read a comic a day of comics I bought and never got around to reading. Some of them going back to the early '90s (well when I bought them I should say). I will review some of those comics. I tried to post one once a week, but I do get lazy.
Astonishing Tales #25
Cover art by: Rich Buckler & Klaus Janson
Story: A Cold Knight's Frenzy
Writers: Rich Buckler & Doug Moench
Pencils: Rich Buckler
Inks: Rich Buckler with help by Klaus Janson, Al Milgrom, and Mike Esposito
We jump right into the action as Deathlok is on the trail of two guys, and he is being paid to kill both of them. He takes care of business, but his human mind enjoys the killing, and the computer part finds this grossly illogical. Deathlok then flies his helicopter to meet his employer, Julian Biggs, for payment. When he lands there is some muscle up there to keep him away from Biggs. They explain to him they will conduct all of the business. Deathlok, doesn't agree to this plan, and attempts to move around them. Two of the thugs attack Deathlok, and he kills them. He allows the third, who did nothing, to live.
Throughout this action we are given flashbacks to Deathlok's origin. He is in fact Col. Luther Manning. A soldier who was nearly killed by a bomb, and his superior Major Ryker is the one who instigates the procedure to turn him into a cyborg. Part of his reasoning is that he wants to keep Manning's “strategic extrapolations” intact. Also, he believes Manning will be the first in a line of cyborg super soldiers who will be totally subservient to him. This being comics, Manning's human mind rebels and he escapes from Maj. Ryker.
Deathlok finally makes it into Julian Biggs' office, and demands payment. Biggs' laughs at him, and tells him he has no money, that he did the job for free, and what does a cyborg need money for anyways? Deatlok gets mad and begins to beat Biggs' and discovers that he is a cyborg as well. Ryker's voice comes out of Biggs' head laughing at Deathlok. Now he knows Manning's plans (to get his brain transplanted into a different body), and he now has more cyborgs who will stop at nothing to hunt down and kill Manning. Just then Ryker's girlfriend enters the room he is in, and discovers that Ryker is an android too!
My exposure to Deathlok before this issue was nil, or close to it. I knew of the character, but that was about it. This was one of those comics that my LCS pulled for me, and unlike the Legion comics he pulls, I have no idea why. I'm glad he did though.
I thought the inner monologue between then human (Manning) part of Deathlok and computer part of his brain was very well done, and easy to follow. The action sequences were very well done, and I like that his knife is just magnetized to his leg. I found some of the page layouts a little hard to follow, but that was my only complaint art side. There is a little text piece in the back with Rich Buckler, Doug Moench, and editor Roy Thomas discussing the book. That was interesting as well, and we learn the name Deathlok comes from the fact that Manning is locked between life and death. He is to the point he would commit suicide but the computer portion of his brain won't let him.
I give it an E for Entertaining.
The Atom #29
Cover art by: Gil Kane
Story: The Thinker's Earth-Shaking Robberies!
Writer: Gardner Fox
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inks: Sid Greene
Ray Palmer and Jean Loring are at a rare bookends exhibit when everyone suddenly doubles over in pain as if affected by the bends that divers get. Ray sees some dude with a bulky helmet, and he fight through the pain to transform in the Atom! He attacks the guy, but is taken aback when the bad guy throws a gold bar at him. The villain brought some help, who are wearing wet suits, and they fire a couple of harpoons at the Atom. He quickly knocks them out and when the bad guy escapes, Ray follows him through a portal.
We soon learn that they are on Earth-2, and the villain has designed a thinking cap, and dubbed himself the Thinker. His plan is to rob Earth-1 as a villain and live a quiet life as a civilian on Earth-2. Unfortunately, there is already people on Earth-2 looking for a villain named the Thinker.
Next we look upon a man named Artie who has awakened from his slumber, and sees a gold bar, and some bookends on the floor near his bed. His wife walks in on him, and claims he has been stealing again. Artie claims he is innocent. His wife tells him, even if she did believe him the cops wouldn't. He calls the one person who may be able to help him, Al Pratt, the Atom of Earth-2. He was the one who caught Artie and set him on the straight and narrow path. Once he learns about Artie's dilemma the Atom jumps into his, sigh, Atomobile to help out.
The Thinker of Earth-1 uses his thinking helmet to determine that he is somehow forcing someone on Earth-2 to commit crimes on Earth-2. He creates a doohicky to track down who is committing the crimes on Earth-2. He will then collect those stolen items, and turn the poor guy over to the police. Allowing him to complete his plan of robbing Earth-1 and living peacefully on Earth-2. The Thinker them commits his next act of thievery, and Artie again mimics the Thinker. Al tries to stop Artie, but is unable to stop him. Even unleashing his mightiest blow on Artie. Unable to stop Artie, Al just follows him to see what happens. Artie finally snaps to, wondering what has happened, when his phone rings. Al answers it, and Ray Palmer flies out.
The Thinker then materializes through a wall and attacks the two Atoms. He knocks them, plus Artie, out. He then leaves the trio in an “inescapable” trap. An electrified wire cage. That holds them just until Palmer. Who wakes up, shrinks, and flies out. He then uses rubber handles scissors to cut a hole for Al Pratt to escape. Yet, Artie remains in a coma.
Al then creates a device that tracks the Thinker's telekinetic energy. The pair finally capture the The Thinker, using the ol' both guys punching him in the face at the same time gambit. Using their smarts, they agree to let the police of both Earths try to deal with the Thinker and his stolen booty. I'm sure it might be a legal nightmare.
I picked this up originally simply for the crossover of the two Atoms. It was a fairly fun romp, and I always dig Gil Kane's art. A rare bookend exhibit, though seems pretty niche-y. The Thinker's henchmen wearing scuba gear was a little weird. Eventhough everyone seemed to be suffering from a bends like problem it was created by the Thinker, so I figure he could shield his men from it. Maybe someone thought it would look cool...it didn't.
I liked how Ray was able to determine where he was pretty quickly. The stars where in the same position as where he was, but it is raining where he is now, ergo it must be Earth-2. I also enjoyed Al Pratt showing off his own intelligence by creating the tracking device to locate the Thinker. It wasn't often we (or really me) got to see him use his brains.
Oh yeah, I don't care what anyone thinks, I always like the checkerboard on those DC Comics covers
This was one of the first Silver Age books I actually owned!
Rare bookend exhibit? Ivy Town is one rocking place!!
The Thinker was a Golden Age Flash villain who was revived in the landmark Flash #123. He wore a business suit and his thinking cap which, honestly, looked like a colander with wires! This was an attempt to amp him up but he seldom wore the blue & purple costume.
The *sigh* Atomobile was part of DC's Silver Age agenda to update and revitalize their Golden Age heroes. Most of the "improvements" didn't last long!
The E-2 Atom was described as a professor of history!!! at Calvin College! Apparently Al Pratt never left the university!
The two Atoms met again in #36 (My'68) and that was a weird story!
There was an interesting sub-plot that you neglected to mention, Travis, in which Jean Loring defends a divorced actress whose former in-laws are trying to get custody of her son by saying that she cannot work and be a mother. A pretty taboo subject for a comic book!
Just to get back to Deathlok, the most striking thing about him is that he could be an archetypal 2000AD anti-hero, like Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog or Rogue Trooper, all of whom are members of quasi-military forces that enforce a murky order, like Deathlok. Their stories were violent, nihilistic, at odds with corrupt authority, and set in a dystiopioan future where technology run rampant isn't neccessarily a great thing - like Deathlok.
What's fascinating is that Deathlok was created on another continent, years before 2000AD even existed. But his creator was tapping into the same well of paranoia and future-fear that 2000AD would return to again and again. It's like parallel evolution - different circumstances leading to very similar results. I doubt 2000AD characters were inspired by Deathlok either, as they jumped towards their archetypal heroes in fits and starts once they began, and its possible to see how they drew directly from such inspirations as Dirty Harry and Hollywood schlock that 2000Ad's readership would have been too young to see themselves.
Not so long ago, I mentioned that Buckler had inked part of one of Ditko's Micronauts annuals, and added the comment "whoever he is"! Since then Luke has pointed me towards that series of articles and I have a lot of time for Buckler now, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was he who created Deathlok. He tried to maintain a kind of independence as a creator that was admirable, even if he was possibly punished for it along the way.
Buckler even ghost-penciled the Phantom for a while for Sy Barry, which is a big whoop in my book. I must read the rest of those posts when I have the time.
Although tonally quite different, Deathlok hit the same problem as the Micronauts in that his own story was impossible to tie into the MU proper with guest-appearances in Two-in-One and what have you. I can see how stories in his own era would be artisitically more satisfying, but lower-selling than stories involving the rest of the Marvel spandex set.
Roll on that Essential Deathlok, Marvel!
The selling point of Deathlok was that he was a cyborg, similar to TV's Six Million Dollar Man but without the rugged good looks. There was Marvel Team-Up #45 where Deathlok met a time travelling Spider-Man (Long Story!) that took place in the unknown future of 1990!!!! But Deathlok was brought into the mainstream MU in Marvel Two-In-One #27 (My'77) after his series ended. He was plucked from the time stream and controlled by Mentallo and the Fixer. He was sent to assassinate President Jimmy Carter!!! Holy Topical Reference!! That tale involved The Thing, Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four and a surprise guest star!
Deathlok was taken by SHIELD and later was involved (in a way) in the Project: Pegasus saga. There was a time travel four-parter in Captain America with great Mike Zeck art and covers as well.
So, put me down for an Essential Deathlok, too!
Unlike the Flash and Green Lantern of Earth-Two, who made multiple appearances in their Earth-One counterparts' magazines, the original Atom appeared only twice in The Atom---this story and in issue # 36 (Apr.-May, 1968).
I don't know why Julius Schwartz and Gardner Fox waited so long to pair up the two Tiny Titans and then did it only twice, because in one aspect, seeing the two Atoms work together had a distinctive element. Unlike the Flashes or the G.L.'s, the two Atoms possessed different super-powers. That leant a certain versatility to seeing them in action.
The first GL/GL team-up was in Green Lantern #40 from 1965, and they teamed-up four times (#40, #45, #52, #68). The title came out eight times a year, so this was roughly a once-a-year rate. The second team-up came five issues after the first, but eight months later since the title wasn't a monthly. Possibly the first one sold well, and the creative team followed it up as soon as they could.
The first Atom/Atom team-up came a bit over a year after the first GL/GL story. Atom was a bimonthly, so the second team-up came out an issue over a year after the first. After #36 there were only two more issues before the title became The Atom and Hawkman.
I'm a big Deathlok fan myself. I guess its kind of my extension of RoboCop-love!
Anyway, check out the recent Deathlok story by Jason Aaron in the "Wolverine: Weapon X" books. It features Deathloks (yes, plural) from the original Deathlok timeline as well as the Deathlok we all love.