An in-depth, issue-by-issue exploration of Marvel's Micronauts comics, including background on the Mego toys, the publishing contexts of its 1978 - 85 run, as well as its place in the pop culture and some of its lasting influences.

                                                          

Last Free Comicbook Day I managed to almost complete my recently started back-issue collection of Micronauts.  I have almost all the issues up to the end of volume one and a few of volume two, but as Bill Mantlo wasn’t involved in volume 2, I’m not as interested in those.  I think it’s great that the writer who created the comic series was able to tell the stories he wanted to tell for 60+ issues.  (More or less – see later posts.)

The story is that Mantlo was inspired to create the Micronauts comic series at Christmas 1977, when he looked closely at some of the Micronauts toys his son had got.  The Micronaut toy line was begun in 1976 by Mego, and Micronauts issue #1 was released by Marvel comics just before December 1978 with a January 1979 cover date.  (30 years ago!)  It was Mantlo who pushed Marvel to acquire the rights to the toys as he was convinced he could tell a great tale with the properties.  Sadly, this meant that Mantlo’s perhaps best and most fondly remembered work is twice removed from him in terms of ownership of the ideas.

This is a good site that focuses on the toys rather than the comics, and will give you an idea of the raw materials that Mantlo had to work with.

The dates are interesting, because a lot of Micronauts is reminiscent of Star Wars, which was released in May 1977.  Most similar is the major villain Baron Karza, who, with his jet-black armor and face-covering, grill-mouthed helmet, is incredibly similar to Darth Vader.  A lot of the elements of the story too, are similar, beyond the rollicking space-opera/medieval fantasy feel.  Baron Karza commands a galaxy-wide empire and our heroes are a minority band fighting what seems at first to be a hopeless rebellion.  Further, just like Star Wars, the hope for the future lies with the children of the recently ousted royalty.  (Princess Mari is even introduced wearing a kind of headdress that is an echo of Princess Leia's Apple Strudel earmuffs)

As the toys, the comic and the movie all came out around the same time, it’s possible that they were all thought up independently, but some of the plot developments in Mantlo’s tale must have been partially inspired by Star Wars.  The series is ostensibly science fiction, but like Star Wars there is a force permeating the universe that functions much as magic would in a fantasy story.  In Jack Kirby’s New Gods it was called the Source, in Lucas’s film, the Force, and in Mantlo’s comicbook space-opera it is the Enigma Force that binds the universe together and grants supernatural powers to those who can tap into it. 

In many ways Micronauts is a much more successful attempt to do what Kirby was trying to do several years before.  It is much more accessible and simple than the New Gods, which was off-putting to many.  It’s a more kid-friendly New Gods with the corners knocked off it and the rough edges smoothed out.

 

Issue 1

Mantlo came up with a fairly original source of Karza’s political power, which has nothing to do with the toys.  Karza is a former professor whose control of the body banks, where obedient citizens’ lives can be extended indefinitely, has given him power over the whole society.  Fear of death is something fundamentally human, so it’s interesting to see it worked into this fantasy tale so overtly.

The main hero of the early parts of the story is Commander Rann, also known as Space Glider.  He has been on an extended deep space voyage to the edge of the universe for the past 1000 years, so he serves as an excuse to tell the reader what has been happening in the meantime.  His many years of suspended animation have somehow linked him to the Time Travellers, who are otherworldly representatives of the Enigma Force.  His ship is very old-fashioned compared to what are used now in Karza’s empire, so what took him hundreds of years can now be travelled in a matter of days. 

A helluva lot happens in the first issue.  Prince Argon and Princess Mari are captured by Karza.  In his prisons they meet Commander Rann, the mighty warrior Prince Acroyear and the roguish Bug.  We also meet the robot pair of the tall, fastidious Biotron and the small, brave Microtron.  (Hhhmmmm!)

Rounding out the cast are the mysterious shadow priests, the villainous Acroyear Shaitan, and the enigmatic Time Traveller himself.

At the end of the issue, the rebels, having escaped from the prisons, flee to the very edge of the universe and break through to the Universe beyond.

Issue one ends with the following:  “Six fugitives breach the fabric of space and streak faster-than-light speeds towards.... EARTH!”

 

(1400 - 170512)

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When Captain Marvel sent the Hulk back to Jarella's world (after her death) he had to plot a course there for him. The shrinking-throws-us-into-another-universe idea might be from Byrne's Psycho-Man story in Fantastic Four (I think I saw it in #282).
I think you might be right about that Fantastic Four reference, Luke, or you might be thinking about the parallel world inhabited by Reed Richard's father, the ancestor (IIRC) of Kang the conqueror.

Regarding the story in which Captain Marvel sent the Hulk back to Jarella's world with her dead body (Hulk #246, the last appearance of Mar-Vell before Jim starlin's "The Death of Captain Marvel" graphic novel), Jarella's world had previously been presumed detroyed when the Hulk accidently destroyed the slide containing it after returning from his previous visit (issue #203). The editor sidestepped the issue by pointing out that the caption read the Hulk destroyed the slide containing here world, not the world itself. In any case, the Hulk's thoughtless act had a disastrous effect on the environment of K'ai.
which means the Hulk never changed his pants for years on end!

With any other character, and in the absence of 'scratch and sniff' comics, this might just have been plausible, but the Hulk...

Richer than the Hulk's tailor used to be a proverbial saying...

Onwards...

Issue 7 – Adventure into Fear



(Image from www.comicvine.com :-))

This is possibly as close to a breather as the Micronauts get during the whole first 12 issues. We should have a name for this first extended 11-12 issue ‘arc’. It really is a masterpiece of inter-connected plotting. Everything kicks off with the Argon and Mari being hunted and Rann’s arrival and it really is non-stop until Karza gets washed down the plughole in issue 11. We’ll include issue 12 because it ties up a loose end and is the last issue drawn by Golden. There are reasons from later in the series why we can’t call it the ‘defeat of Karza’, or the Rebellion issues, as they have to do it all over again later. We can’t call it the First Rebellion because that happened 1000 years before issue 1. Any suggestions? The Special Edition Issues, doesn’t have a grand in-story ring to it. The Golden Year perhaps?

The Micronauts spend the issue relaxing and recharging until the appearance of that shambling mindless connoisseur of fear, the Man-Thing. Once they defeat him, thanks to Steve’s bravery and a handy fan-powered boat, Rann rallies the troops and signals the end of the R&R by telling them “It’s time we returned to search for Steve’s father and carried the war back to Baron Karza!”

In between we see the Time Travellers preparing Ray Coffin for his big transformation, and tough nut Acroyear takes out a giant of a swamp snake ‘offscreen’. This after attacking Man-Thing itself, single-handedly, though less successfully. He’s just great!

Some of the themes of the series are underlined when we see Rann sleeping restlessly in what Mari describes as “that horrid coffin.” I think these subtle references to 'life-in-death’ are one of the ways Mantlo makes death seem so real in the Micronauts fictional world. It’s as if he’s hypnotising us subconsciously to think about a subject that is normally unthinkable to us. I thought the father finding the little bodies in the damaged invasion craft in his back garden in issue 3 was quite effective too : “Ray Coffin sees the limp figure twisted in the tiny cockpit.., and knows it’s no toy.”

We find out a little bit more about how Rann became involved with the Enigma Force and how he and Biotron became psychically-linked during Rann’s first meeting with it. Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed a similarity between the contraption that covers Rann’s stomach while he sleeps and the Time-Travellers’ midriff.

Biotron’s telepathic link with Rann illustrates one of the biggest differences between the conceptual world of The Micronauts and that of Star Wars. The big unexplained gap in Star Wars, which the scripts never overtly referred to, was that the sentient robots in it, who could feel fear, pain, loyalty and hope, were treated just like objects. Strapped to the bonnets of fighter-planes where one lucky shot can blow them apart, sold like old machinery when they are no longer useful and with no say in where they end up. With a little tweaking, the scene where Luke and his uncle go to buy replacement droids from the Jawas could be a slave-market scene in a Toni Morrison novel. For all the talk of right and wrong in Lucas’s world, no-one pipes up “What about the droids?”

Mantlo’s world, by contrast, grants the robots an equality with the Micronauts. They seem to have an equal vote with the others as to their actions. More than this, he keeps showing that the humans and the robots are simply on different points on the same spectrum as each other. Biotron’s link with Rann gives him feelings and a new level of awareness, so that he becomes practically human. We’ve seen the machines in the Arena are half-machine and half organic and scream piteously as they are hurt and killed. On the other side of the coin, Karza himself is someone whose humanity has been lost over the years by making himself more machine than man.

Western thought hinges on a Christian notion of the soul to separate us from ‘inanimate’ matter, but Mantlo sidesteps that, in a way. Rann and the time-travellers seem to have some soul-like connection with the infinite, but we’re told this was a consequence of his 1,000 year waking-sleep. It’s sci-fi and probably nonsense, but it’s not a fallback on simple spiritualism.

Today's other question: The Man-Thing Essentials - to buy or not to buy?
Issue 8 – Earth Wars

The title is proof, if it was needed, that Mantlo was quite conscious that he was producing something with a lot of similarities to a certain famous movie franchise. With the title he is positioning it as more relevant to us inhabitants of the 3rd Planet in the Sol system.



Image thanks to www.comicvine.com

Karza has used the body of Prof Prometheus to transfer himself at human size out of the Prometheus Pit and has already begun attacking Cape Canaveral base by the time the Micronauts get there. Mantlo isn’t afraid of these little jumps to keep the action going at full speed.

Karza’s sudden attack is a bit impetuous for someone like him, who’s just as much a thinker as a fighter, but it does seem as if he can take on all comers. He seems more than capable of taking on the combined might of the US army and the Micronauts themselves. As he is destined to again, he hasn’t reckoned on a further factor entering the equation. In this case it is Ray Coffin, now transformed by the Time Travellers into Captain Universe.

At this point SE #3 ends, and I presume the splash page that opens SE#4 was especially drawn. This is a classy thing to do. The first time I read The Micronauts it was reprinted by Marvel UK and was only presented in 4-5 page weekly segments, much like 2000AD is today. (Except the story segments in the galaxy’s greatest comic were intended to be read in short chunks. That’s a big consideration.) Even though they do these special splash pages, the editors haven’t changed the issue endings/beginnings and the 'big writing' within each Special Edition. I’m glad of this too. I find it really distracting if the editors of comics collections have changed the format of the opening and closing pages so that it’s impossible to tell where the individual issues begin and end. Most monthly comics are written in discrete monthly episodes anyway, and each episode has its own rhythm and central themes etc, so it’s just a cheap trick to pretend that this common or garden Trade Paperback collection is a hoity toity Graphic Novel.

Which is all wandering off the point a bit, but these Special Editions are pretty well put together. I think it shows that they were originally coloured with the cheap newsprint paper in mind. Newsprint absorbs the colours, but they look really garish and bright on the expensive Baxter paper of the SEs. I have issue #1 in both formats and the 1978 original probably looked best when the issue was printed. It might have faded too much after 30 years though.

To get back to issue 8: Captain Universe distracts Karza long enough for Rann to conceive of the plan of using the Prometheus Pit to re-enter the Microverse and possibly sealing it behind them to strand Karza on Earth. This is actually a pivotal moment in the whole first 12 issues, as up to this point Rann and his team have been running away and reacting to events. There isn’t a pause from the moment he puts this plan into action until the liberation of Homeworld in issue 11. It really feels like Mantlo had the whole 12 issues in mind when he started the series, which is one of the reasons it still reads so well. Another important beat in issue 8 is where Mari admits that she loves Commander Rann.

“I’m not giving up the man I love without a fight!”

“T - The man you ... love??” responds Rann, showing he’s been out of the game about a millennium or so.

Issue 8 ends with Karza deciding to follow them down into the Microverse, and Ray Coffin, himself once more reunites with his son. His speech about learning that love "like the kind between a man and his son" is more important than fame or glory intimates that perhaps there was some tension between them in the issues I missed. Knowing that the whole thing sprang from Mantlo's own son's Christmas presents gives this scene a little added weight too!

SE #3 ends with a cutaway poster of the Endeavour as one of the extras. Mantlo, whether by accident or design, hit on the name of one of history’s most praiseworthy sailing ships. Crucially it was an ship adapted for exploration and expanding the boundaries of knowledge rather than a warship. The Endeavour was the name of the ship that Captain Cook sailed around the world on his first voyage of discovery from 1769 – 71. He was a very enlightened sea captain and pioneered the use of citrus fruit to stop his men dying of scurvy. Close to home, he’s probably the first European to visit the coast of Queensland, where I live now. Cook’s mapping of Queensland is probably one of the less sorry chapters in the colonisation of this part of the world, although, the necessary prelude to it, I guess.

Here’s the wiki.
Issue 9 – Home is where the Heart is!

The title might be slightly ironic, as we are about to learn that Spartak is a cold and barren world that has made its inhabitants tough-hearted and reluctant to show weakness or emotion.



Image from: www.comicvine.com

As often in the Mantlo-verse, this issue takes up just where the last one left off. Rann and the crew of the Endeavour have entered the Microverse right on top of Spartak, Acroyear’s home planet. They initially believe this extraordinary coincidence(!) to be a ‘revoltin’ development’, as the Acroyears were Karza’s most feared and dedicated troops and here they’ve arrived at a whole planet of them. When they are forced to land, they find a non-ironic welcoming committee of contrite Acroyears who pay tribute to Acroyear himself as their true King. Acroyears battle-maiden lady-love Cilicia explains this surprising turn of events thus:

“Three days ago, your brother returned and the thoughtwash was lifted. We saw what had been done to us and were ashamed.”

Well, that's handy! Just like that, the Micronauts now have a whole planet of badasses just like Acroyear on their side in the run-up to the endgame. I see that Karza banished Shaitan in issue 4 for failing to bring the Micronauts back from Earth, but somehow Shaitan’s return precipitated the release of the Acroyears from Karza’s control.

As is his way, Karza keeps believing he is in control of events, and when told that the Micronauts entered the Microverse just beside Spartak, decides to immediately lead a space fleet there to capture Rann. As soon as this cat is away, the mice come out to play, in the form of the rebellion, lead by Prince Argon, now the white-armoured Centaur Force Commander. The Shadow Priests are now openly assisting the rebellion.

Acroyear's council of war on Spartak is interrupted by Karza exploding a Thorium bomb in the atmosphere. Never a dull moment in this series. Acroyear decides to take the perilous step of entering the Crystal Chamber to commune with the Worldmind – the mysterious living connection between his people and their home planet Spartak. There is a great moment where Bug tries to stop him going off on his own and asks him “We …-TIK-… are friends, aint we, Acroyear??”

To which the King replies as the rock doors close between them and the guards keep Bug from entering :”Yes, Bug. We are… friends.

It’s a great moment and a further illustration of the journey Acroyear is on. It’s obvious friendship isn’t something a true hardened Acroyear warrior should need or admit to.

The remaining Micronauts arm themselves to join the battle for Spartak, which is obviously going to be a high-stakes affair. Rann appears to die charging into Karza’s forcefield and a grief-stricken Mari is about to follow suit. The issue ends with Acroyear’s painful psychic merging with the Worldmind of Spartak. During it, we learn that the planet was a harsh and barren one, but the then peacable and homeless Acroyear people needed a world, so Spartak agreed to protect and nourish them if they became a race of hardened warriors. It sounds like an allegorical folktale of the Acroyear's settlement of their planet, but we are about to learn that there must be some truth in it.

The voice of K9 isn't a bad fit for Biotron. Especially in this issue where Biotron has a good laugh at Bug's near-fatal attempts to get jiggy with a superstrong Acroyear shieldmaiden.
Any suggestions?

"Original Saga" has a nice, epic, self-important ring to it.
Then let "Original Saga" be the apellation for these 12 comics henceforth!

Issue 10 – Defeat!


Image from www.comicvine.com

Another ironic title. Although Ran and Mari are captured by Karza and brought back to Homeworld, and Bug appears to die in the defence of Spartak, it is the Acroyears who have defeated Karza’s forces by the end of the issue. It turns out that the King of the Acroyears can actually tap into the connection with Spartak and Acroyear was able to make the planet fight the invaders by hurling rocks at them, erecting cliffs in their flight-paths and crashing them into the planet by increasing the gravity.

There are two scenes that parallel each other concerning the female leaders of the rebellion on Homeworld and Spartak respectively. On Homeworld Argon asks some representatives of the rich, who have benefitted from Karza’s infernal body banks, where they stand now. Their answer is impolitic, to say the least:

“For a return to your precious democracy where we’re treated as “equals” by the rabble? Never!...Karza offered us eternal life! What can you give us?”

“A quick death, parasites!” comes the answer from Slug with a corresponding fatal BVREET from her blaster!

Like myself, Argon is suitably impressed; “Never have I beheld a woman like this rebel chieftain Slug! What a Queen she would make!”

(Obviously Argon is from the nice-but-dim arm of the aristocracy and someone will have to sit him down and explain the finer points of democracy to him.)

This heartwarming scene is mirrored later in the issue when Cilicia discusses the terms of surrender with Major D’ark and his men, after they have been attacking and killing Acroyear women and children.

In an exchange where Golden visually captures the swings in D’ark’s feelings as he goes from begging for mercy to thinking that he’s going to get away with what he’s done, Cilicia tells him she will give him mercy…

Here is my mercy, child-killer! Acroyear mercy! The swift mercy of the sword!

These Microverse women are scary, … but I like them!

There’s passion in these comics and an admirably simple code of right and wrong. We’re also seeing how the lessons of harsh and cruel rule are learned by those who endure them. Professor Karza has taught his people well - that might makes right.

These scenes of the downtrodden at long last getting to turn the tables make me think I would have loved to have a beer with the man who wrote them!

There are also some fine lines spoken between Shaitan and Acroyear after the King emerges from the Crystal Chamber.

Shaitan says bitterly: “It’s so easy to condemn me to death, isn’t it? You’ve always hated me because the same accident of birth that made you a king made me a freak … an outcast!

Acroyear’s reply is even in tone but carries a lot of feeling:

“Never have you heard me call you that – Save in your own maddened mind. No brother, I do not hate you, not that you’ll ever understand that.”

That’s great writing!

Although a Micronaut, Acroyear is very large in character and true nobility, as well as strength. In the final page of the issue he feels that his urge for peace, which Mantlo has just very eloquently shown in his exchange with his brother, perhaps disqualifies him from being a proper King to the warlike Acroyears.

With this issue, Mantlo has really made everything feel tragic and climactic. Strangely enough it is the robots who show the most emotion, and pull at our heartstrings. When Microtron comes fleeing to Biotron, exclaiming that everyone is captured or dead, Biotron replies:

“I know little one. Come stand beside me – We have only each other now.”

Aaah!

Next issue - the climax of ... The Original Saga!!
I haven’t had much time to post during the day or read in the evenings these past couple of days, so I haven’t yet read beyond issue #5 of the series, but I just finished reading your thoughts on issues #7-10. Keep those thoughts coming, though; you always add unique insight. Perhaps I’ll have something more to say myself after I’ve caught up on the reading. Over the weekend I did flip through my Mirconauts shortbox in anticipation of future posts (whether you continue this level of detail or nor).

I see you’ve already settled on “The Original Saga,” but my suggestion is the uninspired but nevertheless accurate “Micronauts: Year One.” Regarding the Star Wars robots, I always inferred that they were programmed to mimic human emotions but actually had none. “Softies” such as Luke, however, would tend to anthropomorphize them.
I think the first 12 issues are a special case, and worth looking at in as much detail as I can for now. Its a nuts and bolts "how to ..." lesson in building a superhero space opera from scratch and structuring a long-form story. Sure, you can develop this template, as creators have, and add more depth to the characterisations, and build in more flaws and failings into them, or you could work against the narrative conventions that we are seeing so effectively deployed here, but this is pretty much the baseline. Not all superhero space operas need exactly these elements to work, but in terms of pacing, pre-devised structure, emotional peaks and troughs, good chemistry amongst the team, etc, this one is like a manual.

Actually I have problems with "Original Saga" as this implies that it terminated right after issue 12, to be revived later, which isn't the case. Micronauts: Year One has a nice post-Miller feel to it, but I'm getting the impression that the events herein, with their breakneck pace, don't take longer than a week in-story, or two at the most! I'm still open to suggestions, as I think we'll be referencing these 12 issues a lot later on.

Thinking about the rest of the series, I'm hoping to do a post per arc rather than per issue, and I'm not aiming to go into as much detail. Looking ahead I'm missing 13-15, 19 and 23, so I might take it up to issue 20 or so before taking a break. I'd guess the first annual, which I don't have, is in there too, somewhere. I'm itching to see how Mantlo continued from the great ending of the ... ahem ... Original Saga.

Regarding the Star Wars robots, I always inferred that they were programmed to mimic human emotions but actually had none. “Softies” such as Luke, however, would tend to anthropomorphize them.

You have unique insights yourself! A hard existentialist might say that humans are socially programmed to mimic human emotions but actually had none... Being human means you fake it til you make it. Its an ...emerging property. Mantlo's story, so far at any rate, seems to follow this idea.

R2-D2's bravery and C3P0's cowardice seem to have a more complex basis than their original programming. But now we're in waffle territory*.

*Why do I feel I've just summoned the Baron?
Issue 11 – The Enigma Force


Image from www.comicvine.com

An engaging little feature of the Micronauts world is how the flying vessels are all based on Mego’s toyline, which was designed of course for their particular line of figures without thinking through how they’d look or work in a real context. Thus, they often look like nothing you’d see anywhere else. Baron Karza’s “Galactic Command Centre” is a strange platform with a hexagonal shaped pod set on it, and the figures look out of the window in the middle of the pod. Perhaps it is based on the Interplanetary Headquarters at the bottom right of this page?

Karza is shocked that his precious Body Banks are aflame when he arrives at Homeworld with Rann and Mari. He quickly recovers his composure, saying that he was hoping the Rebellion would come out into the open when he left. Prince Argon steps up to do battle with Karza, but Karza is supremely powerful. He seems to have adapted all Homeworld technology into his armoured form, and Argon is no match for him. Actually his fight with Argon is very reminiscent of Vader’s fight with Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. Structurally it serves the same purpose of showing us how powerful the black-armoured baddie is, and it even takes place on a walkway over a deep shaft leading down to the fiery core of Homeworld.

Again Mantlo is tapping into mythical archetypes, with Argon serving as the Herald/ John the Baptist to Rann/ The Saviour.

The gathered Shadow Priests then reveal that they are all manifestations of Arcturus Rann, somehow given form by his 1,000 year waking sleep and/or his encounter with the Enigma Force. It is all very mystical, but Rann’s 1,000 year sleep seems to have been the genesis of the Time Travellers. It’s a cycle. He created them, and they in turn became spread through eternity to be there to awaken him to his destiny, both during his exploration of the MIcroverse before issue 1, and here where he becomes filled with the Enigma Force to battle Karza.

I’m not sure how much mysticism Mantlo has studied. It seems he is just telling a cracking story. However, a lot of this kind of mystic speculation is used in Grant Morrison’s work, but just with more reference to actual anthropological mysticism as we know it. The Time Travellers’ position as being spread through eternity, but entering our linear time for short periods is very like what we are told happens to Shamans and the like, and what we see here reflects what they tell us about our limited understanding of reality. No doubt the Time-Travellers don’t experience time as linear at all.

I’ve already mentioned how Morrison has been using ‘worlds within worlds’ imagery for a while, and the Time Traveller seems like one of The Invisibles characters after they have ascended to the higher plane. Of course, unless Morrison picked up something subconsciously from The Micronauts, I don’t think there is much relationship between the two authors’ work other than that they both tap into the same universal Jungian consciousness. Still, the similarities with Morrisons deeply researched fictions may show that perhaps there is a bit more to The Micronauts than a bunch of cool toys fighting each other.

The single big universally understood narrative that Micronauts brings to life for the kids of the 70s (and us today) is the eternal struggle of humanity to be free of tyranny. It’s in our history and in our fictions. A good illustration of how close the two can be is in the opening of the film Michael Collins. It’s about a key figure in Ireland’s 1916-1922 struggle to gain independence. In a script that scrolls past the viewers eyes from the bottom of the screen to the top, we read about a small band of rebels that are fighting a one-sided struggle against the most powerful Empire the world had ever seen. Yes, we’re back to Star Wars again!

Here this fundamental struggle is acted out in the simple terms of the Good Rebellion versus the evil Karza. Karza’s use of the Body Banks is a neat twist on this, as Karza doesn’t fully impose his will from outside, but a good proportion of the population give their assent to losing their freedom, for the right price. What would any of us be prepared to give up so that we and our loved ones wouldn’t have to suffer old age and die? So, its not quite as simplistic as it looks.

The Enigma Force further identifies itself as the manifestation of this urge towards freedom inherent in humanity. Maybe Karza’s defeat isn’t very ‘realistic’. The Enigma Force manifesting itself just now at the climax is a bit ‘Deus ex Machina’, and is then compounded by the appearance of the Worldmind of Spartak to foil Karza’s final attempt to take them all with him when he goes.

Still, there is a kind of symbolic truth in it. When despots are defeated, it is often sudden, and it often turns out that the elements that defeated them were all around, just awaiting their moment to ‘wake up’. Karza doesn’t even know that the Shadow Priests, who have been at his side all during his reign, were in fact just biding their time. And it is ultimately humanity’s urge towards freedom that finds a way to thwart the despots, even if that urge isn’t physically embodied in an Enigma Force empowered saviour!

The issue ends with whatever part of Karza that wasn’t actually his suit being flung Lucifer-like into the pit in more mythological symbolism. Mari tells her beloved that thanks to him, “there will be peace at last”, and only Karza’s empty armour remains.

Golden’s artwork here is still wonderful; by turns cinematic, dynamic and intimate, as the script demands, with an incredible variety of page layouts.

All-in-all a great climax to the original saga, complete with Acroyear cavalry and all.
The analysis has been outstanding. You have me primed and ready to re-read my Special Edition copies. Looking back, some of Marvels most entertaining comics in the Seventies were those that largely avoided Marvel Universe ties, like Micronauts and Master of Kung Fu and Tomb of Dracula.
The analysis has been outstanding.

I agree!

I think the first 12 issues are a special case, and worth looking at in as much detail as I can for now.

I’m still lagging a bit behind in the reading but hope to respond in more depth when I get caught up.

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