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.
I know what you mean, Travis. When I reread my summary of The Atom #29, it stuck out like a sore thumb! Real incongruous with a fun-filled super-hero team-up!
As far as Golden/Silver Age team-ups go, I still would have liked to see a double Hawkmen story, especially with Murphy Anderson art. Anything to make the E-2 Winged Wonder stand out! The two Mr. & Mrs. Halls could have battled The Ghost and the Shadow Thief. Sadly the E-2 Hawkgirl made no SA appearances. We weren't even sure that she was still around!
True the Hawkmen resembled each other greatly but their differences are what they should have focused on!
The Atom & Hawkman #43
Cover art by: Joe Kubert
Story: Come to My Hanging
Writer: Robert Kanigher
Art: Murphy Anderson
Hawkman has tracked down the Gentleman Ghost to Big Ben (the clock not the quarterback), and the Ghost pulls out his pistols and shoots Hawkman. We then get a flashback to the Gentleman Ghost's origin. He was a highway man named Gentleman Jim Craddock. He was captured in London, and hanged for his crimes. Before he died, he vowed to come back, and rob everyone he could. When he next has consciousness he is as we see him now in the white outfit, with no visible body. He then goes on a crime spree and no one in Europe is able to stop him.
Carter and Shiera hear about the crimes back in Midway City. Carter goes on the hunt for the Phantom Plunderer to prove that he isn't a ghost. The Ghost always brags where he is going to strike next, knowing no one can stop him. The Hawks appear there, and Hawkman knocks out the Ghost's cronies. Gentleman Jim takes Hawkgirl hostage, and makes his escape.
Hawkman tracks down the Ghost, of course, and frees Hawkgirl. Craddock makes his escape again, which brings us back to Big Ben. Hawkman is laying on the minute hand and using it to push the Ghost. Telling the Ghost he dodged the bullets at the last moment. The Ghost allows the minute hand to force him to fall, and laughs all the way down. Hawkgirl finds a movie projector that projected the Ghost's image. That along with a tape recorder Hawkman found earlier secreted in the Ghost's cane is proof, as far as Carter is concerned, that the Gentleman Ghost is a fake.
Story: Buzzin',Buzzin' – Who's Got the Buzzin'?
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Pencils: Dick Dillin
Inks: Sid Greene
Ray Palmer is giving a lecture to other professors at Ivy University, and his theories are being challenged by his superior Professor McByrd. Ray calls him an old fogey, and that science has passed him by. McByrd accuses Ray of trying to bluff everyone to get a promotion. Ray tries to continue his lecture, but isn't able to hold his train of thought. McByrd ends the lecture.
Ray is hot under the collar now, so he shrinks down and goes to a sub-atomic world he recently found that contains only hostile monsters. He beats up those things to blow off some steam. He also gets his memory back on what he was going to talk about. The Atom then recalls a buzzing around him during the lecture, which is unusual because there are no flying insects in December.
He grows back to normal size only to find one of his students in his office. He accuses Ray of being a spy, and he has found proof of it in Ray's office. Ray Palmer uses some judo to beat the kid up. There was some buzzing around the kid, which eventually goes away. The kid doesn't remember anything that happened. Ray shrinks back down and follows the buzzing thing. He is shocked to learn that McByrd is behind it. I on the other hand was not. The Atom defeats McByrd, and actually gives him a little pep talk in the end. Telling the professor he isn't much of a researcher, but he is a great technician. “It took brains, skill, and ingenuity to apply abstract equations to the building of those spheres! Your brains and ingenuity!” Then he took him to jail.
I originally bought this, because I am more of an Atom fan than I am of Hawkman. Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that the Hawkan story was the better of the two here. I've always loved the visual of the Gentleman Ghost, and I loved seeing him as the villain. I can't wait to see if Hawkman can prove that he is a fake.
The Atom story went off the rails early I thought with Ray Palmer dressing down his superior, and talking down to him because he hasn't done anything new. Then I have to to stomach that he is going to go beat up some creatures on a sub-atomic world to make to ease his anger. Ivy doesn't have a gym he can work out at? The end mildly redeemed him when he talked up McByrd. Still, too little, too late.
This was also neat in that the letter column has a letter from future pros Klaus Janson, and Martin Pasko! Neither of them liked the Atom story from issue #41
The Gentleman Ghost was a Golden Age Hawkman foe, then just the Ghost. I vividly remember the story reprinted in Secret Origins #1 with art by Joe Kubert. He then fought Batman in his title, #310 and #319. He was a major player in Tony Isabella's mid 80s Hawkman series where his true nature was revealed.
The Gentleman Ghost appeared in a Super Friends episode and Batman: The Brave and the Bold!
The Atom & Hawkman #44
Cover art by: Joe Kubert
Story: The Ghost Laughs Last!
Writer: Robert Kanigher
Art: Murphy Anderson
Hawkman man is still trying to prove that the Gentleman Ghost is a fake. He busts a few of his flunkies who are disguised as him, but the real GG escapes after robbing a precious gems joint. Hawkman attempts to chase him down, but loses him in an office building with a bunch of people typing on typewriters. We do see the Ghost at one of the typewriters, and he has changed his clothes to a modern style, but still had no visible body in them.
Later, the Ghost is lamenting the fact that everyone is scared of him, and he will never meet another woman. Well he does run into one, literally, and she is blind. Zita (the girl) is able to touch his face though, which shocks the Ghost. He determines that she must have some sort of psychic power. He takes her out on a date, and he learns she is a fortune teller. Back at her place, she “sees” what happened to Jim Craddock, and feels sorry for him. She also tells him that there is a special gem some where out there that can restore her sight. The Gentleman Ghost vows not to rest until he finds that stone and gives her her vision back.
Once again the Ghost announces what gem he is going to steal, and Hawkman and Hawgirl are waiting for him inside the museum that houses the emerald he is gunning for. Naturally, the Ghost makes Hawkman look like a fool again, and escapes with ease. The emerald doesn't restore Zita's sight. The Ghost next strikes at fashion show to steal the Fire Ruby. Stop me if you heard this one before, but he is able to escape from Hawkman yet again. What a sap!
Well, this time the gem actually works! Zita's vision is restored! Yet, Jim Craddock is saddened, and he wonders how long she can stand someone without a face. He vows never to return until he gets a body. She vows to wait for him forever.
I really liked this two-parter. I liked it that in the end no one won, well except Zita I guess. Hawkman never really proved the Gentleman Ghost was a fake, or captured him. Jim Craddock left dejected, and looking for a body. A downer all around, and very unusual for DC at this time I would imagine. The art was just great.
There was another Atom story, obviously, but I liked it less that the last one, so I won't delve into it here. I liked it less in story and art.
It amused me that there was a letter from the editors apologizing to all of the DC readers for having to raise the price of their comics by...3 cents.
This issue also contained another letter from Martin Pasko, and one from Bill Mantlo. Bill loved the story from issue #42 ( a team-up of Atom, and the Hawks), and the hat tip it owed to a story from Roger Zelazny. Pasko on the other hand didn't like the story. Commenting how he usually loves O'Neil's stories, but this one wasn't good. Plus, he didn't see any of the characterization that he is often lauded for.
The Avengers #123
Cover art by: Ron Wilson & John Romita
Story: Vengeance in Vietnam! -or- An Origin For Mantis!
Writer: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Bob Brown
Inks: Don Heck
So the Avengers, have just defeated the Zodiac, and one of their members, Libra announces that he is the father of Mantis. That one doesn't believe Libra, so he goes into his tale. (Let me see if I got this right) he is a German mercenary, who fought for the French in Vietnam, plus he no longer has an accent. While there he met, and fell in love with a Vietnamese girl. Her brother, Monsieur Khruul, disapproved of the marriage. He is a criminal warlord on Vietnam, and the Swordsman once worked for him.
The two lovers run for their lives, and eventually settle down. This allows Khruul's assassins to find them, and they attack with flamethrowers. They kill Libra's wife, and he is blinded by them. He escapes with his daughter though. Somehow he finds his was to the Pama Monastery. They tell Libra that they will teach him how to use his other senses and be able to survive without his sight. They do teach him, but they also take his daughter away from him. Eventually, he leaves and goes back to his mercenary lifestyle. Using the skills the priests have taught him.
Mantis still doesn't believe Libra and begins to attack him. The Avengers jump in to stop her. Not only does she defeat Black Panther and Scarlet Witch, she also incapacitates heavy hitters like Thor and Iron Man. Well, Libra is no slouch in combat either, and he is able restrain her. All assembled soon realize that a recently weakened Swordsman isn't there. He has stolen their quinjet to avenge Mantis' monther's death by Monsieur Khruul. The group has no other transport handy, so Iron Man flies to New Jersey were the other quinjet is (they left it there while tracking the Zodiac).
Well, the Swordsman arrives in Vietnam and confronts Monsieur Khruul. With his weakened state in combination of Khruul's new minions the Swordsman is taken down. The Avengers with Libra do finally appear and find the Swordsman tied up against a tree. He tells them that he spilled the beans on the Pama Priests and their monastery. The group goes to the monastery and find the priests have been murdered. The Avengers defeat Khruul's men, and hear Khruul himself yelling deeper inside. They find him dying on a stone table, he tells them he never should have killed the priests and to beware the Star-Stalker. To be continued with a big ol' dragon looking in on the heroes. How they don't notice him I will never know.
I haven't read a whole lot of Avengers comics with Mantis in them, but I find it kind of hard to believe she was able to defeat all of the other Assemblers by herself. I am guessing it was because of the rage she had towards Libra, and the others didn't really want to hurt her, so they kept the kid gloves on. Still a really fun story.
Should quinjet be capitalized?
The art here was pretty good for the most part, although in some parts it looks like Don Heck got a little heavy with his inks, and made some people look pretty clunky.
An ad for zodiac rings in this comic. Coincidence?
Mantis was a mystery for a year by then and Libra so much of a cypher/blank slate that anything was possible. That she was able to combat the Avengers so well was a mix of them holding back but also Englehart emphasizing that she was more than a mere martial artist. This began the Avengers run straight to the Celestial Madonna. Remember it was subtitled "AN Origin For Mantis!"
This also was the beginning of the end for the Swordsman as his breaking after being tortured resulted in Mantis leaving him and being attracted to the Vision! The Avengers' Mansion was a regular Peyton Place in those days!
The Avengers #130
Cover art by: Gil Kane & Dave Cockrum
Story: The Reality Problem!
Writer: Steve Englehart
Layouts: Sal Buscema
Finishes: Joe Staton
Well apparently The Swordsman has died, and the Avengers are interring him in Vietnam. We then flashback to America were everyone decides to assist Mantis in burying him, except Scarlet Witch who will remain behind to continue her teachings from Miss Harkness. While they are discussing this we see that back in Vietnam, the villain, The Slasher has robbed the Saigon Diamond exchange.
Okay, now back in the present the Avengers finish burying the Swordsman when a Vietnamese man comes running out of the jungle. He is being pursued by the Crimson Dynamo, Radioactive Man, and the Titanium Man. The man believes the Avengers will save him, but the trio incapacitate (not kill) him for hitting his wife. The Avengers almost attack the Titanic Three (as they are now called), but they tell the Avengers that they aren't the law there and have no standing. They all back down, except for Iron Man, so Thor give him one good smite and he relents. The trio then leave.
We then get a brief flashback detailing Mantis' origin, told by the Vision to the newly returned Hawkeye. She may have been the daughter of Libra of the Zodiac, the priests that trained her may have been pacifist Kree, and Kang told her she is now ready to become the Celestial Madonna.
The Slasher sees the Avengers milling about Saigon, and concludes they are after him, so (off-panel) he tells the Titanic Three they are after him for stealing, but that he is innocent. Well, the four villains attack the Avengers, and don't really do much against them. They are defeated fairly easily, and when they see the diamonds The Slasher stole spill out, the Titanic Three leave him there, and just walk off.
Since the Titanic Three are the acting “law” in Vietnam I don't know why they didn't take The Slasher with them to the police or whoever. That was kind of weird to me.
Man, I love those type of cover, like we have above. With two groups of enemies clashing against each other. This one even has speed lines, which I really dig.
Check out this caption box from the first page: “The Swordsman was a loser to the last moment of his life, but he tried the level best he could, and isn't that all anyone can do?” Pretty harsh on guy who just bit it. Tell us how you really feel omnipresent narrator.
Plus there were no less than three flashbacks in this issue.
The Swordsman wasn't so much a loser as he had bad breaks and worse luck. But he did save the Celestial Madonna so that must count for something!
Interestingly, after this story arc, the Titanic Three went back to being super-villains, though the Radioactive Man had a nice run in Thunderbolts as he was considered a hero in China.
Please tell me that you have the rest of this Avengers run, Travis, as it's one of the best in their history (#115-156, plus Giant-Sizes and Annuals)!
I see you changed your avatar. I was starting to think that was you! ;-)