A long goodbye: a review of Avengers Infinity War Part 1

In a rare change, I saw a movie on the weekend of its release. I kept Friday free because I had a bit of a cold and an eye abrasion that I wanted some quiet time to heal (no court, in other words).

I slept in and by mid-morning felt so much better that I wanted something to do. Since the Avengers movie debuted the night before, I thought I would see if an afternoon show would be too crowded.

The theater was half-full even at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon with school in session. It was not too crowded and sat back with my popcorn to enjoy the show.

Wikipedia has a nice plot summary, so I am using this with my own comments added. If you are concerned about SPOILERS skip the regular font – my comments are in italics on the right side of the page.

I hate continued movies (Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean), paying full price for half a film … but I must admit I liked this movie very much and cannot wait for the conclusion.

landscape-1500890190-avengers-infinity-war-poster-resized-1

SPOILERS AHEAD!

From Wikipedia:

Having acquired the Power Stone from the planet Xandar, Thanos and his followers—Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive—intercept the ship carrying the survivors of Asgard’s destruction. Thor, Loki and Hulk are powerless to protect the Asgardians. Heimdall uses the Bifröst to send Hulk to Earth before being killed. Loki gives Thanos the Tesseract to spare Thor’s life, but is killed after attempting to kill Thanos, who departs with his followers and obliterates the ship.

The movie starts about twenty minutes after Uncle Thor’s Goofy House of Wacky Fun (e.g. Thor: Ragnarok) – hereinafter called GHWF – leaves off. The so-called humor of GHWF still infects this scene like a late-stage venereal disease. But it does not last long. Perhaps the producers finally realized that the genocide of an entire culture is not the place for fart jokes.

Hulk crash-lands at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York City, reverting to Bruce Banner. He warns Stephen Strange and Wong about Thanos’ plan to kill half of all life in the universe. In response, Strange recruits Tony Stark. Maw and Obsidian arrive to retrieve the Time Stone from Strange. After a battle including Peter Parker, Maw captures Strange; Stark and Parker pursue Maw’s spaceship, while Banner contacts Steve Rogers.

Thus tying in the excellent Doctor Strange movie and bringing into conflict the two most egotistical characters in the Marvel CU: Stephen Strange and Tony Stark. Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr excel here.  It is a joy watching these two superb actors relishing their roles.   It almost makes you forget their equally wonderful casting choice for Spider-Man.  Here the humor is in character and appropriately placed – it would have to be with Strange and Iron Man trying to out-pompous each other!

Oddly, Mark Ruffalo is given little to do – intimating the Hulk does NOT want to metamorphose back. Is he scared? Will this tiny but interesting bit of characterization be explored in the second movie? I hope so.

In Scotland, Midnight and Glaive ambush Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and Sam Wilson rescue them, and they take shelter with James Rhodes at the new Avengers Facility. Vision offers to sacrifice himself by having Maximoff destroy the Mind Stone in his forehead to keep Thanos from retrieving it. Rogers suggests they travel to Wakanda, which he believes has the resources to remove the stone without destroying Vision.

Seeing Captain America is the thrill of this scene. Chris Evans captures the essence of Cap as much as Downey does Iron Man’s. Viewing CA: Civil War is VITAL to understanding the interactions between most of the characters in this and later scenes.

The Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call from the Asgardian ship and rescue Thor. He surmises Thanos seeks the Reality Stone, which is in the possession of the Collector at Knowhere. Rocket and Groot accompany Thor to Nidavellir to retrieve a weapon to kill Thanos. There, they and Eitri create Stormbreaker, an enchanted axe. Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, and Mantis find Thanos at Knowhere with the Reality Stone already in his possession. Thanos kidnaps Gamora, his adoptive daughter, who reveals the location of the Soul Stone to save her captive adoptive sister Nebula from torture. Thanos and Gamora travel to Vormir, a planet where Red Skull, keeper of the Soul Stone, informs him the stone can only be retrieved by sacrificing someone he loves. Thanos reluctantly throws Gamora to her death, granting him the Soul Stone.

The Guardians provide most of the humor of the movie and it works wonderfully. Most of Thor’s quips are pulled back to his pre-GHWF days: calling Rocket a rabbit, etc. (Gee, a funny comment in keeping with his chraracter? To quote Thor in his previous movie: “What the hell?!”) The humor of Drax, Starlord and Mantis, are so appropriate ad in-character it finally reveals how forced Thor’s “comic” quips (I will never call these exchanges “dialogue”) are. Fortunately, it appears the adult writers threw out the childish ones when the scene shifted to Nidavellir and Thor became the more serious character he was meant to be.

And Nidavellir was exactly as I imagined it to be since the first Thor movie said the nine realms were really nine planets – steampunk on a cosmic scale! Peter Dinklage’s cameo as a dwarf was a highlight – as was making this “dwarf” tower over everyone else!

It was during the Nidavellir scene I realized what was happening. Three groups (the two Avenger splinters and the Guardians) split up and tackle different parts of the problem – holy moley! It’s a Gardner Fox JLA-JSA team-up!

Nebula escapes captivity and requests the remaining Guardians meet her on Titan, Thanos’ destroyed homeworld. Stark and Parker eject Maw from his ship and rescue Strange. Landing at Titan, they meet Quill, Drax, and Mantis. Strange uses the Time Stone to view millions of possible futures and states there is only one in which Thanos loses. The group forms a plan to confront Thanos and remove the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos arrives, justifying his plans to Strange as necessary to ensure the survival of a universe threatened by overpopulation. The group subdues him until Nebula deduces Thanos has killed Gamora. Enraged, Quill retaliates, which breaks the group’s hold on Thanos, and he overpowers them. After Strange surrenders the Time Stone in exchange for Thanos sparing Stark, Thanos departs for Earth.

Another superb battle scene!

Upon arriving in Wakanda, Rogers reunites with Bucky Barnes. The Avengers task Shuri with extracting the Mind Stone. Thanos’ army invades and the Avengers mount a defense alongside King T’Challa and the Wakandan forces. Banner, unable to transform into the Hulk, fights in Stark’s upgraded Hulkbuster armor. Thor, Rocket, and Groot arrive on Earth and rally the defenders. Midnight, Obsidian and Glaive are killed and their army is routed. Thanos arrives and retrieves the Mind Stone from Vision, destroying him. Despite being severely wounded by Thor, Thanos activates the complete Infinity Gauntlet and teleports away.

There were prior battle scenes? The fight for Wakanda is so massive and incredible it makes us forget all that came before it. It compares with the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. Yes, I am comparing this movie to Return of the King.

Awesome. I am using the word in its original sense.

Watch Captain America and Black Panther run ahead of the other warriors. Pure athleticism and a wonderful small bit that will stick with me every time I think of this movie.

Thor’s appearance almost made me stand and cheer. Here is the son of Odin as he should be.

Thanos’ plan comes to fruition as half of all life across the universe disintegrates, including Barnes, Drax, Groot, Mantis, Maximoff, Parker, Quill, Strange, T’Challa, and Wilson. Nebula and Stark remain on Titan, while Banner, M’Baku, Okoye, Rhodes, Rocket, Rogers, Romanoff, and Thor are left on the Wakandan battlefield. Thanos, healed, retreats to a small nipa hut as he watches the sunset in satisfaction.

Omnipotent villains in comics always bugged me. Why doesn’t Thanos just wipe out ALL of the Avengers/Guardians and/or wipe them from existence since he has the power? It will be interesting to see what the remaining heroes do.

In the post-credits scene, Nick Fury transmits a distress signal as he and Maria Hill, amongst others, disintegrate. The device displays a red-and-blue star insignia.

This is what the post-credit scene should be – a tease of thing to come. “James Bond will return”. It introduces (kind of) Captain Marvel.

***

So there it is.

I liked the movie very much but will hold off until the movie is “done” with the second part before I decide on a scale. It is always a thrill to see Chris Evans as Captain America and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man –  and since Evans has already said he is “resigning” as Cap we must enjoy them while we can. Both actors have yet to disappoint even if their movies do.

I saw it in 3D. Don’t bother … except for the Wakanda battle the movie is darkly filmed – so much that I had to remove the glasses in some scenes just to see what was going on. Perhaps the lack of lighting helped keep them under budget?

Thanos was an excellent villain – he was not a raving lunatic but determined, pensive and … thoughtful. We have no doubt he thinks he is doing the right thing. Well, perhaps not the RIGHT thing, but the ONLY thing that resolves the problems of the universe as he sees it. Someone has to make the hard decisions, no one else can do it but him. It makes him even scarier…

The plot of infinity War is well-thought-out, the heroes each have their time to shine (which granted is not long). Given the scope of the movie, the action and characterization is VERY well-balanced.

And damn that entire Wakandan battle scene was cool!

landscape-1522945902-mlu-17652-r

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Advertisements

A very Spidey-Christmas! Amazing Spider-Man #166

Behold!

Bronze age Christmas

Special Christmas Edition

Amazing Spider-Man #166, March, 1977

Cover Artist: John Romita Sr

“War of The Reptile-Men!”

Writer:  Len Wein

Penciler: Ross Andru, Inker: Mike Esposito,

Colorist: Glynis Wein, Letterer: Joe Rosen

Editor: Len Wein, Editor-in-Chief Archie Goodwin

From Marvel Wikia:

Following his defeat at the hands of Stegron the Dinosaur Man, Spider-Man decides to go and seek the help of Curt Connors due to his expertise with lizards. However, Spider-Man arrives just as Connors had finished transforming into the Lizard once more and was on its way out to attack Stegron itself. Spider-Man briefly tangles with the Lizard, who manages to escape. Going back into the Connors apartment, Spider-Man learns from Martha Connors of the situation and that Stegron has her son Billy hostage. Spider-Man vows to Martha that he will save Billy and restore Curt to normal once more.

While at ESU, J. Jonah Jameson pays a visit to Marla Madison, who unveils her own take on the Spider-Slayer robots. Peter’s friends have all met at the apartment of Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn for Christmas cheer, Peter calls in and tells Mary Jane that he won’t be able to make it out. After getting off the phone with Peter, Mary Jane and the others are told by Harry and Liz Allan that they are going to get married.

At the hideout of Stegron, the dinosaur man shows to Billy Connors that his revitalization ray is now fully operational and uses it to restore the dinosaur bones back to real living dinosaurs. He’s then attacked by the Lizard, which causes the dinosaurs to break loose and flee into the city. Web-slinging around the city trying to find his foes, Spider-Man finds the dinosaurs and easily defeats them. He then tracks their trail of destruction back to Stegron’s hideout, where he battles both Stegron and the Lizard. Spider-Man incapacitates the Lizard with a chemically treated webbing which restores the Lizard back to his human form.

Stegron uses this as his chance to flee with Billy as his prisoner, and he takes control of the dinosaurs again. Spider-Man goes after the two of them, leaving Curt behind to try and figure out how to make Stegron’s device work in reverse. Spider-Man manages to rescue Billy and Connor’s work on the device allows him to change the dinosaurs back to harmless bones. Stegron manages to escape, however, Spider-Man chases after him. Succumbing to the cold, Stegron is about to go back into a state of suspended animation when he falls into a frozen river and seemingly perishes. Unable to find a trace of Stegron, Spider-Man gives up his search.

On Christmas Day, all is well and the Connors family has been reunited for the holidays, Spider-Man decides to leave the Connors a Christmas gift before departing.

***

Spidey 166

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

A Bronze Age Christmas: Marvel Team-Up #1!

Behold!

Bronze age Christmas

Special Christmas Edition

Marvel Team-Up #1, March, 1972

Cover Artists: Gil Kane, Frank Giacoia, Sam Rosen

“Have Yourself a Sandman Little Christmas!”

Writer: Roy Thomas

Penciler: Ross Andru, Inker: Mike Esposito, Letterer: Artie Simek

Editor: Stan Lee

From Marvel Wikia:

While covering a Polar Bear Swim for the Daily Bugle, Peter Parker’s jolted out of his thoughts with the arrival of the Sandman on the beach. Changing into Spider-Man, Peter tries to stop the Sandman, but the villain proves to be too much for the hero to handle and he escapes.

Deciding that since the Sandman has been more a Fantastic Four foe, Spider-Man decides to pay the FF a visit at the Baxter Building. There he only finds the Human Torch, and the two agree to work together in trying to track down the Sandman. While tracking down their enemy, the Human Torch and Spider-Man stop thieves from stealing Christmas presents from Misty Knight.

Finally tracking down the Sandman, the two heroes try to stop him but are knocked out and left inside a water tower while the Sandman escapes. Breaking free, the two track the Sandman down and learn that he broke out of prison to visit his sick mother for Christmas. Telling them that his mother doesn’t know that he’s a criminal, the two heroes agree to let the Sandman visit with his mother on the promise that he will return to prison. Spider-Man gives Sandman the gift he intended to give to Gwen Stacey to give to his mother.

After the Sandman’s allotted time is up the two check out his mother’s apartment and find that the Sandman escaped out the drain pipe. The two decide to accept their loss and celebrate the holidays before tracking down the Sandman again.

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

The 300th issue of … everything!

This is my 300th blog. Not a big deal to people who blog everyday – they would hit 300 in their first year, but for me? A big deal.

The 300th issue (or any anniversary issue) is a big deal in comic books, too. It’s a chance to celebrate an anniversary with a special issue (and increased sales) featuring the end of an epic story arc – or the beginning of one. It could be the final issue – or debut – or a new creative team or character.

It only really became a big deal in the Bronze Age. The few Silver Age 300th issues were ignored, at least on the cover. Probably because sales were not yet sluggish enough that there was a NEED to celebrate.

It takes time. Published monthly, a comic book would reach its 300th issue in 25 years.

I honestly believed I found all of them – American comics only of course … let me know if I missed any. Enjoy!

4 Color Nov 50

4 Color from November 1950

The only #300 from the Golden Age I could find! 4 Color printed several comics per month, sometimes weekly and at times even six per month! No wonder it only took a bit over ten years to reach the milestone!

Most Disney comics were published by multiple companies over the years. Fortunately they kept the numbering intact. Scroll over the comics to see issue name and date.

People forget about one of the longest running comics ever!

Big Boy June 1986

Big Boy June 1996

Oddly, I checked Popeye and other popular cartoon figures and the only one whose comic made it to #300 was …

Tom & jerry Nov 77

November 1977

Dave Sim said from the beginning that Cerebus would only go to issue #300. How I loved the comic in the early to mid-1980s. A shame the run ended with little fanfare. It is the only independant I could find…

Cerebus March 2004

March 2004

No Harvey comics made it to #300. Timely, Quality & Fawcett didn’t last long enough for their comics to reach #300.

But the big two had plenty, so did Archie. Primarily because both DC and Archie (MJL) published comics steadily since the 1940s.

Scroll over the comics to see the title and date. Note that Laugh and Pep were published first and got to #300 4 years or so before the character-titled comics.

DC’s #300s holds no real surprises… the Legion of Superheroes was formerly called Superboy and Adventure also once hosted their … er … adventures as well (making Superman-themed comics account for 1/3rd of the DC comics listed) . Our Army at War and House of Mystery were the pinnacle of their genre. Hellblazer may be a surprise to some, but only because of its late date.

Note that the Silver Age comics (Adventure, Action, Detective), made very little tadoo about their 300th issue.

Several Marvel comics made it to #300 due to their sheer popularity! These comics were raised to monthly status much quicker than their DC bretheren.  The dates vary widely, too, helped by the fact that Captain America, Hulk, & Thor had different titles during the Silver and Bronze Age (Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish and Journey into Mystery respectively) but kept their numbering when named for their stars…

Will we ever see #300s again? I don’t know. In this day and age of reboots and “Special Collector’s first issues” we may never see comics reaching #100! Time will tell.

What were my favorites? Frankly, the ones I bought from the stands: Superman 300, Batman 300 and Wonder Woman 300.

What were your favorites?

See you at 400!

Special thanks to Lone Star Comics for searching their data base and using their photos!

Michael Curry

Murdermoon! Marvel Novel Series #11 – Spider-Man and the Hulk!

Last but not least! Marvel Novel Series #11 concludes with a Marvel Team-Up, featuring their biggest (at the time … and today!): The Amazing Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk: Murdermoon by Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg is the creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis and Checkmate. He is the author of the “Death of Archie” storyline.

The book is 208 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel in the series. There are Spider-Man and Hulk illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). Maybe they learned their lesson from the prior Avenger book: the illustrations match the star of the specific chapter – Spider-Man for the Spidey chapters and Hulk for old Greenskin’s chapters.

There is no blurb for the “next” novel on the back. Did they know this was the last one?

Cover is signed by Bob Larkin, known for his painted covers of Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

 

Spider-Man thwarts a quartet of thieves in a government office. One felon gets away with plans and other documents of NASA’s next unmanned space launch. Spidey later learns more plans were stolen from the Johnson Space Center. He discovers through underworld contacts that the thieves were hired by an outfit near Niagara Falls.

After rampaging through Nevada as the Hulk, Banner awakes in a small town in Kansas where he finds work, a place to live, and new friends. An article in the local paper says a cure for gamma radiation may have been found in Chicago. Banner goes to Chicago and is incapacitated by the doctors who planted the article as a trap. They take him to their lair near Niagara Falls.

The scientists plant a device in Hulk’s ear to control him. When Spider-Man busts into the lab, they order the Hulk to attack!

The evil scientists launch their satellite that will hack into all other satellites in orbit, giving the scientists control over all the information in the globe! Can our heroes stop it in time?

 

J Jonah Jameson is not quite on the leash he was with Crime Campaign, but still within tolerable levels. Another nice bit of continuity is the mention of Cindy Sayers from Spidey’s (and Kupperberg’s) prior book!

This is a true team-up! It is not a Spider-Man story with the Hulk as a guest star or visa-versa. Each hero is given his own chapter – with the Hulk travelling the highways and byways of the good ole’ USA: Nevada to Kansas to Chicago to upstate New York … just to get him under Spider-Man’s radar.  But it reflects Hulk’s wandering and his interaction with us ordinary mortals so vital to the TV series. One nice bit shows us how Banner can afford his constant change of wardrobe!

Fun story and a great conclusion to the Marvel Novel Series.

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

Marvel Novel Series #8 – The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg

#8: The Amazing Spider-Man: Crime Campaign by Paul Kupperberg

Paul Kupperberg is the creator of Arion Lord of Atlantis and Checkmate. He is the author of the “Death of Archie” storyline. He currently has a Kickstarter campaign for Kupperberg Komics: Secret Romances and Super Gorillas at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/394056054/kupperberg-komics-secret-romances-and-super-gorill?ref=user_menu

The book is 192 pages long, but begins on page 9 – making it the longest novel of the series so far. There are Spider-Man illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (with no credit for the artists). There are no Pocket Book house ads. It was published July 1, 1979.

Cover is signed by Bob Larkin, known for his painted covers of Marvel magazines.

The book is “packaged and edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman.”  Len Wein is the co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans

 

National newsman Ian Forester announces his candidacy for mayor of New York. He is expected to win the primary due to his popularity, beating the unnamed incumbent.

But all is not as it appears – the Kingpin has kidnapped Forester’s daughter to force him into the campaign. Kingpin gathers the other crime lords of the city – including his only real competitor Silvermane – and asks them to join forces. With the mayor in his pocket, they will all make fortunes skimming off the city’s coffers; graft that no one will discover for decades. They will make Tammany Hall look like a Presbyterian sewing circle!

Peter Parker teases J Jonah Jameson into also running for mayor. Cindy Sayers, JJJ’s niece, introduces herself to Peter. JJJ orders Peter to teach her the fine art of journalistic photography; Peter obviously bristles at the idea of a tagalong. He suspects Cindy is more than she seems – is she here only to spy on Peter? Does JJJ suspect he is really Spider-Man?

Imagine Peter’s surprise when, during a press conference, Forester is threatened by … Spider-Man! Peter ditches Cindy, changes into his union suit, and battles his doppleganger. The fake Spider-Man, using a poison gas, gets away.

Forester goes to Silvermane and asks his help to rescue his daughter, thus betraying Kingpin. Silvermane agrees. Spidey finds and rescues Forester’s daughter just as Silvermane’s and Kingpin’s forces do battle!

 

Paul Kupperberg weaves an excellent story with twists and turns and betrayals with every chapter. What is Kingpin’s REAL motive? What about Silvermane’s “betrayal”? Is Cindy Sayer spying for her uncle? Joe “Robbie” Robertson’s tells Peter that JJJ was an only child. How, then, can he have a niece? Who is she? Who is the fake Spider-Man?

Rather than “just” a comic book in prose, Kupperberg gives us a genuine crime thriller/mystery!

Cindy Sayers is a great note of continuity in the novel series. In Book 1: Mayhem in Manhattan JJJ mentions her and says she wants to learn about photography. Here she and Peter kindle a romance, even as Peter suspects she might not be who she says she is.

Speaking of old JJJ, Paul keeps him down to tolerable levels in this novel (can you tell I am not a fan of Jameson? haha).  Jameson is not the eternally obnoxious blowhard of Mayhem in Manhattan and in the comic books. Here he is a bossy bully, but not the cliché caricature.  Unlike in Mayhem, JJJ is not given a few paragraphs justifying the way he is and giving the reader a reason to give him some grudging respect. It is not needed in Crime Campaign. Because the reader does not dislike JJJ here – he is kept on a short leash. Well done.

Very well done!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan. Pocket novel, 1978

The Amazing Spider-Man: Mayhem in Manhattan by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. #1 of the Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books Marvel Novel series. Released March 1, 1978.

The writers are well-known to Bronze Age comic book fans. Both had a history of writing and editing the Wall-Crawler by this time.

Len Wein is also known as co-creator of DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Wolverine as well as joining him with Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as the All-New X-Men. Marv Wolfman is known for his excellent run on Tomb of Dracula. Within a few years of this novel he would write for one of the best comics ever created – Night Force – and co-create the New Teen Titans.

No mention as to who does the interior art (shots of Spidey at the beginning of each chapter). The internet says the cover is by Bob Larkin.

The book is 176 pages long, although the story begins at page 11.

Before that we have a three-page introduction by Stan Lee. Here he is in the full hipster-huckster mode that endeared some fans and irritated others.  In Spider-Man’s case there is not much he can do to overhype THIS co-creation.  I wish Stan would sit down before he leaves us and give us a straight memoir.  Imagine the stories and comics history he can recount without all the PT Barnum-isms. Until then … he’s that favorite uncle who visits on Christmas Eve loaded with presents and then bolts when he hears a police siren.

 

Allen Huddleston was the accountant for a small-time gangster. He worked his way to the top of the organization. His company merged with a legitimate oil company and his career and fortune soared. Then one day, a man made him an offer he had to refuse.

Because of his refusal, this individual – showing signs of superhuman powers, threw Huddleston from his 50-story apartment. The identity of this new boss is easy to deduct to we older readers/Spidey fans (from the villain’s first appearance on page 14).

Spidey finds Huddleston’s body and is (typically) blamed for the murder.

Meanwhile, there is a meeting of the presidents of the 8 largest oil companies in the US. This same bad guy, hidden by a screen, told the eight that they must buy oil from him during the next year. Their oil has been irradiated and rendered useless. By the time the oil can be cleaned up, the year will have passed. This individual – known through the novel as the Master Planner until his real identity is revealed – is set to make millions.

While Spidey investigates the death of Huddleston he finds a taped telephone conversation with Huddleston and the Master Planner. Spider-Man finds that the murder is connected to a manipulation of the eight US oil companies. This leads to some of the Master Planner’s moles in the other oil companies. The Master Planner sets a trap for Spider-Man. There, the Master Planner reveals his real identity.

As the novel progresses, we meet regulars Mary Jane Parker, Glory Grant, Joe Robertson and good old J Jonah Jameson. At first Triple-J is pleasant to others and happy that Spider-Man is accused of murder. As the facts become clearer, he is back to his usual two-dimensional self – brusque, short-tempered and kvetching. But then the authors do something unusual – they give JJJ a personality.  He and Robbie investigate the mystery of the eight US oil company executives meeting in secret. We are reminded that he was once one of the best investigative reporters in the country and are shown why. At the end he confesses to Robertson why he REALLY dislikes Spidey – what about the REAL heroes who work to better mankind every day. “Who do you think is under that mask?” Robbie says. “A man, just like you.”

In the story’s midst we read a two-page origin recap. Quick and simple. Modern movie-makers could learn a lot from this.

Gratmen:  the novel mentions the Ditko Lighting Corporation – an honorara to Spider-Man’s co-creator Steve Ditko.

 

A very fun read. The mystery of whodunnit isn’t that mysterious and the investigation by both Spider-Man and the Jameson-Robertson team is not that complicated. But this isn’t James Joyce. It’s a novel of a superhero aimed at young adults. That isn’t to say it is written simplistically or Wein and Wolfman write down to their audience. But clues are given out easily and freely. The tape Spidey finds tells him who his next contacts are and those contacts leads him into a trap he barely escapes.

His detective work finding the Master Planner’s ultimate hide-out was done well. Spider-Man does some real investigation to find it, but it only takes a page or two.

Likewise, Robertson finds his lead by bribing an underworld contact. Their investigation eventually merges with Spider-Man’s in the final confrontation.

A fun murder mystery cloaked in a superhero mask. A good pulpy beginning to the Marvel Novel series!

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned are copyright their respective holders. Thanks to Marvel Comics and Pocket Books for the use of their images. Cover image was taken by the author.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated or credited.