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Ms. Marvel #1

Ms. Marvel #1

Ms. Marvel swoops onto the scene, sporting scarf and bare midriff, tossing around cars to foil a bank robbery and relying on her “Seventh Sense” to get out of — and into — trouble. There is a feeling of “just add water” with this first issue, with Ms. Marvel borrowing the costume of Captain Marvel, and the book borrowing the supporting cast of Spider-Man — Carol Danvers gets a job in the magazine division of the Daily Bugel, sparks up a friendship with Mary Jane Watson, and even rescues J. Jonah Jameson from the clutches of the Scorpion in the book’s second action sequence. But the book tries for something new, too, with Carol and Ms. Marvel unaware they are in fact the same person, and with the origin and dimension of Ms. Marvel’s powers left as a mystery for another issue. The action is by-the-book (John Buscema supposedly didn’t like drawing superhero books, and it shows here), but the script is loaded with more characterization than you’d expect, with one sequence where Carol Danvers barks down Jonah Jameson in a salary negotiation being the highlight.

Ms. Marvel #1, by Conway and Buscema

Ms. Marvel would go on to enjoy a rocky career, but her debut issue was competent and readable and even aware, in it’s late-70s way, of gender issues, looking at a woman’s life in the workplace, and punctuating an action scene with a little girl declaring she wants to grow up to be a hero just like Ms. Marvel. (And where else was a Marvel kid supposed to turn? All the best female superheroes were across town, working for DC!)

Ms. Marvel #1, by Conway & Buscema

  • Script: Gerry Conway
  • Pencils: John Buscema
  • Inks: Joe Sinnott

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Ms. Marvel #1

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Black Panther #1

Black Panther #1

Jack Kirby hits the ground running in what was billed as the Black Panther’s first solo series, and all these years later it is still a singular accomplishment. Kirby’s Bronze Age work often seemed to stand alone — series like New Gods, Eternals, Captain America, and this Black Panther series feel siloed from the larger comics universes in which the reside, with limited points of contact to whatever events were going on at the time, and guest appearances from iconic heroes that feel oddly out-of-step with their canonical selfs. In the 70s, Kirby set everything in the Kirby-verse, and while I didn’t quite get it as a child, I am much younger now, and it suits me just fine. Here, Black Panther is on a treasure hunt, recovering the fabled King Solomon’s Frog and seeking to return it to its resting place.

Black Panther #1, Jack Kirby

The twist — the Frog is an ancient artifact that summons monsters through time to kill those who tamper with it. Panther is a bit reactive in this issue (which I recall was my criticism of this series as a whole), but the action and monster quotient forgives a lot. Panther’s weird sidekick, Mister Little, gets bumped by the imperious Princess Zanda in this very first issue (though I believe he returns at a later date), and then everything goes sideways when a bulbous-headed alien with “Hatch 22” stamped on his forehead is summoned by the frog! It has basically nothing to do with Black Panther as we’ve seen him before or since, but it is as weird and wonderful as it sounds … it’s the Kirby-verse, remember? Ready for more.

Black Panther #1, Jack Kirby

  • Script & Pencils: Jack Kirby
  • Inks: Mike Royer

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Black Panther #1

Eternals Annual #1

Eternals Annual #1

The (ahem) eternal war between Man and Deviant continues! Zakka The Tool-Master is unleashing horrors out of time on the streets of 1977, so the all-wise Zuras dispatches Karkas, Thena, and The Reject to put things right. Of course, given that Thena relies on a man-monster and a monstrous man to complete her mission, hilarity ensues. Reject rumbles with Jack the Ripper, while Karkas takes on Attila the Hun, wrecking a hotel and in the process panicking the people he was trying to protect. Jack Kirby was always strong at wringing pathos out of his monstrous, misunderstood heroes, and had this series not died in the womb I expect Karkas might have come to be regarded right alongside Ben Grimm in this regard.

With his mortal pawns getting slapped around, Zakka summons the dread Mutate Tutinax, the Mountain Mover (a big momo I don’t think we’ve seen before, or since), and gets his own ass kicked for his temerity. Tutinax runs amok for a few pages, but just when it is getting good — when Tutinax is holding a building over his head, and shouting, “Let this be both your gave and monument! Die!!” — it just kind of … ends. Tutinax pops back to his own era and the adventure is over, like Jack was creating so fast that he didn’t notice he was running out of pages. Thena and the boys walk into the sunset, her spinning a tale about how Karkas and Reject have learned a lesson about true comradeship, but they aren’t having any of it (and neither are we).

  • Script & Pencils: Jack Kirby
  • Inks: Mike Royer

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Howard The Duck #8

Howard the Duck #1

Howard’s Presidential campaign is in full-swing, and dealing with it has become a full-time job, with Howard and Bev dodging campaign fixers and an army of assassins determined to silence them.

These books were so wonderfully serviced by first-rate art. I think it was Stan Lee who said that Gene Colon could get tension out of drawing a guy turning a doorknob … and I’m not sure what that means … but man, I love seeing Colan on Howard the Duck (and anything else). It certainly elevates the script, which is only so-so here, as Howard lays out his campaign platform, including one of those patented Steve Gerber text pages. Mostly Howard’s political positions are just common sense, though they were satire in their day. Now it is we who are trapped in a world we never made.

  • Script: Steve Gerber
  • Pencils: Gene Colan
  • Inks: Steve Leialoha

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Invaders #12

Invaders #12

The Invaders stage a rescue mission from the Warsaw Ghetto … which is pretty damn grim. Why rescue just one guy? It’s a fine line they walk, in these World War 2 comics, especially if the book itself cites the existence of concentration camps. I expect there is an in-continuity reason why the superheroes don’t put paid to Hitler straight-away. Over in All-Star Squadron I seem to remember something about the Spear of Destiny seizing control of any hero who came too close to it. But still.

This issue also introduces Spitfire, the daughter of Union Jack, who gained her super-speed powers by a transfusion of the Human Torch’s blood. The Torch is sweet on her, but Spitfire only has eyes for Captain America. It is ever thus. Bonus points for a Holy Hannah.

  • Script: Roy Thomas
  • Pencils: Frank Robbins
  • Inks: Frank Springer

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