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Incredible Hulk #207

Incredible Hulk #207

When they say Hulk meets the Defenders, they mean it. This reads just like a Defenders of the era — Sal Buscema art, Hulk calling Nighthawk “Bird-Nose,” Doctor Strange as an old man in a flying bathrobe, Valkyrie hitting everything with the flat of her blade … the works! Hey, even Red Guardian is here, throwing her belt buckle at the Hulk. (Like that’s going to help). Hulk is on a rampage because Jarella is dead and he has some notion that Doctor Strange can fix it.

He can’t. For whatever reason, this is one death that Marvel can’t reverse. (This time). Hulk takes the news hard and wrecks a freeway. But buried beneath all the “Hulk Smash” is some genuine pathos from writer Len Wein. The Hulk has lost his love; he’s grieving, and coming to terms. Poor guy. The end of the issue promises a bold new direction for the Hulk in the month to come but I recall it was the same creators doing pretty much the same stuff, so not sure what to make of that. The boring predictability of mid-to-late Seventies Hulk was half the charm of this series. Don’t mess with a bad thing!

  • Script: Len Wein
  • Pencils: Sal Buscema
  • Inks: Joe Staton

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Fantastic Four #178

Fantastic Four #178

A goofy and wonderful tangle of story from Roy Thomas, with spectacular art by George Perez, pretty much at the top of his game for Marvel. It’s all wrapped up in the bizarre continuity of counter-earth, where there is a Reed Richards who doesn’t stretch and who is a maniac — and also The Brute! (Jonathan Hickman was only five when this came out, so you can’t blame him). The Fantasic Four have been captured by the Frightful Four, and they’re all strapped to a crazy-looking windmill while the bad guys — led by Reed Richards’ double, who is in his underwear and smoking a pipe — decide what to do with them! Smash ‘em? Hold ‘em for ransom? Hey, why not both?

Cool action in the back half of the book, when the FF inevitably break loose and kick butt. Thundra and Tigra are here, too, because why not? The “Four” in Fantastic Four was always advisory, not a hard and fast rule. The good guys win and the evil Reed is ejected into the Negative Zone, but our good Reed can never stretch again. BUT WAIT, IT IS ALL A PLOY … it is the GOOD Reed that got shot into another dimension, while the evil version has pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes. Why wasn’t I reading this book in 1977? It’s a gas!

  • Script: Roy Thomas
  • Pencils: George Perez
  • Inks: Dave Hunt

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Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #32

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #32

Larger than life and in living black & white, this issue brings us a Daughters of the Dragon story, with Misty Knight and Colleen Wing hunting a drug dealer through the grim alleys of Hong Kong. It’s languid and wordy in vintage Chris Claremont style, with art from a wet-behind-the-ears Marshall Rogers, when his design skills were still out in front of his drawing ability. There’s plenty of punching and kicking, and some shout-outs to contemporary Iron Fist continuity. It rumbles along like a 70s martial arts movie, and its hard not to hear the wah-wah guitars and güiros as you read.

The tale has a forced bit of cheesecake, as Collen and Misty’s outfits disintegrate while they run a gauntlet of kung fu thugs. I expect this was an attempt to sex things up for a non-code black & white book, but it didn’t age well, and I’d pay a dollar to learn if it originated with Claremont, Rogers, or Marvel editorial. The tale concludes with our ladies knocked out and fished from the ocean, doubtless with some terrible doom in the offing. Maybe we’ll find out next issue. The only black and white I was reading in 1977 was Savage Sword of Conan so I can’t even rely on memory for how this ultimately comes out.

  • Script: Chris Claremont
  • Art: Marshall Rogers

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Thor Annual #6

Thor Annual #6

Thor is plucked out of 1977 and flung forward to the 31st century, where he pops in on Korvac, who rants and raves. (If you were a shopping cart from the waist down, you’d rant too). Korvac sends Thor out into space, where he freezes over. While this enables a nice call-back to the Avengers finding a frozen Captain America in the drink, it doesn’t make a lot of sense — I recall Thor flying through deep space in his cape and boots all the time. (Then again, I just saw something very like this scene in Avengers Infinity War, so I guess that’s ANOTHER thing we owe to the deeply-missed Len Wein).

Korvac plans to blow up the sun, but how his incompetent band of underling losers are to help in this is not clear. (To be fair, the slime guy was pretty cool). Punching and hammer throwing ensues. It is all very passable, and instantly forgetable. Sal Buscema was rarely better than his inker, and he has Klaus Jansen here, so he’s pretty good.

  • Script: Len Wein & Roger Stern
  • Pencils: Sal Buscema
  • Inks: Klaus Jansen

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Captain America Annual #4

Captain America Annual #4

Marvel threw the keys for Captain America to Jack Kirby in 1977 and one of the things they got out of the deal was this odd and delightful annual. Like all of Kirby’s late offerings for Marvel, this book seemed to occur in its own reality — a Kirby-Verse, if you will. I mean, it has Captain America and Magneto in it, and you will recognize them from other books, but they are singular characters here, divorced from the way they appear in the rest of Marvel’s offerings, and even a bit different than I remember them under Jack’s hand when they originally appeared. Is this dissonance due to co-creator Stan Lee’s absence? Or maybe Jack just … changed a bit as a creator in the decades he was in the business? Both seem reasonable to me.

For the record, I dig Kirby-Verse Marvel, and this Annual has long held a place in my heart. It’s bizarre. Magneto draws unwanted attention from Captain America when he places a “Mutant Seeking Mutant” personal ad in the newspaper. (No, really!). Magneto is aided and abetted by yet another incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and it really seems like he’s hit the bottom of the barrel with this crew. Everyone ends up fighting over a mutant so tiny that he can fit in a ring on your finger — Magneto wants him so he can explore the inside of a little spaceship he found somewhere. You can’t make this stuff up … but Jack Kirby could! Man, could he ever!

  • Script & Art: Jack Kirby
  • Inks: John Verpoorten & John Tartaglione

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