Strange Tales #115 (12/10/1963)

detailOnce again, this issue of Strange Tales #115 is once again split between a solo Human Torch story and a Dr. Strange tale. As has been the norm up to this point, the solo Human Torch story is wildly inconsistent and poorly written. For one, I just love how the other members of the Fantastic Four are usually too busy to actually fight villains. In Strange Tales #115, for instance, Mr. Fantastic is too busy to assist with the Sandman because of an experiment and the Thing and Invisible Woman are too busy writing a report. Seriously? Over fighting a villain? What kind of superheroes are they?

Another concern with this issue is Lee didn’t even try to come up with a creative way of having the Sandman escape, rather he was just placed in a regular prison cell. That’s just plain lazy writing. The confrontation between Sandman and the Human Torch was okay, but it’s beyond me how the bottom half of the Human Torch gets wet, but his top stays dry when the ceiling sprinklers come on. Luckily for the Human Torch he is now a judo master and is able to toss Sandman around like nothing. Really a poorly thought out story.

Luckily, the Dr. Strange tale is much better, which is the first telling of Dr. Strange’s well-known origin story. The tale opens with Dr. Strange traveling to India to seek the aide of the Ancient One in healing him. It is through the Ancient One’s peering into Dr. Strange’s mind that we learn of his past as an arrogant surgeon and the accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. It’s a very short, but effective story. Now if only the Human Torch stories could get on par with the Dr. Strange ones this series would be much better.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Tales of Suspense #46 (11/10/1963)

detailThe Tales of Suspense series is on a bit of a roll in regards to the quality of villains. Last issue featured the Crimson Dynamo, while Tales of Suspense #47 features the first appearance of the Melter. In fact this issue wastes no time, pretty much opening with Tony Stark getting cold cocked by the Melter. After which, there’s an awkwardly placed flashback to the Melter’s origin. It turns out that the Melter is really Bruno Horgan, a competitor of Stark’s who went out of business due to Stark exposing his use of inferior materials. Thus, the Melter, who has the interesting power to melt metal via a beam, has decided to sabotage Stark’s own contracts.

I like the fact that the Melter has a personal connection with Stark and deeper motivation than just the generic I want to take over the world. However, the Melter’s design is just goofy. Why does he need a cape? Despite the goofy design, Melter definitely comes off as a credible threat to Iron Man. In fact their first encounter had a pretty cool image of Iron Man’s arm being melted off. Great stuff. I also, liked the fact that the encounter also caused Tony Stark to start doubting himself if he would be able to beat someone who has the power to melt metal. In addition, I also like that this issue also shows repercussions of the sabotaging, with the Congress informing Stark that he needs to get his act together.

For all the positives, the ending of this issue just doesn’t do it for me. It just seems incredibly anticlimactic to me. However, despite this flaw, Strange Tales #46 is still a fun read and features a great villain. Hopefully this trend continues on into the next issue as well.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Don Heck
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors:

Amazing Spider-Man #6 (11/10/1963)

detail.jpgAfter featuring a Fantastic Four villain in the last issue, Amazing Spider-Man #6 features the first appearance of another classic villain, the Lizard. This issue opens with basically the Daily Bugle goading Spider-Man into facing off against the mysterious Lizard who is terrorizing the Everglades. Of course the only problem is that the fact that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker it means that he is too broke to be able to get down to Florida. It’s little problems like this, which cannot be solved with super powers, that make Spider-Man such an interesting series. Eventually, Spider-Man is able to basically beat J. Jonah Jameson at his own game and got him to pay for Peter Parker to photograph the Lizard.

Upon arriving down in Florida it’s not long before Spider-Man runs into the Lizard and has his butt promptly handed to him. Luckily, the Lizard isn’t just some generic villain who just wants to take over the world. In fact, the Lizard actually has an interesting backstory, as he is actually Dr. Curt Connors, a former surgeon who took up studying reptiles after he had lost his arm in the war. Unfortunately, Dr. Connors gets caught up in his quest to regrow his arm and takes his untested formula, which at first causes him to grow his arm back, but then comes the side effect of turning him into the Lizard.

Overtime, Dr. Connors begins to lose his humanity and becomes more and more reptilian. The Lizard is definitely a credible physical threat to Spider-Man, with him being stronger than Spider-Man, with a naturally thick hide, and the ability to scale walls as well. However, in addition to that, the Lizard has that extra layer of essentially being a good guy that’s trapped inside of a monster, which just makes the character that much more interesting. In addition, Ditko’s depiction of the Lizard is just fantastic as well. There’s just something about Ditko’s art style that works really well with Spider-Man.

The plot is well-paced and the confrontations with the Lizard actually taking place over three different occurrences, which is a nice break from the one big confrontation that is so common with Silver Age issues. That’s not to say there aren’t some issues with the story, such as gator guards and Spider-Man pontoons, they’re just so minor that they really don’t detract from the overall story. In the end, Amazing Spider-Man #6 is a fantastic read, that adds yet another interesting rouge to Spider-Man’s gallery. In addition, this issue continues to lay the groundwork of the relationship between Betty Brant and Parker.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Fantastic Four #20 (11/10/1963)

detail28.jpgFantastic Four #20 features the story, “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” which features the first appearance of the Molecule Man. “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” centers around, as the name would suggest, the origins of the Molecule Man, who gains the powers to manipulate inorganic molecules when he is in an accident. This issue also features the Watcher, who is the one that actually warns the Fantastic Four of the impending danger.

“The Mysterious Molecule Man” is a fun origin story of a villain with interesting powers. Clearly, the Molecule Man is a threat worthy of the Fantastic Four. In addition, Kirby’s artwork does a good job of capturing the powers of the Molecule Man. The fight panels between the Molecule Man and the Fantastic Four are also well done. I also thought it was humorous that the Thing ended up being rescued by the dastardly Yancy Street Gang.

However this issue does have some downsides. Probably the biggest one is really the motivations of the Molecule Man. He’s upset that no one notices him, but somehow that leads him to wanting to conquer the world? I would think he’d rather just show off his powers or something. Also, I’m not quite sure if his powers are in the wand or if he just channels it through the wand, I’m thinking the later because the wand is deemed no longer dangerous.

Final Fantasy #20 is another classic Fantastic Four story that fans of the series or of Marvel Comics in general will enjoy.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Fantastic Four #19 (10/10/1963)

detail27Fantastic Four #19 features the story, “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” which features the first appearance of Rama-Tut. “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” centers around Reed Richards discovering on a trip to the museum that it appears that a pharaoh had discovered a way to restore blindness. Naturally this leads the Fantastic Four traveling back to ancient Egypt to find it to cure Alicia’s blindness.

I foundPrisoners of the Pharaoh,” to be an interesting story, mainly because it turns out that Rama-Tut is really a time-traveler from the years 3000 and had gone back in time to become pharaoh. The fact that Rama-Tut went back in time because he was bored of the utopia of his time was also an interesting tidbit. Also interesting is his ship was the sphinx. In addition, Rama-Tut has technology (Ultra-Diode Ray) that was able to sap the Fantastic Four’s powers.

On the flipside, a downside to the story is how the Fantastic Four end up traveling back in time. Apparently, Dr. Doom’s time machine has just been left in perfect working at his old hideout, which makes me wonder why someone wouldn’t have tried to get that technology before now, especially since it’s an actual time machine. In addition, the fact that there was a container labeledoptic nerve restorative” that Fantastic Four was kind of ludicrous. Also, I don’t remember the time machine not being able to transport radioactive material being mentioned in the previous issue featuring it.

In the end Fantastic Four #19 is a fun issue that captures the spirit of what makes for a good Fantastic Four story. In addition, it also does a good job of linking to previous events in the series, such as with Dr. Doom’s time machine.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Amazing Spider-Man #5 (10/10/1963)

detailnThis issue of Amazing Spider-Man is interesting in that it’s the first issue to feature a villain that is not a traditional Spider-Man villain, namely Dr. Doom. In addition, this is an early example of the formation of a broader Marvel Universe, in which the various series are not in isolation from one another. This issue sees Dr. Doom zero in on Spider-Man as a possible ally to help him take down the Fantastic Four, which is a nice departure from a typical villain who wants to take over the city or world motivation. In addition, Dr. Doom’s motivations for targeting Spider-Man makes sense, as watching media it’s unsure if Spider-Man is a good guy or not and he is certainly an outcast.

However the whole hacking into Spider-Man’s spider signal by Dr. Doom as a way to move the plot forward was a bit hockey. This initial encounter between Dr. Doom and Spider-Man was extremely well-done and really highlighted both Dr. Doom’s arrogance and Spider-Man’s tendency for the quip. Also, it pokes at Lee’s overreliance on the trap door as a source of danger for the heroes, which was a nice touch. Spider-Man’s rejection of Doom’s offer for partnership and Doom’s displeasure at being rejected is an effective way to move the plot along, because the fact that Spider-Man is an unwilling pawn and Dr. Doom’s desire to be in control definitely fits his character. Thus Dr. Doom sets to work on a device to track down Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Flash Thompson decides to dress up like Spider-Man and scare Peter Parker by jumping out at him in costume. Unfortunately for Flash, Dr. Doom tracks down Spider-Man right as he dresses up and Peter Parker is walking by him, which naturally leads Dr. Doom to capture Flash and hold him hostage until the Fantastic Four surrender to him. While not the best plot device, the whole mistaken identity actually works in this case, given the comments made earlier in the issue and is actually a subtle use of foreshadow for once. Although the whole Liz calling Peter to tell him Flash is missing makes absolutely zero sense in regards to the characters’ relationship.

The ensuing encounter between Spider-Man and Dr. Doom is actually even better than the previous one and it really highlights just how dangerous Dr. Doom really is. In addition, the conflict between the two resolves in a way that actually makes sense from a story perspective. Also, this issue does a good job furthering Peter’s relationship with several supporting characters, such as Aunt May and Betty Brant, which has always been a strong point of this series.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Uncanny X-Men #1 (09/10/1963)

mmUncanny X-Men #1 is the first appearance of the X-men, although they are far cry from what they would eventually evolve into. The characters in this issue are very rough and some readers might find them almost unrecognizable from their modern counterparts. The issue does have an effective opening, with the four members of the team, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, and Angel, participating in a training class; effectively demonstrating their powers through action rather than dialog. Soon after the class, we see Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl) arrive at the school, who soon has the boys drooling over her. Luckily, unlike his usual portrayal of female characters, Lee portrays Marvel Girl as more than capable, while at the same time showing the readers her powers. While some might think this opening introduction drags on too long, I found it to be a very effective introduction.

Unfortunately, as was common during the Silver Age, especially in these early issues, characters tend to lean towards the generic. In this issue, Angel, Beast and Iceman are portrayed as pretty typical teenagers, overconfident, eager and horny. In addition, the interplay between the Beast and Iceman is very, very reminiscent of the Human Torch and the Thing. Although, there are hints even in this early issue, of Cyclops’ overprotectiveness of the Professor. Also, Professor X almost comes off as a robot, he’s very distant, cold and mysterious, a far cry from what the character is later on.

Also in this issue we’re introduced to the antagonist, Magneto, who unfortunately in this early issue is rendered pretty much as just a typical evil villain, who decides to attack Cape Citadel to demonstrate the superiority of mutants. Although, Kirby’s depiction of Magneto basically just strolling into Cape Citadel and treating the soldiers as if they were nothing but gnats; it’s also a pretty darn effective demonstration of his powers. It is also with the appearance of Magneto that the issue’s pace starts picking up the pace.

It isn’t long before there is a confrontation between the X-Men and Magneto, which is captured admirably by Kirby’s art. While it’s a fun encounter it does have a couple of problems. The biggest one is by far the underwhelming conclusion of the encounter. The other issue is that the X-Men are depicted as an extremely well-oiled machine, despite this is their first actual mission and Jean Grey is a brand new member.

In the end, this inaugural issue of Uncanny X-Men is the first mission of the X-Men, but for those interested in learning the origins of the X-Men will be disappointed, as that really is not covered in this issue. Still, this issue is worth checking out just to see how much these characters have evolved over the years.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Paul Reinman
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee