Friday, February 27, 2009

The Vision: The Way We Were - Avengers 58 (Part 2)

Avengers #58 (November 1968)
“Even An Android Can Cry”
Roy Thomas - writer
John Buscema - artist
George Klein - inker

Part 2

Karen: So the $64 million dollar question is: is the Vision more human or more machine? I’ve always felt he was more human, based on not only Hank Pym’s description -that he was basically human in every way, except made of synthetic materials – but also the obvious displays of emotion he’s shown over the years, particularly when it came to his love for Wanda. I know we’ll be talking about Byrne’s mechanizing of Vizh in some later posts, but I think anyone who really read these early stories would see that the Vision is essentially (as Hank says) a man trapped in an artificial body. But somehow we got away from all that, really starting with Roger Stern’s Ultimate Vision storyline (issues 243-254 or thereabouts). Although Vision displays emotion there, we also see him exhibit more mechanical traits, as he mentally links with a computer, Isaac of Titan, and goes a bit mad. That theme, of being a mechanical being, has continued through all later versions of the character – even Kurt Busiek’s in volume three, and I thought Busiek got Vizh better than most.

Doug: I have always thought just the opposite, Karen! To me, his red skin, the “hollow voice” (always done convincingly with the square yellow word balloons), and the simple fact that he is a construct always put the machine before the man. I, as a youngster, always saw Vizh as a fish out of water when it came to dealing with his emotions. That he had emotions didn’t really bother me – that he displayed loyalty, anger, leadership, even angst – those seemed fine. But, throw in his pining for Wanda and I just thought that was weird. And then when they were married – I’m sorry, I can understand a lot about human love and relationships, but a human and an artificial construct is just too much for me to wrap my mind around.

Sharon: Okay, so you can accept the Vision has emotions…why exclude the emotion of love? I think that was the whole purpose of giving him the “brain patterns” of a human was to establish that the Vision had a human mind trapped in a synthetic body. So it was kind of expected that at some point, Vision would fall in love.

Sharon: And I think it’s Wanda who comes off as weird or maladjusted, when she (a couple of years later) meets and falls in love with the Vision. She very clearly knows he’s a synthozoid from the start. But it’s in character with how I’ve always seen her and how she was presented for much of the 1960s: cloistered and overly protected, a beautiful but very insecure, fragile and na├»ve woman who was not experienced with men (unlike, say, Jan or Natasha). In my eyes, the Vision represented a safe haven for Wanda; he was not like other men (to say the least!). I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I hope we will explore this topic in greater detail at a later date!

Doug: Well, Sharon, you went where I was gently trying NOT to go! While I wouldn’t exclude love from the range of the Vision’s emotions, it was the physical relationship between he and Wanda which I felt (still feel) is perverse. There – I said it! I guess, and there’s no way not to be crass about it, a relationship with the Vision would be somewhat akin (talking aside) to a relationship with an Inflatable Suzy! Ugh – I really didn’t want to go there…

Karen: Wow, I don’t see it that way at all! I mean, a blow-up doll isn’t sentient. It can’t feel anything. Doug, I’m confused how you can accept that Vizh has emotions and yet feel disgust over his need to love and be loved – surely one of the finest emotions a human can have? I guess I look on his artificialness as similar to a person with artificial limbs – except in his case, everything is artificial!

Doug: Karen, you just repeated my point – “everything is artificial”. I’d said just prior that while I can accept love as one of his emotions, my problem (I am beginning to sound like Pietro!) is in the physical relationship between Vizh and Wanda. I don’t think the analogy with a person who has a prosthesis works here. Maybe we are moving toward more of a theological discussion – What is a person? Plastic and wires aren’t human attributes – that does not mean that the Vision doesn’t have any human attributes, but it was after all told for years that he was cold and calculating with a computer mind. He was not a tabula rasa from the beginning but was instead imprinted with a defined set of beliefs, emotions, etc. He is an artificial construct, not composed of flesh and blood and therefore is, in the end, an object. I know that sounds cold… Would I accept him as a teammate? Yes, as Luke and Han accepted C-3PO and R2-D2 as teammates. And although more robotic than the Vision, I would say they loved and were loved by the rest of the cast. But I don’t think anyone wanted to sleep with them.

Karen: I want to save some of this for the posts we’ll do on what Byrne did to the Vision. But I’d argue there are big differences between the Vision and C-3PO (even bigger ones between him and R2-D2)! I see those two characters as being part of the team much the way the Batmobile is part of Batman’s ‘family’, or in a more generous way, the way Silver is part of the Lone Ranger’s team. They certainly are not considered equals by the Star Wars crew, and I think most of the Avengers have always treated Vizh as an equal. Or at least they did, back in the day.

Karen: As for Wanda and Vision’s relationship, I always thought it was analogous to mixed race relationships, which were much more frowned upon back even in the 70s.

Doug: Again, people are people – I would not argue from that point of view.

Sharon: Karen, I agree with you about the race angle; it was a subject that needed exploring and sadly, during that time pairing Wanda with the Vision was far less controversial than pairing her with, say, T’Challa would have been; Vizh-Wanda was clearly “fiction.” And later on, in a letter column in the early 70s, Steve Englehart likened Pietro’s role in the Wanda-Vizh love story to of Archie Bunker’s: a bigot.

Karen: Today’s Vision, lately of Young Avengers, and now of Mighty Avengers, does not have the same personality as our old Vizh. He is really the armor of Iron Lad (the future Kang), imbued with young Kang’s personality and the data files of the original Vision. Our Vision, the stalwart Avenger for decades, is still a pile of debris in a crate somewhere. I can’t understand why this great hero has been treated so poorly by Marvel. I can only hope that someone (Dan Slott, are you listening?) decides to champion his cause and bring him back.

Sharon: I agree, Karen; the current shabby treatment of the Vision is puzzling, to say the least. You know, in our previous entry for Avengers #57, I had questioned why Roy didn’t just have Natasha or Dane Whitman join the Avengers, if he (Roy) wanted to expand the ranks. After reading #58 it hit me that the Rascally One wanted a blank slate, a tabula rasa, a character that he could shape from the get go. The Vision belonged to Roy and no one else. The aforementioned last panel of #58 left no doubt that the Vision was being groomed to play a starring role in the Avengers. And slowly but surely he did. In about a year and half, after Hank had left the team and T’Challa had became a part-time Avenger, it was the Vision who became the de facto field leader (when the Big Three were not present of course). And as Karen mentioned in our previous entry, at some point the Vision even occupied the coveted corner box spot on the cover of the Avengers!

Doug: Despite our differences above, I would like to applaud Roy Thomas, John Buscema, et al. for giving us this magnificent character – how many comic characters can be discussed with this range of depth politically, biologically, emotionally, theologically, historically, and any other –ally you can come up with?! And we haven’t even gotten to John Byrne yet…

Karen: I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Byrne for what he did to the Vision.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Vision: The Way We Were - Avengers 58 (Part 1)

Avengers #58 (November 1968)
“Even An Android Can Cry”
Roy Thomas - writer
John Buscema - artist
George Klein - inker

Karen: Welcome to the second part of our look at the first appearance of the Vision. This issue delves into the Vision’s creation by Ultron, and indeed, the creation of Ultron as well. We also get the first big grouping of Avengers, including the Big Three, since Avengers Annual # 1, I believe.

Doug: I don’t have it right in front of me, but I recall Thor and Iron Man being on the cover (a GREAT Buscema cover with Goliath) of #51, where Goliath regains his growth powers. If I recall, their role inside was not nearly what it is in this issue. But you’re right – this is a wonderful grouping, lacking only Hercules, Wanda, Pietro, and the frequently-guesting Black Widow.

Sharon: By the this time, Wanda, Pietro and Hercules were no longer with the team…and as explained in #57, Natasha had taken up with SHIELD again. As for Cap, Thor and Iron Man, Roy Thomas tried to work them in as much as possible, despite Stan’s preference that they not be included in the Avengers (mostly because Stan didn’t want their Avengers escapades to conflict with what was going on in their own series). So the Big Three would pop up here and there…as Doug mentioned, Thor and Iron Man took part in the action in #51, and Cap showed up in #56 and Annual #2. In #58, the trio function as the elder statesmen.

Karen: I always thought it was odd that Stan wanted to keep the Big Three out of the book, since (ostensibly) they would be the biggest draws and likely to improve sales. Hey, perhaps this shows that, unlike the current heads of Marvel, money was not always the prime motivator of decisions!

Karen: Cap decides to test the Vision with a little impromptu combat, and Iron Man and Thor follow suit. I love how Hawkeye is the only one to figure out that Cap is simply testing the new applicant – the relationship between Cap and Hawkeye has to be one of my favorites in all of comics.

Doug: It’s a fun battle, and a great way to show off the Vision’s powers. Of course, we’d seen these powers on display in the previous issue, but certainly not in the context of pitched battle against two of the mightiest Avengers! And, I too, loved the smirk on ol’ Hawk’s face.

Karen: After much effort, the Vision is able to recall his ‘birth’ at the hands of Ultron. Ultron treats him cruelly, not even giving him a name. Unlike Steve Englehart’s later interpretation, here Ultron’s attitude towards the Vision is that of a master towards a slave, not a father (albeit a terrible one) towards his son. That definitely evolved later on.

Doug: I’ve personally always found this odd, and at times overbearing. Yes, I understand the whole Oedipal angle of it, and it was never better than in the “Bride of Ultron” 4-parter. I guess where it was most annoying was in the early pages of West Coast Avengers, when Ultron often mockingly referred to Dr. Pym as “Daddy”.

Doug: Additionally, am I correct in understanding that Ultron was Hank’s version of a synthozoid? It seems quite strange, then, that this mechanical construct would manifest himself as a robot rather than a humanoid. Sure, he claims to loathe Pym and humanity – why then did he create the Vision as a humanoid? Additionally again, is it a stretch to believe that this robot could basically create life from scratch (obviously we don’t yet know that the Vision is the Original Human Torch) in only the space of several months?

Karen: I would agree, Ultron doesn’t seem to fit the bill for a synthozoid, but there is that implication. Maybe he was simply an initial step? Of course exploring the Vision’s past lead to Pym trying to recall the details about his efforts to construct his own synthozoid – and he realized he couldn’t remember a thing! The Avengers head to Pym’s boarded –up lab and then the whole Ultron story is complete: Pym created Ultron, who turned the tables on him and erased the incident from his mind! While this sounds a little corny, it actually came across pretty well. We see the beginnings of Ultron’s Oedipal Complex in his complete contempt for Pym. This is also one of the events that lead to Pym’s later emotional/psychological issues.

Doug: Hank’s brain-train wrecks pretty quickly from here on out…

Sharon: In terms of the flashbacks, a couple of things bothered an old continuity geek like me. First, Hank mentions the fight with the Dragon Man that occurred-- in his words-- “the other day”…this would have placed these events just after #42 or so. But in the flashback he’s wearing his more recent red and blue costume instead of the yellow and blue one he’d sported back when they fought Dragon Man (and for some months thereafter).

Sharon: Then, when Iron Man tells the tale of Wonder Man, within IM’s narrative Cap refers to Giant-Man as “Hank.” But back then (Avengers #9), Giant-Man’s civilian identity was not known, and certainly not to Cap—because in Avengers #28 Cap’s surprised that “High Pockets” turns out to be Pym! Well, I guess these minor inconsistencies can be excused as “memory lapses”, since we’re not dealing with infallible, omniscient narrators here.

Karen: The final piece of the puzzle for the Vision is discovering that his brain patterns are based on those of Wonder Man (who was then believed to be dead). It’s a lot of information to take in –as Roy has him ponder, “I wonder – is it possible to be ‘basically human’?” One of these days (maybe soon, since I’m working on an Ultron article) I’d like to ask Roy why he chose to include the Wonder Man aspect in the Vision’s story? Was it really essential to giving him his ‘human bonafides’?

Sharon: That’s a very good question. Why connect him to Wonder Man, who was pretty much forgotten at that point? Wasn’t Ultron’s involvement exciting enough? Back in 1968 I’d only been reading the Avengers for about a year prior to this issue, so I had no previous knowledge of Wonder Man or the events in Avengers #9. So this development, which involved a long-ago minor character, seemed to come out of the blue. Later on, when I started collecting back issues and saw there’s been no mention of Wondy since #9, I felt cheated by #58 and the notion that these events had occurred off-panel.

Doug: Does anyone truly know what a “brain pattern” is? Has this ever been addressed. Because Vizh never had Simon Williams’ personality or memories. So what does it mean?

Sharon: Another good question. I think the vague notion of “brain patterns” was meant to establish that a human mind (not necessarily Simon’s personality or traits) had been grafted into the Vision’s synthetic brain.

Karen: I think Sharon is correct, although later on, Busiek tried to show that Vizh and Simon had some similar personality traits. But initially, I assume Roy meant for that to be a way to allow Vizh to have emotions and set up his internal conflicts. Of course many people have noted a similarity between the Vision and Mr. Spock, from Star Trek. Although I would submit that Vizh was more like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz – always bemoaning the fact that he can’t feel!

Sharon: Busiek wrote an unforgettable great scene in volume 3: Vizh and Simon discover their mutual love for Walt Kelly’s Pogo—among other things. The way it was presented, you could just “hear” their dialogue overlapping…wonderfully effective sequence.

Karen: Of course the Avengers decide to approve Vizh for membership, which gives us possibly the finest piece of artwork ever to appear in comics: the full-page shot of the Vision, overcome with emotion, holding his head as a single tear trickles down his plastic cheek. Buscema’s work has such quiet power to it, helped immensely by Klein’s inks and zip-a-tone background. It is one of the most memorable scenes in all of comics, in my opinion.

Doug: Not only is the panel to which you refer dynamite, but there are two other full team splashes included in this issue, either of which would be worthy of a poster or print of some sort.

Sharon: Both images were indeed magnificent. Buscema was at his best when drawing gatherings of characters- - just one of many reasons he was the perfect Avengers artist! But with the first picture—featuring the then-current Avengers along with prospective member Vision--I couldn’t help but wonder why Jan was wearing what seemed to be a winter ensemble in an issue that came out in September. She looked like a slim Mrs. Santa or a giant elf.

Sharon: The other full-page picture referred to was even more impressive; I loved seeing the gone but not forgotten Wanda, Pietro, and Hercules. They’d also just appeared in the recent Avengers Annual #2 pin-up and I was glad that Roy (and John!) remembered them. Natasha was included here, though, at the time of #58 she had never officially accepted membership; and I was even more puzzled by Spider-Man’s inclusion. Roy does explain (through Thor) that these were not only official Avengers but also heroes who’d fought alongside the Avengers (so where was the Black Knight? Was Thor unacquainted with the recent events of #54-55?). And given that this was supposed to be a visual embodiment of Thor’s words, I can see why the Swordsman wasn’t included, since his tenure—at that time-- had not exactly been honorable.

(to be continued)

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Vision: The Way We Were - Avengers #57

Avengers 57 (October 1968)
“Behold…the Vision!”
Roy Thomas -writer
John Buscema – Artist
George Klein – inker

Karen: In this post we’re going to discuss the first appearance of the Vision: at one time, one of the mainstays of the Avengers, but in recent years, a minor character at best. Actually the Vision currently running around in the Marvel Universe is the Vision in name only. His personality/identity is not the same as the original character. That hero is pretty much gone – forever?

Sharon: And actually the Vision Karen refers to- - the Vision we all know and love- - was not even the first Vision on the scene. There was an earlier Vision who debuted in the Golden Age; the earlier Vision was a Simon-Kirby creation that graced Timely’s Marvel Mystery Comics.

Sharon: Roy Thomas has stated in interviews that he was reluctant to create brand new characters in the Silver Age because back then, he wouldn’t have owned the character…and he says he would have felt cheated if “his” characters were used for marketing or merchandising without him reaping any monetary rewards (as would have been the case). Hence, his propensity to reuse older characters’ names and elements, such as the Black Knight and as here, the Vision. So when Stan asked Roy to introduce a new Avenger, Roy based the new character (at least visually and name-wise) on the older Vision. There were some changes; for example, Roy made the new Vision red-skinned (the earlier one had light green skin, I believe). Also, Stan wanted the new Avenger to be an android, so Roy incorporated this element as per Stan’s wishes.

Sharon: Now, a couple of months earlier, over at DC in Justice League of America # 64 (cover-dated August 1968), Julius Schwartz and Gardner Fox had introduced a new character called the Red Tornado—who had the same name as a Golden Age DC character. What’s more, the new Red Tornado had red skin…and was an android…

Karen: Right, and there’s always been debate over the X-Men and the Doom Patrol, both teams of outcast heroes, who appeared just about 4 months apart in 1963, and DC was first there too. But I tend to think that was also a case of coincidence.

Sharon: In their debut appearance, the Doom Patrol’s tagline was “the World’s Strangest Heroes!” The X-Men did them one better; on the cover of their debut issue Marvel’s mighty mutants were heralded as the “The Strangest Super-Heroes of All!”

Karen: Some ideas just occur in a number of places around the same time. Who knows what outside trends or forces shape these things?

Karen: But back to the Vision. In his heyday, he was one of the most popular Avengers, with many storylines revolving around him. He even got the corner spot on the cover for years! The Vision has been a favorite character of mine since I first started reading comics. I came across him initially in Avengers 92, and from that point I was hooked. Of course, this was at the start of the Kree-Skrull War and the romance between the Vision and the Scarlet Witch was becoming more prominent. So Vizh got a good portion of the spotlight and his angst was appealing to a young reader like me.

Doug: I am trying to remember my first Vision meeting! I think it must have been somewhere around the Celestial Madonna arc, or before. Among my first Avengers issues were 119, 120, 130, 131, and GS 2 and 3. The Vision was featured prominently in all of the above stories. My most shocking memory of him, however, was the beach scene during he and Wanda’s honeymoon, as shown in Avengers #137. It had never occurred to this young reader that his skin was red all over!

Sharon: I know what you mean. Back in Avengers #92, he’s wearing civilian clothes (turtleneck sweater, slacks, shoes, etc.) over his uniform, so I’d always thought his uniform—at least the green sections—was part of him and that Ultron had designed him that way.

Karen: But let’s turn to Avengers 57. Of course, it has a beautiful, memorable cover, by the great John Buscema. The interior art is also exceptional. George Klein’s inks give every figure a real sense of depth and the use of lighting and shadows sets a somber tone.

Sharon: George Klein had long been Curt Swan’s steady inker on Superman at DC for years, but when Klein and some other veteran freelancers asked DC for benefits—what nerve! --- DC promptly fired them! Luckily over at Marvel, Stan had work for Klein, a plum assignment inking Buscema on the Avengers. To me, Klein will always be the definitive John Buscema inker; just as he did for Swan, Klein brought out the classic look of Buscema’s pencils and made Buscema’s pencils look even more beautiful than they already were. Unfortunately, Klein died some months later; he was only in his fifties.

Karen: It’s a shame, his work was so strong. His use of zip-a-tone reminds me of Tom Palmer.

Doug: I first saw this issue as a reprint inside Marvel Treasury Edition #7. Although my mom didn’t purchase it for me that day at the store, the initial story images made quite an impression! If you think Buscema’s great-looking on the standard sized comic page, you can imagine how great he is on the larger paper.

Karen: The plot of the issue, for those who might have missed it, is this: The Vision appears and attacks the Wasp, then passes out. Later, he is examined by the team and regains consciousness. He wishes to be allies. They discover he was sent by Ultron, and the team goes right into a trap. The Vision seemingly defeats the robot, but we are left with many questions.

Sharon: Okay…so many years later we learn that Ultron is based on Hank’s brain patterns, and here Ultron sends the Vision to attack Jan…well, let’s just say it’s no surprise that all was not bliss for this couple!
Sharon: Speaking of troubled relationships, it was nice to see the Black Widow make an appearance and have some interaction with Hawkeye. She’d been a mainstay of the book from #29-#44, and then pfft! she was reduced to sporadic, cameo appearances (as here). I have often wondered why Roy didn’t make her an Avenger after #44, but I guess he grew tired of her. Surely her abilities were sort of similar to T’Challa’s (who’d joined in #52), and what’s more, she had a real history with the team.

Doug: Roy did a nice job of revealing the Vision’s powers. We first got a hint of his intangibility when the comment was made that the rain didn’t touch him. Next we saw flight, and then the solar-powered eye beams. Intangibility was further on display when he came through the wall after the Wasp had fled behind a locked door. By the way, and I think we’ve discussed this on the Avengers Assemble! boards, but what did you think of panel 7 on page 3? Clearly, that isn’t Buscema’s art. Did I read somewhere that Marie Severin did a touch-up on this? It’s certainly not Romita’s work.

Sharon: Yes, it’s Severin and you probably read it in the same place I did: the Roy Thomas interview in Alter Ego a few years back. She redid the panel; according to Roy, it was because Stan wanted the Vision, who was phasing through a wall, to have a more intangible look (than what Buscema had drawn). Since Marie was on staff and was usually at the Marvel office, she often did touch ups/rework like this.

Doug: I also thought Hank Pym was treated very well in this story. The plot to have him scale the outside wall of Janet’s building, a la King Kong, was fun. Buscema also showed a little stretching of the conventional panel lay-out by having no borders on several panels and allowing the characters to stretch their bounds. Of course, this was about to become more common as Adams, Steranko, and Colan unleashed themselves of the four-sided constraints.

Karen: There is a sense of mystery to the Vision here – even after we discover that he has been created by Ultron 5, we still do not know all the whys and wherefores. Despite initially appearing as a villain, the reader quickly comes to sympathize with the confused android – or should I say synthozoid? For as Hank Pym puts it, that is what the Vision is: a synthetic human. “He’s every inch a human being…except that all his bodily organs are constructed of synthetic materials!” That’s something to keep in mind as we delve further into the subject.

Sharon: The Red Tornado was sent by his creator, T.O. Morrow, to destroy the Justice Society…then Reddy has a change of heart and sides with the heroes, and questions his very existence…

Sharon: Not that I’m trying to cast aspersions on Roy’s integrity. J When JLA #64 hit the stands, Avengers #57 was already in its production stages, so I assume any similarities were coincidental or accidental. Despite the public image of DC and Marvel being mortal enemies, it’s known that the talent from DC and Marvel fraternized, so who knows what information went back and forth?

Doug: In the fight scene between the awakened, recharged Vision and the team, super strength and the ability to control his density is also shown. I felt Buscema was really at his peak here with facial expressions. That attention to detail, of individualizing each character’s look, seemed to be a lost art until George Perez took an interest in it during his stint on Avengers volume 3. Overall, I am certain that I would have greeted this new and mysterious character with open arms.

Karen: This issue is mostly set-up for next issue, where much of the Vision’s past (although not all by a longshot!) will be explained.

Doug: What did you think of Ultron? In hindsight, I love the way he leapt to major-villain status almost immediately. But was the end that he met in this issue appropriate, or even plausible, for one seemingly so powerful?

Sharon: The ending certainly was poetic- - get it, because of Shelley’s Ozymandias…oh, never mind. You just knew Ultron would be back…

Karen: I actually had to memorize that poem in high school, but of course I was already familiar with it from reading Avengers! But on to Ultron: of course, this was his second time battling the Avengers, the first being back in issues 54-55, where he initially posed as the Crimson Cowl. We get his backstory in issue 58, the subject of our next post. I’ve always thought he was at least in the top 2 of Avengers villains; it’s hard to choose between him and Kang! But Ultron has such personal connections with the team, I always felt the emotional ante was upped when he was the foe.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Family Matters: The Fantastic Four's Triumphs and Tribulations, part 6

Part 6 – Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Fantastic Four # 149
August 1974

“To Love, Honor, and Destroy!”

Gerry Conway, Rich Buckler, and Joe Sinnott

Doug: What a great splash page! As we go through these issues, I find Rich Buckler to be either home run or so-so. I really think this splash, with its triangular orientation of figures, the dynamic poses, and the intensity of Namor’s posture to be fine rendering. Sue looks good, the lackey looks menacing, and you just can’t beat a good ol’ battle cry: Imperius Rex!

Doug: Hmmm… about Page 2. Reed’s in character – tense, willing to fight (although as my colleagues have argued in prior postings, is it “too little, too late”?), Ben’s for the most part in character… but something about Johnny’s take throughout this has bothered me. I have wondered where the “blood is thicker than water” instinct is. To me, Johnny should have remained loyal to Sue. I understand why Ben has stuck with Reed, and Medusa is caught in the middle but with her loyalty being toward service to the team. Johnny just seems a little dense in regard to the magnitude of the decision Reed made about Franklin.

Karen: Well, Johnny’s always been a bit dense, hasn’t he? What really creeped me out was his thought in the previous issue, about a sister being “almost as close as a wife”. Uck.

Doug: Medusa using a little of that “woman’s intuition”? What did you think about her line that Namor has never been vicious? Hel-lo!! Ever read any Golden Age books, Sweetie?

Karen: The whole thing with Medusa is odd, until the reveal at the end. This picks up on the Medusa-Torch story from a few issues back, where they were going to the Hidden Land, because Blackbolt had called for her - hmm, they never did get to Attilan. Geez, Conway really did drop a lot of plot threads!

Sharon: Let me get this straight—back in FF#145, Reed tells Medusa he received a message for her from Black Bolt about a “Project Revival.” In light of the reveal in #149, it seems like the mention in #145 was supposed to be a signal to her that this plan is being set in motion. So why does she act like she’s all of a sudden figuring things out in #149?

Sharon: And if “Project Revival” was a really plan to get Sue and Namor back together, why did Reed tell her Black Bolt wanted her back in Attilan, and why did she go through the trouble of dragging Johnny along with her? And then after the mayhem that ensued (in #145 and #146), their trip to Attilan was then dropped—so poor Johnny didn’t get to see his beloved Crystal before her wedding after all. It appears Stan was not the only one with the faulty memory back then, eh, Roy Thomas (editor) and Gerry Conway (writer)?

Doug: As the battle begins, I’m thinking of that mid-80’s series Damage Control. When these super-powered types get after it, there is a lot of destruction that takes place! And how about the taxpayer bill, for the police, etc.?

Karen: Apparently folks like Blackbolt and Namor don’t concern themselves over such things – I mean, why have Sue and Reed sit down and talk when you can destroy half the city instead?

Doug: “Sue’s force field – It appeared so suddenly, there was no time to swerve away!” Umm… appeared?

Karen: Reed must have had his special invisibility detecting glasses on….

Doug: I thought Ben’s trip down memory lane was well-crafted and a very nice addition to the story. Sometimes I don’t care for flashbacks – seems they just take up space. But this fits perfectly, and Buckler’s art reflects an early Silver Age feel during these panels.

Sharon: Buckler does a nice job here recreating the Kirby scenes from FF #4—an instance in which swiping is appropriate and is, in fact, expected.

Doug: There are some really outstanding splashes and two-page splashes in this little arc.

Doug: As for the battle, I became aware that most of the fighting was mano a mano – not a lot of property destruction. It began to seem like something was amiss. Although no one on the FF’s side ever spoke of Namor pulling his punches, I just had to wonder what was really going on.

Doug: The conversation between Ben and Sue was great – in my opinion, this type of writing is lacking in many of today’s comics. These panels conveyed a history between these two characters, a depth of emotion that seemed real. Today’s comics often just run from battle to battle with a cheesecake shot in between with no real concern for character development.

Karen: I’d agree that I’d like more interaction between characters in today’s team books, but honestly, Sue’s reaction to Ben’s comments just seemed a little too convenient. She’s felt that Reed is distant and neglectful, but because he’s willing to fight over her, suddenly she’s back in love with him? Then again, people are unpredictable emotionally. So I’ll let it pass.

Doug: The big reveal at the end was a nice surprise, although I did feel that Medusa’s role in it remained unclear and somewhat clumsily handled. It was good to see Triton, and the proximity of this story to the coming wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver seemed to dovetail nicely.

Karen: Yes, the whole Project Revival idea here (with the Inhumans and Namor teaming up to get Reed and Sue back together) seems about half-baked. Namor in particular seems out of character. It feels like Conway didn’t have a good idea of how to achieve the couple’s reconciliation, so he just threw in a big fight and poof! They love each other again.

Doug: Overall, this last arc was a fun, sentimental read. Looking at it in a short timeframe, I’m still uncertain as to why Conway chose to insert the Frightful Four fight in between the stories in #147 and #149 – perhaps that was the only vehicle he could think of to get Thundra into #149? And she proved indispensable to the events concluding this issue, as Conway chose Ben to be the one to reason with Sue – someone had to occupy Namor so that Ben could steal away.

Doug: As to an impression of this entire series, it has really been a nice trip through Marvel history, and is a summation of why Marvel has for years been (in my opinion) so far ahead of DC. Marvel took the time to craft an inter-related universe with “real” characters – people with feelings, emotions of pride and resentment, and life events that occur in the everyday world.

Karen: It seems to me that the Reed – Sue breakup started out pretty well, but sort of fell apart here at the end. The early issues (even before the ones we reviewed) gave good reasons why the split occurred –particularly after Reed zapped Franklin. But these later issues never truly felt solid; they seemed to be poorly developed. While attempting this type of subject matter was laudable, the execution of the story was lacking.

Karen: And speaking of Franklin – where the heck was he all this time? Sitting inside Namor’s ‘Tomazooma’ fortress? I’m surprised Sue would let him out of her sight!

Sharon: Maybe she made him invisible, to keep him out of harm’s way? ;)
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