Monday, February 20, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.7 (Jul 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

Steve Coffin and the Micronauts (See them at the Santa Clara County Fair on the Third Stage with Mudhoney and the comedy of Bill Engvall, this weekend!) are taking a break from the hectic past few issues, hiding out at the Coffin Family bog-shack somewhere in the Houses-Made-Of-Found-Objects part of the Everglades.  No end of authorities are currently on the lookout for them -- NASA security, the county police, Phil Prometheus' cyborg H.E.L.L. security force, and so on. In fact, the one entity which has basically tabled their search for our heroes is Baron Karza, currently occupied by a rebellion, an escape and a curious cosmic phenomenon.

There is no greater compliment.
During the downtime, Biotron and Arcturus Rann take center stage as the foundations of the Micronauts' universe is established in flashback. We meet, for the first time, Rann's parents and Homeworld's demigods Dallan and Sepsis, along with their slimy Chief Scientist Karza, still-human at this point.

From there, the mechanics of Rann's millennium-long tour of the Microverse is expanded upon, with the "telepathic exploration" having been kind of a vague idea up to this point. While he 'sleeps' in suspended animation, Rann's mind directs and communicates through Biotron as they bring a message of peace and diplomacy to "countless far-flung worlds."

The telepathic connection between Man and Roboid (the tenderest of all affections) changes Biotron, and gives him what no Roboid has had before. A dick. No, wait, I'm being facetious -- he gets feelings! Real human emotion, not just programmed call-and-response! And it's this deep emotion that allows him to recall with bitterness the futility and mockery of his mission, as Karza's science allows a military force to move at superluminal speeds and conquer every one of the worlds which The Endeavor visited in peace.

In a transcendental passage, Biotron goes on to explain the tortured nightmares of Arturus Rann, hijacked both physically and mentally by the unknowable Time Travelers and the Enigma Force of which they are only agents. The emotional bond between Rann and Biotron was forever forged that day, as fear of the unknown filled their mutual minds with revulsion and fear. That's neat. I like this. I like this part of the comic. It's good.

Transcendentally good.

Meanwhile, over in the Microverse, Karza has a flotilla of ships analyzing and studying the titanic form of Phil Prometheus, who has lost his mind and much of his artificial skin. He's floating around spouting gibberish with a face like a Wurlitzer. He's basically Dion MacGregor but made of pennies. Whatever the case, his research is bound to pay off, as the final panel of the story promises the audience that Karza's gonna come climbing outta that damn Prometheus Pit. They need to put a door on that thing.

Ray Coffin is also still floating around, being harangued by a Time Traveler into becoming a "champion" to battle Karza. This is a brief scene, as is the one wherein Slug and Argon learn that at least one branch of Karza's ominous Shadow Priests is on the rebellion's side. These are short because of MAN-THING!

MICRO-SIZED MAN-THING hits the scene, drawn from his swampy enclosure by Steve's fear for his father's safety. It's a relatively by-the-book kind of battle between the Micronauts and Marvel's man-muck monster-guy, since Man-Thing isn't exactly a quipper. In fact, it's a fun fight scene with tons of toy spaceships given feature space and Steve getting to chop Man-Thing to a billion pieces with a convenient airboat. But the actual excitement is that this places the Micronauts' adventures smack in the Marvel Universe, meaning more intriguing crossovers are pending.

Letters page fun! Well, there's not much, except for a relatively disturbing  profile of Bill Mantlo (left). There's also a passing reference made to Doug Moench's work on Shogun Warriors, which brings up something I'd been meaning to mention about Mantlo's and Moench's styles when it came to the licensed material. Moench, both with Shogun Warriors, Godzilla and, to a degree, with his work on Shang-Chi and assorted monster titles, was fantastic at creating homages. His work was very much an ode to the oeuvre and genre which he had inherited (This is probably what made him such a good choice to script several of Marvel's literary adaptations).

By contrast, Mantlo built worlds inspired by some unspoken element inherent in the toy being merchandised. It's neither better nor worse than Moench's approach, but having Rom and Micronauts in the same universe as Shogun Warriors and Godzilla -- and, for that matter, being more closely united than any other Marvel title by dint of being licensed works -- makes for a genuinely interesting narrative topography when taken as a whole.

Next issue! A character debuts that made me have to pay collector's prices for the fuckin' issue! I'm still bitter!

1 comment:

Bram said...

Whoo, boy. Been waiting for this. Lotta … lotta memories. Was the first issue of MICRONAUTS I got and was immediately hooked — awaiting your take on the next few, but I remember it just building to such a frantic pace of revelations and reversals there was no choice but to get the next issue.

Pieced together most of the rest of the run (minus #1 reasonably sure), a bigger deal in those days. My best friend, when he couldn't track it down, I'm still pretty sure stole the Acroyear one from me, a charge that he denies to this day.

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