Monday, March 13, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.10 (Oct 1979)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Michael Golden / Al Milgrom
Letterer: D.Albers
Colorist: C.Gafford
Editor: Al Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

War war war! Doesn't anyone just fuck anymore?

The rebellion is in full swing, yet Karza has split his forces so as to launch an assault on Spartak, living homeworld of the fearsome Acroyear warriors, where the Micronauts now reside. His forces outnumber the heroes, but Prince Acroyear has bonded body and soul with the living planet of Spartak, and turns the planet's rocky mass against his enemies, striking Homeworld ships out of the sky with rocky arms the size of mountains. Meanwhile, Karza has captured -- and possibly killed! -- Arcturus Rann, the one man everyone counts on to save the Microverse from Karza's malevolent grasp! This three-issue climax to the first Micronauts story arc is fully underway and, this issue, it gets grim.

Karza having beaten the living tar out of "Space Glider" Arcturus Rann gives Marionette the opportunity to go full HAM, blasting Karza and promising revenge for "the man [she] love[s]." The immediate heterosexual couplings taking place in this book are either a little lazy or just the product of most everyone in the Microverse being a weird monster, so when two humans meet they fall in love as some sort of defense mechanism against the species dying out. I say this because the two romantic relationships in the book -- Mari and Rann, Slug and Argon -- don't add much to the story. I'll explain more when the battles are over and Slug and Argon have a moment to catch their breath in a couple of issues.

Jesus christ, you guys ...
The battles in this issue get grim, cold and real. Bug evidently dies, for instance -- Porkins-style, having accidentally damaged a target so badly that he's caught in its implosion. The fighting is so intense that no one has the time to notice his apparent death. Probably because he's neither the first or the last casualty depicted on the page.

Spartak in particular endures a troubling amount of carnage. Naturally, both Dog Soldiers and Acroyear warriors die in abundance, but no one makes it out alive, if the bad guys have anything to say about it. As Prince Acroyear shouts a vicious, world-maddened mantra from the heart of Spartak -- "Destroy! DESTROY!" -- Dog Soldiers cut a bloody swath across the planet, slaughtering everyone they find INCLUDING a tiny Acroyear baby. That's a wild thing to depict. This is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Micromeridian.

Slug and Argon are hungry for blood, too. Back on Homeworld, the rebellion continues to rage, with the Shadow Priests helping to arm the population. On a raised platform above the burning Body Banks, Argon coolly inquires of a captured contingent of rich fuckers -- clients of the Body Banks and Karza loyalists, as far as that goes -- if they'll give up their immortality and fight for the people. They say no, obviously, and Argon just flat-out murders them. I support Force Commander in this. Vote Prince Argon/Slug 2020.

Well, he's got my vote.

Even Microtron learns to love death and crave the culling of it from the living. It and Biotron have a pretty affecting exchange of dialogue, between the smaller Roboid's forelong leaps into the fray, swinging his crowbar arms like helicopter blades as he wades through Dog Soldiers. It's a good scene, and the Roboids -- by no means even remotely the central characters of this story -- always surprise by having genuine depth.

If there's one thing which I felt failed the issue, it was Shaitan revealing the motivation behind his usurpation and the hatred of his royal brother: He's an albino.

This is a gimmick occasionally played in superhero comics, typically where an African-American is born an albino and, because they cosmetically resemble the oppressors of their race, are treated like shit by their peers and neighbors. Later, super-villainy happens. This is a dumb-ass conceit on the best of days, insulting to at least three intersecting categories of people, but it makes no sense on Spartak as currently presented. Especially because absolutely every Acroyear warrior reassures Shaitan repeatedly that they never hated him because of his skin ... they only hated him because he was mentally ill oh wait a minute that's not much better.

Without some cultural context for albinism within Spartak culture -- I mean, it's a warrior culture, and Shaitan seems to be a pretty decent warrior, as we'll eventually see -- this reveal seems gratuitous at best.

Back to the battle, Cilicia leads a counter-assault on the Dog Soldiers and obliterates every last one of them, bloodily executing the few who survive. Acroyear survives his ordeal in the heart of Worldmind, and Karza, having captured Marionette and Arcturus Rann, fucks off back to Homeworld in his flagship. slug announces its sudden appearance as "The death-knell of the world," which is a good place to hop off and wait for the senses-shattering conclusion, next issue! My senses! Someone shattered them!

Lettercol fun: Jeff Dee, much-adored illustrator on the Villains and Vigilantes game of the 1980s, writes in to pitch his theory that Time Traveler and Arcturus Rann are the same person. He ain't the only one with that theory, someone's mentioned in in the letters page pretty much every issue since number 5. It's still a good twist, though, let's wait it out.


Bram said...

Just when I thought this couldn't get any more nostalgic, you drop a V&V reference. And I can see that art, too …

Calamity Jon said...

You know, if I never get around to it, remind me to start a series on the assorted forgotten superheroes and villains of 1980s superhero RPGs...

Bram said...

Five Days Of Foxbat is the series that the world doesn't think it needs now. But. oh, it does.

Jonathan Hendry said...

"This is a gimmick occasionally played in superhero comics, typically where an African-American is born an albino and, because they cosmetically resemble the oppressors of their race, are treated like shit by their peers and neighbors."

OTOH, in real-world Africa, albinos are sometimes killed for their body parts, to be used in rituals.

They deal with some serious shit.

KWK said...

Great issue. I've also just started to read the Marvel series, after enjoying IDW's new one (paid a bit more than 25 cents per, unfortunately...). I stumbled upon your blog and like to read your take on the issue afterwards. Keep up the good work, Jon!

Calamity Jon said...

I'm really gratified that so many people are enjoying this feature -- I know I am, too. This and the Swamp Thing recaps have been my favorite features on this site in ages...

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