Monday, April 10, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.13 (Jan 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Howard Chaykin/Al Milgrom
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Bob Sharon
Editor: Allen Milgrom
EIC: Jim Shooter

It's the first arc of the second 'season' of Micronauts, and it's intriguing to finally see what Mantlo's going to do to keep the story fresh and interesting.

Up to this point, Mantlo has had something of an easy job; the first arc wrote itself. A major war between good and evil, cosmic forces, the practically-mandatory visit to the giant-size Earth, a guest appearance -- it's all from the playbook. He now has to find a hook that will keep the readership engaged after the big boss fight, and I think he makes the right decision to pen a series of shorter arcs dealing with smaller stakes. We've already rescued two universes, now it's time to stop a few usurpers and maniacs.

This guy LOVES
recognizable landmarks!
The most striking change in the book, however, is that Michael Golden has 'retired' from interior art and is dedicating himself to covers only. As good as the covers had been previously, they're a complete step-up in this new arrangement. It's a shame to lose Golden on interiors, but the covers practically make up for it by themselves.

Which is good, because we've run into a problem. Howard Chaykin signs on, to much lettercol acclaim, as the penciller for the upcoming five issues. This is good, Chaykin has a fine eye for layout and setting, and his strong but elegant linework is engrossing. The problem comes in the pairing with his inker, I'm afraid.

I'm a fan of Al Milgrom's inks, with two caveats. I think he's expressive and heavy-handed in the best possible way, and that works in every situation except (a) when he inks his own work and (b) when he inks anything he's also editing. Which is often, I'm sad to say. He'll pair with Chaykin on all five issues, but his heavy brush does few favors with Chaykin's keen line, and it gets more noticeable with every issue.

In any case, on to the story. Bug, believed by his allies to have been killed in action a few issues back, is deposited unknowingly back on his homeworld of  Kaliklak by one of Arcturus Rann's Enigma-powered Time Traveler incarnations. If I say that sentence on the subway, they're gonna put me in a home.

Kaliklak turns out to be one of those bullshit scientifically-advanced worlds in which everyone wears tunics and uses pack animals but also there are spaceships and lasers. Or, in other worlds, exactly like our world, now that I think about it.

"We should see
other Micronauts..."
In short time, we learn that Bug is the Prince of Thieves (played by Kevin Costner), was ousted from his gang of combination crooks/freedom fighters by the machinations of his untrustworthy father Wartstaff, and has a girlfriend of sorts in the stab-happy and quick-to-anger Jasmine. (It's irrelevant to the story, but we also discover that Bug's people, the Insectivorids, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes -- some of them look more like giant insects than they do green, bug-eyed people, and that's neat. More alien-looking aliens is the key to any good space opera, in my mind).

While Bug starts a big fight to reclaim his crew (and Wartstaff suffers the expressly castration-like indignity of having his antennae sliced off by Jasmine), events on Earth continue to direct the anonymous Agent M of SHIELD towards the Baxter Building in New York, setting up the next arc.

Over on Homeworld, by contrast, the main cast is having to deal with the sudden absence of the urgent danger which had, for a year, defined their lives. Rann, still badly injured from his fight with Karza, is uneasy under the twin burdens of being bedridden and also worshipped as a demigod by the people of Homeworld (and, for that matter, by Marionette, and that's a relationship dynamic that really begs to be addressed sooner nor later).

Having spent a thousand years adrift in the expanses of Homeworld has left Rann with a desire for peace only insofar as it's coupled with purpose, and so declares his intention to return to the Endeavor and to space (obliquely, he's intending to provide assistance and resources to the worlds recently liberated from Karza's imperial rule, although they won't say as much for a couple issues. I read ahead, sorry).

At the end of the story, we're left with three acrs; Agent M preparing to contact the Fantastic Four over the discovery of soldiers having emerged from the Microverse, Bug launching an assault on the palace of the Colonial Governor who saw him sent to Karza's gladiatorial arena, and a core group of four Micronauts -- Mari, Arcturus, and their Roboid partners -- returning to their space-faring adventures. They're clearly gonna have to pick up Bug before long, let's stay tuned and find out when!

Microtron needs lithium.

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