Monday, June 26, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.24 (Sept 1980)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Armando Gil
Letterer: Parker & Rosen
Colorist: Barry Grossman
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

Here we are at issue 24, an issue which wraps up what I'd earlier declared to be the second season arc of the original Micronauts series. That metaphor admittedly worked a lot better with the first twelve issues, which were concerned with telling a coherent story in the unexplored Microverse. By comparison, the second 'season' has been wildly uneven -- over-reliance on having the team tragically separated and reunited, some lackluster team-ups with and battles against established Marvel heroes and villains, an ill-fitting collaboration between Howard Chaykin and Al Milgrom, and some general wheel-spinning once the Micronauts left their own universe.

To its credit, the weird villains of Saugerties, New York, was one of the most interesting things I'd seen in mainstream comics from the era, and Pat Broderick was a welcome surprise as a followup artist to Michael Golden's run. There's also still the matter of Mantlo's writing, which retains its general excellence.

So, how does the final episode of the second season feel? Well, the big conflicts have already been resolved in the previous issue, and there are no major fights waiting for the team at this point. In fact, it bears some resemblance to the twelfth issue, in that it's generally quieter and spends time setting up the next big conflict.

"..or Benny and the Jets"
In the main feature, that conflict is Marvel super-villains Mentallo and The Fixer, a sort-of criminal Abbot-and-Costello who were a consistent partnering in the Seventies and Eighties, although I couldn't tell you why or how. I remember reading Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts series and being annoyed that Mentallo was left out, so I guess it's pretty hard-coded into superhero fan DNA.

The duo doesn't actually appear until the last panel of the main feature, but they're responsible for creating Computrex -- The Living Computer! I honestly don't know if this was a previously established character and I decided that I don't care enough to look it up. Someone else can do the legwork.

For no significant reason, Computrex hijacks the recently-repaired Endeavor, effectively abducting the entire Micronauts crew and bringing them to his laboratory domicile. Computrex is interested only in recruiting Microtron, Biotron and the Endeavor into his radical computer intelligence gang, and shucking the biological components like corn. Astrostation didn't get asked to be part of the Cool Computers club, and that's gonna give it a complex.

The subsequent fight scene doesn't accomplish much. We do go back into Rann's head, a trip which we haven't made since the end of the first arc. Not much has changed in there -- he hates Karza, misses his folks, and is still unsure of how his thousand-year, on-and-off cryo-sleep produced an infinite number of duplicates tapped into the Enigma Force. We ought to resolve some of those issues. Also, Marionette tries to step up and help her man, but Computrex causes Rann to think that she's Karza and he beats the living crap out of her. I am not cool with that twist.

Yeah, it's Marc Bolan's place.

In the end, the 'Nauts slaughter Computrex without much fanfare, which is okay because the real exciting story -- and the more compelling cliffhanger -- is happening over in Tales of the Microverse, where a pitched, full-scale battle between Prince Shaitan's Centauri army -- led by a turncoat Prince Argon -- and Pharoid's desert raiders is undertaken. All the good weird stuff and worldbuilding is happening in these backups, where I think Mantlo probably felt a lot more liberty than in the main storyline.

Shaitan himself slaughters a bunch of the Centauri, who prove to be skittish and unsatisfactory warriors. I still woulda thought they provided a modicum of cover, anyway. The usurper prince of the Acroyears rides off with his faceless sorcerers and Prince Argon, leaving Slug to join up with Pharoid and his men. She follows them towards their underground kingdom, along the Avenue of Ancestors which I mention only because it's a bunch of those plastic sarcophagi that some of the Micronaut toys had and which I thought was a pretty brilliant visual gag.

"On the left, coming up on your left ..."

It's been a while since we saw one of the toys used as architecture in this comic (Also, they're full of dead Aegyptian kings. Let's see if that comes back to the story later on). More to the point, though, the subterranean city of Aegyptia -- protected from the burning desert sands by its burial deep beneath the earth -- is the birthplace of Baron Karza! Oh boy, we get his origin next issue! Except next time I'll be writing about the second and last Micronauts annual instead. Oooh, burn, now you gotta wait.

One last thing from this issue, though: The Map of Homeworld! Memorize this, there may be a test!

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