Monday, August 7, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.29 (May 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Pat Broderick / Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Doc Martin
Editor: Louise Jones
EIC: Jim Shooter

The following bit of information doesn't say much for my powers of observation, I'm sad to admit. But perhaps it's indicative of just how deeply ensconced I am into the world of Micronauts that I hadn't previously noticed that Michael Golden hadn't done the last five covers (including this one). Pat Broderick has been on cover duty and, while it's not indistinguishable from Golden by any means, it captures the same level of highly palatable detail but simmers with kinetic energy in Broderick's signature style.

This seems strangely intimate.
Still, at this point, the only original crew members on Micronauts are Bill Mantlo and Jim Shooter, the latter of which I'm not sure we should count since he was editor-in-chief at the time, and was on every credit box. While the original Golden/Mantlo run was an unlikely labor of love from a tremendously synchronized creative duo, the book appears to have settled into the glut of monthlies. One unfortunate editor reassignment and this could all go downhill in a hurry.

But that's enough behind-the-scenes, here's the skinny: Providing a coda to the knock-down, drag-out rematch between Karza, Hydra, SHIELD and the Micronauts which took place at a lookalike Disneyworld, we have the traditional post-climax cool-down. The heroes stand over their fallen comrades -- the Micronauts honoring Queen Esmera, Biotron, and what remains of Shaitan, while Fury and the other agents of SHIELD look down on a hangar-full of flag-draped coffins. It's gonna be hard for mommy to explain to little Billy that daddy can't come home because an action figure teamed up with a green plastic Nazi and blew him to pieces all over Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, where are you gonna take the kid to cheer 'em up, Disneyworld?

I keep forgetting to
mention that this book
really leans on the
"milady" ...
This book has surprised me across the board with exactly how long they've kept key characters dead-as-doornails. Bug's Insectivorid girlfriend Jasmine has been moldering in Saugerties for more than a year now, and Biotron was demolished several issues back (with no sign of return). Shaitan and Esmera (the second lady Insectivorid to bite it in the pages of Micronauts, which bodes poorly for Bug's dating life) are newly-snuffed, but it'll be interesting to see if they -- or any of them -- ever come back.

Post-ceremony, supporting "Incredible Hulk" character Doc Samson is summoned to help rouse Arcturus Rann from the coma into which he was shocked by the dissolution of the Enigma Force. Doc's one of two very well-done crossovers into the Micronauts universe in this issue (three, if you count SHIELD), and should probably be a blueprint for how to do it right. Most of these crossovers with mainstream Marvel characters have come off anywhere from lackluster to awful. Perhaps Mantlo's happier with the weirdos.

(Part of the charm of Doc's appearance, for me, was that his entire spiel was inspired by Julian Jaynes' early-80s psychology tome, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. This was the first "smart book" I read when I was a kid, and I read it entirely because The Beast mentioned it in an issue of The Avengers. I'm delighted to find a second Marvel comic making direct reference to it. I imagine a copy must have been floating around the bullpen ...)

Doc shrinks a trio of Micronauts down to Fantastic Voyage size. Marionette, Bug, and Acroyear (whose lover and fellow Spartak warrior, Cilicia, has just cursed his name and left him following Ayo's choice to deplete the Worldmind and condemn Spartak to lifelessness) lead the crew, with Microtron and the faux-Spartak Dagon keeping watch over the Commander teensy-tiny body.

Inside Rann's head, the trio are separated and faced with distortions of their greatest fantasies turned into terrible ... Nightmares! Woot, it's Doctor Strange's mystical foe Nightmare, the character I like to pretend is Neil Gaiman's Sandman slumming in the Marvel U. Nightmare's been drawn by the broken Enigma Force and, while searching for a way to commandeer what's left of it for his own needs, he torments the good guys for not much of a reason. It's still good though.

The fight with Nightmare occurs simultaneously as Dagon makes his move in the waking world -- he's gonna slaughter the sleeping Rann! It turns out that Dagon is a Dog Soldier and that his arc wrapped up a lot faster than I expected. That makes me a little uneasy for the future. Dagon is also uneasy about his future, because he does not have one, because Microtron kills him with the roboid's boob-cannons.

As the Micronauts manage to pierce the blocked brain barrier which keeps Rann asleep, they discover a strange golden monolith in Rann's mind, bearing a strange inscription. The mystery is enough to send them ... back to Homeworld! And a whole new arc!

Lettercol! It's this ungrateful jerk, buying a book he doesn't like just to write pissy letters about it. Is he the Internet's father?


Bram said...

Pat Broderick on LSH, man. Got me through some lean times there.

Robert Berman said...

I'm intrigued by Mantlo's comment in the Micromail that he conceived of the Micronauts story long before seeing Star Wars, just because the character roles seem to map so incredibly closely to Star Wars. Perhaps that's not the fault of the story so much as the character design? If Microtron were twice as tall and half as feisty, he wouldn't seem so R2D2y next to Biotron. If Mari had been given Slug's gutter origin instead of being a princess, she wouldn't be so Leia. Rann is not really Luke until you call his mystical energy connection the Enigma Force; why not call it Enigma Energy or just plain Enigma?

I do agree with the letter writer that Micronauts on the whole don't have much Byrnian/ Claremontian internal conflict, either between each other or within each one of them, except for the Cilicia/Acroyear "destroyed homeworld" drama. Part of the problem is that we're only shown scenes in crisis mode. We rarely get to see them in down time, getting on each other's nerves like bickering Johnny and Ben in FF. There's apparently little chance of romantic triangles when everybody is already paired off into species-specific relationships. We never see Rann having trouble relating to all these people born 1,000 years after him, which is a real "man out of time" missed opportunity. They functionally don't have families and spend all their time away from home, so the usual stakes of comics heroes (Peter Parker needs rent money for Aunt May; Superman tries to hold down a day job while saving the world; The X-Men try to protect a world that hates and fears them) don't apply. When you don't really want anything but to see new sights, it's hard to build internal drama or see characters develop. Maybe that's why Micronauts turned into a wash-rinse cycle of "Kill Karza, spin wheels for a few issues until Karza resurrects." Issues 1-12 were classic, but everything after that was just a retread.

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