Monday, September 18, 2017


Micronauts vol.1 No.35 (Nov 1981)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Val Mayerik/Danny Bulandi
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Tom Defalco
EIC: Jim Shooter

Well, Broderick is gone, and the book starts looking like every other low-selling book on the early 80s Marvel lineup. Honestly, with this tiresome Swordquest-lookin' story, plugged-in Faux-verine character Devil, and bog-standard artwork, it's impressive to realize that this goes another 30+ issues. I got my fingers crossed that it'll get better.

This is the big, double-sized issue which reveals the origin  of the Microverse. This would be great if it weren't, you know ... listen, maybe this revelation will be your cup of tea. It didn't do much for me, personally speaking. Stay tuned to decide if you're disappointed, too.

Pharoid and Slug turn against Argon, giving the Micronauts a chance to beat cheeks for the Deadzone, based on a book by Stephen King. Argon, however, is in full Baron Karza cosplay and is gunning for them, hot on their tails. This is mostly an opportunity for Devil to talk like a dumb shit and hurl things at pursuing ships, and also I hate this character a lot.

Meanwhile, already in Deadzone and finally having beat off all of those demons*, Strange discovers the fucking origin of the fucking Microverse fucking finally. Will the wait be justified by the payoff? No, but pretend I didn't say that and stick around for the answer.

*I phrased that poorly

Aliens from space -- survivors of a thousand lost worlds, led by Prince Wayfinder of the planet Ithaka, in upstate New York -- land on primordial Earth, there to found a home "in the name of the homeless and displaced. Let all be content, and wage war no more."

It's a nice sentiment, but the prehistoric Earth is loaded with dinosaurs and DEMONS, the hateful jerks. When the aliens build a great city, the demons gather to destroy it, launching a huge dumb war. With the power of his enchanted blade, the Sword-In-The-Star*, Wayfinder manages to summon the power of the Time Traveler to this distant era, and tap the Enigma Force to imprison the demons for ... as long as they were imprisoned, I guess.

*Surely it should be the other way around...

"Let us build an Applebee's."
From here, everything appears to happen quickly, but it really doesn't -- it's a small amount of content spread out over some very chaste fighting. You'll possibly remember that early issues of the Micronauts pulled no punches in its fight scenes -- soldier and innocents alike were killed, maimed and purposefully hurt in the course of the battle, and collateral damage was high. In the scenes to follow, things will be pretty clean and fairly typical of your average comic book from the era.

Fireflyte uses her connection to the Enigma Force to rebind the demons, which is a super-lazy resolution to this threat that's been bouncing Dr.Strange up and down the driveway for the last three issues. When Argon and his Dog Soldiers catch up the Micronauts, they announce themselves with a volley of artillery which does little more than throw up some dirt, like low-budget squibs, and then ... and then Argon's "Death Squad" shows up.

The Death Squad sucks and are stupid. They are wildly unimaginative and arbitrary, and they feel like someone's bad idea of what a popular kids' toy line might feature, because they've associated "kids" with "tacky, stupid and willing to settle for whatever." The Death Squad is:
  • Ampzilla, who looks like a sassy fat Godzilla with a bunch of walkman stapled to his head and chest.
  • Battleaxe, who has an axe for a hand ... and a hand for an axe!
  • Lobros, the Power-Parasite, who legitimately looks like a Muppet wearing a fish for a tuxedo.
  • And Centauria, who is a centaur. By the way, I may not have introduced myself before now -- I'm Humano, the human.
  • There's also a Repto who just shows up out of nowhere.
Are they fucking kidding me?
Just as the battle starts, the demos break free, I guess to give Dr.Strange someone to fight. Rann and Fireflyte go to the temple to engage the power of Wayfinder, who is Rann's direct ancestor apparently. Everyone else fights Death Squad people. Demons briefly punch Rann all the way to Earth, to illustrate how this battle threatens the safety of Earth as well as the Microverse. Oh, and if I needed any better proof that it's the editor who's encouraging a lot of these terrible changes, Rann actually employs the most tired line in comics -- "Get out of my mind!" -- at one point. 

(It's not super relevant, but there's a subplot involving Nanotron and Microtron traversing Sandzone to recover the Endeavor. They'll eventually use it for the purposes of "You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home"-ing the final battle, so expect that. A cutaway back to them, however, focuses on Microtron blowing compressed air through Nanotron's circuits to revive and, um, clean out the cobwebs, as it were? I think Microtron and Nanotron fucked in the desert, is what I'm saying)

They're having sex, right?

Let's see -- as the battle climaxes*, the statues of the dead champions start glowing with eldritch power, the keys are inserted into whatever hokey science-thing makes use of their power, and Dr.Strange and Rann are fused together as Captain Universe, The Hero Who Actually Wasn't All That Impressive At The Time. `Still, they defeat the demons, so that's nice I guess. Oh, and the origin of the Microverse is that the alien champions from India made it up. Well worth the wait.

*And also, for all I know, Microtron and Nanotron too ...

When the Endeavor saves the day, the Micronauts fuck off for Earth, pursued by Argon's Death Squad. Mm.

Lettercol fun! Sort of, the letter columns back, and this guy wrote a terrible poem about it!


googum said...

I don't have all my old issues handy, so I love these! (That, and your commentary adds a lot!)

Jonathan Hendry said...

Oh, I've got it. Devil is Wolverine, but also Chewbacca.

Unknown said...

Bill Clinton wouldn't consider it sex as it's clearly a blow job. *buh dum bump!*

Although frankly the concept of gender in robots is odd since there is no reason for it in reality.

Sometimes you get some interesting reasons like IIRC in one of James Hogan's SF novels he develops a reason how the robots end up with "sexes" (a glitch put half the instructions for making a robot in each robot, so to make a new robot one had to find a robot with the other half of the instructions.)

On the other hand you get a joke like in this Freefall comic

Keith Alan Morgan

Jonathan Morris said...

Ah, I like that explanation a lot!

Robert Berman said...

Wow, I forgot about the Death Squad for the last 30 years, but seeing them again, I remember thinking they were really cool as a kid, and that the tentacle guy Lobros was creepy.

Dlotemp said...

I agree that any thrill in Micronauts is clearly being sucked out at this point. The problem is acerbated by Danny Bulandi's inking, which overrides any charm from Mayerik's art. Same thing happens to Keith Giffen and even Gil Kane in a few issues.

It's hard to argue with taking the piss out of the Origin of the Microverse. It is presented so seriously but so lifelessly that it's hard to accept it. But...if you're going to take jabs....then make a real punch! By which I mean....did you know that Mantlo is tying the origin into his failed SWORD IN THE STAR feature (from MARVEL PREVIEW) AND swiping Roger Zelany's sci-fi epic THE LORDS OF LIGHT?

The guys over at THE APPENDIX OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE sum it up best:

"The essential bit to note is that Bill Mantlo, both in the MICRONAUTS expanded version of SWORD IN THE STAR, and the X-MEN MTU with the Hindu Gods (Marvel Team-Up Annual#1), utilized ideas from Roger Zelazny's Hugo-award winning LORD OF LIGHT.

The Hindu Gods as portrayed in MTU are lifted straight from Zelazny's modified Hindu pantheon.

The story of a ship full of Humans coming to a world, finding it inhabited by energy demons, using their powers to "bind" and exile the demons, and use their super-science to turn themselves into Hindu-like gods, is the essence of LORD OF LIGHT.

Mara in Zelazny's version (hence, Mantlo's) is a male god with the power to cast illusions -- nicknamed The Dreamer. (Sort of like the X-Men's Mastermind.)--Apparently patterned after the Hindu Goddess Maya.

The major players were Yama (Death - the One in Red), Agni (Lord of Fire), Kali (death, female), then Shiva (chaos), Ratri (night)... Brahma was supposed to be in charge but he didn't do much... Wayfinder in its MICRONAUTS appearance is sort of like Zelazny's hero, Kalkin (or Siddharata, or Sam, or Binder) -- except Sam is not blind and there's no
Sword in the Star..."

Now THERE'S something to grouse about! :-)

Jonathan Morris said...

Why grouse about that? As a concept, it sounds fine. The execution was the problem.

Still, thanks for shedding some additional (lord of) Light on their origins.

Dlotemp said...

Oh...I thought the info might give you better ammunition.

It is disappointing that an interesting idea and a series that was JUST firing on all cylinders falls miserably.

Jonathan Morris said...

It really is, because what you've described sounds like it had nothing but potential -- 70s-ish hard science fiction potential, for whatever that's worth (I'm a fan, myself). I think Mantlo's one of those creators who extrapolates limitlessly from his own imagination but bristles when he tries to fit someone else's mythology into his own. Or, failing that, Tom DeFalco ...

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