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Latest Posts

Marvel Mayhem: The Return!

Welcome back! You did miss me, right?

For those who don't remember, and given my sporadic updates I understand if you don't, I've been reading my way through the Marvel Universe courtesy of this extremely comprehensive reading order. 

I've also started working on the Ultimate reading order, which is much smaller and easier to digest... of course, there's a good chance I bail on that when Ultimatum rolls around, but we'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Meanwhile, back on good ole Earth-616 order, they've revamped the numbering to give each story in split issues their own spots. That creates the illusion I've advanced farther than I thought.

Hooray, progress!

79. Fantastic Four #18
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

One of the more interesting Fantastic Four issues to date, as the Skrulls make their return wielding the Super Skrull—who's been imbued with the powers of all four members of the superheroic team. Lots of action here, and some more amusing misogyny toward Sue although she does figure prominently in the conclusion of the issue.

Rating: 4 out of 5

80. Amazing Spider-Man #4
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

The Spider-Man series has been a cut above the rest of the reading order. You can see how Stan Lee might be burnt out juggling so many different characters, especially with some of the repetitive stories and villains, but Spider-Man has been a treat so far. Each issue has featured a villain who goes on to become an iconic member of the rogues' gallery and now we've got another in the Sandman. Come for the fight between Sandman and Spidey. Stay for the fine depiction of teenage angst by young Mr. Parker.

Rating: 4 out of 5

81. Uncanny X-Men #1
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

More historic stuff here, clearly. It's clear the characters still need to find themselves. Beast talks and acts like The Thing, and Iceman might as well be a Human Torch doppelganger who got dipped in liquid nitrogen. Unintentional humor alert given recent Marvel scuttlebutt that was scuttled? Iceman's complete lack of interest when Jean Grey shows up at the school. Also, between Magneto's very broad use of magnetism, and previoius examples of radiation, and Iron Man's transistors... Stan Lee doesn't really know how magnets work.

A mediocre issue but still worth reading for the historical value.

Rating: 3 out of 5

82. Amazing Spider-Man #5
Publication Date: October 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Marvel continues to up the ante and establish this as its flagship title. This time, our intrepid teen hero goes against the Universe's most established villain to date (if you don't count Namor...) and the results are... a bit of a downturn from the previous ASM issues, but still miles above the average in the reading order to date. Assuming you're able to forgive some Silver Age screwball science—like Dr. Doom's spider impulse detector thingamajig—there's a lot to like here.

Rating: 3 out of 5

83. Strange Tales #112
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee & Joe Carter
Artist: Dick Ayers

We've got a couple of new names on the creative side, with Carter writing Stan Lee's script and Ayers as the penciller. As solo Torch tales go, this is one of the better ones. We've got Ted Braddock, a TV commentator cut from the same cloth as our favorite media muckraker, J. Jonah Jameson. The other antagonist, The Eel, is a quality foe by Silver Age standards having both electrical shock equipment and a slippery costume. He steals a mini-atomic bomb that will explode if not deactivated immediately after being exposed to air. My only question... why would someone invent this?!?

Rating: 3 out of 5

84. Strange Tales Annual #2
Publication Date: October 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Our favorite web-slinger gets the notion to team up with the Torch because they're both teenagers. Apparently, combining Spidey and the Human Torch causes the IQ of each to drop about 20 percent, and get them—and everyone else in this issue—talking with the exact same diction of The Thing. Skippable.

Rating: 2 out of 5

85 & 86. Fantastic Four Annual #1
Publication Date: 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

The biggest single story yet in the reading order, and they raise the game right off the bat with a two-page spread depicting Namor's coronation. My expectations were already raised, and were met by a very engaging story of Sub-Mariner trying to lead the Atlanteans to conquer the seven seas. We also get a flashback to the origin story of Namor, who's one of the most well-developed and compelling characters yet in the Marvel Universe. His tale adds a tragic element here. Lots to like hear, and definitely worth reading. The back end of the annual is a reprint of Spidey's early fracas with the Fantastic Four. Stick around for the character bios at the back of the issue; Sue Storm's is especially hilarious.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Supplemental Order 
18. Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandoes #3
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

They're not part of the main Marvel reading order (I prefer to think of this series as a prequel/flashback), but the Fury series has been one of the most consistently entertaining parts of this reading project for me. Another solid effort here, as the issue is fast-paced and action-packed. Definitely work seeking out, if only for a cameo by a certain super-stretchy genius as the team's OSS contact.

Rating: 3 out of 5

87. Journey Into Mystery #96
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Joe Sinnott

An interesting twist with Merlin's magical powers being the result of him being a mutant. Extra points for Merlin using the Washington Monument as a weapon against Thor. I also enjoyed the conclusion. All in all, this has been one of the most consistently enjoyable titles in the still-developing Marvel Universe

Rating: 3 out of 5

88. Avengers #1
Publication Date: September 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

We close this return to the reading order with another landmark issue. The debut of The Avengers! Aside from the historic factor, however, this issue is pretty rough. Why were all those heroes listening to the same re-routed frequency at the same time? Why can the Hulk now think and talk in full sentences? Why does an auto plant in Detroit have a trap door?!? Just remember, kids, that to be true to Marvel's canon, credit for the Avengers' formation goes to Rick Jones' Teen Brigade. Ick.

Rating: 3 out of 5, but only for the historic value


Posted in: Comics