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Marvel Mayhem: The End... Or IS it?!? It isn't... BUT IT MAY BE!

I felt compelled to check in with another installment of my magical mystery tour through the outstanding reading order that takes the intrepid comic book fan on a primrose path through the Marvel Universe starting all the way from Fantastic Four #1.

Since the world is/isn't going to end, I felt I had to check in with my reading to date.

Assuming those pesky Mayans were wrong, I'll be back next week or in early January with another installment.

If they were right... well... it's been fun.

41. Fantastic Four #12

Publication Date: March 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Perhaps the first instance in this reading order where the cover grabs me. Fantastic Four and the Hulk cross paths for the first time... and a battle between the Hulk and Thing is heavily teased. Sold... the ensuing fisticuffs are pretty solid, though I would have liked to see a battle between these two that takes up the majority of an issue. (Human Torch vs. Sub Mariner got such treatment, after all...)

Two happenings in this issue that are hilarious. First, another Commie bad guy, who's found out because he's carrying a membership card to a subversive Communist terrorist group …

are you ready for this?

IN HIS WALLET!

Cause, you know, that's the first rule of covert groups. Everyone knows 007 doesn't go anywhere without having his membership card on his person at ALL times!

The other... just a throwaway line, when Sue Storm is bemoaning she won't have anything to do in the battle with the Hulk... and Thunderbolt Ross tells her she can help just by keeping “the men's morale up.” Nevermind the eww factor that one of said men is her teenage brother.

These two qualities cancel out the negative points from seeing my two least favorite characters in the Marvel Universe, Human Torch and Hulk's buddy Rick, cross paths for the first time to create what's got to be the douchiest panels in comic book history to date.

Rating: 4 out of 5 – Very Good


42. Journey Into Mystery #90

Publication Date: March, 1963
Writers: Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Artist: Jack Kirby

The bread-and-butter villains of the Silver Age appear to be either aliens, or Communists. We return to the former category this time, with a crew of aliens who can change their shape at will. I liked them better the first time I saw these aliens... when they were called Skrulls.

This has been the most consistent title to date in the reading order, but this issue just didn't do it for me. Poor art as well, which is surprising as I've enjoyed the art to date in this title. One can only wonder what will happen when the Skrulls who turned into cows encounter the Carbon Copy Men who turned into trees.

Rating: 2 out of 5 – Mediocre


43. Incredible Hulk #6

Publication Date: March, 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Stan Ditko

Hell of a splash page at the start. Then it all goes kinda downhill.

The inconsistent characterization of the Hulk continues. He's talking like the Thing this time, but now Hulk's showing concern of the military men in his path whereas in previous issues in this initial (failed) six-issue run he gloats about his superiority to normal humans. Did I mention this initial run of the Hulk title? I think that's important because it failed. Because it's not very good.

Where was I?

Oh, and when using the gamma ray cannon to change into Hulk leaves Bruce Banner's face untransformed, he just finds a handy dandy Hulk mask he'd made in his spare time and dons it. Of course he does...

The villain here, the Metal Master, is definitely the strongest of this six-issue run. No doubt also where Stan Lee and co. got the idea for Magneto. He's foiled by The Hulk using a fake cannon made of cardboard … the parts of which were apparently so complex that Rick had to form his Teen Brigade (which, based on the characterization of he and Torch just sounds... full... of awfulness I am going to hate) that had to gather said cardboard from AROUND THE COUNTRY.

Feh.

Rating: 2 out of 5 – Mediocre


44. Tales of Suspense #39

Publication Date: March, 1963
Writers: Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Artist: Don Heck

More history! The debut of Iron Man... need I say more?

Really good stuff here. The origin's surprisingly close to the story told in the first Iron Man movie. It's also a rather sophisticated story for the Silver Age, with the suit as more of a prison for Stark than a tool to be used. No arc reactor or similar life-saver here, folks... not yet at least. We've also got some legitimate human drama with actual consequences—death--on both sides of the good/evil divide. Stark essentially kills the villain at the end of the issue in cold blood. No accidental demise, no caught up in his own deadly trap... just dead.

The art didn't blow me away, but it was decent enough. The story was what made this issue, though. It flew by, and the narrative was tight and logical, especially by Silver Age standards. Intrigued to see where the story leads next.

Rating: 5 out of 5 – Excelsior!


45. Tales To Astonish Issue #41

Publication Date: March, 1963
Writers: Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Artist: Don Heck

Ugh... As if Ant Man and his normal array of bugs didn't already freak me out, we now get otherworldly even freakier looking bugs. More alien adversaries... one of whom's killed Tony Stark-style (that's gonna be a thing) by Ant Man and his alien creepy crawly pals. Said aliens this time are aided by a human window washer who's apparently willing to turn on his entire planet for gold. Can't wait for his return with a super powered squeegee. Maybe him and Paste Pot Pete can form the least imposing duo of villains ever.

At least it was short. I breezed through it. That automatically makes this one of the less awful issues of this run, which isn't saying much...

Rating: 2 out of 5 – Mediocre

We'll see you all for the next installment. 

OR WILL WE?!?


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