Marvel Comics Presents #1 (1988)

Marvel Comics Presents #1 (Early September, 1988)
Wolverine: “Save the Tiger, Part 1 of 10: The Good Guy”
Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror, Part 1 of 12”
Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines, Part 1 of 8: Ripples”
Silver Surfer: “Fear Itself”
Writers – Chris Claremont, Doug Moench, Steve Gerber, & Al Milgrom
Pencils – John Buscema, Tom Grindberg, Tom Sutton, & Al Milgrom
Inks – Klaus Janson, Dave Cockrum, Tom Sutton, & Al Milgrom
Letters – Tom Orzechowski, Agustin Mas, & Jim Novak
Colors – Glynis Oliver, Petra Scotese, & Greg Wright
Assistant Editor – Michael Rockwitz
Editors – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.25

One down… a hundred seventy-four to go?  Ay yai yai.

Had a lot of fun this week… sorta “kicking it old school” as the kids might say.  I’ve really missed creating this kind of content… and, thankfully the stories we got weren’t half-bad.

Blogger is still giving me grief when it comes to uploading pictures… however, given the shorter subjects I’m covering each day, it’s sort of a frustration mitigation situation (say that three times fast!).  I only have to attach around a half-dozen pics a day… or, per post.  It’s still an annoyance and an inconvenience… but certainly not to the level of trying to upload and place 20-25 images a day!

This project, Marvel Comics Chrisents (as cringy as it might sound that I shoe-horned my name into yet another “thing” I’m doing here), will be a hybrid endeavor in the coming weeks.  I will still be TCBing here… but, I will also be presenting each issue in podcast form… I know I’ve got listeners who don’t read the site… and visitors here who don’t listen to the show(s).  I figure this might be a way to reach as many folks as possible… or, at least a handful more.

I’m tentatively calling the project/show “Jam”… as I’m going to be alternating between covering issues of MCP and… dipping back into the near-endless writing I’ve already done on ACW.  We’re going to have some fun playing with these odd anthologies… while also facilitating my engaging in some research, something I’ve missed quite a bit over the past few months.  So, look forward to “Jam”… or, ya know, don’t.  Hopefully you will!

Speaking of Action Comics Weekly… when Marvel Comics Presents #1 hit shelves, it did so in the same time frame as Action Comics Weekly #605 and #606.  If you haven’t already checked out my coverage of those issues, maybe click the covers below and give ’em a look.  Lemme know if you think Marvel or DC was doing better with the Anthology format for cover-date Early-September, 1988!

Now, speaking of letting me know what you think is better.  Whattaya say we really dip back into the ACW bag o’ tricks and reinstate… the POLL?  Horrifying idea, ain’t it?  Anyhoo… if you’ve got a spare half-second to click a button, please lemme know which of this week’s features you enjoyed the most (or hated the least)!  We’ll discuss the results next week.

Best Story in Marvel Comics Presents #1



Master of Kung Fu

Silver Surfer

I think that’s all the housekeeping I’ve got to take care of for the moment.  There is a designated Marvel Comics Chrisents Page live on the site… but, since we’re only one week in, there ain’t a whole lot to it at the moment.  Feel free to visit it anyway… and, hey… for time-travelers, there might be a bunch of fun info there!

We open with Wolverine looking over the city of Madripoor.  Boy, I remember growing up, anytime I’d see the word “Madripoor” my eyes would glaze over, and anything else in whatever room I was in would suddenly become a lot more interesting to me.  Worth noting, the view here is lovely.  Logan gives us the quick-n-dirty on this little island principality… and we learn that it, like many civilized places on the planet, has what you might consider a “nice area” and a “not so nice area”… thankfully, we’re not being all that subtle here, and so they’re called Hightown and Lowtown.  You can probably figure out which is which.

Anyhoo, Logan heads into the Princess Bar, as he’s looking for a fella named O’Donnell.  Turns out, the Irishman (I’m assuming) is in the middle of getting his butt-kicked by a bunch of street toughs.  We know they’re “street toughs” as they all have really bad punk-rock hairdos.  Wolverine interjects, and starts beating up the baddies.

As he rocks their worlds, we get the usual internal monologue regarding his unbreakable Adamantium skeleton and his Mutant Healing Factor… heck, he even shares that he’s Canadian!  Remember when comics used to treat each issue like it could be somebody’s first?  A lost art, I tells ya.  Wolverine tosses all the punks until just one remains.  The geek grabs a human shield and threatens to blow her brains out if the stranger with the muttonchops takes another step.  Logan’s all “go ahead and kill her…” but warns that as soon as the trigger’s pulled, he’ll be on him like white on rice.  The punk decides that discretion is the better part of valor, and bolts out the joint.

We wrap up with Wolverine greeting Mr. O’Donnell… and meeting Sapphire, the recent human shield, who gives him a peck on the cheek.  Logan explains that he’s here to meet Dave Chapel… hmm… do I make the easy jokes about Rick James and cocaine?  Nahhh.  Turns out, Dave Chapel is… dead!  Suddenly, Wolvie’s warm reception turns stone cold as all of the bat patrons draw their weapons on our man.

Anyone else getting those Action Comics Daily chills?  Just me?  Should I have my temperature taken?

This feels a whole heck of a lot like an opening chapter we would have read back last year in ACW… and, I tell ya what… I really like it.  It feels like a homecoming in a way… though, I am known to over-romanticize things, so your mileage may vary.

Here, Wolverine introduces us to both himself and the city of Madripoor… and does so without it coming across as an expositional dump.  I mean, it’s wordy, yes… it is Chris Claremont after all… but, it never feels like a lecture.  Claremont’s got this style down to an art form.

We find out he’s here to chat up a fella named O’Donnell… about another fella named Dave Chapel.  That’s really all we get… but, as an opening chapter in a brand-new title… I kinda feel that’s all we need.  We get nice action… Wolverine gets to show his stuff… and talk tough.  What more could I ask for from an eight-pager in an anthology?

The art here is very nice… though, I always found Buscema’s Logan as looking a bit too old.  Not in an “Old Man Logan” sort of way… just in the frumpy, “pro-bowler” or “competitive eater” sort of way.  Ya know what I mean?  Hopefully it won’t be long until he’s under a mask… though, I suppose that’ll remain to be seen.  I’ve actually never read these stories before, so I’ll be experiencing them for the first time along with y’all (well, those of you who have also never read these).

We open with Man-Thing rising from the muck, aware that something sinister this way comes.  These narration boxes are a little too purple for my tastes… really feels like they’re chasing Swamp Thing here.  Then again, I’m not much of a Man-Thing aficionado, so for all I know folks who write this character were always a bit too pleased with themselves.  Anyhoo, this dark and desperate being draws near… and, it’s a weird fibrous-looking fella.  Man-Thing bonks him on his head putting the creature down.  Suddenly a pair of men enter the scene… they’re looking for this fibrous fella, as he was a “test subject” of sorts.  Upon finding what’s left of him, this guy Zahner attempts to cut an implant out of the “corpse”.  This does not go well, as when Zahner makes skin-to-yuck contact with the beastie, he gets a rather awful burn on his hand.

Man-Thing watches this entire deal unfold… and kinda just lingers.  Zahner and his partner Monteiro report in to a General that their subject went berserk and got away.  The General notices the burn on Zahner’s hand, and is given a quick-n-dirty explanation how it came to be.  In learning this, the General suggests that this mission wasn’t such a failure after all.  He excuses himself, as he has a meeting with the Senate in Washington, D.C., leaving our two heroes behind with a whole lotta… COCAINE.  Too bad “Dave Chapel” is in the Wolverine story and not this one!

Zahner and Monteiro load the coke on a boat… making sure to keep a little for themselves, before being attacked by… another weird shambling corpse just like that crispy critter from before!  They open fire… naturally, this winds up being quite futile.  At this point, Man-Thing (annoyed by all the FEAR in the air) decides to intervene… and winds up getting shot full’a holes himself… not that it matters all that much.

Man-Thing and the Subject wind up getting sorta intertwined… with the former actually winding up impaled on the latter.  Man-Thing considers this the worst pain he’s ever felt.  Amid the skirmish and confusion, our two heroes make a break for it.

We wrap up with Man-Thing and the Subject briefly merging… before Man-Thing expels the strange creature, seemingly killing it… while perhaps absorbing a bit of it as well.  The victory does not appear to be without injury, however… as it looks as though our Muck Monster is barely holding himself together!

I dunno.

This wasn’t a bad story… but, man… those narration boxes.  Are Man-Thing writers always so up their own butts?  I mentioned it in the synopsis, but it really feels as though they’re trying to keep up with what Alan Moore was doing with Swamp Thing over at DC.  Trying to make this more “sophisticated” than perhaps it ought to be?  I dunno.  It’s only one chapter at this point, but… this did not win me over.  We’ve got time though!  God help us, we’ve got another eleven weeks of this!
So, whatta we got?  It’s, say it with me, a “Chapter One”… which, for me, says we shouldn’t be expecting all that much.  We meet our bad guys, we meet the even badder guy they’re working for… and we get a bit of an idea as to what they’re trying to do.  Well, maybe not exactly what they’re attempting to accomplish, but we know it involves test subjects!  That’s something, right?  Whatever it is, I’m sure we’ll learn more as we go.

I think, if not for the very flowery narration… I probably would have enjoyed this a whole lot more.  Not a deal-breaker by any means… but, just kinda cringy… and, if it is chasing Alan Moore, it’s not doing all that great a job (in my opinion).

Let’s look at the art.  I really liked it!  Tom Grindberg is an artist who, for the longest time, I assumed was a pen-name for a fill-in penciller.  I mean, “Grindberg” just sounds too much like a name you’d give to a fill-in artist who’s in a rush, doesn’t it?

Anyhoo, the art here was pretty fantastic… it almost gave me an R. Crumb/underground comix sort of vibe.  Really great stuff.  Probably the best part of the story, if I’m being honest.  I do look forward to future installments, and am optimistic that it’ll all come together (famous last words).

We open with a man arriving to Hong Kong via boat.  He’s waxing fairly philosophical about the lives and times of… fish.  As he walks the fairly cluttered streets a bomb goes off (huh?), our hero then proclaims that he has “returned to the world”.  From where?  Haven’t the foggiest… I might only assume this is a reference to an old Bronze Age tale?  Anyhoo, our man keeps walking and philosophizing until he reaches, what he calls, a flophouse.  He settles in, removing his tunic… revealing that he is (duh) Shang-Chi, and before long the entire place is swarming with warriors!

Shang-Chi appeared to be expecting these goofs… he even refers to himself as “bait”.  It doesn’t take him long to beat the baddies… however, one manages to give him the slip.  Our Kung Fu Master gives chase.

He follows the shadowy escapee back down the Hong Kong streets, and winds up at the Oriental Expediters Ltd. Building… which, is apparently a front for a “murder agency” based out of London.  I apologize, I’m not following.  Whatever the case, Shang-Chi enters… and makes his way through to the back side of the building.  There, a man smoking a cigarette notes his presence, and announces that “he’s here”.

There’s also a pool back there, where a woman named Leiko is having a late night dip.  Gotta take a dip myself… into the Marvel Comics Wiki… one sec.  Okay, Leiko is a Bronze Age character, and so it’s not too strange that she and Shang-Chi already know each other.  In fact, she beckons our hero into the pool with her… which facilitates him making even more fish metaphors!

Leiko reveals that a Xiao was instructed to bring Shang to them… which, I mean… there are probably worse fates.  So, was the flophouse raid all part of this?  In the pool they exchange chlorinated fluids… before emerging in front of a mustachioed gentleman named Black Jack Tarr.  We wrap up with Jack informing Shang that it’s time for “Games of Deceit and Death, Part II”… izzat a Bruce Lee reference?  I suppose we’ll find out!

Okay… here’s a weird question… which might sound somewhat reminiscent if you’ve been with me since the Action Comics Daily days.  Let’s say, you’re a kid… teen-ager… whatever, who’s buying this first issue of Marvel Comics Presents because (duh) it’s got Wolverine in it.  Now, if you were that kid… what would you make of this story?

Let’s not get it twisted… this isn’t a bad story… and despite the fact that I had trouble following it, I rather enjoyed it.  But, this is kind of an odd “entry point” for a (relatively) obscure character such as Shang-Chi.  At this point, he hasn’t been seen in five years.  That’s a long while.  I mean, this isn’t quite Secret Six levels of obscure… but, still.  Add to the fact that we’re steeped in continuity here (which, again… don’t get me wrong, I love)… it’s just a bit of a toughie to follow along with.

I mean, let’s compare the way this rolls out with the way Claremont kicked off the Wolverine feature… Wolverine, a wildly popular character… still gets an introduction.  We get the bit about the “unbreakable bones” and “mutant healing factor”… heck, he even mentions his nationality.  Here, Gerber doesn’t give us any of that.  I suppose we could argue that Steve wasn’t “talking down to the audience”… but, I tells ya what… when the audience (me) isn’t quite sure what they’re looking at, ya got a little bit of a problem!

I think there’s definitely a middle ground between too much exposition and absolutely none… and Gerber would’ve done well to maybe drop a breadcrumb or two for us in this opening chapter.  We gotta assume that this story was a lot of folks’ first Master of Kung Fu story, no?

Anyhoo… the art was nice… Sutton really captured the grimy aesthetic of the Hong Kong streets… and gave us both a really nice fight scene, and an interesting pool make-out scene.

I’m looking forward to more.

We open on an Asteroid Eater from Denak IV… eating an asteroid.  Welp, can’t help bein’ what it is, right?  Anyhoo, the beastie soon seizes, and flops down dead.  From it, emerges a space insect that appears to feed off of fear.  Hey, that sounds kind of familiar, don’t it?  Hmm.  Anyhoo, not long after this, our Silver Surfer happens by the scene.  He stops to get a better look at the corpse of the gentle giant… which, unfortunately, puts him in the cross-hairs of the fear bug from outer space!  Before he (and we) know it, the bug “ensconces” itself, and reads our hero’s mind/body/soul/fear-glands/whatever.

If you’re worried that the next several pages will just be the fear bug putting ol’ Norrin through his paces… wherein he’ll place him in “fearful” situations he has to overcome… well, I don’t know what to tell ya, cuz that’s exactly the direction we’re headed.  First “trial”, Silver Surfer fears he’s been banished to Earth once more… never to feel the freedom of the universe.  He manages to bust through.

Next, he’s locked in some “energy shackles”… which leech away at his always-nebulous Power Cosmic!  Ya know, “Power Cosmic” was the last Overpower card I needed back in the long ago… which has resulted in me kinda furrowing my brow every time I see the words in print.  Y’all remember Overpower?  Collectible Card Game from the mid-90’s featuring Marvel (and eventually DC/Image/etc.) characters?  Maybe I’ll share some images of my collection down below.  Had a full-set (of the initial run, anyway)… played the game zero whole times.  Anyhoo, the Surfer manages to bust out of the containment suit.  The fear bug ain’t diggin’ this one bit.

Next, the Surfer appears to shed his Silver, returning to his impotent Norrin Radd form.  After two-pages of grimacing and making “toilet faces”, however, he’s able to snap out of it.  The fear bug is really annoyed at this point.

Also, the Surfer’s constitution is so strong at this point that the fear bug is evacuated from his body, and flung into space.  Our hero, who is quite satisfied with himself, flees the scene… leaving the fear bug staring down at the planet Earth.  It smiles (I think that’s a smile) with the knowledge that there’s bound to be a whole lot of corruptible entities on that blue orb.  Uh, I’ll save ya a bit of time there, fear bug… there’s this place in California… called Coast City.  Might wanna check there.

So… this sure was a Silver Surfer story, wunnit?

I can’t be too harsh on it… as I feel it accomplished what it set out to do, in that it does manage to give a bit of a quick-n-dirty on the character, and did so in a pretty creative way.  Using Parallax the fear bug as a tool to explore the history of the character was a really fun way to tell the story, as well as providing us with a teensy bit of dramatic conflict.

At the end of the day, for me however, is Silver Surfer is just too much of a sad sack to enjoy.  Whereas a Peter Parker or Bruce Banner come with plenty of angst and drama… they’re able to balance it far better.  The Surfer just moans and whines all the time.  I feel like every time we see him, my eyebrows involuntarily contort in a way that makes me look like a sad-puppy.  I just feel bad for him… but that, unfortunately, doesn’t make me want to join him on any of his adventures… cosmic or otherwise!

Overall… if you’re a Silver Surfer fan, this is good stuff.  If you’re new to the character… yes, this is a nice introduction.  If you know and are indifferent to the character… this probably won’t change your mind.

Here’s the Overpower (or is it OverPower?) collection… bask in the dorkiness:

Credits Page:

Wraparound Cover:

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