Marvel Comics Presents #2 (Mid-September)
Wolverine: “Save the Tiger, Part 2 of 10: The Bad Guy”
Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror, Part 2 of 12: First Witness”
Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines, Part 2 of 8: Bait”
The Captain: “Cold War”
Writers – Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, & Al Milgrom
Pencils – John Buscma, Tom Sutton, Tom Grindberg, & Al Milgrom
Inks – Klaus Janson, Tom Sutton, Dave Cockrum, & Al Milgrom
Letters – Tom Orzechowski, Agustin Mas, & Jim Novak
Colors – Glynis Oliver, Petra Scotese, & Greg Wright
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh & Michael Higgins
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.25
Welcome to the second Marvel Comics Chrisents Compilation Post… talking all about MCP #2! Boy, the weeks are just piling up, ain’t they? Well, not really.
Y’all wanna hear something funny? Well… maybe not funny-funny… but, one’a those “yeah, of course that’ll happen now!” sort of situations? For those of you who frequent this joint, you might remember that early in 2020 I embarked on a project to chronicle all of the stories in DC’s New Talent Showcase anthology.
That project came to a screeching halt when I was unable to procure a copy of New Talent Showcase #4… and, you all know my rules about “finding comics” for the blog… 1) they’ve gotta be physical copies, and 2) I have to find them “in the wild”, ie. no “Buy it Now” online shopping.
Welp, no sooner do I spend several hours “gimmicking up” the first slew of Marvel Comics Presents covers to fit the “Chrisents” project… do I come across NTS #4 (and all of the issues from that series I was missing) in a cheap-o bin!
Truly a “you gotta be kidding me!” moment!
Speaking of DC Comics… let’s hop across the street and see what was going on in their anthology series when MCP #2 was hitting the shelves. As this issue is given a “mid-September” cover-date, I’ve got to assume this bugger came out smack dab in the middle of a five-Wednesday month. That really narrows us down to the exact issue of ACW that came out. Click the GIF to check out the discussion!
Let’s get to the poll!
For Marvel Comics Presents #1… we had a decent li’l turn out:
Unsurprisingly the Claremont/Buscema Wolverine story got the nod. That’s the story I voted for as well! Poor Shang-Chi, despite being the most widely read (or bot-squatted) MCP post of the week, didn’t get a single vote! I hope that isn’t a reflection on how I approached covering his story! I guess we’ll find out as we continue on, eh?
Here’s this week’s poll! Please vote in good health… and if you have any pals who you think might have an opinion on these stories, please pass ’em along!
We open with a bearded fellow informing a group of “young gentlemen” that he is quite disappointed in them. This man… well, he doesn’t bother to introduce himself, but he’s referred to as “Mr. Roche”. These “young gentlemen” are comprised of the punks that Wolverine beat the hell out of in our prior chapter. The geeks make excuses… but, our well-dressed financier isn’t havin’ any of it. He decides it’s time to introduce them to a… um, less well-dressed individual. In fact, this guy looks damned goofy. Ladies and gentlemen… I give to you: Razorfist!
Could this be… could it be we’ve already found our “Malvolio“? What ol’ Mal was to Action Comics Weekly… could Razorfist be to Marvel Comics Presents??? Ehh, probably not. Anyhoo, Razorfist makes short work of the punks. Mr. Roche then gives him his next mission… which is, duh, kill Logan.
Speaking of Wolverine… when last we left him, he had a whole lotta guns pointed at his mug. That O’Donnell character has taken point on the discussion… and would really like to know how this hirsute stranger knew the late Dave Chapel. Logan explains that he happened across the fella while on one of his many leisurely treks through the desert… ya know, like ya do. Chapel was in a bad way… professionally tortured and left to perish. Before he died, he gave Wolverine a locket to return to Madripoor… and so, that’s what he’s trying to do.
O’Donnell isn’t so sure he’s buying this story… and so, Logan more or less dares him to try somethin’ funny. O’Donnell proves that he’s no dummy by pocketing his firearm. This impresses sweet Sapphire, who thirsty broad that she is, introduces herself to Wolverine yet again. He still isn’t terribly interested. Out the window, our hero notices a familiar figure wearing one’a those Raiden from Mortal Kombat hats. Could this be one of those guys Shang-Chi fought at the flophouse last issue? Nah…
Wolverine gives chase… in a scene that reminds us both that he: a) is a mutant with super-keen senses, and b) has unbreakable Adamantium-laced bones. We might have to start keeping track of how many times we’re going to “learn this”… I have a keen interest in that old chestnut that “every comic is somebody’s first”, so this tickles me… perhaps more than it should. Anyhoo, Logan catches up to this stranger… and we find out that it’s actually Jessica Hoan! You might be asking, “Who’s Jessica Hoan?”, to which I’d respond with “How dare you…” No, actually, I haven’t the foggiest myself (maybe she’s Tiger Tyger? Or izzit Tyger Tiger?), but I’m looking forward to finding out more… next time!
Chris Claremont has proven to be such a versatile writer during his career… but, I’m honestly a bit surprised (and impressed) at how well he’s adapted his style to an eight-page format. Sure, he did a bunch of weeklies in his time, Captain Britain and what-not… but, man… this had some great flow to it that, sadly, cannot be said for a lot of the stories we got across the street in Action Comics Weekly. Over at DC Comics, the shift to eight-pagers seemed to be the bane of most writers’ existence. Stories were uneven, weirdly paced, and sometimes just a total mess when it came to the “nuts and bolts” of comic book storytelling!
Mr. Claremont doesn’t have that same problem… in fact, he seems to have the ability to tell his same style of story… ya know, very wordy… but still with plenty of action and characterization, in any-size-chunk he chooses! It’s a true testament to his talents!
So, whatta we got here? Well, we get some information on the punks from the previous chapter, as well as meeting the mastermind and the new “big bad” on the block. Logan’s story at the bar gets picked up perfectly, and we find out a bit about Dave Chapel… and our hero’s motivations for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Then, we get a decent enough cliffhanger with the arrival of Jessica Hoan (who I’m like 87% sure is Tiger Tyger/Tyger Tiger… however the hell the name actually goes). Feels like we’re getting actual progression… and we’re only 16-pages in. Really enjoying this. The art… well, it’s the same as last time. Good stuff, but I really don’t care much for this frumpier-faced Logan. And, Razorfist? Sweet Lord… that’s one dopey-looking character! Yikes.
We open in a Washington, D.C. courtroom, where General Selbert (that fella from last issue who met up with those geeks in the swamp) is being grilled by a bloated, slow-tahkin’ Suthin’ Senitah. He’s being questioned about possible involvement in the Colombian Drug Trade… and some nebulous book-keeping involving a Swiss Bank Account… which, is like a sure-sign of not being on the up-and-up in the 1980’s, right? Selbert manages to “massage” an explanation that almost makes sense (if you squint). All the while, there’s a drug-deal going down in a parking structure. It’s cash-for-coke… and then a car explodes. Okey doke.
The Senitah keeps Selbert on the hook for a bit… almost as though he knows more than he’s letting on, and might just be giving the General enough rope to hang himself. The line of questioning shifts to a facility called the Freedom Science Studies Institute… a place where General Selbert sits on the Board. The Senitah inquires about the goings-on inside, to which, we learn that they’re working on your run-of-the-mill super-soldier studies. Our man is very nonchalant about this… could you imagine someone coppin’ to this in real-life? It might come as no surprise, but these “super soldier” rejects look a whole lot like those abominations we met last issue.
As the courtroom back-n-forth continues, we a page featuring the one and only Man-Thing crawling from the muck. Senator Wycombe changes the subject to the matter of something called “Project: Glamour”… which, I believe is those pictures they take of you at the mall after coating the camera lens in copious amounts of Vaseline, right? Welp, Selbert plays ignorant… and so, the line of questioning ends. Now, this entire proceeding has been televised (which is friggin’ nuts… I mean, they’re casually talking about human experimentation and super-soldiering here). One fella (maybe the General?) who is watching the trial looks to have placed a target on owa ahn’able Senitah.
Later that night, we catch up with Wycombe… who is still trying to get to the bottom of the Glamourshots gambit. Unfortunately for him, an assassin (I assume) bursts through his window… and kills him! Well, maybe kills him… for all we know, it might’ve been a bloody abduction. The front page headline the next day attributes his murder to a “Cult”… though, it confirms that no corpse was found at the scene.
Speaking of the next morning, we next arrive at Sunshine Air Cargo in Florida, where a gawky burnout called “Skinny” has arrived… and he might have a package? Or he might’ve just done something bad? Or… who the hell knows… he’s here, and he’s greeted by another bloated fella who sticks a pistol in his face.
We wrap up with a preciously purple page of Man-Thing… still crawling outta the muck. He feels feels, sees memories, hears laughs… yadda, yadda, yadda. Hopefully we’ll find out a little bit more… next time!
Well… I didn’t love this, and I didn’t hate this. I swear, this story in particular is really giving me Action Comics Weekly flashbacks. I feel like we’re reading a blend of the first arcs of Deadman and Secret Six. Story, art, and that odd feeling of “what in the world are we reading?”… just so reminiscent of those two features!
So, we’ve got a trial… we’ve got ties to the Colombian Drug Trade… we’ve got a weirdo Science Institute trying to concoct Super Soldiers… we’ve got a Murder Cult… we’ve got Man-Thing being all goth and poetic… izzit me, or are we perhaps trying to cram a little too much graham into this little cereal… err, serial? We’ve seen that sort of thing before… Black Canary, we’re lookin’ at you! Though, in fairness… I do have a great deal more faith in Steve Gerber’s ability to pull this all together than I did Sharon Wright.
The art here continues to impress… and now, I can finally give credit where it’s due… to Tom Sutton! I’m still getting some underground comix vibes from his style… which feels very much right for a story of this tone.
I’d have liked our titular Man-Thing to do a little bit more than repeatedly rise out of the muck… but, I suppose I can give ’em a pass due to the “world-building” Gerber’s engaging in during this early chapter. One of the reasons I’d started this project was to better familiarize myself with the “fringe” Marvel characters. So far, and yes… we’re only 16-pages in… I’m not feeling all that confident. I’m optimistic this will pick up over the course of the next ten (ten???) weeks.
We open with Shang-Chi, having been reunited with some of his old running buddies, getting suited up. Reston suggests that his new costume would do Bruce Lee proud. Our hero hasn’t the foggiest idea who “Bruce Li” is. Is that funny? I think that’s supposed to be funny. Anyhoo, once dressed, Black Jack Tarr gives us the quick ‘n dirty on how he got into his new position. Having zero familiarity with any of this, I suppose this is kind of helpful. Then again, since I do have no familiarity with this, it comes across as pretty meaningless. As Tarr bloviates, Shang notices how chummy Xiao and Leiko have grown… more on that later.
After Jack shuts his trap, Shang notices that Reston has taken up the old past-time of… smoking! He questions him on this decision, leading to our fair-haired boy nearly hacking out a lung. I think this was supposed to be funny as well. Anyhoo, Tarr suggests that with Shang’s return, everything will go back to the way it used to be. This causes our hero to kind of flip out. He didn’t return just to repeat the past, you see. He dramatically throws up his fist… then stomps out of the room like an eight year old girl whose parents wouldn’t buy her a pony.
Shang hangs out in the courtyard… for like hours, it seems. Thankfully there’s a pond/pool out there, so he could make more fish references. We definitely haven’t seen enough of those yet! After awhile, he grows tired of this… Lord knows I am… and decides to, uh… try and get a li’l alone time with Leiko? She turns him down, promising to explain everything the following morning. Shang-Chi… De-Nied.
We follow our hero to bed… where he’s awakened by nightmares of demons or something… probably has something to do with his old title. It’s a darn good thing our man does wake up, however, because the compound is under attack! Shang’s friends are bein’ sliced and diced… and so, he springs to action – but is held off by a ninja with a gun.
The baddies ultimately flee… and it looks like they’ve taken Leiko with them! Tarr, Reston, and Shang reconnoiter, and we learn that Xiao did not survive the attack. We also learn that Xiao and Leiko were recently engaged… ya see, Shang noticed that the ring Leiko was wearing (which we saw in that attempted booty call panel) was new.
Much like yesterday’s Man-Thing chapter, I didn’t love this… nor did I hate it. Despite knowing next to nothing about them, I’m kinda digging these characters. I guess where I’m struggling a bit is with the threat. I don’t know that’s it’s really been established properly… especially for folks who are new to this property.
Are we just to assume that Shang-Chi will be attacked by a group of ninjas every night? Is there going to be some big reveal that the old man Tarr took over for is behind this? If you’re new to Shang-Chi (or even if you’re familiar with his adventures), will that even “move the needle”? I dunno. It feels like the obvious route to take… but that doesn’t make it any more interesting, does it?
For this story… I thought the character bits during the first half were pretty strong, especially those coming from Shang’s sorta-kinda displaced point of view. He gets this weird melancholy feeling that… despite the fact that he was “away”, life for everyone else went on. I’ve been in a similar situation as that… and, lemme tell ya, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The realization that the world, and even your friends’ lives don’t necessarily “revolve around you” is a humbling, and almost spirit-crushing sensation.
Shang sees that Xiao and Leiko have moved on… together. Black Jack Tarr has taken over whatever the hell organization he’s taken over. Reston… uh, started smoking. Life goes on… with or without our involvement. Trying to reconcile that, with Jack’s suggestion that, with Shang back, everything could go “back to the way it was”, was too much for our hero to handle… leading to his odd (and, assumedly out-of-character) emotional outburst. Sure, I had a little fun with it during the synopsis… but, it was very effective if you stop and think about it.
Overall… this was a bit of an uneven chapter… could’ve done without the ninja attack, though, it couldn’t be avoided if we want to move the story along. I’m sure we’ll talk more about Xiao and Leiko as we move forward through the serial. I’m definitely looking forward to more!
We open with Steve Rogers… The Captain arriving at a rather strange crime scene. Ya see, there’s some frosty hoo-doo goin’ on at the Cryo Lab. The nearby police are a little surprised to see our hero… not so much due to the fact that he’s, ya know, a superhero… but more for the fact that he’s wearing this weird black costume. Steve-O tells them just to call him “The Captain”, and that’s good enough for them. Just then, our new friend the Fear Bug arrives on the scene… he’s now officially being referred to as the “Fear Eater”, which sounds moderately cooler than “Fear Bug”, but a lot less cool than Parallax. The F.E. focuses on (The) Cap and attempts to latch onto his deepest, darkest fears.
Here’s the thing, though… The Captain doesn’t appear to have any! Well, that’s not entirely true… Steve’s got fears, yeah… but, he’s both faced and mastered them. The Fear Bug’s gonna need to take another tack. Just then, our hero heads inside the Cryogenic Lab… and goes into flashback mode. Folks familiar with Captain America will know that he and ice go back a long ways. We get the quick n dirty about his own time in the deep-freeze, and how he wound up a man “out of time” with the Mighty Avengers. Nothing we haven’t seen a million times before (or since), but whattayagonnado?
Suddenly, our hero has this weird revelation that he’s something of an anachronism in contemporary times. At this point, The Captain finds himself… scared! Uh-oh. Just then, he finds himself attacked by COLD WAR… who is basically just a spiky Iceman. According to our baddie, this “Cold War” character is just an innocent frozen human that the Fear-Eater animated to “embody Captain America’s greatest fear”. More on that in a bit.
Cold War zaps Cap wit’a da ice… and starts to surround our poor hero in the stuff. (The) Cap has a moment where he (no pun intended) freezes up… before realizing that he is stronger than this fear. He refuses to give up… and smashes his new ice dungarees with the edge of his shield!
He then slip-slides his way toward Cold War… and kayos the poor innocent ice puppet. The Fear-Eater chalks this up as another loss and flees the scene. We wrap up with The Captain turning Cold War over to the authorities.
So… anyone unfamiliar with Captain America’s origin? Because so much of this… is that. Not a bad thing… especially if we view this under the scope of “every comic could be somebody’s first”, right? Now, how many of us are super familiar with why Steve Rogers is wearing a black costume right now? Shouldn’t that be at the very least mentioned? I know the police officers made a comment about the new duds… but, we get zero explanation… not even a tiny narration box, or an editor’s footnote!
I mean, if I was coming into this story “cold” (pun… uh, intentional?), that’s what I’d wanna know about! I don’t need to see Peter Parker get bit by the friggin’ spider for the hundredth time… but, maybe catch me up on what’s gone on in his world over the last few weeks, right?
Outside of that… let’s talk about this story. Did the Fear-Eater concoct this entire Cryo-Lab thing… because, it didn’t seem like it in the reading. I thought the Fear Bug showed up after the fact, and just decided to use it to put a li’l fright into Cap. Maybe I’m missing something. If that’s the case… ya know, that the F.E. wasn’t responsible for the hoo-doo at the Lab… then, who was?
I mean, “Cold War” was just a frozen human that the Fear-Eater “animated” to embody Cap’s worst fear… right? I mean, it said as much. Was Cold War an actual baddie here? Because, if not… the poor dude’s going to wind up paying for the Fear-Eater’s crimes, no? I don’t see him getting a “fair trial”, know what I mean? The whole thing is… kind of a mess.
So yeah… we spend too many pages on Captain America’s origin… we have a nebulous timeline… and an even more nebulous villain. Well… at least it looked nice, and it was fun to see The Captain in his darker togs!