Marvel Comics Presents #3 (1988)

Marvel Comics Presents #3 (Late-September, 1988)
Wolverine: “Save the Tiger, Part 3 of 10: The Gals”
Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror, Part 3 of 12: Ritual and Belief”
Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines, Part 3 of 8: Fish”
The Thing: “The Measure of a Man!”
Writers – Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, Doug Moench, & Al Milgrom
Pencils – John Buscema, 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
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.25

Going to open with a little bit of Podcast-Housekeeping this week.  Yesterday I released the 38th episode of Chris is on Infinite Earths… and for the first time yet, the subject of the show was a Marvel Comic (Uncanny X-Men #308).  Normally, that would’ve been a book I’d save for the ReMarvel program.

Well, ReMarvel was a show whose purpose was to sorta-kinda force me to revisit some Marvel books.  Considering that this blog is now like 80% Marvel-centric, I’ve come to the conclusion that ReMarvel is no longer necessary.  As such, I decided to take a page out of Marvel’s own “voodoo math” playbook, and shifted the six episodes of ReMarvel into the Chris is on Infinite Earths “volume”!  Axel Alonso couldn’t be prouder if I were replaced by a squirrel!

So, yesterday was Episode 38… and, after merging the playlists, the next episode will be #45!  Woohoo… lookit me gettin’ close to a milestone installment without doing any of the work… just like Marvel!

I share all of this knowing full-well that I’m the only living, breathing human that this affects… but, whattayagonnado?

Let’s get to the MCP polls!

Not such a hot turn out… guess that novelty wore out quickly.  We wound up with a tie.  I voted for Wolverine, personally.

Let’s give this poll gimmick one more try, shall we?

Best Story in Marvel Comics Presents #3?



Master of Kung Fu

The Thing

Across the street at DC Comics, their anthology series released these two issues:

Hal on Oprah and Dinah burning her flame-retardant duds!  If anyone’s still out there, lemme know is Marvel or DC won the week back in ye old 1988!

We pick up right where we left off… with Wolverine surprised that he’d run into Jessan Hoan.  Whodat?  Well, let’s find out.  She is a financial whiz-kid from Singapore, who got caught up with the X-Men during a Reavers attack in the Australian Outback days of the team.  We jump ahead to Roma offering the X-Men the opportunity to pass through the Siege Perilous… which is a pretty big (and nebulous) subject unto itself.  Jessan refused to pass through… and so, Roma offered to just send her back to the moment before she got all entangled with the merry Mutants.  So… while Logan recognizes her… she hasn’t the foggiest idea who the weird hairy creep she just met in the street is.  Man, an editorial footnote here might’ve been of assistance.

Wolverine and Jessan start to rumble… she ain’t takin’ kindly to him pawing all over her, and so… she takes a page out of the Mr. Fuji playbook, and blinds him with some powder before hip-tossing him into the street, right into the path of an oncoming truck.  This allows Claremont to drop a reference to Wolverine’s mutant healing ability… which makes us three-for-three!  The fight s’more, with Jessan giving our hero the slip… and then running him over with a stolen motorcycle!

While our man licks his wounds, he is approached by sweet, sweet Sapphire from the Princess Bar.  Whatta thirsty broad!  She attempts to sweet-talk him, however that doesn’t work all that well.  So, instead… she just plants a kiss on him.  This is one whopper of a kiss, from Sapphire “Styx”… as Wolverine is suddenly “consumed… by a sea of shadows”.

Logan pushes Sapphire away, and attempts to flee the scene.  Unfortunately for him, he stumbles right into the waiting spikes of… Razorfist!  Wolvie’s kayoed… and Sapphire (who is in cahoots with Roche… and prob’ly ol’ Fist) looks about ready to strike.

Another solid chapter!

I tell ya what… I was not expecting any references to The Siege Perilous.  That seems like one of the more esoteric bits of Claremont’s X-Men run… and, it’s kind of weird seeing a nod to it here.  I know a lot of folks feel like the X-Men line of books (even back in the late-80’s), were daunting to downright overwhelming.  I couldn’t imagine what those on the outside might’ve thought upon seeing the team pass through a giant brooch to begin their new lives!

As a fan of the X-Fam, I loved seeing this reference… though, as mentioned during the synopsis, I feel as though an editorial footnote (or five) might’ve come in handy for the uninitiated.

Outside of the callback, this is basically a big fight scene.  Wolverine underestimates Jessan, and gets thrown in front of a truck… and run over by a motorcycle for his troubles.  Thankfully he’s got that (oft-mentioned) Mutant healing ability!  We also get the “swerve” on sweet, sweet Sapphire.  She of the soul-sucking kiss… or something.  I thought it was weird that Claremont kept making sure to give her a little bit of panel-time over the last couple of chapters… so, it was neat to see it pay off here.

Razorfist… the character we spent half of last chapter building up, gets a panel and a half of play-time… but, I don’t really have a problem with that.  I’m sure we’ll see plenty more of him during the remaining five chapters.

Overall, I really dug this… and I’m looking forward to more!

We open with a small plane arriving at the Freedom Science Studies Institute that we learned a little bit about last chapter.  A gurney is rushed off the rig and rolled into a waiting ambulance.  On the gurney?  Well, it’s our believed-to-be-dead Senatuh Wycombe… and he don’t look all’at hot.  In fact, he’s about to be injected with a shot of whatever the hell “Project: Glamour” is all about.  Meanwhile, in the swamp… Man-Thing is absolutely smothered in precious narration panels.  Woof.  He’s trying to cope with his new lot in life.  If you recall (though, I might not be the best “tour-guide” for this story), our hero “merged” with one’a dem crispy critters… and was left looking much worse (and weaker) for wear.

Now comes… well, a lot of exposition… not all of it interesting.  First, we meet a reporter named Mick Ditillio who is interviewing another Senator about Wycombe’s “murder” and the nebulous “Project: Glamour”.  This new Senator (Miller) doesn’t have much of a comment… but hopes Mick uses a bit of discretion when it comes to putting together tomorrow’s newspaper headline.  We follow Mick home, where he’s trying to connect the dots… while his very, uh, “perky” girlfriend tries to entice him into maybe putting work aside for a bit.  They must keep the apartment pretty chilly, I tell ya what.

Next, we meet Colonel Jody Choate, who is on the phone being sinister as all get-out… talking about a Demon (that he’s totally not scared of!) and everything.  His wife pops her head in to check on him… and we learn that he’s doing… whatever it is he’s doing… for “freedom”.  So yeah, it looks like we might be getting one’a those stories.

Back to Man-Thing.  He shambles through the swamp, before coming upon a… I dunno, witch’s house?  Whatever the case, she’s just about to sacrifice a puppy dog when our Muck Monster bursts in the place.

The art doesn’t really convey this… nor, unfortunately, does the story (unless I’m just completely dense), but I believe this scene wraps up with Man-Thing and Voodoo Mama Juju making a “deal”.  She’ll fix him up in exchange for a “path to Hades”.  Alrighty then.

Y’all remember that little run on Swamp Thing that Alan Moore had back in the long ago?  Ehh, probably not… it’s kind of obscure and nobody ever talks about it.  It certainly didn’t inspire a whole crop of writers to explore deconstructing superheroes or anything.  Of course, I’m being facetious… 

I remember the first time I read that stuff.  Sure, there’s a whole lot of “heady” concepts in it… but, it never felt (to me) like it was trying to be smarter than I was.  It was just a well-told story, that felt accessible and inviting, regardless of how “heady” the concepts became.

Gerber’s Man-Thing?  Not so much.  This is a story that is begging you to tap out.  It wants you to know that it is so much smarter than you (or at least, me).  The storytelling is really weird… and, at the risk of sounding like a complete jackass, “insists upon itself”.  The precious and few scenes where our titular hero actually shows up are the worst of all!  I think I’d have gotten more out of his scenes if they were completely “silent”!

As for the rest… ehh, government conspiracies… some “good ol’ boy” doing what he’s doing in the name of “freedom”.  A reporter hot on the trail of the hoo-doo.  Nothing we haven’t seen before, and presented here with the subtlety of a sledge hammer.

The art still continues to impress!  Really excellent stuff here… even if, in more esoteric scenes, it’s really hard to follow.

We pick up three days after the attack on Xiao’s home and the abduction of Leiko.  Our man, Shang-Chi is pounding the pavement looking for answers… but ain’t getting none.  He doesn’t seem overly trusting of the Hong Kong citizens… nor should he, the answers he gets seem dodgy at best here.  He next heads up a hill to Xiao’s final resting place.  Black Jack Tarr is there paying his respects… and openly questions whether or not he’s got it in him to be a leader of this little group of anti-radicals, or whatever.  Shang-Chi takes a seat and they begin a weird, and somewhat contentious chat.  Tarr takes this odd tack of trying to get Shang-Chi to work for him… by more or less blaming him for everything that’s gone down during the past couple of chapters.

Our hero doesn’t really initially address the accusation… he’s still lost in thoughts of Leiko.  Here, Tarr, finally gives us the meat-and-potatoes of this whole deal.  Ya see, Hong Kong will soon no longer be under British Protectorate… and, as such, rival terrorist organizations have combined forces to kind of stake their claim(s) on the place.  We also learn that Tarr n’ the Gang are doing this job gratis.  Xiao came to them with a story… but no shekels.  Since these mercs really believed in this endeavor, they took the gig for free.

Shang-Chi doesn’t agree to help just yet… but, they head back home anyway.  There, Reston… that geek who started smoking to look Hong Kong Cool last chapter, is a few bottles deep… and is wielding a pistol.  After nearly shooting Tarr and Chi, he reveals that someone dropped off a package for the latter.

In it… well, some fish.  Also… a hand.  Leiko’s hand!  With Xiao’s ring still on its finger!  Our hero is unphased, and rather than freaking out at the sight of the woman he loves’ severed mitt, he just asks Tarr if Leiko and Xiao were lovers!  Dude’s got tunnel-vision… though, I guess I “get it”.

We wrap up with our hero finally deciding to at least hear out Tarr’s plan.  He isn’t “all in” with the mission… but, if their gig intertwines with his hunt for Leiko… they may as well have each others’ backs.

A very “tawky” third chapter… but, I tell ya what… this story needed exactly this!

I remember early on in our Action Comics Daily coverage… when a given eight-pager didn’t make much sense, I would try and wait until we got three-chapters in before making any sort of of sweeping quality-leveling judgment.  Way I looked at it, three anthology chapters were akin to a single issue’s worth of a story.  24 pages, give or take.

Here we are, 24 pages (or one single issue) in on our Master of Kung Fu serial… and, ya know… this is pretty good stuff!  These three chapters would fit nicely into a single issue… get us through all the preliminary exposition… address the threat… give us some tension… set us a goal.  These together would make a fine first issue!  Unlike Man-Thing which sorta leaves us with more questions (and less interest in finding answers), Master of Kung Fu lays a firm foundation to build upon.

Shang-Chi’s obsession with Leiko is interesting… and really helps to depict him as conflicted in his mission.  Really, as we open this chapter, he doesn’t even have a mission, per say.  He’s just looking for Leiko… and screw Black Jack’s gig.  His inability to purge feelings of worry and jealousy aside to focus was really well done as well.  Feeling bad that Xiao was murdered… before remembering that he died at Leiko’s bedside.  Seeing Leiko’s severed hand… and only really being able to see Xiao’s ring upon its finger.  Really good stuff here.

Overall… I’d be more than happy if the subsequent chapters of this feature took a similar “tawky” and “internalized” tone.  This was a pleasure to read… and I’m happy we finally got a little backstory to our setting.

We open with Ben Grimm walkin’ down the street… freakin’ everybody out.  Ya see, this is following his second run-in with cosmic rays (editor’s note missing) that left him far more “spiky” than his initial dose.  So, what we’re getting at here is, he’s even uglier to the folks about town.  He tires of the gawking and decides to give the normies an eyeful.  He tears his trenchcoat off and shows off his new lumpy bod in all its glory!  It’s at this point that our new-ish friend, the Fear Bug, has spied his next target.  Just like with the prior two chapters, we get the “scanning” bit… and the quick ‘n dirty on the character in question.

Ben is suddenly overcome with weird feelings… likely predicated in, ya know, fear.  People run from him, though… honestly, I can’t really blame them.  Dude did just tear off his clothes while shouting in their direction.  Ben collapses by some water, and notes that his reflection has changed a bit.  His spikyness has dulled down to his “normal” Thing look… but, much to his disappointment, that’s where the transformation stops.

He suddenly sees himself surrounded by generic monsters… they all tell him how great it is to be a monster… how he can be the King of Monsters (sorry, Godzilla).  Ben flips out… declaring that he is not an animal monster, he’s a man.  To this, the Fear Eater makes a bit of a pervy face, and changes the monsters to beautiful people.

These beautiful people proceed to pounce on Ben, and beat the hell out of him.  This actually manages to snap our hero back to reality.  He comes to the realization that while he may look like a monster… underneath it all, he’s still a man.

Welp, that’s all the Fear Bug needed to hear before he skidoo’s outta Ben’s craggy hide.  If he doesn’t find some fear to eat soon, poor little bugger’s gonna starve!

Much as I love the Thing (who doesn’t?), this was a pretty flat story.  Then again, “Milgrom Corner” has been pretty flat overall, hasn’t it?

I mean, what is there to say here?  Ben Grimm learns, for the million-and-oneth time, that he’s still a man underneath his rocky shell.  Um… that’s really all we got.  Nothin’ new, nothin’ novel… at least it looked nice.  Would’a been great if they included a footnote to exactly when Ben got that second dose of cosmic rays though.

Sorry gang, this one was just sorta “there”.

Credits Page:


Back Cover:

One thought on “Marvel Comics Presents #3 (1988)

  • Chris U

    I must say that I am loving the fear bug stories. It's the ongoing feature that I didn't know was an ongoing feature.
    It really serves the belief that every comic could be someone's first. To a longtime fan all the info is been there know that. But to a newbie these stories give all the info on prominent Marvel characters that you may know nothing about. And in just 8 pages. For me the Fear Bug is the breakout star of MCP at this point. I really hope them spin him off into his own series "Fear Bug Team-Up". Hey it worked with that other bug guy.


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