Marvel Comics Presents #4 (1988)

Marvel Comics Presents #4 (Early October, 1988)
Wolverine: “Save the Tiger, Part 4 of 10: The Ordeal”
Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror, Part 4 of 12: Rage and Design”
Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines, Part 4 of 8: Water”
Thor: “Silent Thunder”
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, Bill Oakley, Michael Heisler, & Jim Novak
Colors – Glynis Oliver, Petra Scotese, & Greg Wright
Assistant Edits – Michael Rockwitz
Edits – Terry Kavanagh
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.25

Welcome to the fourth compilation post for Marvel Comics Christents… where I bring to you, well… unfortunately, four rather uninspired li’l chapters of our ongoing features.  Not a whole heckuva lot going on here… so, let’s just get down to it!

Not going to bother with a poll this week… it just wasn’t getting enough engagement to justify my spending the time putting it together.  Feel free to share your favorite story from this week in the comments below, though!

Let’s peep across the street at DC and see what was going on in their anthology when this issue hit the shelves!

If you have the time or interest in checking out the Action Comics Weekly bits, lemme know if you think Marvel or DC had a stronger outing this time out!  That Catwoman feature does start out pretty strong over in ACW!

We open with Wolverine waking up… chained and bound.  He is soon joined by Sapphire Styx, that woman who wouldn’t stop introducing herself back at the Princess Bar… and who, kinda sucked out his soul with a kiss last chapter.  She’s here… well… to pretty much do the same thing again.  It would appear that she’s some sort of energy-vampire or something.  She plants one on him, which envelops him in darkness… and leaves him as gentle as a pup.

Enter: Mr. Roche, Razorfist, and some dude whose just really happy to be there.  Roche introduces himself as the “Crimelord” of Madripoor… which is kind of adorable, and he plans to do whatever it takes to pry some information out of our hero.  He wants information on “The Tiger”… and they’re going to get it, one way… or another.  He motions to the fella who’s just really happy to be there… and it looks like it’s about to be torture time!

Back at the Princess Bar, Jess and O’Donnell chat a bit about the curious hairy stranger that popped by earlier.  Jessan doesn’t remember him, but notes that he said he knew her in the “old days”.  O’Donnell reminds her that she’s a different person now.  She acknowledges this fact, and comments that she doesn’t even miss the woman she used to be.

From here, we get a page and a half of Wolverine being tortured.  The tormentors finally decide to throw it in for the day, and leave our hero to his lonesome.  It’s here that Chris Claremont dutifully reminds us that our main man is packin’… both razor-sharp Adamantium claws… and a Mutant healing factor.  For those keeping score, I think we’re now four-for-four on those reminders!  He cuts himself free of his shackles, and after a time, stumbles his way out of wherever the hell he’s being held.  Unfortunately for him, he stumbles right into the path of… Razorfist!

Ol’ Fist… well, he kicks the weakened Wolvie’s ass… stabbing him in the throat… and tossing him into the drink, which rushes right into a waterfall.  Hmm… Roche ain’t gonna find out what he wants to know this way, will he?  Whatever the case, Razorfist salutes the assumed dead Wolverine, and laments that they could’ve been great enemies.  Well, maybe don’t flatter yourself too much there, Fist…

While I enjoyed this, for what it was… I gotta say that this was probably the weakest chapter of the Wolverine story up to this point.  Doesn’t make it bad… just makes it “not as good” as they had been.

It’s mostly an expositional episode… but, it’s done quite well.  It never feels like we’re being lectured… or just having information “dumped” on us.  Right now, as a sister-project here at the site, I’m going through the recent House of X/Powers of X event… and, I wish there were more of this in that… than what we’re getting there.  Claremont was able to “show don’t tell”, or perhaps more accurately “show and tell”, whereas today… we’re just dolloped scoop after scoop of info-dump.

Even though all we’re getting here was information… about Roche, about Jessan… it doesn’t ever feel like we’re reading a page in a textbook… and for that, I can’t not like this for what it is.  That said, there also isn’t all that much for me to expound on here… it really is a case of “it is what it is”.  A foundational chapter, from which we’ll hopefully build on in future installments.

Good… not great.

We open with a bit of a reminder of what we’ve read up to this point… and it’s all horribly purple.  When we finally get with the “now”, we see that our investigative reporter, Mr. Ditillio has been picked up upon arrival in Florida… by those two goofballs from the first chapter of this feature.  They push him into a car, and take him far away to “deal with him”.  When we rejoin them, they’re way out in the swamp… where this whole story began.  Looks like that house they were hangin’ out in has been burned down.  They baddies assume that the “Demon” had something to do with it.  Just as they’re about to “off” Mr. Ditillio, our mild-mannered reporter socks ’em in the face and runs away.  Our “heroes” ain’t too frazzled, however, as they’re sure if the gators don’t get the guy… the Swamp Devil will.

We shift scenes to Maryland, and the home of our “Freedom, Rah Rah” strawman, Mr. Jody Choate.  He’s meeting with a fella named Bressack… and he’s got a plan.  It’s a plan that might get him in trouble… ya know, if he wasn’t working in the name of FREEDOM.  That’s about all we get.

From here, we visit the Freedom Science Studies Institute.  Hrmm, I wonder if that’s the “freedom” Choate keeps talking about.  Anyhoo, they’re still experimenting on our sweaty Senatuh friend from Chapter Two… and, they’ve evidently transformed him into a super soldier.  That is, until he pops.

We now rejoin Dumb and Dumber, as they’re trying to track down the Devil Woman who they believe burned down their shack.  They head into a… I dunno, dilapidated mansion or something… and are told that she’s there… but, she’s not looking to be bothered.

Our men ain’t about to take no for an answer… which prompts Voodoo Mama Juju to show her face and tell them herself that she wants to be left alone.  When our heroes try to press the issue… we come to learn that she actually isn’t alone… there’s a (Giant-Size?) Man-Thing in the house.

Welp, if you ever told me I’d be pining for another story featuring the Feral Man, I’d have laughed in your face.  And yet, here we are!

This is… kind of a bore.  A pretty weak outing, perhaps compounded by the knowledge that we know what Gerber is capable of with this character.  Well, I don’t personally… but, I have heard good things.  Lots of good things, in fact!

I always worry when I start seeing writers rely on strawmen… though, I am hopeful that the “freedom” that big-bad Jody Choate is talking about is that Freedom Science joint… and not just the good ol’ American jingoism that writers seem especially keen on deconstructing time and again.

The art, I will say, is still top-notch!  Tom Sutton is doing all of the heavy-lifting here… and is really pulling out all the stops when it comes to the gore.  Not my cuppa tea to look at, but I can’t deny that it looks pretty much exactly like it ought to.  Disturbing, dark, gross… just perfect.  If only he were drawing a better story…

We open with Shang-Chi, Reston, and Black Jack Tarr conferring to plan how they may go about rescuing the kidnapped (or, as they put it in this story “kidnaped”) and newly one-handed, Leiku Wu.  They’re assuming she was napped/naped by a one-handed fella called Argus.  It’s a pretty contentious chat… with neither Chi nor Tarr really seeing eye-to-eye as to how they go about it.  Ya see, Chi wants to leave Tarr and Reston behind… which, causes Jack to flip out… it’s really quite an annoying little scene that kills a few too many panels in my opinion.

Shang-Chi assures the fellas that, while he doesn’t want them to accompany him, that doesn’t mean he’s going alone.  He’s got frenemies (oof, I can’t believe I actually used that word.  Stop me if I do so again) in low places… and so, we are introduced to Shen Kuei… the Cat.  I’ve never seen this dude before, but it seems as though he and Chi have had a tussle or two in their time… even had a few women come between them, one of them Leiko Wu herself!  Upon learning that she is in trouble, the Cat agrees to help out.

Speaking of Ms. Wu, we join her as she’s been tied to a chair by… none other than Argus.  During her… uh, interrogation (?), she manages to break free… but is quickly kayoed with a (literal) right-hook to the mush.

We shift scenes to a boat (called The Junk), where Tarr is giving Chi and the Cat the quick and dirty on their mission.  He tries making it far more complex than it needs to be, but what it all boils down to is… Chi and Kuei are both Asian… and they’re going to replace some Yakuza weapon-buyers in order to get in close to Argus.  Once they’re inside, they’ll assume the roles of “Red Wolves”, whoever they are.

Chi and Kuei think the first part of the plan is solid… but, that second-half… they’re not so sure.  They all board a little rowboat to head back to the docks from The Junk.  Just as they arrive on dry land, however, The Junk is blown sky-high.  Game on.

I have this little… hmm… problem with “Part 4’s”.  If you’ve listened to any of my audio exploits, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention it a time or two.  In today’s decompressed comics landscape, “Part 4 of 6” pretty much means you’re in for a garbage issue… full of poorly-told recaps, with the teensiest bit of momentum toward the climax.

Now, this chapter wasn’t recappy in the slightest… but, it felt like quite the time-killer.  Which is kind of a shame, as I’ve been kinda digging on this story up to this point.  Hopefully this was just a lull… and next time out, we’ll be back to business as usual.  I don’t wanna be too hard on it, going by the “three chapters = one issue” model we’ve been using… I suppose this was decent enough “first third” of an issue.

Perhaps if I had any familiarity or attachment to Shang-Chi and his crew, I’d be a bit more excited seeing folks like The Cat.

We open with Thor fighting off some robot exoskeleton things… which, is pretty much all I picture when Thor has a “Midgardian” adventure.  Then… the sensational character find of 1988 shows his pervy face… why, it’s the Fear Bug!!!  After giving us a page recapping his prior attempts to “feed”, he sets his sights on Thor.  After a scan, he learns that this is no ordinary man… and it doesn’t look like he has any fear.

So, what is a pervy fear bug to do?  Hey, I know… let’s make Thor think he’s participating in Ragnarok.  That doesn’t happen like every fourth issue featuring the guy!  Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating… but, it sure feels that way, dunnit?  When our man refuses to go down, the Fear-Eater does… something… inside him to cause him to be kayoed.  What was it… and why didn’t he just do it to the Surfer, The Captain, and The Thing?  Well, your guess is as good as mine.

Thor lays there a bit, dealing with his current situation… before, you guessed it, ultimately overcoming his fear… driving the Fear-Eater away to seek out another host.  When Thor comes to, he realizes he’s still on Earth.

We wrap up with the Fear-Eater spotting his next victim… and, it’s Daredevil!  Get this, though… whatta they call Daredevil?  Oh yeah, The Man Without Fear.  Wonk, wonk, wonkkkkk… R.I.P. in Pieces, Fear-Bug… we hardly knew ye!

Welp, I’ll hand it to Milgrom, the Daredevil twist at the end was pretty clever… and it did elicit a chuckle.  Daredevil, if I’m not mistaken, will be our “anchor” story next issue… so, this is a neat way to build a bit more cohesion in the anthology.

The rest of the story?  Weak-city.  I don’t necessarily feel like the Fear-Eater is “played out”, in fact, I think I’d have enjoyed seeing a few more stories with him goofing around the Marvel Universe.  Heck, for all I know, he’ll show up in next issue’s DD feature!  Thor… I’m sorry, gang… I’m never going to be able to summon up enough interest to fully invest in a Thor story.  That ain’t the fault of Milgrom… or the story, just my own personal tastes.

Overall… this is probably the weakest “Fear-Eater” feature.  I wonder if we’ll ever see the li’l bugger again.


Back Cover:

One thought on “Marvel Comics Presents #4 (1988)

  • Chris U

    In this week's non-poll poll, I'm casting my vote for the Fear Bug.
    These stories are the perfect cliff notes to introduce these major Marvel characters to new readers.
    I seriously can't wait to see the Daredevil story next issue.

    Is it just me or do the Wolverine and Shang Chi outings seem to be telling the same basic story? The hero is in a city in Asia. A woman is the cause of the hero getting involved. Asian enemies fight the hero. The specifics are different but the bare bones are the same.


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