Marvel Super-Heroes (UK) #380 (December, 1981)
“In Support of Darwin”
Writer – Dave Thorpe
Art – Alan Davis
Letters – Jenny O’Connor
Colors – Helen Nally
Edits – Paul Neary
Cover Price: 63p
Well, speaking of seminal stories that are still wildly relevant to our current year HoXPoXDoXSoXRoX landscape…
… is everybody ready to meet a certain Interdimensional Witch Queen?
That’s right – her Royal Whyness is about to make her presence known… and felt! Will any of us survive the x-perience? Well, probably…
Picking up right where we left off, Captain Britain has met Algernon… the over-sized definitely not a rat-thing. Al pours the Cap a cuppa, the contents of which Brian recognizes as the same “juice” that the Junkheap was after last chapter. Now, this entire exchange is being viewed by… a weirdo named Dimples. He reports this to… wait for it… Her Royal Whyness. Here it is, gang… the first appearance of the Interdimensional Witch Queen, Opal Luna Saturnyne. He asks what he ought to do about this… to which, she suggests that he already knows. And so, he summons the, ahem, Avant Guard. Once this is settled, Saturnyne resumes her meeting – talking about “The Push”… whatever that is.
Back at the Rat House, Captain Britain tries to break away from Algernon… when, suddenly — Jackdaw blips back in, looking quite… uh, radical. Turns out he was unable to locate Merlin to get to the bottom of exactly what and where they’d been sent. Also, he appears to recognize Algernon as someone called Seamus. Beautiful Brian assumes that Jack’s still drunk.
Then… the, ahem, Avant Guard show up. They’re your generic dudes in suits. They also wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas, because of course they do. They take aim and blast at Brian… who is initially able to withstand the beam via his forcefield — however, that is short-lived. Brian and Jackdaw are sent into another dimension… for like a panel or two. It’s neat the way this is all depicted on-panel, but feels like it’s rushed due to the constraints of being a chapter in an anthology. Brian and Jack peel back through to this Crooked London… and beat up the baddies.
We wrap up with one of the Avant Guard firing a devolver blast… which narrowly misses Brian, and instead hits Algernon. Poor ol’ Al is devolved into just an ordinary rat. This is enough to distract our hero long enough for him to get blasted. We close out this chapter with Brian himself being devolved into a monkey.
I know I say this a lot… but, dang — these are some weird strips!
I feel like these old stories don’t come up quite enough in conversation when folks discuss trippy comics. There is genuinely something eerie and uncomfortable about these stories. It’s got the surreal whimsy and wackiness of an Alice in Wonderland… with the underlying sinisterness of… well, an Alice in Wonderland. It’s quite well done… and, I’m enjoying these Thorpe chapters far more than I ever expected! I assumed this little experiment would be a slog until we got to the Moore chapters… but, I was completely wrong!
What we get here is… well, a whole lot of set-up. I love how the strip itself ends with all of the new questions we might have. What’s going to happen to Captain Britain now that he’s a monkey? Who is the Whyness? What is “The Push”? And so on…
That said, since it’s mostly set-up – there isn’t much for us to discuss here without spoiling what’s to come. I will say that I’m certainly enjoying the build-up… and feel like it’s coming together quite well. Thorpe, for the most part, has toned down his “spelling it out” via thought balloons here. Sure, there’s still a lot of thought balloons… but, I feel like they’re used much better – they’re here to offer up context rather than explain exactly what it is we’re seeing on-panel.
I’d say the only bit of “clunk” we get in this chapter was Brian and Jack’s brief visit to the void… or wherever. I understand doing that to allow the Avant Guard (a name, by the way, that I absolutely love) to show what they’re capable of… but, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity, or afterthought – likely due to the constraints of this being just a five-page short subject.
Alan Davis’ art continues to impress, even at this early point in his career. I especially dig the “radical” take on Jackdaw… looking more like a pointy-eared, ponytailed Zack Morris than an elf nyoinked out of a fantasy story. I also really like how are sure to let us know he’s still a bit drunk by having his cheeks be a bit rosy.
It’s funny, the chapter that comes next is actually the first chapter Marvel included in a semi-recent TRUE BELIEVERS reprint, whose purpose it was to examine the first appearance of Saturnyne. I own that, but haven’t actually sat down with it… but, it’s odd that it would open with Captain Britain already being devolved. Seems a weird way to start the story without the preceding context. Oh well… I suppose that’s all for me to say – if you wanna follow along with me from this point on, Marvel’s made it quite easy to do so with that recent reprint.
Overall – still having a heckuva time with this… and I’m happy that Her Royal Whyness has made her first appearance. Looking forward to more – and I hope you are as well!
NEXT CHAPTER: Re-Birth!