The Man-Thing 6 (June 1974)

The Man-Thing #6

Gerber nails it again, this time using Man-Thing to write an epitaph for a character. He’s also introducing most of this character in this issue. He uses a three act device–obviously so, with the regular cast and guest stars put to work as actors in a play–and runs the character development throughout.

He has enough time to foreshadow and to get the reader’s hopes up for possible outcomes and even has enough time to get the reader to readjust his or her hopes. It’s a beautifully paced comic.

Even the ending, which initially seems problematic, works once the reader has a chance to calm down and reflect on it. The only complaint might be how Gerber gets the tension so high, it does take a moment to interpret the finish.

The Ploog pencils are gorgeous, with Chiaramonte an able inker.

Gerber and Ploog produce a masterful comic.

A 

CREDITS

And When I Died…!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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The Man-Thing 5 (May 1974)

The Man-Thing #5

Here’s a rarity–the cliffhanger successfully ties the issue together. Gerber–with Mike Ploog joining him on the art–spends most of the issue bringing the players together. Rory and the biker chick, a couple circus performers, a dead clown and Man-Thing. They all converge at the end, where Gerber finds time for a fight scene.

He also finds time to bring a little more humanity to Man-Thing, which is an emphasis of the entire issue. It opens with the dead clown and Man-Thing finding him, lots of second person narration describing Man-Thing’s failure to properly access his lost humanity.

The odd cast of characters–there are also some small town meanies mad at Rory for being a hippy (they ought to be mad at him for being such a lame character)–gives Ploog a lot to do. He’s good on the swamp stuff, great on the various people.

It’s got problems, but works.

B 

CREDITS

Night of the Laughing Dead; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Flash 290 (October 1980)

The Flash #290

The way Cary Bates writes The Flash, there’s nothing super-speed can’t accomplish. But it’s so darn likable, it’s hard to get stopped up by the severe gaps in logic. Maybe not gaps… canyons. Canyons in logic.

This issue has the incredible story of a young woman believing Barry Allen is out to kill her. The Flash, understandably, doesn’t think she’s got it right so he decides to help her. Bates paces the story beautifully, with some opening exposition, then some action, then more exposition, then maybe more action (or exposition). It’s a full story, even though it’s not the full issue.

Bates also has a nice way of working in the character development. He takes good shortcuts to get the girl established quickly.

Decent enough art from Heck and Chiaramonte, especially considering the absurdity.

Conway rushes the Firestorm origin recap a bit but the Perez pencils are absolutely gorgeous.

B 

CREDITS

“Will You Believe Me When I’m Dead?”; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Don Heck; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Firestorm, The Secret History of the Nuclear Man; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, George Perez and Bob Smith; inker, Smith; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Shelly Leferman. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 289 (September 1980)

The Flash #289

Cary Bates sure does like exposition. It’s practically endless in the Flash feature, with Bates writing really long paragraphs of thought balloons explaining why The Flash can do what he can do. None of it makes any sense, but it sounds scientific.

The story has The Flash trying to sort of two villains who are battling each other. There are a lot more details–like they’re astral twins and so on–but he doesn’t really do anything with that relationship. It’s just another piece of the story requiring a whole lot of explanation, which Bates then provides.

The art from Don Heck and Frank Chiaramonte is decent and everything works out pretty well. It’s just goofy and Bates can’t hide it.

Then there’s the Firestorm backup with gorgeous George Perez art. Besides the lovely action intro, it’s a origin retelling. Gerry Conway’s writing is solid, but the art’s the thing.

B 

CREDITS

The Good… The Bad… and The Unexpected; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Don Heck; inker, Frank Chiaramonte. Firestorm, Firestorm is Back In Town!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, George Perez; inker, Romeo Tanghal. Colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Planet of the Apes 4 (January 1975)

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I hope Moench had fun with the original story in this issue of Planet of the Apes. While journeying through the Forbidden Zone, the heroes discover a settlement of mountain men apes. Moench uses them as a gag—and a plot device—and while the protagonists never know to ask how they learned about the lifestyle to adopt it… the reader does.

Of course, ignoring logic is part of the Apes franchise, so the magazine fits right in.

Chiaramonte’s back, sharpening Ploog’s lines (the human hero’s nose is a constant reminder of how fluid it used to be).

It’s not a bad installment, just silly. It’s filler; it doesn’t do anything to progress the overall story.

As for the adaptation, Tuska goes crazy with differing body sizes. Moench’s hit the “meat” of the film and can’t do much original. It’s the weakest of the scripts, but it’s not Moench’s fault.

CREDITS

Terror On the Planet of the Apes; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte. Planet of the Apes, Part Four: Trial; writer, Moench; penciller, George Tuska; inker, Mike Esposito. Editors, Moench, David Kraft and Don McGregor; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Planet of the Apes 3 (December 1974)

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Ploog’s got Frank Chiaramonte inking him this time. The result is all those smooth Ploog lined becoming all of a sudden sharp. Chiaramonte seems to concentrate on making the apes look more like the movie apes, removing the Ploog fluidity.

Moench and Ploog’s original story is, again, really well-paced. The first part of the story is all action, with Alex the chimp and Jason the human on the run from mutants and gorillas. It slows for the second part, introducing the bickering mutant brains who use zombie drones. Moench comes up with some great details.

He also plots Return of the Jedi. It’s so similar I can’t believe no one’s ever mentioned it.

The adaptation continues without a hitch. Moench uses this installment to move emphasis from Zira to Taylor. It’s nicely done. And with Chiaramonte inking the other story, Tuska’s art is no longer as shocking a change.

CREDITS

Terror On the Planet of the Apes; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Mike Ploog; inker, Frank Chiaramonte. Planet of the Apes, Part Three: Manhunt; writer, Moench; penciller, George Tuska; inker, Mike Esposito. Editor, Tony Isabella; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Detective Comics 516 (July 1982)

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The Batman feature is problematic to say the least. Batman infiltrates a school for criminals as “Matches” Malone (gag) and is quickly found out. He then has to dispatch of the criminals as Batman. Conway and Kupperberg–not sure why Conway needed an assist here, there’s no heavy lifting in this issue–never explain how the criminals figured out it was Batman.

An additional problem is with the ruse itself. Why didn’t Batman just shut the school down himself? Why bother auditing the classes?

It’s silly but not terrible. The Newton art is good and there’s enough going on with Alfred and Gordon to keep the issue moving. Oddly, all of Conway’s B plots seem to involve everyone but Batman.

The Batgirl backup is actually pretty neat. She’s unconscious for the majority of the story, which is lame, but the end is great–she’s turning into a giant serpent lady.

CREDITS

The Academy of Crime, Part Two: Final Exams!; writers, Gerry Conway and Paul Kupperberg; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Sleep While the Serpent Smiles!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Janice Chiang. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 515 (June 1982)

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Ugh. “Matches” Malone is so goofy. Why hasn’t anyone modernized him….

Otherwise, it’s a decent issue. The Chiaramonte inks are the best so far. It’s not the best Newton, but it’s good.

Conway gets a lot of story going–Bruce is in LA investigating a school for criminals, Dick is stalking his ex-girlfriend (who seems to be in a cult) and Alfred is trying to convince Vicki Vale Bruce isn’t Batman. Only Gordon is missing, which Bruce comments on at one point.

The exposition–the only place where Conway ever goes overboard–is in check; he’s able to bring enough humanity to the characters, it overpowers any plot silliness.

Too bad he’s got Bruce romancing Vicki though. It’d have been more interesting if it’d been Alfred, especially after this issue’s events.

The Batgirl backup is awful. Batgirl fights with Lady Viper for the entire story. Nicely, the lame writing distracts from the art.

CREDITS

The Academy of Crime, Part One: College for Killers; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. In the Coils of the Serpent!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editor, Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 514 (May 1982)

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What a weak issue. I mean… it’s really weak. It’s competent in a way someone spending sixty cents might not complain, but it’s not good at all.

The feature is a Maxie Zeus story. Batman’s hunting him through a snow storm. There’s a scene where Dick and Alfred talk about worrying about him. It’s like they’re his wives waiting at home–which may or may not be a good take on the relationships, but Wein doesn’t explore it.

Instead, he introduces this hippie mountain man who loves all life. Maxie Zeus eventually kills him (after the mountain man loses it because Zeus kills a bird).

The art’s decent–Chiaramonte continues to be a bad inker for Newton–but the story’s just lame.

The Batgirl backup is terrible too. It’s Batgirl versus “the Queen of Serpents,” a circus performer who magically changes into a snake.

The issue’s just a complete misfire.

CREDITS

Haven!; writer, Len Wein; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth!; writer, Cary Burkett; penciller, Jose Delbo; inker, Joe Giella; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Dave Manak and Dick Giordano; publisher, DC Comics.

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