The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 22 (April 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #22

Sal Trapani inking Pat Broderick. I don’t even know where to start with the result… somehow the people look better than the superheroes, which isn’t how Broderick pencils usually work. Trapani inks them almost like comic strip characters, Ronnie and Martin in particular. It has to be seen to be understood.

The issue itself is a retelling of Firestorm’s origin, with Gerry and Carla Conway adapting the first issue of the 1978 Firestorm series. The context is Firestorm telling Firehawk his origin after she’s nursed him back to health–though the off-page scenes where she’s in her civilian identity hiding the superhero from her dad would have been a lot more amusing.

Maybe the art is supposed to be retro, because the retelling reads very dated. Six years in comics is a long time and the Conways didn’t update the original dialogue or pacing.

Clearly, no one tried with this one.

B- 

CREDITS

The Secret Origin of Firestorm; writers, Gerry Conway and Carla Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

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The Man-Thing 2 (February 1974)

The Man Thing #2

One problem I can see Gerber having with Man-Thing is what to do on the regular issues, the ones where he has a somewhat ambitious narrative structure, but isn't doing anything fantastical. Gerber excels at the fantastical. This issue is not fantastical.

The structure's kind of neat. Man-Thing saves a guy who runs into a girl in trouble while Schist is plotting against Man-Thing (though Gerber tries too hard on the humor of the big scheming scene) and then Man-Thing runs into the trouble the girl's running from (a biker gang). It all comes together at the end.

Maybe if the guy, the protagonist for a lot of the issue, were a better character, it would work. Instead, he's a comical doofus; Gerber goes for jokes for his backstory without thinking them through.

It's a dense issue, however, and Gerber's plotting is a success. Mayerik and Trapani keep it moving.

B 

CREDITS

Nowhere to Go But Down!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Man-Thing 1 (January 1974)

The Man-Thing #1

At one point during the issue, the editor–or writer Steve Gerber–apologizes for the visual madness in Gerber’s script. This apology is for the reader. But given all the insanity Gerber throws together, which ranges from superheroes, Howard the Duck, wizards, barbarians, politicians in big cars and then army guys–not to mention castles, swamps and cosmic walkways–one has to wonder how artist Val Mayerik felt about it.

Ostensibly–and from the title, Man-Thing–this comic is about Man-Thing. But not really. Especially not since Gerber does a slight retcon on the character and removes its ability for maintaining thought. So, while the comic’s great and Gerber uses Man-Thing to good effect, it’s hard to say where he can take the comic.

But it certainly seems like it’ll be somewhere great. Part of Gerber’s charm is his unexpectedness.

It’s a brilliantly written comic book with these fantastic little moments. Gerber and Mayerik are awesome.

A 

CREDITS

Battle for the Palace of the Gods!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Dave Hunt; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 19 (December 1973)

Fear #19

Apparently Mayerik and Trapani are keeping this new style, which is Trapani doing bad faces most of the time. Very unfortunate.

The issue is a mess of alternate realities, barbarians, ducks, GIs and something else. Magicians. Gerber is writing about the walls of reality collapsing and somehow he’s just got to get Man-Thing involved. But he doesn’t until towards the end of the issue and not well.

The story’s imaginative but there’s just no point to it. Man-Thing isn’t a full character in the comic, not with Gerber constantly trying to pull away from him–which is fine, so long as you don’t pretend otherwise. And the Jennifer girl is a problematic protagonist too. She’s the one who’s having the great adventure, yet Gerber can’t stick with her.

So he sticks with the guest stars, then brings in Man-Thing. It’s an okay hodgepodge. Except the weak art.

B 

CREDITS

The Enchanter’s Apprentice!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Stan Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 18 (November 1973)

Fear #18

It’s really bad art. From Mayerik and Trapani too. Maybe the inks are a little off but I think a lot if it must be the pencils. I really hope it’s not some new style they’re working on. Because it’s bad.

Gerber tries very hard with this story, which is sort of a talking heads disaster story, very self-aware microcosm of American life thing. He tries so hard and he fails. He fails miserably. The tone is off and none of the many things Gerber does to even establish one fails. It’s like he’s got an earnest idea and no way to honestly do it in this comic.

But then there’s the bit action finale and it’s great. It’s a classic horror problem with a modern, slightly askew approach to it. Gerber sort of saves the issue; he gets credit for the attempt.

That art is really bad though.

B 

CREDITS

A Question of Survival!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Linda Lessmann; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 17 (October 1973)

Fear #17

This story is the best so far in Gerber’s Man-Thing run so far. He does a story introducing a Superman analogue, only without growing up in the world and some other significant changes. But what’s important is how Gerber writes this character as encountering the world. Gerber does a second person thing and it’s fascinating stuff.

The Superman analogue becomes the reader or vice versa. If Gerber’s aware how he’s presenting this story, as a guided tour into how someone is going to experience the reading of the story itself, is he purposefully casting the comic book reader as a superhero. If so, a Superman analogue with its familiarity, works perfectly.

Trapani inks Mayerik again to even more success because there’s this goofy big time superhero action sequence in the middle of a small town. It’s simultaneously delightful and bewildering.

It’s a fantastic, multilayered story. Gerber does singularly well.

A+ 

CREDITS

It Came Out of the Sky!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, George Roussos; letterer, Jean Izzo; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Adventure Into Fear 16 (September 1973)

Fear #16

Sal Trapani inks Mayerik fairly well. Everyone looks a little too Marvel house style for it to be a horror comic, but it’s good art. There’s a lot of action in the issue, with Man-Thing getting involved with these Native American kids who decide to attack an industrialist destroying the swamp. They do it in costume, which gives the book an odd feel.

It’s modern, but then you’ve got these Native Americans in the swamp and it feels like a Western comic or something. Like the cowboy gets lost in the swamp.

No one gets lost here.

Gerber keeps his supporting cast around, even after the vague closure of their last appearance. It gives the setting a good feel–they show up in a crowd scene and Gerber focuses on them–and the familiarity is nice.

Plus, Gerber writes the Man-Thing narration well. It’s confused, just like him.

A- 

CREDITS

Cry of the Native; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Petra Goldberg; letterer, Artie Simek; editor, Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Detective Comics 542 (September 1984)

Detective 542

It says something when Moench’s got more character in two or three dialogue interchanges between Jason and Alfred’s daughter–they don’t like each other or something–than in a bunch of lengthy conversations between Batman and Robin. Family services takes Jason Todd away because Bruce Wayne neglected the legal process.

Yeah, right. Seems unlikely, especially when he tells the Wayne Foundation board they exist to do his bidding. It’s a megalomaniac scene and just shows how little Moench has to say about the character. The supporting cast? The villains? Moench does great. Batman? Not so much. Not at all.

If it weren’t for the moody artwork, there wouldn’t even be a point to having Batman and Robin show up in the comic. Everything else is better.

In the feature, anyway, because there’s nothing worse than the Green Arrow backup. Cavalieri introduces so many new character names, it story’s almost incomprehensible.

CREDITS

Between Two Nights; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Nightfly II: The Turn of an Unfriendly Card ; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 541 (August 1984)

Detective 541

It’s a strange issue with Batman chasing the Penguin down to Antarctica to stop him from selling military secrets to the Russians. Moench throws in a couple twists, both of them vaguely amusing, but they come after his two instances of Batman overcoming impossible odds to succeed. They aren’t as amusing after Moench’s sapped all the suspense from the comic.

There’s a little with the subplots–family services is after Jason, Vicki Vale has an unwanted suitor–but I don’t think Bruce Wayne even makes an appearance this issue. I should have been keeping track of how often Moench gave him a scene.

The art’s decent. The Antarctic setting isn’t much, however; it’s not Colan’s fault, Moench just doesn’t have much good action for it.

Speaking of bad action, the Green Arrow backup is inane again. Worse, there aren’t even the now regular three excellent McManus panels. It’s a drag.

CREDITS

C–C-Cold!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Nightfly; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

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